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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5236

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (18:08): I have a question for the Assistant Treasurer that is in five parts but in one area. The Minister for Finance and the Deregulation put out a release at budget time this year about more funding for the Women on Boards initiative. Can the Assistant Treasurer take me through some of those developments that have occurred in the BoardLinks program over the last few months, and have there been any further appointments of BoardLinks candidates to government boards? Can he tell me a little about the champions that have been put in place to advocate for the network, and what are the next steps with that?

I am continually surprised—I should not be, having been in public life and even in private enterprise for a long time—by the low number of women who end up on boards. When I see all the talented women in the community, I do not understand why they are not on those boards. Why don't they put them on? There is always this debate, and there is a perennial debate about whether or not we have targets. My view is that, if we do not support it through public policy and public mechanisms, it will be another thousand years before women have some sort of equity on boards. It is one of those things that make me continually surprised but not shocked. It would be pleasing to see. It is also one of those things where, unless there is absolute vigilance about it, the numbers may go up but then they can slip back so easily. It is not just a numbers game. It is about equity, it is about talent, it is about inclusion and it is about our society being reflected in our business community. It could even be a reflection of this place, although there is certainly not an equitable distribution of gender here.

Ms O'Dwyer: Although the minister is outnumbered here.

Ms SAFFIN: Well, there are four of us here! Good point, Member for Higgins. So it is a bit of a different place. But I would like to know, firstly, Assistant Treasurer, just what information you have to hand about the Women on Boards initiative and where it is at. Also, what are the next steps? Because we have champions, we have mechanisms in place and there is some funding in place, but how do we actually—and I am not saying government is responsible—encourage that in the community? Through the relationships that we have with the community at large and particularly with boards and some of the big corporates, we should make sure that we encourage that equity at every level. As people say, you have to get your own house in order first, and it is important that we all do that and take every step that we possibly can, including choosing female candidates for preselection. I will finish on that point, Minister—on a high note!