DARYL KARP: So, we’re here in King’s Hall, with a wonderfully screaming child in the background but that’s what democracy is all about – encouraging everybody to engage with our democracy as it is. And today, we have the most extraordinary addition to our collection of memorabilia, the most extraordinary addition to our collection, which you will see shortly, and they are a pair of shoes. And for us, why these shoes? Why this? Why now? It’s a snapshot of a point in time in Australia’s history. And we look for those objects that allow us to tell fabulous stories about the people, the political history, the social history that makes up Australia’s democracy and what better way to do it than with Ms Julie Bishop.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, Daryl. I’m delighted to be here this morning in King’s Hall of Parliament House, Canberra. When the Museum of Australian Democracy contacted me and asked me to give them the pair of red shoes that I wore for the press conference last August when I announced that I was resigning as Australia’s Foreign Minister, I wondered whether there was any positive purpose to such a gift. Fashion has been used over the years to make political and social statements. Throughout history, people have been defined by what they wear, and there are so many obvious examples. In the political sphere, Nancy Reagan’s Republican red gowns; Hillary Clinton’s white pantsuit as a nod to the suffragette movement when she accepted the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency; or even more recently, the # MeToo moment when women wore black to the Golden Globes, although women wear black to the Golden Globes a lot.
On the morning of the press conference, I was thinking about what to wear and my mind focused on the grassed courtyard at Parliament House, and so I decided to go for what I would consider a sensible pair of heels, for a comfortable working boot. But through the deft photography of Alex Ellinghausen, my red shoe was seen as a statement of female empowerment. Now, red happens to be a favourite colour of mine. Red evokes power, passion, fashion. A number of nations, many nations, have red in their national flags, denoting courage, freedom, independence. Red, of course, is the colour of love, red hearts, red roses. And fashion- and of course, that’s why they call it a red carpet, red lipstick, red nails. When in doubt, wear red.
As for shoes, I am reminded by my dear friend Natasha Stott Despoja that it was 23 years ago to this very day that Natasha Stott Despoja strode into the Senate as a 26-year-old wearing a pair of black Doc Martens.
The question – why the Museum of Australian Democracy? Well, 20 years ago, I was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention that was held here on the question of whether Australia should become a republic, and for two weeks the delegates debated this issue, and it was my introduction to federal politics and federal politicians, Canberra style. Within nine months, I was the federal Member for Curtin, and so I think the museum here does capture some significant moments in Australia’s political history.
It’s also where I was the week before I made my announcement that I would resign, because my friend Kelly O’Dwyer hosted an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first speech of the first female member of the House of Representatives, Dame Enid Lyons, and many Liberal women from across the country gathered here in August to celebrate women in public life.
As Australia’s first female Foreign Minister, I always wanted to ensure that I made it easier, not harder, for other women to follow; and as Australia’s current Foreign Minister is my dear friend Marise Payne and the second female Foreign Minister of Australia, I hope I’ve achieved that aim.
So, if by gifting these red shoes to the Museum of Australian Democracy I inspire just one young woman to aspire to enter public life, to aspire to be a foreign minister or indeed prime minister, then this gift would have been worth making. So I hereby gift my red shoes to the Australian Museum of Democracy.
QUESTION: How many times did you wear them, Julie?
JULIE BISHOP: Once.
QUESTION: Okay, about once.
JULIE BISHOP: As you can see.
QUESTION: They look pretty new.
JULIE BISHOP: So, it’s with some sadness that I part with them. Any questions?
QUESTION: Julie Bishop, you’re former Minister for Women and Education, what role do you now as the Member for Curtin have in helping those very strong, independent women on the Crossbench? And should the federal Parliament be friends of women and [indistinct]be doing more to make it easier for women in the federal Parliament?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m a member of the Liberal Party and so my purpose, of course, is supporting women in the Liberal Party as I’ve done throughout my 20 years in politics. And as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, I took it upon myself to mentor young women, new members of Parliament – females. I would often hold events for our female members to gather and discuss issues. I also worked very hard in the Liberal Party to encourage more women to enter Parliament. As far as women in the Parliament more generally, I do support a greater representation of females in our Parliament. I have to say on many occasions, that no nation will reach its full potential unless it fully engages with the energy and efforts and skills and ideas of the 50 per cent of its population that is female – indeed, in Australia’s case, the 51 per cent.
In Western Australia, I’m the patron of a new initiative called Empowering Women, where we are contacting young professional women; women in business; women working in the communities to be involved in public discussions, not necessarily to become a member of the Liberal Party, but to be exposed to public affairs. And we had an event the other night – about 60 young women came. So we can talk about quotas, we can talk about targets, but you need a pool of talented women who are prepared to be interested in politics and perhaps stand for elected office, and we need a pipeline and that’s what I’m working on achieving at present.
JOURNALIST: Julie, last night, John Howard said: whether it is on the Labor side or our side, MPs must remember they are overwhelmingly there because of their patronage from their own party and they should never forget that. We’ve seen Julia Banks move to the crossbench yesterday. Would you consider a move to the crossbench?
JULIE BISHOP: Well first, may I say about John Howard, he is a great Australian and he is one of our finest prime ministers and I have an enormous deal of respect for John Howard. But it’s interesting as I reflect on my 20 years in Parliament, for when I was pre-selected as the Liberal candidate for Curtin, John Howard as Prime Minister urged voters to support a Liberal who had turned Independent and was seated on the crossbenches. So, I am pleased that that view no longer prevails with the Liberal hierarchy. As for my role in the Parliament, I have been an elected Liberal member for 20 years. I’ve served in the Howard, Abbott, and Turnbull cabinets, and I have no intention of sitting on the crossbench.
JOURNALIST: Did you know Julia Banks was going to move to the crossbench?
JULIE BISHOP: Julia informed me after she had made the statement in Parliament. In fact, she informed a number of us after she had stood up and made her statement.
JOURNALIST: Did you see it coming – her intention?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, it was apparent to everyone who follows politics that she was not happy with the leadership change. In August, she put out a statement at the time, so you only have to read her statement to appreciate that she was obviously not happy with the outcome of that issue.
JOURNALIST: You’re the Liberal’s most senior woman – everything you do is a statement of empowering women. What do you make of all your colleagues, including women, when asked about Julia Banks just saying: yes, we’re disappointed about it; we’re moving on. Don’t you think there needs to be focus on all these women that are leaving the party?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s quite evident that there are now a number of women sitting on the crossbench who hold what were once considered safe Liberal seats and that, of course, is a matter of concern, and I know the party is concerned about that. In the case of Julia Banks, I’m disappointed that she felt the need to leave the Liberal Party and she got to that point. However, knowing her as I do, she obviously gave it a lot of thought and she must believe this is how she can best represent the interests of the people of Chisholm. I believe I can best represent the people of the Curtin by being a member of the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, you were talking about your role in pastoral care for women in the Liberal Party, you say you do know Julia Banks; did you have any discussions with her before she stood up and made that statement in the House yesterday about [indistinct]?
JULIE BISHOP: I think you’ll find that there are many members of Parliament who keep their intentions to themselves, that they don’t share their intentions with others. That’s certainly been my experience.
JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, are you disappointed that Scott Morrison appears to have been snubbed for a bilateral with Donald Trump in the G20?
JULIE BISHOP: I’m not aware that that’s the case. I’m not involved in the Prime Minister’s scheduling nor that of President Trump’s. So, I’m sure if the meeting can take place, it will. But if scheduling conflicts occur, that’s what happens in some of these meetings. The G20 meetings are hectic. They are, from my experience, they are very busy, and you don’t always meet with every one of the other leaders at that time. But there are many opportunities for world leaders to meet, and the Australia-US relationship is strong and deep, and it will continue, whomever is in the White House, whomever is in the Lodge.
JOURNALIST: Are you aware of any other women within the party that are disappointed and may leave?
JULIE BISHOP: No, I’m not.
JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, the Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer cited that many believe that the party has been anti-women; do you agree with those comments?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, I understand that they are comments that were attributed to Kelly O’Dwyer. I’m not aware of whether she actually said that, they were attributed to her by someone who was apparently at a meeting. But I think Kelly has expressed before her concern about the level of female representation in the Liberal Party. Indeed, she set up a fighting fund, to which I’ve donated money, to support women who are contesting marginal seats because she believes that more money is needed to support them and I agree. So, Kelly has long been on the record expressing her concern about the level of female representation on the part of the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree though that the Government can be seen as anti-women?
JULIE BISHOP: They are words attributed to Kelly O’Dwyer. I’ll use my words and I’ve just answered your question.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Peter Dutton or any other MP sitting in federal Parliament should be referred to the High Court under section 44?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a matter for each member to consider their circumstances and satisfy themselves and their electorate that they are eligible to sit in the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: That’s not a no.
JULIE BISHOP: That’s my answer.
JOURNALIST: Is there some irony in the fact that today you’ve presented shoes that are representative of equal gender representation or more gender representation in Parliament the day after the Liberal Party’s numbers of female representatives dropped by one?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, what I think is interesting about today is that we have an initiative in the Parliament called Girls Taking Over Parliament, and I have a young woman from ANU working in my office today, Cherry Zheng. And they have come to Parliament to see how it operates, to see what opportunities there are. They’re bright young women ‘taking over Parliament’. So, there clearly is a need for us to discuss the level of representation of females in the Parliament. There’s a need for us to increase that. When I talk about a nation not reaching its potential unless it fully harnesses the efforts and energies and skills of 50 per cent of the population, that goes for organisations as well, and that includes the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly: what do you make of the comments of Barry O’Sullivan in the Senate towards Sarah Hanson-Young? Does this behaviour need to stop?
JULIE BISHOP: I wasn’t there, I didn’t hear them. I have heard fleetingly reports on it. So, I’m not going to give a running commentary on what goes on in the Senate. But, we all have to take personal responsibility for our behaviour, and, of course, we should be respectful towards each other whether it’s in the Parliament or outside the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: You would have heard the comments that he made, though, whether it was direct of indirectly, what would you make of those comments?
JULIE BISHOP: I wasn’t here in Canberra yesterday. I had a pair – I was attending a number of meetings in Sydney that were very important, so I wasn’t here. I’m not going to give a running commentary on what every senator says in the Senate. My overall point is that we take personal responsibility – each of us – for the way we behave.
JOURNALIST: Will you help maintain the representation of women in the Liberal Party by contesting the next election for the seat of Curtin?
JULIE BISHOP: I am the pre-selected candidate for the Liberal Party for the seat of Curtin.
JOURNALIST: And you’ll contest the election?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s my intention to do so.
JOURNALIST: This morning, Kerryn Phelps referred to Christopher Pyne’s intention to refer her as a threat and as intimidation; how do you view that? Do you view that as intimidation?
JULIE BISHOP: I wasn’t present when Christopher Pyne spoke with or spoke about Kerryn Phelps. I’m not aware of the terms of what he said, but my point is every member has a responsibility to ensure that they are eligible to sit in the Parliament. Every member should take their advice. Where there’s some doubt, then in the past, the people have referred themselves or have been referred. So, it’s a question for everyone to look at their own eligibility. I’ve certainly considered mine and I’m perfectly satisfied that I’m eligible and have always been eligible to sit in the federal Parliament.
JOURNALIST: We heard a lot about Malcolm Turnbull being a champion for women. He, of course, made that link with domestic violence, saying that it starts with disrespecting women. Do you think Scott Morrison is a champion of women?
JULIE BISHOP: I would hope that all Liberal leaders are champions for women. And we have a proud history of firsts for women throughout the Liberal Party’s long and distinguished and successful period in Government. And I would hope that every person who is elected to lead the Liberal Party would be a champion for women. Okay thank you very much.
– Ends –