(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s next parliament is set to be the country’s most diverse, with a record number of women, Asian and Indigenous lawmakers to hold office.
While votes are still being counted, results so far show the 47th parliament will be more reflective of the diversity in the broader population. Around 30% of Australian residents were born overseas, with India, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Sri Lanka among the top-10 countries of birth.
Women are likely to fill roughly 57% of the upper house Senate, from 42% in the previous one. About 38% of the house of representatives will be women, from 26%, according to estimates from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The number of non-European, non-Indigenous members is expected to jump to 13 from 9.
New additions to the parliament include Labor’s Sally Sitou, whose family fled the Vietnam War and took refuge in Australia; independent lawmaker Dai Le, a former refugee who arrived in Australia on a “rickety boat”, and a Labor’s one-time police officer and dolphin trainer Sam Lim, who moved to the country in 2002 from Malaysia. Labor’s Jana Stewart will join the Senate as one of 10 Indigenous members of the new parliament -- an all-time high.
Several independent female candidates running on a pro-climate action platform in formerly safe Liberal party seats also dismounted male incumbents.
“It is transformative and a big change from the last parliament,” said Sukhmani Khorana, a research fellow and co-convener of borders and diversity research program at Western Sydney University. “It will provide greater legitimacy to our political institutions. This is even more important in the wake of Covid when many disadvantaged communities have lost trust in politics and other public institutions.”
The election result comes amid rage over the Liberal-National coalition’s years of inaction on gender equality and allegations of sexual violence inside the nation’s parliament. That drove a steady decline in opinion polls for former Prime Minister Scott Morrison who suffered a thrashing in the latest election.
His Labor opponent Anthony Albanese, who was sworn in as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister Monday, had campaigned on a pledge to boost wages while proposing to close the gender pay gap, currently at 22.8%, and increase childcare subsidy in an effort improve women’s labor force participation.
Albanese’s Labor Party also committed to enforcing the 55 recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report, which examined workplace sexual harassment,
Janine Hendry, the academic and businesswoman who organized marches which were attended by more than 110,000 people across Australia in the wake of the rape scandal and other reports of sexual assault by men in power, said Morrison’s election campaign was targeted to a 1950s Australia which had a largely white population, low female workforce participation and deep reliance on fossil fuels.
Women Fed Up With Flagrant Sexism Could Swing Australia Election
The Liberal party “missed the memo that outlined the multicultural, globally-focused feminist nation in 2022,” she said in a tweet, explaining the reason for its loss.
Alison Pennington, senior economist at the Centre For Future Work said the Liberal Party made “gross political calculation” that only middle-class professional women cared for mistreatment of women in parliament.
“Instead, women united in disgust and anger, built a movement for all women’s safety and broadened it to economic security: wages, job security, welfare,” she said. “A remarkable effort thus far. Much to fight for. We can’t lose momentum.”
Labor has also vowed to push for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution. In the new government, expected to be sworn in next week, Linda Burney will become the first Aboriginal woman to hold the role of Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
While Australia’s parliament made big strides in becoming more diverse, experts say it is still not seeing the levels of representation in countries like the UK and Canada.
“In these nations, the major parties have made concerted efforts to attract diverse candidates whereas pre-selection and other internal party processes in Australia still need reform to represent local diversity,” Western Sydney University’s Khorana added.
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