International

Ex-Aussie Foreign Minister slams sexism in politics

Canberra, Aug 14 (IANS) | Publish Date: 8/14/2019 12:55:51 PM IST

Australia’s former Foreign Minister and former leader of the governing Liberal Party Julie Bishop has slammed the country’s culture of “grotesque” sexism.

Bishop, who served as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party between 2007 and 2018 and as Australia’s Foreign Minister between 2013 and 2018, quit politics in May after failing in a bid to become the party’s leader. In an interview, Bishop told Seven Network television on Tuesday night that her ideas were often dismissed because of her gender early in her career.

“If I spoke in a room of 20 men, if I would put forward my idea, there was sort of silence,” she said.

“I just labelled it gender deafness. If you’re the only female voice in the room, they just don’t seem to hear you. It’s as if they’re not attuned to it.”

Bishop condemned the party’s “sexualization” of Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard as “grotesque in its brutality” and “pathetic”, blaming male colleagues for fostering a culture that allowed such sexism to go unchecked, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We have to remember that in recent times, Parliament was all male. And so you had a whole bunch of men in Canberra and they set the rules, they set the customs, the precedence and the environment. It was all men,” she said.

Following Bishop’s retirement, a debate arose about whether the Liberal Party should follow the Australian Labour Party in instituting a quota for female Members of Parliament.

The Labour Party currently has its overall female caucus representation at about 46 per cent, with a goal of increasing it to 50 per cent by 2026.

On Tuesday night, Bishop, who has recently been announced as the new Chancellor of Australian National University (ANU), threw her support behind the Liberal Party doing the same.

“There must be a critical mass of women, and 50 percent sounds like a good idea,” she said.

“So I would think that the more women that are in politics, the more they would say that behavior is unacceptable. So I think the numbers really do matter in this instance.”

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