Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Mallard takes his chances against Labour women

Labour Party's Trevor Mallard and David Parker at Ratana in 2015. Photo/ Wanganui Chronicle
Labour Party's Trevor Mallard and David Parker at Ratana in 2015. Photo/ Wanganui Chronicle

Labour MP Trevor Mallard says he is not worried if his chances to return to Parliament as a List MP are endangered by Labour's rules for the party to get more women MPs in.

MP Trevor Mallard announced this week he would stand on the list in 2017 rather than re-contest the Hutt South electorate.

However, a rule passed by the party in 2013 means its list ranking committee must ensure its caucus after 2017 is at least 50 per cent women.

If the party is strict about that, it could mean there are no slots for male list MPs other than leader Andrew Little unless the party polls higher than 29 per cent.

Mallard said his own goal of being Speaker depended on Labour being in Government and to do that it would have to get higher than 30 per cent anyway.

"My view is we need to get well in excess of 30 per cent to form a government. That's my objective. I'm clearly in it to be Speaker."

If he did not get back in, he joked he would become a kept man instead. "I'll no doubt live off the lowly earnings of an underpaid journalist." Mallard is married to journalist Jane Clifton. He had not made any decision on whether he would stay if Labour was still in Opposition after 2017.

Read more: Rats! Labour in trap of own making.

List MP David Parker is also relying on the list to return after 2017 but was philosophical about his chances. "I've always taken the viewpoint that when my number is up in politics, it's time to go."

Mallard would not give a view of the impact the target for women might have saying he had not paid much attention to the list process in the past. "No one could have missed the 2013 circus but frankly the detail of it is not something I've focused on."

In 2014 Mallard pulled out of the list altogether in response to the initial women's target, saying it would help Kelvin Davis get a higher slot.

Labour did not reach its 2014 target of 45 per cent women because of its low election result.

Mallard believed his replacement in Hutt South should be chosen on merit but if all else was equal a female candidate would mean Labour had more than one women MP in Wellington. Currently Annette King is the only Wellington-based woman MP.

Little said the women target was set by the party and it was important to be as representative of as possible.

However, he believed current MPs should be treated with respect to ensure a strong caucus. "And I'm determined to make sure that happens in every aspect of what we do, including putting together our list for next year."

Of Labour's 27 electorates, 17 are held by men. Labour's general secretary Andrew Kirton said the moderating committee had to take into account the electorate seats and the party vote Labour believed it could get.

"The proactive 50% goal will come from a mixture of our women candidates winning their electorate seat and of course via the list."

Labour leader Andrew Little said he expected all MPs to go on the list this year. It will also be harder for them to withdraw - a rule change last month means candidates now need to get permission from the party leader, the party president and the party's Maori vice-president to withdraw from the list.

Napier MP Stuart Nash did not go on it in 2014 but said he would be on it in 2017 to show party unity.

"There can be a perception if somebody's not on the list that they haven't bought into the whole party vote ethos."

He said the target for women was decided by a constitutional process. "That's the way it is, it's what the constitution says and so we get on and make sure it happens."

It would be disappointing if it meant people like David Parker did not get back in but he was confident Labour would do well enough to ensure he did.

Mana MP Kris Faafoi also stayed off the 2014 list and said he was yet to decide whether to seek a dispensation in 2017. He did not want to be a list MP but understood the party's reasons for wanting all MPs on the list.

The party has also changed its list selection process. The new process will give party members a vote on the regional rankings, but only the 22 Council members will do the final ranking - about half the numbers who usually did it. It is part of Labour's attempt to use the list more strategically to deliver the skills and mix it needs.

- NZ Herald

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