Gender Archive


How should we be naming our federal seats?

Australian federal electorates follow a fairly unique naming convention. Australian state seats are usually named after geographic locations, which is also common for national electorates in Canada, the UK and New Zealand, while electoral districts in the United States are generally given numerical names.

The majority of Australian federal electorates are named after prominent individual Australians, as a way of honouring those people. 113 out of 150 seats in the current parliament are named after people, while 37 are named after geographic features.

The AEC is usually hesitant to rename seats, and their guidelines prioritise maintaining existing seat names. Yet seats do change from time to time: states gain additional seats, population shifts within a state sometimes require a seat to be abolished, and there is pretty much a hard-and-fast rule that former prime ministers are honoured with a seat as soon as possible after their death.

Because of this practice, most seat names are those that were named in the first half of last century:

43 seats are those created for the first parliaments. 35 seats have survived since 1901, while eight other seats are the same as when they were created in Tasmania and South Australia in 1903 (those states did not use single-member electorates in 1901).

There were spikes in seat names in 1949 and 1984, when the parliament was expanded. More than two thirds of electorates were named in these three peak periods.

Thus it’s not surprising to discover a strong bias towards naming seats after white men. This partly reflects the era in which seat names were coined, but also reflects how men were much more likely to qualify as someone who had “rendered outstanding service to their country” in an era where women didn’t get the same opportunities.

After the fold I will run through why this has happened, and how the AEC isn’t making anywhere near enough progress towards honouring a more diverse cross-section of Australians. You can also download the dataset I used to conduct this analysis.

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Major parties go to QLD election missing candidates

I have been compiling a list of candidates for the Queensland election as I always do, regularly updating the lists on each seat guide.

I ran an update last night, after the Premier’s election announcement, and was surprised at the number of vacant spots on the major party candidate lists, with Labor in particular still lacking candidates in a large number of seats. It is possible I am missing some candidates, but I searched for each seat lacking a major party candidate and only found a handful of extra candidates.

According to my current list (which you can view here), the numbers for each party are:

  • Greens – 87
  • Liberal National Party – 84
  • Labor – 78
  • One Nation – 55
  • Katter’s Australian Party – 6
  • Independents – 6

I should note that where they have not otherwise announced their retirement, I have counted all sitting MPs as running. It’s not entirely clear if Billy Gordon (for example) is planning to run as an independent in Cook.

It is quite shocking that the Labor Party, despite having the choice of election timing and deciding to go early, is still lacking candidates in 15 seats. It is true that most of these seats are in areas the party has no chance of winning, but they have no candidate in Hinchinbrook (3.4% margin) or in Burnett, Ninderry, Gympie and Southport, all of which have margins between 6.6% and 7.8%. Not likely Labor wins, but not complete write-offs either.

The LNP is doing better, but still have nine seats without candidates. Maryborough (margin 1.1%) is a particular surprise.

It’s not shocking that One Nation has only nominated 55 candidates. For a party that has only emerged as a major force in the last eighteen months, it’s impressive to manage candidates in almost two thirds of the state. There are a handful of seats (for example the seats held by KAP) where the party has deliberately chosen not to run, and the party has also had issues with candidates being disendorsed. But I think we need to assume that One Nation will not close to running a team in every seat, and thus we’d expect a lower total statewide vote than the polls suggest (but if the party has good coverage in its best seats, that may not matter).

When I rank seats according to the One Nation vote in Alex Jago’s analysis of the 2016 Senate result, most of the missing candidates make sense. One Nation are only running candidates in six of the 25 seats with the lowest Senate vote, which explains half of the missing candidates. They are running in most seats with a stronger One Nation vote, but with some glaring exceptions.

The party is deliberately not running against KAP incumbents in Traeger and Hill, but they are also missing candidates in Warrego, Condamine, Gladstone and Thuringowa – all in the top twenty One Nation seats in 2016.

Finally, let’s take a look at the gender breakdown for each of these parties.

PartyWomenMenWomen %
Liberal National Party216325.0%
One Nation104518.2%
Katter’s Australian Party1516.7%

The pattern is consistent with other recent elections. Overall a majority of candidates for all parties are men, with the Greens closest to parity, with Labor not far behind. The LNP and One Nation have much lower proportions of women amongst their candidate lists.

Please feel free to download and use the spreadsheet listed above. If you are aware of any candidates I’ve missed, or if there are any errors in the data, please post them as comments under the relevant seat guide, and I will make an update later this week. Nominations close next week, and after that I will make one last update.


NSW 2015 – gender breakdown of candidates

Last night I summarised the numbers of candidates nominated by party in the upcoming NSW election after nominations closed yesterday.

Following up on that post, I’ve analysed the number of men and women running for each party, and what impact the election may have on gender balance in the next Parliament.

There are four parties running candidates in all 93 seats. In addition, the Liberal Party and the Nationals are running a candidate in every seat (and are not running against each other anywhere) – so there is a Labor, Greens, CDP, No Land Tax, and Coalition candidate in all 93 seats. These parties make up over 86% of the total number of candidates nominated.

The Greens have done best in terms of number of women nominated, with 41 women out of 93 candidates, or 44.1%. Labor is running 34 women out of 93, or 36.6%.

There are a small number of Christian Democratic Party or No Land Tax (NLT) candidates for whom I haven’t been able to identify their gender. There are many CDP candidates without a photograph or biography available online, and the same is true for basically every NLT candidate. But overall these parties are close to Labor in terms of gender representation. The CDP is running at least 33 women and at least 58 men, with two unclear. NLT is running 34 women, 56 men, and three unclear.

The Coalition has the lowest proportion of women amongst their candidates. The Liberal Party is running 19 women and 55 men, or 25.7%. The Nationals are running four women and 19 men, or 21%. Overall, 24.7% of Coalition candidates in the lower house are women.

Smaller parties are running six women and ten men, while 15 women and 44 men are running as independents.

It’s possible to use this data to make some estimates about the gender balance in the new Parliament, which I’ll do below the fold.

The short story is that there will definitely be an increase in the number of women in the lower house, possibly setting a new record, and it looks very likely that there will be a decline in the number of women in the upper house.

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SA and Tas nominations finalised

Over the last week, nominations closed for the South Australian and Tasmanian state elections: South Australia on Monday and Tasmania on Thursday.

This is a follow-up to Monday’s post when I analysed the list of candidates I had collected at that time.

Candidates for all electorates are now listed on the seat profiles in ballot order. In the case of the South Australian Legislative Council, I have listed four candidates each for the major parties and the lead candidates for all other groups.

You can click through to Google spreadsheets for both state’s lower house candidates:

You can see the final breakdown of South Australian lower house candidates on Monday’s post.

In Tasmania, 126 candidates are running: 30 in Denison, 26 in Braddon, 24 in Franklin and Lyons and 22 in Bass.

Click through to read more about how many candidates each party is running, and their gender breakdown.

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SA and TAS candidate updates

Nominations close later today for the South Australian state election, with nominations closing for the Tasmanian state election later this week.

I’ve produced lists of candidates announced so far for both state elections.

You can click through to Google spreadsheets for both state’s candidates:

Click through for charts and more analysis of the candidate data.

Update: The South Australian chart and spreadsheet are now completed. I’ll come back later in the week with more on the declaration of nominations. I’ve also updated the Tasmanian data with the inclusion of the final five Greens candidates.

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Post-election gender balance update

After an election where the vast majority of candidates running were men, the male-dominated Coalition won seats, and today a new cabinet will be sworn in with only one woman, it may be surprising to know that the number of women in the new Parliament will be increased.

In the House of Representatives, the number of women has increased from 37 in 2010 to 39 in 2013, out of a total of 150.

In the Senate, the number of female Senators will fall from thirty to 28 when the new Senate takes office on 1 July 2014.

Overall, this results in a net increase of one woman in the new Parliament, although the number of Senators could vary from 27 to 31.

Both Labor and the Coalition have increased their proportions of women in their House delegations. The ALP lost three men and three women in the Senate, while the Coalition has the exact same number of men and women in the Senate as before the election.

The Greens Senate delegation has only changed slightly, with the addition of a seventh woman to their team of ten.

The main backwards move is the non-Greens crossbench in the Senate. Nick Xenophon and John Madigan are currently on track to be joined by five more men, with only a small chance that one woman could be elected for the Palmer United Party in Tasmania.


Correction: due to a coding error I had one LNP member from Queensland listed as female, when he is actually male. The attached spreadsheet and the table above have been adjusted.

I’ve identified six seats where I think it’s conceivable there could be a change to effect these numbers:

  • Fairfax – Clive Palmer is currently leading by an extremely slim margin over the LNP’s Ted O’Brien. His election wouldn’t effect the overall gender balance but would have increased the proportion of men in the Coalition party room.
  • ACT Senate – The Liberal Party’s Zed Seselja is likely but not certain in winning over the Greens’ Simon Sheikh. Again no change in overall balance but would reduce male proportion of Coalition and increase male proportion of Greens.
  • NSW Senate – The Liberal Party’s Arthur Sinodinos is very likely to win, but slim chance for Greens’ Cate Faehrmann, which would change gender balance.
  • Tas Senate – The favourite for the final seat is the Liberal candidate, a woman, but there is a possibility either a female Palmer United Party candidate or a male Sex Party candidate could win.
  • Vic Senate – The male Motoring Enthusiasts Party could lose to the Liberal Party’s Helen Kroger.
  • WA Senate – The male Greens Senator Scott Ludlam could lose to female Labor Senator Louise Pratt.

You can also download an updated list of all candidates who ran in the election, including their gender.


Gender balance in the Parliament: what the data says

Earlier today I posted the full list of candidates compiled in the creation of the Tally Room election guide. You can view it here. The list has already expanded to 473.

This data makes it possible to look at the gender balance of candidates running, and what effect that might have on the next Parliament.

The House of Representatives currently consists of 113 men and 37 women. 23 of these women are Labor MPs, while the other 14 are Liberals (including three Queensland LNP members and one Country Liberal from the Darwin area). Every single National MP (including those LNP members who sit with the Nationals) is a man, while the seven other crossbench MPs are all men. 32.4% of the Labor caucus are women, compared to 19.4% of the Coalition joint party room.

The Senate paints a better picture for each party. A slim majority of the ALP’s Senators are women (16/31) while two thirds of the Greens senators are women (6/9). The Coalition’s Senators are still overwhelmingly male, but proportionally include more women than in the House of Representatives (8/34, or 23.5%). The Nationals, who don’t have any women MPs in the lower house, have two women Senators.

So how have the parties performed so far with their candidate selections?

Read more below the fold.

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Final Labor candidates announced

I have recently been working on a project where I broke down the gender of all candidates from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. The Greens and the Coalition both finalised their list of candidates a few weeks ago, but it has been impossible to find a list of Labor candidates, and earlier in the week eight Labor candidates still had no profile, or even their name, on the ALP website.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday about the number of women standing for the three political forces who are standing statewide, using research I had done for the Women’s Electoral Lobby. At the time the ALP was eight candidates short of the full 93, and refused to provide a list to the journalist.

With nominations being posted gradually on the NSW Electoral Commission website, it has been possible to fill in the gaps and identify all 93 Labor candidates.

Overall, the ALP is running 66 men and 27 women, or 29%. The Coalition are running 73 men and 20 women, or 21.5%. The Greens are running 47 men and 46 women, or 49.5%. Interestingly, Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party list 85 candidates by name on their website. I couldn’t identify the gender of three of their candidates, but among the other 82, the party is running 54 men and 28 women, or 34.2%. This is more female candidates than either of the major parties.

Nominations close at midday today, followed by Legislative Assembly ballot draws at 2pm and the Legislative Council ballot draw at 3pm. Over this weekend I plan to make my final update to each seat profile, with the final list of candidates and a review of my political assessment that I made when I first wrote the guide.


Maps of federal MPs by gender

A year ago I made a map where I colour-coded seats in the NSW parliament according to gender. With the rise of our first female Prime Minister, and the impending federal election, I figured it would be worth making a similar map for federal electorates.

After the fold, I have maps showing the gender of each federal MP after the last federal election.

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Gender balance in NSW Parliament

I was looking the boundaries of the federal seat of Grayndler earlier today when I noticed that all five state electorates that overlap with Grayndler are held by female MPs, along with a number of other neighbouring seats. I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of how the gender balance in the Legislative Assembly is distributed geographically.

There are 25 women in the NSW Legislative Assembly, out of a total of 93 MLAs. Each party has the following gender balances:

  • Labor – 17/51 – 33.3%
  • Liberal – 5/23 – 21.7%
  • National – 1/13 – 7.7%
  • Independent – 2/6 –  33.3%

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