An invitation reminder sent out by Mr Szabo in August said the topic had “taken on a new edge”, following allegations against some male Liberal Party staffers, “which, if true, would suggest that some males in the Liberal Party have a ‘behavioural problem’.”
The allegations relate to instances of choking, masturbation and assault by other Liberal staffers at the highest levels of state and federal Parliament.
In response to concerns raised by one of the alleged victims about the framing of the event, with a request to participate as a speaker, Mr Szabo said the event had nothing to do with the allegations raised by her and her colleague.
“[The event] is not about you. It never has been and never will be,” he wrote to Dhanya Mani, a former NSW Liberal staffer. “I can assure you that the event will not have the time or desire to mention either of you.”
Ms Flint and Senator Stoker said they were disappointed in the way this event “has been promoted”.
“It highlights the need for all Liberal Party participants whether they are volunteers, members or supporters to understand how to address issues, where serious allegations have been made, in a sensitive and supportive manner, which is a priority for us,” they said.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have asked both women twice if they still planned to attend the event, but they declined to comment.
Former Liberal MP Craig Laundy said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had to be “absolutely involved” in getting more women into the party to fix some of its cultural issues.
“While I traditionally believe that merit-based preselections are absolutely the way to go, we need a circuit breaker and I’ve suggested that maybe short term quotas are a way,” he said at the launch of David Crowe’s book Venom in Canberra.
“We have got to look at how we get more women into safe seats.”
Mr Laundy said the events leading up to the end of the Turnbull government, detailed by Crowe in the book released this week, was marked by “systemic abuse” of some female members of Parliament.
Mr Laundy said the perception of intimidation was physical but “the most deadly thing is when you have your preselection threatened”.
“It was actually systemic abuse – abusing the process, the factions and the factional system.
“It was definitely on for young and old. They were trying to lean on any mechanism they could to get.”
The review into the party’s culture led by Liberal veterans Brian Loughnane and Chris McDiven is expected to be handed down imminently.
It will recommend a dispute resolution process and a national code of conduct for the first time in the party’s 75-year history.
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.