The Hon. Kathy Sullivan (formerly Martin)
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Kathy Sullivan (formerly Martin)

Senator for Queensland

LIB, 1974–1984

Member for Moncrieff (Qld)

LIB, 1984–2001

The Hon. Kathy Sullivan (formerly Martin) represented Queensland in the Senate for the Liberal Party from 1974 to 1984. She also represented the electorate of Moncrieff (Qld) in the House of Representatives for the Liberal Party from 1984 to 2001, becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of the federal parliament and the first Liberal Party woman from Queensland in the House. From 1997 until 2000 she was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sullivan entered the Senate with an interest in education and industrial relations, stemming from her background in teaching and university administration. She said she considered immigration and refugee issues her areas of ‘greatest expertise’ and viewed the refugee situation in Kampuchea, Thailand and Pakistan firsthand. In the House she spoke on tourism and primary industry, which were important issues for Queensland and her Gold Coast electorate.

Sullivan crossed the floor on a number of occasions. She opposed the government’s simultaneous elections referendum in 1977 and successfully supported amendments expanding the application of freedom of information legislation and a motion establishing the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee in 1981. Conflict within the Liberal Party in 1987 over equal employment opportunity legislation, which she supported, caused her particular consternation.

Sullivan, who at 32 years of age was the youngest female senator at the time she joined the Senate, was the longest serving woman in the Parliament when she left it after 27 years. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003.

The Hon. Kathy Sullivan on the Parliament House building site in 1985.

Image courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.