I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Urban Development and Planning a question on the subject of the Premier's Women's Directory.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Members would no doubt have seen an article published on Monday 31 August on the front page of The Advertiser entitled 'Board wife' in relation to the appointment of Mrs Davina Quirke to the Development Policy Advisory Committee. The minister was quoted in the paper as having said that Mrs Quirke was one of very few female applicants for the Development Policy Advisory Committee.
In relation to a debate in parliament, the minister is also quoted as saying in relation to another area in respect of board appointments:
By the time you try to balance up all the factors (including gender balance), and with people with these types of experiences, the one thing I have learned in my experience as a minister is that the most important thing above all is competence in running a board. That is the overwhelming criterion.
Under freedom of information we have obtained correspondence between the minister's office and the Premier's Women's Directory in which a letter was sent to the minister's department outlining the role of the Premier's Women's Directory which, for the benefit of honourable members, contains over 600 names of qualified women, and its purpose is to promote the appointment of more women with relevant experience to boards. My questions are:
1.Did the minister conduct a search of the Premier's Women's Directory, given that only a few women had applied for the position?
2.How many people applied for those positions and, of those, how many were women?
3.Does the minister stand by his comments in Hansard of 5 June which I quoted in relation to criteria for appointments to boards?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:43): I was delighted to appoint members to the Development Policy Advisory Committee. There were 14 applications for the 10 positions—that much I can tell the honourable member—and roughly half of them were women—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Very few?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: I would have thought that was very few; given that there were 10 positions, one might have expected a lot more. Certainly, Mrs Quirke was the only woman elected councillor to nominate for a position. If the honourable member looks at the criteria for statutory positions for DPAC, she would see that two of those positions are for people with wide experience in local government. So, of those who applied, she was clearly the outstanding candidate. There were a range of other candidates. In relation to the Premier's Women's Directory, I have used that on occasions for other appointments, but not on this occasion because—
An honourable member interjecting:
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: No, it was not inconvenient at all. There are not a great deal of applicants for positions such as DPAC, which pays a little over $6,000 a year, involving meetings at least once a month, sometimes all over the state. Sometimes they are held more often. There is also a range of public meetings that have to be held. After all, the role of DPAC is to conduct consultation on behalf of the minister on development plan amendments, and some of those meetings can go until midnight and beyond.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons there were vacancies on the committee was that several other very capable women and other members in the past had not renominated because of the demands of this committee. There is no doubt that Mrs Quirke will do an excellent job. I think it is a bit rich for members opposite to complain about somebody who takes the interest to apply. Incidentally, after this matter was beat up—and, of course, it was Mr Winderlich from the Democrats—
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Well, he did by admission. It was Mr Winderlich who campaigned against this. Presumably, it was something to do with what is happening on Burnside council, even though, of course, the appointment of Mrs Quirke was made well before those issues came to light; in fact, she was appointed in April this year and has attended a number of meetings. I would have thought that the tone of Mr Winderlich's press statement was potentially defamatory, but that is another story, and it is up to him to—
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: It is not up to me; it is up to them, but it was certainly incorrect. For example, it stated that Mrs Quirke was a member of the ALP; however, as I understand it, she resigned prior to running for local government, but that did not stop the honourable member. That was just one of the many errors in his press release. So, that is how all this came about, and it was quite incorrect.
I thought Mrs Quirke defended her position admirably in the media in response to those calls. She pointed out that she was one of 12 people who had been elected to the LGWA executive. So, although she has been in council for a relatively short time, she was able to be elected to the LGWA executive. I think it is about time that, rather than attacking people who show the initiative to nominate for positions, when it is hard enough to get people to do these jobs, members opposite congratulate those who come forward for these boards. Certainly they would not be on a board like this for the money they get out of it. I appreciate the members of the community who make the effort to nominate for these boards, even if members opposite do not.
In relation to the appointment of women to these boards, the State Strategic Plan has targets, and we try to balance it up. The article in The Advertiser on that Monday morning did not directly quote me but stated that Mrs Quirke was appointed because she was a woman. That was not the case. It was not a direct quote but, of course, that did not stop the Liberals phoning all their fellow travellers who write to The Advertiser and who ring up talkback radio. You could almost see Rob Lucas's words and tell whether it was a Lucas script when they talked.
A few people rang up and suggested that, because it was reported that way, I had appointed Mrs Quirke solely because she was a woman. The point I was making to the reporter was that it is state government policy that we attempt to get a balance in representation, not just a gender balance but a balance in representation right across the board.
I notice that in those press reports Mrs Quirke was denigrated because she did not have development experience. If you wanted a developer on DPAC, you would appoint someone with development experience. DPAC should be a committee that represents the local community, and who better to be a member than someone who stands for local government and who runs for local government to represent their local community? Apparently, that is not the way things operate with members opposite. They do not believe that someone who bothers to take the time to run and represent their local community should be on a committee such as this. Mrs Quirke was appointed as one of the nominees for the committee because she is competent to undertake the position. As I understand it, she has been elected to the LGA executive, and I think that clearly indicates that her appointment has merit.