Thursday, January 24, 2019

Federal Seats That Have Never Had A Female Major Party Candidate

With probably less than four months to go before the 2019 federal election, the Liberal Party is still deciding on a candidate for the Tasmanian rural seat of Lyons (ALP 3.8%).  This is, in general terms in the history of this seat, not a good sign.  Lyons is infamously difficult for opposition candidates to campaign in because of the large number of small and scattered towns it contains and the premium some voters in the seat place on familiarity.  The incumbent, Labor's Brian Mitchell, was preselected almost two years before he won the seat.  His predecessor, the Liberals' Eric Hutchinson, took two goes to win it.  The lack of an early endorsement suggests the Liberals and/or their prospective candidates lack confidence about the prospects of recovering the seat.

A Liberal preselection is currently open for Lyons, with the result expected to be announced on February 2.  Tasmania's northern papers reported that first term Brighton councillor Jessica Whelan is being considered as a possible candidate.  If the Liberals do field Whelan, or any other female candidate, they will have made an unusual and overdue piece of history.  Never in the history of Lyons or its predecessor Wilmot, going back to the seat's creation in 1903, has either major party fielded a female candidate!  

This is although there have been six female state MPs representing Lyons, including the current state Labor leader, Rebecca White.  Another curiosity is that Lyons is partly named after Australia's first ever female MHR Dame Enid Lyons - who remains the only Tasmanian woman the conservative side of politics has ever sent to the House of Reps. (Labor has had five Tasmanian female MHRs so far.)

This made me wonder how many other federal divisions (excluding those created by very recent redistributions) have never had a female Labor or Coalition candidate.  It turns out that this is true for very few indeed, and probably very soon there will be no remaining seats for which this holds true.  In considering this I regard a division as the same if it was renamed without massive changes in extent, and also the same if it kept the existing name even through quite substantial boundary changes in the process.

Among Federation electorates the nearest approach is Eden-Monaro (NSW).  Eden-Monaro has almost always been a Labor-vs-Liberal seat and both these parties have always fielded male candidates in the seat.  However the National (formerly Country) Party has also intermittently contested the seat. In 1990 the Nationals fielded a female candidate, Gaye White, who polled 9.5%.  Still, no female candidate has ever made the two-candidate preferred count in this seat.  This is set to end this year as the Liberal Party has preselected Fiona Kotvojs.

The two next oldest boys club seats as far as I can tell were created at the 1948 expansion of the House from 74 to 121 seats.  Banks (NSW) in Sydney's south was Labor-held until being picked up by the Liberals' David Coleman in 2013.  Labor has endorsed its 2016 candidate to run again in this marginal seat, meaning that Banks will retain its all-male major party status if Coleman recontests (there are some rumours he might not.)

Watson (NSW) also in Sydney's south was created for the 1993 election following a reasonably minor redistribution of the electorate of St George (1948-1992).  I treat these as the same seat.  The seat was a swinging marginal until 1980 and has been Labor-held ever since, and is currently a very safe seat indeed (17.6%).  Over time, however, the seat has moved to the north-west, so that only a small part of the modern Watson was also part of St George.  The Liberal Party has yet to announce a candidate for Watson to my knowledge.

Beyond the four (or three) seats above, as far as I can tell every current Reps seat that is over 20 years old has had a female candidate for one major party or the other (let me know if I've missed any that haven't).  The next longest-standing seat without any female major party candidate history appears to be Flynn (Qld), first created in 2006 for the 2007 election.  However all the seats Flynn was created from parts of had been contested by a female major party candidate prior to the creation of Flynn.

At the other end of the scale, just over half the current electorates (80 by my count) have elected a female MHR at some stage (major party or otherwise).  Nine seats (Bass, Canberra, Canning, Capricornia, Chisholm, Kingston, Lindsay, Macquarie and Robertson) have each had three female MHRs through their history. However, the boundaries of Canberra, for instance, have jumped around a lot according to whether the ACT has two or three seats at a given time.  Of these nine, Canberra and Lindsay are highly likely to acquire their fourth female representatives at this election. Robertson is a marginal that will get a fourth if it falls (ditto Macquarie, but seats falling Labor to Liberal currently looks less likely) and Chisholm will get a fourth unless Julia Banks recontests and wins.

Update 5 Feb: Jessica Whelan has indeed been preselected so Lyons' long run of solely male major party candidates will end.

Update 4 May: I spoke too soon, sort-of.


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Can you put a link to the comments at the top of your articles, as well as at the bottom?

    That way I wounldn't have to scroll all the way to the bottom (of the long articles) to see if any comments have been added.


    1. I haven't yet found an easy way to set the software on this site to do that automatically. However, it should be easy for posters (except perhaps on mobile phones) to modify the URL to jump to the comments section. Adding


      to the URL for a specific article and pressing return will jump to the top of the comments section, while adding


      jumps to the bottom of the comments section.

      I think there is also an option for me to insert a "(Jump to comments)" link with a jump break to comments at the top but I would have to edit that in manually for each specific article. If anyone knows a way to add a global link to comments at the top, please let me know.

    2. Hi Kevin,

      Adding #comments to the URL works fine. Just remember no spaces.

      Would adding an internal link work the same way? eg adding "Jump to Comments" at the top and making it a link to the comments section.