MEDIA RELEASE (Senator Nick Xenophon)

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has introduced legislation to ensure the Government meets its target of balanced gender representation on boards and improve reporting requirements in relation to gender balance.

The new Bill seeks to implement existing Government policy, first introduced by the previous Labor Government in 2010 and maintained under the current Government, which sets a target of 40 per cent men, 40 per cent women, and 20 per cent unallocated. The Bill would create a positive obligation for Government to meet the targets.

Senator Xenophon said the Australian Government Boards (Gender Balanced Representation) Bill 2015 was necessary given figures showing just nine out of 18 boards met the Government’s target in 2013-14, compared to 13 boards which met the target in 2012-13.

“It’s concerning that there’s been an alarming slip in gender balance on government boards. This does not represent community expectations, or the fact that women make up 51 per cent of the Australian population,” said Nick.

Figures compiled by the Office for Women show that women made up 38 per cent of members of Government boards overall in 2013-14, falling from 41 per cent in 2012-13. A link to the past reports is here.

The Bill aims to establish the Australian Government as a leader in balanced gender representation, with expert evidence mounting that boards with roughly equal numbers of men and women are more effective. The Bill was co-sponsored by Greens Senator Larissa Waters, Independent Senators Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus.

If adopted, the existing reporting requirements for portfolios would be bolstered: they would continue to provide statistical information to the Office for Women, which then publishes the Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report.

But the Bill would also require each portfolio to prepare a more detailed report each financial year, setting out the gender composition of each board within that portfolio. Further, the Minister for Women would then publish that information in a consolidated report, to be tabled in Parliament.

The Bill’s webpage is here.