Just a third of candidates running at Saturday’s election are women — and what’s worse, almost every female MP or senator who is retiring had been replaced with a male candidate.

There are 566 women running for the next Parliament, out of 1626 federal candidates. Australia has 11.83 million males and 11.95 million females.

The current makeup of the Senate includes 29 female senators (of 76 seats in total) and only 40 female members of the House of Representatives (of 150). This means only 26.7% of the seats in the lower house and 38.2% in the Senate 38.2% are held by women. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, this ranks Australia at 56 in the world for female representation in Parliament.

This is behind the United Kingdom, which sits at 48, though ahead of the United States at 97. Rwanda takes out the top rank, with 63.8% of the country’s lower house represented by women and 38.5% in the upper house. Australia was at 46 before the September 2013 election.

Of 23 retiring members of Parliament, seven are women. Only one of these retirees has been replaced with a female candidate, Malarndirri McCarthy, who is replacing Nova Peris as Labor’s top candidate for NT in the Senate. For all other seats where MPs are calling it quits, parties preselected men over women. This includes the safe Labor seat of Shortland, where Labor candidate Pat Conroy is on the ballot instead of current MP Jill Hall.

As part of the Labor Party’s affirmative action rule, adopted in 1994, 35% of winnable seats in all elections require preselected candidates to be women. Since 2012, Labor agreed to a quota of 40% of seats in Parliament to be filled by women, with a goal of 50% female representation by 2020.

Placement is also important in the Senate. Don Farrell has secured the second spot in Labor’s Senate ballot for South Australia, pushing Emily’s List co-convener Anne McEwen down to fourth.

The ALP has put five women in the top Senate position (Penny Wong in SA, Sue Lines in WA, McCarthy in the Northern Territory, Anne Urquhart in Tasmania and Katy Gallagher in the ACT), and the Greens are running four women at the top of the ticket. But only one woman is represented at the top of the ticket for the Coalition (Defence Minister Marise Payne, running in NSW).

The Liberal Party in Tasmania has also come under fire for not having any female candidates on their Senate ballot paper.

Peter Fray

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