Seven of the Liberal Party’s 31 current Victorian MPs – about 23 per cent – are women, compared with 48 per cent in state Labor. Labor introduced a quota system in the mid-1990s to ensure women would be preselected for 35 per cent of winnable seats at all parliamentary elections, since increased to 50 per cent for all party positions.

Incumbent Robert Clark was re-relected as Liberal Party state president in a bitter blow to the group aligned with federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

It is more difficult for the Liberals to establish gender quotas than the Labor Party, given the way local preselections operate in the two major parties.

The ALP often picks its candidates in deals between factional operatives, meaning those officials can work to ensure enough women are picked for winnable seats. Liberal candidates are chosen in local preselections, where a field of candidates is voted on by branch members – a grassroots democratic system fiercely guarded by the Liberal Party.

“The Liberal Party is in the business of winning elections,” said one Liberal member who opposes gender quotas. “When we think of winning elections, it shouldn’t involve taking cues from activist journalists who have aneurysms at the mere mention of the word diversity, but instead harbour the greatest political monocultures in the nation.


“In 1994, the ALP introduced a mandatory 35 per cent preselection quota for women in winnable seats … since this monumental occasion, they have held government for eight of 28 years.”

He said the Liberal Party did not have a problem with women, and that it was “the media that have a problem with the Liberal Party”.

Another member said a push for quotas “reflects Marxism”. He said while he wanted to see more women in the Liberal Party, mandating it through gender targets was antithesis to Liberal values of individualism.

Mr Guy said Women2Win was a program he had started in 2015 to diversify the Liberals’ ranks. In one of his first interviews after being re-elected as leader earlier this year, he said he was open to quotas and he would tell the Liberal Party it needed to introduce quotas if it failed to get more women preselected for next November’s election.

“I totally accept [diversification is] overdue for the Victorian division,” Mr Guy said yesterday. “I’m not sure we’re at the stage of needing quotas because we’re now seeing, particularly federal and state preselections opening up, of very, very strong female candidates, and candidates from diverse backgrounds. That is positive, you’ve got to look like the state you want to represent.”

Mr Clark was re-elected party president, defeating Dinesh Gourisetty. After former premier Jeff Kennett publicly flirted with running for the presidency, then decided not to run, Mr Clark’s re-election was all but sealed.

Mr Clark’s group won a clean sweep of internal party positions, including vice-president and treasurer, and is likely to maintain its majority on the party’s powerful administrative committee, in a blow to the conservative faction aligned with senior federal MPs, including Mr Frydenberg and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar.


The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.