Bishop, Bronwyn Kathleen

Bishop, Bronwyn Kathleen
▪ 1994

      Bronwyn Bishop, a Liberal Party senator for the state of New South Wales, was by 1993 the choice of many Australian conservatives as their most popular personality. Following the disastrous and unexpected defeat of the conservative coalition in the March 1993 general election, Liberal Party leaders in Canberra decided to stick for the time being with their losing chieftain, John Hewson. They overlooked the clear call for new blood focused around the personality of the populist Bishop and, accordingly, throughout 1993 the conservatives were destabilized by continued rumours and suggestions of a possible leadership challenge.

      Bishop was born Oct. 19, 1942, and educated at the University of Sydney. She was admitted to practice law in 1967 and was elected 20 years later to the federal Senate. She came to national prominence as a member of the Senate Estimates Committee, where her televised criticism of tax officers, including the head of the tax department, gained her wide popular support. Recognizing her charisma, Hewson tried to win her over to his camp, but he failed. Bishop rejected Hewson's offer to join the 1993 shadow cabinet in a junior capacity, and almost immediately public opinion polls confirmed the wisdom of her decision by keeping her ahead of Hewson as preferred leader of the Liberal Party. While Bishop's main target was Hewson, she did not spare Prime Minister Paul Keating. She castigated Keating, saying that his visit to meet Queen Elizabeth II in September was unconstitutional and that he should cut short his European junket, which the country could not afford, and return home to attend to the problems of the budget and the economy.

      Very early, Bishop had decided to be a politician. "I wanted to have a say. Then I thought if I'm going to write the laws of the land, I really ought to understand them. So I decided to do law at university, which was a pretty unusual thing for a girl to do." Having decided to be a politician, she naturally coveted the top jobs. Australian parliamentary practice, however, demanded that party leaders hold seats in the House of Representatives. In October 1993, as if by predestination, a vacancy occurred for the safe seat of MacKellar, and immediately Bishop announced her intention to leave the Senate to seek preselection for that seat. Whether her determination would be sufficient to push her into the party's top job remained in the hands of the extraparliamentary party preselection committee in Sydney, but most Australian newspapers predicted Bishop would win MacKellar and challenge Hewson for the Liberal leadership in 1994.

      (A.R.G. GRIFFITHS)

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Universalium. 2010.

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