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Thursday, 28 October 1993
Page: 2698

Senator CHAMARETTE (10.25 a.m.) —While I have no opposition to the extension of the number of members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, I wish to draw to the attention of my colleagues here today an aspect of the membership of that committee. Neither of the two parties that consider themselves the major parties have any women representatives on that committee. While there are two women members of the committee, Senator Lees of the Australian Democrats and me, the imbalance has just increased—unless the major parties take advantage of this opportunity to make sure that they have women represented amongst the contingents they provide from their parties.

  There is a particular reason why this matter may be extremely useful to the committee: the committee has received a reference from the Senate regarding women, elections and parliament, with particular reference to, firstly, the reasons for the gender imbalance in the Australian parliament, secondly, strategies for increasing the number and effectiveness of women in political and electoral processes, and, thirdly, the effect of parliamentary procedures and practices on women's aspirations to and participation in the Australian parliament.

  I believe that the argument may be extended that to have more than two women out of 12 may not reflect the representation of women in parliament. However, as that is the problem that is being addressed by this committee—the imbalance in the parliament that reflects the gender balance within the broader community—I believe it is extremely important that both parties, government and opposition, consider this matter.

Senator Tambling —Where is the gender balance in your party?

Senator CHAMARETTE —We have a very good gender balance. We are trying to compensate for the over-representation of the male gender in this parliament. But the Greens, as a rule, take as an indication of the health of their organisation that 50 per cent of their candidates are men and 50 per cent are women. That is not contrived. It happens because we have a very healthy organisation which does reflect the broader community. That is what I wish to see in the parliament and on this committee as well. I therefore urge women members of the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party, in particular, not to let this opportunity for better representation of women on the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters slip by without their taking advantage of it.

  Finally, because the reference on women's participation in parliament is due to be reported on in December and because the committee has not demonstrated a great urgency or eagerness to deal with it, I would welcome some supportive membership from women of the major parties, joining Senator Lees and me on this committee.