Premier's Women's Directory

10 Sep 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question on the Premier's Women's Directory.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the online news service, PS News, of the public sector of South Australia, attributions are made to the minister and to the Premier in relation to the representation of women on boards. The minister attributes the increase in the representation of women on boards to the women's directory, which I note has reached 700 names.

Through freedom of information applications, I understand that the minister has sent memos out to all ministers to encourage them to reach the target of 50 per cent on government boards. Also, the Attorney-General's Department last year wrote to all ministers, informing them of the Premier's Women's Directory and encouraging them to use this resource in appointing members to boards. Two days ago, of course, the Leader of the Government here confessed that he had not consulted the Premier's Women's Directory in respect of appointments to the DPAC. My questions to the minister are:

1.Of the 700 women listed on this directory, how many appointments have been utilised to appoint women to boards?

2.How many board appointments across government have been made without consulting the Premier's Women's Directory, as confessed the other day by minister Holloway?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:41): I thank the honourable member for her important, although misguided, question, and value the opportunity to talk about the very important initiatives and achievements of the government.

Indeed, this government has done a great deal in developing the women's directory which, we are now pleased to advise, lists over 700 board-ready women who have obtained a wide range of various skills and experience, all of which are outlined within this directory. There are, I think, 700 CVs of skilled board-ready women, and that marks a very strong increase from 450 in July 2007.

It includes 21 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, 11 women with a disability, 52 women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and 97 women from regional areas. It is the responsibility of individual ministers, when they are looking to fill positions on boards and committees, to outline a process to fill those positions. They are encouraged to go to the directory, if they need assistance, to help increase or improve their complement of women. The honourable member would need to ask each individual minister about that requirement.

This government has been very bold in setting a target of 50 per cent representation of women to fill all government boards and committees. We also set a very bold and ambitious target of 50 per cent for the number of women chairing our government boards and committees. Although we have not yet reached that target, I am very pleased to announce that as of 1 August women held 45 per cent of positions on government boards and committees. We finally got over the 45 per cent mark.

This represents an almost 13 per cent increase on the appalling record left by the former Liberal government in filling positions on boards and committees. During the former Liberal government's time, they filled about 13 per cent of the positions on government boards and committees: we have now reached 45 per cent.

There is no doubt about this government's bold—albeit ambitious—commitment to establish a Strategic Plan target of 50 per cent. We were brave enough and bold enough to set a target against which we could be measured and for which we could be held publicly accountable. We are accountable to the target. We have reached 45 per cent compared with the appalling position of 13 per cent of the former Liberal government.
In terms of chairs, this government has achieved a rate of 33 per cent of women chairing government boards and committees—a 9.34 per cent increase from 24 per cent on 1 April 2004. The Liberals left it at about 23 per cent, but this government has achieved 32.7 per cent, almost 33 per cent or almost one-third, so it can hold its head very high and be very proud of its achievements. I must correct those figures: the opposition had 32 per cent of women on boards and committees at the time it left government, and this government has achieved an increase of about 13 per cent.

That was an appalling situation that was left by the former Liberal government: only 32 per cent on boards and committees—an appalling state.
As I was saying, we are held publicly accountable to these targets; in fact, we table annually a report on the percentages for each portfolio. However, lo and behold, a month or so ago (I cannot remember exactly) it was drawn to my attention that the Hon. Michelle Lensink had FOIed this information, and it is information which is, in fact, publicly available and tabled annually.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: No; I didn't.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Well, that is what I was advised; I was advised that she had FOIed information that was publicly available. That is what I was informed. What a joke! To use resources to access information that is publicly tabled on an annual basis.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable members that it has taken 26 minutes for two questions.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I will wrap it up. In terms of the use of the directory, it is the responsibility of each individual minister to assess the process that is most appropriate to meet the requirements of their boards and committees. We advise them that the directory is available if they need it and if they believe it will be helpful to them in filling their appointments. It is there for them to use—

The Hon. R.D. LAWSON: I rise on a point of order, Mr President. Would you indicate to the minister that irrelevant prolixity and tedious repetition is prohibited under standing order 186, and sit her down?

The PRESIDENT: I am sure the minister is winding up.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I am winding up, Mr President. As I said, it is incumbent upon individuals to sort out whatever process is most suitable to them.