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Why are we so obsessed with Julie Bishop’s role in Tony Abbott's ousting?

Here we are, two months after Tony Abbott lost the top job in a late night coup d’etat, still talking about whether the Foreign Minister is actually Lady Macbeth.

Reports this week that her Chief of Staff attended meetings where the plot to bring down then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was hatched have focused on what role Bishop had in the scheme.

“Why are we so obsessed with Bishop’s role?”

Look at the time, I sat on the couch with a glass of red wine and watched as the press gallery tried to conserve their iPhone batteries on live television waiting for the ballot to decide the new PM, just like the rest of Australia’s political tragics. But I have to ask: Why are we still so obsessed with Bishop’s role?

Here is Bishop discussing Abbott’s ousting on The Today Show:

I think I know the answer.

The same thing happened when Julia Gillard toppled Kevin Rudd. There was a feverish fixation on the “betrayal” side of things.

People didn’t talk about betrayal when Kevin Rudd toppled Kim Beazley for the Opposition Leader job. They didn’t wonder how he could bring himself to do it.

They also aren’t asking those questions of Malcolm Turnbull.

And while Scott Morrison might have got a bit of a Judas treatment in the first weeks after the switch, the caravan moved pretty swiftly on.

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Not for Bishop.

Women who play the political game, it seems, should never get their hands dirty.

“Women who play the political game, it seems, should never get their hands dirty.”

Bishop is perhaps the most visibly loyal deputy any leader has had in recent memory.

She has stood beside three Opposition Leaders and two Prime Ministers. Despite having at least five opportunities to challenge for the leadership herself – including that time in January when no one ran against Tony Abbott and the empty chair got 39 votes – she has stayed put.

But her record is actually irrelevant – as is whether her Chief of Staff went to that meeting. I would venture it’s even more irrelevant whether she knew that’s what he was doing or not.

Women are not automatically nicer than men. We are not pure, ideologically or morally. We are ambitious. We can be calculating. We might be ruthless (I played netball for 15 years, trust me, I know).

And just like men we can make assessments about what we think is best in our workplace, and act on it.  We SHOULD be doing that. Performance is more important than loyalty – or, it should be. (Take a note good ol’ boys.)

A lot of the criticism of Abbott in the weeks and months before his fall honed in on what was perceived by many to be his fatal flaw: LOYALTY.

“Too soft for the job,” they said. “Can’t make the tough choices,” they whispered from the opinion pages.

“A lot of the criticism of Abbott in the weeks and months before his fall honed in on what was perceived by many to be his fatal flaw: LOYALTY.”

Not Prime Ministerial, was the inference.

It seems then that what people want from Bishop, and from the women of the Parliament, is un-prime ministerial behaviour.

I guess that way it would be easier to argue that women aren’t cut out for that kind of work. Our edges are too soft, our hands too clean.

I’m over it. We should all be over it.

Tags: australian-politics , current-affairs , politics
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