Liberal frontbencher Bronwyn Bishop has accepted the job of Speaker in the House of Representatives – despite making it known to colleagues earlier this year that she did not want the position.
This has helped Tony Abbott in bedding down his ministry, to be announced today. It has given him more flexibility and assisted with the numbers, which had exceeded the maximum of 30, although it has taken another woman out.
He has already lost Sophie Mirabella, who was in the shadow cabinet, but is set to be defeated for her seat of Indi. So unless he promoted a woman into the outer ministry he would run two down compared with his shadow ministry.
Bishop had wanted to stay on the frontbench and if possible get a cabinet spot. She had been in the outer shadow ministry as shadow special minister of state and spokeswoman on seniors.
Abbott said that Bishop “is a very senior member of the Coalition team” and a very experienced parliamentarian.
“She is a person of high public standing and I want the Parliament to be in better standing with the public this time, than last time.I want to bring some dignity back to the parliament and that means a speaker who can control the parliament and who can act without fear nor favour.”
He said he wanted “someone who is as tough on the government as on the opposition because I think the people expect a parliament which is a genuine debating chamber and not just a chamber where the government bludgeons the opposition.”
The speaker is formally chosen by the party room.
Bishop said the parliament was entitled to have dignity returned to it. “That doesn’t mean it won’t be a robust place but it does mean that it will have a dignity that has been lacking in the last little while.”
Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop, asked on the Ten Network whether she would be the only woman in cabinet, now that Mirabella is out of the picture, and if this would be a bad look for the government, said Abbott had indicated that he wanted to maintain stability in the cabinet.
“But we do have many talented women in the Liberal Party, in the Coalition. And we have certainly seen a number of outstanding women come in as new candidates and now new members. So in time I expect to see many more women promoted, not only into the ministry but also into the Cabinet. But at this time Tony’s indicated that he wants to maintain the stability of the team that he took to the election.”