politics

MH17, Putin and sexism: The 5 best moments from Julie Bishop's interview with Andrew Denton.

When Julie Bishop announced her retirement in February, she shut the door on a busy, varied and sometimes dramatic 20 year career in Parliament.

The former deputy Liberal leader sat down on Andrew Denton’s Interview on Tuesday night to reflect on her career, including her five years as Foreign Minister.

Covering everything from her love of fashion, early life, Liberal leadership contest and sexism and gender bias in politics, the hour-long interview was as candid as you could ever expect Julie Bishop to be.

Julie Bishop tells Andrew Denton how parliament’s culture can change. Post continues below video.

Video by Channel Seven

Here are the five standout moments from the interview:

The hardest day of her career.

Bishop was foreign minister in 2014 when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, claiming 238 lives including 38 Australians.

With Denton, Bishop opened up on the moments she spoke with each of the Australian families who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

“On my way to New York sitting in an airport lounge… I started ringing the families. Terrible, it was really, really terrible. It makes me sad even thinking of it now,” she said.

Bishop said she was particularly struck by the Maslin family, who lost their three children Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin, aged 12, 10 and eight, as well as their granddad Nick.

The Maslin children.
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"I knew the parents," Bishop said. "They were from my electorate.

"They were very, very well-known in my electorate and I spoke to Maz, the father, that day and it was terribly sad.

"They knew. Because this was a couple of days later, they knew. They were on the edge, they just didn't think they'd be able to go on."

Bishop said she told the more than 30 families she would not rest until they had retrieved the bodies.

When asked how she "let out" all the distress and sadness she carried over MH17, Bishop said she did not think she ever had.

"I still see the families when there are anniversaries or memorial services, I will meet members of the family.

"They get in touch with me from time to time. It's quite remarkable the number of times I will be somewhere, quite random, and someone will sidle up to me and say 'I'm the cousin of so and so,' or 'I was the brother of...' and it touched so many lives."

The infamous meeting with Putin.

Remember that time former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was going to "shirtfront" Russian President Vladimir Putin when he met him at the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane?

Side note: After her retirement, Julie Bishop spoke to Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues below audio.

It was over Russia's response to the MH17 crash and everyone thought Abbott had created a very awkward situation for himself but... well, it ended up being an awkward situation for Bishop, who was the next person from the government to meet with Putin.

"It was at the Asia-Europe meeting in Milan and I wanted to meet with President Putin to tell him how concerned Australia was at Russia's obfuscation with the investigation and their refusal to cooperate with the investigation that had been set up," she recalled to Denton.

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"So it was my task to get a meeting with him, but I'm not at his level; he's a president, I'm a foreign minister. And there was a moment in the meeting, we were all sitting at a big horseshoe table.

"So, Australia, I'm at the beginning of the alphabet and Russia's all the way over there. So I was sitting, waiting, waiting, waiting. And there was a moment when both his interpreter and his support staff left the room."

Bishop took her chance, running around the table to speak with the Russian leader while he was alone.

"I tapped him. I said 'President Putin, I'm Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister. I'd like to talk to you about MH17'.

"He put his hand over the microphone, stood up and beckoned me away from the table. So, he said 'Yes?' and then I did my spiel. I told him the concerns of the Australian government... And he listened very carefully to what I said and his eyes never left my face and then after I'd finished he said, in perfect English, 'So this is what you call a shirtfront?'

"Gender deafness" and sexism.

Bishop recalled the difficulty of more often than not, being the only woman in the room.

Referring to Abbott's cabinet, Bishop said she found it "disturbing" that she was the only woman appointed to a cabinet role.

"It was an issue I raised. I wasn't actually appointed, because I had been elected as deputy leader so I was there anyway. So, if you put me aside, not one woman was selected and appointed."

She said on a regular basis, she would experience what she described as "gender deafness".

"If I spoke in a room of 20 men, if I would put forward my idea, there was sort of silence," she said.

"The next person would speak as if I hadn’t spoken and then somebody would say precisely what I said or come up with precisely the same idea. And then they’d all say, 'Oh that’s a great idea. Why don’t we do that?'

"And I'd say, 'Excuse... Didn't I say that?'"

At first, Bishop thought it was a personal thing. An individual problem.

Then she realised this was a problem women faced worldwide.

"I just labelled it gender deafness," she said. "I love men and I think they have a wonderful contribution to make to humanity. But if you’re the only female voice in the room, they just don’t seem to hear you. It's as if they’re not attuned to it."

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When asked how parliament can 'fix' its gender problem and change the culture, Bishop said more women were needed in parliament.

"There must be a critical mass of women and 50 percent sounds like a good idea. I would think that the more women that there are in politics, the more they would say that behaviour is unacceptable.

Bishop has previously been very careful not to explicitly mention a quota, which the Liberal party is against, but she told Denton "I think that numbers really do matter in this instance."

Julia Gillard.

In 2013 a Liberal National fundraiser in Queensland made headlines after its menu described a "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box."

The inclusion caused outrage around the country, leading then-party leader Tony Abbott to condemn the sexist insult towards the then-Prime Minister.

Bishop recalled the incident to Denton, which was just one of many sexist attacks against Gillard during her time in politics.

Bishop sighed as she described the incident as "grotesque in its brutality, it was so childish undergraduate - no, not even undergraduate - humour".

"We have to remember that until recent times, parliament was all male. So you had a whole bunch of men in Canberra and they set the rules, they set the customs, the precedents, the environment. It was all men... But that kind of behaviour is just pathetic."

The leadership spill.

Julie Bishop arriving for her press conference to resign as foreign minister. Image: AAP.
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Bishop spoke about her disappointment after losing the leadership ballot during last year's Liberal leadership spill.

"When Malcolm announced that he wouldn't run, I had this overwhelming sense of a responsibility to put myself forward as an alternative," she said.

"I felt that as the most experienced cabinet minister, I was the only one who'd served in the Howard/Abbott/Turnbull governments/cabinets. I'd been there for 20 years.

"And you know, I also felt that I owed it to the women of Australia, because I'd been the deputy, and, you know, criticised - oh, she's always the bridesmaid - had been criticised for that... I didn't want them to think 'Oh, she hasn't got the courage to stand even though she might lose'. I wanted to put my name forward.

"In fact, I felt I had an obligation to put my name forward."

Bishop received 11 votes out of a total 89, and a leaked WhatsApp thread showed several Liberal MPs banded together to ensure Bishop’s first round defeat.

In the days following her loss, Bishop said she ran a personal best in the City to Surf and then spoke to Prime Minister Scott Morrison about her decision to stand down as foreign minister.

She said she kept herself busy and didn't allow herself a moment of just "lying in bed with the doona over my head", because "that doesn't resolve anything".

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