Tasmania elects majority of women in Australia state first

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19th March, 2018

Tasmania has become the first state in Australian history to elect a majority of female MPs to its legislature.

The state, Australia’s smallest, held its election on 3 March, but counting was not finalised until this week. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which is not a state, also elected a female-majority legislature in 2016. Thirteen women and 12 men were elected to Tasmania’s lower House of Assembly. Local politicians said the milestone was “overwhelmingly exciting”.

“It demonstrates to young women that a political future and leadership roles are attainable,” Michelle O’Byrne, deputy leader of the opposition Labor party, told the BBC. The Tasmania and ACT legislatures have a higher proportion of women than Australia’s federal parliament, where almost 70% of parliamentarians are men.

The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Index found that women comprised 28% of parliamentarians worldwide. Australia was ranked 35th in terms of female representation, the World Economic Forum said. Ms O’Byrne said affirmative action policies had played a part in seven of her party’s 10 seats being occupied by women.

“It does show that if you want to change the make-up of parliament, then putting in the rules also helps change the culture that encourages women to be involved in politics,” she said. Australian election analyst Kevin Bonham said only nine women were elected at Tasmania’s previous election in 2014. Tasmania’s conservative Liberal government, led by Will Hodgman, was returned in the latest election.

[Source: BBC News, 16 March 2018]

Ms. Christine Ross, UNDP Pacific office’s Gender Governance Advisor, noted that the Australian Labor Party has a 40:40:20 gender quota in its constitution – that a minimum of 40% of seats will be held by either gender, meaning they must put women up in winnable positions to meet the quota.  The Tasmanian Labor group has done better than this with 7 women out of 10 seats won. The Tasmanian Greens do not have a formal quota policy, but do have gender equality as a core principle and grassroots party involvement in candidate selection.  The Greens won 2 seats, both were filled by women. The Liberal Party, and the  National party do not have specific quota policies, but were able to get 4 women elected (30% of their MPs). As part of the Commonwealth parliamentary Association, the Parliament of Tasmania is twinned with the Parliament of Samoa. Samoa has a constitutional provision for a minimum of 10% quota of women representatives in Parliament. The system proposes a “floating” five reserved seats for women. If no woman is elected during the elections, the special measure is activated and five seats are added to the Assembly. If one woman is elected then four seats are added, and so on. When extra seats are added, they are filled by women who have already run in open constituencies. The unsuccessful women candidates who receive the highest percentage of votes in the election will fill the requisite number of reserved seats.

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