The prime minister elect has talented women ‘knocking on the door’, but he has more pressing priorities than letting them in
When Tony Abbott says he is “disappointed” there aren’t more women in his cabinet, what can he mean?
It can’t be that he’s disappointed with the selection process, because he did it.
It can’t be that he’s disappointed with the fact there are so many long-serving men there, because it was his decision not to move any of them on.
It can’t be because he hasn’t any sufficiently talented women MPs, because quite clearly he has.
And when he says there are “binders full” of women “knocking on the door” of the cabinet, and the ministry (OK, he didn’t say the bit about binders), it’s not clear what he means either, because of his 12 parliamentary secretaries – traditionally a kind of ministerial training ground – only one is a woman and she’s there because she’s been demoted.
Two women who had been parliamentary secretaries have been promoted into the outer ministry – Nationals senator Fiona Nash and Liberal senator Michaelia Cash.
The truth is that for Abbott, stability and continuity and experience rated as a higher priority than more ministerial representation for women, even when one of only two female cabinet members stood aside because she was likely to lose her seat. He’d always signalled that the cabinet would not change much, and he kept his word. And he wasn’t prepared to make many changes in the outer ministry either.
He may have been “disappointed” with the outcome. But not enough to risk the internal destabilisation and possible upheaval and “off-message” ructions of doing anything about it. There are obviously capable women “knocking on the door”, it’s just not clear when Abbott might run the risk of opening it.
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