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Sussan Ley holding a baby koala

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Sussan Ley on being a woman in politics

Sussan Ley on being a woman in politics.

Over the last month, as more and more stories of sexually explicit behaviour and misconduct within the walls of Parliament House have been revealed, the “culture” of politics has come into question.

One particular issue is the role and representation of women, and the need for more female voices to express the interests – and pain and frustrations – of women across the country.

As Sussan Ley puts it:

“I feel overwhelmingly that the culture of this place has got to change.”

Ley, Senator Marise Payne’s “proxy” as minister for women in the House of Representatives, represents the regional seat of Farrer in southern NSW. She acknowledges there is much work to be done in educating the diverse members of her electorate about how far the whole gender debate has moved.

While there was a small women’s march in her electorate - in Albury - she notes the silent majority who are desperate for change:

“Women on farms, women who are powerless in their relationships because they wouldn’t even be able to talk about these things at their kitchen table or, in some cases, women who aren’t allowed to leave the house because of the nature of their personal relationships.

"There were women silently cheering this from everywhere.”

Ley was one of the first government MPs to voice her support for quotas within the Liberal Party - to afford more women political opportunities.

Talking to Michelle Grattan, Ley advocates for what she calls for a “smart quota system” in contrast to a “blunt instrument”.

“I’m uncomfortable with something that would say ‘okay, your seat’s a woman seat, your seats not’. I mean, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Under her idea, “in [the Liberal Party] constitution, it will say we accept that we will have 40% or 30% of women candidates in our seats.

"It then has to say not just women candidates, because sometimes candidates have a very small chance of winning in safe opposition seats. So you’d have to say we’ve got seats that we describe as winnable…and unwinnable.”

“And the ones that step forward in seats where there’s not so much chance would get very well supported, so they wouldn’t be left to fend for themselves.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

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