Government Boards and Committees

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:21 :24 ): I rise to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question about female representation on government boards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The state Labor government, of which the minister opposite is the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, has set two targets in its State Strategic Plan: target 30, boards and committees: increase the number of women on all state government boards and committees to 50 per cent on average by 2014, and maintain it thereafter ensuring that 50 per cent of women are appointed on average each quarter; and target 31 was to increase the number of women chairing state government boards and committees to 50 per cent by 2014.

The minister may have heard her colleague this morning, the Minister for Tourism, and if she didn't I am sure she is aware of it, but he was talking on radio this morning about the abolition of the Tourism Commission Board that is to be replaced by an 'industry panel' and I think there is a range of new arrangements where these so-called 'industry panels' will be replacing the current boards. My question is: will these industry panels adhere to the same policy, that is, 50 per cent female representation for state government boards and committees, as exist at present?

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) ( 14:22 :45 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. This government is very proud of the fact that it has the courage to stand up and set itself targets for government boards and committees. We did that, unlike the previous Liberal government which never set itself targets and which was never publicly accountable in the same way that we have been for our South Australia Strategic Plan targets.

We set ourselves a target of 50 per cent representation of women on boards and committees, and I am very pleased to say that at the last tally we were sitting on 48 per cent, so we had a slight increase again up to 48 per cent. Although, obviously, that is still not 50 per cent, we will still continue to strive to achieve 50 per cent on our government boards and committees. Nevertheless, I point out that we lead the nation in terms of having one of the highest representations of women on government boards and committees, and we have also done very well in relation to our chairs. We set a target for our chairs, and I believe that we are up to 40.12 per cent for chair positions and, again, we have been trending towards slow and steady increases in those numbers as well.

Of course, these were significant increases on the shameful figures that we inherited from the former Liberal government in terms of the representation on government boards and committees then. The numbers were quite shameful. This government was not afraid to step into that space and set itself targets. That target—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I have answered this question before but I am happy to—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The minister is in the process of giving an answer to your very important question so let us give show respect in allowing her to finish the answer.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: They just don't like to hear our good news, Mr President. The government remains committed to that target, just as I reported in this place I think just last week. I made it quite clear that the government continues to remain committed to achieving 50 per cent representation of women on government boards and committees.

If they are not government boards and committees the government has very little control over prescribing targets for those boards and committees that are outside the government. However, clearly what this government is trying to achieve is to act as a role model for all sectors to show that this 50 per cent can be achieved, and we use it to showcase what can be done and to encourage the private sector, including the NGO sector, to follow our lead and also commit to a 50 per cent women representation on boards and committees. Certainly any other body or authority will be encouraged in the same way that this government encourages all sectors to follow our lead.

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