Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer says the Liberal party has more work to do when it comes to increasing the number of women in Federal Parliament.
A debate is brewing within the party over the best way to encourage more women into Parliament.
It follows Labor’s promise to aim for equal representation between men and women in its parliamentary seats within 10 years.
Of the 27 Liberal senators, just six of them are women and in the House of Representatives 16 out of 74 Liberal MPs are female.
On the other hand, just under half the ALP members in both houses combined are female.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne admitted earlier this week the Government needed to address why the number of female Liberal senators was declining.
Liberal MP Sharman Stone has called for quotas to be introduced, saying the party should stop expecting women to break through the glass ceiling “by some miracle”.
Ms O’Dwyer and Labor’s Kate Ellis have both recently had babies and spoke to Lateline about the challenges of getting women into Parliament and supporting them once they were there.
Ms O’Dwyer said she did not believe in a quota system, but she said the Liberal party should set targets.
“Quotas are different to targets. Quotas don’t work in the Liberal party. We are a grassroots organisation, we’re not like the Labor Party where you can stitch up factional deals between different factional warlords to determine who should be shoehorned into a particular seat,” she said.
But she said targets would allow candidates to be pre-selected based on merit.
“There are a lot of women of great merit who could make a wonderful contribution,” she said.
“Targets really do focus the mind. I know that there are many of my colleagues that support the idea of targets. But we do have more work to go. We recognise that there is more work to be done.”
Ms Ellis, the shadow minister for education and early childhood, said the Coalition needed to put a proper strategy in place to address the shortage.
“Every time the Coalition win more seats, the number of women in the Parliament goes backwards and that is a very big problem,” she said.
She said the women of the Labor Party have fought hard over the years for rule changes to allow more female representation within the party.
“Now we contrast that with Tony Abbott with appointing himself as Minister for Women and appointing just two women to his Cabinet and being in the dark ages around not coming up with any real strategies,” she said.
“The reality is that modern parliaments should be reflective of the community which they seek to represent.”