Sunday, 19 October 2008

Election Survey: Daphne Lawless (RAM)

Daphne Lawless is number 9 on RAM's party list, and standing for them in the seat of New Lynn. She's the first of RAM's candidates to get a response in, and you can read a full index of all candidate responses to date here.

Question 1. What do you believe is currently the single biggest issue facing New Zealand women, and how would you like to address it if you are elected?
The biggest issue facing women in this country is social inequality - meaning most women haven't benefited from the advances made by middle-class women in the last 40 years. The working population of this country, particularly in the low-paid service industries, is increasingly
female, but there has not been a significant shift away from the assumption that women should raise their families without compensation from society. Plus, issues of violence against women and children are inextricably linked with issues of poverty and social exclusion.

RAM's Plan is to reward women's work in raising families with a $2,000 baby bonus, and in other ways to remove the pressure on working families. We will take GST off food, provide free school lunches in needy areas, and provide free education up to tertiary level to this end.

Question 2. New Zealand women are paid, on average, over $300 a week less than men, and the difference is worse for Maori and Pacific Island women. What do you propose as a first step towards closing the gender pay gap?
Overwhelmingly, the gender pay gap can be traced back to the fact that the market economy values the traditionally "feminine" (caregiving) occupations far lower than their actual worth to society. Women in particular are expected to bear and raise the next generation without
reward, and are stigmatised if they need social assistance to do so. RAM will begin to shift the balance with a $2,000 baby bonus for all new mums. Since a bigger proportion of women are in low-paid work, our policy of an immediate rise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour will give women in general a "leg-up" in our economy.

Question 3. Do you think NZ's current approach to reproductive rights (abortion, contraception etc) is correct? (Yes or No or No Answer, please) If not, what changes would you want to make?
I think it's a basic principle of human rights that women should be able to control their own fertility. Safe, effective contraception is still considered a "luxury item" by this society, meaning that working women in particular do not have this choice. We need to be removing the economic
and social barriers which prevent all women making a free choice about if and when to bear children. I don't think women exercising that choice should face any financial penalty or bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

Question 4. The police and the courts do not work in preventing violence against women. What other government actions would you take to ensure women can live without fear.
The adversarial court system - which awards points to a defence lawyer who can successfully smear and abuse the character of complainants, as in the recent police rape trials - needs serious reform, so that women and other survivors of violence can feel safe in seeking justice. The whole culture of the police - based on a kind of "pack mentality" which rewards macho behaviour from both male and female officers, and values supporting other cops above seeking justice - needs to be reformed, from top to bottom.

Question 5. Those who do the caring work in our society, paid and unpaid, are often the least recognized and the lowest paid, and they work the longest hours. What do you see as the priority to address these issues for those caring for our sick, our elderly and our children?
An immediate rise to $15 of the minimum wage will predominately benefit those in paid caring work. As to those in unpaid caring work, we need to look at the system which offers a higher subsidy for institutionalised care of the sick or elderly than to those who choose to care for their
loved ones at home.

Question 6. The Ministry of Health has recently launched a campaign to encourage breastfeeding and is now recommending that babies be breastfeed to at least one year old. What do you think the government could do to ensure that every woman who wants to breast feed can?
Probably the best thing that can be done is to require workplaces to offer appropriate places to breastfeed, and for it to be made clear in law that breastfeeding in public is not "offensive behaviour".

Question 7. What single measure do you think our political organizations could take to better encourage young women to be involved and take on leadership positions in our communities?
I feel that older generation of activists sometimes have difficulty understanding the new ways in which young people think and organize. Methods of organisation and activism which were appropriate for the 1970s and 1980s are not going to excite and attract young people in the age of Facebook and iPhones. If you look at various youth cultures and communities, online and in the flesh, young women are standing up for themselves and showing leadership. It's just that this tends to happen "under the radar" of traditional organisations. For example, young women
were at the forefront of helping to organise the recent "Supersize My Pay" fast-food workers' industrial action.

To put it simply, the best thing for political organisations to do is to look at what young women are actually doing, how they are showing leadership, and offer support for their initiatives, rather than trying to cynically "co-opt" them.

Question 8. Do you see domestic violence as an issue for women, for men, or for all New Zealanders? (Women, or Men, or all New Zealanders please) If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?
Domestic violence affects all New Zealanders in that it not only affects the (overwhelmingly female) direct sufferers but children who grow up in such an atmosphere, both male and female. The (overwhelmingly male) perpetrators of violence need to take responsibility for their inexcusable actions. But violence is embedded in the very logic of our society. "Beating" and "punishing" the competition are the goals to strive for in our market economy - and with such messages being fundamental to our culture, it's no wonder all that violence ends up being channelled towards the most vulnerable.

Only a real social and economic shift away from the values of competition and violence will seriously change the culture of semi-condoned violent behaviour which exists just under the surface. As long as men are essentially told they have to be tough and violent to "compete" to
survive, this violence will be misdirected. This means the economic empowerment of women - which RAM promotes by our "baby bonus" - along with a general lifting of the pressure on the most vulnerable families and communities with a rise in the minimum wage, GST food, and RAM's other pro-people and pro-woman policies. It also means a long-term shift to a new economy of social solidarity, which gives the caring professions and vocations their true social value.

Question 9. Successive governments have effectively cut the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Do you believe people raising children alone should have sufficient financial support from the state so that they do not need to go to work until they believe that is the best choice for their family? (Yes or No or No Answer, please)
Yes, yes, yes.

Question 10. Women do the vast majority of cooking and shopping, and increases in food prices are a burden borne disproportionately by women. What do you think our government can or should do to ensure that everyone has access to good food?
RAM's best-known policy is for the immediate removal of GST from all food. This will take a lot of economic pressure off mothers and caregivers in the struggle to feed their families. We also promote a policy of free, nutritious school lunches in the most economically needy areas. Under RAM, no mother or caregiver in New Zealand will have to worry about how to fill her children's bellies.

Question 11. Do you have any further comments that you wish to make about the role of women in our society? Please feel free to share your thoughts here.
Sometimes people are confused by the fact that an increasing proportion of politicians and corporate big-wigs are women. But the flip side of this is that an increasing proportions of struggling, low-paid workers, dependent on incomes from multiple jobs just to put food on the table, are women as well. I think that the opinion-shapers of this society have to stop congratulating themselves on how women have managed to shinny up the ladder of a fundamentally violent and unequal society, and realise that we still need a major social transition before women's rights are anything more than empty words to the vast majority of women.

For more details, please check out the full RAM Plan at

1 comment:

Julie said...

Can I get that baby bonus retrospectively? ;-)

I'm glad to see candidates from parties outside Parliament engaging with the survey, like Daphne, and those from the Alliance, and the Libz.