Monday, 20 October 2008

Election Survey: Hilary Calvert (Act)

This response is from Hilary Calvert, Act's candidate for Dunedin North, and no. 6 on the Act Party List. Other Act responses received to date have been from Colin du Plessis, Peter Tashkoff, Matthew Gardiner, and we have at least one more scheduled to go up in the next few days. You can see the full list of survey responses to date here.

The Questions & Answers
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?

ACT answer: Tax burden. ACT's policy is for 12.5% tax up to $20,000 and 15% tax over $20,000 by the year 2018/19 Currently families pay far too much if 1 of the family contributes more of the paid work. And for women without children they pay far too much in general.

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?
Our policies are towards helping to lift the lower paid. This is much more important than having them the same. The only way you can ensure that everyone gets the same is by bringing the top down to meet the lower paid people.

Question 3. Do you think NZ's current approach to reproductive rights (abortion, contraception etc) is correct? (Yes or No or No Answer, please) No
If not, what changes would you want to make?
Wahetever rules we make should be the same for everyone throughout NZ. And we should be trying to reduce abortion like we worked on drinking and driving.

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.
Our policy is to support the apprehension and approriate punishment for all crime whether major or monir. We support mentoring programmes for families at risk to break the cycle. We support 3 strikes and you're out. The state should pay reparations awarded to victims and then recover the monrey from the offenders. And we wouild provide more police.

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?
The biggest offenders in paying low wages to these workers are government departments and government funded organisations. The government should actually be good employers if they expect others to be. ACC should not expect family members to look after their own for free.

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?
The government role is 1 of encouragement and support, particularly for the first 3 months. If we only incentivised plunket nurses to help establish breast feeding the way we incentivise cops to issue tickets....But the government cannot ensure anything only encourage and enable.

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?
Not the job of political organisations, unless you mean shchools who should be providing training for democracy the way they used to provide children with encouragement to talk in front of the class.

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) All NZers.
If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?
See above. Repeal the anti smacking law so as parents feel confident in teaching children right from wrong. We all know that beating children is wrong,. And we also know that leaving them out of control is wrong. They then grow up out of control.

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)
No one in NZ has the luxury to choose work options solely on the basis of the best choice for their family, so no they are not special in this regard.

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?
Let them keep more of their own money so they can buy food. No one can promise good food. I don't even know what you are calling good food.

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.
Women's role seems to me similar to mens, but with slightly different choices. I think children are best brought up by 2 adultas who love them to bits, preferably at least 1 doing the nurturing role and at least 1 doing the hunter gathering role. I think the nurturing people are best if they can have a nurturing role, whether they are men or women, and the hunter gatherers need to be able to support their families other than by government handouts.


Hugh said...

Wahetever rules we make should be the same for everyone throughout NZ.

I'm sure feminists will be able to take comfort from the fact that an ACT government would not discriminate on the basis of gender and forbid men from having abortions too.

And we should be trying to reduce abortion like we worked on drinking and driving.

Of course, the main way the government tries to refuse drinking and driving is by making it against the law.

And people wonder why ACT 'doesn't get credit as a liberal party', although I think the meta-story is that ACT's candidate recruitment this electoral cycle has been shockingly scatter-shot and chiefly reminescent of New Zealand First's in 1996.

Heine said...

Yet another predictable answer from Hugh. ACT, like all parties, have selection policy rules and standards. I've known Hilary for many years and she is a very strong candidate and a great person as well. You should think before you write Hugh.

Hugh said...

I'm sure Hillary is a lovely person. My point was that I'm not getting a consistent political philosophy out of the ACT candidates who've responded so far on issues like abortion and the economic status of the family.

Perhaps you can tell me Clint - what happened to Ken Shirley? Muriel Newman? Deborah Coddington? Did they apply to be selected this year? Are they still ACT members?

Anna said...

Hillary is quite a long standing candidate, but it is interesting to see the divergence of views - support for traditional family values amongst some, and more libertarian views around family structure, gender etc on the other.

It's not a new phenomenon either. You can see the two different views coming through in Murial Newman's 'How to live on an oily rag' books from the 90s, if anyone's read those.

This is obviously not unique to ACT - it was certainly present in the Alliance, for example, and is no doubt present in labour.

Did ACT whip their albeit small caucus on civil unions?

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

No ACT didn't whip their caucus on civil unions. From memory there were five for and four against (the two current MPs were in favour). As a leader of ACT on Campus at the time I recall our position was that we wanted our MPs to support the bill, and lobbied for that.

On abortion I think it is fair to expect that a diverse number of views to be exhibited. It isn't as simple to say that the libertarian wing support abortion and the conservatives are opposed. I feel comfortable defending opposition to abortion based on libertarian principles. People certainly can't label me a conservative by any stretch.

When people say that they can't reconcile ACT with the term liberal it is not because ACT isn't liberal, it's that people's understanding of the term has been perverted. Liberal, in the ACT sense, is Classical Liberal as opposed to the more modern, US, bleeding heart version. Classical Liberals argue for restriction and limitations on the state's involvement in people's lives and believe the role of the state is to uphold certain key rights.

Mike Collins

Psycho Milt said...

Classical Liberals argue for restriction and limitations on the state's involvement in people's lives...

Which is exactly why the readers here are finding some ACT candidate's enthusiasm for making abortion illegal difficult to reconcile with the term "the Liberal Party."

Anna said...

Thanks Mike - I find that very interesting.

It's worth noting that classical liberalism wasn't really designed for women - they weren't full legal persons back in the day, and whatever personhood/right to property ownership a woman might have had was forfeited upon marriage because of coverture. So applying a classical liberal perspective to abortion is a tricky one, as women's bodily autonomy isn't really a problem that this philosophy was designed to tackle.

The way I see it, you could take one of two stances on abortion as a classical liberal. Either, you could say it has nothing to do with the key functions of the state and therefore take no policy perspective on it, leaving it completely to individuals' discretion. Or you could regard it as an issue of women's right to do what they please with their own property (their bodies), and support the state to uphold that right.

Is that your thinking?

Anonymous said...

Anna, I acknowledge your second point about bodies being an individual's and they have control over them. I agree with that.

The difference for me with abortion is that a human life is involved. And yes I accept that there is some conjecture about whether a foetus consititutes human life. I happen to believe it does (and no I'm not religious - I'm atheist and also support euthanasia so I come from a different point of view to religious nutters and God's will people).

PM this also answers your assertion. As I said in my initial point, the role of the state is to protect certain rights - namely the right to life, liberty and property.

On the face of it there is a conflict between the right to life of the foetus and the ability of the woman to control her property - her body. To me the act of consensual sex, with all it's inherent ramifications of potential pregnancy, is the consent that is given by the woman to a foetus to grow there. That in my mind makes the priority of these two competing rights, that of the life.

I hold a different view regarding abortion for issues involving rape or unconcious thought (ie someone who doesn't actually understand the ramifications of sex, as small as that number may be).

And to head off criticism before it begins (perhaps futile?), yes I accept that women face a far harder journey to deal with unwanted pregnancy than men. Men need to take a much more active role in supporting women. Men need to bear responsibility for their actions too.

Ultimately however despite my personal views I support this largely being an issue for women to decide. It is easy I guess to postulate about the right to life from the sidelines. I know I will never be in the position to have to carry for nine months. I think it is fair to have an opinion and voice it though.

Mike Collins

Andrew said...


Thank you for your willingness to put forward your views. I think you've shown some of your colleagues - particularly Clint - that behaving churlishly with those that may disagree with you is not necessarily the way to go. I certainly found it very pleasing to read a cogent and polite discourse from 'the other side' and it has reinforced my belief that there are some within ACT's ranks who at least have intelligent and logical arguments at their disposal.

Anonymous said...


No problems at all. I think some of the churlishness, as you put it, exhibited by some people (of all stripes) is down to the fact that those putting forth their views tend to get attacked. Hugh's comments demonstrate this. As a result people become naturally defensive. Sometimes that defence is manifested as attack.

I expect to get attacked by people I disagree with, but it does make me less likely to engage with them. I'm doing so because I have a small amount of time during a busy work day where I can put my views out. I try not to attack people but have done so in the past.

I think people act the way they do not just out of frustration, but because they have nothing to lose. With all respect to the owners of this blog, surveys of this nature typically serve as a means to confirm what they already know (debate has been good here in parts though). I'm guessing no votes have changed from the answers presented from this survey. With the knowledge in mind that you are on a hiding to nothing I can understand why people react the way they do.

There are plenty of us in ACT who would rather politely discuss the issues if we have time, rather than attack the attacker but as with any large group, others prefer to take a different tack.

BTW I don't think what Clint said here was too bad. He took issue with Hugh's comments as he is entitled to do. In doing so I don't think he was overly rude. I will second what he says about Hilary being a great person.

Mike Collins

Hugh said...

OK, it's kind of sad that we've got to the point of talking about talking, but I'm really interested to know how what I said is classified as an 'attack'.

Anna said...

Yes Mike - the abortion debate is a head-on clash between two values which liberalism holds dear: property rights (mum's body) vs foetus's right to life.

That's why I think it's use is limited in some matters, particularly to do with reproduction. When it comes to pregnancy and babies, that's not the sort of reasoning most women use to make their decisions. Thinking of your body as private property in black and white terms doesn't fit with the actual experience of having to share your body, eg pregnancy and breastfeeding. It's not a time in your life when you can be as self-interested as classical liberalism says you should be. Babies don't want to hear about their mums' self-interested need for sleep in the middle of the night. They just want kai. Any liberal regime of any flavour actually relies for its success on women not being wholly self-interested, or the working of having and raising kids wouldn't get done.

Having said that, liberalism is clearly not irrelevant to feminism - that's obviously where the whole idea of women's bodily autonomy on which a lot of feminism is based comes from.

Richard McGrath reasons similarly to you (in his survey answers posted below somewhere) about consent, parental responsibility etc, but comes to the conclusion that if a woman decides against having an abortion, she has made a de facto decision to parent alone - the bloke doesn't bear any responsibility. To him, the consenting act is when the woman allows the foetus to stay in utero, not when the couple have sex.

Anonymous said...

Oh ok. Didn't see Richard's answers but will take the time to look at them.

Based on what you just said I disagree with him on two fronts. I definitely think the point of consent is the point of sex, not at point of discovering one is pregnant. And I think that responsibility for that consent rests with both male and female. As I noted earlier I understand that the consequences of this responsibility are disproportionally borne by the woman, but feel that is all the more reason why consent needs to be considered.

Hugh, I suggest you go back and read what you wrote.

"ACT government would not discriminate on the basis of gender and forbid men from having abortions too."

Snarky comment.

"although I think the meta-story is that ACT's candidate recruitment this electoral cycle has been shockingly scatter-shot and chiefly reminescent of New Zealand First's in 1996."

Sir ACT's candidates are very high quality. I would be interested in seeing what you know of the selection process and whether your observations are based on fact or simply because you don't like some of the answers you've seen here.

Mike Collins

Hugh said...

Mike, it's true the tone was snarky, but I think it's a valid point. I don't think equality-before-the-law is really a big problem in the abortion debate.

As for the second, I'm afraid I don't agree. It would be out-of-line to attack ACT candidates personally, but that's not what I did, as my clarification to Clint makes clear. I'm not arguing that ACT's candidates are nasty or unpleasant people, simply that they don't seem to be on-message on fairly critical issues.

By this I mean, of all the ACT candidates who have posted here (and I'm including Clint, even though he has not replied formally to the survey) we've seen two different views on abortion and two different views on government funding for families. This doesn't help me with deciding whether or not to vote for ACT.

Anonymous said...


Understand your points. But please be aware that we are not a party of robots. We have individual views otherwise what is the point of such surveys? As to what constitutes party policy, that's a different matter and can be described as the sum of all parts.

Mike Collins

Anna said...

Hugh's comment re men's right to abortion was obviously tongue in cheek, but I actually have heard people say things almost as nutty - eg that gay people aren't discriminated against because they do have the right to enter heterosexual marriages like everyone else. Sometimes equality under the law really is silly.

Hugh said...


I don't expect ACT to be a party of robots. However I would at least expect a clarification when a candidate's personal views are significantly different from party policy, along the lines "Of course ACT party policy is X, and if elected I will support it".

Heine said...

Hugh, don't go on playing innocent when you made it very clear what you thought of ACTs list selection policy. The whole quote that you get treated the same way as you treat others comes into play.

I'm peaches and cream to people who show others respect. Maybe you give it a go sometime?

Hugh said...

Clint, I'm sorry, but I don't see the difference between me saying I think ACT's selection policy has been crappy and you saying that Labour's economic policy has been crappy. You might disagree, and I'm presuming since your list place is a product of that policy you will disagree, but when a party's candidates can't advocate a consistent message you have a serious branding problem. I understand this is why John Ansell quit?

Anyway, the idea that criticising ACT's selection policy is somehow not cricket and shouldn't be tolerated is IMO utterly unsustainable. I'm sure ACT members and candidates have the best motives and are lovely people and all that but this is not going to help the party.

Julie said...

As for the respect issue, I haven't seen anything here that breaks our comment policy. A few things that fly close to the wind, but nothing too worrisome.

Okie dokie, can we move on please folks? or do I need to close this thread so that people get over it?

There will be another Act response up soon...

Heine said...

Ok Hugh, I'll take you on your word for that then. Each ACT candidate is allowed to hold different opinions and these questionaires are a product of what each individual may think. Otherwise we'd want one response from each party wouldn't we instead of the differing opinions that we are reading from different parties.

Oh and my list spot is fine by me as I am not actively seeking a place in Parliament. If it was in the top 15 I'd have felt bad for the excellent people behind me :)

Hugh said...

Well I've got to admit Clint, I see more value in party surveys than surveys of individual candidate's opinions. Not that I want to tell the ladies here how to do their jobs, but I wouldn't have targetted a survey at individual MPs myself. So for me it is more a way of testing party unity than looking at individuals. Particularly with small parties that target the party vote, such as ACT, it's the party which is going to be getting the votes and thus the party's position that matters.

For the record, although as you've probably guessed my personal politics are quite far from ACT's, I try to not let that get into the way of my criticisms (or praise) for their campaigning. I thought ACT ran an excellent campaign in 2002, particularly the focus on issues over personalities. Of course I didn't agree on their stance on the issues, but the idea of putting policy positions on billboards' rather than candidate's faces I can only applaud.

Julie said...

I've learnt quite a lot from doing this survey and I think we tried to do too many things at once, and would do things a bit differently next time.

We specifically wanted to survey candidates, not parties, because of the importance of the conscience vote in regard to the Abortion Question, and because we wanted to see what individuals, not parties, thought about a number of issues. Also given the tendency of individuals to leave their parties and create new ones (every party in Parliament currently except Labour & National) I think individual responses are still important despite the party-focused nature of MMP.

Anyway I've got a few thoughts about how we could do it differently (i.e. better!) next time, which I'll probably share (and welcome contribution to) in the future.