Referral and consideration of the bill
The International Aid (Promoting Gender Equality) Bill 2015 was
introduced as a private senators' bill by Senator Rhiannon on 5 March 2015.
The Explanatory Memorandum for the bill states that:
[The bill] directs Commonwealth aid officials to consider the
impact of any official development or humanitarian assistance in reducing
In her second reading speech, Senator Rhiannon argued that:
The measures set out in this Bill are needed to help
recalibrate Australian aid to meet the needs of women and girls in low income
countries. In some cases, projects with the simple aim of increasing economic
activity may actually exacerbate gender inequality.
Having originally been referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs
on 12 May 2015 the bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and
Trade Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 17 June 2015.
The deadline for reporting was extended until 17 September 2015.
The reasons for referral initially cited by the Selection of Bills
Two of the Millennium Development Goals (3 and 5) state the
importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Our
Foreign Minister has stated a recognition that the empowerment of women and
girls is fundamental to promoting economic growth and stronger aid-recipient
An inquiry offers the chance to investigate the following:
Australia's official development and humanitarian assistance does
not recognise that simply increasing economic activity in the recipient country
fails to address the specific historical and cultural bases for gender
There is no legislated requirement that gender equality be
considered in the delivery of aid programs, regardless of any stated intention.
In some cases, projects with a simple aim of increasing economic
activity may indeed exacerbate these problems.
Operation of the bill
The bill has two substantive provisions. Clause 4 creates a duty for
Commonwealth aid officials to have regard to how the provision of official
development assistance will contribute to reducing inequality between persons
of different gender. Commonwealth aid officials who make a decision relating to
the provision of humanitarian assistance must have regard to any gender-related
differences in the needs of those affected by the disaster or emergency so that
those with specific needs can be accommodated.
Clause 5 requires the Minister for Foreign Affairs to present to each
House of Parliament a report 'setting out how, during the previous financial
year, the Commonwealth used international aid to promote gender equality in
recipient countries'. This report is to be presented annually, within 15
sitting days after the end of the financial year.
Conduct of inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website. The committee also
wrote to individuals and organisations likely to have an interest in the bill,
drawing their attention to the inquiry and inviting them to make written
The committee received 16 submissions to the inquiry. These submissions
are listed at Appendix 1, and are available on the committee's website. The committee held a public
hearing on 14 August 2015. Witnesses who appeared at the public hearing are
listed at Appendix 2.
The committee thanks all those who assisted with the inquiry.
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