When Fairfax Media revealed that Julie Bishop was claiming family travel entitlements for her boyfriend but refusing to declare his financial interests, insisting he was not her partner, sources close to Bishop suggested its publication was motivated by misogyny.
The suggestion was Bishop was being targeted for her gender rather than paying a penalty for her own choices. That the motive could only be about her sex rather than her political actions is the same logic behind the curious narrative that has emerged claiming the veteran MP is not leader today because she is a woman.
As foreign minister, her indefatigable work ethic, poise, and quick wit, combined with her unrelenting pursuit for justice for the MH17 victims, saw the deputy Liberal leader touted as the natural leader-in-waiting - at least at the start of her time in the portfolio.
I have no doubt that Bishop encountered the Liberal Party boys' club and had to fight against it. But the reason she is not prime minister today is because she poorly navigated the ideological turbulence within the Coalition. And she failed to capitalise on her longevity as deputy to demonstrate to the satisfaction of her colleagues she had matured politically after her disastrous attempt at the economic portfolio in 2009.
The Liberal party room is ready to back a woman. “If it was a choice between a man and a woman of similar ability I’d choose the woman,” anguished one backer of failed leadership contender Peter Dutton. It was not lost on MPs that the first female Liberal prime minister would have allowed the government to paint Labor's Bill Shorten as a male relic of the wilting union movement.
But Liberal MPs have long held grave reservations about 62-year-old Bishop's ability to transfer the appeal earned in the largely bipartisan job of foreign affairs to the domestic battleground, particularly when it came to economics - a totemic issue for the Coalition and a known weakness for Bishop.
She revived her reputation as an economic lightweight when she strayed outside her portfolio and flunked an important question on superannuation on live radio during the 2016 election campaign.
MPs feared her public polling would prove to be as ephemeral as the minister's penchant for emoji interviews and her pet, but internally despised “fashion diplomacy” policy, which Labor and Liberals alike felt was being used not to advance Australia's strategic interests but to gain the minister access to designers and glitter events.
In 2007, Bishop complained about a Julia Gillard covershoot: "I don't think you should be courting that celebrity status as if you're a fashion model or a TV star...you're not a celebrity, you're an elected representative, you're a member of Parliament. You're not Hollywood."
But “Hollywood” was the very nickname many of her colleagues gave her, as they watched as she posed for a cascade of glossy cover shoots and articles where she name dropped the labels in her designer wardrobe.
As her Instagram began to bloat with selfies with an assorted bunch of the very rich and often barely famous, colleagues began writing off her intentions for leadership, figuring she was using her final years in the portfolio to enjoy the celebrity circuit. “She is always demanding celebrities for her pic-ops,” one private sector source complained earlier this year.
As she turned up at event after event, she not only reinforced her colleagues' worst fears, but exacerbated them.
And there were serious stumbles in her own portfolio. Last year it fell to rebel backbenchers and the Liberal defector Cory Bernardi to save the government at the last minute from ratifying an extradition treaty with China, which MPs feared could see Australia sending dissidents to the Beijing and the mercy of the Chinese “justice” system’. She bizarrely picked a fight with New Zealand’s Labour leader, questioning whether the Coalition could trust a government led by Jacinda Ardern.
Yet Bishop was popular with voters and, after Turnbull, was polling as the only viable option. So why isn’t she leader? Because this leadership change was never about popularity or electability. It was about finding a leader who could appeal to One Nation voters and unite the bitterly divided party.
One Dutton backer told me his inbox was filled with positive emails in the days after the change and the Scott Morrison ascendancy. He even optimistically floated the prospect of the government being able to win the next election. Bishop, pitching as a moderate, would never have placated these MPs.
While Morrison runs with the moderates in NSW, he voted against same-sex marriage and stopped the boats, endearing him to the voters that the Dutton forces say Turnbull lost.
This is also critical to why moderate MPs were campaigning for a Dutton v Morrison contest. As we know, a majority of the partyroom did not want Dutton and his band of insurgent backers, namely Tony Abbott and his vengeful sidekick, Peta Credlin, rewarded.
The contest had to be against Morrison who could combine the moderate and some right votes to prevail over the populist Dutton forces and deny the "terrorists" (as one moderate MP calls them) their ransom. Bishop’s colleagues knew, if the contest somehow came down to her against Dutton, the Queenslander would prevail because the party room had shifted to the right.
And then there is the baggage of the 2015 coup. Tony Abbott believes Bishop was a disloyal deputy. Don’t forget her chief of staff attended a meeting of the plotters the night before the 2015 coup, in what Bishop attempted to claim was an “observer role”. No one believed her and it only brought her more internal critics.
But didn't Morrison also rat on Tony Abbott? Yes. But in contrast to Bishop, Morrison used his portfolios to sound perfect pitches to the partyroom. He was an uncompromising hardliner on immigration and unlike Bishop, grew in the economic portfolio, with last year's budget well-received internally.
Morrison is Prime Minister today because with less than five years in the cabinet he was able to develop himself into a more rounded politician with greater internal appeal than Bishop was able to do in more than a decade in the deputy position. And the result was an outcome of their own makings.