Victorian Liberal Party urged by Ripon MP Louise Staley to introduce ‘requirements’ to boost female MPs


December 10, 2018 12:22:00

A female Liberal MP who has retained her marginal seat by just 15 votes in the Victorian election is urging her party to embrace a “constitutional requirement” to deliver more women into parliament.

Key points:

  • Louise Staley’s narrow victory in Ripon has made it the most marginal seat in the state
  • She says a mechanism that “effectively behaves as a quota” for Liberal women is needed
  • Ms Staley says her party’s failure to address climate change issues is a turn-off for voters

The Victorian Electoral Commission this morning declared Louise Staley had officially retained her seat of Ripon, in western Victoria, edging out Labor’s Sarah De Santis in the tightest-fought contest this election.

The Liberals won 21 Lower House seats, four of which are held by Liberal women, including Ms Staley, Cindy McLeish (Eildon), Bridget Vallence (Evelyn) and Roma Britnell (South-West Coast).

At both a state and federal level, the Liberal Party has been under recent pressure from within its own ranks to boost the number of female candidates in safe seats.

“We certainly need to deliver more women,” Ms Staley told ABC Central Victoria.

“It is clear that that is one of the areas — it is not the only area, I don’t even think it is the major area, but it is one of the areas — we have to make some progress on.

“We have a job to do to regain their [the electorate’s] trust. A lot of people clearly think we don’t have enough women.

“I am one of them. I have fought for women’s preselection in the Liberal Party … for at least 20 years.”

Ms Staley rejected the use of Labor-style quotas, but said the party needed “some sort of constitutional mechanism” which does the same thing.

“The trouble with the ‘quotas’ word … is the way it is implemented in the Labor Party is not possible for [the Liberals to use for] a whole raft of technical reasons,” she said.

“But the idea of some sort of constitutional requirement, that effectively behaves as a quota, if I can put it that way, is something that we have to look at.

“We have tried targets, we have tried jawboning, we have tried saying we want more women, and we have not achieved that.”

She said she was not sure how exactly such a requirement would work, but suggested her party could consider allocating certain seats to female candidates.

‘We need to be more empathetic’

The Liberals suffered heavy swings against them, particularly in Melbourne’s east, and Ms Staley said the party failed to speak with voters about issues that mattered to them.

“[New Opposition Leader] Michael O’Brien has noted that we need to stop talking about climate change, and instead start talking about how we ameliorate its effects, and how we deal with climate change,” she said.

She also said her party’s strident opposition to a safe injecting room in Richmond was “not something that resonated” with voters.

“We need to be more empathetic to the fact that so many Victorians have someone in their family or someone that they know that takes drugs, and come up with practical, pragmatic solutions to help those people,” she said.

She also criticised her federal colleagues, telling them to focus on policy, not in-fighting.

With its reduced minority in the new Victorian Parliament, Ms Staley said her party faced a tough time over the next four years.

“There are a raft of challenges that my party faces and one of them is that we are a depleted partyroom.

“Parliament itself will feel markedly different when the numbers on the floor are strongly towards Labor.”

She said the battle to keep her seat — which had seemed to fall to Labor in an earlier count — had been a emotional rollercoaster.

Due to the close result in the seat, Labor has lodged a formal request with the Victorian Electoral Commission for a recount of the vote.

The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green said the count was final, though Labor could dispute the result through the Court of Disputed Returns if there are concerns about ballot papers being in dispute.









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