Lisa Wilkinson: If Julie Bishop Was 'One Of The Boys' She'd Be Prime Minister

Imagine if a woman had done as Peter Dutton did.

Julie Bishop, what?

She served a decade as the loyal deputy for three Liberal leaders across four stints. She was the high profile, committed and friendly female face of her party in a sea of males. She was a highly regarded Foreign Minister and was polling in the high 60s as the preferred leader to replace Malcolm Turnbull.

And she got how many votes in the first round among her peers?!


Out of 85??

And the man -- I use the word advisedly -- elected in her place, was polling in the single digits among the public.

I repeat: how can that be?

Bishop, dignified as ever, congratulated the victors with a tight, bright smile, before exiting stage left, which left something missing as far as political theatre goes. There needed to be a primal scream.

May I do the honours?

Loyal to the last. Julie Bishop with ousted PM Malcolm Turnbull. Image: Getty

For I mean this as a serious question: if Bishop had been a male, with the resume above -- you know, one of the boys -- how many people actually think such a popular Foreign Minister would have received just 11 votes?

What exactly has she done, internally, to deserve such humiliation?

She is loyal to the end, doing everything to keep the Turnbull government stable, and the man who unleashed the wrecking ball on the whole Liberal edifice in the first place, Peter Dutton, gets nearly four times her votes?

Again, imagine if a woman had done as Peter Dutton had done, launching a coup not once, but twice, on a government that had actually been faring reasonably well in the polls. As it is, Peter Dutton simply resumes his place in the Cabinet, with little public opprobrium attached, and mostly congratulations from a large part of the commentariat.

Peter Dutton got 40 votes for stabbing a sitting PM in the back. Image: Getty.

Might I suggest that if he’d been female we would have seen an endless rehashing of what befell Julia Gillard when she took over from Kevin Rudd, with endless sexist stereotypes attached -- “Ditch the Witch,” “Bob Brown’s bitch,” etc...

Peter Dutton?

The mood seems to be, he had a go, swung a few punches that only took out the elected leader of the people, so good luck to him, you can come back and play again, Peter.

I repeat, after behaving like that, Peter Dutton garnered 40 votes, while Julie Bishop who had done everything to keep things stable, could only get 11. Something is out of kilter here.

And I don’t know why it is.

READ MORE: Waleed Aly: Why This Brutal Leadership Spill Is Different And Makes No Sense

Our nearest neighbours, New Zealand, elected a female leader a generation ago, Helen Clarke, who is still highly regarded for what she accomplished in the role. Last year, they elected another female leader in Jacinda Adern, who is not only incredibly popular in her own country, but near to iconic around the world for her progressive policies and the fact that in her supremely busy schedule she managed to have a baby.

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern. Image: Getty.

But us?

Our first female leader Julia Gillard suffered from misogynist attacks from first to last, and the one most likely to be our second female leader in Julie Bishop was cut down before she even had a chance to show what she could do.

The sad thing is that, after all the smoke has cleared, the Liberals will miss Bishop, her sage counsel, her widespread public popularity, her political acumen which has served both her party, and the governments she has been a part of very well, since she entered parliament two decades ago.

Former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Image: Getty.

But beyond the sadness of Bishop herself, and Gillard before her being lost to Canberra, the wider significance is the discouragement it places upon a whole generation of young women in their wake to even consider entering politics.

As revealed by ten daily last week, a recent study by Plan International Australia revealed that “the percentage of young women wanting to get into politics is -- quite literally -- zero, with many citing sexist treatment as a potential barrier.”

READ MORE: Here's The Reality Of Being A Female Politician In Australia

This is not right. And incredibly sad for the future of our country.

Bill Clinton once said that “I want a Cabinet that looks like America”, meaning that when he looked around the Cabinet table he wanted to see people of all colours, religions, abilities and disabilities just like America itself, and both genders equally represented.

We need the same.

We need a political culture which demonstrates that women are valued, crucial in shaping policy, treated fairly, and have exactly the same opportunities for advancement, even when they’re not “one of the boys”.

We are a long way from that point now. And one of the challenges faced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to do his bit in the time he is in charge, to change the political culture so that the next generation -- which includes his own two young daughters -- will be able to compete politically on a level playing field.

And crucial to all this? The message that it is not just the boys who have the chance to be the team captain.