4 Jul 2013

Labour proposes women-only electorates

10:36 pm on 4 July 2013

Labour is proposing a rule that would allow electorates to request that only women be allowed to contest a seat for the party.

The rule is contained in recommended changes to the party's constitution to be considered at the party's s annual conference in November.

Party president Moira Coatsworth said it would be up to individual electorates to request women-only contests in certain circumstances where there is a struggle to get female representation.

There is also a recommendation that the make-up of the party list ensure that at least 45% of the caucus be women for the 2014 election. From 2017 and onwards, that would rise to at least 50% of the caucus.

The Green Party says the possibility of women-only electorate candidacy contests for Labour is a good way to increase female representation in Parliament. Co-leader Metiria Turei says this type of rule makes sure that women are able to compete on a level playing field with male candidates.

But National Party MP Tau Henare says it's unnecessary to block men from seeking Labour Party candidacy in an electorate seat under the MMP electoral system. Mr Henare says the party list is there to ensure balanced representation.

"I think it's a bad move. I think female representation in politics has been good - it could be better, and that's just a matter of picking the right person. I can see why other countries do it around the world, because they haven't had female representation. But it's a slippery slope."

ACT leader John Banks says there's no need to rig the political system in favour of women as they are capable of securing places in Parliament by themselves.

"On the day I arrived in '81 there were eight women Members of Parliament; today there are 40 women Members of Parliament.

"And I'd like to see the day come when there's more women Members of Parliament - and there's plenty of high-quality women on merit that can get themselves into the Parliament without that kind of gerrymandering."