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Can a member of parliament job-share? These childhood friends want to find out

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The aspiring MPs approached community independent funding vehicle Climate 200 to discuss potential financial backing but the group founded by Simon Holmes a Court downplayed the prospect.

“Climate 200 is approached informally every day by individuals and community groups. We are not presently considering support in Higgins,” a spokesman for the group said.

Climate 200’s preferred candidates mostly campaigned on the issues of climate change and restoring integrity to governing. The Higgins duo nominated those issues as their top priorities, along with lowering living costs.

Bradlow and Bock, an investment banker, are armed with answers to tricky questions about how their arrangement would work.

Professor Kim Rubenstein.

Professor Kim Rubenstein.

What if they disagreed on policy? “Lucy and I have very similar beliefs and values,” Bock said.

And if one of them needed to quit? “It would have to go to a by-election because people are voting for both of us,” Bradlow explained.

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They would work one week on and one week off, with a handover at the end of each week. To avoid draining public funds, only one of the women would travel to Canberra for sitting weeks.

Constitutional law professor Kim Rubenstein, a gender equity advocate, has advised the aspiring MPs it may be permissible to run as joint candidates.

A similar proposal was rejected by English courts in 2015 but Rubenstein believes Australian rules could be more accommodating.

Rubenstein has met with federal crossbench MPs and Labor MP Kate Thwaites, who leads a committee inquiry into electoral reforms, about amending the electoral act to allow for job-sharing. The Albanese government said it had no plans to do so.

If the law is not changed, Bradlow and Bock will cram both their names into the box designed for an individual candidate name on Australian Electoral Commission nomination forms. If the AEC rejects the nomination, the pair said they will fight the commission in court.

Rubenstein said: “To not allow it might go against the Sex Discrimination Act because the proportion of women who are full-time is lower.”

About 39 per cent of lower house MPs and 57 per cent of senators are women.

Research from the Australian Parliamentary Library, prepared in March for Liberal frontbencher Andrew Bragg, cast doubt on the proposal’s constitutionality.

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“There are several constitutional provisions referring to senators and members that could be argued to prevent such an arrangement, at least on a literal reading,” its research paper stated.

“Drawing from the arguments of Professor Rubenstein, it may be that the High Court would consider that these provisions ought to be interpreted in a way that permitted job-sharing, as that would be most consistent with the principles of representative government and democracy prescribed by the Constitution.”

“However, this is not certain and I am of the view that there would likely be strong counterarguments raised, based upon the plain meaning of the provisions in question.”

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