Monday, 13 October 2008

Election Survey: Jordan Carter (Labour)

And here's a response from Jordan Carter, Labour's candidate for Hunua and number 70 on the Labour party list. Jordan is also a blogger from way back.

The Questions & Answers
I want to start with a caveat: I am a gay man, not a woman. I don't pretend to be able to offer answers for the issues facing New Zealand women that are as useful as those which would be offered by other women, but - on the basis that we are all citizens, regardless of anything else that we are - I offer my opinions for your readers' scrutiny. Second caveat - these are my responses on a what-I-would-do basis. Labour Policy is binding on Labour MPs and I would support party policy if elected in all circumstances. On conscience issues or those treated as such, my vote would be as outlined below.

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?

If elected, I would share a broad view that one of the biggest issues is the ongoing dependence of the economy and society on unpaid domestic labour, which is mainly done by women, and the consequences this has for womens' ability to lead the lives they wish to live. We still have a society which privileges mens' experience, ways of working and ways of living. Work-life balance is only one lense through which to consider this. To address this requires a comprehensive look at how we structure the world of work, family and welfare policy, the tax and superannuation systems, the education system and so on. It is a huge issue and there is no single answer, but to me the principles that ought to apply are clear: building a society where every citizen can participate fully. That is what I would advocate for as a Member of Parliament in the Labour caucus.

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?
People doing the same work with the same experience must be paid the same. Strengthened pay equity law could assist. The second point is to consider the gender split across the workforce, and to understand that "market pay" doesn't resolve the fact that cleaners get paid substantially less than accountants. Major improvements in pay and conditions in some public or semi-public services (home and aged care, cleaning for instance) need to occur, through better labour market organisation by workers and through progressive improvements in public funding where needed. This is a systemic, structural issue that can only be solved with systemic, structural responses.

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?
No. The law should reflect the reality, and should be based in my opinion on the principle that women should have control of their reproductive rights. It is not the state's place to interfere.

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?
I would need to do a lot of reading and thinking to answer this question properly. I am caught in the short term on the horns of the liberal dilemma: I do not believe punitive law and order responses deliver behavioural improvements, but I do not accept that those who perpetrate such violence should be allowed to go without punishment. Any such violence is despicable and totally immoral, wrong and unacceptable. I do not fully understand the drivers of violence against women and so I can't propose meaningful governmental steps to address it. My apologies. I would suggest though that the enduring solution lies in cultural change, not state action, if we wish to see a future where violence against women simply does not occur.

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?
Two key approaches: improved labour market organisation that gives unions a better chance of driving up wages -- through making organising easier. Also, as mentioned, by considering pay levels not simply on a market basis, but on their distributive outcomes -- we cannot continue to have a society which pays substantially less to industries where women are concentrated, and more to industries where men are concentrated. It's not fair. To tackle this in the short term is phenomenally expensive to the public purse, so needs to be part of a broader programme of progressive change.

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?
Is it possible to legislate a right to breast-feeding? I'd support study of such a possible approach. It seems to me to be fair enough that when women are caring for young children they should be able to breast-feed as of right.

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 don't think there is one step. Parties need to look at how they operate and how that affects women's participation, and they need to look at what they expect of those in leadership positions. Both are structured in a manner that privileges men's assumption of leadership roles, given the wider issues discussed earlier in this survey. No silver bullet can force this examination or guarantee outcomes from such reflection that would improve the situation, other than a solid, public political commitment from the highest levels to do it.

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?
All New Zealanders. I think the current "It's Not OK" campaign is a good start. We need to work to build a culture where violence just isn't an option people are prepared to entertain in dealing with their disagreements. A fairer distribtuion of incomes and wealth should reduce economic pressure on families, which I believe is a spur. Ongoing changes to the drinking culture are needed to reduce alcohol abuse, which also has an effect. A broad campaign building on It's Not OK reinforcing through multiple media over time that domestic violence is not acceptable and needs to be reported could also help. I'll be interested to see the ideas other candidates throw into this discussion.

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)

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?
Ensure people have access to good incomes -- decent minimum wages, decent family support, decent benefit levels, and a fair distribution of market incomes through a progressive tax system.

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.
Equality has a broad agreement as a rhetorical concept. The challenge for our generation is to take it from rhetoric to reality, and to have men and women in politics working together to work out what that means and how to do it. We also need to accept that the state by itself can't drive all the changes we need, and that building institutions that give the space for a proper debate about this issue and its consequences for all of us is very important.

Thank you for doing this survey.


Anna said...

Hi Jordan - I liked your answers and look forward to seeing you help Labour take a hike to the left!

I was interested in your comments re women within political parties, and the implicit male privilege that goes on. My experience of political party involvement on the left (a few years ago now) involvement a commitment to gender equality in principle, but when it boiled down to the day to day activities, men would quite often speak over the top of women in meetings and assume the important policy related tasks for themselves, and the women would quite often to the cake stall type of stuff. To some extent, it's a culture clash between old-style and new-style lefties.

Have you had experiences of this sort, and if so, any thoughts on how this sort of thing can be remedied?

Julie said...

Jordan wrote:
I am caught in the short term on the horns of the liberal dilemma: I do not believe punitive law and order responses deliver behavioural improvements, but I do not accept that those who perpetrate such violence should be allowed to go without punishment.

And I have to share that this is a pretty good reflection of some of the debate we had about writing this question. It was the most difficult to write, partly because we had some divergence of views, but mostly because we were seeking to find that balance that Jordan mentions. We didn't want the question to be focused on the "law and order" component of sexual violence.

As with Richard Wallis' response, there are a lot of people reading Jordan's reply, but you can see the tumbleweeds in this here comment thread. Feel free to change that!

Julie said...

Ooops, sorry Anna, we simul-posted :-)

Azlemed said...

participation for women in political parties can be very difficult especially when there are children involved. i have scaled back my political activities a lot since having our children, mainly because of time factors, such as meetings at 7pm on a Sunday night, or just the difficulties of organising three children so I can help,

Thankfully this campaign I am able to help as my husband has taken a backseat and is doing the child thing.

Thanks Jordan, was nice to see some of your thoughts on things.

Tui said...

I think no-one much is commenting because this is comprehensive, thoughtful, and disclaimed - nothing is being represented as absolute and the candidate is obviously pretty well-informed on both theory and practise of feminism/s. It's a great response. Thanks Jordan! Colour me impressed.

Jordan Carter said...

Thanks for the feedback, I'll keep checking in to see what else comes up in discussion on this and other survey results.

Anna - yes, I've experienced what you describe, and i've also experienced the opposite. The remedy seems to me to be strong leadership and people being careful to translate the ideal into the reality, by being conscious of what's happening. Good meeting facilitation or chairing matters too. No silver bullet again, but I find that being conscious of the issue is the start of improvements.

Julie - tricky eh. I have the same problem in dealing with justice/"lore'n'order" generally. When I ask people whether they want a safer society or whether they want to feel better, that usually ends up leading to an interesting conversation about how punitive approaches do or do not work.

tui - I have had some good teachers :)

richard mcgrath said...

Jordan said: "Is it possible to legislate a right to breast-feeding? I'd support study of such a possible approach. It seems to me to be fair enough that when women are caring for young children they should be able to breast-feed as of right."

Not sure what you mean by a right to breast-feeding, Jordan. If you mean a baby having a right to be breast fed, could that baby then sue the mother later in life for failing to breast feed if she chooses not to?

Or, do you mean a mother having the right to breast-feed. Which means the government having to protect this "right" by ensuring that she breast feeds successfully, and there must be someone to pay for the process of making sure she can breast feed successfully. What if her supply is inadequate or some other problem arises which stops her from lactating? Are you saying she should have the right of redress against someone (the taxpayer?) if this should happen?

Jordan, I think you've fallen into the trap of thinking that if something sounds like a good idea, it should either be made compulsory, or everyone should have a "right" to receive it.