The Way In – Representation in the 46th Australian Parliament

May 15, 2022

Representation matters. Within our society a lot of attention is paid to how power is used, and in whose interests, but the issue of who has power is of equal importance. Indeed, the way in which political representation is constructed and perpetuated are central to the way our democracy functions. When power is concentrated in the hands of people who have very similar backgrounds and life experiences, and who are increasingly unrepresentative of the demographically changing communities that they are supposed to represent, democracy is diminished.

By exploring representation broadly through different lenses this report seeks to understand the paths to political power in the federal parliament, and shine a light on the often invisible, yet significant, barriers to entry faced by too many people within our electoral system.

Understanding to what extent our parliament, and by extension our democracy, is inclusive and accessible is critical to understanding the agency of its citizenry. Our democracy operates within a real community made up of real people, and as a result it is fallible – indeed, there is no perfect model of representation, and there are complex trade-offs in pursuing ‘perfect’ political representation aligned with the ever-changing social, economic and cultural demographics of Australian society.

Nonetheless, given the dearth of analyses considering diversity and political representation in our public discourse, it is imperative that we highlight the deficiencies in our contemporary parliament and work towards correcting any persistent underrepresentation of the Australian people.

This report explores the path to parliament taken by our current representative members of federal parliament, and considers a wide variety of identity, vocational and experiential factors, building on the previous Per Capita report looking at the 45th Federal Parliament, and published in 2019. At its core, the research seeks to understand whether there is a particular path to parliament that allows one group to exercise a much greater degree of power and influence than any other, and shine a light on the underrepresented parts of our community.