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O’Toole Pushes Labor’s Gender Quota Over the Line

2 August 2016 at 10:54 am
Wendy Williams
The Labor Party has hit its gender quota with women making up more than 40 per cent of the party’s seats in Parliament.

Wendy Williams | 2 August 2016 at 10:54 am


O’Toole Pushes Labor’s Gender Quota Over the Line
2 August 2016 at 10:54 am

The Labor Party has hit its gender quota with women making up more than 40 per cent of the party’s seats in Parliament.

Parliament House Canberra RS Credit Tooykrub


It comes after Cathy O’Toole (who has been the CEO of a Queensland Not for Profit) managed to secure her seat in Herbert in north Queensland, over the weekend, bringing the total number of women to 28 out of 69.

The party has had a gender quota for female MPs since 1994, when they introduced a target of 40 per cent of winnable seats to be contested by women.

At its 2015 national conference Labor stretched it to 45 per cent by 2022 and 50 per cent by 2025, and expanded those quotas to apply to party positions and delegations to conferences, including union delegations.

In comparison the Coalition has actually lost women in this election. Only 13 women now hold seats in the Coalition government – the lowest level in more than two decades.

Cathy O'Toole

The latest cabinet reshuffle also resulted in two women having their portfolios diluted (Kelly O’Dwyer and Marise Payne).

It comes after the Australian Electoral Commission announced on Sunday that O’Toole had prevailed over the Liberal incumbent Ewen Jones in Herbert by 37 votes.

The declaration of the last remaining House of Representatives seat for Labor, also leaves the Turnbull government with a majority of just one, with 76 seats to Labor’s 69 seats.

The Liberals have flagged an intention to challenge the result in the court of disputed returns.

But O’Toole posted a victory message on her Facebook page on Sunday.

“THANK YOU to the people of Herbert,” she wrote.

“I am honored and privileged to have won this amazing hard fought election.

“I am ready and raring to get into representing this great community.”

When Pro Bono Australia News spoke with O’Toole during the election campaign she said Parliament would benefit from having more people with skills from the Not for Profit sector.

“I have worked 15 years in the Not for Profit sector in mental health and I have also worked in small business for myself since I was 18 in a range of industries. It is time we had those skills and abilities in the Parliament particularly from the Not for Profit sector,” O’Toole said.

“I don’t think people understand that we actually run really good businesses.”

O’Toole said she had taken extended leave as CEO of SOLAS (Supported Options in Lifestyle and Access Services), a community managed organisation offering mental health services, to contest the seat for a second time.

“Really for me it’s about getting a fairer deal for this seat. I think also I am particularly passionate about health, education and aged care. They are the areas that really interest me but also in the last couple of years and particularly here in Townsville unemployment has become a major issue,” she said.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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