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Melbourne friends Lucy Bradlow and Bronwen Bock have announced their intention to run for Federal parliament as independent “job-sharing candidates”. Bradlow is a political communications expert, and Bock an investment banker. They propose that if elected they will split duties making joint decisions on key issues and spend alternating weeks in Canberra.

Job sharing is common across various sectors in Australia, it is most prevalent in industries that prioritise flexibility and work-life balance, such as education, healthcare, and government sectors. These industries often have structured programs and policies supporting part-time work arrangements, making job sharing more feasible.

There are certain sectors where job sharing is not established and even looked down upon. Job sharing a political position has not been attempted before by prospective political candidates in Australia.

Is it constitutional?

Many have raised the potential challenges of coordination, decision-making, and accountability within a job-sharing arrangement, particularly in roles as demanding and high-profile as parliamentary representatives. Additionally, there may be logistical hurdles to overcome, such as ensuring equal workload distribution and effective communication between job-sharing partners. There is a further issue of whether it’s constitutional.

As reported in this The Guardian article,  Anne Twomey, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Sydney, said she was “very doubtful” it would be constitutionally valid for two or more people to job-share the office of a member of parliament.

“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.

The way of the future?

Supporters argue that job sharing can enhance diversity, representation, and flexibility within political institutions, enabling individuals with different backgrounds and experiences to participate in governance while accommodating personal commitments. 

Whereas Kim Rubenstein, a constitutional law and citizenship expert, who has long argued the federal parliament should allow for job-sharing, which she says would ensure politics is “more representative”,  said it would be “ideal” for the government to amend the electoral act to clearly allow two candidates to nominate. Rubenstein states that if the spaces isn’t changed “… there’s an argument to say that to deny it would be offending the sex discrimination act.”

Bock says “Parliament should be like any other workplace, where these sorts of things are encouraged. One of my life goals is to have an impact on the lives of women and this is one way to do that.”

Flexible and diverse work arrangements have been increasingly gaining traction in Australian society. Will job-sharing parliamentarians be next?