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Julie Bishop is one hell of a survivor

  • 25 February 2019


Julie Bishop was always going to end her career about now, but on her own terms. I have no doubt she set the terms a long, long time ago.

We don't know what promises have been hinted at, what 'connections' (rather than friendships) refreshed, what options planned for her return to the world of commerce and positions of influence, of the most prestigious opportunities for her well-honed tact and steely purpose.

I am sure there have been many since her courageous and ultimately humiliating decision to stand as a 'moderate' candidate against a wealthy Queensland former copper and hard man of the right, who had out-bluffed her (obviously comfortably amiable relationship with) second Prime Minister of this century, the wilting, fed-up, wealthy Malcolm Turnbull, last September.

I knew of her, but didn't have much at all to do with her, when I was running my own legal practice in Perth in the 70s and 80s, and she was being a corporate lawyer. A successful corporate lawyer, too, running litigation for asbestos producers and other (now unpopular ) corporate clients. I knew and recognised the way that she was climbing the professional and political ladders of that labyrinthine society in the land of the Lotus Eaters, with steely resolve and the self-belief that has characterised her entire career.

Hell, I once thought the only way to practise law in Perth was to play the game the way it was: to accept not being considered for appointment to the corporate firms that did the kind of work I would have loved; to defer and ultimately decide that having children was not consistent with the expectations of the favoured few; that I could expect to be well rewarded for being twice as hardworking, competitive, experienced and well-qualified as, and perhaps more adventurous than, the men I worked beside in law school, in the soliciting profession, at the bar and in the courts.

Only I learned, and perhaps she did too, that some expectations are not going to be met for women who practise law in the same way that men lawyers do. Or for women who practise law differently. Or for those who play 'the game', and are overlooked because of it. Why, then, did she move on from her managing partnership in the big Perth law firm and go into politics?

Julie Bishop is one hell of a survivor, and she is exactly where she planned to be.