WHEN Australia’s illustrious leaders took their seats for Question Time yesterday, there was a striking clash of colours on the government benches.
Dotted among the men in their charcoal and navy suits was an unmissable contingent of women, each of them wearing bright, blazing red.
Kelly O’Dwyer, Ann Sudmalis, Julia Banks, and Nicolle Flint were all incredibly hard to miss.
Was it just a coincidence? Or was there a hidden meaning?
Given the context, it’s hard to put this one down to everyone involved having the same taste in fashion.
A debate is raging over the Liberal Party’s treatment of women, and its struggle to boost its female representation.
This morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked whether he was 100 per cent confident bullying was not an issue in the federal parliamentary party.
“I am,” Mr Morrison replied.
But the words of multiple women contradict him — including a few of those who wore red yesterday.
Ms Banks recently announced she would not contest the next election, citing “bullying and intimidation” from both sides of parliament.
Ms O’Dwyer went on the ABC’s 7.30 program and said women were “subject to threats and bullying” during the push to remove Malcolm Turnbull from the leadership.
Senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened to name the alleged bullies, before deciding to leave the issue in Mr Morrison’s hands.
And yesterday Ms Sudmalis, who is quitting at the next election, claimed she had been bullied by NSW state MP Gareth Ward.
“My decision has been made after six-and-a-half years of holding my pledge to be a team player in the face of NSW Liberal Party bullying, intimidation, leaking and undermining at a local level,” she said, under the protection of parliamentary privilege.
Mr Ward has denied her claims.
But there has been no more prominent voice than former foreign minister Julie Bishop.
“I have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago, when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees, I would never have accepted. But in parliament, it’s the norm,” she recently said in a speech at the Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future Awards.
“When a feisty, amazing woman like Julia Banks says this environment is not for me, don’t say ‘toughen up princess’, say ‘enough is enough’.”
Ms Bishop is a bit of a fashion icon, and yesterday’s very red display in parliament may very well have been inspired by her.
She famously wore striking red heels as she faced the media after the leadership chaos.
Since then, the red heel emoji has become something of a personal favourite for her.
Before she spoke at the Women’s Weekly awards, Ms Bishop spoke to a group of female Liberal MPs on Whatsapp. In messages obtained by The Australian, the group debated what to do about the bullying allegations.
“Perhaps I’ll have some insights,” Ms Bishop said of her impending speech.
She signed off with the red heel emoji.