In an article in today’s Australian, Peter van Onselen argues that the Liberal Party must institute quotas for women in Parliament. He engages in sophistry to argue that gender quotas do not affect merit selection (which shows how out of touch he is – merit selection has never been a policy of any political party).
It’s not about whether the extra women Labor attracts into parliament are better than the men. It’s a case of overcoming culturally ingrained discrimination against women. Women have the right to be as good or as bad as male MPs. Quotas level the playing field, removing prejudice; they do not distort it, as is so often falsely argued. Linking quotas to the notion of identity politics, the political right deliberately has turned opposition to them into some sort of false defence of the values of liberalism. Even if gender quotas distort merit-based selection — which they do not — conservatives can no longer claim they are the defenders of merit over quotas anyway.
But Mr van Onselen misses one crucial point – how many women are members of the Liberal Party? What is the percentage of males to females in the Liberal Party?
The very purpose of a political party is to bring together as members a group of people with similar philosophies (more or less) with the intention of winning seats in a parliament, or winning sufficient seats to form a government.
People join political parties for various reasons. Some join merely to be part of a club of like-minded individuals. Some join because they want to influence the selection of candidates for the party to present to voters. Others join because they think they can influence policy. Yet others join because they might find a wife or husband (although political parties are ageing so that may be less important).
One thing is for sure – all political parties have seen a decline in members.
I’m not sure (and I’m not a member of any political party), but I’m told that the Liberal Party membership is about 80% male and 20% female.
If females are unwilling to join a political party unless they are guaranteed a position on a ballot paper, why should a political party institute gender quotas. To be preselected you have to be a member of the political party.
So if women want to be members of parliament they should start joining a political party. Don’t expect quotas to allow you to bypass the grunt work as a party member.