Thursday, October 12, 2006

Front page debate for Liberal Women

Federal Liberal Party President and a well known local Liberal party member, Chris McDiven has caused a stir in Canberra with her front page comments in today's Australian comparing Labor's first wives club to the Liberal party's successful election of female parliamentarians based only on merit. Read about it below. Chris and eCouncillor have traveled parallel political paths since the early 90's when Chris was President of the NSW Women's Council and I was President of the NSW Young Liberal Council. Subsequently Chris had several terms as the NSW State President and then to the Federal Presidency. Each position fought for in democratic ballots and won on hard work and merit. Chris has ruled out a parliamentary career after the repeated urgings of her supporters including eCouncillor.

The Australian,20867,20566215-2702,00.html

Top Lib mocks Labor's ex-wives club

Dennis Shanahan, Political editor
October 12, 2006

THE Liberal Party's first lady has taken a swipe at the Labor Party sisterhood, branding it an ex-wives' club that had got ahead by connections and embarrassing quotas.
The Liberal Party's federal president, Chris McDiven, has pulled no punches in her assessment of female Labor MPs as she prepares to celebrate Liberal women in cabinet.
"If you look at our women, they represent a wide selection of careers, career paths into parliament and a wide diversity of backgrounds, whereas if you look at the Labor women, you'll find that nearly everyone has got there through their family connections - they're 'wives of', 'ex-wives of', 'daughters of', 'sisters of'. It is an interesting comparison," Ms McDiven told The Australian yesterday.
Ms McDiven stepped into the media spotlight yesterday for the first time since she was elected 16 months ago as the Liberal Party's first female federal president.
A confessed "backroom girl" who has not sought election to parliament herself, the 58-year-old mother of two, former teacher, small businesswoman and investment manager also took pity on her ALP counterpart, NSW state MP Linda Burney, who is guaranteed a term as ALP president because of affirmative action.
Ms Burney ran last in the current four-way ALP presidency race - well behind former Labor leader Simon Crean - but will be given a turn as ALP president in 2009 while Mr Crean misses out.
"Personally I feel a bit sorry for Linda Burney," Ms McDiven said at the Liberal Party headquarters yesterday. "I feel much prouder that I have managed to get to this position on my merit. She's getting there, unfortunately for her, as a number on affirmative action. I don't think that will help her in the long term."
Ms McDiven, who ran a program training women candidates that is credited with doubling the number of women Liberal MPs at the 1996 election, said the Liberal way was to be elected on merit without quotas.
"Personally, if I had got myself into parliament because I was a 'number' I would not be completely satisfied with that," she said.
"I would like to think I got there on merit. Our women can hold their heads up and say they got there completely on merit."
Ms McDiven said many Labor MPs got into parliament on the back of family or marital connections but the Liberal Party was trying to encourage women to come forward and be elected on merit.
"When we set up the training program I learnt then that we had to go and find women; women tend not to put themselves forward," she said.
"We are seriously looking for women with talent to put themselves forward.
"I have spoken to Republican women in the US and the Conservative Party in the UK, they all say the same thing, men tend to put themselves forward."
Ms McDiven said she "got a buzz" when Julie Bishop was appointed as the first female Liberal cabinet minister from the House of Representatives and took pride in the record three women who were now in cabinet.
She said energetic new NSW senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells came through the Liberal program.
Ms McDiven said she did not believe gender had played a part in the contretemps in NSW over the state preselection battle for the high-profile Pru Goward.
She believed geographic reasons were important because the seat Ms Goward was now standing in, near Yass, was closer to where she lived.
Ms McDiven is attending a gala dinner tonight in Canberra to celebrate the record number of women in the Coalition cabinet.


Houri Torossian said...

Hi Shayne,

It was fantastic to read the article. Chris is a wonderful and remarkable person.

She is my mentor! Someone that I definitely look up to. I hope that I can become half the person that she is.

Anonymous said...

The notion that Bronwyn Bishop or Helen Coonan have "merit" is extremely questionable. Not to mention the total package of John "No one told me" Howard, Lord "I didn't read them" Downer and the whole incompetent and back-flipping bunch of loonies currently running the country.

Meanwhile back in reality

Labor frontbencher Jenny Macklin also dismissed the comments as being baseless.

"It's an extraordinary statement really," she said.

"My dad's an engineer, terrific guy, he's helped me enormously, provided support for me over all of my life."

"It really is, I think, an attack that has no basis in fact."

Shayne Mallard said...

Thanks Houri. I count Chris as one of my mentors as well - mainly through example, leadership and friendship.

Anon saved me posting the limp ALp response. It took 4 hours for the ALP to trawl through their female ranks and find the rare exception to McDiven's arguement. I cringed when I read the lame response. Rather than defend or justify the nepotism the ALP women (and back room boys who probably pushed them into the media spin on this) claimed Chris McDiven was 'jelous becuase she couldn't get a seat in parliament'. Well of course McDiven has ruled out and turned down all offers for a parliamentary career.
Whilst I have not always been on the same side in Liberal party debates with Bronwyn Bishop and to a lesser extent Helen Coonan, I have always respected and admired their successful public careers. Success based on their strength of character, based on political skills and yes- based on merit. No quota or nepotsim assisted their successful careers.