21 August 2018


JULIE BISHOP:           To my parliamentary colleagues past and present, to the members of the Lyons family, to the many distinguished Liberals here this evening, to the friends of the Liberal Party. In 1902 Australia made history by becoming the first country to simultaneously grant women the right to vote and the right to stand for Parliament. It took us another 41 years for Enid Lyons to be the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in our national capital. It is fitting tonight we should celebrate her achievements, her 75th anniversary since she was elected and 75 years since she made that maiden speech on the 29th of September 1943. You have heard it re-enacted this evening and so much of it resonates today but there was one part near the end when she spoke of the view of her husband, that the problems of government were not problems of bluebooks, not problems of statistics, but problems of human values, of the human heart and human feelings.

As a wife, as a mother, as an elected representative she brought a warm and insightful view of human nature into the realm of federal politics. By every account she was highly principled, she was gracious but she was a fighter. She stood up for what she believed it. Dame Enid Lyons was truly a trailblazer for every woman who has been elected to the federal parliament since. We stand in her shadow.

The Liberal Party has had many firsts. Many of the magnificent women here this evening are also trailblazers. Yes, I am the – still – Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. I thank my colleagues for their support; I will never take it for granted. I am very proud to be Australia’s first female Foreign Minister as Marise Payne is very proud, I know, to be Australia’s first female Defence Minister. And I can tell you it says something about Australia when Marise and I attend the 2 + 2 meetings with our allies around the world, the foreign ministers and defence ministers of countries, meeting with Marise and me. We are a duo not often seen on the world stage with very few women holding our respective roles.

We need more women in Parliament. We need more women as decision makers. We need more women around the Cabinet table. We need more women as a voice for other women and for the community at large. We have attracted to our Party female parliamentarians who have been nurses and teachers and farmers and lawyers and journalists and pilots and accounts and mothers, we have attracted women from across the spectrum.

In order to get more women into Parliament we need pathways. We need support from other women, we need mentors. We also need a target because the Turnbull Government decided that while the private sector was very slow in appointing women to boards, we as a government could do something about the boards where we appoint the members. And so, we decided that we would set a target – not a quota – that we would aim to ensure that of the available board positions appointed by the Federal Government we would aim 50 per cent be female. As at today, we are nearing 45 per cent of all Federal Government boards have female directors. I have said often,  don’t believe that any country can fully realise its potential unless and until it engages with and embraces the skills and talent and energy and ideas of the 50 per cent of the population that is female and we in the Liberal Party can show the way. We can. We need to support women. We need to attract women to our Party. The values of the Liberal Party are the values that will stand the test of time: support for the individual, for freedom, for enterprise. These are the values that people across Australia can relate to. We are the Party that provides the most hope to the most people.

So, let’s do what Dame Enid suggested, find pathways, support women and ensure that the Liberal Party continues to be the most successful political organisation in this country’s history.


– Ends –


Member for Curtin’s office:             08 9388 0288