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Australian Liberal Party causes problems for female politicians

by Narges Mohammadi

A former Liberal staffer who has publicly criticized the party for its treatment of women is considering nominating for pre-selection for the by-election in the South Australian state seat of Bragg, spurred on by the lack of women running

Chelsey Potter has spoken publicly about allegedly being sexually assaulted by another Liberal staffer while working in Canberra and has criticized the party for how it dealt with her case and others like it

It’s very clear to me that we have a serious problem when it comes to women in the Liberal Party,” Ms. Potter said today

“We’ve seen the failure to engage women, to bring women into the party, to listen to women play out in a really significant electoral sense on the weekend

“This is a line in the sand for the Liberal Party to make a choice that they’ll engage with women going forward

Nominations for the seat of Bragg — Adelaide’s eastern suburbs — close at 5pm today, after former deputy premier Vickie Chapman announced her resignation a month after the Liberals’ state election loss

Ms. Chapman’s departure will leave the party with only two women in the state’s lower house

So far, lawyer Jack Batty and former Democrats candidate and one-time Liberal staffer Sandy Biar have confirmed they’re nominating for pre-selection

“We’re now less than six hours out from close of nominations and I still haven’t seen a woman put their hand up,” Ms. Potter said

“That’s very concerning to me, particularly having seen what we saw in the federal campaign where women are looking to support the Liberal Party but they need the Liberal Party to come to them and to understand them and to represent them and it would be devastating if we didn’t have that in Bragg

‘Strong campaigner’ working with independents 

Ms. Potter started her own non-partisan political consultancy firm, the Suffragette Group, to work with women hoping to enter politics

She worked on the campaign for independent Lou Nicholson, who came within 343 votes of winning the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Finniss in the South Australian state election, and was also involved in the campaign of an independent candidate for the federal seat of Grey, Liz Habermann

But she said that work should not preclude her from becoming a Liberal candidate

“I think I’ve put a lot of noses out of joint in the work that I’ve done with clients that have engaged me, like a lawyer would be engaged by clients,” she said

“At the end of the day, I’m a strong campaigner — I’ve shown that the last few months — and I guess the Liberal Party has to ask themselves would they rather have women like me on their side or would they rather have women like me out in the community finding great candidates to run

Candidates need to get four party members’ signatures to run for pre-selection, and despite Ms Chapman’s early warning she was leaving, have only been given two days to nominate

“I am finding it difficult, and I don’t think that’s any lack of willingness on the part of the membership,” Ms. Potter said

“I think it’s a difficult thing for the party to bring women like me back in, but at the end of the day they’re going to have to start looking at that

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1 comment

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