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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 730

Senator MINCHIN (6.53 p.m.) —I feel compelled to take a few minutes of the Senate's time to draw attention in this place to the utter hypocrisy of the Labor Party and this government on the issue of the number of women in federal parliament. For many months we have been hearing Labor Party spokesmen, government ministers and others running around the country talking about how we must get more women into parliament and wanting to see a greater female component in the Commonwealth parliament. We have had Mrs Kirner and Minister Lawrence waxing lyrically about the need to get many more women in parliament.

  The Labor Party, in its various state branches, has been passing motions calling for affirmative action and setting certain percentages to ensure fixed quotas of females in the national parliament. Of course, there has been some resistance from the Queensland Labor Party, Premier Goss and others, and this has caused some considerable division in the Labor Party. But, by and large, there have been proposals enacted to have affirmative action.

  Those of us on this side regard this with natural cynicism. The Labor Party has always attracted fewer female votes than male votes and has always suffered, relative to the coalition, in relation to the female vote. This seems to us to be a fairly naked grab for the female vote. I guess it is also a reflection of the fact that the ALP is well aware of the very poor quality of most of its male members and is looking to replenish its stocks by improving it through the number of females.

  The first test of this brave new world of having many more women in the Labor ranks in Canberra occurs with the selection of the ALP Senate ticket in South Australia. In South Australia, the ALP went through the utter debacle of the last state election. It was reduced to less than a cricket team. This, of course, followed the incredible infighting in the ALP over preselections in that state. There was factional warfare, with the Centre Left and the Right combining to lock out the Left. It was a complete shemozzle and was one of the factors that led to the wipe-out of the ALP in the last state election.

  So national executive imposed rules were brought into the South Australian Labor Party. It had to have a certain proportional representation. Rules were put in place to give all factions their day in the sun. Of course, we had the proposals—now politically correct—to have quotas for females. I am not quite sure how this will work, but I think the South Australian Labor Party has a figure of 35 per cent.

  That led to the question of the Senate ticket. The Left of the Labor Party has the state president in a woman called Ms Deirdre Tedmanson. Under the deal arranged through the national executive, she was to have the No. 1 spot on the Senate ticket. This caused something of a problem because the South Australian Labor Party Senate ticket for the next election also has on it ministers Schacht and Crowley.

  Labor can get only two seats at the next Senate election.  So with the Left demanding, through Deirdre Tedmanson, one seat, and there being two ministers competing for spots as well, there is going to be a big problem. I would have thought the ALP would be quite happy to see the end of ministers Schacht and Crowley, who are something of an embarrassment to the government. But, no, the national executive has waded into this and overridden its own rules that it effectively imposed on the South Australian Labor Party. We are going to see a deal done this Friday by the national executive of the Labor Party—

  Senator Kernot interjecting

Senator MINCHIN —That is right—Graham Richardson has probably worked this out for them. He has decided that ministers Schacht and Crowley are going to have the first two spots on the ticket, regardless of what opinion is in South Australia and regardless of the effect of the rules which the national executive itself imposed on the South Australian Labor Party. Understandably, Ms Tedmanson is absolutely furious. We see in the Australian today her on the record quotes. She says it is clear that `someone in the party thinks it's open season on ALP presidents'. She went on to say:

  People got their fingers burnt interfering in the Victorian pre-selection process trying to get Barry Jones to stand aside.

We have seen plenty of that. She went on:

  Any attempt to ride roughshod over the party's democratic preselection process in the first attempt to use new rules since the review is not going to advance the healing process in South Australia.

  When we introduced proportional representation in the conduct of ballots and the inclusion of more women, it was supposed to put an end to exactly this kind of factional domination.

I certainly hope Ms Tedmanson stands firm. She says clearly in this article that she intends to, and intends to take this issue to the wire.

  But here we have a classic situation: a prominent South Australian Labor woman who, under the new rules implemented by this Labor Party in the name of affirmative action, who should rightly expect to be No. 1 on the next Senate ticket and thereby increase the number of Labor women in the ranks of the Labor Party in South Australia, is about to be dumped by the national executive itself in order to save the scalps of ministers Schacht and Crowley. It is an unbelievable situation. It makes an absolute and utter mockery of all the Labor rhetoric about affirmative action. It makes a mockery of the Labor Party's professed commitment to having more women members of parliament.

  The current situation in the South Australian Labor Party is that only one of the eight—there are only eight left—South Australian federal Labor MPs is a women, and that is Minister Crowley. Through the arrangements that have been put in place, there was a chance to increase the number of women from South Australia in the federal Labor Party by one. That has been completely dashed by this factional deal worked out and about to be implemented by the national executive to save our two erstwhile ministers who sit opposite us doing very little. This is utter hypocrisy by the Labor Party. All its talk of affirmative action of getting more women into the parliament is shown to be completely hollow by this outrageous factional deal which is making Ms Tedmanson a complete sacrificial lamb. She will be sacrificed in the name of a deal to preserve our two ministers Schacht and Crowley. The women of Australia should see right through the Labor Party hypocrisy. The women of Australia should believe nothing when it comes to this Labor Party and all its claims about promoting the cause of women. They are dumping their own female Labor president in South Australia, who rightly expects to be No. 1 on their Senate ticket, to the political garbage bin.