“I DON’T LIKE LA­BELS”

WITH A STAR-STUD­DED AD­DRESS BOOK AND KILLER WARDROBE, JULIE BISHOP IS PROV­ING TO BE A UNIQUE KIND OF FOR­EIGN MIN­IS­TER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words JOR­DAN BAKER Pho­tog­ra­phy HUGH STE­WART Styling GEMMA KEIL Cre­ative di­rec­tion ALEK­SAN­DRA BEARE

Diplo­mat. In­tel­lec­tual. Fash­ion lover. Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Julie Bishop opens up about her re­fusal to be type­cast and why she’ll never apol­o­gise for embracing her fem­i­nin­ity.

Julie Bishop’s bright pink fin­ger­nails clack against the iphone screen as she scrolls through her pho­to­graphs. “Look at my Amal set – she’s such a gor­geous girl,” says the Aus­tralian for­eign min­is­ter, reach­ing over the ta­ble to re­veal pic­tures of her­self (in Ar­mani) with Amal Clooney, the hu­man rights lawyer and wife of Hol­ly­wood heart-throb Ge­orge Clooney (in Dior), at a func­tion to raise aware­ness of the per­se­cu­tion of thou­sands of Yazidi women by ISIS.

She pulls up an­other pic from the New York trip – Bishop is with three other fe­male for­eign min­is­ters, who are all laugh­ing. “There we all are, wav­ing at [Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter] Justin Trudeau.” She scrolls along to a pic­ture of her­self, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov and US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry at a re­cent meet­ing about Syria. “There’s me, there’s Lavrov, there’s Kerry. Can you imag­ine? Tense. The body lan­guage tells you ev­ery­thing.”

With her Tom Ford sun­glasses, star-stud­ded con­tact list and a fig­ure most 20-year-olds would envy, Bishop is the kind of for­eign min­is­ter many of us would like to be. She is one of the best per­form­ers of the Coali­tion gov­ern­ment: hard-work­ing, as­sertive and charm­ing, able to ban­ter with di­vi­sive UK politi­cian Boris John­son, stand up to the Rus­sians, and fight for Aus­tralia’s in­ter­ests in the most in­tim­i­dat­ing fo­rums in the world. But she also has a hand­some part­ner, a de­signer wardrobe (Sally at Ar­mani has her credit card de­tails and size), and is unashamedly fem­i­nine.

“She presents the most so­phis­ti­cated im­age on the world stage that Aus­tralia has ever pre­sented,” ob­serves Vogue Aus­tralia ed­i­tor-in-chief Ed­wina Mccann, who works with Bishop on the Aus­tralian Fash­ion Cham­ber. “It’s an im­age that a lot of young women would as­pire to.”

BISHOP AR­RIVES FOR her Stel­lar photo shoot in Syd­ney with a pile of Ar­mani clothes from her own wardrobe. A mild stand-off with the Stel­lar ed­i­to­rial team en­sues; she wants to wear her own cloth­ing, they want her to wear the cloth­ing the fash­ion ed­i­tor has brought. Bishop gives a glimpse of the as­sertive­ness she pre­sum­ably takes into cab­i­net meet­ings. “I am not a model,” she says archly. “I am a for­eign min­is­ter.”

Af­ter a fur­ther ex­change, she uses her diplo­matic skills to ne­go­ti­ate a com­pro­mise. She re­jects a leather skirt

and black cut-out shoul­der top, but agrees to try the items on the stylist’s rack that she might have se­lected her­self. Peace deal suc­cess­fully bro­kered, ev­ery­one gets to work.

Mag­a­zine photo shoots like this one have tra­di­tion­ally been dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory for women in pol­i­tics – hence, per­haps, Bishop’s cau­tion. Aus­tralia doesn’t like its fe­male politi­cians be­ing too fe­male.

The list of ca­su­al­ties is long. In re­cent years, La­bor front­bencher Kate El­lis was ex­co­ri­ated for wear­ing high heels in a mag­a­zine shoot with Grazia, while Anna Bligh was ac­cused of putting per­sonal pub­lic­ity ahead of Queens­land when the then-premier agreed to a two-hour photo shoot with The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly in 2011.

Bishop, how­ever, seems to be in a league of her own. Not only has she graced the pages of Vogue Aus­tralia, Harper’s Bazaar and marie claire, but she loves clothes, likes to look good and en­joys read­ing fash­ion mag­a­zines. Un­like those who have come be­fore her, the woman fea­tured in those glossies, wear­ing Ar­mani and Kailis pearls, is the real Julie Bishop.

“I don’t think we should apol­o­gise for our fem­i­nin­ity,” she says. “I don’t think we should apol­o­gise for our in­ter­est in fash­ion. I have al­ways loved fash­ion and beau­ti­ful clothes and mag­a­zines and all of that, that doesn’t mean I can’t have a se­ri­ous ca­reer and hold deeply com­plex, se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tions about world events with peo­ple. To sug­gest you can’t do both is in­sult­ing.

“The most pos­i­tive feed­back I get tends to be from young women, who say, ‘That’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear that I have to apol­o­gise for who I am; I want to be able to back my own in­tu­ition, my own judge­ment, have con­fi­dence in my be­liefs and who I am.’ If you are con­fi­dent, if you are re­laxed in your own skin, don’t let them de­fine you. Don’t let other peo­ple de­fine you.”

Per­haps it’s the con­fi­dence that comes with a sec­ond term in a job she loves, but Bishop is re­veal­ing more of her per­son­al­ity than ever be­fore. The rain­bow set of boxy jack­ets she wore in Op­po­si­tion is giv­ing way to edgier fash­ion choices, such as the suit with shorts she wore to meet Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son. (“It’s this year’s fash­ion, so I wore them,” she says. “It didn’t oc­cur to me at the time that I was mak­ing some kind of state­ment.”)

We see fewer death stares, and more emo­jis. She sits in the front row at the David Jones fash­ion show. This year, she’ll sand­wich Derby Day be­tween meet­ings and a sit­ting of par­lia­ment. She was rarely pho­tographed with her last boyfriend, for­mer Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nat­trass, but she is reg­u­larly out and about with her part­ner of two years, the rather dash­ing for­mer phar­ma­cist David Pan­ton, who some­times trav­els with her. “He’s a very spe­cial per­son in my life,” says Bishop. Funny? Smart? “All of that,” she replies with a coy smile.

One for­mer col­league says Bishop is not above us­ing her fem­i­nin­ity as an as­set. “She can be flirty,” he says. “The per­sona changes, and the blokes like it. I’ve seen it work. She knows how to use it.”

Bishop’s en­e­mies – and she does have them within her party, mostly al­lies of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott who be­lieve, de­spite her de­nials, that she be­trayed him – ac­cuse her of be­ing starstruck. They say she loves par­ties and glo­be­trot­ting and celebri­ties a lit­tle too much.

But sup­port­ers ar­gue there’s no rea­son why she can’t play as well as work. It might even be an ad­van­tage.

“The per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and con­nec­tions you are able to es­tab­lish, the longer you are in the role, ac­tu­ally work very much in the in­ter­ests of the coun­try,” says Bishop. “Be­cause if you are able to es­tab­lish a rap­port, a com­mon in­ter­est, and con­tinue to fol­low them up and re­main in con­tact, there are many times when I have been able to use that per­sonal con­tact to get through to some­one, to ask if they will take a mat­ter into ac­count, to pro­mote Aus­tralia’s in­ter­ests in cir­cum­stances you might not oth­er­wise have been able to. I swap mo­bile phone numbers as of­ten as pos­si­ble.”

BISHOP LIKES SOME la­bels, but re­jects oth­ers. She likes Ar­mani and Rachel Gil­bert and Es­cada, but she doesn’t like to be called a fem­i­nist. When asked why, she bris­tles. “I just don’t use la­bels to de­scribe my­self,” she says.

“If you want to know what I stand for, I am a Lib­eral. Where do I come from? I am a West Aus­tralian. What do I do? I am a for­eign min­is­ter. Be­yond that, I tend not to self-de­scribe. I don’t call my­self a Marx­ist, I don’t call my­self a fem­i­nist, I don’t call my­self a range of things. If oth­ers wish to, that’s fine. I don’t know why this is even raised, I must say.”

It’s raised be­cause Bishop is, whether she likes the term fem­i­nist or not, a trail­blazer for women. She’s the first fe­male Aus­tralian for­eign min­is­ter, and

“I love fash­ion. That doesn’t mean I can’t have a se­ri­ous ca­reer”

the first woman to be the deputy leader of the Lib­eral party. She’s held that job since 2007, un­der three lead­ers and through three lead­er­ship changes.

She is also a cham­pion of women. In July, she ap­pointed the first fe­male Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade. She em­ploys women on her staff. She is not, ac­cord­ing to those who have worked with her, the type to climb up and kick down.

Bishop also uses her po­si­tion to pro­mote equal op­por­tu­nity. “Julie has en­sured that gen­der equal­ity and the em­pow­er­ment of women and girls are a cen­tral part of Aus­tralia’s for­eign pol­icy and in­ter­na­tional devel­op­ment work,” says for­mer Democrats leader and Aus­tralia’s Am­bas­sador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott De­spoja.

The for­eign min­is­ter was the first per­son in par­lia­ment in whom Min­is­ter for Rev­enue and Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Kelly O’dwyer con­fided she was preg­nant. “When you have ex­cit­ing news like that, there is also cau­tion about how you go about telling peo­ple,” says O’dwyer. “[Julie] was a source of ad­vice to me at the time, and a source of sup­port. She will lis­ten, she will keep a con­fi­dence, and she will prob­lem-solve.”

Bishop is sen­si­tive to the strug­gles of women bal­anc­ing work and fam­ily. She says for­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Howard was just stat­ing a fact when he said re­cently that women’s abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics is con­strained by their role in car­ing for oth­ers.

“The point he didn’t go on and make was how can we en­sure that fed­eral par­lia­ment can be more fam­ily friendly, so women can take part in pol­i­tics,” she states. “It’s not only par­lia­ment, it’s the 24/7 na­ture of the job, and I don’t know if that’s of­ten un­der­stood. You are es­sen­tially on call seven days a week.”

Politi­cians can make child­care more af­ford­able and tai­lor parental leave schemes to the needs of men and women, but the real change, she says, must come from the bot­tom up. “Pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions are one thing, at­ti­tudes are an­other,” she says. “You could have all of the poli­cies avail­able, but un­less peo­ple are pre­pared to change the roles and be more flex­i­ble, it will all come to naught.”

Bishop works in a world that’s still jam-packed with men. Most of her meet­ings are with blokes in suits, some­times in coun­tries in which women are still at the bot­tom of the power food chain. When she vis­its those coun­tries, she is prag­matic.

In Iran, she would not have been al­lowed into the meet­ings with­out a hi­jab. So she cov­ered her head – a de­ci­sion that prompted crit­i­cism at home – but chose a sparkly scarf by Ar­mani with which to do it. “In all meet­ings, you have to be con­fi­dent, hold your ground, and not take a back­wards step,” she says. “That’s not about be­ing a woman, that’s about rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try.”

Bishop be­lieves that any woman who can reach the heights of for­eign

min­is­ter – or prime min­ster, or prime min­is­ter’s chief of staff (Bishop says she never saw Peta Credlin, Tony Ab­bott’s for­mer chief of staff, be­ing sub­ject to sex­ism; “I didn’t ob­serve it”) – can­not claim to have been dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause of their gen­der. “Of course there is al­ways lan­guage or sit­u­a­tions or things that are said or done,” she says. “It runs through your mind, ‘Would that have oc­curred if I were male?’ But I don’t let it get to me.”

One would al­most pity the man who tried that on with Bishop. She thrives on chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions. Within weeks of be­com­ing for­eign min­is­ter, she was wield­ing the gavel at the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. I ask whether she was ner­vous. “It was amaz­ing,” she says.

She was an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant dur­ing the afore­men­tioned meet­ing at which John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov ar­gued over Syria. “I made a con­tri­bu­tion, but I was wit­ness to the ex­changes be­tween the US rep and the Rus­sian rep, and you re­alise you are ob­serv­ing his­tory in the mak­ing,” she says. “The sig­nif­i­cance of the events I am in­volved in doesn’t es­cape me.”

She hap­pily name-drops, at Stel­lar’s in­vi­ta­tion. Barack Obama, she says, is “very easy to get along with”. Hil­lary Clin­ton is “very pro­fes­sional, very charm­ing, very direct”. Boris John­son “is very in­tel­li­gent, very quick-wit­ted, but is also tak­ing his role as for­eign sec­re­tary very se­ri­ously”.

“There are some fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple I have met. Chal­leng­ing. In­ter­est­ing. Charm­ing. Ro­bust.” Such as? “The Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter.”

Bishop is not ner­vous about a Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency. She met with his rep­re­sen­ta­tives dur­ing her last US visit. “I am prag­matic. You have to work with the hand you are dealt. You can’t wish the world to be the way you want it to be, you work with the world that is.”

The for­eign min­is­ter spends half her time over­seas, a quar­ter in Can­berra, and a quar­ter in Perth. The power plays in Can­berra might not be as com­pelling as those in the United Na­tions, but they are just as im­por­tant for a se­nior mem­ber of a gov­ern­ment with a slim ma­jor­ity. Vot­ers like Bishop, as do po­lit­i­cal donors. Some in her party do, some don’t. She says her am­bi­tion is to re­main as for­eign min­is­ter, but she won’t be drawn on whether she’d have a tilt at the lead­er­ship if the op­por­tu­nity arose.

“I have ful­filled ev­ery am­bi­tion I had in pol­i­tics, and that was to be for­eign min­is­ter,” she ex­plains. “It’s not a ques­tion of want­ing to [be leader]. There are lit­er­ally dozens of peo­ple who want to be the prime min­is­ter, who want to be the leader, and it’s de­ter­mined by events far more than am­bi­tion.”

Her friends say she doesn’t have her eye on the top job. “She has no am­bi­tion to be the leader of the party at some point in the fu­ture, but in my view she is ex­tremely ca­pa­ble of be­ing so,” says Bren­dan Nel­son, the first Lib­eral leader Bishop served un­der as deputy.

Bishop makes her job look glam­orous, but it’s gru­elling, too. She works non­stop. On some trips she’s away for three of four nights, and catches all her sleep on planes. She copes by stay­ing fit – she’s a keen run­ner – and eat­ing well.

She cel­e­brated her 60th birth­day in July with no re­grets, but ex­cite­ment about what lay ahead. “I have a very chal­leng­ing ca­reer, I have a very sat­is­fy­ing per­sonal life, I am en­joy­ing ev­ery mo­ment of it,” she says. “I feel fit and healthy, and I am lov­ing life.”

“The sig­nif­i­cance of the events I am in­volved in doesn’t es­cape me”

JULIE WEARS Em­po­rio Ar­mani coat, and Gior­gio Ar­mani pants, ban­gles and shoes, (02) 8233 5888; her own ear­rings; chair, livingedge.com.au

POWER PLAY (from top) Julie Bishop and US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den; with hu­man rights lawyer Amal Clooney; hav­ing a laugh with Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son; in full Ques­tion Time.

JULIE WEARS Stella Mccart­ney jacket, david­jones. com.au; Gior­gio Ar­mani dress, (02) 8233 5888; (be­low) Bishop with her part­ner David Pan­ton and singer Mariah Carey; along­side US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry.

JULIE WEARS Gior­gio Ar­mani coat, (02) 8233 5888

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