PERHAPS we have been too hard on the Liberal Party.
There has been a lot of talk in recent days (weeks and months) about the number of women sitting on the government benches.
But the party’s choice of candidate to contest the Wentworth by-election (Dave Sharma, a man) and the looming retirement of Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis (a woman, pictured) has intensified the interest.
The proportion of Liberal women MPs has continued to fall over the past five years, seemingly putting all hopes of a 50 per cent representation well beyond reach.
Or is it?
It may well be that the Liberals are more determined to hit that 50 per cent mark than any of us realised, but we have all been caught out by their unconventional method of doing so.
The prevailing wisdom among political commentators has been that the way to hit a 50 per cent representation of women in government would be to increase the number of women MPs sitting on the Liberals’ side of the chamber.
But that’s the hard way.
The much easier way, and the strategy the Liberal Party appears to have adopted, is to dramatically reduce the number of male MPs until there is an even representation of the sexes.
Latest media speculation suggests there could be just five or six women Liberal MPs in government following the next election.
But with the Coalition apparently headed towards an electoral wipeout, those five or six women might be much closer to a 50 per cent representation than anyone within the party would be willing to contemplate.
And the party appears to be doing everything it can to make that outcome a reality.
The Liberals have wholeheartedly adopted the Labor strategy of turning off voters by knifing leader after leader and focusing more on internal machinations than the running of the country.
And the past 40-odd opinion polls suggest the strategy is working.
Only an electoral miracle appears likely to save the Coalition so a target of winning just 12 Liberal seats across the nation – with six of them held by women – could actually give the party and its remaining supporters something to cheer on election night.
It might sound crazy, but can anyone provide a better explanation for what we have seen in Canberra recently?