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Two Melbourne women want to share a job in federal parliament. Here’s what it would look like

Vaseline 2 months ago

In Australia, the first job-sharing candidates could run for one seat in parliament at the next federal election. Lucy Bradlow and Bronwen Bock, lifelong friends from Melbourne, launched their campaign this weekend, jointly standing as independent candidates for the 2025 electorate of Higgins.

The pair say sharing the role will not only deliver better results for Higgins’ constituents, but will also provide a model for future candidates to follow, boosting the representation of women, carers, people with disabilities and other underrepresented people in parliament.

Bronwen Bock, who has worked in the financial and investment sector for more than a decade, said she and Bradlow, as one of the candidates, “will stand for action on climate, cost of living relief and integrity in the politics”.

“We believe the people of Higgins deserve representatives who will stand up for them in federal parliament,” Bock said.

“Job sharing is tried and tested in the private sector and the civil service – we are calling for the Federal Parliament to become like any other workplace.

“We want to show that politics can be done differently for a more inclusive parliament and better representation of Australians.”

The pair have been friends for more than 30 years, and Bradlow, former head of communications at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said their ability to work effectively together in parliament on job sharing will ultimately work to their advantage. their electorate. Higgins.

“We are creative thinkers who believe we need to do things differently to get better results,” Bradlow said.

“We have been friends for more than 30 years and share a deep trust and respect. Individually, neither of us is able to take on the out-of-hours or travel demands that come with being a full-time federal politician. But together we bring two sets of skills and experience, fresh perspectives and new energy to the role.

“We are confident we can work together for the benefit of the people of Higgins.”

How will it work?

Bock and Bradlow have drawn up a plan for how job sharing will work if they are elected as Higgins’ division MP.

Essentially, they will operate in a ‘week-on-week-off’ capacity. For example, if Bock works a week, the couple completes a “handoff” at the end of the week, allowing Bradlow to pick up where Bock left off the week before.

With the demands of being an MP in Federal Parliament – ​​the long, unpredictable hours and the requirement to be in Canberra 22 weeks a year – this system will ease the burden, they say.

Bock and Bradlow will have a shared email address, shared diary and shared project management system to maintain communications with constituents, projects at Parliament House and all other responsibilities of an MP.

The joint candidates describe this as ‘two for the price of one’ representations for Higgins. Working in a job-sharing position will not come at any additional cost to the taxpayer as the salary usually given to an MP is split down the middle and split between the two. In other words, the ‘candidate’ will be ‘one voice’ and ‘one vote’ on the parliamentary floor, but with two perspectives, skills and life experiences to bring to the role.

Disagreement between two people sharing the same role is inevitable. However, Bock and Bradlow have committed to discussing the key issues on which they disagree until they come to some sort of agreement, noting that having two minds and two perspectives when approaching one issue creates a deeper invites analysis and reflection. If an “impasse” arises in their conversations, the pair say there will be a mechanism to break it.

If Bock or Bradlow decide they no longer wish to remain in the role, or if they can no longer commit to the role for reasons beyond their control, both women will step down and a by-election will be called. It would be treated like any other MP who falls ill, dies, is found guilty of a crime or, for whatever reason, can no longer perform his duties.

Why?

Job sharing is slowly becoming more common in the private sector. Research shows it can increase productivity, skills and experience in the workplace, plus many other benefits.

According to a survey by The Job Share Project, 87 percent of respondents said the ability to share jobs meant the difference between staying at a company and leaving.

In Australia, private sector workplaces were likely to offer flexible working arrangements for employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to WGEA, 64 percent of workplaces offered job sharing for employees in 2021.

By having two people share a role, people, especially women, people with caregiving responsibilities, and people with disabilities, can qualify for leadership positions, greater workplace responsibilities, and more.

Although Australia’s current parliament is the most diverse since federation, many barriers remain for women, people with disabilities and other underrepresented groups.

This has resulted in 56 percent of parliament being male, with an average age of 51 years. Only one MP has a visible disability.

Allowing job sharing for MPs would not only reflect the growing trend in the private sector, Bock and Bradlow argue, but it will also attract more diverse people representing an increasingly diverse nation.

Is it even allowed?

The only obstacle Bock and Bradlow have encountered so far is putting both of their names on the ballot.

Working with constitutional law expert Kim Rubenstein, the pair sees no legal barriers preventing them from pursuing the shared job. Section 163, if the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 outlines, but does not specifically outline, the eligibility characteristics of potential candidates, it must be one person or “single” member in the role.

Part III of the Australian Constitution also states that the number of members in the House of Representatives can be changed to “accurately represent the electorate,” according to Bock and Bradlow. Furthermore, in Section 34, there are only two eligibility restrictions for prospective MPs in the House of Representatives: that is, they must be 21 years old, and they must be a citizen of Australia.

Should they encounter further legal barriers, the pair could make the legal argument that not allowing their proposed job sharing system could breach the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 because it discriminates against women and all potential candidates who cannot commit to work. full-time due to caring responsibilities or health reasons.

To nominate as a candidate to the Australian Electoral Commission, there is space to include only one name on the nomination form. Bock and Bradlow will look to change this to continue their campaign as joint candidates for Higgins’ MP role.

Job sharing in politics has been explored in countries such as England, Wales and Scotland, but has never led to an elected candidate. If Bock and Bradlow are successful in their campaign, it would be a world first.