The Liberal Party’s most senior woman, Julie Bishop, has promised to donate to a new “fighting fund” aimed at boosting female representation in the party, following frontbencher Kelly O’Dwyer’s $50,000 contribution.
- The Enid Lyons Fighting Fund aims to boost the number of female Liberal MPs
- Julie Bishop says she’ll “urge others who want to see more Liberal women pre-selected” to donate
- Kelly O’Dwyer started the fund earlier this year, has asked colleagues to match her donation
It comes as the head of the party’s Women’s Committee, Helen Kroger, warned the Liberals they “cannot afford to go backwards” when it comes to the number of women in its ranks and described the preselection dumping of Queensland LNP MP Jane Prentice as a “tragedy”.
Ms Bishop — who is Australia’s first female Foreign Minister — agreed the Liberal Party needed to do more and threw her support behind the newly created “Enid Lyons Fighting Fund”.
“Not only will I make a donation, but I will certainly urge others who want to see more Liberal women pre-selected, and also win elections, in the Federal Parliament,” she told 7.30.
Ms O’Dwyer set up the fund earlier this year and has written to her Cabinet colleagues asking them to match her donation.
The Minister for Women said it was “extraordinary” that since Federation only 24 cabinet positions had been filled by women.
“All parties need to find proactive and practical ways of doing better,” she said.
Ms O’Dwyer has already secured the support of the Prime Minister, who has confirmed his Wentworth branch will also donate $50,000.
‘We cannot go backwards’
The details of her push emerged after Ms Prentice lost her preselection to Brisbane City councillor Julian Simmonds at the weekend, prompting a fierce debate about the small representation of women in the Liberal Party.
Ms Kroger described the result as a “tragedy” and said it was even more shocking given Ms Prentice was being replaced by a man.
“She’s a very capable woman,” Ms Kroger told RN.
“She’s been a great representative of the people of Ryan who elected her not once, but three times.
“Personally, I think it’s a great tragedy.”
Throwing her support behind Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume, who is also facing a potential preselection challenge, Ms Kroger said the party must not replace incumbent female MPs with male candidates.
“What I don’t think we can afford in the Liberal Party is to go backwards,” she said.
“And to achieve that, it means we cannot be removing women from incumbent positions within the party without replacing them with women.”
Women make up just 22 per cent of Liberals in Federal Parliament, compared to 45 per cent of Labor MPs.
Women need ‘financial firepower’ to run effective campaigns
Ms O’Dwyer believes financial assistance will help boost the number of women in the Liberal Party because women are often worried about raising adequate funds.
“When women put their hands up for preselection in the Liberal Party, they need to know that they will have the financial firepower behind them to run effective campaigns,” she said.
The fund will provide financial support to Liberal women in federal election campaigns, including current politicians in marginal electorates and those preselected in winnable seats.
Ms O’Dwyer’s contribution is from funds raised by her Higgins branch.
Donations to the Enid Lyons Fighting Fund are expected to come from specific fundraising events, individuals, Liberal Party divisions and branches.
It is named after Enid Lyons, who was the first female federal MP in 1943, and all donations are tax deductible.
Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst and the party’s federal treasurer Andrew Burns will consult with female Cabinet ministers to decide how the funds are distributed.