Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb

Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb

Screening from Tuesday 13 July at 8pm on ABC TV, plus all four episodes will be available to stream on ABC iview from the premiere.

One hundred years after Australia elected its very first female parliamentarian, Annabel Crabb presents Ms Represented, a raw and honest account of politics from the female perspective.

Powered by intense interviews with an unprecedented cast of female “firsts”, Crabb investigates the experience of women in Parliament, from early struggles for the most basic of facilities to the persistent problems of harassment that plague the system to this day

“Australia was the first independent nation in the world where women could both vote and run for Parliament,” says Crabb. “But it took us a long time to actually elect any women, and when we did, we expected them to fit into the system that was already there. The struggle of female parliamentarians to be heard, to be respected, and to prosper in our federal Parliament is a thrilling and inspiring one, full of extraordinary stories that our cast tell with grace, humour and the deep authority of experience.”

“This is not ancient history. Many women who are “firsts” in politics are still actually in parliament. The first Indigenous woman in the House of Representatives was born into a country where her father’s people still could not enrol to vote. The story of women in parliament is a living, changing thing. In Ms Represented, we’ve captured a draft of it.”

Structured around themes rather than chronology, Ms Represented ranges across four episodes visiting key events, like the 1894 South Australian parliamentary vote in which a strategic blunder gave SA women not only the right to vote, but the right to stand for parliament too – a world first. Or the secret deal cut by male legislators in 1996 that barred women from accessing the abortion drug RU486 for nearly a decade, before it was undone by an unprecedented cross-party grouping of women. Or the tense battle behind the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.

We hear the stories: the women who were told by party officials to change their names or stop wearing short skirts. The candidate who faked up a campaign cookbook so as to seem more “womanly”. The woman who – desperate for campaign childcare – engaged Germaine Greer as a babysitter. The women who stood up against their own parties. The women who endured drunken gropes and abuse even within the walls of the parliament. The women who were elected to the parliament and found that there weren’t toilets for them to use.

We learn the shocking dark side to Australia’s ground-breaking Franchise Act, which gave women the right to vote and run in federal elections in 1902. And the surprising truth about which party actually pioneered gender quotas in Australian politics (it’s not the one you think).

But the heart of the series is the women themselves. Proud, angry, determined, sad, hilarious; they speak about their lives in politics with rare candour.

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Chapter One: Getting There

Tuesday, 13 July at 8pm
Most people know that South Australia was the first place in the world where women could both vote and run for Parliament.

What hardly anyone knows is that it only happened due to a major strategic blunder from one of female suffrage’s most dedicated opponents, a former journalist, train enthusiast and celebrated booze-hound called Ebenezer Ward. The series opens with the cast of Ms Represented telling the story.

Chapter Two: Being There

Tuesday, 20 July at 8pm

The first woman sent to Canberra from South Australia – Dame Nancy Buttfield, elected to the Senate in 1955 – was an intellectually lively woman, with a keen interest in foreign affairs and a sense of adventure (she was the first woman to take a drink in the Parliament’s notorious Members’ Bar).

Chapter Three: In The Room

Tuesday, 27 July at 8pm

In 1979, the House of Representatives heard highly-controversial debate on the proposal from one MP that Medicare payments for abortions should be severely restricted. What made the debate more remarkable – for female observers, at any rate – was that the House of Representatives, at the time, had no female MPs at all.

Chapter Four: The Numbers Game

Tuesday, 3 August at 8pm

We begin in the false dawn of the mid-90s, when the emergence of female leadership favourites like the Liberals’ Bronwyn Bishop (first woman elected to the Senate from NSW) and Labor’s Carmen Lawrence (first female Premier) and Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot set up some huge expectations. We hear from all three, a quarter of a century on. What does falling off a pedestal feel like?

The Cast

Anne Aly: Current Member for Cowan (ALP). In 2016, Anne – a doctor whose background is in counter-terrorism – became the first woman of Islamic faith to be elected to the federal Parliament.

Julia Banks: A former commercial lawyer, Julia won the Victorian seat of Chisholm for the Liberal Party in 2016, securing the re-election of the Turnbull Government. She quit the party in 2018, citing her experience of sexism and bullying. Her memoir “Power Play: Breaking Through Bias, Barriers and Boys’ Clubs” is due out in July.

Bronwyn Bishop: In 1987, Bronwyn became the first NSW woman to be elected to the Senate. She swiftly made a name for herself and in the early 90s was the first woman to be canvassed as a potential future Liberal leader and prime minister.

Julie Bishop: Julie was the first woman to serve as deputy leader of the Liberal Party. She was elected to the position in 2007 and held it through the leadership of Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and the second Turnbull leadership stint. She is the first woman to hold the foreign affairs portfolio in the Australian Cabinet.

Quentin Bryce: Dame Quentin – a lawyer and lifelong campaigner for women – was between 2008 and 2014 Australia’s first female Governor General. On December 3, 2007, Dame Quentin presided over the investiture of Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female deputy prime minister.

Linda Burney: Linda, a Wiradjuri woman and Labor frontbencher, is the first Indigenous woman to serve in the House of Representatives. She also was the first Indigenous person to be elected to the New South Wales parliament, where she served from 2003 to 2016.

Julia Gillard: Australia’s first female prime minister. First woman to be preselected for a safe federal Labor seat in Victoria. Julia served as Australia’s prime minister for three years and three days.

Sarah Hanson-Young: At the 2007 federal election, Sarah became the youngest woman ever elected to the Australian parliament; a title she still holds. She was 25. She arrived in the Senate with a baby daughter, Kora, who was in June 2009 ejected from the chamber floor on account of being a “stranger”.

Emma Husar: Emma was the Member for Lindsay (ALP) from 2016 to 2019. She was disendorsed by the Labor Party after complaints about her from staff members and a Buzzfeed media report (since the subject of a successful defamation action) accusing her of sexually inappropriate behaviour. Emma has since written and spoken out on the pitfalls of parliamentary and Labor culture for young women.

Ros Kelly: In 1980 Ros became the first woman to represent an ACT seat in the House of Representatives. In 1983, she became the first woman to give birth to a baby while serving as a federal MP. In 1987, as minister for defence science and personnel in the Hawke Labor government, she became the first woman to answer questions in the House of Representatives Question Time.

Cheryl Kernot: Cheryl, a teacher, was inspired to go into politics in 1980 when she watched from the Queensland Parliament’s public gallery as the Bjelke- Petersen Government attempted to ban abortion. She joined the Australian Democrats, won a Senate seat in 1990, and in 1993 became party leader, holding the balance of power. In 1997 she announced her defection to the ALP; she contested the marginal seat of Dickson in the 1998 election but lost it to the Liberal newcomer Peter Dutton in 2001.

Carmen Lawrence: In 1990, Carmen – a Doctor of Psychology – became Premier of WA, the first woman to lead a State government. She was premier until 1993. Carmen was influential in the party nationally and was deeply involved in the Labor women’s campaign for gender quotas in preselections, which succeeded in 1994. The same year, she was elected to the federal seat of Fremantle and was appointed health minister by Labor prime minister Paul Keating.

Marise Payne** **: In 2015 Marise became the first female Defence Minister in Australian history. Though there have been women serving as ministers in the defence portfolio, she was the first to lead as senior minister. She has been a senator for NSW since 1997, and previously was an influential young leader in both the republican movement and the Young Liberals, of which she was the first female president from 1989 to 1991.

Nova Peris: A famed athlete and descendant of the Gija, Yawuru and Iwatja people who represented Australia in hockey and track and field, Nova was recruited for the Senate at the 2013 election by then prime minister Julia Gillard, to represent the Northern Territory. Nova was the first Indigenous person to win Olympic gold, and the first Indigenous woman in the federal Parliament.

Margaret Reynolds: Margaret was the first female Labor senator from Queensland. She was a minister in the Hawke government, serving as minister for local government from 1987 to 1990 and as minister for the status of women from 1988 to 1990. She and Susan Ryan were commonly (and affectionately) known as “the boilers” among Hawke’s mostly-male ministry.

Natasha Stott Despoja:** **Appointed to the Senate in November 1995 to fill a casual vacancy caused by the retirement of Democrats senator John Coulter, Natasha Stott Despoja was the youngest woman to take her seat in the Australian parliament. From April 2001 to August 2002, she was the leader of the Australian Democrats.

Kate Sullivan: Kate (who was asked to run under the name Kathy by the Queensland Liberal Party as the name sounded “friendlier”) was elected to the Senate from Queensland in 1974. Nicknamed “the kissing senator” because of her good looks, she served on the Coalition’s front bench and then ran for the Lower House, winning the Gold Coast seat of Moncrieff in 1984. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of parliament.

Judith Troeth: Judith served the state of Victoria as a Liberal senator from 1993 to 2011; a former teacher and farmer, she was the first woman to serve on the front bench in the agriculture portfolio, and she led a cross-party campaign of women in the Senate to overturn the ban on abortion drug RU486 in 2005.

Amanda Vanstone: Amanda served as Liberal Senator for South Australia from 1984 until 2007. She served in Cabinet in multiple portfolios in the Howard government and was the first female Minister for Immigration.

Penny Wong: Penny advocated to increase Labor’s gender quota and entered the Senate in 2002, where she is presently Labor’s Senate leader. She was the first Asian-born cabinet minister, the first female Government Senate leader, and the first openly LGBT cabinet minister.


With Annabel Crabb and Steph Tisdell

You can find all six episodes of this accompanying podcast on the ABC Listen app, or wherever you hear podcasts, from the evening of Tuesday July 13.

More details on the Ms Represented podcast (from Mediaweek)

In the podcast, Crabb and Tisdell lift the lid on the untold stories of women in Australian politics, just in time for the centenary of Edith Cowan’s historic election in 1921. With access to a wealth of interviews with trailblazers like Cheryl Kernot and Kate Sullivan to current figures like Anne Aly and Penny Wong, this series will steer from the shocking to the inspirational, using humour to help Australians to engage with a part of our history that deserves more attention.

ABC statement on Ms Represented

ABC TV series Ms Represented, broadcast in July and August 2021, tells a powerful and important story about the experiences of women in Parliament, from their early struggles for the most basic facilities to the issues that continue to impact them today.

One hundred years after the election of Australia’s first female parliamentarian, the program’s account of how women have shaped Australian politics and their ongoing struggle to be heard and respected is insightful and inspiring.

The program – created, written and presented by award-winning ABC political commentator Annabel Crabb – is one of the ABC’s most popular documentaries this year. The program has been watched by more than 1.4 million people in total across ABC TV and ABC iview to date.

The series has also been the subject of a small number of editorial complaints, two of which by former senator Cory Bernardi and Nicolle Flint MP have been the subject of media reports and commentary.

The findings of ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent from content making areas of the ABC, in relation to those complaints are detailed below to provide clarification and context.

Cory Bernardi – complaint upheld

On 28 July, Mr Bernardi complained that he was not given the opportunity to respond to allegations, in episode 2 of Ms Represented, by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young about his conduct in Parliament on the night of 4 December 2014.

On 6 September, Audience and Consumer Affairs advised Mr Bernardi that his complaint had been upheld.

Audience and Consumer Affairs found that the program makers should have put the allegations to Mr Bernardi and included his response in the program, and that the failure to do so breached ABC editorial standard 5.3.

The ABC sincerely apologises to Mr Bernardi for this error. Mr Bernardi’s denial of the allegations has been added to the program and detailed, along with the complaint finding, on the ABC’s corrections page.

Despite this unfortunate error, the ABC stands by this important program.

Nicolle Flint MP – complaint not upheld

On 27 July, Ms Flint complained, in part, that episodes 1 and 2 of Ms Represented are “biased and completely unbalanced” and “an excuse to attack the Liberal Party and Liberal men” and that they fail to sufficiently represent the views of women representing the Liberal and National Parties.

On 6 September, Audience and Consumer Affairs advised Ms Flint that her complaint had not been upheld, as “the programs were presented with due impartiality and … an appropriate range of perspectives was presented across the series such that no significant strand of thought or belief was knowingly excluded or disproportionately represented in the story of women in Australian politics”.

In its finding, Audience and Consumer Affairs notes that the program features extensive interviews with a range of women from the Liberal Party, including: Amanda Vanstone, first female minister for immigration; Bronwyn Bishop, first female Liberal senator from NSW; Marise Payne, first female minister for defence; Julie Bishop, first female minister for foreign affairs; Kate Sullivan, Liberal senator 1974–84 and Liberal MP 1984–2001; Judith Troeth, first woman in an agriculture portfolio; and Julia Banks, Liberal MP 2016–18.

The finding notes that the program makers also approached Peta Credlin, former chief of staff to prime minister Tony Abbott, Fiona Nash, the first woman to serve in a leadership role in the National Party, and De-Anne Kelly, the first National Party woman to serve in the House of Representatives, all of whom declined to participate.

The finding states: “Audience and Consumer Affairs note that the series’ consideration of key issues reflects the evidence, including the fact that the Labor Party has today nearly reached gender parity while the Liberal Party has not (an issue explored in detail in the final episode of the series), and that the major parties have different histories of female representation in federal Parliament. The program does not, however, restrict its focus to any one political party or disparities between them, but rather focuses more broadly on the experiences of women across the political spectrum.”

In dismissing other aspects of Ms Flint’s complaint, Audience and Consumer Affairs found that the program does not “negatively portray” Prime Minister Scott Morrison, nor “criticise” or “malign” former prime minister John Howard and that references in the program to Mr Abbott “had clear editorial relevance”.