Independent Member for Chisolm Julia Banks has not had a happy Christmas. But like a good Chrissy pud she’s been stewing for a while.

In the Australian Women’s Weekly (reported in The Australian and everywhere else), she’s let fly at the Liberals. Again. This time, her woe-is-me routine got the full AWW treatment, turning a tough MO into a saint.

They love this routine at the Weekly, as  much as they love the white, the bone, the beige.

It’s the latest episode in the Liberal Party war that will hand the keys to the Lodge to Bill Shorten.

What Julia’s upset about (what isn’t she upset about?)

She’s upset that Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as PM. Remember, he lost 38 Newspolls, way above the 30-Newspoll metric he set the man he knifed, Tony Abbott. 

She’s upset about Liberal Party reactionaries. Here, AWW editorialises that:

… when those reactionaries seized control, Julia knew she couldn’t stay. She was in parliament to represent the people, not tow the party line, especially when that line had shifted significantly to the right.

… Julia – like many in the country – was utterly incensed at the leadership coup to remove Malcolm Turnbull and not just the fact of it but how it had played out.

(Maybe if they’d voted Liberal he’d still be there. You know,he kind of botched the 2016 election.)

She’s upset that Julie Bishop didn’t become PM. Remember, Bishop scored all of 11 votes in the first ballot for the leadership. She night have overestimated her appeal among her colleagues just a smidge.

She’s upset that men rolled their eyes. Seriously.

She’s upset that they ‘bullied’ her (more on this later).

She’s even upset that most wives of Liberal members of parliament don’t work – and this is the topic of today’s post.

The question today is, is Julia Banks correct?

Julia’s ‘women’s problem’

Banks’ new claims were reported like this:

Ms Banks described Mr Morrison as a traditional man and said the party still largely viewed women as caregivers.

“I think John Howard is his mentor and it was only two years ago, the week before my maiden speech, I remember when John Howard said, we will never get to 50-50 representation in politics because women focus on their caring responsibilities … I think that view is quite entrenched.”

Most of the men in the Liberal Party, their wives don’t work. They’re at home with the kids. Now I don’t have an issue with stay-at-home mums but I do in the sense that I believe all women should be, if not at some period in their life, they should ensure their financial independence … and not to be dependent on anyone.”

So the question is: are the majority of Liberal wives stay-at-home mums with nothing but their husbands for support? We won’t debate whether that is a good or bad thing, but we will address her main claim that Liberal women are unskilled (essentially what she is saying) and need to rely on their husbands for everything.

The truth is, it that would take a long time to survey all Liberal wives.

Instead, The Breakdown has looked at the Morrison Cabinet.

The reason is that Cabinet  ministers have the most-demanding jobs in the Government and the best paying. If there are going to be a lot of house mums they would be the wives of Cabinet ministers.

Also, there are a lot less to investigate and life is short.

The occupation of the spouse is listed. This may not be current, but then neither was Banks’ claim. She referred to “at some period in their life”. So if the spouse has been cited as having a career, they are given that career.

Evidence also clearly shows that most women enter and exit the workforce based on family circumstances (the reason their super is less than men, on average at the end of their working life), so taking a ‘career-based’ view better mirrors many (and maybe most) women’s circumstances in Australia.

Let’s hit the Googleator.

Spouse jobs

Prime Minister
Scott Morrison. Wife was a registered nurse and childcare worker.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion. Unknown.

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development
Michael McCormack. Unknown.

Minister for Regional Services
Minister for Sport
Minister for Local Government and Decentralisation
Senator Bridget McKenzie. Politician (boyfriend; NZ parliament).

Treasurer
Josh Frydenberg. Lawyer.

Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Senator Mathias Cormann. Lawyer.

Minister for Defence
Christopher Pyne. Stay-at-home mother (four children).

Minister for Defence Industry
Steven Ciobo. Public relations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs
Senator Marise Payne. Politician.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
Senator Simon Birmingham. Lawyer/political adviser.

Attorney-General
Christian Porter. Law clerk.

Minister for Home Affairs
Peter Dutton. Small business (childcare … you may have heard).

Minister for Communications
Minister for the Arts
Senator Mitch Fifield. Unknown.

Minister for Women
Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
Kelly O’Dwyer. Banker.

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
Senator Michaelia Cash. Barrister.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia
Senator Matthew Canavan. Teaching degree; stay-at-home mum to five children.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology
Karen Andrews. Human resources company (husband and Andrews).

Minister for Education
The Hon Daniel Tehan MP. Farmer.

Minister for Health
Greg Hunt. Nurse.

Minister for Families and Social Services
Paul Fletcher. Jeweller.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response
David Littleproud. Small business.

Minister for the Environment
Melissa Price. Widower and single parent; since remarried (unknown).

Minister for Energy
Angus Taylor. Barrister.

The verdict

So out of 23, there are three unknown spouse occupations (ie, not referenced in many articles searched) and two identified as stay-at-home mums.

One has four children and one has five. For the record, the first is the wife of Pyne, a Turnbull backer, and the second is the wife of conservative Matt Canavan (a National, so he didn’t vote in the coup).

Of course, this doesn’t mean Pyne and Canavan’s wives didn’t have careers before they were married, but the wives of Pyne and Canavan (a) were not readily identified as having careers in articles searched and (b) identified as stay-at-home mums. In both instances, these help Banks’ argument. But they certainly don’t prove her claim.

This is not a complete list of all MPs but a cohort most likely to support her argument. On this list of 23, her claim is unsubstantiated. It’s nowhere near “most”.

And he claim is not a slander against the men of the Liberal Party, but the wives. Way to help the sisterhood!

The damage

It has taken around two hours to do this check.

How many in the media will do the same? How many will just repeat the claim? Lots … because it fits the narrative that the Liberal Party is ‘stuck in the past’ and has a ‘women problem’.

Both may be the case, but that’s not related to wives maybe not working. Why the maybe? Because she offers no evidence to back her claim. None.

Just like the bullying allegation.

That old chestnut

Yep. Again. This is what is reported this time around:

Ms Banks said the bullying that went on during the coup made people fearful.

That’s a key line. Remember it.

“I said no, I’m voting for Julie in the first round, and then I had people sent to me and phone calls, trying to move my vote.”

The thing that happens with bullying is people were afraid. They started becoming really concerned that Peter Dutton was seriously going to win. Men and women were being harassed and bullied.”

“If it wasn’t going to be Malcolm it had to be Julie. She’s 20 years in the parliament, lauded as the best foreign minister in the world, communication skills of a genius, and a woman. Seriously, a true Liberal and we knew Julie Bishop was Labor’s worst nightmare. I thought if it loses by one vote and it’s Peter Dutton then I’ll quit straight away.”

Can you see that she has conflated two very different things? Before she gets into the guff about Bishop (unshared by her colleagues), she is conflating an outcome she doesn’t want with bullying which has no evidence.

On this claim, she is always muddying the waters and the media needs to check it out to verify a serious allegation. Or call her on it.

One more thing, “communication skills of a genius”?

Where have we heard that before?

Remember the bullying claims?

So what was the bullying?

On 31 August this was reported in The Australian:

Ms Banks announced earlier this week she would not contest the next election after just one term in federal parliament, citing bullying and intimidation from both said of politics and the events of last week’s leadership turmoil as the “last straw”.

“These sorts of actions have no place in any workplace, and certainly should have no place in the parliament. I trust Julia’s claims will be thoroughly investigated within the Liberal Party system,” Senator Birmingham told ABC radio.

Notice what’s missing? Details. Evidence.

Senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened to use parliamentary privilege to name those inside the Liberal Party she says have bullied and intimidated her but she later recanted to the PM. Repeating the claim without evidence is weak tea.

Just like the claim that most Liberal women don’t work and can’t support themselves, the bullying claim was hollow (to be polite).

The media should do better than be stenographers to unhappy politicians. But when the target are Liberals, they have no incentive. Shocker.