CANBERRA -- Former Prime Minister John Howard, and man, has predicted Australian women are unlikely to ever represent half of the federal parliament because of their greater child caring responsibilities.
The dour gender prediction comes just days after the Federal Liberal Party Executive adopted a long-term grassroots gender reform program in a bid to encourage more women to join, participate and eventually become leaders in the party.
Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds declared Tuesday: "Today 8 out of 10 liberal MPs are men, so now the hard work really begins," but Mr Howard told the National Press Club in Canberra Wednesday, the goal of equal female representation is probably too much.
"I'm not sure you will ever have a 50/50 thing," the former Prime Minister said as he launched his latest work on his political idol Robert Menzies, 'The Menzies Legacy'.
"It is a fact of society that the caring role -- whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are -- women play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities which inevitably place some limits on their capacity."
Women now make up 32 percent of the federal parliament, up from 27 percent on the 44th parliament. The rise is thanks to a host of newly elected Labor and minor party politicians, whereas the Liberal Party lost four female MPs on July 2.
"Look, I don't believe in quotas, as you know, and I mean, you can talk about targets and aspirations and goals," Mr Howard said.
"I would like to see a natural process whereby there are more women."
Senator Reynolds does not believe in quotas either, but wants an equal target based on merit.
"My commitment is to see a time when all younger Liberal women believe they have an equal opportunity to lead our Party and represent their communities in Parliament," she said.
Mr Howard, Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister, knows he's opened a can of worms, but insists he is just being realistic.
"Some people may say, 'what a terrible thing to say'," the former Prime Minister said.
"It is not a terrible thing to say, it just happens to be the truth, and occasionally you've just got to recognise that and say it."
"It shouldn't be sort of -- the mainstream should not be too timid to say things occasionally."