The federal executive is expected to discuss claims by two party members, Chelsey Potter and Dhanya Mani, that they were sexually assaulted while working for senior politicians. Both women say they raised the incidents with more senior party figures but were dismissed.
As part of her response to the allegations, party veteran Kathryn Greiner called for quotas to get more women into parliament. Women make up only 25 per cent of the Liberal Party’s federal representatives – the lowest share of any party.
NSW powerbroker and federal frontbencher Alex Hawke also said it would be time to look at the party’s approach to quotas after the Loughnane-McDiven report was released.
Women and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has previously left the door open to quotas, saying she neither supports nor opposes them, while fellow minister Sussan Ley has urged her state division to institute quotas to lift female representation.
Ms Greiner, who had long opposed quotas, said she had changed her mind because the party’s culture needed to be fixed. The businesswoman is separated from federal president Nick Greiner but remains close to the former NSW premier.
“My phone kept going ‘ping, ping, ping, ping, ping’ as this story was going online and I was called by more than one senior woman within the party who said ‘this happened to me too’,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.
“Now this is our moment of defining ourselves, this is our line in the sand.”
But Ms Okotel said attempts “to hijack the issue of sexual assault and turn it into a push for gender quotas are hugely disappointing”.
“Men are not inherently abusive or permissive of sexual abuse and it is demeaning to the majority of men who are good and chivalrous to suggest so,” she added.
“Sexual abuse is not the culture of men. It is the culture of violence – full stop.”
Ms Okotel will push for a formal code of conduct to be established.
“In these modern times, it is not enough to simply expect that people will behave well and respect one another,” she said.
The document will be the first in the party’s history, despite being referenced in the constitution for more than two decades. She questioned whether it should expressly state “that someone not break the law”.
“It is self-evident that a code of conduct cannot replace our criminal justice system,” she said.
In these modern times, it is not enough to simply expect that people will behave well and respect one another.
“To suggest that crimes like sexual assault should be handled within an organisation under a code of conduct would be to sweep that crime under the carpet.”
The Morrison government has described the sexual assault allegations as “distressing and disturbing” and urged the former staffers to report them to police.
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House