Women in politics

Member’s Statement

I rise today to acknowledge those within the Labor Party who have not only recognised the importance of women’s equal representation in our political system but have worked hard to ensure that it is achieved.

I am proud to be part of a political party which has committed to a quota of 50-50 gender representation in leadership positions and in preselections for winnable seats. Affirmative action, at its core, is an attempt to remedy the past effects of discrimination. Twenty-four years ago the Labor Party did take action. In 1994 women such as former Premier Joan Kirner, former Premier Carmen Lawrence, Meredith Burgmann, Jan Burnswoods, Kay Setches, Cheryl Davenport, Judy Spence, Carolyn Pickles, Sue Mackay, Fran Bladel and many others joined emerging Labor women leaders such as Julia Gillard, unionist Helen Creed, former minister and then national assistant secretary Candy Broad and community advocate Leonie Morgan to make structural change within the ALP. I was but a humble young Labor Party member at that time, but I was very proud to also support those actions.

Labor’s affirmative action targets assisted in increasing the proportion of Labor women federally from 14.5 per cent in 1994 to 48 per cent today. Following the election of the Andrews Labor government here in Victoria 47 per cent of our caucus are women and 43 per cent of the cabinet are women. Affirmative action has resulted in a progressive policy agenda for Australian women, so I was disappointed to hear Liberal Senator Jane Hume’s comments on ABC TV that women just, ‘have to work for what we want. And for women that don’t get there, the trick is work that little bit harder’.

Those that continue to say that women just have to work a bit harder to achieve equal representation insult women who have worked hard to achieve the right to vote, who have worked hard to enter the workforce and who have worked hard for equal pay and gender equality. I quote from Margaret Fitzherbert, who said in a 2013 paper:

It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past — acknowledge the problem and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of female MPs.

Maybe they should listen to Margaret Fitzherbert on this matter because Labor women, in spite of gender, belong to a party that has recognised this problem and taken action to fix it. We are a party that gets things done.