Julie Bishop has donated her red satin resignation heels to the Museum of Australian Democracy just one day after the furore over women in the Liberal Party came to a head again.
Bishop wore the bold, block-heeled shoes when she stepped down from her position as foreign minister and deputy prime minister in August, with much attention paid to her sartorial choice of footwear at the time.
Today at the handover ceremony in Canberra, the shoes were described as a “bold statement and a symbol of solidarity and empowerment among Australian women”. Bishop herself has been hailed for her stance on women in politics and for many years was the LNP’s shining beacon of feminism within the party.
After her failed bid to claim the prime ministership in the August leadership spill much was said about the Liberal Party’s attitude towards women, with Bishop taking a thinly veiled swipe at her colleagues in her resignation speech, saying she was certain the party would elect a popular female leader if they ever found one.
The Liberal Party came under fire from women within its own ranks this week after Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer said on Tuesday that Australians view the party as “homophobic and anti-women”.
Just hours later, Victorian MP Julia Banks announced she had quit the party and would sit as an independent member instead. In a stinging statement shared to her website she described the party as being years behind the business world in its level of regard and respect for women in politics.
“Often when good women ‘call out’ or are subjected to bad behaviour – the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones; the liar, the troublemaker, emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced,” she said.
“To those who say politics is not for the faint hearted and that women have to ‘toughen up’ – I say this: the hallmark characteristics of the Australian woman (and I’ve met thousands of them) be they in my local community, in politics, business, the media and sport – are resilience and a strong authentic independent spirit.”
Talk of a boys club attitude in Canberra has been brewing all year with a number of female politicians raising their hands to decry the language used against them in parliament. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was perhaps the loudest of all and found herself locked in a defamation battle with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm after he made reference to her sex life in a debate on parliament floor.
There has also been discussion around whether the Coalition should fill a certain quota when it comes to women in government rather than running on the merit system. The issue was raised by Banks when she announced in August that she would not be contesting her seat of Chisholm and claimed the “meritocracy argument is completely and utterly flawed” and does not offer equal opportunity to Liberal women around the country.
Scott Morrison dismissed her argument at the time, and stated: “I don’t think quotas are a way of removing obstacles … I believe in any political organisation it should be a matter of one’s own credibility, exertion, work and merit … We need a more practical approach so women can understand what’s expected of them.”
The debate has also become an issue outside of Canberra with voters taking to social media to air their views on the matter, with many directly messages politicians to tell them their thoughts.
Bishop hit back at one voter on Wednesday, who accused her of having an “agenda to destroy” and suggested she may not be able to “cut it” in Canberra.
She tweeted in response: “After 20 years in parliament and over half of that time as deputy leader of our party, I think I can ‘cut it’.”