Scott Morrison has ruled out the introduction of gender quotas to increase the number of liberal women in the federal parliament, as one of his senators moves away from a threat to name alleged party thugs.
The prime minister admits that Liberals need to recruit more women, but on Tuesday they asked if adopting a quota was the best approach, and they answered categorically: "No".
Morrison emphasized the liberal organizational branches, and not the parliamentary party, in the shortlisted candidates.
"It's incumbent on every party president, every branch president, every person in the party across the country that we look to see how we can get more women involved in a strong role within our party," he told 6PR radio.
"We are, I think, underrepresented here in our parliamentary ranks, but in terms of those who are here, we have a very strong representation in our party in the executive, in the government ministry."
His ministry includes six women, five more under Malcolm Turnbull, but with a total of one quarter of all ministers. Five more women are in junior positions.
In general, less than a quarter of the federal liberal deputies are women compared to almost half of the Labor representatives.
Former minister Craig Laundy became the first deputy of the male Liberal Party to support gender quotas.
Mr. Laundy says he agrees with merit-based preselections, but fears that without a quota system, liberals will not adequately increase female representation.
"Perhaps the first step is the short-term intervention with a quota system in safe seats and selected safe places in the Senate so that the party can increase its female representation to the 50/50 level," he told The Australian.
The southern Australian liberal parliamentarian, Rowan Ramsey, is also open to suggestion.
"It's a bit mysterious why we do not have more women in parliament, maybe it's something about the workplace that makes them reluctant," Ramsey told reporters in Canberra.
The liberal leader, Sussan Ley, raised for the first time the possibility of adopting gender quotas, and the high deputies, among them Marise Payne and Julie Bishop, publicly lamented the scant number of women.
However, the Liberal ministers, including Simon Birmingham, Steve Ciobo and Josh Frydenberg, are satisfied with the party's goal of a 50 percent female representation by 2025.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz admits that many women of great merit have been ignored in the past.
"But quotas in the interests of quotas, everything I say with respect is, take a look at the Labor side of parliament and you can see what the quotas do and it's not a good look," he said.
Meanwhile, liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi seems to be moving away from threats to name the thugs inside the party.
The South Australian senator had threatened to use parliamentary privilege to publicly release his colleagues accused of harassment and intimidation during last month's liberal leadership crisis.
"As for the intimidation in my political career: yesterday I had a conversation with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the prime minister took up the issue," he posted on Twitter.