Australia: Diversity in Parliament

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A TRULY representative Parliament is better placed to serve the community it governs.

Women remain woefully under-represented in all levels of government in Australia including in the federal Parliament.

Only one in four MPs in the House of Representatives and one in three senators in the Upper House is female.

According to a Parliamentary Library research paper the representation of women in Australia’s Parliaments continues to hover around the “critical mass” of 30 per cent, a figure regarded by the United Nations as the minimum level necessary for women to influence decision-making in government.

Today the Herald Sun reports on a push for the Coalition to run an all-female Senate ticket in the coming federal election.

Under the proposal, believed to be backed by Victorian party heavyweights and several senior Cabinet ministers, all three well-credentialed Victorian candidates will be female.

Former financial executive Jane Hume is believed to be the preferred choice as number one on the ticket followed by Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie and lawyer Karina Okotel.

However, the plan does not have universal support with several high-profile male candidates vying for the top spot including Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, Institute of Public Affairs deputy executive director James Paterson and minister Kelly O’Dwyer’s chief-of-staff, Julian Sheezel.

The Coalition wants to double the number of women it has in Parliament over the next decade.

Admirably, it wants to achieve this worthy goal without instituting a quota system.

Merit alone should dictate who is preselected; the best person for the job, regardless of sex, colour or creed, should always prevail.

One measure to increase female representation is to create an environment that is inclusive. The recent behaviour and language employed by government MPs Jamie Briggs and Peter Dutton speaks of an attitude that is of a bygone era.

Female voters have flocked back to the Coalition since Malcolm Turnbull unseated Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, according to the latest Newspoll.

For the first time in two years more than 40 per cent of female voters support the Coalition, compared with Labor’s 34 per cent, the lowest level since Bill Shorten became Opposition Leader.

The lack of diversity in the composition of the 44th Parliament sees both women and ethnic minorities under-represented.

This year’s federal election is an opportunity to improve that gender balance and ethnic mix by electing a Parliament that is genuinely representative of the population it serves.

GREED AND IGNORANCE

ANTI-vaxxers are going to extraordinary lengths to circumvent the Government’s tough new “no jab, no play” laws.

Children must now be fully immunised or they will be excluded from childcare centres and kindergartens, and their parents will lose some Centrelink benefits.

Greed and ignorance are a terrible combination that’s at the heart of the latest efforts of the anti-vaccination movement of parents who want to keep generous childcare subsidies and welfare payments despite failing to immunise their children.

The tactic involves capitalising on a supposed loophole in the legislation by encouraging doctors and nurses to sign a form that will prevent them from legally vaccinating the anti-vaxxer’s child for fear of being “held liable for civil assault and any resultant injury, loss or damage”.

But according to leading medical lawyers, the “legal” document is completely worthless. Just like most of the misinformation circulated by the anti-vaxxers, who prefer pseudoscience instead of conclusive medical evidence that proves vaccines are not linked to autism.

An alarming number of children remain unprotected despite various education programs and awareness campaigns; more than 70,000 Australian children are not fully immunised. There are areas where the vaccination rate has fallen below 85 per cent in at least one age group.

Experts warn that any area where the rate of immunisation is below 93 per cent is susceptible to outbreaks of contagious diseases that are entirely preventable. Failing to vaccinate is reckless behaviour that jeopardises the welfare of your child and the community.

SOURCE: Herald Sun, January 5th 2016: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/diversity-in-parliament/news-st...