Australia's next parliament will be unrepresentative of the population

Australia’s next parliament will be unrepresentative of the population

New research predicts Australia’s 46th parliament will be unrepresentative of the population when it comes to gender, cultural background and physical ability.

Based on the current pool of preselected major party candidates, it is also clear that Australia lags behind other comparable countries on key diversity markers.

McKell Institute researchers have crunched the numbers on Australia’s major party candidates running for the House of Representatives in the upcoming federal election. It has found that come May 18, Australian voters will very have limited options.

While women make up 50% of Australia’s population, only 37% of candidates from the major parties are women. At this current rate, it will take 8 elections cycles reach gender parity.

Those with a disability are underrepresented and severely lack a voice in the Australian parliament. Only 1% of candidates from the major parties have a disability, compared to 18% of the population. One in three Australian households have a person living with a disability and nearly half of Australians with a disability live near or below the poverty line.

Just 8% of major party candidates are from ethnically diverse backgrounds, compared to 24% of the general population. It is also noted Australia’s legislature is far less culturally diverse than countries like Canada, the United States and the UK.

There is also a lack of Indigenous representation in federal parliament, with less than 2% of candidates being Indigenous, compared to 3.3% of the population.

“Our data shows the new Parliament will not be representative of Australia’s demographics,” said Marianna O’Gorman, Executive Director of the McKell Institute Queensland.

“This is an impediment to delivering a legislative agenda that addresses the needs of everyday Australians.”

While the research indicates that the parliament is very slowly moving in the right direction in terms of gender equality, other key diversity measures are completely unrepresented and unchanging.

“Australians living with a disability, and Australians from ethnically diverse backgrounds are woefully underrepresented in the current Parliament and will remain so after May 18,” said O’Gorman.

“For a nation that prides itself on being a multicultural success story, we need to look at not only how we can encourage more diverse candidates to run, but also how we can ensure they are made to feel welcome and accommodated when they get into office.”

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