Auditor-General's Report

28 Oct 2009 archivespeech

This speech is to refer to the Agency Audit Reports Volume I, page 127, which relates to activities of the Attorney-General's Department, activity 11 being Consumer and Business Affairs.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I refer to the Agency Audit Reports Volume I, page 127, which relates to activities of the Attorney-General's Department, activity 11 being Consumer and Business Affairs. I understand that the federal parliament has now passed Australian consumer laws which will take over some of the responsibilities that have been the responsibility of state jurisdictions. Is there any requirement for the South Australian parliament to repeal its laws in relation to any of the mortgage broking or consumer credit laws, for instance?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: States and territories have agreed to refer our credit powers to the commonwealth. I am not able to outline exactly what that entails in terms of our current legislation, but obviously we have state legislation in place and I suspect that that would have to be repealed once we refer powers to the commonwealth. However, I will check that and bring back a response.

This is an attempt to coordinate powers around the nation. Each jurisdiction currently has its own credit legislation and there are some differences across jurisdictions. As part of the COAG agenda we are seeking to bring in a nationally consistent approach to credit legislation. As I said, I am aware that we are referring our powers to the commonwealth and I imagine that in light of that we would have to repeal our state legislation.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On the same reference, I also refer to what is probably best described as a communiqué issued by the Hon. Chris Bowen. He referred to the matter I just raised, but he also referred to home builders warranty insurance, a topic on which I have received correspondence from particular builders in Victoria and New South Wales. The communiqué refers to reforms based on a more harmonised approach to consumer protection. Can the minister outline whether home builders warranty insurance has been an issue for OCBA here and, if so, whether there are any plans to introduce changes to it?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Again, an approach to nationally harmonising consumer legislation is also part of the COAG agenda, and states are seeking to ensure that we have consistent legislation throughout the nation, making it a far simpler and more consistent approach. I am not sure of the status of home builders warranty insurance under these reforms, but I am happy to take that question on notice and bring back a response.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I refer to Volume I, part B, agency audit reports and activities of the Attorney-General's Department, activity 13, Office for Women on page 127, and refer to some of the minister's comments in the estimates committee this year, wherein she stated that the Premier's Council for Women is focusing on two areas: first, women's economic status; and, secondly, women's health, safety and well-being. She mentioned that Professor Barbara Pocock is conducting a research project on women's economic status in South Australia. Will the minister advise on the progress of that report, whether it has been published and whether she has an indication of the findings?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I thank the honourable member for her question. Professor Barbara Pocock's report, Working Women in South Australia: Progress, Prospects and Challenges, has been released. I assume that is the report to which the honourable member refers. Professor Pocock is the director of the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia and has done extensive study and is renowned for her knowledge on this topic. The report builds on other research done about the participation of women in the paid workforce in South Australia, and I am advised that for the past three years women have participated in VET courses at a higher rate than men, which is interesting. I understand that women also complete more university education than do men, so one could say that we are better qualified than men.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The honourable member is right: there is still a significant income differential. The Premier's Council for Women is to be commended for commissioning this important research. The research, as well as work done previously by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology, will provide a foundation for the development of the women's employment strategy. I met recently with minister O'Brien to discuss the development of that strategy. It is anticipated that there needs to be significant cross agency involvement in that, considering the areas it covers. Obviously we would want that to focus on achievable outcomes relating to work/life balance, women's participation in non-traditional industries, flexible work arrangements and reskilling and upskilling of women seeking to participate in the paid workforce. That report has been released and will inform our policy development and program strategies in future.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Will the minister advise, following this line of questioning, whether that report is feeding into any training of women in the public sector, with a view to advancing them into more senior management positions?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: It needs to be a multi-agency approach because of the scope of policy these issues cut across. It is not just training and education but also areas to do with industrial relations, such as workplace conditions and improving workplace flexibility. It cuts across a number of agencies, and obviously they all need to be involved in the way we input into and develop our future programs for women, including training and education.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On the same volume reference, the second area the Premier's Council for Women focuses on is women's health, safety and well-being. The minister mentioned in estimates that the Premier's Council for Women meets with minister Hill to address emerging women's health issues. Will the minister provide more details on what emerging health issues have been identified by the Premier's Council for Women?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: My understanding of the work that has been done in relation to the Premier's Council for Women is that it does meet reasonably regularly with the health agency and that it has a position on and provides input into the Women's Health Action Plan Steering Committee. The council feeds in that way and continues to advocate that health policy. Implementation strategies should continue to be viewed through a gendered lens in order to best address women's health needs.

The council closely monitors the development of that Women's' Health Action Plan through that position in particular. The other thing in which the Premier's council is actively involved is promoting gender disaggregation of the South Australian Strategic Plan target data and implementing strategies to ensure its disaggregated status so that we are better able to see the way in which our policy impacts on women in particular.