A Coalition MP has hit out at Labor’s female representatives in the Senate, claiming there is a “lack of quality” among them, and earning a rebuke from a member of his own party for ‘denigrating women’.
Jamie Briggs, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, made the remarks in response to calls for the Liberal party to move towards a quota system, saying Labor’s targets meant women ended up in the senate not on the basis of merit, and that it showed in the quality of their representatives.
Asked why Labor had managed to considerably outperform the Coalition in terms of increasing the number of women in parliament Briggs hit back, attacking the calibre of his female parliamentary colleagues.
“Well they’ve obviously got this quota system which basically means they’ve got a whole bunch of people who don’t get there on merit,” Briggs said on Sky News.
“And you only have to look at the quality or the lack of quality of female representatives in the Senate from the Labor party to show that all they’re doing is actually ticking a box on numbers, that’s what the truth of this is.”
The comment provoked a rebuke from Sharman Stone, a fellow Coalition MP who has been calling for the Liberal party to introduce a similar system to Labor’s.
“There you have it. A classic example of the male MP who will do or say anything to keep the status quo including denigrating the women who have managed to make it into parliament,” Stone said in a statement to New Matilda.
New Matilda contacted Briggs’ office to ask which female MPs he believed were lacking in quality, but no response had been received at the time of writing. In the Sky News interview he pointed to Kate Ellis and Amanda Rishworth as examples of MPs who achieved their positions on merit.
Briggs has previously defended Prime Minister Tony Abbott against claims of sexism, and derided Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech for “desperately tying to create distractions from Labor’s chaos and mess”.
Earlier in the week Minister for Education Christopher Pyne acknowledged the Liberal party had a problem with female representation, but said he remained opposed to a quota system.
“It is a subject that we need to focus on as a party because the number of women representing the Liberal Party in the Senate, for example, has not increased, it’s declined and we need to address that subject,” Pyne said.
At its national conference this weekend Labor agreed to increase its quota target to ensure women hold 50 per cent of party positions by 2025.
A spokesperson for Labor’s leader in the Senate Penny Wong said the party’s national conference had reaffirmed its commitment to preselecting women to winnable seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“Labor recognises that the national parliament – like other elected bodies – should reflect the community it serves,” they said.
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