Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Jason Falinski (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

It’s that time again, when the politico-commentator complex kicks back to reflect on how the year has gone. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Albo out? Plibersek in? Who will be rewarded in any government reshuffle for 2021?

When it comes to the Morrison government, it’s steady as she — or is that he? — goes, with the future again looking decidedly male.

Writing in The Australian, the uber-connected conservative Janet Albrechtsen has nominated four Liberals, dubbed “the Aussie squad”, as the ones to watch for 2021. They are Victorian Liberals Tim Wilson and James Paterson, and NSW Liberals Andrew Bragg and Jason Falinski. Wilson is 40. Paterson is 33. Bragg is 36. Falinski is 50.

Notice a certain sameness?

As it turns out, the gene pool is even smaller. Wilson and Paterson are both from the libertarian think tank, the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) — or “the voice of freedom”, as it bills itself.

The IPA has certainly freed itself from any obligation on diversity. As an organisation that is now a well-established springboard to federal parliament, the IPA is very much part of the Liberal Party’s man problem.

The IPA’s board has nine members. Seven are men, including Chairman Geoff Hone and executive director John Roskam. The same goes for its senior management team, with seven out of nine being men.

Then there are the eight so-called “adjunct fellows” — those who are closely affiliated with the IPA, including the likes of Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson who weigh into the public debate. They are exclusively men.

So in this Liberal feeder organisation, out of 26 positions of influence, only four are occupied by women.

There is a similar pattern at another free market think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), which is more about policy debate than getting people into parliament. The CIS has a 30-member board of corporate heavyweights drawn from the likes of the Macquarie Group and the McKinsey management juggernaut. Of these 25 are men.

Conservative legal think tank the Rule of Law Institute includes an influential group of seven senior legal, business and political figures. Six of these are men, including John Roskam, also of the IPA.

As we reported last week in our wrap of political journalist Peter van Onselen’s new book, Scott Morrison believes his political dominance is down to seven people: Minister Stuart Robert, Assistant Minister Ben Morton, private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, chief of staff John Kunkel, secretary of the Department of PM and Cabinet Phil Gaetjens, Minister Alex Hawke, and businessman Scott Briggs.

Not a woman in sight.

This phenomenon, of course, is often explained as the result of merit-based promotion. Yet it looks very much like a scheme guaranteed to produce a future that looks just like the past.

Peter Fray

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