Senior federal government minister Marise Payne concedes the Liberals have a “very serious” problem with the number of women in parliament.
Less than a quarter of federal Liberal MPs are women, compared to almost 50 per cent of Labor politicians.
Liberal frontbencher Sussan Ley believes her party should consider adopting quotas to address the pitifully low percentage.
“If you look at our party, the picture tells its own story,” Ms Ley said.
While stopping short of explicitly endorsing the proposal, which the party has long opposed, Senator Payne bemoaned having to cast her mind back a long way to recall a rosier time for Liberal women.
“I think that we do have a very serious issue concerning the role of women in the parliamentary process and also in efforts to engage more across the community,” the foreign minister said on Friday.
“We did a very good job in 1996 … in the election of the Howard government to ensure we had a very broadly representative team facing the community.
“We’ve proven we can do it, I know that we can do it again.”
Ms Ley admits she is no fan of quotas, but wondered whether the party should consider them.
“We don’t have enough women. The issue has to start long before you get to parliament.”
However, Victorian Liberal Leader Matthew Guy is confident there are no such issues in his state.
“I’ve got plenty of women – I think it’s nine of 13 marginal seat candidates are women – I’ve said I want to get more women into parliament, and I do. After this election, I hope I will,” he told reporters.
“We’ve had a 50:50 system in our branch networks, in our electorate council networks, in our administrative committee since 1944.”
The gender imbalance has bubbled alongside claims from Liberal MP Julia Banks and Senator Lucy Gichuhi that they were bullied and harassed by male colleagues during last month’s bitter leadership coup.
The behaviour forced Ms Banks to resign from parliament.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said it was unacceptable senior Liberal Party figures responded by telling Ms Banks to “toughen up”.
He also took aim at Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly for telling her to “roll with the punches”.
“It was a particularly bad choice of words,” Mr Pyne said.
“What we all need to do is be a lot more caring of each other … people need to grow up.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists the Liberal Party has the right structures in place to deal with bullying, and rejected claims Ms Banks mistreated her 2016 campaign staff.