Now, plenty of people have called for gender equality in our Parliaments. And I am so on board with that one. The thoughts I was having the other day, and I've no idea why (but then I often have zero idea why my brain heads off in various directions at times), concerned the issue of bunches of mainly men sitting around (which accurately describes all of our Parliaments in Australia) and making all sorts of laws about how women can, or more often, cannot have control over their own bodies. Let's mention abortion, sex work, tax on tampons, equal pay...and the list could continue. I won't even get started on how religions treat women, since I'm going to confine myself to Parliaments.
Now, whether or not women getting into positions of political power leads to any discernible changes to the way we're governed is probably another subject. I've seen plenty of women in positions of power in government agencies, and they're just as ego- and power-driven as their male counterparts. And quite a few of the women we currently have in our Federal Parliament seem quite indistinguishable in terms of humanity and compassion from their male colleagues (there are, of course, exceptions to this). Then again, there is an argument to say that these women become like this because they have to compete against the overwhelming male contingent. Anyway, this is not my point, as interesting a debate as it is. Maybe in a future blog...
As an aside, I have a personal friend, Fiona Patten, who is a Victorian MP. Fiona epitomizes the huge value that great, committed women can add to politics - 50% Parliamentarians of her humanity and ability, we wouldn't even recognize the place. I dream...
My research online this week: Here in Australia, at a Federal level, our Parliament (both houses) is 32% female. Our Canadian cousins manage 29%, and our New Zealand neighbours come in at 31%. The world average apparently is 23%. Over in Rwanda, they manage 64% - GO Rwanda! Who would have thought? Bolivia achieves 53% (outstanding), and Cuba cruises in at 49% (great effort, have a cigar!).
So, how could we achieve gender equality in the Australian Parliament? My solution is radical, but so bloody simple. I'm going to put it in terms of the House of Representatives (for overseas readers, this is our lower house, where government is formed), but the principle could be applied universally.
Now, our House of Reps has 150 seats, so 150 constituencies across Australia elect 150 MPs. And in the House, currently, 29% of those MPs are female. Now, we occasionally hear ideas about quotas and the like. The problem with that is that you may end up getting an MP to meet an artificial quota, rather than electors voting for the candidate they perceive to be the best for the job, in their eyes. And the latter is what democracy is supposed to be about, notwithstanding the corruption of democracy by the political party system - again, maybe a future blog...
So my radical but simple idea is as follows:
We don't want more MPs, so keep it at 150. However, merge the current constituencies into 75, and have 2 MPs elected from each, 1 male and 1 female. So whichever constituency you live in, you front up on polling day and are given 2 ballot papers - 1 to elect your male MP and 1 to elect your female MP. Et voila! Gender equality in Parliament - 75 male MPs and 75 female MPs. And all elected by the people, not pushed up via quota systems. Sure, the party political system will try to control this too, but, hey, at least there will be gender equality in our Parliaments. It has to be worth a try?!!!
Food for thought, my friends