Meet the women who want to become Australia’s first ever job-sharing MPs

Lucy Bradlow and Bronwen Bock have announced a plan to run for federal parliament as independent “job-sharing candidates” in the Melbourne seat of Higgins. If these arrangements have worked in the corporate world, why can't it work in Canberra?

Lucy Bradlow and Bronwen Bock have announced a plan to run for federal parliament as independent “job-sharing candidates” in the Melbourne seat of Higgins.

Bradlow and Bock have shared that they will attempt to nominate jointly as a single candidate on the ballot. If successful, they will job-share official duties, tag-team their trips to Canberra and make joint decisions on key issues.

"Parliament has become an increasingly exclusive arena reserved for those with the pedigree, finances and support systems that allow them to be full time, always on and’s time that changes," Bradlow told the ABC.

Increasing political opportunities for women in Parliament

When Bock returned to work after maternity leave seven years ago, she noticed the challenge of balancing part-time work with leadership roles. Observing this struggle inspired her to run on a job-sharing style ticket in federal parliament.

"Parliament should be like any other workplace, where it's possible to work flexibly, job share, and therefore have different faces of leadership,” she told the ABC.

Bradlow says that allowing job-sharing MP roles could increase political opportunities for groups such as women, people with disability and carers, and in turn allow them to “have a say on the policies that actually impact their lives.”

The legal considerations

A proposal for two women in the UK to job-share as MPs was rejected by the English courts in 2015.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s nomination form currently only allows enough space for a single candidate running for election.

The Guardian has reported that from there, it could be up to the High Court of Australia to decide whether having joint candidates on a ballot is constitutional.

Bradlow and Bock have the backing of Kim Rubenstein, a constitutional law expert, who has previously argued that the federal parliament should allow for job-sharing.

Rubenstein has said that it would be ideal for the government to amend the Electoral Act to allow for two candidates to nominate.

If that is unsuccessful, Rubenstein says that two people could attempt to add their names onto the form, and from there, it would be up to the Australian Electoral Commission to decide if it’s lawful.

“If they don’t do that, in my view there’s an argument to say that to deny it would be offending the Sex Discrimination Act,” she says, given that the proportion of women who are full-time is lower than men.

Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey has told The Guardian that she is “very doubtful” job-sharing in this context would be constitutionally valid.

“This is because the constitution treats a member of parliament as an individual person, who is sworn in and has a right to vote, not as an office that can be shared,” Twomey said.

Research from the Australian Parliamentary Library prepared in March this year also questioned the proposal’s constitutionality.

However, the research considered that it “may be that the High Court would consider that these provisions ought to be interpreted in a way that permitted job-sharing, as that would be most consistent with the principles of representative government and democracy prescribed by the Constitution.”

"We see people successfully job sharing in private and public sectors at leadership levels. Why can't it work in parliament?” says Bradlow.

It’s a fair question - and we’re excited to see the conversation that this announcement sparks.