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.”