Skip navigation

Labor Party conference to debate push to lift number of women MPs

Stephanie Peatling, The Sydney Morning Herald 

The Labor Party's national conference will debate a proposal to increase its affirmative action target to 50 per cent by 2020.

Emily's List has released a breakdown of the number of women MPs ahead of the party's national conference which it says shows a quota system has worked and now must be increased if women are to achieve equal representation.


Senator Anne McEwen: ''40 per cent is not equal.''

Senator Anne McEwen: ''40 per cent is not equal.'' CREDIT: CHRIS LANE


"The fact that the ALP has no female state/territory or national secretaries remains a problem for the party," the Emily's List Status of Women report says.

"Women [with children] continue to face challenges in the timing of meetings, insufficient training and mentoring as well as having to deal with attitudes amongst some men that deliberately discriminate and want to hold women back."

Emily's List, an organisation set up to promote progressive female candidates, will push for the change to Labor Party rules at the party's national conference later this month.

Women now make up 43 per cent of Labor MPs at the state and federal levels.

This is widely attributed to Labor's adoption of an affirmative-action target in 1994.

But the lower numbers of female Liberal and National Party MPs means representation of women in parliaments across Australia stands at just over 30 per cent.

The lack of women in the Coalition has been criticised by former senators Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth, who have called for quotas to increase the number of conservative women seeking preselection.

Labor adopted a target of 35 per cent of women being preselected for winnable seats in 1994. The target was later lifted to 40 per cent.

After it was lifted, the number of women elected increased by 10 per cent.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly pointed out his government's achievement of having the most women in any Labor caucus (47 per cent) and cabinet (41 per cent).

The Emily's List report says the only way to continue to increase the number of women in parliaments is to boost Labor's affirmative action target to 50 per cent: "That's why in 2015, Emily's List and the National Labor Women's Network are spearheading efforts to convince ALP delegates to change the party's rules to enshrine all preselections being shared equally among men and women candidates."

Senator Anne McEwen, a co-convenor of Emily List, said the existing target "has played a significant role in increasing the number of Australian women MPs in recent years but, as this report reminds, us, 40 per cent is not equal".

Other senior Labor women are supportive of measures to increase the number of women coming into Parliament but are not willing to comment publicly until the wording of the conference motion is finalised.

In a speech earlier this year, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for greater representation of women in the party but did not detail how this should be done.

Continue Reading

Read More