Nicole Dyer: Does the Liberal Party need quotas to ensure that it has enough women in its ranks? When it comes to numbers and women, the Party does not have a good record with only one in five of its Federal representatives being female. Three years ago, Liberals set a non-enforceable target of 50 per cent female candidates by 2025. Senior members now conceding that is highly unlikely. Throw in claims of sexism, which saw Liberal MP Julia Banks quit the party, former Deputy and Foreign Minister Julia Bishop also quitting after being denied a chance at the top job. She’ll certainly be stepping down at the upcoming federal election. Gold Coast MP for McPherson Karen Andrews is with you now, Mrs Andrews is it good enough that you are the first female Cabinet minister Queensland has ever had?
Karen Andrews: No, it’s not good enough it’s far from good enough. Look, I was surprised to find out that that was the statistic, so it took until 2018 for Queensland to have a female Cabinet minister. It’s an interesting stat, I’m pleased that we do have a female Cabinet minister in Queensland but it’s not good enough and I think that indicates that we have an issue that we need to address with women generally in politics, because there was no one from Labor and there was no one from the Liberals or Nationals until 2018 in Queensland.
Nicole Dyer: Labor took the step of introducing quotas and nearly 50 per cent of its members now are female, should the Liberal Party do the same?
Karen Andrews: The first step, as far as I can see is that we need to get to a critical mass, which is generally considered to be around about 30 per cent so what I’m –
Nicole Dyer: How far off that are we now?
Karen Andrews: Look, we’re probably around 10 per cent off that at the moment, what I think is important is that we set a realistic target of what we can achieve. Now we need to encourage the best possible candidates to stand for election and that means we have to include men and women in the mix but we don’t have a critical mass of women in the Coalition, federally, at this point in time. We need to get to 30 per cent and we need to do that as quickly as possible, it’s unlikely to happen at the next election but we need to put some strategies in place to make sure that we are hitting 30 per cent by the next federal election.
Nicole Dyer: Julie Bishop this week has come out to say that she could’ve been leading the Liberals into this upcoming election, she had 28 votes more than Scott Morrison during last year’s leadership spill. Did you vote for her?
Karen Andrews: Look, I haven’t revealed at all who I have voted for other than to say that I voted against the spill. I don’t think that anything is to be gained by anyone saying who they voted for afterwards.
Nicole Dyer: In the context of this conversation though, since we are talking about women in politics, the Liberals are losing a lot of experience in Julie Bishop. Given that she went in with so many votes and ended up with so few, it kind of does matter now that you’re saying we need to attract women, we need to give women a fair go within the Liberal Party, it does matter how you voted because that was an opportunity to do something real.
Karen Andrews: Well, I take on board what you’re saying Nicole but we actually do have to have the best candidate for the job. Now I don’t, I certainly wasn’t doing numbers for anyone, wasn’t doing them for Julie Bishop. I heard the day before that [indistinct] the leadership spill, l listened to what she had to say and I believe that her putting her hand up was going to be a game-changer. Now I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if she was assured of 28 or any number of votes going in there, but she would know that votes going into a pre-selection or a leadership challenge are quite frankly, quite fluid. So she would’ve expected that there may well have been some changes, she could’ve picked up some votes, she could’ve lost some votes going into that. Ultimately, she would recognise that politics is a numbers game and she did not have sufficient votes to take her into round two. She was actually the first person who was eliminated in that challenge, I believe that if she’d stood for Deputy Leader again, she certainly would have been elected as Deputy Leader but she chose not to, and she made that clear. It was pretty much stand for Leader or, and if she didn’t get that she wasn’t going to stand as Deputy Leader. But, with only 11 votes, it was clear that she was a long way behind the other two candidates.
Nicole Dyer: Sure. But a lot of people walked away from that thinking that ‘that’s it, the Liberal Party is a boys’ club’, that women don’t have a fair go. Is that a fair comment given that there have been allegations of sexism and bullying?
Karen Andrews: Look, I don’t think it’s a fair comment but it’s a comment that means we need to look at the behaviours within the Liberal and Nationals Party and we need to be taking steps to say that everyone is treated equally but-
Nicole Dyer: Are they being treated equally now?
Karen Andrews: I think there’s still some work that needs to be done because-
Nicole Dyer: In what way? You know, we have a very, very safe Liberal seat in Moncrieff that’s come up for grabs. Steve Ciobo stepping down after what, 18 years? He says he wants a woman, we know Peter Dutton [indistinct] on the Sunshine Coast is really keen to get back to the Gold Coast, he’s got a house here. You beat him in pre-selection ten years ago. What are the chances that we will get a woman in that seat?
Karen Andrews: Well, nominations are open for pre-selection now so whilst they’re open, we don’t have the final field of candidates. I understand that there’s certainly going to be some women who are likely to nominate, there’s likely to be some males who nominate but you asked the question about what we can do to address this so I can speak for the Liberal National Party’s processes, which is that our pre-selections are voted on, so people who stand for pre-selection have to get the support of people who are members of the Party and live in that electorate. So the first thing that we need to do is recruit more women as members of the Liberal National Party, particularly in Queensland, and get another grab of support for women. Then we need to look at the women who are interested in a role in politics, and that doesn’t have to be as a Member or a Senator; it could well be to work in a political office. And we need to nurture those women and their aspirations so that they are in a good position to take on leadership roles in the Party, at the branch level particularly and potentially at the state level. And then they’re in a position to stand for pre-selection and to win it. It’s very difficult to just rock in at the last minute, put your hand up for pre-selection and be selected, it does take work. Men tend to do that more, particularly in Queensland. We need to get more women and we need to start that pipeline.
Nicole Dyer: Just getting back to my original question, is it time for the Liberals to follow Labor’s example and to set a quota?
Karen Andrews: I think that we need to, we need to set as 30 per cent of the target for the next federal election.
Nicole Dyer: For you [indistinct] to the position that you’re in now, which is the first female Cabinet minister Queensland has ever had, what were some of the hardest times for you? When did you feel the Party didn’t have your back because you were a woman?
Karen Andrews: Well, that’s actually an interesting question because as you’ve said, I stood for pre-selection; that was back in 2009. It was a very open pre-selection and I won that pre-selection so I felt that I had support of the people who could vote for me, so that was a positive. Look there were a couple of individuals who were, you know, quite clear in their comments that for a woman to stand for pre-selection it would mean that they were leaving their children, and I did receive that particular comment, which I thought was not appropriate.
Nicole Dyer: And did that comment come from within the Liberal Party?
Karen Andrews: It came from one of the pre-selectors, who’s actually no longer a member of the Party but he emailed me to say that basically, he wouldn’t let his wife leave their children so, which was an interesting comment and wrong on so many levels. I still have that email actually. So I mean those sorts of views do exist broadly across the community but I think they’re well and truly in the minority. I actually believe I have been supported in the various roles that I’ve had; I’ve been particularly well supported by Scott Morrison.
Nicole Dyer: That is Gold Coast MP for McPherson Karen Andrews speaking to me earlier from Canberra.