Footnote(s): (a) At 1 January
Source(s): Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT
One of the principles underpinning democratic government is that parliament should represent and express the will of the people. Civil society is seen by many to be more effective if parliament is widely representative of the population. Since women make up approximately half of Australia's population, their representation in parliament is seen as crucial in a democratic society.
The proportion of federal parliamentary candidates who are women provides an indication of women's political participation and of the level of support for female candidates from political parties. In the 2007 federal parliamentary election, 29% of candidates were women compared with 25% in 1993 (AEC 2009). The proportion of elected parliamentarians who were women after the 2007 federal election was 28%, compared to 13% in 1993.
The proportion of federal parliamentarians who are women has risen markedly over the past 20 years. On 1 January 1986, one in twenty members of the House of Representatives were women (5%) rising to more than one in four (27%) by the beginning of 2008. Similarly, close to one in five senators were women in 1986 (18%) rising to more than one in three in 2010 (36%) (AEC 2009; Parliament of Australia 2010b).
In the federal government ministry, as at the end of June 2010, there were nine female ministers and parliamentary secretaries (representing 23% of ministers and parliamentary secretaries), including the Prime Minister The Hon Julia Gillard MP and a further three who were Cabinet members. Around 17% of shadow ministerial and parliamentary secretary positions were held by women (Parliament of Australia 2010b).
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