We have the talent but nobody’s listening
The good news is, right now, I could put 20 CVs of formidably impressive Liberal women who are desperate to be MPs on the table. They have lived experiences, close ties with their communities, decades of work accolades, fresh policy ideas and most importantly – a metric ton of ‘merit’.
The bad news is, the public doesn’t know they exist. Instead of taking note of the black and white statistics that tells us women are more likely to win us seats, we continue to preselect men, or recycle politicians, before daring to put our weight behind some fresh blood.
If we want to start making sure those women get in, we have a few options. Educate and inform the Liberal Party membership and bring them along in the modernising of the party, flood the base of the party so the membership rapidly evolves to reflect society, or, make constitutional amendments so the members have less power (quelle horreur!).
As I said to a group of Liberal women this week, no one is coming to save us. If they were, they would have been here 10 years ago. This is why women, from all factions, need to consider operating as a bloc if things don’t improve.
The factions haven’t backed enough women, so perhaps it’s time to form our own. Uniting women from all sides of the party, and methodically moving in behind each other, getting one cab off the rank at a time.
This is not my option of choice as I don’t want more fractures in the party, but things have been dire for women for years and don’t seem to be improving.
Getting women into parliament, in my opinion, is the most crucial element in the path back to government because winning back the women’s vote isn’t only about half the population. Australian women are the most educated in the world, and the dynamic in households has changed. Many wives now tell their husbands how to vote, so unless we can win them back, we’re losing entire households.
I do genuinely think Liberals have offered some good policies for women. But no one cares. They’re not listening. Our policies have no cut through because they don’t trust us.
You don’t take advice on your love life from a friend who is perpetually single against their will or in bad relationships. The public won’t believe our policies for women or trust us to implement them unless we show we have fixed our own women’s issue.
On policy, I absolutely want to talk about housing and tax reform and big, brainy, ideas. But right now, this shouldn’t be our priority, and given we’re in opposition absolutely everywhere (other than Tasmania), it doesn’t need to be.
The lazy people in our party will tell you the way out of the woods is through policy reform and that’s because it’s easier, and faster, to fix. Policy is important but we would be addressing the symptom, not the cause. And until we can get the public to trust us again, they don’t care what our policies are anyway.
I want to do the hard thing. By addressing our culture we will fix our branding issue as perceived by the public, and create some camaraderie within the divisions.
As for the membership, it’s going to be hard. Across the world, participation in political parties is dwindling. Most people who can be bothered to partake are individuals who want to run themselves, or those on the fringes with extreme views, which is why so few people in the middle, of thought and age, are members in political parties.
Since launching Hilma’s Network seven months ago, 750 people have subscribed to a Liberal affiliated group and I am buoyed by that. I think if we are deliberate, proactive and authentic in our attempts to recruit, we will get new members.
Since the wipe-out in May last year, I do not think we have lifted a finger to redeem our brand. The has been no circuit breaker. I think the issues are so ingrained and severe that the party has analysis paralysis and so isn’t doing anything. We need to do something. It might not be perfect or right, but we need to show the public we’re at least ready and trying to evolve. The Liberal Party’s whole platform cannot continue to be that we are afraid and resistant to all change.
Austral“ian women are the most educated in the world, and the dynamic in households has changed. Many wives now tell their husbands how to vote
CHARLOTTE MORTLOCK IS THE FOUNDER OF HILMA’S NETWORK