Nationals Push for more female MPs

NORTHERN Nationals have welcomed moves by their federal arm to push for a 20 per cent target of female MPs before 2025.

State Nationals MP Sarah Mitchell

Federal party president Christine Ferguson is keen on the move and she’s been backed by some regional politicians who want to see more women in parliaments – although they’re not convinced quotas are the way to go – it’s more about making politics for women an accessible and attractive career path.

State Nationals MP Sarah Mitchell is all for bringing the issue up for debate.

“In 2006, when I joined, the party wasn’t talking aboutthis, its exciting to have it inthe general discussion,” the Gunnedah-based member of the NSW Upper House said.

While the discussion falls on how to implement the target, Ms Mitchell warns against the use of quotas to achieve results.

“As a female MP you never want to leave yourself open to the criticism that you got your spot on gender,” she said.

“I am very proud of the fact I won my seat on ability.”

Her Upper House colleague, long serving Tamworth-based MLC Trevor Khan, believes that if the parliament wants to stay representative then it has to make itself equally accessible for both genders.

He too is not in favour of a quota approach, suggesting preselection weighting could help the party achieve a higher female representation.

He also said the National Party had a unique challenge because a lot if its members were from the country and had to travel large distances to sit in parliament.

“It is incumbent on us to make it easier for women to make the choice to joinparliament.”

Nationals Senator John Williams isn’t convinced that quotas are the solution and said the Nationals need to encourage more women to contest preselection and added that many women choose not to because of family commitments.

“Women are always encouraged to, and do have an active role in the Nationals Central Council, but many do not go on and seek a role in parliament because of their familycommitments.”

Ms Mitchell rejects the idea that women can’t balance work and family, “parliament is no different to other professions.”

“I was pregnant in my first term, and then obviously was looking after a newborn at work,” she said.

“I found that there was really good support in parliament, and people like that I am a mother.”

Ms Mitchell has now moved back to Gunnedah with her family, and she thinks the balance she and her husband have found works.

“I don’t think women have to chose between family and a career.”

The Nationals are the latest to discuss the issue of women in politics and how best to make it happen.

At the Labor NationalConference last month the party passed a resolution to reach 50 per cent female representation by 2025 – women currently make up 43.3 per cent of the party.

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