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August 7, 2017 | by  | in VicUFO |
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The decision-making body we call parliament is rarely referred to by its more precise name, the House of Representatives. This could be because it’s a mouthful, or because it sounds admittedly colonial and stuffy. But I like to think that it has something to with our House of Representatives not really doing what the name implies.

Our current House of Representatives consists of 66% men and 34% women. Representing a population of roughly equal numbers of men and women, with the addition of minority genders, means this is clearly imbalanced. This lack of equal representation can be seen in other parts of government.

Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have championed the need for equal representation in government, forming gender-balanced cabinets in Canada and France respectively. John Key, however, defended his cabinet of 13 men and seven women with the argument that appointing women for the sake of a gender balance would be “stupid.”

This merit-based argument always shows up in discussions about affirmative action — why replace those best qualified for the job with others who are less so, in order to fulfil a quota? While Key was referring to his cabinet, the argument has been applied more broadly to seats in parliament. It falls flat as it assumes that women are less worthy of seats in parliament than their male counterparts, who in the current system face substantially fewer hurdles on their path to parliament. The merit that sees a woman into parliament is not her merit as a politician — although this is also indisputably present. This merit is in her ability to somehow beat the odds that place her near the bottom of electoral lists, and see her shut out of cabinet.

When a candidate’s legitimacy has nothing to do with their gender and everything to do with their talents, dedication, and honesty, John Key will be right that there’s no need for a gender quota. But for now, I don’t think we really have a House of Representatives.

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