As I sit down to write the editorial this month my mind turns to the current prevalence of elections throughout Australia.
A combination of local government elections in two states next month, the Victorian and New South Wales state elections in November and March and the federal election (will it be this year or next year?), mean everyone everywhere is suffering from electioneering right now.
My first thought is, ‘I’m over it already’.
The numerous seats vacated by the High Court’s decisions on ministerial candidate eligibility resulted in a round of by-elections and was followed closely by a Prime Ministerial coup that narrowly avoided triggering a federal election.
One thing that stood out while the nine pins were falling was the Liberal Party’s sacrificial slaughter of arguably its most widely and universally approved member, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP.
The campaign against Ms Bishop in the leadership spill resulting in her withdrawal from the cabinet, leaves very few Liberal women in the parliament, and raises questions about the party’s ability or desire to govern for half the population.
The knock on effect has seen Julia Banks MP announce that she will not contest her marginal Victorian seat of Chisholm in the next election because of the alleged culture of bullying and sexism she experienced within the Parliament from both her own party and the opposition, which was brought to a head during the Prime Minister spill.
As both Tasmania and South Australia head into their Local Government elections, Local Government Focus has received numerous media releases regarding the gender inequity in the sector.
In the environment of the #Me too worldwide social media gender bias awareness campaign, are women being deterred from standing for positions in local government because of a fear of prevailing attitudes, or are there sufficient women in the running who believe they can make a change to the culture within councils.
Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said in a recent ABC interview that it matters to political culture to get more women into parliament.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) website states, “Ensuring that governments reflect the diversity of the societies they represent guarantees a balanced perspective which enables an inclusive approach to policy making and service delivery.”
The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) in South Australia has run a campaign to actively encourage and recruit more women to stand for their councils.
ALGWA National President, Boroondara Councillor, Coral Ross, has been appointed to the board as deputy Chair of the newly formed Australian Gender Equality Council (AGEC), a national body dedicated to driving gender equality.
While local government is not a specific focus of the AGEC, Cr Ross’s position as deputy Chair provides an unprecedented opportunity to raise the profile of female councillors and will help the move towards equal representation in the sector.
Surely this is the time for women to stand up and say I want to be counted.