Fe­male trou­ble? Not here, Young Libs in­sist

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - PRIM­ROSE RIORDAN

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.”

JOHN FEDER

Young Lib­eral Alex Dore

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