Michelle Lensink

Gender Policy

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question about the status of women on boards and committees.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The list of boards and committees and the gender breakdown thereof was tabled earlier this week. I have had a keen look through the list and noted the following: that in particular in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet only 28.6 per cent of board and committee representatives are female; and I noted that in Defence SA only one of nine of its representatives was a female and that for the Economic Development Board it was three of 11. My questions to the minister are:

1.What measures are in place to address boards and departments, particularly the Premier's department, which has not reached its targets?

2.Does she have any comments in relation to Defence SA and the Economic Development Board and their level of representation, particularly given the importance of their roles to South Australia and to infrastructure and economic issues for this state?
 
The Hon. G.E. GAGO  (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)  ( 14:27 :13 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions and her ongoing interest in this particular area. I am very proud to be part of a government that leads the nation in terms of having some of the highest representation of women on government boards and committees and also in executive government positions.

We have set ourselves a specific target—and we believe in targets. The opposition says that we don't achieve them but not only do they not set targets but their representation of women is appalling. When we took over, the state of our government boards was appalling.

I am convinced that one of the reasons that we have been so successful in elevating the representation of women on government boards is the fact that we were brave enough, had the courage to set ourselves a clear target that we were held publicly accountable for—and internally accountable for as well. We are sitting just below that at about 38 per cent. I am convinced that unless we were prepared to set ourselves that target I am confident that we would have been nowhere near those levels. Setting ourselves a target has assisted considerably.

In terms of the measures put in place, we have very slowly but steadily increased our representation of women on boards. We keep close tabs—myself in particular—on the progress of each board when board members come up for reappointment. Obviously there are some areas that are more challenging to find women appointees than others, particularly in areas like Vet Affairs and defence, where the industry itself is highly under-represented.

Therefore, when we are looking for industry representation, it is difficult. Nevertheless, we take the challenge right up, and under our Acts Administration Act organisations and statutory bodies, when putting forward their appointees for boards, are required for each vacancy to nominate at least one man and one woman, from which the government is then able to choose. Some organisations are better at doing that than are others. We continue to write to them and to pressure them to comply with that. Overall, we are very close to 50 per cent, and I am confident we will achieve that and we will be the first jurisdiction to do so. We remain ever vigilant, and I continue to monitor our progress.

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