Former deputy leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop could be the next female MP to quit Parliament and politics before the next election.
Many of her former Cabinet colleagues believe that will be the case, after a summer that featured the former Foreign Minister literally jumping ship from Wild Oats during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
And while some were perhaps too enthusiastic in describing Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer’s shock decision to quit as a political “earthquake”, given she was hardly a household name, the departure of Ms Bishop would truly represent the end of an era.
It would also pose a far more potent symbol of the failure of the Liberal Party to nurture female talent, given she was rudely rebuffed by her colleagues during the leadership challenge even though she outranked her male competitors as voters’ preferred candidate in the polls.
When she quit the frontbench after the August leadership challenge, Ms Bishop refused to be drawn on whether she saw a return to the frontbench or even a future leadership role.
“The chain of events that unfolded last week was at such a rapid pace that I had to make a number of, what some might say were life changing decisions, without giving them my usual due regard for the consequences,” she said at the time.
“Given the circumstances, I believed it was appropriate for me to resign my Cabinet role as Foreign Minister.”
Some ministers believe that decision has already been made, accusing Ms Bishop of continuing to keep the Liberals guessing over her retirement only to control who secures her blue ribbon seat in Perth.
One reason previously cited is an attempt to stop Attorney-General Christian Porter jumping into her seat to avoid being turfed out at the next election.
If she does quit, Ms Bishop has made it abundantly clear she intends that her seat should be secured by a woman.
That’s also the preferred outcome for Ms O’Dwyer.
The New Daily has confirmed that Liberal Senator Jane Hume is a leading candidate for the job and is being urged to switch from the Senate into the Higgins electorate.
“I am seriously considering it,” she told The New Daily.
“To Kelly’s credit she’s always treated it like a marginal seat. I am going to make a decision based on what’s best for the Liberal Party and what’s best for winning the next election.”
It will be a stunning coup if Senator Hume is able to secure the seat, the well-regarded Liberal faced losing her Senate spot just months ago as part of the latest round of ugly Liberal infighting in the state.
Another potential candidate is Ms O’Dwyer’s former nemesis and Sky News broadcaster Peta Credlin.
Ms O’Dwyer’s career languished under Tony Abbott but was fast-tracked under Malcolm Turnbull.
Asked if Peta Credlin, formerly Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, could be one of those talented women who might come forward, the Prime Minister declined to speculate.
“We’re not going to get into speculation about the candidates here, but there have been some fine women who have run most recently in elections here around this part of Melbourne and I am looking forward to an outstanding candidate coming forward as I’m sure will,” he said.
Ms O’Dwyer insisted her reasons for quitting were intensely personal, confirming that she and her husband had struggled to conceive her first two children and were hopeful of a third.
She famously clashed with the government’s chief whip, Scott Buchholz, after he urged her to express and store more breastmilk so she didn’t miss any parliamentary votes in 2015.
“My two smart and loving children, Olivia and Edward, who are here with me today, will reach primary school age during the next Parliament. In compiling photo books and in looking at all of those special moments over the Christmas period, I have seen how many of them I have missed and I know how many I will miss,” she said.
“But I no longer want to consistently miss out on seeing my children when they wake up in the morning or go to bed at night and I want to know that when I am around, my time with them is not constantly disrupted.
“And it’s clear to me that they also want to spend more time with me as well.
“There is another very personal reason. Like so many families, our journey to parenthood has not been straightforward. My husband and I want to give ourselves the opportunity, the best opportunity, to have a third child.
“We need to be very realistic. I turn 42 years of age this year and everything would have to go right.”
Ms O’Dwyer thanked the Prime Minister’s wife, Jenny, who also struggled with years of IVF before conceiving the couple’s two daughters naturally, a gift the Prime Minister has described as “a miracle”.