Sussan Ley on workplace sexism, stealing planes and dancing without shoes
When she arrived in the town of Thargomindah in western Queensland, she knocked on the mowing contractor’s door and said, “I’m here to fly your plane.”
The man replied, “You?”
“He didn’t even believe I could fly a plane,” Ley said.
She met her future husband in the shearing sheds of Thargomindah, before having three children and settling on a family farm in northeast Victoria.
At the age of 30, while working full-time on the farm and with a one-year-old child, Ley began studying economics at university before earning two master’s degrees and working in the Australian office. taxes.
She was shortlisted for the Liberal Party in Farrer’s seat in 2001winning it from the Nationals after former Deputy Premier Tim Fischer retired.
But it wasn’t all easy. After serving as Minister of Health in the Abbott and Turnbull ministries, she was forced to resign in 2017 when it was revealed she had bought property on the Gold Coast on a taxpayer-funded trip.
Ley, now 60, says she could have become “bitter and twisted” after being fired from the cabinet, but decided to double down on her constituency.
“I went to the backbench, which is good for the soul. And I was lucky enough to go back to the Morison firm,” she says.
“I accept that politics can give you a hard time… But for me it was about saying, ‘Well, what am I doing now that adds value to my role?'”
She also showed a maverick streak during this period, threatening to vote for a trade ban on live sheep exports.
She attributes this resilience to her upbringing. Born in Nigeria to British parents, Ley spent her early years in the United Arab Emirates where her father worked as a spy for MI6.
At the age of 10, she was sent to boarding school in England while her parents remained in the United Arab Emirates. After three years, the whole family moved to Australia where her parents bought a hobby farm outside Toowoomba.
After the family moved to Canberra, Ley became a rebellious high school student and avowed punk. She walked around without shoes, black lipstick, spiky purple hair, a dog collar and a nose piercing connected to the razor blade in her ear.
It was this rebellious streak that led her to put an extra “s” in her first name as a young adult.
“It wasn’t very popular with my mother at the time. She still thinks he should be taken out,” Ley says.
Those close to Ley describe her as a “spontaneous” person who is one of the most laid-back politicians in the Federal Parliament.
On many nights, she can be found at the bar in her electorate’s pubs chatting to the locals.
“Pubs are where you hear the wisdom of everyday people,” she says.
Ley has also been seen on occasion dancing without shoes in the pub.
“Not for many years,” she insists. “But, like, who shouldn’t dance without shoes?”
While the challenges for women may have changed since she faced rampant sexism in the workplace in the 1980s, Ley thinks it’s “no less difficult” today.
“There are still expectations and opinions of women that people don’t express because they know they’re being blocked from expressing them,” she says.
“But maybe they still have them. And maybe they still hold them in the workplace. And maybe they subliminally convey these views to women, and they feel it. So it’s different, but it’s still a challenge.
After being elected Liberal deputy leader following the Coalition’s defeat in the May election, Ley wants to use her diverse life experiences to help the party better connect with women across the country. But she gave herself the specific responsibility of winning back the six seats that belonged to the “teal” independents.
She admits that issues like integrity, climate and economics have played a huge role in women’s desertion in elections. But she also cautions against viewing women as a homogenous political group.