Gender Archive


Podcast #5 – Voter representation choices and Gilmore

I’m joined this week by Jill Sheppard (@jillesheppard) and Osmond Chiu (@redrabbleroz) to discuss research into what candidate attributes influence voters’ choices, and profile the marginal seat of Gilmore in southern NSW.

Links to things discussed in this episode:

You can subscribe using this RSS feed in your podcast app of choice, but should also be able to find this podcast by searching for “the Tally Room”. If you like the show please considering rating and reviewing us on iTunes.



Podcast #1 – Darling Range and Liberal women

Here it finally is, the first episode of the Tally Room podcast. It was recorded earlier this week after an earlier attempt last week, with Stewart Jackson and Megan Clement-Couzner.

We discussed a number of election news items, which involved a wide-ranging conversation about the Ontario provincial election and the Maine primaries, and what they tell us about voting systems, before previewing tomorrow’s Darling Range by-election in WA, and discussing the lack of Liberal Party women in the federal parliament.

I plan to publish episodes every fortnight for now, but I’m planning an episode next week to cover the results of Darling Range (amongst other topics).

I expect the podcast to be up soon on iTunes but you can use the RSS feed now to subscribe in other podcast apps (I’ve done it myself in Overcast) or you can listen to the episode in the player below.

(You can now listen, subscribe, rate and review on iTunes here.)

If you find this podcast interesting, please consider donating via Patreon. It takes some time to organise and then to edit the show, so donations will help me keep time free to do this while still doing the other work of this blog (such as completing the last 51 seat guides for the federal election upon the conclusion of the redistributions this month). Thanks!

Here are some links to inform the stories on this week’s episode: Read the rest of this entry »


Women in parliament – still marginal

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the lack of representation of women in the Liberal Party, and it got me thinking about what sort of seats tend to be represented by women. Do they tend to hold safer seats, or more marginal seats? I recently noticed that most coalition women hold marginal seats, in the context of Jane Prentice and Ann Sudmalis facing preselection threats.

Firstly, I just looked at what sort of seats current federal MPs hold. For this graph, I divided seats into “safe” (margin over 12%), “reasonably safe” (margin 6-12%) and “marginal” (margin under 6%).

A majority of Labor MPs in marginal seats are women, and that proportion gradually drops in the safer categories. The Coalition likewise has more women representing marginal seats. Half of its women, but only a third of its men, represent a seat with a margin under 6%. We already know that Labor does much better than the coalition in terms of equal representation overall.

But it’s not all about those who were elected. I was curious about the candidates who ran in 2016.

Seat type# of seatsALP F %LNP F %
Safe coalition3336%11%
Marginal Labor3145%50%
Reasonably safe coalition2832%13%
Marginal coalition2748%31%
Reasonably safe Labor1540%31%
Safe Labor1127%27%

Interestingly, Labor runs less women in safe Coalition seats (people who are very unlikely to win a seat). The seats with the most women candidates for Labor are marginal seats, either held by Labor or the Coalition. Labor also has a high proportion in its reasonably safe Labor seats, but in its safest seats it ran a much lower proportion.

The Coalition shows a similar trend, although on a much lower baseline. Just under a third of candidates in marginal Coalition seats, and half of candidates in marginal Labor seats, were women, but about 12% of candidates in safe seats were women.

So both parties are usually happy to run women in seats where the election will be hotly contested, but are more likely to run men in safer seats.

So this suggests that the lack of women in parliament is not a symptom of voters preferring male candidates (otherwise we’d expect the opposite trend), but I reckon there’s better evidence out there.

Of the 55 seats where the margin was less than 6%, there were 20 where a man and a woman came in the top two. Of these races, women won 9 races and men won 11. The pattern is the same if you narrow your sample to seats decided by less than 3% – women won four and men won five races where the top two candidates were of different genders.

So this evidence suggests gender doesn’t make much of a difference in a close race (although you’d want a larger sample to be sure) and it doesn’t appear either major party is resistant to run women where the race is close enough for these personal characteristics to matter.

So why is the gender balance so different in safe and marginal seats? My last theory is that the problem is with incumbency: even if you run a lot of women for open seats, the predominantly male incumbent MPs will throw off the balance. And incumbents are more likely to be running in safer seats, since marginal seats change hands more often.

PartySeat typeIncumbents F %Non-incumbents F %

Labor had a perfect 50/50 record amongst non-incumbents in their marginal seats and safe seats. But while they ran 36 non-incumbents in marginal seats, there were only two open Labor seats with margins of over 6%. The deficit in women’s representation in Labor lay entirely amongst the pre-2016 incumbents, particularly those in safe seats.

This explanation doesn’t hold up as much for the Coalition. While they are running a lot of women for marginal seats, some of which they would win (although non-incumbents in marginal seats don’t tend to win when you go backwards), they barely bothered in safer seats. And the only two women running for open safe seats were not running in super-safe seats. Nicolle Flint won Boothby (margin 7.1% before the election), and a Nationals woman ran for the safe Liberal seat of Pearce, so really shouldn’t count.

Overall I can conclude that Labor’s gender imbalance is entirely due to its longer-standing MPs, who tend to be in safer seats. Half of current sitting Labor MPs who were first elected in 2010 or later are women, while less than a third of those elected up to 2007 are women. This is a legacy that should work its way out of the system as they are succeeded, but may take some time since it can take a long time for incumbents in safe seats to move on.

The Liberal/National coalition does not have this excuse. Their newer MPs, elected in 2010 or more recently, are more balanced, but not by much (20% of 2010-2016 MPs are women, compared to 15% of the longer-serving MPs), and evidence from 2016 suggests that most safe seats, even when they are vacant, go to men.


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »