The decision to dump Turnbull Government assistant minister Jane Prentice as the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) candidate for a key Brisbane seat must be respected, according to Treasurer Scott Morrison.
The LNP voted yesterday to install Brisbane City Councillor Julian Simmonds as its candidate in Ryan, reigniting debate about the number of women involved in conservative politics.
The ABC understands some women are threatening to quit the party as a result, and Nationals Whip and fellow Queensland LNP member Michelle Landry has described the decision to dump her colleague as “appalling”.
But Treasurer Scott Morrison argued the wishes of party members were clear, and denied there was a need for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene.
“I feel for Jane, she has done a great job, particularly as an assistant minister, and I think she has had the great opportunity to serve Australia in the roles that she’s had, and I know she would be appreciative of that,” Mr Morrison told the ABC’s Insiders.
“This is the thing about politics, we all put ourselves forward every three years, and if you’ve got a genuine rank and file party then they get to make these decisions about who represents them.
“It’s a contestable process.”
The conservatives’ “women problem” has been long documented, with its share of female members and senators well below that of the Labor party.
Of the 105 Coalition members and senators, only 22 are women. That compares to 42 women among 90 current Labor members and senators.
Those figures would be even better for the Opposition had it not lost three women from their ranks in recent days in the dual citizenship fiasco.
Women in government ‘becoming an endangered species’
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten argued he rarely saw eye to eye with Ms Prentice, but said she was a formidable opponent who the Prime Minister should fight to keep in his parliamentary line-up.
“Women politicians in the government are becoming an endangered species,” Mr Shorten claimed.
“Under Mr Turnbull, the number of women in the government has gone backwards, even from [Tony] Abbott’s time.
“A government or a political party which can’t represent half the population — they just can’t get it.”
Nationals Minister Darren Chester conceded female representation was a problem for the Coalition.
“I think we can do better in terms of encouraging more female candidates to run in winnable seats,” he said.
“It’s all very well to get candidates forward in seats which are difficult to win, but we need to get them forward in seats which are easier to win.”
But Mr Chester argued the decision to dump Ms Prentice should not be overturned, because it was the will of the LNP members.
Federal Liberal Party President Nick Greiner claimed he wanted the issue of boosting the number of women in parliament to be one of his priorities.
“I do think it is one of the areas where we are unrepresentative, or not sufficiently representative, of the community,” he told the ABC in August.
“That also applies, I think, to ethnic diversity, as it does to gender diversity.”