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.

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  1. REALLY !!!

    This is beyond ridiculous.

    Who cares if there aren’t many women in the Cabinet. I think this gender issue has now gone over the top.

    The best person for a position gets it. There is no point in putting a person in a position if they are not up to the job.

    Apart from anything else Abbott said he was taking his team already in place with him

    Why wasn’t there any outcry before this?

  2. I’m with you Shirl, I don’t see a massive issue in this. In fact, I find it more condescending to insist on some sort of ‘minimum female representation’. Yes, it would be very good to have more women in Cabinet and certainly some very talented women have been overlooked (Kelly O’Dwyer, Teresa Gambaro and Louise Markus in particular) and there have been some unfortunate loses of experienced members (including Sophie Mirrabella and possibly Helen Kroger).

    I think should the Abbott government last two or three terms, you’ll start to see some very talented women coming through the ranks including Kelly O’Dwyer, Teresa Gambaro, Louise Markus, Fiona Nash, Karen Andres Sarah Henderson or Jane Prentice.

  3. The “best person for the job” rhetoric doesn’t seem to apply when you’re talking about a quota for Nationals in the ministry.

  4. The “best person for the job” rhetoric should, all other things being equal, create an equal gender distribution. It’s a blustery rhetoric that distracts from the fact that the promised meritocracy’s been harmed by preselection biases, really.

  5. Surely it should be the best person for a position is the one to hold it – male or female. Why aren’t women up in arms about this issue of pushing women to positions just because they are women? If this is not belittling women, then I really don’t understand. If women want to be in politics, then they will stand and if they are the right candidate then they will be appointed. Why women just for women’s sake?

  6. Gender imbalence is certainly an issue for both major parties. For me, it starts at preselection. The amount of winnable/marginal seats that men run for is staggering compared to women running for the same sort of seats.

    If you argue on merit, you are saying that most women who put their hand up to run are only competent enough to challenge in unwinnable seats. While saying this you also say that most of the time you need a man if you want to win a seat off the other party/keep a marginal seat.

  7. Consider creating variable ballot papers using random donkey sequence for each ballot in every electorate but giving women a slightly better probability of gaining the higher positions. This marginally improves the chances of women being pre-selected and elected, negates the donkey vote and gives the how-to-vote designers a real headache in forming strategic coalitions to maximise the flow on of their votes to desirable/undesirable candidates.

    Remove the discrimination once women gain parity or some agreed percentage of it.

    A good reason to introduce electronic voting to ease the job of the AEC.

    Can I already hear the squeals of the vested interests?

  8. The “best person for the job” rhetoric should, all other things being equal, create an equal gender distribution.

    Two problems with that. Firstly, all other things are never equal, and secondly, there is no basis for the assertion.

  9. why is gender an issue how about number of mp born overseas or ethic background
    how about just doing a good job after the last government it would be a welcome change

  10. The basis for the assertion is the axiom that there is no innate difference in ability between men and women.

    It is quite clear that the proximate cause of the imbalance in Cabinet is the imbalance in Caucus, which in turn is a result of women being underrepresented in among the winners of preselection. Whether that is due to bias among the preselectors or less women putting their hand up for preselection I see as an open question.

  11. I would rather see political parties pushing talent rather than gender for gender sake; which appears to be where we are at.

  12. I agree kme and from what I’ve seen, I would say it was the later: that fewer women are members of political parties, thus fewer put their hand up for preselection, thus fewer get preselected and fewer get elected and fewer get selected for ministerial and cabinet roles.

    Thus any arguments about affirmative action are pointless unless that action starts from the grassroots and gets more women involved in politics by encouraging more women to join political parties.

  13. As a woman involved in politics, I can tell you I am one of few. I find outside of the political arena very few women are interested in the political scene generally.

    I’d be interested in finding out how many people posting here are women. I could be wrong but it seems from remarks people make, they ‘male’ ones. I also tend to think that if like me you comment on Blogs, web sites and online publications in general, you’ll notice the low number of females who post.

  14. Please, folks, can we move on from this stuff about gender balance?
    Affirmative action might’ve been useful for breaking a few stereotypes a generation or so ago. But now it seems too much to me like reverse discrimination. I remember Imre Salusinszky once writing of looking forward to the moment where Labor had to choose between preselecting an Abbotsleigh-educated woman with white skin and an Aboriginal man of working-class stock.
    How many people remember the Liberal women who won Labor seats in 1996, when John Howard became prime minister with a whopping majority, and who kept holding their seats against the odds at subsequent elections? Remember Joanna Gash, Danna Vale, Jackie Kelly, Fran Bailey, Kay Elson, Teresa Gambaro, and Trish Draper? Sure, only Gambaro is there now, but largely they kept winning and winning and winning, and their success had much to do with Howard’s longevity in office, even to the point where some survived while Howard was defeated. And in the case of Kelly and Elson and Draper, when they retired, their seats fell. People know a good candidate when they see one.
    For the record, I always found Julia Gillard more charismatic than Kevin Rudd – until she became PM.

  15. Fiona Scott, Sarah Henderson, Lucy wicks, Michelle Landry, the other central Coast seat. I noticed the coalition women seemed more successful than the men in winning seats off labor.

  16. Queensland observer, we’ll probably see at the next election when these new Liberal women are “women of the people” in the eyes of their constituents. Unless they end up receiving (early) promotions during this term, we’ll have to wait until the next election, allowing for any electoral redistributions which may inflate or shrink their margins, to see how good they are. Depending on how appealing Labor looks as an alternative to the Coalition when the election comes, it’ll be afterwards when we see whether these women were just lucky oncers or something much better.

  17. The AEC has released the full distribution of preferences for the Tasmanian Senate results, and the Palmer United Party candidate has won the last seat.

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