The ALP Women’s Conference, meeting in Canberra over the weekend, has called for the ALP to achieve a target of 50% of women in internal party positions and in the various Federal, State and Territory Parliaments.
The ALP has previously adopted a policy of having 35% of women in safe and/or winnable seats.
Speakers at the conference drew attention to the disparity in female representation across the various Parliaments. South Australia and Queensland have the highest proportion of ALP women members, whilst Western Australia and New South Wales have the lowest proportion. (See table opposite.)
The debate over affirmative action in party pre-selections is a controversial one within the ALP. Critics argue that candidates should be chosen on their merits, whereas the former Victorian Premier, Joan Kirner, is reported today as saying: “Well, yes, they should be selected on merit, and what this does is give women an opportunity to demonstrate their merit. The competition should be about merit for everybody.”
The campaign for more female Labor representatives is spearheaded by Emily’s List, an organisation formed in 1996. Kirner and a former Western Australian MP, Cheryl Davenport, are joint convenors.
Emily’s List official aims are to support:
- Women who are committed to equity, justice, self determination and full participation.
- Women who are pro-choice, pro child care and equal pay.
It pursues these aims by mentoring women, providing training and making campaign donations.