Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Did Wong mislead Parliament?

On 18th February Catherine Delahunty asked the Minister of Women's Affairs some questions about the gender breakdown of appointments to a number of important committees established by National, specifically:
  • The National Infrastructure Advisory Board (8 men, no women)
  • The Tax Working Group (13 men, no women)
  • Don Brash's 2025 Taskforce (5 men, 1 woman)
  • The Independent Advisory Group on National Standards (4 men, 1 woman)
I blogged about the exhange around the pay gap at the time, and also about the Minister's response on the issue of women on boards, which included:
Hon PANSY WONG: The member will be pleased to know that the Government looks at the overall result, and in the quarter from October to December 2009, 47 percent of the board members appointed to Government boards and committees were women. I acknowledge my National Cabinet colleagues for recognising and appointing competent women to their boards.
Readers may recall I had been in discussion with the Ministry of Women's Affairs about accessing information to verify this, and do some further analysis*. Good on them, they came up with the goods, after a bit of a hiccup which they went to a great deal of trouble to make up for.

And what the data from the MWA shows is quite clear. Wong is correct with her 47% figure for appointments to Permanent State Sector Boards and Committees in the Oct-Dec 2009 Quarter (in fact it was 47.4%). To be counted in the Permanent category, for the stocktaking figure the Minister used to respond to Delahunty's query, a board or committee must be permanent, which is defined in the MWA information as "bodies established to work on a particular project that are expected to have completed their core business within a year."

But Delahunty didn't ask about Permanent State Sector Boards and Committees and she didn't ask about appointments made in the final quarter of 2009, which Wong relied on to respond to questioning in the House. In fact none of the appointments Delahunty asked about would have been included in the stat the Minister quoted to rebut implications her Government wasn't walking their talk on women's representation on their own boards.

The Tax Working Group was set up in May 2009 and has already completed its work (so not Permanent, and not counted in that quarter anyway). The Independent Advisory Group on National Standards started up in February 2010 and the Minister's statement indicated it will only be operating in the first year of the implementation of National Standards, i.e. for the rest of 2010 (also therefore not Permanent, and also not in that quarter).

Both the National Infrastructure Advisory Board and the 2025 Taskforce would fit in the Permanent category. But the former was established in May 2009, while the latter's spots were appointed in July 2009. So again, that single woman, and 13 men, would not have been in Wong's precious 47% figure.

I'm not an expert on what constitues appropriate responses to Parliamentary Questions, so I'll ask you, dear readers - did Wong mislead Parliament?

* More on this when I have a chance to properly write it up.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Perhaps the newly appointed Welfare Working Group will satisfy your irrational desire for equal gender representation.

6 of the 8 are women. 75%.

Julie said...

Pretty off topic Lindsay, and something I will address when I get around to writing something about the figures the Ministry sent me.

Anyone able to inform me if Wong's answer does sufficiently address Delahunty's questions, or whether there is a possibility she mislead the House?

Anonymous said...

"irrational desire for equal gender representation."

Are you aware that you're on a feminist blog Lindsay?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Off topic??

You wrote about representation on;

* The National Infrastructure Advisory Board (8 men, no women)
* The Tax Working Group (13 men, no women)
* Don Brash's 2025 Taskforce (5 men, 1 woman)
* The Independent Advisory Group on National Standards (4 men, 1 woman)

The Welfare Working group is National's latest 'important' committee.

This is a feminist blog? Get away.

Julie said...

Lindsay you can clearly see from the title of the post and the content that the point I am raising with this post is that it looks to me like Wong may have misled the House when replying to Delahunty's questions. I'm not sure if this would constitute misleading in the Parliamentary sense so I'm asking if anyone else there knows because misleading Parliament is actually a Pretty Big Deal.

I've already indicated I will be writing more soon on the issue of women's representation on boards etc, including the Welfare one, but it's nice to know you are so keen to read my thoughts on the matter.