Felicity Frederico said the Liberal Party must learn from its devastating election defeat. (ABC News)
Victorian Liberal women are urging the party to learn from its crushing state election defeat and introduce quotas to support the elevation of more female MPs into the parliament.
- Former Liberal senator says women offer a different perspective, which the party needs
- The party is also urged to preselect female candidates into safe seats rather than marginal seats
- Two-time preselection candidate says little support is being offered to potential female MPs
Liberal leader Matthew Guy quit last week and the party’s Victorian branch president, Michael Kroger, resigned on Friday night in the wake of an election result that is likely to hand Labor at least 54 seats in the 88-seat Lower House.
Eight Liberal women and 22 Liberal men were likely to be safely elected from across the Lower and Upper Houses on Sunday afternoon, with Liberal women in the seats of Sandringham and Bayswater predicted to lose their seats.
Liberal Party member Felicity Frederico — a former mayor of the Bayside City Council — said she had been told by a large number of traditional Liberal supporters that they had voted against the party for the first time in their lives.
“I continue to receive calls from many disaffected and disgruntled constituents … there just seems to be a general perception that the candidates are not representing the communities in which they’re standing for election,” she said.
“You know, we do have 50 per cent females in our communities, but there just seems to be a dearth of female candidates.”
In the past two years, Ms Frederico has made unsuccessful bids for Liberal preselection in the bayside seats of Brighton and Sandringham and said she felt little support was offered to her from the party.
The successful candidates in those preselection battles were Brad Rowswell in Sandringham, and James Newbury in Brighton.
“I was the only candidate that did not have a membership list, I did have a swell of both financial and community support behind me, including over 60 written endorsements from key community leaders … but that wasn’t enough,” she said.
She said the party needed to provide more support to women putting their hand up for preselection, because “what we’re doing is not working”.
“I have come around to the thinking that quotas are the only thing that is going to work: quotas until the playing field is level.
“At the moment, the system, as evidenced by the results last Saturday … it’s broken.”
She expressed support for federal Victorian MP Julia Banks, who last week quit the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench, citing concerns over the culture within the party.
“Good on her for being brave and speaking out, because we will only change behaviour if we have brave people speaking out, trying to effect change,” Ms Frederico said.
Ms Frederico said she hoped to see Liberal women such as former Upper House MP Margaret Fitzherbert in serious contention for the state presidency vacated by Michael Kroger.
“I would certainly like to see a female considered for that role. I think females do provide a different lens, and maybe we are at a turning point where we need an additional lens,” she said.
Renewed calls for quotas
The push for quotas for women was aired last week at a meeting of Victorian Liberal Party powerbrokers still reeling from the weekend’s disastrous loss.
Former Victorian Liberal senator Judith Troeth — who has advocated for female quotas inside the Liberal Party for eight years — said targets should be set now.
“I’ve certainly seen men of non-merit promoted over women of merit, and the merit argument has been totally discredited in my view,” Ms Troeth said.
“I hope that as the result has been absolutely catastrophic, that people realise we need to start building again, but we not only need to build the party within, we also need to build trust with the electorate, and part of that would be preselecting more women for not only seats in parliament, but safe seats.”
Ms Troeth cited the situation faced by Liberal MP Louise Staley in her marginal regional electorate of Ripon as an example of why the party should preselect more women into safe seats.
“Unless they are in safe seats, they can’t possibly hope for career progression and a long time in parliament — I’m thinking of Louise Staley, who’s at the moment fighting to hold the seat of Ripon,” Ms Troeth said.
“That has been the most marginal seat in the state: she came in at the last election, it’s very likely she’ll go out at this election … we need more women, and we need more women in safe seats.”
As of 4:00pm on Sunday, Ms Staley held a slim 84-vote lead over Labor challenger Sarah De Santis, according to the Victorian Electoral Commission.
Up to four independent candidates were in serious contention to win a regional seat after the election. (ABC News)
Shepparton was the only regional seat held by an independent after the 2014 election. (ABC News)
Numbers in several other tight contests for the Liberal Party remained the same as they were on Saturday night, with potential Liberal leadership contender John Pesutto facing defeat in his previously safe blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn.
In regional Victoria, independent candidate for Mildura Ali Cupper’s lead over incumbent Nationals MP Peter Crisp had narrowed to 240 votes by 4:00pm, while numbers in other knife-edge vote counts did not shift.
The VEC is expected to finalise counts in those seats still in doubt by the end of the week.