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.

There was substantial progress in terms of gender balance from 1995 until 2003, with the number of women increasing from 15 to 23 and the number of men declining from 84 to 70.

The 2007 election resulted in a Legislative Assembly that included 26 women and 67 men. During that term, the number of women dropped to 24 women, due to the Cabramatta and Penrith by-elections being won by men after those seats were vacated by women.

At the 2011 election, the number of women in the Parliament dropped to 21, alongside 72 men. This partly reflected a shift in power from Labor to the Coalition, who usually have a more male-dominated party room.

Since the 2011 election, the gender balance has gotten slightly worse. Kristina Keneally was replaced by Ron Hoenig at the 2012 Heffron by-election, and Clover Moore was replaced by Alex Greenwich at the 2012 Sydney by-election. Labor’s Jodie Harrison won the 2014 Charlestown by-election, reversing part of that trend. There are now 20 women and 73 men in the Legislative Assembly.

The trend for this election suggests that the number of women is likely to increase. To make this prediction, I made predictions about which party would win each seat. I predicted that Labor would retain all of their seats, and gain all Coalition seats on margins of less than 5%, as well as Charlestown which was won at last year’s by-election. I then classified as “in play” all Coalition seats of margins between 5% and 20%, as well as Balmain, Newtown, Sydney, Wollongong and Tamworth.

With these assumptions, I can predict that there will be at least 23 women in the next Legislative Assembly, and at least 60 men, with another ten seats where a man and a woman both have a chance of winning: Balmain, Bega, Gosford, Heathcote, Londonderry, Mulgoa, Penrith, Port Stephens, Strathfield and Sydney. The female candidate is the Labor candidate in most of these seats – except in Mulgoa, which is being contested by a Labor man and a Liberal woman, and Sydney, being contested by a Liberal woman and an independent man. This means that there are likely to be more women in the Assembly if Labor is more successful. If women win four of these ten seats, there will be a record number of women in the lower house.

So what about the Legislative Council? There are currently 13 women and 29 men in the upper house, which is the same as it was immediately after the 2011 election. The group facing election in 2015 (who were either elected in 2007 or filled a vacancy) includes eight women and thirteen men, while those whose terms don’t end until 2019 include five women and sixteen men.

It’s possible to take current polling to make estimates about the new Legislative Council. On current polling, the Coalition should win 8-9 seats, Labor should win 7-8 and the Greens should win 2-3. Polling isn’t detailed enough to tell us how the Christian Democrats and Shooters are performing, so I’ll assume that they’ll each win one seat, as they have at every election since 2003.

The Coalition ticket is dominated by men. The first nine candidates on the ticket include only one woman – the Nationals’ Bronnie Taylor, in fifth place. The highest ranked Liberal woman is Hollie Hughes, who is in tenth place and is unlikely to win a seat.

The Labor ticket includes three women in their top seven, along with a man in eight. The Greens will elect one woman and one man, and possibly a second man. Since all of the candidates in the undecided positions are men, it’s possible to make a prediction, on current polling, that the next Legislative Council will include 10 women and 42 men.

(It’s also worth noting that there are two MLCs whose terms don’t finish until 2019 who have resigned to run for the Legislative Assembly: Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Steve Whan. It’s unclear who will fill their seats – possibly someone who misses out on another seat in the upper or lower house, and it’s possible the vacating MLC could return if they are unsuccessful in their electorate. For this purpose I have assumed that seat is filled by someone of the same gender).

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  1. I have recently been asked why the ALP has “so many” male candidates (specifically in Northern Sydney seats) and my response to this has been to look at which seats we are talking about. For example, if you look all seats held by the Coalition on margins of over 25%, the ALP is fielding 22 male candidates in those seats and 7 female candidates – which works out to a female candidacy rate of 24% in the seats the ALP has the least chance of winning.

    Then if you look at the remaining seats the ALP is fielding 27 female candidates in 64 seats – a female candidacy rate of 42%. This is probably a better reflection of gender representation if we are looking at “contestable” seats.

    By the way, I have not looked at other parties to see if this holds true for them as well.

    Also, as you point out many of the seats with the highest chance of falling to the ALP are being contested by female candidates so it will be interesting to see on election night the actual gender split.

  2. Hi Doug,

    I don’t make any judgements about Labor’s numbers, but I did point out that the gender balance is much better than the Coalition’s. I don’t think there is much value in the gender balance of candidates with no chance of getting elected, which is why I also included the analysis of the likely shape of the Parliament.

    Generally there appears to be a correlation between short-term improvements in gender balance with Labor winning more seats, and vice versa (although in the long term both parties are improving). In particular Labor has done well in the QLD Parliament and the Senate, but generally do much better than the Coalition.

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