From the Archives, 1993: Bishop rejects ministry post

First published in on April 8, 1993.

Bronwyn Bishop entered politics because she believed there were two groups of people in the world -those who made decisions and those who had decisions made for them. And she wanted to be in Group One.

Yesterday she was moved in the direction of Group Two, a career path that disappointed her.

The Leader of the Opposition, Dr Hewson, had called Senator Bishop just after lunch to offer the shadow ministry of privatisation and administrative services. He had called on the senator’s car phone.

Mosman manoeuvres ... Mrs Bishop works the phone at home.

Andrew Taylor

She was doubly disappointed. First, she was hoping for an economic portfolio. Second, Senator Bishop remembers a telephone call of unsavoury language between Andrew Peacock and Jeff Kennett that was tapped and put the Liberal Party in a poor light. She does not believe car phones are secure.

The senator stopped the car, telephoned Dr Hewson and established that the shadow ministry was not in the shadow Cabinet She would have to consult, she said.

Tandberg’s view.

Ron Tandberg

Dr Hewson telephoned again, at Senator Bishop’s Mosman home, to be told she was still consulting colleagues and supporters.

When she finally called back, nearly two hours after her leader’s original call, it was to say, thanks but no thanks.

Were the discussions amicable?

“Civilised,” Senator Bishop said last night.

Some people already interpret the senator’s decision as a move to position herself for a challenge for the Liberal Party leadership somewhere down the political track.

She ruled out a challenge “at this stage”, while reaffirming that she would seek preselection for a House of Representatives’ seat before the next election, and adding: “As a backbencher in committee work I am able to operate on a very broad front and am not restricted to a narrow portfolio band.”

At the end of a day of “stresses and strains”, sitting near photographs of herself with the Queen, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Mrs Bishop said she had made her decision with regret. She did not think it petulant or arrogant

However, she said: “I know the system. The shadow Cabinet is where the decisions are made. I think I’ve worked hard enough to earn a spot in the top 20.1 think I had the runs on the board.”

She would continue to serve the party and the people of Australia and work towards a move to the Lower House and towards the next election.

Better days ... Mrs Bishop and Mr Hewson, pictured at a function earlier that year.

Brendan Esposito

There were about 155 weeks before the next election and, if a week were a long time in politics, 155 weeks equalled a millennium.

Senator Bishop said she was deeply moved by the “thousands of Australians” who had urged her to contest the Liberal Party leadership. She was still writing thank-you letters.

The way of the world ... Bishop ancestor, William Congreve.

She denied having decided to run for Bradfield, the seat now held by David Connolly – “I have not targeted any particular seat at this stage.”

Senator Bishop repeated criticisms she made of Liberal Party policies after the election.

“We had excellent policies of the mind but not of the heart We must have policies of the heart”

She would happily work under Dr Hewson, but would expect a senior ministry after the next election.

What had happened was a disappointment rather than a blow. “I will still make my voice heard,” she said.

Senator Bishop might have a chance to see more theatre.

She is descended from William Congreve, the Restoration dramatist who wrote , and other plays. The senator would like to see in Sydney.

Napoleon had said that every French soldier carried in his knapsack the baton of a marshal of France. Was Bronwyn Bishop a private soldier with a field marshal’s baton?

“I don’t think I’ve ever been a private,” she said. “I’ve never had a knapsack.”

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