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

Speak-out day for Shearer on party's women only electorates plan

Labour leader David Shearer will have to respond today to his party's proposal for a quota of female MPs and female-only electorate selections after spending the weekend avoiding questions on the issue.

The proposed changes, backed by Labour's NZ Council, were released on Thursday and Mr Shearer spoke against them on Friday, saying that he preferred targets to strict goals and did not agree with running female-only electorate selections.

He has refused to give interviews or answer questions on it since then. But he will be unable to avoid further questions on it today and will also have to discuss it with his caucus, within which there are strong views.

A spokesman denied Mr Shearer was "running scared" on the issue, saying: "He's got other things he wants to talk about."

He rejected suggestions that Mr Shearer was refusing to give any interviews in case he was asked about the gender issue, saying he had spoken to media on other issues.

He said it was a party process, rather than a caucus matter.

Mr Shearer also declined an interview on The Nation on Saturday and instead sent women's affairs spokeswoman Sue Moroney.

Mr Shearer was not at last month's meeting at which Labour's NZ Council agreed to back the proposal for some electorates to hold women-only selections in a bid to lift the proportion of women in its caucus to 45 per cent by 2014 and 50 per cent by 2017. It is understood deputy leader Grant Robertson was the only caucus member at that meeting and he was absent when that item was accepted.

The plan will be put to party members at the annual conference in November.

- NZ Herald

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