More women in Parliament: but do they want to be there?

Tony Abbott has called the Federal Parliament “too blokey” and says that the Liberal Party needs to increase the numbers of women in its ranks. And today we ask whether you think it is possible, and whether more women really want to be there?

The Prime Minister spoke at a Liberal Party function on Saturday night.

‘To be serious about winning elections, we must be more serious about engaging, pre-selecting and sending to parliament the representatives of 50 per cent of the electorate.

‘It would be entirely reasonable for our party to have, not a quota, but a target to increase the number of women in the parliament and in our government at every opportunity.

‘If we don’t get the percentage of women up, we will be letting ourselves down,’

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‘We need to have a platitude-free conversation within our party about how we can make more of ourselves by making more of those women who are natural Liberals.’

Abbott even compared his team to the army. ‘If even the Australian Army can become less blokey, then so must we.’

It’s breath of fresh air for women who have trailed on the political agenda since time began to hear that the men in leadership feel they are important to the balance. And it is invigorating to women in all careers to hear our Prime Minister stand up for our rights. But one has to wonder whether it is something that can easily achieve follow through in the short term. It seems highly unlikely that the ratio of men to women could be easily changed given the percentage of men that would need to step out of positions to make it happen relatively quickly.

Parliamentary research shows that across Australia, women continue to be significantly under-represented in parliament and executive government, comprising less than one-third of all parliamentarians and one-fifth of all ministers. And Internationally, Australia’s ranking for women in national government continues to decline when compared with other countries.

Sadly, despite being a first world country, the representation of women in Australia’s parliaments hovers around the ‘critical mass’ of 30 per cent regarded by the United Nations as the minimum level necessary for women to influence decision-making in parliament.

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On the other side of this discussion is whether many women would want to sit in Parliament today. We’ve watched in recent years as the media has become one massive political feast, with women in politics some of its most adored and derogated targets. Poor Julia Gillard couldn’t step a foot right in wardrobe or leadership in their eyes. Jacqui Lambie has been made into a media spectacle, Bronwyn Bishop has copped decades of flack, and Sussan Ley the other woman on the cabinet has maintained a very low profile. The only inspiration in our midst appears to be Julie Bishop, who fares relatively well in the public eye.

And so we ask you today: do you think they will be able to change the political basis to include much higher percentages of women fairly quickly; and do you think women want to be there?