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Julie Bishop calls out male deafness: 'If you’re the only female voice in the room, they just don’t seem to hear you'

Jenni Ryall

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has called out toxic masculinity in politics and what she labelled "gender deafness" in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday night.

In the appearance on Channel 7's program Interview, Bishop spoke candidly to host Andrew Denton about her time in Australian politics and the challenges she faced as a female leader, despite remaining tight-lipped on many gender issues during her time in politics.

Bishop served as foreign affairs minister from 2013-2018 and deputy leader for the Liberal Party from 2007-2018. Bishop resigned from politics after a spill for the leadership in 2018 where she was defeated and Scott Morrison went on to be Prime Minister.

In words that no doubt resonate with many women who have sat in a meeting made up entirely of men, she said it is difficult to have your voice heard when you are the only female in the room.

"It was as if I hadn't spoken and then somebody would say precisely the same idea. And they'd all say: 'Oh that's a great idea. Why don't we do that?'" Bishop said.

“I just labelled it gender deafness. 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.”

Some people have called Bishop out for hypocritical behaviour due to the fact she didn't speak out about gender issues when she was in politics and in some instances, turned her back on fellow women politicians.

For example, Bishop called out Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard for playing the victim when she made her now infamous misogynist speech in Parliament directed at Opposition Leader -- and Bishop's colleague -- Tony Abbott's behaviour.

"She had the most powerful position in the country. She was the most powerful elected representative in Australia and yet she chose to play a victim instead of face up to her own incompetence and misjudgments and miscalculations," she said at the time, according to the Tasmanian newspaper, The Examiner. "You don't have to play the gender game – never have, never will."

In Tuesday night's interview, post-politics-human Bishop instead called Gillard's treatment "grotesque" and "pathetic".

https://twitter.com/sarahvmac/status/1161458720917749762

Politics, Bishop said, is still very much a man's world and there is a long way to go to change behaviours.

"We have to remember that in recent times, parliament was all male. And so you had a whole bunch of men in Canberra and they set the rules, they set the customs, the precedence and the environment. It was all men," she said. "There was very much that culture around politics."

Despite this, Bishop said she believes when half of politicians are women, inappropriate behaviour towards women will be less prevalent.

"There must be a critical mass of women, and 50 per cent sounds like a good idea," she said. "So I would think that the more women that are in politics, the more they would say that behaviour is unacceptable. So I think the numbers really do matter in this instance."

It seems human Bishop has some explaining to do for politician Bishop.