Former Australian minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop is to retire at the next election, she said yesterday, joining a wave of lawmakers leaving a government that faces defeat in the poll, which is due by May.
The departure of one of Australia’s most popular and high-profile female lawmakers follows four government legislators either retiring or defecting from the ruling center-right coalition, which is in a minority and trailing in polls.
Two other female members of the Australian Liberal Party have also left amid claims of disunity, bullying and intimidation, although Bishop praised the government in her retirement speech.
“It is my view that the Liberal-National coalition will win the next election, because it is focusing on the things that matter to the Australian people,” Bishop told parliament, listing policy achievements from the economy to security.
“And on that basis, I have reconsidered my position... I will not recontest the seat of Curtin at the next election,” she added.
Bishop has represented Curtin, Western Australia, since 1998. She was foreign minister from September 2013 to August last year and deputy leader of the Liberal Party, which governs in coalition with the Australian National Party.
The timing of Bishop’s departure heaps pressure on a government that is lagging in opinion polls — although the gap has narrowed of late — and battling a perception that it is out of touch, especially with female voters.
“Bishop will take a large number of votes with her,” said Haydon Manning, a politics professor at Flinders University in South Australia. “There will be people who would have voted for Bishop, no matter what. Those will now be open to the opposition Labor Party.”
Last month, Australian Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer said that she would retire, after backbencher Julia Banks quit the party late last year to sit as an independent, protesting against its treatment of women, and policies on energy and climate change.
Bishop, who resigned from both her posts after a backbench revolt in August last year forced then-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull from power, was defeated in a party vote to replace him, with then-Australian treasurer Scott Morrison succeeding Turnbull instead.
Morrison and Turnbull both praised Bishop.
“You have been our finest foreign minister — eloquent, elegant and always courageous advancing our national interest in these challenging times,” Turnbull said in a message on Twitter.
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