In the latest installment of our Women in Politics series, we gain a little more insight into the Hon Julie Bishop MP (Liberal), Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
At 38, Julie Bishop had achieved what many young lawyers aspire to do. Having worked as a barrister and a commercial litigation solicitor, she was managing partner of a national law firm’s Perth office.
She was at the peak of her career, or so she thought, until a business trip to Burma led to an hour-long meeting with Burma’s then opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma on one of my overseas visits and the meeting with her changed my life,” Julie Bishop told Australian Women Online. “She spoke of the commitment she had made to the people of Burma and she was utterly inspiring.”
After her meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Julie Bishop decided to attend an advanced management course at Harvard Business School. During one of the classes she says she had an epiphany when the students were asked if they would consider seeking public office. She returned to Australia determined to enter Federal politics, which has been her life’s passion ever since.
How does she feel about her second career?
“It’s the most exciting and exhilarating career that I could imagine,” she says. “I represent people that I’ve worked with and that I know and people in the community in which I live. I have the opportunity to be a cabinet minister, which means that you can really make a difference and implement policies and change people’s lives for the better.”
As the high profile Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop is often asked to comment in the media on many of the Coalition’s policies, including the LNP’s paid parental leave scheme.
Earlier this month during an appearance on the ABC’s Lateline Program, Ms Bishop said: “I believe that maternity leave, parental leave should be a workplace entitlement and it shouldn’t be a welfare entitlement and I do think that it will enhance participation in the workforce.”
“We want to have more women having the opportunity to come back in to the workforce after they have taken time out to raise a family or support their children and in this way, business also gets the tax cut. I think it’s a win-win.”
“I had the opportunity to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma on one of my overseas visits and the meeting with her changed my life”
Julie Bishop rarely talks about her private life. All we really know about her private life is that she has no children and has remained single since her divorce in the late 1980s.
When asked about her decision to forgo motherhood Julie Bishop told News Limited back in February that women “can’t have it all”.
“They can have plenty of choices, but at the end of the day, they choose something which means they can’t have something else.”
“There are many people who use their family as part of their publicity and then are outraged when people ask questions about their family. I’m not suggesting anything to do with your family is not relevant to your role as an elected representative. But if you are going to promote your family they’ll be subject to scrutiny.”
“If you don’t want people to ask about your private life, don’t offer it up as part of your profile,” she said.
Neither will she be drawn to comment on matters of religion.
“I don’t talk a great deal about my faith. I try to promote aspects of my values and beliefs that are relevant to my conduct as a parliamentarian.”
However, she is more forthcoming about her family’s political background. Her mother, Isabel Bishop, was mayor of the Adelaide Hills community in which she grew up and her grandfather was also a local mayor and active in the Liberal Party.
“She must have a level of idealism,” she said. “She must want to achieve something in politics, She has to have a good reason for going into politics and so be prepared to articulate her philosophies, her ideals.”
“She needs to be prepared to have her life put under additional scrutiny. You are in public office, you are a servant of the people and they are entitled to know who you are and what you stand for.”
“I would suggest that if you are interested in going into politics that you join a party. Become involved in the party so you are comfortable with the values and philosophies and beliefs. You can run as an independent but it’s very lonely.”
“If your values align with the Liberal Party, join the Liberal party, get to know the people, ensure that you feel comfortable with the direction that the party is heading in.
Bishop, who takes regular early-morning runs, says a woman in politics needs to have inexhaustible supplies of energy if she’s going to do it well.
“I don’t think I’m the person who should be giving others advice on a work-life balance,” she says with a wry chuckle. “My work is all-consuming. I spend a lot of time travelling, and I am very focussed on my job. It’s more than a career, it’s a vocation and in that sense I give it everything I’ve got.”
“Not that I was ever imagining I would have to make the sort of sacrifice that Aung San Suu Kyi had made.”
“It’s fascinating, it’s challenging, and I find it provides all the career challenges that I could possibly wish for.”
“I wake up every morning and I can’t wait to get to the office or out into the community or wherever I am. I’m always looking forward to the day.”
For more information visit Julie Bishop’s website: www.juliebishop.com.au