My book: On Merit

Image by Alex Ellinghausen, Fairfax/Nine

On Merit

My first book, On Merit, was released by MUP on 5 February 2019.

On Merit explores how merit has very little to do with the increasing dominance of men in the modern in the Liberal Party, and why Liberal women have continued to defend the principle. Until now. The book also explores this imbalance, its implications for the party’s future, and how a pair of red shoes may spark a rebellion against the merit myth.

Book excerpt in Guardian Australia:

The Liberal party merit myth, and why it’s every man (or woman) for themselves

Articles and interviews about On Merit

The Liberals must admit to their ‘women problem’ or perish, The New Daily, Jan 4, 2019

Interview on Ticky, Sky News, Jan 31, 2019

On Merit: How Paul Keating fixed Labor’s women problem and the Liberals can address theirs, The New Daily, Jan 31, 2019

A former adviser to John Howard has written a book on the ‘woman problem’, Jane Gilmore, SMH/Age, Feb 5, 2019

Uncommon Sense: The Myth of the (un)Merited and ‘The Women Problem’ in Politics, Interview with Amy Mullins, 3RRR FM, February 5, 2019

Where is the book available?

Melbourne University Publishing (Paperback, ePub and Mobi)


Abbey’s Bookshop

Angus and Robertson


Boomerang Books


Apple book store (search for Paula Matthewson)


Why I wrote On Merit

I’ve been writing about Liberal women since 2014, trying to explain to people who aren’t familiar with Liberal philosophy why it is so hard (and a bit pointless) to get conservative women to call themselves feminists. Back then, I was sceptical about the usefulness of quotas in addressing the diminishing number of Liberal women, but I’ve changed my mind over time, and wrote in support of quotas for The Australian Women’s Weekly during the 2016 federal election.

Up until the brouhaha over Liberal bullying and the snubbing of Julie Bishop during the August 2018 leadership troubles, most (but certainly not all) Liberal women were opposed to quotas. However Bishop’s ‘red shoe rebellion’ seemed to be a turning point for some Liberal women, with a number publicly declaring that something had to be done and quotas should be at least considered.

I consider myself to be a former conservative who’s slowly moved to the political centre over time. This seems to have placed me in a unique position of being able to see the Liberal Party’s women problem from a unique perspective – as someone who understands why conservative women resist the solutions that seem so obvious to progressive women.

Much of my political commentary and analysis aims to explain politics to people who are interested and want to know more but don’t have the time (or inclination) to devote hours each day to political events. So I thought it would be a useful contribution to Australia’s political debate to write a book explaining why Liberal women still insist on a merit-based system when it is clearly failing them.

Relevant articles

I’ve written a lot about this topic over the years. Here are the main ones:

The real reason women of the right will never call themselves feminists, Women’s Agenda,Oct 31 2014

‘Left-splaining’ feminism to Bishop misses the point, ABC The Drum, Nov 10, 2014

Why we need a quota for women in parliament, Australian Women’s Weekly, June 15, 2016

Quotas, WhatsApp: the troubled future of the Coalition’s sorority, [$] Crikey, Aug 28, 2017

The Liberals and Nationals are yet to prove they take women seriously, The New Daily, Mar 9, 2018

Julie Bishop never had a chance. And it’s not just gender, The New Daily, Aug 28, 2018

‘The Liberal bullies must be named’, The New Daily, Sept 12, 2018

The women’s movement about to upset the Coalition’s party, The New Daily, Oct 30, 2018

Interview with Ticky Fullerton, Sky News (click image for link to interview)
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