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Cunliffe, Robertson promise 50/50 male/female caucus

Sunday 1 Sep 2013 6:59 p.m.

Labour's failed man ban is back, but in disguise. Grant Robertson is promising 50 percent women in the Labour caucus by the next election.

It will likely mean ramping up the existing quota system, which could see men pushed off winnable positions on the party list.

Mr Robertson wants equality. He wants to start it now, promising that under his watch, 50 percent of Labour MPs will be women by 2014. But could that mean men are booted out?

“It may well do,” says David Cunliffe. “It's going to be more realistic. I think 2014's pretty aggressive.”

David Shearer killed the man ban – a policy advocating women-only electorates. So there are two ways Mr Robertson could boost the number of women in Labour's caucus. One is to choose women over men in electorate seats if both candidates are considered of equal ability. The other is through quotas and filling the list seats with women to hit his 50/50 target.

He says it’s about creating the “best possible” team and is “absolutely” realistic.

Thirteen of Labour's 34 MPs are women, or 38 percent. Positive discrimination or affirmative action is already used by the party with the original goal of equality by 2017.

Mr Robertson's simply ramping it up, bringing the deadline forward by three years.

“I think Grant had a really sensible policy yesterday, and 50 percent women makes absolute sense,” says Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.

So the man ban is out but gender politics are back. Equality and women's rights are red-button issues in the Labour Party. Mr Robertson will win votes with this one, but it will upset some too, especially men looking for Labour list seats.

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