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Joanita Wibowo

“Pathetic”: Julie Bishop slams “gender deafness” and misogyny in Australian politics

“Pathetic”: Julie Bishop slams “gender deafness” and misogyny in Australian politics

Julie Bishop has condemned a sexist attack against former prime minister Julia Gillard, calling it “pathetic” and “grotesque in brutality”.

Speaking to Andrew Denton on Interview, Bishop said the sexism and misogyny that she witnessed during her 20-year political career would not cease until more women enter parliament.

The former deputy Liberal leader recalled a 2013 Liberal National fundraiser in Queensland where a menu included a “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail” dish, which was described as having “small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”.

The event sparked controversy and was eventually condemned by then-party leader Tony Abbott.

Bishop said the incident was “grotesque in its brutality”.

The former WA representative said, “We have to remember that in recent times, parliament was all male. And so you had a whole bunch of men in Canberra and they set the rules, they set the customs, the precedence and the environment.

“There was very much that culture around politics ... but that kind of behaviour’s just pathetic.”

Bishop said she herself often encountered “gender deafness” when she was the only woman in the room.

“If I spoke in a room of 20 men, if I would put forward my idea, there was sort of silence,” Bishop said.

“It was as if I hadn’t spoken and then somebody would say precisely what I said or come up with precisely the same idea. And then they’d all say, ‘Oh that’s a great idea. Why don’t we do that?’

“And I’d say, ‘Excuse … Didn’t I just say that?’”

While she initially thought it was an isolated problem, she later found women around the world are facing the same issue.

“I just labelled it gender deafness,” she said. “I love men and I think they have a wonderful contribution to make to humanity. But if you’re the only female voice in the room, they just don’t seem to hear you. It’s as if they’re not attuned to it.”

Bishop, who was the only woman in Tony Abbott’s 2013 cabinet, said greater female representation would help change the environment.

“There must be a critical mass of women, and 50 per cent sounds like a good idea,” she said.

“So I would think that the more women that are in politics, the more they would say that behaviour is unacceptable. So I think the numbers really do matter in this instance.”

Bishop retired from politics in May. At the end of July, she was announced as the next chancellor of the Australian National University, becoming the first woman to hold the position. She has also attracted controversy for joining the board of international consultancy firm Palladium.