The Turnbull government is facing questions about a delay in appointing a new sex discrimination commissioner, with mounting concern from gender equality advocates that there is no one in the high profile position.
The vacancy - which occurred under Tony Abbott's prime ministership - comes as new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls for gender equality to be put on the national agenda to tackle domestic violence.
Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick left the post in early September, but her end date was long-expected after Attorney-General George Brandis extended her term for 12 months in 2014.
UN Women Australia executive director Julie McKay said the fact a replacement for Ms Broderick had not been appointed "sends a strong message" about the federal government's priorities, as well as the priority it places on the work of the sex discrimination commissioner.
"You would never have your CEO role vacant indefinitely," Ms McKay said.
Last week, when announcing $100 million for domestic violence initiatives, Mr Turnbull called on all Australians to make a "cultural shift" and stop disrespecting women.
"Violence against women begins with disrespecting women," he said.
Ms McKay said the sector was also concerned that the role would be combined with another of the Australian Human Rights Commission's issue-areas - as had happened when former disability commissioner Graeme Innes was not replaced last year.
Ms McKay said a recruitment process to replace Ms Broderick should have begun "well in advance" of her final day on the job.
Ms McKay said the government would ideally hold an open recruitment process, rather than make a direct appointment. She said this would allow people with diverse experiences to step forward, noting that Ms Broderick did not have a national profile before her appointment.
The government - via Attorney-General George Brandis - is responsible for making the new appointment.
When asked about the process for a replacement and when they might be named, a spokeswoman for Senator Brandis said: "The government is considering the appointment of the next sex discrimination commissioner and an announcement will be made shortly."
It is not unknown for there to be lags between commissioner appointments. There was a gap of about six months between former race discrimination commissioner Helen Szoke leaving in January 2013 and Tim Soutphommasane taking up the role in August 2013.
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek described the sex discrimination vacancy as "completely predictable".
"It's all very well to talk big on wanting greater representation for women, but the fact that this critical position remains vacant speaks volumes," she said.
"This is the same government that refused to appoint a new full-time disability discrimination commissioner and launched a disgraceful attack on the Commission's President, Gillian Triggs.
"I'm not sure anyone thinks George Brandis is taking this seriously."
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