Quotas — Fixed, Soft, “Aspirational” — Have No Place In The Liberal Party

THE ONLY determinant of who political parties select to contest parliamentary seats should be a consideration of the best candidate available; a call this week by the federal executive of the Liberal Party for an “aspirational” target of 50% female representation is idiot-simple, patronising, and divisive, and will achieve nothing of merit. Poor candidate selection is enough of a problem as it is, across all parties, without entrenching it further.

About twelve or eighteen months ago, it was relayed to me that “Peta” — Tony Abbott’s former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin — had “decided” that her “legacy” should be the formal adoption by the Liberal Party of a “binding soft target” that 50% of all Liberal candidates preselected to winnable seats should be female, and that she was “determined to force the party to accept” the position she had decided to pursue.

That conversation, with an excellently placed source, took place at the time Credlin was at the height of her paranoid, micromanaging, amateurish power at the epicentre of the Abbott government, and given my complete opposition to quotas of any kind, I assured my source that if Credlin’s “legacy” ever saw the light of day I would do everything in my power to torpedo it: and with the Fairfax press reporting this week that the Liberals’ federal executive has resolved to introduce exactly what was conveyed to me all that time ago, here we are.

Aside from the sheer effrontery of a glorified and jumped-up public servant taking it upon herself to decide she was entitled to “a legacy” at all, those who advocate this sort of garbage miss the point that whilst similar arrangements at the ALP have succeeded in lifting the number of women sitting in Parliaments across the country, the overall calibre of elected representatives is no better now than it has ever been.

And I do not subscribe to the half-arsed counterpoint that if MPs are to be mediocre anyway, then half of them might as well be women: to me, the issue is the calibre of people overall who stand for elected office, and the problem to be solved is not one of gender at all but rather one of identifying, nurturing and encouraging the very best people within the ranks of the major parties — irrespective of whether they are men or women — to put themselves forward.

We will come back to those arguments, but first and foremost, the Fairfax article details the kind of thing the Communist Party (the real one in the Soviet Union) might have come up with if it turned its collective head to putting women in positions of power in the Politburo; this has it all — a 50% “aspirational” target (read: the compulsory and arbitrary carve-up of seats and the corresponding disregard for local branches to select the candidates they want); a “Liberal Champions of Change” program that forces men and women to “advocate for gender equality;” and pompously misleading assertions like the suggestion that simply putting more women in Parliament — because they’re female — will solve “a long-term existential challenge for the party, which it must proactively address in order to remain electorally relevant.”

The report disingenuously alludes to voting patterns at the 2010 federal election — at which Labor scored a lift in its vote from women simply on account of fielding the first female major party leader in Australian political history — but makes no reference to the 2013 election, at which both male and female voters flooded back to the Coalition as the ALP’s tenure in office was terminated.

And it should surprise nobody that the Women’s Working Group — set up in March this year — and its report have both materialised on the watch of outgoing federal director Brian Loughnane, who is of course Credlin’s husband; the apparent contrivance of the husband to bring the wife’s “legacy” to fruition is just a bit too convenient to be a coincidence.

In other words, those who try to defend this new direction in high-minded, sanctimonious terms really should get over themselves.

The Fairfax report cites three examples of the alleged railroading of female candidates as evidence of the problem such a change at the Liberal Party would supposedly correct.

One — Jane Hume, recently preselected to the third spot on the Coalition Senate ticket in Victoria — and the question of why she wouldn’t simply be elevated up the ticket to the second (more winnable) spot now Michael Ronaldson has announced he won’t stand again; the appropriate forums within the Liberal Party will make a determination on that, but the opening Hume contested was secured on the basis it would be the third spot on the ticket. Based on existing polling, the Coalition is almost certain to win a third Senator from Victoria at next year’s election. But the decision is being misrepresented as a simple male vs female equation; there is also an opportunity to get not one good new good Liberal candidate (Hume) into the Senate, but two.

Two — former state MP Donna Bauer’s interest in the federal seat of Dunkley, being vacated by former minister Bruce Billson — similarly fails to offer the cut-and-dried evidence of the need for “action” on women it is clearly intended to supply; Dunkley is a marginal seat at the best of times, and doesn’t even satisfy the women’s lobby’s demands to be allocated safe seats; Bauer has also been extremely ill (a fact well-known publicly) and she would have to satisfy any council of preselectors that she was literally fit to serve through both a gruelling election campaign and a three-year term if elected. That said, Bauer was an excellent MP as the member for Carrum, and in a seat usually held by Labor it was a credit to her that she won it at all. But the point is that her gender, frankly, has nothing to do with either the calibre of the service she did and may yet render, nor with the question of whether she should replace Billson in the federal seat that overlaps her old one in state Parliament.

And three, the question of whether upper house Victorian MP Margaret Fitzherbert should replace outgoing state Brighton MP Louise Asher in the bluest of blue ribbon state seats when Asher retires in 2018; Margaret is a friend, and when I first met her she had just been shouldered out of standing for the federal seat of Goldstein to make way for Andrew Robb (who has been an excellent ministerial performer, if not perhaps a visible local presence) and to be honest I’m in two minds: on the one hand, she would make an excellent state MP wherever she served, but on the other, she already has a state seat. Yes, it was a touch-and-go proposition, secured as it was last year from the third spot on the Coalition’s upper house ticket in the Southern Metropolitan electorate. But Margaret would arguably offer the Liberal Party its best prospect for continuing to hold three of the five Southern Metropolitan seats, and once again, the issue here isn’t one of gender at all, but rather of the party making the very best use of the resources it has at its disposal.

There are no straightforward answers to any of these three scenarios, but simply installing the woman in any or all of them precludes the prospect of a better candidate (who might in fact be female herself) from being considered. And that is not in the interests of the party, the wider community it seeks to serve, or even the tokenised, patronised woman in the middle of it, who must know the only reason for her preselection is what is (or isn’t) between her legs when what is between her ears is what really matters.

Speaking of Robb and Goldstein — for Andrew, at 65 next year, won’t be around forever either — I was recently shown a list of the names of four aspirants who hoped to succeed him as a Liberal MP in Goldstein; three of them were male and one was female. To be frank, three (including the female) would be nothing less than the waste of a safe seat on a time-server, and the fourth might be best served waiting five or ten years. Lest anyone think I’m being anti-women, however, I told the person who gave me the names to discard all four from consideration, and to go and chase a certain female identity around our branches who I think is one of the best potential MPs I have come across in many years: her name was not one of the four we had discussed.

I relay these stories, and my thinking in response to them, simply to illustrate just how rigid, brainless and counter-productive the adoption of  any kind of quota by the Liberal Party may be.

But lest there be any confusion about it, one of the reasons there are fewer female MPs from the Liberal Party is that for whatever reason, women seem less willing to put themselves forward for elected office; maybe women aren’t as interested in politics to the degree men are, or maybe they are unwilling to surrender lives, careers, earning capacity (and sometimes, marriages) to the brutal bear pit that is parliamentary politics in this country to the extent men are.

One thing I do know, however, is that a better approach to boosting the ranks of female MPs would be to identify suitable female candidates and encourage them to put themselves forward, and this is one area I think all parties might improve their efforts on: if it “naturally” occurs to men to do so, but women are more reticent, every assistance and encouragement should be offered. But simply finding female names to allocate to seats in Parliament is no solution at all.

The Liberal Party is just that — a party of free-minded individuals that champions the right of the individual to make decisions — and shackling it with some silly, arbitrary gender quota runs utterly counter to that noble principle.

And if you’re just going to tell half your branches that the seats they’re located in are reserved for female candidates only, it follows that you’re either going to encourage capable, ambitious men to start moving all over the place to chase a seat, or — more likely — to drop out of active involvement in the party altogether. Far from strengthening anything, as a quota of any description would seek to do, the end result would be to rob the party of ideas, resources, and potential parliamentary servants.

This column has never supported quotas in any way, shape, or form; be it Jacqui Lambie and her plans to create reserved seats for Aborigines, Bill Shorten’s (quietly abandoned) plot to introduce quotas for gays, lesbians, blacks, and heaven knows who else, or the disgusting female candidate factory of the hard socialist Left that is Emily’s List, the interests of whichever group stands to benefit from a quota are, in my view, tarnished and compromised by the very measure intended to advance them.

Quotas are patronising, humiliating, condescending and tokenistic; they send the terrible message that merit, in the big scheme of things, is irrelevant; they send the message to any group not covered by the quota that they are second-rate citizens; and all they really achieve is to enable whatever band of do-gooders responsible for them to feel good about themselves when there is little evidence they make any difference to the quality of outcomes — in this case, where governance of the country is concerned.

Does anyone seriously and credibly suggest the likes of Julia Gillard, Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young or the late Joan Kirner are shining advertisements for the virtues of open slather promotion of women simply because they are female? If you’re a socialist, perhaps, but for anyone with a brain they embody the fact that competence is too easily disregarded when gender is allowed to dictate things like political preselections, and so it would be if the Liberals adopt the recommendation on the table.

Political parties are volunteer organisations that have trouble as it is attracting quality candidates for all kinds of reasons — money foremost amongst them — and all quotas do in my view is entrench the mediocrity that more often than not emerges from preselection processes.

Look at the ALP, with its binding quotas: yes, there are an awful lot of useless male Labor MPs littered across Parliaments around the country, but the binding 35% quota for female representation simply means they’re accompanied by more equally useless women than their counterparts across the aisle.

Some might find that a hard judgement, but it’s meant to be: star candidates for high office are the exception, not the norm, however chauvinistic about the primacy of our respective parties we might choose to be.

Be they male or female, straight or gay, the sad fact is that the overwhelming majority of people elected to Parliaments in Australia are far from the best possible people in the community to fill those posts.

This issue has been a bugbear of mine for years; of course it would be good to see more women in Parliament, but by the same token it would be even better to improve the quality of elected representatives in general.

Quotas — be they hard, firm, soft, binding, arbitrary, aspirational or whatever — have no place in the Liberal Party or, as far as I’m concerned, anywhere else; the more important change that needs to be looked at is how to improve the calibre of elected representatives. Men and women alike should be championing the issue of merit, not bickering over how to favour one gender over the other.

If there’s one good thing that might emerge from this silly push to impose quotas on the Liberals, it could be that men are forced to give a more stringent account of themselves by women concentrating not on securing automatic allocations from the carve-up, but instead on encouraging the best in their ranks to step forward and take the men on. Just as there are mediocrities everywhere in politics, there are also some very good people, and a lot of those are female. But rigour and discipline, not quotas, are required for the cultural change I am alluding to.

Liberals — male and female alike — should do whatever they can to shoot this ridiculous recommendation down. As for Credlin, she can bury her “legacy” where the sun doesn’t shine. If, that is, she can extricate her head first to make way for it.

Maybe Credlin still thinks she should be gifted a safe Liberal seat. If she does, she’s in for a shock. There are resources available across from Australia to fund an independent conservative campaign against her should she ever put her head above the parapet. The reasons people are prepared to ensure she never sits in Parliament have nothing to do with gender.

In fact, a quick check on the identity of the current Prime Minister and the terminal electoral position of his predecessor speak volumes for the “merit” Credlin offers as a candidate. She can’t have it both ways. She was a woman given the #1 unelected position in Australian politics and was given unprecedented free rein to execute it, and fucked it up completely. Nothing to do with gender at all. Nobody to blame except herself.

If Credlin wants a fitting legacy, I’m sure there’s a jobs desk at Centrelink that might benefit from her aptitude for micromanagement, but the Liberal Party must consign her — and her silly quota — to the dustbin of history.


Liberal Women: Quotas No Way To Boost Female MP Numbers

THE SOLE DETERMINANT of who is endorsed by political parties for seats in Parliaments across Australia should — and must — be selecting the best candidate on offer, irrespective of gender, race, religion, or sexuality; and whilst the Liberal Party is right to consider how to get more women into elected office, targets and quotas are no answer. Such measures stink of patronising tokenism, and have no place in a democratic political party.

In posting just the second article for the week, readers will have guessed I have been busy; I have a lot on at present in areas that must take precedence over our discussions in this column, although between this piece — and some others I plan to publish over the weekend, time (and two children) permitting — we will I hope catch up to some extent on what has been happening over the past week, including the promised article on the silly push by two Labor Premiers to lift the Medicare levy as a pathetic copout designed to evade the heavy lifting associated with genuine taxation reform.

Today, however, I want to talk about the renewed apparent push by some within the Liberal Party to introduce a so-called soft target (read: quota) to lift the proportion of female Liberal MPs to 30% of the party’s elected representatives, and to say I am completely and utterly opposed to such a demeaning, tokenistic and trivialising measure is something of an understatement.

I’m going to be deliberately vague on some of the details in retelling this anecdote, but roughly 20 years ago I had the misfortune to attend a round of preselections conducted by the Queensland division of the Liberal Party, and before the candidates for one particular seat — a vacant, nominally Liberal seat — made their presentations, some bloke ran around the party members assembled on the day, telling everyone that “the party wants a woman; the party wants a woman: see that it happens.”

I was immediately and consequentially inclined to vote for just about anyone other than the sole woman in the field of candidates; and having later listened to the respective presentations and deciding the best candidate on offer was in fact one of the four men who stood against her, voted for him.

But the woman was victorious: and whilst Liberals later thought she was just great (in the grand old Liberal tradition that all of “our” elected representatives are the best thing since sliced bread, until or unless they do something particularly naughty and/or cross the wrong people) the fact is that this eventual time-server of lengthy tenure contributed, in round terms, nothing. She never lost her seat to Labor, which I suppose is something, but in a reasonably solid Liberal area and in the context of a discussion about preselecting women on merit, that isn’t saying very much at all.

I wanted to start out by revisiting the episode because it’s significant, in my view, for a number of reasons: one, it wasn’t long after Labor had declared for the first time a binding target for 35% of its MPs to be women, a move decried at the time within the Liberal Party (including by many strong, capable women) as insulting patronisation. Two, it was in my view an attempt to rig a preselection, insofar as the four men who stood may as well have not bothered to turn up. And three, that process threw up a female representative who might have been an effective factional operative but who — in the context of representing people and/or adding to public administration — was abysmal.

It was with despair, therefore, that I saw on Wednesday an article in The Australian that detailed a push by Brisbane Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro for the party to adopt “an initial 30 percent target” for getting women into seats in Parliament.

This is no way to improve the numbers of female MPs; as soon as you start doling out seats in Parliament to women because — well, just because they’re women — you immediately invalidate any merit the ladies in question might offer, and turn them into mere baubles, chattels, trinkets: worthless, really, beyond the fact they’re not men.

There are those who look to the ALP and the fact its 35% quota has, on the surface, achieved the desired objective, largely in tandem with the contemptible Emily’s List that sends hardcore female socialists into Parliaments across the country, and in conjunction with union and factional structures that allocate parliamentary seats as if they were the gifts of an autocratic fiefdom.

Dig a little deeper, and it’s difficult to accept a lot of these women are the best candidates the ALP could put up: certainly, those who are ultimately elected probably benefit from the fact they’re endorsed Labor candidates who harvest votes from people simply inclined to vote for the ALP anyway.

But women — like men — whose CVs detail personal journies through left-wing sinecures in the ALP, the unions, and sympathetic entities arguably well removed from anything that could be construed as remotely mainstream, speak more to the kind of women who put themselves forward than to any particular success in getting good female candidates into office.

And herein lies the rub.

Those who know me know I am no sexist or misogynist, and in fact I agree wholeheartedly that more good and talented women are needed in Parliament. But it’s not a case of “gender balance” or some other trendy platitude that needs to be indulged in order to bring this outcome about: very simply, the issue is getting a greater number of capable women to put themselves forward, or even to get more actively involved in politics at all.

There are a couple of things I should probably be clear about.

The first is a “captain obvious” acknowledgement that there are plenty of dud male MPs floating around on all sides of the spectrum, and by virtue of the fact the vast majority of MPs are still male, there are more of them than there are dud women. Nobody needs to think they’re inventing the wheel to point that out — I’m well aware of it, thank you very much.

But the second — looking at parties like the ALP, and others with forms of so-called positive discrimination in place, like the Communist Party Greens — is that the kind of women who benefit from these assisted passage schemes into Parliament seem to be the last people on Earth anyone would seriously choose to have represent their interests, the fact they eventually get voted into their seats notwithstanding.

If they were required to win 50% of the vote in a lower house electorate rather than hiding in the undemocratic Easy Street that is the proportionally elected Senate, does anyone seriously think people like Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young or (God forbid) actual Communist and fruit cake Lee Rhiannon would ever be elected to office in Australia? I think not.

Meanwhile, over at the ALP, people like Jenny Macklin (for whom I have always had a lot of time, despite our political differences) and Amanda Rishworth — who give a damn about people so tangibly it is written all over their faces — sit in the same party room as dangerous socialists like Tanya Plibersek and (once upon a time) Julia Gillard, whose ideas about politics and governance border on the delusional extremes of the Left, and slogan-regurgitating cardboard cutouts like Kate Ellis who, on any objective criteria, has been a major disappointment when her portfolio responsibilities and the nature of her output are considered.

Again, it’s a case of harvesting the votes that would flow to their parties anyway, and between the dud men and the dud women, both groups are rightly lambasted by Joe Public as reflective of the exceedingly poor calibre of parliamentarians clogging elected assemblies in this country today.

In other words, it isn’t just the case that more women (and the right kind of women) are needed in Parliament, but that more of the right kind of people — men and women alike — are required altogether.

But the third thing, in all candour, is the factionalised nature of political parties, who plays them, who benefits from them and who gets it in the neck for whatever reason: and I think this has an awful lot to do with why the Liberals in particular don’t have more women in parliamentary seats, although I would imagine a similar situation exists in other parties.

For as long as there is democracy — let alone formalised political parties — the natural instinct of human beings to organise at the most basic level means that factions, patronage and other power mechanisms will always exist: and whether we are talking about women or men, this reality is always going to distort outcomes in selecting candidates, and colour those outcomes wherever any attempt to manipulate them (like boosting representation of one gender at the expense of the other) is concerned.

This brings me to Prime Ministerial Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, and the rumoured intention to install her in a safe Liberal seat in Melbourne in the near future; having inserted her into the conversation on the back of that particular point, we’ll come back to her a little later. But anyone who wants to argue the merits of Credlin as a suitable candidate to represent the interests of 100,000 voters and their families has their work cut out, and it is only the exercise of the kind of distorting power I am talking about that will ever get her into Parliament. More on that in a bit.

If we come back to the basic question at hand — how to get more women into seats in Parliament for the Liberal Party — I think there are two issues that need to be addressed.

One, encouraging women to get more actively involved in the party (as opposed to simply going to branch meetings, perhaps intending to support a husband or male partner) so the input from these people is more forthcoming than it is.

And two — more importantly — looking at the reasons women seem less likely to put themselves forward for elected office than men, and working through ways to remove those barriers.

In other words, working to get more women into preselection contests rather than gifting the outcomes of those contests to them.

I refuse to believe there are not more very good females in the Liberal Party who would make excellent MPs (and probably do better than many of the existing MPs, men and women, that the party boasts).

Yet by the same token, anecdotal experience seems to suggest women are more put off by the stereotypical disincentives to parliamentary life than men: the brutal nature of politics; the grinding, long hours; the modest remuneration; the intrusive and often malignant media scrutiny that goes with the job, and the total surrender of personal privacy that accompanies it; and so forth.

Anyone who thinks life in elective politics is some gravy train junket that features untalented people rolling around in clover at public expense doesn’t know what they’re talking about (although the present fracas involving Bronwyn Bishop merely reinforces such uninformed stereotypes). Women, for whatever reason, seem more deterred by these things than men, although plenty of capable males — myself included — are similarly disinclined to seek Liberal endorsement for precisely these reasons, and don’t.

How you encourage excellent prospective female MPs — people with particular skills, or substantial career histories in private enterprise, or significant policy expertise and passion, or a mixture of these things, who also connect well with people and enjoy working on behalf of others — to move beyond those barriers and put their names forward for public office is not an easy question, and there is not an easy answer.

Some arbitrary quota (which is exactly what a “soft target” in fact is) of installing women into 30% of winnable and/or safe seats does not resolve those barriers.

In fact, such a quota is by its nature likely to disproportionately attract those women who — knowing space is available to them based on their gender — enjoy the backing of dominant power centres within the party, and who are disproportionately more likely to be interested in the accrual and exercise of power than they are in any meaningful objective to represent the interests of those they nonetheless expect to vote for them at an election.

The other argument used by quota advocates, especially where safe Liberal seats are concerned, is that women are discriminated against through being disproportionately endorsed to contest marginal seats that change hands with a change of government, or even when smaller overall swings see governments returned with reduced majorities. The argument fails to stack up.

For one thing, Sophie Mirabella (a woman) lost what on paper was a 65-35 Liberal seat in Indi at the last federal election to a conservative independent (who was also woman); of the 16 federal seats the Liberal Party* holds by margins of 15% or more, five (or 31.25%) are held by women — including the second-safest of these, Murray in Victoria, held on a margin of 20.9% by 30% quota advocate Sharman Stone — whilst women sit in 11 of the 39 seats (or 28.2%) held by the Liberal Party on margins of less than 10%, and one of those 11 is Kelly O’Dwyer in the blue-ribbon electorate of Higgins on 9.9% that common sense dictates is probably safer in practice than some seats held by far greater margins on paper.

In other words, the safer the Liberal seat, the more likely it already is to be held by a woman.

And for another thing, there is the small matter of where the female candidates actually live: ministerial-quality MP Sarah Henderson needed two attempts to win the marginal Geelong-based seat of Corangamite from the ALP, and now holds it by 3.9%; but as a Geelong local, was there a push to parachute her into a safe seat somewhere else? Of course not. Australia’s best-known classic marginal seat — Lindsay, in western Sydney — is ably represented by Fiona Scott, having won it from Labor in 2013. I don’t think Scott would see herself vaulted into a rusted-on sinecure on the North Shore, and neither should anyone else. She is representing the community she lives in, which is as it should be.

And this brings me, quite unapologetically, back to Peta Credlin.

With rumours continuing to persist that she is either lining up a safe seat for herself or being lined up for one by others despite present-tense denials that are unconvincing at best, it should come as no surprise that Credlin has been propagating the myth that the Liberal Party doesn’t preselect women to safe seats, and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop (who is both female and the holder of an extremely safe seat indeed) is absolutely right to not only call Credlin’s story out, but to finger the real problem, which is the need for a more diverse spread of candidates in the Liberal Party overall.

Credlin is said to be in line to “inherit” either Kevin Andrews’ seat of Menzies, in Melbourne’s north-east, or my local electorate of Goldstein, in Melbourne’s Bayside, from Trade Minister Andrew Robb; I acknowledge that Credlin is originally from Victoria, but the notion that someone who has spent years based in Canberra and insisting (as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister) that anyone who amounts to anything in government also live in Canberra would seem to have a problem passing herself off now as a local in Melbourne.

The fact the two seats are about 40km apart, and on different sides of the city, means that Credlin could scarcely be accused of prioritising meaningful ties to the local community, if stories that whichever of the two electorates comes up first would suit her are true.

Not merely Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Credlin is married to the Liberal Party’s federal director, has spent more than a decade working as an adviser to various senior party figures in one insiderish capacity or another, enjoys the explicit personal support of Tony Abbott, and is known to command the bloc backing of a significant chunk of the party’s dominant conservative hard Right faction.

As a female candidate and purported success story the party might choose to inflict on the unfortunate voters in either of these two seats, it’s not difficult to see where Credlin’s support comes from. But in terms of the kind of appeal that might win swinging voters over to the Liberal Party from Labor, I contend she doesn’t have any.

In fact, Credlin has limited appeal within the rank and file membership of the party, too — the kind of people who, unlike me, mind their Ps and Qs and keep their views to themselves. These are the people who, despite public denials from the hard Right Liberals who defend her, are all too aware that the control over the Abbott government that has been exercised out of the Prime Minister’s Office — and the processes of vetoes, rubber stamps and preferment — that have been operated from there irrevocably implicate Credlin in everything that has gone wrong during this term in government. And those wrongs, to put it mildly, have been innumerable, and almost politically apocalyptic.

I don’t know what locals in Menzies think and to some degree that is a matter for them, but if Credlin sincerely wants a woman (and the best available candidate) installed in Goldstein whenever Robb moves on, I know of such a person: a well-educated, highly articulate and lovely lady, who boasts a career CV of formidable achievement and offering vast policy expertise, and who is as at ease with people in one-on-one situations as she is in high level situations. With or without the ghastly spectre of Credlin lurking in the shadows, I intend to canvass this person and urge her to stand — with the offer of as much support as possible — when Andrew Robb eventually moves on.

But if the people around Credlin see to it that the local membership is neutered in the preselection process, or other candidates leaned on to get out of the way for her, or a head office endorsement staged in order to avoid the potential embarrassment of losing a vote of local members, I fully intend to hold good to my threat to stand against her as an Independent Conservative from outside the Liberal Party: and as much of a joke some in the cabal around Credlin might perceive that threat to constitute, even in a “safe” seat like Goldstein there are limits to what local voters are prepared to stomach — or have foisted upon them.

Credlin’s candidacy, to be brutal, would compare unfavourably with the anecdote I recounted at the outset of this article from 20 years ago: and one piece of realism that must also seep through to those looking to boost the ranks of female MPs is the fact that just because an elected representative is a woman doesn’t mean they have achieved their objective — it has to be the right kind of candidate, just like it ought to be with the blokes, otherwise the entire enterprise is pointless.

A Credlin candidacy might be useful to those who seek to wield power, or who can benefit from knowledge of the locations of buried skeletons, but to the wider public would offer very little.

By all means, the idea Credlin might want to see more women in safe seats is worthy, and at face value, noble; but if her own name appears on any list of intended possible contenders, then any merit in her advocacy can be dismissed as the self-interested pap it probably is.

The same can be said of the 30% quota target, which in any case is an insult to women generally: and if those who care about the welfare of the Liberal Party — men and women alike — wish to boost its levels of female representation, they should help work to encourage good female candidates past the barriers to standing for office, and leave divisive hacks like Credlin on the sidelines where they belong.


*National Party seats excluded today. How the Nationals run their party is a matter for them.

Quotas For Gays, Blacks: Shorten Loses The Plot Completely

BILL SHORTEN — if a report in Fairfax papers is to be believed — appears to have totally lost the plot in his quest to become ALP leader; now advocating quotas for gays, lesbians, aborigines and God knows who else, Shorten’s vision of the Labor Party seems to be one rooted permanently in opposition.

The Fairfax press is reporting this morning that Labor leadership aspirant Bill Shorten is proposing to “broaden the party’s quota system” to include gay and lesbian candidates, aborigines — and God alone knows who else — in an endeavour to “improve their underrepresentation (sic) in Parliament.”

The article — by Fairfax Immigration correspondent Bianca Hall — offers useful insights into the otherwise turbid and turgid thought processes currently occupying the minds of some within the ALP bunker. We’ll return to the remainder of her article shortly.

But I would make the rather obvious observation that if this is Bill Shorten’s brilliant plan to restore Labor to government at any time — not soon, but ever — then for now at least, the political prospects of Anthony Albanese are shining more brightly by the day.

Most readers will recall the look we took at Shorten, in this column on Friday (and for those who didn’t see my piece, it can be accessed here); the story Fairfax is running on Shorten today simply adds to the case against his suitability for leadership.

It seems in the ALP that if you’re gay, lesbian, female, aboriginal (or a unionist) there will be a place at the table for you: a parallel universe in which chosen minorities and blocs are elevated above all others, disproportionately feted, and showered with favour not on merit or experience or capability, but on your status as a member of an anointed cabal.

If you’re anyone else, you can go to hell.

As I wrote on Friday, people are fed up with the modern ALP obsession with minorities, quotas, and reverse discrimination: and if this is perceived to be the way forward for the Labor Party, then those who perpetrate such sentiments in Labor ranks have clearly failed to heed one of the most glaringly apparent messages from their election defeat.

Shorten’s advocacy of expanding quotas, however, simply aims to entrench the problem.

There is a majority in the community: over 18, eligible to vote, and fitting few (if any) of the stereotypes or labels deemed worthy of a “quota place” by the kind of approach Shorten advocates.

Menzies called them the “forgotten people;” Richard Nixon called them “the silent majority,” and I have to admit I prefer the latter descriptive because it is precisely how this group behaves.

They don’t march down La Trobe Street or Pitt Street or across King George Square carrying placards, chanting slogans, disrupting law-abiding people and engaging in malicious mischief, violence, and/or criminal damage.

Once pushed beyond the limits of their tolerance, they simply show up at the ballot box, and quietly but lethally make their displeasure known.

One of the great similarities between the Labor defeats of 1996 and 2013 is that both the beaten governments engaged in this obsessive pandering to minorities, legislating political correctness to ridiculous extremes, and simultaneously eroding personal freedoms whilst disenfranchising the very majority in the community that is pushed aside in the process.

Still, if the Fairfax piece is indicative, then it seems Shorten and his prescriptions for the ALP are predicated on telling the voters they are fools — always a dangerous pastime — and this brings us to the rest of Hall’s splendid article.

I have always said that I don’t give a…er, damn… 🙂 whether you are male, female, black, white, straight, gay, from Mars or whatever: if you’re the best candidate for the job, you should get the job.

This is as true of politics as it is of any other situation or circumstance.

I recall, in the early-mid 1990s, the Liberal Party had 10 of the 26 councillors on the Brisbane City Council; of those 10, eight were women, and whilst two of those eight (in my view) shouldn’t have been there, nobody could argue that the other six — at the minimum — weren’t the best candidates who presented for preselection.

Even if those two possible exceptions had been beaten at preselection by men, a majority of the spots would still have been filled by women.

I raise the point because it goes to something I have consistently argued in this column, and especially where Labor’s nonsense about quotas and tokens is concerned: it is more important (and a far worthier and more valid enterprise) to focus on improving the calibre of people who stand for preselection than any system of quotas will ever be.

And handing out a seat here to a woman because she is female, or a sinecure there to an Aborigine because he/she is black, or any other such conduct is demeaning, offensive, tokenistic and — ultimately — counterproductive.

Regular readers will know such tokenistic rubbish enrages me to my core, so I will resist the urge to say more.

But returning to the Fairfax piece, the wider vision for Labor attributed to Shorten hardly inspires confidence or excitement.

Most beaten political parties experience an immediate spike in membership; defeat brings people who are “enraged” or who “should have joined sooner” out of the woodwork. If Labor is excited about 1,100 new members, this reality should temper that excitement.

Shorten’s “vision” for a “younger, more dynamic organisation” sits at odds with the fact that mainstream parties across the democratic world are disproportionately reliant on membership blocs in senior citizenship to even operate effectively in their communities.

How Shorten envisages Labor attracting “small-business people, tradespeople and farmers” when Labor is not only irrelevant to these groups but has wilfully antagonised them for many years will be fascinating.

I promise to give Shorten a fair hearing in this column in the unlikely event he ever enunciates anything substantial on that point, but I suspect it is — like much of his pitch — just a slogan, and a glib one at that.

And to attract and retain more members, the redoubtable Shorten advocates offering “discount memberships for union members, students, pensioners and people out of work.”

As campaign pledges go, it must seem clever to offer Labor members exactly what it already offers to those groups and present it as a new initiative. It could work, too: if Labor members are as gullible and stupid as the proposition inherently assumes they are.

Offering union members discounts, however — given the disproportionate influence they already wield within the ALP — is absurd, and simply cuts the admission price for those wielding the snouts and desperate to shove them into the trough.

Anthony Albanese mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and he has his faults.

But he does (as far as a left wing Labor MP can) seem to have a world view that is at least grounded in reality, if not at least in realism.

And whilst I think he’d be easy meat for Tony Abbott and the Liberals (and I confess, I would love to see “Albo” become Labor leader), it’s fast becoming apparent that Bill Shorten is an electoral and political disaster looking for a position from which to strike.

If this nonsense is the best Shorten can do, Labor should make Albanese its leader; if that leadership is commissioned for the short term only, it must find someone more credible to lead it out of the wilderness — however distant, of course, its return to government might be.

Bill Shorten is a red herring. No more, no less.

Labor, if it endorses him, will learn this — to its cost.