Audio Joan Kirner discusses affirmative action for ALP women, 2008

TLF ID R9535

This is an edited sound recording of former Victorian premier Joan Kirner (1938-) talking about efforts to ensure the election of a higher proportion of female Labor Party politicians in Australia. Kirner explains how, despite the party's adoption of an affirmative action policy for women, a group of Labor women thought it necessary to set up a formal organisation, Emily's List, to work to overcome an entrenched 'culture' of male domination in the party. Kirner argues that efforts to achieve equal representation of female ALP members of parliament (MPs) must continue. The recording was made in July 2008.

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Educational value
  • In this interview the first woman premier of Victoria argues that equal representation of women in Australian parliaments will not occur without an affirmative action policy that sets quotas. She argues that quotas set by the Australian Labor Party have sharply raised the representation of women in Australian parliaments and argues that the lack of quotas in the non-Labor parties has led to their having a much lower representation of women.
  • In this recording, Kirner argues that the ALP's national affirmative action policy for women, adopted in 1994 with the support of then prime minister Paul Keating (1944-), has been highly successful. The policy committed the party to having female candidates in 35 per cent of 'winnable' seats by 2002. In 2002 the target was lifted to 40 per cent of winnable seats. This replaced earlier practice in which women were selected mainly for seats considered unwinnable.
  • The recording refers to the organisation, Emily's List, formed to help women seeking to become Labor MPs. Kirner was co-founder of this organisation in 1996. The name is an acronym of the saying 'early money is like yeast' and is based on an organisation of the same name in the USA. Emily's List supports the preselection of women, by the ALP, who are expected to support the principles of equity, diversity, pro-choice and the provision of equal pay and childcare.
  • Kirner believes the Labor Party is setting the standard for the other major parties in Australia to follow in achieving improved women's representation. She states that the number of female Labor members in Australian parliaments has risen from about 68 in the early 1980s to 155 in 2008. Kirner believes that the fact that conservative parties (Liberal and National) have only about half as many is proof that an affirmative action policy such as Labor's is necessary.
  • Kirner warns in this recording that the Labor Party must guard against any attempt to regard increased women's representation in Australian parliaments as a temporary phenomenon. In particular, she argues for a continuing need for more 'progressive' women MPs in 'safe' seats. This, she says, allows them to concentrate on serving their electorates and the country, and helps parliaments to have a broader range of views more representative of the community.
  • Kirner refers in this recording to her own time in the Victorian state parliament. Kirner served as the Labor Party member for the seat of Melbourne West from 1982 until 1988 and then for Williamstown 1988-94. She was minister for conservation, forests and lands, and for education, before becoming the first woman premier of Victoria (1990-92). As well, Kirner served as opposition leader and shadow minister for women's affairs and ethnic affairs.

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  • Person: Joan Kirner
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