The Liberal problem with women (it’s not about the voters)


Federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson was interviewed on Saturday morning, and was quoted as saying that “ultimately the public needs to vote” for all of the great female candidates his party is running.

Anyone who has read my previous analysis of gender balance would know that this is rubbish.

In June I analysed the gender breakdown of candidates based on what sort of seat they ran in and whether they were an incumbent. I found that Labor has effectively reached parity amongst candidates in winnable seats, both safe and marginal, if you only look at new candidates and those elected in the last decade, which suggests the party will reach parity once the older generation of MPs leaves parliament.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, showed no progress towards parity in 2016. The party did run almost as many men as women in open marginal seats (although most of these were Labor seats which the party didn’t end up having much of a chance of winning), but only ran one non-incumbent woman for a safe seat – that was Nicolle Flint in Boothby (which has now become very much marginal, but was safe on the 2013 vote). On the other hand, they ran over a dozen non-incumbent men for safe seats.

With Wilson’s latest comments, I thought it would be worth checking the candidate data for 2019. While there are a bunch of seats with incumbents where it isn’t clear if they are running again (hello Craig Kelly), the data for non-incumbents who have been preselected is a lot more complete. Thanks to Nick Casmirri for trawling the party websites and local newspapers looking for every candidate. You can view the 2019 candidate data here.

For this exercise I will ignore incumbent MPs. I’m not claiming that a party can solve gender parity overnight, so I’m just going to look at new candidates.

This table shows the proportion of candidates running for Labor and the Coalition who are women in each of five seat categories.

Seat typeALP womenLNP women
Marginal Labor3/43/9
Marginal Coalition12/221/2
Safe Labor1/33/6
Safe Coalition12/320/1

The first thing I noticed with this table was how few candidates the Coalition has preselected! By my count there is 37 coalition-held seats where we haven’t been able to confirm who is running – in most cases we don’t have definitive confirmation that the MP has been preselected to run again, and in some cases they are definitely not running but have not yet been replaced (hello Gilmore).

But more importantly, you can tell a lot about the different priorities of the two major parties. Labor is actually running more women than men in marginal Coalition seats, which are the seats they are likely to pick up if the polls are accurate and they sweep into power. They are also running more women than men for their own open marginals. They only have 3 new candidates preselected in safe seats, two of which are newly-created seats. They are running men for Bean and Fraser, and a woman in Canberra.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party has only preselected new candidates to run in four of their own seats, and only one of them is a woman: this is Gladys Liu in Chisholm. Meanwhile, the only new candidate nominated for a safe seat is Julian Simmonds in Ryan, who defeated Jane Prentice for preselection.

The Liberal Party doesn’t have a lot of open seats right now, and you wouldn’t expect them to win many seats off other parties in 2019. But there is no evidence to suggest they are putting forward women for the voters to consider where open seats do emerge.

P.S. If you’re interested in this topic there was a discussion about these issues in the first episode of my podcast back in June:

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  1. The men have failed, to a large degree in some areas, so it is time for women party members to get together and selected women for winnable seats and for women to be placed in the 1st or 2nd position in upper house tickets.

  2. The Liberals appear to have held two marginals against the tide, Ripon (still in doubt) and Elidon, both these seats were under 4% and considering the state wide swing should have fallen, both seats are held by women MP’s. That doesn’t mean that women candidates are unbeatable has the Liberals did lose a number of seats with women candidates including the fairly safe seat of Ringwood.

  3. Louise Staley in Ripon is a good small L Liberal. My sister lives on Eildon and keeps me in the picture however she voted for the ALP candidate. My sister is visiting me on Friday so I will hear what the latest is in Eildon electorate then.

  4. The problem that Liberals face with gender equality is in fact caused by women’s lack of interest in politics. I have attended political meetings as a participant, antagonist, observer, reporter or spy ranging from communist Peace fronts, communist environmental fronts, Trotskyite rallies, ALP party rallies, Liberal Party rallies, Country/ National party rallies, as well as the odd neo fascist meeting. One thing that all of these political meetings have in common is that men outnumbered women in every case. The only exception to this were Right to Life rallies.
    The ALP may be selecting equal numbers of women to men BUT check the next LAbor Day rally men will outnumber women 9 to 1.
    ALP has not revealed party membership. If they really believed in Gender equity they would require equal number of members.
    Andrew Jackson

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