In a submission to the Senate Inquiry, Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, said the bill would create a legislative framework to a policy of gender balance on Australian Government boards and committees formally put in place by the previous Labor Government and endorsed by the current Coalition Government.
"This bill provides the Government the opportunity to make a statement that its boards and committees should be gender balanced, thereby committing it and future Governments to mainstreaming gender equality and increasing awareness that gender balance builds social, economic and political cohesion."
Ms Braund commented that the bill was timely as the issue of gender representation within Parliamentary representatives is clearly hotting up in both the Liberal and Labor parties at the moment.
"While members of both parties will ultimately decide (and be judged) on how they move forward (or not) on this issue, the Government of the day has a clearer obligation when it comes to its boards and committees."
The are many hundreds of boards, committees and advisory bodies that portfolios and departments depend on for advice and public accountability. It is critical these are representative of those they seek to serve," Ms Braund said.
Ms Braund went on to say that the bill in mandating a 40:40:20 target would achieve a number of positive outcomes:
Increase accountability and compliance from Minister and Departments whose boards and committees are not gender diverse.
Ensure greater transparency and consistency in the selection and recruitment of board and committee members.
Improve governance and performance as result of having more diverse and gender balanced bodies.
On the comment that the bill imposes a quota, Ms Braund said the bill is well framed in that it echoes the “If not, why not” compliance regime of the Australian Corporate Governance Council’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, rather than setting penalties for failure to comply such as would be the case should a ‘quota’ be imposed.
"The wording of the bill clearly indicates 40 per cent is a mandatory target which is desirable for the portfolio to reach in the case of both male and female representation on boards and committees."
"Sufficient exclusions apply in Subclause 7(2) of the bill to ensure that where men or women need to be appointed to a board or committee by virtue of a position they hold or if the 40:40 gender balance cannot be mathematically achieved on a board of four of less, then an exception can be made. This will allow flexibility and common sense to prevail and ensure the bill remains workable."