Why can’t a Bishop be King?

Why can’t a Bishop be King?

By Cassandra Charlesworth

When the reigning government lit a fuse that led straight back its own campsite last month, it was astounding they didn’t foresee the fatal wounds they would inflict upon their own reputation.

In the days that followed they also seemed surprisingly unremorseful for the casualties, they incurred in their frenetic bout of friendly fire.

There’s been a lot of talk since about how grossly they misread public sentiment but arguably the greatest loss came in the form of Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop.

A popular alternative

Regardless of what side of the political divide you stand on, Bishop had been widely regarded by the public as the best leader of the Liberal Party, other than the ousted PM Malcolm Turnbull.

As noted by Labor’s Anthony Albanese on Q&A this week, she would also have made a much tougher PM for Labor to overcome.

While Labor thanked their lucky stars, her defeat in the leadership spill and shift to the back bench was met with a backlash and some serious questioning of how Australian politics treats women.

Who is Julie Bishop?

Born in South Australia in 1956, Bishop was a commercial lawyer before setting her sights on politics. She joined the liberal party in 1992, winning the seat of Curtin in 1998.

By 2003 she had joined the front bench, with John Howard appointing her Minister for Ageing. In the years since she has served as Education Minister, Minister for Women, Shadow Treasurer, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Shadow Minister for Trade.

After the 2013 federal election, she became the only female member of the cabinet, taking on the third highest position in the party. In 2014 she became the second woman, after Julia Gillard, to hold the role of acting Prime Minister.

For over 11 years from 2007 to 2018, she was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.

Why a Bishop can’t be King

When the Liberal Party shot itself in the foot and every other body part on August 24, Julie Bishop was eliminated in the first leadership ballot, receiving only 11 out of the possible 85 votes.

Some say it is because her politics too closely reflected Turnbull’s but there have also been accusations levelled at the Liberals for gender bias as well.

The most vicious accusations came courtesy of popular New York Times writer Maureen Dowd, who wasted little time airing Australia’s dirty political laundry to the US public.

News Corp notes Dowd “reserved particular venom for the treatment of Julie Bishop and other women in the Liberal Party, who endured, in the columnist’s words, ‘brass-knuckle tactics’ amid the leadership crisis two weeks ago”.

“The spill did not do anything to improve Canberra’s reputation as a breeding ground for toxic frontier masculinity, where women are in a subordinate zone,” Dowd wrote.

It was a similar sentiment at home on Q&A with a representative on the panel pointedly stating she thought Scott Morrison had been appointed leader “because he was the man for the job”.

"I think the difficulty is they can't see a woman do that kind of job, no matter how proficient she might be and how competent and experienced she might be, and that is a real difficulty for the party to deal with."

Julie Bishop as a trailblazer

Of course, the Liberal Party has vehemently denied the suggestion. But regardless of whether there’s any fire beneath that smoke, the trailblazing role Bishop has played for women should not be overlooked.

In a stellar legal and political career, she notched up the following firsts:

·       First female articled clerk at SA-based law firm Wallmans

·       First female to hold the position of Shadow Treasurer

·       First female Foreign Affairs Minister

·       First female Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party

First female Liberal PM? Well, apparently that remains to be seen.

Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her loungeroom floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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