When the political going gets tough, blame sexism

When the political going gets tough, blame sexism, by Janet Albrechtsen.

There is plenty to say about political treachery in federal parliament this week when Julia Banks resigned from the Liberal Party to sit as an independent. …

Banks joins a growing list of women who complain about sexism when things don’t go their way. Think former prime minister Julia Gillard, former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon, former boss of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gil­lian Triggs, former Liberal deputy leader Bishop. Sour grapes? Serious sexism? Who can tell? Banks didn’t name anyone. When women blur the line, using claims of sexism for base political pur­poses, they make poor role models for younger women. And they dishonour genuine victims of sexism. …

Banks’s claim that she left because the party has changed is hard to understand, too. She was in parliament as a Liberal for a grand total of two years. The Liberal Party has held government for 52 of the 74 years since its foundation and endured many raucous internal disputes over policy and personalities. Long-running dramas between the so-called wets and the dries in the 1980s pitted Liberal against Liberal. That was in opposition. In government, John Howard managed many civil debates within his broad church because he understood the party’s electoral appeal depended on two philosophical strands: classical liberals and conservatives.

The schism within the Liberal Party is deeper and different today. In the ’80s, disputes broke out over economic issues, industrial relations and privatisation. Today’s disagreements cover everything from fiscal responsibility to social issues and basic freedoms that once were bread-and-butter values for Liberals. But the bigger problems are unresolved leadership clashes and leaders who are defective at managing policy ructions. …

If Banks deserted the Liberal Party on Tuesday over policies, she didn’t name them either. A vague mention of her “sensible centrist values” is no substitute for substance. Banks is part of a growing cohort of Liberals whose values are largely unknown to voters.

hat-tip Stephen Neil