Bronwyn Bishop

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The Honourable
Bronwyn Bishop
Bronwyn Bishop - Flickr - Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer (1).jpg
Bishop at Les Misérables premiere, December 2012
29th Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
Assumed office
12 November 2013
Deputy Bruce Scott
Preceded by Anna Burke
Minister for Aged Care
In office
21 October 1998 – 26 November 2001
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Peter Staples
Succeeded by Kevin Andrews
Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel
In office
11 March 1996 – 21 October 1998
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Gary Punch
Succeeded by Warren Snowdon
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Mackellar
Assumed office
26 March 1994
Preceded by Jim Carlton
Senator for New South Wales
In office
1 July 1987 – 24 February 1994
Preceded by Sir John Carrick
Succeeded by Bob Woods
Personal details
Born (1942-10-19) 19 October 1942 (age 72)
Sydney, Australia
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Residence Newport, New South Wales, Australia
Alma mater University of Sydney
Occupation Company director, solicitor
Website Personal website

Bronwyn Kathleen Bishop (née Setright; born 19 October 1942) is an Australian politician who is the 29th and current Speaker of the House of Representatives, holding the office since 12 November 2013.

Bishop has been a member of the Australian House of Representatives for the Liberal Party since 1994, representing the Division of Mackellar in New South Wales. Earlier, between 1987 and 1994, she represented New South Wales in the Senate. Bishop held ministerial portfolios during the Howard Government, serving as Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel from 1996 to 1998 and as Minister for Aged Care from 1998 to 2001. In October 2014, she surpassed Kathy Sullivan's record for the longest period of parliamentary service by a woman.

Early years and education[edit]

Born in Sydney as Bronwyn Kathleen Setright, Bronwyn Bishop undertook a five-year LLB program at the University of Sydney.[1] However, she abandoned her degree with three subjects uncompleted after becoming engaged to classmate Alan Bishop; she later gained her professional qualification from the Solicitors' Admission Board (now Legal Profession Admission Board).[2]

During her university years, Bishop was not involved in student politics but was a member of the Killara branch of the Young Liberals.[2]


Bishop first worked as an articled clerk and played an acting role as a barrister in the 1960s Australian television program Divorce Court.[3] She was admitted to practise law in 1967 as a solicitor and became a company director before entering politics.

Political career[edit]

Having formed an ambition to become a politician, she joined the Liberal Party at the age of 17.[4]

Heavily involved in organised politics, Bishop joined Killara Young Liberals in 1961 and during her association with that branch, she became Vice-President. Bishop first became a Liberal Party office-holder in 1973 as President of the Balmoral branch and was later elected as the Chairman of the Liberal Party Convention Committee from 1981 to 1985 and as the first female President of the NSW Liberals from 1985–1987.[5]

After the retirement of Sir John Carrick at the double dissolution of 5 June 1987, Bishop was nominated by the Liberal Party to contest the vacant seat in the Senate for New South Wales at the election on 11 July 1987. She won the seat and her term was deemed to have commenced from 1 July.[1] She was elevated by Andrew Peacock to the shadow ministry in 1989 as Shadow Minister for Public Administration, Federal Affairs and Local Government (1989–1990). She proved an aggressive debater against the Australian Labor Party, particularly with Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.[6] She was the first woman to be popularly elected as a Senator for New South Wales.

After the Liberals' defeat at the 1993 election, Bishop began to be seen as a possible leadership candidate, a view she shared. Shortly after the 1993 election, Jim Carlton, the member for Mackellar, resigned. In a move widely seen as furthering her leadership ambitions, Bishop resigned from the Senate on 24 February 1994 to contest the ensuing by-election for the safe Liberal seat. Although she was comfortably elected, her campaign against John Hewson for the Liberal Party leadership faced a setback when she did not poll as well as expected against author and filmmaker Bob Ellis, who ran as an independent in the by-election.[7] When Hewson called a spill for the Liberal leadership in 1994, Bishop opted not to get in the race, and Alexander Downer successfully challenged for the party leadership.

Prior to his ousting by Downer, Hewson brought Bishop back to the frontbench, having earlier declined a frontbench position from him the previous year, as Shadow Minister for Urban and Regional Strategy.

When Downer became leader, she became Shadow Health Minister, a senior position, but caused controversy on her first day in office by announcing her support for tobacco advertising, drawing criticism from both the Australian Medical Association and her own party, which supported the Keating Government's legislation to prohibit tobacco advertising in 1992.[8] Her remarks were attacked by the then AMA president and soon-to-be Liberal MP for the neighbouring seat of Bradfield, Brendan Nelson, who said that: "Mrs Bishop has a lot to learn about health...there are now more than 50,000 pieces of medical research and literature supporting the view that smoking is injurious to humans."[8] Bishop was dropped from Health and moved to Privatisation and Commonwealth/State Relations (1995–1996).[1]

When the Liberals returned to Government in 1996, Prime Minister John Howard appointed Bishop a Minister in various junior portfolios. She was the first Liberal woman from New South Wales to become a minister. She was Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel from 11 March 1996 to 21 October 1998 and Minister for Aged Care from 21 October 1998 to 26 November 2001.[1] It was in this role that she endured her greatest scandal, the kerosene baths controversy of 2000.[5] The revelation that some residents at Melbourne's Riverside private nursing home had suffered blistering after being bathed in a weak kerosene solution as a cure for scabies led to a national outcry over the standards of care maintained by Bishop's department.[5] She was dropped from the ministry after the 2001 election. On 1 January 2001, Bishop was presented with the Centenary Medal "For service to Australian society through parliament and government".[9] In 2004 she campaigned to succeed Neil Andrew as Speaker of the House, but was not successful.[10] In September 2013, Bishop was nominated by incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the new Speaker of the House.

Political advocacy[edit]

An affirmed monarchist, Bishop, along with fellow Ministers, Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott[11] supported the 'No' campaign leading up to the failed 1999 Republican referendum[12] and on one occasion spoke to Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, warning of the "Seven deadly myths of the republican debate".[13] On 17 July 1991, in response to the infamous debate on the Nine Network's Midday television show with host Ray Martin, debating on Australia remaining a constitutional monarchy, in a live televised debate with singer Normie Rowe and radio broadcaster Ron Casey, who ended up physically brawling, Bishop issued a media release which said: "It may well have been High Noon on the Midday Show when Ron Casey took a swipe at Normie Rowe but this conduct indicates just how divisive the debate on the Monarchy has become. Not content to see the country on its knees as a result of the recession the Labor Party must be pleased that it is dividing the community on an issue which has absolutely no political relevance."[14]

In August 2005, Bishop called for Muslim headscarves to be banned from public schools, an opinion also expressed by another prominent Liberal backbencher, Sophie Mirabella.[15] However, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said that he did not agree with this view as a ban would be impractical.[16] In November 2005, Bishop expressed the view that "she is opposed to the wearing of the Muslim headscarf, where it does not form part of the school uniform. This is because that in most cases the headscarf is being worn as a sign of defiance and difference between non-Muslim and Muslim students" and then went on to say that she "does not believe that a ban on the Jewish skull cap is necessary, because people of the Jewish faith have not used the skull cap as a way of campaigning against the Australian culture, laws and way of life."[17]

On 21 January 2006, at a Young Liberals convention in Sydney, Bishop declared her intention to introduce a private members bill to make "destroying or violating" the Australian flag a federal offence.[18] Shortly before the Howard Government lost office, Bishop headed the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, and released the report "The winnable war on drugs: The impact of illicit drug use on families".[19] The report was highly critical of harm minimisation and suggested mandatory adoption of children under 5 years of age whose parents were known to use drugs. The report was widely criticised by a range of organisations such as Family Drug Support, the Australian Democrats[20] and the Australian Drug Foundation for lacking evidence, being ideologically driven, and having the potential to do massive harm to Australia.

In 2006, following a flag-burning incident during the 2005 Cronulla riots and a burnt flag display by a Melbourne artist, Bishop introduced the Protection of the Australian National Flag (Desecration of the Flag) Bill 2006. This bill sought to make it "a criminal offence to wilfully destroy or otherwise mutilate the Flag in circumstances where a reasonable person would infer that the destruction or mutilation is intended publicly to express contempt or disrespect for the Flag or the Australian Nation."[21] The bill received a second reading but subsequently lapsed and did not go to vote in the House of Representatives.


In the 2007 federal election, Bishop was re-elected to her seat with a 0.62-point primary swing and 3.04-point two-party-preferred swing against her on slightly redistributed boundaries.[22] After his appointment as Liberal Leader, Brendan Nelson appointed Bishop to the Shadow Ministry portfolio of Veterans' Affairs.[23]

Nelson bringing back Bishop to the frontbench was in contrast to their past conflict in 1994 when Bishop as Shadow Health Minister defended tobacco advertising which was contrary to the position taken by Nelson, then President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

However, after the election of Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party, she was dropped from this portfolio, to return to the backbench.[24] Despite speculation that she would be challenged for preselection in her seat of Mackellar for the next election, this did not eventuate and she later reaffirmed her intention to contest the next election.[25] On 5 May 2009, Bishop criticised Turnbull's leadership, saying that "Malcolm seems to have been strong at the beginning but now he has gone soft."[26] However, with Turnbull's loss of the party leadership and the election of Tony Abbott as his successor, on 8 December 2009 Bishop was appointed to the shadow ministry as Shadow Minister for Seniors.[27] Bishop was re-elected at the 2010 Election and was appointed to the outer shadow ministry as Shadow Special Minister of State and Shadow Minister for Seniors.[28]

Regarding Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, it was alleged that Bishop had tweeted in December 2010 that "Mr Assange should be aggressively interrogated until he reveals the location of the stolen cables, so they can be retrieved." The comment was widely retweeted and mocked as an indication of her technical naivety. However, the tweet was later revealed to be a fake.[29]

The Coalition defeated Labor at the federal election on 7 September 2013. Tony Abbott announced that Bishop would be the Coalition's nominee as next Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives.[30] Bishop was elected as Speaker on 12 November 2013. She is the third woman, and the first non-Labor woman, to hold the post. She has opted against wearing the full traditional attire of the Speaker, but instead wears a traditional business suit.

Since October, Bishop has served in the Australian parliament longer than any other woman, outstripping the record of 27 years and 3 months previously held by Kathy Sullivan.[31] In November 2014 Bishop lost her bid for presidency of the International Democracy group Inter-Parliamentary Union.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Bishop was born Bronwyn Kathleen Setright, the daughter of opera singer Kathleen Congreve. She enjoys singing and dancing, having appeared in several charity productions including The Sound of Music (as Baroness Elsa),[33] and Grease (as the Headmistress).[34] In 2007, she sang a duet of Irving Berlin's A Couple of Swells with then Health Minister, Tony Abbott, at a fund-raiser in Sydney.[33] Bishop is also a patron of Opera Australia[35] and was 2008 President of the Sydney International Piano Competition Committee.[36]

In 1966, she married (later the Hon) Alan David Bishop (20 April 1940 – 22 January 2010), with whom she studied law at the University of Sydney.[37] Alan Bishop was a judge of the now defunct Compensation Court and the District Court of New South Wales and was instrumental in the establishment of the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales.[38] He is honoured by the Bishops' alma mater with the Alan Bishop Scholarship for distinguished final-year undergraduate law students.[39][40] Alan Bishop also served as an Alderman of the City of Sydney and was involved in multiple committees and companies, including the public medical research company AGITG.[41]

Bronwyn and Alan Bishop had two daughters; Angela, an entertainment reporter for Network Ten, and Sally.[2][42] In 1992, their marriage was dissolved.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Biography for Bishop, the Hon. Bronwyn Kathleen". Parlinfo web. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  2. ^ a b c Benns, Matthew (March 2013). "Camperdown to Canberra". University of Sydney. 
  3. ^ "Discussion on Bronwyn Bishop's life before politics and nursing homes". Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Government. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  4. ^ "First Speech To Parliament – 16/9/1987". Senate first speech. Commonwealth of Australia. 16 September 1987. Retrieved 2013-09-20. At the age of 17 I decided that I wished to pursue a political career.... Again at the age of 17 I chose to join the Liberal Party. 
  5. ^ a b c "Bishop, Bronwyn". The Australian. 25 March 2002. Retrieved 26 April 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^ Wright, Tony (5 September 2008). "Occupants of warm pink chamber can go feral". The Age (Melbourne: Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  7. ^ "Bishop moves to the back bench". Lateline (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 23 November 2001. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  8. ^ a b "Smoke Gets in Her Eyes". The Age (Fairfax Media). 27 May 1994. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  9. ^ Centenary Medal, 1 January 2001, Citation:"For service to Australian society through parliament and government"
  10. ^ Koutsoukis, Jason (16 November 2004). "Victorian takes Speaker's Chair". The Age (Melbourne: Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  11. ^ Marks, Kathy (8 November 1999). "Australia wakes up to renewed divisions". The Independent (London: Independent Print Limited). Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  12. ^ "Minister unrepentant over anti-republic stand". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 21 October 1999. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  13. ^ Bishop, B. "Debunking the seven deadly myths of the Republican debate:A speech by the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop", 2 February 1999
  14. ^ "Background Paper 9 1995–96. The Recent Republic Debate – A Chronology". Australian Parliamentary library (Commonwealth of Australia). 10 June 2004. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald 30 August 2005 and 6 September 2005, Global Research 27 September 2005
  17. ^ Crikey newsletter, 10 November 2005
  18. ^ "Art prompts call for flag-burning law change". The 7:30 Report (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 6 February 2006. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  19. ^ [1] – House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services report: The Winnable War on Drugs
  20. ^ Sen. Andrew Murray (2007). Senate Hansard, 18 September 2007, 10:20 pm
  21. ^ Bishop, Bronwyn (2006). "Protection of the Australian National Flag (Desecration of the Flag) Bill 2006: Explanatory Memorandum" (PDF). Australian House of Representatives. Commonwealth of Australia. 
  22. ^ "Division of Mackellar". 2007 Federal election. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  23. ^ "Australian Electoral Commission summary of Mackellar". Federal Election 2007. Australian Electoral Commission. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  24. ^ "Turnbull picks Julie Bishop to lead attack on Wayne Swan". The Australian (News Limited). 22 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  25. ^ "Abbott, Bishop safe". The Manly Daily. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  26. ^ Kerr, Christian; Salusinszky, Imre (5 May 2009). "Bronwyn Bishop takes swipe at 'soft' Malcolm Turnbull". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 2009-11-30. [dead link]
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Jackson, Sally (31 May 2010). "Pleasure of faking it on Twitter online blog site". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 2011-06-17. 
  30. ^ Chang, Caris (16 September 2010). "Bronwyn Bishop will be the Coalition's first female Speaker". Manly Daily (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  31. ^ Wilson, Janet, & McCann, Dr Joy (9 July 2014). "Representation of women in Australian parliaments 2014". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  32. ^ Sydney Morning Herald 17 October 2014 author Fergus Hunter
  33. ^ a b "Bishop hits right note in musical". The Sun-Herald (Fairfax Media). 24 June 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  34. ^ Browne, Rachel (16 May 2009). "Charli plays Sandy on the beach to raise $20,000". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  35. ^ "Opera Australia annual report 2008" (PDF). Opera Australia. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  36. ^ "SIPC Patrons and Friends". Sydney International Piano Competition. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  37. ^ a b Caroline Wilson. (3 July 1993.) Brownyn's Secret Weapon, The Sunday Age.
  38. ^ "Judge helped start WorkCover". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 8 March 2010. 
  39. ^ "Alan Bishop Scholarship 2013" (PDF). Sydney Law School. 
  40. ^ "The Alan Bishop Scholarship" (PDF). Sydney Law School. 
  41. ^ "Alan Bishop". Sydney's Alderman. 
  42. ^ "A Mother's Day to remember". work=Woman's Day. 4 May 2008. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Sir John Carrick
Senator for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Robert Woods
Preceded by
Jim Carlton
Member for Mackellar
Preceded by
Anna Burke
Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
Political offices
Preceded by
Gary Punch
Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel
Title next held by
Warren Snowdon
as Minister for Defence Science and Personnel
Preceded by
Peter Staples
Minister for Aged Care
Succeeded by
Kevin Andrews