Former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has delivered a withering assessment of the workplace culture in Canberra, blasting the “appalling behaviour” she has witnessed in parliament.
The former foreign minister was speaking for the first time since moving to the backbench at a women’s leadership awards night.
Ms Bishop was a contender in the three-way Liberal leadership contest that saw Scott Morrison installed as prime minister. She has since resigned her cabinet position.
The contest sparked various allegations of bullying within the party, especially towards female MPs, with complaints of standover tactics from Liberals like Julia Banks, Lucy Gichuhi and Linda Reynolds.
Ms Bishop did not explicitly link her claims to sexism, but was scathing about the office culture in Parliament House.
“Don’t say toughen up princess, say enough is enough,” Ms Bishop told the crowd at the Women’s Weekly event.
“These events have given rise to a much broader debate about workplace culture. This includes allegations of bullying, harassment and coercion and the unequal treatment of women,” she said.
“It’s evident that there is an acceptance of a level of behaviour in Canberra that would not be tolerated in any other workplace in Australia.”
Ms Bishop referenced her earlier career as a commercial lawyer and compared the workplace cultures.
“I have seen and witnessed some appalling behaviour that in a law firm I would never have accepted, but in parliament it’s the norm.”
The long-serving Liberal deputy leader, who survived a number of leadership spills, said politics was naturally “robust” and “not for the faint-hearted”.
And she accused the Labor opposition of exploiting the allegations of Liberal party infighting for political gain.
“It’s not about what’s good for Australia. It’s about the lure of the authority and privileges associated with ministerial office. I’ve witnessed this on both sides of the office.”
When Julia Banks announced she would not contest the next election last week, she said she had experienced bullying from colleagues in the Liberal party but also from Labor.
Ms Bishop also said her party needed to do better on female representation. The Liberals are far behind Labor on the number of women in the parliament.
“I say to my party, it is not acceptable for us to have in 2018 to have less than 25 percent of our parliamentarians as female,” Ms Bishop said.
“It is not acceptable for our party to contribute to a fall in Australia’s ratings from 15th in the world in terms of female parliamentary representatives in 1999, to 50th today.”