Julie Bishop has slammed “appalling behaviour” in federal parliament in the lead up to the leadership spill, claiming bullying behaviour she witnessed in Canberra was unacceptable.
Speaking at the Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future awards in Sydney on Wednesday night, the former foreign minister said the actions of other MPs were not acceptable while expanding on her experience of being a senior female member in parliament.
She said the events that led to the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister “would not be tolerated in any other workplace in Australia”, while claiming the actions by MPs in during the spill called for “a much broader debate about workplace culture.”
She also added there were too few women in parliament.
“It’s not acceptable for our party to contribute to the fall in Australia’s ratings from 15th in the world in terms of female parliamentary representation in 1999 to 50th today,” Ms Bishop said.
“There’s a lot to be done.”
She said it was a problem that there was not enough diversity in workplaces across Australia, claiming poor behaviour towards women in the workplace could not tolerated.
“Our party, in fact all parties, recognise they have a problem in attracting and maintaining women, diversity in general,” Ms Bishop said.
Ms Bishop was speaking for the first time since moving to the backbench following the leadership spill that led to former treasurer Scott Morrison becoming prime minister.
She was a contender in the three-way leadership contest, but since resigned her cabinet position.
Since the spill, allegations of bullying within the party emerged, particularly towards female MPs.
Complaints of standover tactics surfaced from Liberals including Julia Banks, Lucy Gichuhi and Linda Reynolds.
While she did not explicitly link her claims to sexism, she was critical of the culture in parliament.
“It is evident that there is an acceptance of a level of behaviour in Canberra that would not be tolerated in any other workplace across Australia.”
“When a feisty, amazing woman like Julia Banks says this environment is not for me, don’t say ‘toughen up princess’, say ‘enough is enough.’
However, while she claimed that politics was “not for the faint hearted”, better behaviour was needed.
“I have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in Parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees I would never have accepted,” Ms Bishop said.
“We must defend and strengthen our institutions, and we must treat our Parliament with more respect. Unacceptable workplace practices are the responsibility of us all to identify, to stop, to fix it.”