Newly appointed Speaker Bronwyn Bishop addresses the Parliament during the opening of the 44th parliament at Parliament House in Canberra.
Newly appointed Speaker Bronwyn Bishop addresses the Parliament during the opening of the 44th parliament at Parliament House in Canberra. AAP Image/Daniel Munoz

OPINION: Is age really an issue for a politician, Clive?

AMONG all the kerfuffle about Bronwyn Bishop - and my, wasn't there a lot of it? - it was Clive Palmer's comments that got to me most.

Him saying she was too old for the job, and at 72, she should roll over and let a younger person do it.

Bit outrageous, no?

Admittedly her hairstyle was too old for the job - that should have retired in 1967 - but too old to work at 72?


There were a myriad of reasons Bronwyn Bishop was right to resign from the Speaker position, but her age wasn't one of them.

(We could make many a reference to Clive being too round for the job, rolling over shouldn't be a problem for a rolly-polly. But we are polite in this column. We endeavour never to be ageist or plumpist).

Working women are almost always going to be subjected to this attitude towards age, sadly.

We might admire older women celebrity role models still working - think Betty White, Martha Stewart, Mary Berry, Helen Mirren - but how many of us could say with hand on heart that we really enjoy getting on a plane and seeing female flight attendants aged over 50?

Even 45? Actually, 35 if we are completely honest. (I know that is not something any fair-dinkum feminist would want to own up to, but I've heard many a disparaging comment from women about ageing female flight attendants).

You might say 50 is the new 40 (I think it's actually the new 21) but there will always be that little niggle, rarely articulated, about an older woman holding down a job when she should be long retired.

It's shocking and I hate it.

Our grandmothers, and in some cases our mothers, really were considered old at 50 (poor things) and, worse, they even felt okay about that.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, women of 50 were branded as matrons (yuk) and were expected to stay home and enjoy being matronly, doing matronly stuff.

They were almost certainly grandmothers.

Back then, the 50-year-old matron had few expectations other than to bake the lightest possible sponge cake, turn out the finest piece of knitting, and always be groomed and "nice" for her still-working husband when he came home from work.

Imagine today's 50-year-old woman being satisfied with that lot?

Imagine Madonna (57) or Elle (51) being referred to as matrons. (And please don't ask me how I got from Bronwyn Bishop to Elle MacPherson in the course of a few paragraphs, I have no answer, perhaps it is my matronly befuddled mind).

Seriously, I am long past 50..way long...and I'm still working. And I feel fortunate to be so.

It is all about today's 50 plus woman still being relevant. And useful. Sometimes even important.

That's enough from me on the subject. I'm off to bake a sponge cake.