Bishop slams ‘grotesque’ sexism in politics

 

FORMER deputy Liberal Party leader Julie Bishop claims the election of at least 50 per cent women to the federal parliament is the only way to change the toxic misogyny she witnessed during her parliamentary career.

In her first extended TV sit down on Andrew Denton's Interview program on Channel 7, the long-serving foreign minister condemned the sexualisation of Australia's first female PM Julia Gillard at a 2013 Liberal Nationals party fundraising dinner in Queensland, where a "Kentucky Fried" quail dish was likened to the Labor leader as having "small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box."

Ms Bishop said the menu prank was "grotesque in its brutality" and "pathetic," blaming her male colleagues for creating the culture that allowed such sexist commentary.

"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. There was very much that culture around politics, even though [Australia] were world-leading as the first to simultaneously grant women the right to vote and the right to stand for parliament … but that kind of behaviour's just pathetic."

 

Julie Bishop has given her first extended TV interview to Andrew Denton, revealing her battles with sexism. Picture: Belinda Pratten
Julie Bishop has given her first extended TV interview to Andrew Denton, revealing her battles with sexism. Picture: Belinda Pratten

 

She said only with more women elected to parliament could that bad behaviour be called out.

"There must be a critical mass of women, and 50 per cent sounds like a good idea. So I would think that the more women that are in politics, the more they would say that behaviour is unacceptable. So I think the numbers really do matter in this instance."

Julie Bishop didn’t hold back during her chat with Andrew Denton. Picture: Belinda Pratten
Julie Bishop didn’t hold back during her chat with Andrew Denton. Picture: Belinda Pratten

She said being "the only woman in the room" often led to her being overlooked in what she called moments of "gender deafness" - when her comments were ignored.

During leadership rumblings back in 2009, she was sent to a meeting held by Joe Hockey where he was boasting about taking the control from then opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

Sent along to the "planning" sessions as Turnbull's proxy, Bishop was staggered to watch on as Hockey pronounced to the room he would soon be leader and Peter Dutton, or "Dutts" as he called him, would be given her job as deputy leader.

When she piped up and pointed out her role was one voted on by the Liberal Party and not Hockey's to assign, her male colleagues were agog.

She was also left to clean up the diplomatic mess left by former PM Tony Abbott after he threatened to "shirt front" Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

 

Julie Bishop meets with Vladimir Putin at the ASEM Summit in Milan.
Julie Bishop meets with Vladimir Putin at the ASEM Summit in Milan.

 

Bishop used a meeting in Milan as her opportunity to "tap" Putin on the shoulder and ask for a meeting to discuss Russia's "obfuscation" of the investigation into the aviation disaster, which killed 298 people, including 38 Australians.

Seizing on a moment when his translator and political aide had left the room, Bishop walked around the table and asked, point blank, to speak to Putin, who glared at her during her sidebar request and then replied tersely: "So this is what you call a shirt front?"

In a rare showing of vulnerability by the woman known for her political death stare, Bishop's voice caught and she looked to tear up when speaking of her determination to get justice for the families of MH17.

"It was terrible … terrible … it makes me sad even now," an emotional Bishop told Denton.

She earned praise for her competent and compassionate handling of the incident, which required a unanimous vote from the UN Security Council to allow emergency workers to enter Ukraine and recover the bodies of the victims.

She used intel that the Russian foreign minister, whose vote she needed, was a father of young children, laying out copies of Australian newspapers, plastered with the photos of the young Maslin children - Mo, Evie and Otis - on her office coffee table to show him them.

"He started to cry and said, 'I have children and I know what this means."

She revealed her devastating staring skills had been honed during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi - after he used a press conference to openly criticised her in Mandarin.

Told of the routing by her translator afterwards, she sat in furious silence opposite Yi during a dinner that followed - with the Chinese minister calling for files to be brought to the table so he could get some work done while Bishop ignored him.

Seated next to Yi at an ASEAN forum was the scene of another embarrassing incident for Bishop. Her Russian counterpart had bribed a waiter to swap the Chinese tea in her cup for straight whiskey.

"At one point, I took my cup of tea and took a big swig and then spat it everywhere. It was whiskey. I looked across the table and there was the rather tall and imposing Russian foreign minister, going [mimes wink], then he opens his jacket and there was a hip flask of Johnnie Walker."



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