In club news that can’t be ignored, the men-only The Australian Club has ruled out allowing women to join this historic Sydney bastion of the political, social and business elite.
The agenda to allow women to join was rejected by a record turnout of members at a special meeting last week, who voted against the proposal. It is understood only 37 per cent voted in favour, short of the 75 per cent required. Sixty-two per cent voted against the plan, and one per cent abstained.
At least 693 members are believed to have voted, in a ballot including former Prime Ministers John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull, who are among its members.
“The Australian Club today held a special general meeting to consider a specific resolution for the purpose of amending the Club’s Constitution to allow women to be members,” a spokesman for the club said.
“There was a record turnout of members to consider and vote on the resolution.
“The meeting determined that the 75 per cent threshold to pass the resolution was not met.”
The 183-year-old club does allow ‘lady guests’ to visit on weekday evenings. NSW anti-discrimination law allows registered clubs to restrict membership on the basis of gender.
With views of the Botanic Gardens and Lower North Shore the club website says it’s a place “where tradition and modernity have been skillfully blended to preserve what is best in a club for today’s Members, where Members bring their guests to enjoy the best amenities the Club has to offer.”
“The Club provides excellent dining facilities, en-suite bedrooms and apartments, a fully equipped gym, and on Level 7 of the building in which the Clubhouse is located, are first-rate business facilities, which Members and resident guests may access.”
The Australian Club also has reciprocal arrangements with several other private members’ clubs nationally and internationally.
Members of the Club, which also includes James Packer, must be invited to join and cannot just apply. They must also undergo an intense interview process and provide several references from existing members.
Federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh criticised the vote, which came after the Club received more than $2m in Jobkeeper payments, despite the Macquarie St venue doubling its surplus.
High-profile businessman, environmental activist, author and collector Geoff Cousins quit the Club and has urged others to do the same after the vote was rejected.
As Groucho Marx is reported to have said when he resigned from New York’s Friars Club: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”