She was Australia’s first foreign minister and speaking at the Adelaide Festival on Saturday, Julie Bishop has detailed how the world reacted to her being in such a senior government position.
Speaking to an audience at the Palais with Annabel Crabb, the 62-year-old explained that along with Marise Payne – who was the nation’s first defence minister – the pair were often met with disbelief and surprise when they would represent Australia at global events.
‘They thought we [Australia] were a blokey culture,” she told the crowd to laughter. “And were surprised to see women in such senior and significant global roles.”
She pointed out that US first lady Melania Trump had been particularly confused by her role in 2017 when Donald Trump made his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly Leaders’ Week. She explained that kings, queens, monarchs, heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers were in New York for the week and Trump delivered his “highly controversial” speech.
“I was introduced to him afterwards and he was all, ‘What did you think of my speech? What did you think of me? How am I going?’ and later that night, David [Panton] and I attended a cocktail function hosted by the president and the first lady,” Bishop recalled. “We went up to them and he nodded because I’d already met him but he had a new person to talk to so he said, ‘David, what did you think of my speech, what did you think of me?’”
Bishop recalled Panton, who is her partner, calling the president by the first name and that the first lady struck up a conversation with her.
Bishop said: “Melania, standing by, assumed David was the foreign minister and she said to me, ‘Julie, will you be coming to my ladies’ lunch tomorrow?’”
She put on an accent to mimic the first lady, much to the delight of the audience.
“And I said, ‘No, David’s going to the partners’ lunch’. She thought about that for a while, thinking, ‘Why would Australia’s foreign minister come to the partners’ lunch?’ So this went on for a while until Donald explained that I was the foreign minister.”
Bishop explained that the first lady blew her partner a kiss when he showed up at the lunch the next day, but added that there may have been some jealousy from the president.
“After Melania worked out who was who and Donald worked out that David would be going to Melania’s lunch, he sort of gave him one of those blokey punches and said, ‘you’re a good looking rooster, lucky I don’t have to compete with you’.”
She later joked that the first lady rolled her eyes at her husband’s comment.
Bishop’s latest story come after she stepped away from politics last month. Despite holding the seat since 1998, Bishop revealed she will be stepping aside to allow other talented female candidates to qualify for Liberal preselection, adding that she was leaving her “beloved” seat in “very good shape”.