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Sixteen things you didn’t know about Julie Bishop

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1. Julie Bishop grew up in the delightful area of Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills, and eventually attended the privileged St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School in Adelaide where she was captain of the debating team and co-head prefect in her final year of 1973.

2. When Malcolm Turnbull first became Liberal leader in 2008, Ms Bishop was lavish in her praise. “In Malcolm Turnbull we have an extremely competent leader. He’s a man of substance. He’s highly intelligent, highly accomplished, he’s had a fascinating life experience. In fact, his story is the embodiment of the Liberal principles of the power of the individual, entrepreneurship, enterprise, self reliance … that’s Malcolm Turnbull. I think he will make a fantastic Prime Minister.”

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3. Ms Bishop is the fifth generation of an apple and pear orchard dynasty in the Adelaide Hills. Her grandfather was a close friend of Sir Thomas Playford, the most legendary of South Australian leaders who served as Premier from 1938 to 1965.

4. Both her mother and her grandfather were mayor of the local council in the Adelaide Hills.

AAP
Julie Bishop respected local customs during a visit to Iran. Photo: AAP

5. Ms Bishop moved to Western Australia and became a successful solicitor, but she says it was not until she went to the US and did a course at Harvard Business School during 1996 that the energy of the city of Boston motivated her to become involved in federal politics.

6. She describes herself as a Christian in outlook and attitude. “I’m not a regular churchgoer, but I feel very comfortable when I go to church. I feel very comfortable in my faith.”

7. Along with her new leader, she is in favour of an Australian republic, but this is not one of her top priorities.

8. She once expressed admiration for former Labor leader Kim Beazley and said she thought he would have been a good Prime Minister. “I knew him before I went into politics. After I got into politics and was able to observe him at close range, I found him to be a thoroughly decent person. And he could have been a great Prime Minister of Australia. But such is politics.”

Melbourne Cup 2014 photos
The deputy Liberal leader bumped elbows with the rich and famous at last year’s Melbourne Cup. Photo: AAP

9. Ms Bishop is small, slender, and fit. She likes to run and swim on Cottlesloe Beach in Perth when she’s at home in her electorate of Curtin. When in Canberra she always walks from her home to Parliament House.

10. In the 1980s she worked for the Perth legal firm Robinson Cox which later became Clayton Utz. She helped defend CSR against a compensation claim by asbestos mining workers who had contracted mesothelioma while working for the company. Ms Bishop became a partner of Clayton Utz in 1985.

11. Ms Bishop married property developer Neil Gillon in 1983 and they divorced in 1988. In recent times she has been involved with former Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot and former Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass. Her current partner is property developer David Panton.

12. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. She has been a director of the West Coast Eagles AFL club, chair of the Western Australia Town Planning Appeals Tribunal, member of Murdoch University Senate and the Anglican Schools Commission and director of the Special Broadcasting Service and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. She was inducted into the WA Women Hall of Fame in 2011 and is currently the deputy chair of the Western Australian Museum Foundation and a board member of His Majesty’s Theatre Foundation.

Julie Bishop as the Minister for Ageing in 2003. Photo: AAP
Julie Bishop as the Minister for Ageing in 2003. Photo: AAP

13. Ms Bishop is diminutive, very charming and extremely tough. She has taken hard decisions that have led to changes around her, most recently, the replacement of Prime Minister Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull. As one journalist put it, she did not stab Mr Abbott in the back, it was more a full-frontal attack. Some time ago she said: “If you’re part of a team, you owe loyalty to that team, and in politics, as in sports, you can be either individual stars or you can be a team of stars.”

14. She has been compared to Claire Underwood from the fictional television series House Of Cards. Underwood is cunning and determined to accompany her husband to the White House. An observer once said the comparison is perhaps aided by Ms Bishop’s short hair cut, immaculate dress sense and keenness for running. Underwood’s steady and menacing gaze has also been compared to Ms Bishop’s.

15. Journalist Peter Greste spent 400 days in an Egyptian prison. He believes that Julie Bishop’s famous “death stare” helped get him released. He said that during the negotiations, Ms Bishop had an “uncanny ability to smile very warmly at a particular diplomat and at the same time burn holes through the back of their skulls. It’s like getting hugged by the Terminator”.

16. She counts former prime minister Kevin Rudd among her close friends. They confided in each other about leadership issues during Labor’s tumultuous past two terms of government.

Here’s a look at that famous death stare from a 2010 episode of Q&A:

Doug Aiton is a newspaper journalist and radio broadcaster. He has worked for The London Times, The Age, ABC Radio and 3AW.

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