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Liberal Party to deal with bullying concerns "internally"

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A Liberal senator who stood up publicly against bullies during the federal leadership spill now says the party should address its issues behind closed doors.

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West Australian senator Linda Reynolds hit out at bullying and intimidation in a speech in the Senate during the leadership spill and she is standing by her comments.

But she says the Liberal party must deal with it behind closed doors.

“Clearly there are issues we do need to address, and I’m now dealing with them internally in the party, in our processes, the prime minister and the whips have set up,” Reynolds told Sky News today.

The Liberal party is also facing attacks over the number of women in its ranks, with men making up more than 75 per cent of its MPs.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said in 1994 both major parties had 14 per cent women – now Labor is close to 50 per cent while the ratio in the Liberals is below 25 per cent.

Senator Reynolds said the Liberals don’t need quotas for women, like Labor has used, but there are lessons to learn from the public service.

“I think my party not only has to look internally, but we also have to look externally at what other organisations are doing and how they’re succeeding,” she said.

Plibersek said she’s engaged in “extreme conflict” over her 20 years in parliament, but Labor’s culture is different because of the number of women.

“It changes the culture,” she told the ABC.

“We make better decisions for the whole Australian community when we look more like the whole Australian community.”

South Australian Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi had threatened to use parliamentary privilege to publicly out colleagues accused of bullying and intimidation, but backed down yesterday after speaking with the prime minister, saying she’s left him to deal with the issue.

“She made it very clear to me that in terms of the events in Canberra, and the spill of the leadership, she told me very plainly that she was not bullied by anybody here in Canberra in relation to that matter,” Morrison told ABC TV.

Morrison has conceded women are under-represented in the party but doesn’t think quotas will topple the obstacles that are keeping more women from advancing.

Whether or not quotas would be brought in is a matter for the Liberal’s organisation wing, he noted.

But he is working with Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer on a “practical exercise”, similar to training programs that helped a record number of Liberal women get pre-selected at the 1996 election.

Liberal Women’s Council chair Helen Kroger says it’s time for the party to acknowledge what they’ve done so far to recruit more women has not worked.

Former minister Craig Laundy has become the first male Liberal Party MP to come out in support of gender quotas, after it was first raised by Liberal frontbencher Sussan Ley, but ministers including Simon Birmingham, Steve Ciobo and Josh Frydenberg are all satisfied with the party’s target of 50 per cent female representation by 2025.

-AAP

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