Government minister speaks out about ‘intimidation’

A GOVERNMENT minister has publicly declared MPs were threatened during the Liberal Party's leadership crisis two weeks ago and slapped down suggestions her female colleagues need to "toughen up".

Kelly O'Dwyer, the Minister for Jobs, Industrial Relations and Women, was remarkably open about the alleged bullying and intimidation of female MPs during an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 last night.

"It is clear to me that people were subject to threats and intimidation and bullying," Ms O'Dwyer said. She admitted her party does have a problem recruiting women and elevating them to the highest level of politics

"There is no question that the Liberal Party can and should do better when it comes to getting women into the parliament and we need to do better at keeping them there once we get them there," she said.

Ms O'Dwyer told Ms Sales the bullying was a long term problem, pointing to "elements in the party organisation".

The Liberal Party row over bullying deepened last week when Victorian Liberal MP Julia Banks suddenly resigned and revealed she was bullied by members of her own party in the lead-up to the vote that toppled Malcolm Turnbull.

It followed reports that four MPs had complained to the party whip about their colleagues' "standover" tactics.

Ms O'Dwyer called out those who, in response to Ms Banks' scathing statement of resignation, suggested perhaps she and other complainants needed to toughen up.

"Frankly, I'm frankly a little bit disgusted by that. Julia Banks is no petal. She's no snowflake. And no princess," Ms O'Dwyer told the ABC, pointing to Ms Banks' "stellar legal career" and the fact she was the only Liberal to win a seat off Labor at the last election.

"We all accept that parliament can be a pretty rough and tumble place, but clearly there is behaviour that is outside the accepted bounds," she said.

"The truth is, across all political lines, we as women and as people of good standing need to say it is not acceptable to bully and intimidate."

Later last night, radio host Alan Jones doubled down on the opposite view, telling the Q&A audience Ms Banks needed to "take a teaspoon full of cement and toughen up".

Liberal Senator Lucy Gichuhi says she will detail her own experience with bulling in relation to the PM’s leadership spill. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Liberal Senator Lucy Gichuhi says she will detail her own experience with bulling in relation to the PM’s leadership spill. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas

In a separate interview, Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi vowed to use parliamentary privilege to name those inside the party who have bullied and intimidated her.

In an exclusive interview with RN Drive, Ms Gichuhi said she would tell of her leadership spill experience but also in general, "because this is a culture, this is a systematic kind of issue.

"I will say from when I joined the Liberal Party, from when I joined politics - and how, what, where I think would be construed or would fit the definition of bullying," she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the claims of "bullying and intimidation" are being dealt with.

"This is about ensuring a positive culture in our party," Mr Morrison told 3AW's Neil Mitchell on Monday morning, almost a week after Ms Banks announced she would not contest the next election.

"It is likely that we will absolutely deal with this issue as a party, as colleagues and I have no truck with bullying."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the claims of bullying will be dealt with. Picture: AAP/Paul Braven
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the claims of bullying will be dealt with. Picture: AAP/Paul Braven

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