News National The numbers don’t lie on the Liberal Party’s ‘woman problem’

The numbers don’t lie on the Liberal Party’s ‘woman problem’

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Liberal senator Jane Hume, pictured with colleague Julia Banks, may face a preselection challenge. Photo: AAP
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The number of female Liberal MPs serving in Canberra and across the nation’s six state parliaments has gone backwards by a quarter compared with five years ago, statistics show.

Attention again turned to what critics have described as the Liberal Party’s “woman problem” on Monday following the disendorsement of Turnbull government minister Jane Prentice at the weekend.

A review by The New Daily found more Liberal women were making their way into parliament, except in South Australia, Western Australia and Canberra, where the female representation has faltered.

Currently, 22 per cent of all Liberal politicians are women, compared with 19 per cent in 2008 and 18 per cent in 2005.

But today’s proportional figure is lower than it was in 2013, when women made up 24 per cent of all Liberal politicians across the country.

Senior Liberal politicians have denied the party has a problem with women following Ms Prentice’s dumping, pointing to the fact new Queensland senator Amanda Stoker had replaced George Brandis.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed sadness on Monday that Ms Prentice lost her preselection contest, but said it was the result of a democratic process.

Other Liberal MPs paid tribute to the Assistant Minister for Disability but veteran MP and fellow Queenslander Warren Entsch went further, labelling the treatment of Ms Prentice a “bloody disgrace”.

Today, of the 297 Liberal politicians across the federal and state parliaments, 61 are women, the review by The New Daily found.

Five years ago, 82 female Liberals of a total of 316 Liberal MPs. That proportionate increase is likely to reflect the fact women are often preselected in marginal seats and therefore more likely to lose their seats.

The number and percentage of women in the federal Liberal party room (18) is lower now than it was during the Howard government in 2005 (22).

For Labor, which has a quota of 40 per cent, women make up 45 per cent of the party’s caucus.

Asked about Ms Prentice’s disendorsment, Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop, the party’s most senior woman, said she was keen to see more women in Parliament.

“I would encourage more women,” she said. 

“But at the end of the day, we want to see the best people. We choose our candidates on merit and we want to ensure that they best represent the interests of the local people.”

Though quotas remain an anathema within the Liberal Party, a group of  Liberals have created “fighting fund” in order to support fledgling female politicians on the conservative side of politics.

That group of Liberals, which includes Victorian Jane Hume, argues that the party’s lack of gender representation is costing it votes. Senator Hume is expected to face a fierce preselection contest this year.

The statistics do show the Liberals have made gains on gender representation.

On today’s figures, women are best represented in the Liberal party room in Victoria (27 per cent) and Tasmania (36 per cent), where women now make up a majority of the state’s parliament – a national first.

In the state parliaments of Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, the proportion of women in the Liberal party room is greater now than it was in 2005.

The number of female Liberals shot up in Victoria from four in 2005 to 12 today, while in New South Wales there are 11 women in the Liberal party room, compared with five in 2005.

But in Western Australia, where the Liberals have 22 members across both houses, only three are women – a proportion of 14 per cent.

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