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Speirs apologises for Potter's 'difficult journey' with Liberals

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Liberal leader David Speirs has apologised to former party staffer Chelsey Potter for her “difficult journey with the Liberal Party”, after she agreed to re-join the fold while aborting a planned independent bid for the seat of Bragg.

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As InDaily revealed yesterday, Potter opted not to run for the seat in next month’s by-election, after lobbying by Speirs saw her elevated onto a high-level taskforce designed to address the party’s dearth of women MPs, with just two in the lower house after Bragg incumbent Vickie Chapman retires.

The party has preselected male ex-staffer Jack Batty to succeed the former deputy premier.

“Whether we win or lose that by-election, our numbers will be two women in the lower house – and that’s just not good enough,” Speirs conceded yesterday.

“We need to aspire for much better.”

He said Potter would be among a dozen Liberal women on the committee he flagged earlier in the week, to be chaired by the party’s Upper House leader Nicola Centofanti.

“It will report directly to me but I’ll be passing the baton to them to come up with a range of ideas as to how we can support women to be actively involved in the party… and to enter parliament,” he said.

He admitted having lobbied Potter against running in Bragg, but offered an apology for her experience in the Liberal fold, which she left after going public in 2019 with an allegation of workplace sexual assault.

“Chelsey has had a difficult journey with the Liberal Party in recent years – I regret that… I’m sorry about that, and I want to welcome Chelsey back into this party – because she’s got a particular perspective about how we can do better, and it’s time to listen to that perspective,” Speirs said.

Potter said she had had “a lot to say about how the Liberal Party engages with women” in recent days.

“I stand by every single comment I made in that regard, but I did have a very robust conversation with the leader last night and over the last few days,” she said.

Those conversations contained “lots of home truths”, she said.

“He’s taken those on board, which I commend him for doing,” she added.

“As a result of those conversations, I’ve decided not to run for the seat of Bragg.

“This isn’t about me – this is about the future of women in this state, and a healthy two-party system that has a healthy relationship with women… and the Liberal Party has an awful lot to do to get there.”

Potter said she would ensure the taskforce – which will also include MLCs Michelle Lensink, Jing Lee and Laura Curran as well as senate hopeful Kerrynne Liddle and former federal and state parliamentarians Carolyn Power, Trish Worth and Caroline Schaefer – would not be a “toothless tiger”, suggesting quotas for women MPs would be on the agenda.

“I think we’ve seen the effect quotas have had on the other side of the aisle,” she said.

“I think quotas do work… I think everything’s on the table.”

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