Political culture of bullying puts everyone at risk

The government’s leadership spill has shed light on an ugly culture that has permeated Australian politics for some time, but is only now bubbling to the surface.

Julie Bishop’s bid for the leadership was based on her assertion she was the best-suited of the three leadership candidates to lead the Liberal Party to the next election.

Her claim had justification. A Roy Morgan poll conducted just prior to the second leadership spill gave Bishop a clear 28 points ahead of Morrison and Dutton as the most palatable leader.

In the days after the spill, as the dust settled and the country went back to business as usual, Bishop and several other key women within the parliamentary Liberal Party began to blow the whistle on a culture of bullying within it – and the parliament, generally – that has marginalised women.

One of the roles of government is to set the tone for the electorate. If the government is discriminatory in its internal politicking, this will be reflected in its policies and ultimately, within the community at large. A culture of bullying is a sadly unedifying spectacle.

Julia Banks, a senior Liberal woman and Member for Chisholm, has announced she will be quitting politics, saying that she was bullied in the days leading up to the leadership spill.

Liberal Senator Lucy Gichuhi also came forward and threatened to name members of the party who had bullied and intimidated her and other women within the party.

The bullying is not confined to the Liberal Party.

Julia Gillard was subjected to bullying and abuse during her parliamentary career, including during her term as prime minister; and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has also blown a whistle on bullying, and been verbally attacked for doing so.

We have a representative democracy. If those we elect represent a dangerous culture, this becomes our culture as well.