Premier's Council For Women

18 Oct 2011 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for the Status of Women on the subject of the Premier's women's council.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Under freedom of information, I sought correspondence between the Premier and the Premier's Council for Women over a one-year period, from July 2010 to July 2011. Some 35 documents were received by my office between the Premier's Council for Women, mostly relating to letters of appointment to the council. Contained in there was an invitation to, I think, tea and Christmas drinks, but there were no documents which related to policy matters, and there was not a clear indication of whether the Premier had even met with his council for women. My question is: is this title, the Premier's Council for Women, in fact accurate, and will she seek to change it so that it reflects more accurately what their relationship is?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (15:23): The opposition really have a bee in their bonnet about this committee. I have to say that I find it quite perplexing to see the level of agitation that the title 'Premier's women's council' elicits in the opposition. It sends them into an absolute frenzy, which is quite curious. They just can't get their heads around the fact that the Premier is very much committed to this committee and that he is also very committed to women's issues in general.

In terms of providing for a Strategic Plan target around increasing women's representation, we led the nation—and we are still leading the nation—in setting targets for women's representation on government boards, chair positions and also executive numbers. This is a premier who was prepared to be brave enough to put forward targets that could be clearly monitored and measured, and clearly available in the public arena, and we have achieved an enormous amount in those areas. From inheriting from the former Liberal government something like a low 30 per cent membership of women on boards and committees, we are now sitting at about 46 per cent. I am absolutely convinced that setting a target such as we did was a major contributor to us being able to focus public awareness on this issue and achieve the increased representation we have. Similarly, we have done extraordinarily well with women in executive positions in our Public Service as well.

The Premier's Council for Women was established in 2002. It provides leadership and advice to ensure that the interests of women are at the forefront of government policy. I have said before in this place and in the estimates hearings that the council conducts a planning type forum. From time to time it does a sort of environmental analysis on where its efforts might best be focused for the next year or two; and it determines its priorities accordingly. The government does not interfere in that process. The council is given the ability to determine and assess what it believes from the experience contained within its committee—and there is vast experience there, with women from all sorts of different walks of life with all types of backgrounds and qualifications. The council conducts that, determines what its priorities will be, and works around those priorities.

The Premier has met with that committee, and I also meet with it regularly. It has contributed to highlighting of a whole range of issues, particularly the importance of gender disaggregation data. As members would be aware, the PCW was key to developing the gender indicators on the online website, a free resource that assists policymakers across government and non-government sectors, researchers and students in terms of having access to this gender disaggregated data.

I was also very pleased to see that the PCW had a very influential effect on the refreshed Strategic Plan target, where a commitment has been given to provide gender disaggregation to an increased number of data collected in relation to monitoring our progress in terms of our Strategic Plan targets. Again, that assists us not only in assessing how well we are doing but it also points out where we might need to direct our efforts in the future.

As I said, the PCW has played, and continues to play, an integral role in the revision of our Strategic Plan targets. The PCW conducted a comprehensive public engagement session in the lead-up to the revised Strategic Plan targets, and had a quite significant input there. It meets with chief executives in relation to the planned targets, particularly those relating to their policy areas. For example, it has met with the Chief Executive of the Department of Health to discuss the council's priorities around health targets, which involves health, weight, Aboriginal health and a number of other health targets, with the chief executive of the department for education to progress the council's priority around women in science and maths, with the Attorney-General's Department to progress towards the council's priority regarding statewide crime rates, and, of course, with the Commissioner for Public Employment in relation to women in the executive of the Public Service.

They are to be absolutely commended for the extremely valuable work that they do. As I said, the status that this council has been given reflects on the commitment our Premier has had in relation to ensuring that we receive sound advice in relation to women's issues.