Female trouble? Not here, Young Libs insist
Three high-ranking Young Liberals have rejected the need for “dehumanising” quotas or a new strategy to attract women to the party, insisting there has been a surge in females filling senior roles in the youth wing.
Speaking to The Weekend Australian, Young Liberals federal president Josh Manuatu, NSW vice-president Brigid Meney and former NSW president Alex Dore said women were more engaged than ever and argued the tumultuous period in federal politics had not diminished their interest in becoming members.
“The people who are most engaged with the Young Liberal movement this year have been women, the most I’ve seen it in nine years,” Ms Meney said.
“We’ve had a 22 per cent increase of women on our Young Liberal executive across NSW and that’s with no quotas, no targets. I don’t think people are thinking about it, they are just the people doing the work.
“I’m willing to be patient to wait for that to flow on, coupled with the fact that I’ve never seen the Liberal Party more interested in having women from a cultural perspective.”
Female Liberal MPs have joined forces in recent weeks to speak out against claims the party is not friendly to women, amid claims of bullying during the week of the leadership spill and criticism of their low representation in the federal parliament.
Mr Dore, who sits on the NSW Liberal state executive, said he was “totally against” quotas as they were “dehumanising”, and the party membership agreed.
“It’s dehumanising because they strip somebody of their individuality and say ‘we’re going to treat you based on some attributes that you actually cannot impact’,” he said.
“One of the largest polls conducted by the NSW Liberals of the party asked a specific question about quotas and it was the most emphatic response out of every response: something like 90 per cent of party members said under no circumstances do they think that we should have quotas.”
Mr Manuatu said while the party had “room for improvement” on the issue, quotas were not the answer and mentoring programs were working well behind the scenes.
“We think we should be backing people on the basis of merit and where that is the case we’re seeing people like (former Tasmanian Young Liberals president) Claire Chandler, (Queensland senator) Amanda Stoker, (ACT Legislative Assembly) Candice Burch coming through,” he said.
None of the Young Liberals spoke in favour of a new program to attract women despite calls from senior colleagues such as federal MP Jason Falinski for the party’s organisational wing to have a dedicated team of headhunters to identify and mentor talented prospective candidates.
“I hope more people, whatever political stripe they want to wear, consider joining a political party, consider getting engaged in the process, but I don’t think it should be limited to someone of a particular attribute,” Mr Dore said.
Ms Meney said declining interest among Australians in traditional political parties “hasn’t translated to the Young Liberals just yet”.
“I’ve watched it in the last three years become a more active movement … than when I first joined,” she said. “We get close to 200 at Young Liberal councils and we hold them every two months. And you could do something every night of the week if you wanted to.”
Young Liberal Alex Dore