Where were ministers such as Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash? Picture: AAP
Where were ministers such as Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash? Picture: AAP

Bolt: Liberal women need to speak up on leadership

THE Liberals have a women problem. It's not that the party lacks enough of them in federal parliament, but those they do have act like passengers. Nothing shows that better than the silence of these lambs over the past week of drama.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's leadership was all but destroyed when 13 Coalition MPs threatened to vote in parliament against his latest global-warming scheme.

Not one of those 13 was a woman.

It is not enough to sneer that the 13 were just Tony Abbott and his usual team of "old white men" - the likes of Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz and Jim Molan.

The dissenters also included some of the Liberals' brightest young stars: Andrew Hastie, James Paterson and Tim Wilson.

Nor is it enough to sigh that women tend to lean Left, making them more likely to want to seem to do something, however useless, to save the planet.

True, most of the Liberals' 21 female MPs are indeed to the party's Left and only four voted for the conservative Dutton in Tuesday's leadership spill (this suggests affirmative action policies to recruit more female MPs could drag the Liberals even more disastrously to the Turnbull end of the dial).

But even the 17 women who backed Turnbull said almost nothing in his defence.

Where were ministers such as Michaelia Cash and Kelly O'Dwyer? Where was Marise Payne, who owes her job as Defence Minister to Turnbull's desire to promote a woman above more capable men?

 

Where were ministers such as Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash? Picture: AAP
Where were ministers such as Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash? Picture: AAP

Yes, deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop did defend Turnbull, but too little and very late.

Other than that, we heard from deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie and Senator Linda Reynolds, and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on Wednesday gave a guarded explanation for her decision to resign as minister, saying Turnbull had deserted the Liberals' conservative base.

But too many of their female colleagues just kept their heads down, as if conflict averse.

That is often said to be a virtue that women often bring to politics - they are keener on consensus.

But politics in a healthy democracy is fundamentally about conflict: conflicting views and ambitions. That's what tests assumptions and gives voters a choice.

Either way, this silence of the Liberal women has reduced them almost to the role of mere passengers as men brawl for the steering wheel of a bus hurtling towards a cliff.



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