The Hon. Jeannette McHugh
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Jeannette McHugh

Member for Phillip (NSW) and Grayndler (NSW)

ALP, 1983–1996

The Hon. Jeannette McHugh, Member for Phillip (NSW, 1983–93) and Grayndler (NSW, 1993–96) for the Australian Labor Party, was the first NSW female member of the federal parliament.

Before joining Parliament, McHugh was active in anti-nuclear, disarmament and women’s issues including the formulation of the ALP’s national childcare policy. In 1988 she was co-author of a review of the ALP’s uranium policy that recommended that no new export contracts or mines be permitted.

Between 1990 and 1992 McHugh chaired inquiries of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment, Recreation and the Arts into community-based biodiversity programs, the protection of coastal environments, the performance of Australian films, and tourism in the Indian Ocean territories. She served as Minister for Consumer Affairs from 1992 to 1996, reflecting later that the department’s achievements during that time included helping to prevent banks from discriminating against low income earners and ensuring that consumer protection was ‘a basic government responsibility’.

In her valedictory speech she noted she would ‘never be out of politics–just out of the parliament’. In retirement McHugh remained a strong advocate of the active participation of women in political decision-making.

The Hon. Jeanette McHugh with Tamil demonstrators outside Parliament House in 1986.

Image courtesy of the Canberra Times.