There has been a lot of discussion recently about the lack of representation of women in the Liberal Party, and it got me thinking about what sort of seats tend to be represented by women. Do they tend to hold safer seats, or more marginal seats? I recently noticed that most coalition women hold marginal seats, in the context of Jane Prentice and Ann Sudmalis facing preselection threats.
So both parties are usually happy to run women in seats where the election will be hotly contested, but are more likely to run men in safer seats.
So this suggests that the lack of women in parliament is not a symptom of voters preferring male candidates (otherwise we’d expect the opposite trend), but I reckon there’s better evidence out there.
Overall I can conclude that Labor’s gender imbalance is entirely due to its longer-standing MPs, who tend to be in safer seats. Half of current sitting Labor MPs who were first elected in 2010 or later are women, while less than a third of those elected up to 2007 are women. This is a legacy that should work its way out of the system as they are succeeded, but may take some time since it can take a long time for incumbents in safe seats to move on.
The Liberal/National coalition does not have this excuse. Their newer MPs, elected in 2010 or more recently, are more balanced, but not by much (20% of 2010-2016 MPs are women, compared to 15% of the longer-serving MPs), and evidence from 2016 suggests that most safe seats, even when they are vacant, go to men.