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Liberal women call out bullying inside the party

Kelly O'Dwyer, Julia Banks and Lucy Gichuhi have all spoken out publicly. Photos: AAP / Getty
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Two more Liberal women, Kelly O’Dwyer and Lucy Gichuhi, have hit out at bullying inside their fractured party.

On Monday night, Ms O’Dwyer, a senior minister, became the highest-ranking woman to confirm there had been “threats and intimidation and bullying”, both during the recent leadership spill and beyond.

Some had even “tried” to bully her, she said.

Ms O’Dwyer was responding to a female Liberal colleague, Julia Banks, who had announced she would quit at the next election because of “cultural and gender bias, bullying and intimidation” during the leadership spill.

Three others had anonymously complained of intimidatory tactics.

Ms O’Dwyer said she was “disgusted” by the dismissal of these women’s concerns by senior party officials.

“Frankly, I’m a little bit disgusted by that. Julia Banks is no petal. She’s no snowflake and no princess.”

Ms O’Dwyer made the comments to the ABC’s Leigh Sales. Photos: ABC

Earlier in the day, Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened to use parliamentary privilege to name those inside the party who bullied and intimidated her during the leadership chaos.

“What I went through and what [ousted Labor MP] Emma Husar went through or what even Malcolm Turnbull may have been going through, that is bullying,” she told ABC radio.

Radio talkback host and Sky News political commentator Alan Jones added more fuel to the controversy Monday night on the ABC’s Q&A program, advising female politicians to “toughen up”.

“Politicians know the game they’re going in to and it is tough and it is confrontational and it is antagonistic at times,” Mr Jones said in response to questioning on the bullying claims.

“I would recommend some of them who are saying they’re being bullied – they need to take a teaspoon full of cement and toughen up.”

Mr Jones added that the accusers should name names or stay quiet.

Senator Gichuhi earlier disagreed with that assessment, and comments by Victorian Liberal Party boss Michael Kroger that it should simply be accepted that “people do speak strongly to one another” in politics.

“Anytime somebody is overpowering you or using any undue influence, that’s not political,” she said.

“Politics is a career like any other, and we should have politics the professional way.”

The senator said it was assumed she would vote for right-wing leadership contender Peter Dutton because of her Christian faith.

“Christianity has nothing to do with this leadership thing,” she said.

“Christianity, the one I know, does not intimidate, does not harass, does not control, does not fight for power in that kind of way.”

Senator Gichuhi deduced that the bid to overthrow Malcolm Turnbull must have been under way months ago because she was asked during her preselection bid in June if she wanted Mr Turnbull to continue as leader.

She was able to “add up” that the male preselector who asked that question wanted Mr Turnbull overthrown and did not like her answer. Senator Gichuhi was subsequently relegated to an unwinnable fourth spot on the Liberal ticket for South Australia.

She also suggested the leadership tension might not be over.

“The way it is now is just pure kangaroo court. Anybody can do something,” she said.

“How do we know tomorrow you’re not going to go back into a sitting week and another side doesn’t like Scott Morrison and then we start all over again?”

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