Liberal Party votes “touched by bias about gender” must be considered in the election of Scott Morrison as Australia’s new prime minister over Julie Bishop, former PM Julia Gillard says.
Ms Gillard says looking into the “heads and hearts” of the vast majority of Liberal parliamentarians who voted for either Mr Morrison or Peter Dutton but not Ms Bishop in the first round of the leadership ballot would reveal all sorts of factors at work.
She said there would be votes motivated by how far the party should shift to the right, or by policy concerns.
Similarly, there would be votes based on the perceived ability of the candidates to unite colleagues or to articulate a vision for the country and votes based on friendship.
“And the list could go on and on,” Ms Gillard said in a lecture at the University of Adelaide on Tuesday.
“But I think one item that should appear on it is votes touched by bias, conscious or unconscious, about gender.
“What was the precise mix and the weighting of these kinds of factors in a Liberal member or senator’s head?
“We don’t know and maybe the individuals involved couldn’t even precisely articulate it themselves.”
However, Ms Gillard said there had been a shift in the national conversation about women, gender and leadership in the years since she was prime minister.
“When I governed, the overwhelming mindset of the media was to dismiss out of hand any suggestion that anything happening to me was in any way related to gender,” she said.
“Now conversations about gender and leadership, including political leadership, are mainstream.
“As we meet today, there is lively discussion happening about allegations of bullying and intimidation in the Liberal Party.
“The fact such matters are being raised at all and taken seriously when they are is progress.”
But Ms Gillard said while conversation was good, action was better.
She said it remained “hard evidence” that while the number of women in the ALP federal caucus had jumped from 14.5 per cent in 1994 to 46 per cent at present, in the Liberal Party the increase was less than 10 percentage points to 23 per cent.