Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Election Survey: Katherine Ransom (Democrats for Social Credit)

Katherine Ransom is the candidate for Tauranga for the Democrats for Social Credit, and is also number 4 on the Democrats for Social Credit's party list. Her answers to our survey are below, and a full index of responses to date are here. This is the first response from a DSC candidate, and Katherine has been commenting here recently.

The Questions & Answers
These answers are based on Democrats for social credit (DSC) policy.

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 single biggest issue continues to be the invisibility and the devaluation of women, both in the workforce and in the essential nurturing work many women do. All too often I hear people (even other women) say: "We've got equality now." Excuse me, no we don't.

My first action would be to ensure that the community groups and nationally organised societies that contribute so much to the well-being of society, largely through women's unpaid work, are properly funded to function effectively. I would implement DSC policy on incomes, by paying a guaranteed basic income to every citizen. This would go some way towards giving women working as full time mothers or in other nurturing roles some economic independence. I would also strengthen and expand the little bit of government work already being done to address gender issues (pay, promotion, etc.) in workplaces, by better funding, more staff and mentoring programmes.

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?
(See the last sentence of my answer to question 1.) I would raise the minimum wage, initially remove income tax from the first $20,000, and progressively replace all income tax with a Financial Transactions Tax set at less than 1%. There will be no exemptions or loopholes to this tax, which will collect the most revenue from those who have the most, especially previously exempt financial services, while being hardly noticeable to those on the lower incomes.

Question 3. Do you think NZ's current approach to reproductive rights (abortion, contraception etc) is correct? (Yes or No or No Answer, please) Yes.
If not, what changes would you want to make?

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.
While I absolutely accept that the majority of violence is perpetrated by men against women and children, some violence women are guilty of, to their partners and most damagingly to their children. Why do we do this, and fail to protect our weakest and most vulnerable?
As well as continuing to improve the culture and attitudes of police and courts, I would increase the level of legal aid so that more lawyers are available to handle protection orders. (In rural towns this is a very big problem. There are no lawyers in Matamata who will take on legal aid.) I would also make a percentage of 'pro bono' work a requirement for law firms to retain their licence to practice. I would work to change the rules of evidence that protect the past of an accused rapist but leave the victim to the mercy of invasive questioning and character assassination.

I would also look at the root causes of violence. I suspect that the pressure of living in the modern world, the demand for 'productivity' and success, the disenfranchisement and disempowerment of whole sectors of people, and the general feeling of helplessness and hopelessness has a lot to do with why we are violent. There is some evidence that the dehumanising effect of gratuitous violence in the media creates in children a callousness and disregard for others. Too many parents work too long and too hard just to make ends meet, and don't have quality time with their children. While I certainly don't think the problem is simply an economic issue, I believe a more just financial system would go a long way towards easing the pressure of living in the modern world, and reducing our violence towards one another.

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?
DSC will provide a guaranteed basic income for all citizens, a National Dividend as a share of the country's wealth. In addition, those with extra needs will have these funded, including adequate housing, respite care, and any special equipment required. DSC will fully fund and staff a world-class health system, and provide education and training to tertiary level free of charge. Caregivers will be recognised as essential to society and paid accordingly.

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?
Support groups like Plunket and La Leche League need far more funding and resourcing. In my long experience as a breastfeeding mother and La Leche League leader, I know the importance of woman-to-woman support in the success of breastfeeding. It is not something we know instinctively, but something we once learned to do from watching our mothers, sisters and friends. We need those women, or the nurses and midwives who replace them, to even get breastfeeding established. Paid Parental Leave for at least a year is essential to feeding a baby for that long. Instead of enticing mothers back to work with 20 hours free childcare, proactive steps should be taken to enable women to stay home. And again, a basic income would help a lot, relieving a family of financial pressures, and allowing a woman to relax into motherhood and breastfeeding. Breastmilk is like tears - it responds to emotion.

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?
Political parties can be proactive about choosing candidates with gender equity in mind. Education and mentoring are important, but finding issues that young women care about is the first step. The National Council of Women has started an email forum called 'GirlTalk' which includes older women, boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, all with opinions they are ready to discuss. Having said that, the biggest male club is the private sector boards of directors. Is our challenge to encourage our young women to go hard for power and extreme wealth?

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 New Zealanders.
If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?
DSC would like to change the economic paradigm. We would like to take the usury out of the economy, and establish the creation, ownership and control of our own money supply through the publicly owned Reserve Bank of New Zealand. This may seem like a strategy far removed from domestic violence, but as I mentioned in question 4, it is the pressure of our modern society that I feel underpins our destructive behaviours. We are angry and sad too much of the time, and we are borrowing ourselves into slavery. When we can stop borrowing from overseas banks (and that will get harder and more expensive to do anyway) we can stop paying billions of dollars every year in interest payments alone into the pockets of the obscenely rich. Instead we can afford fully resourced health and education systems, environmental projects, energy research and development beyond Peak Oil - whatever we think is important to do. We can own our own country again. Most importantly, we can all stop working so hard.

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?
Abolish GST. I am also convinced that a national programme to improve soil health would make a big difference. It is nearly the magic bullet: organically fertilized land stops leaching nitrogen into our ground water, sequesters tons more carbon per acre than chemically fertilized land, and best of all it grows better yields of food that is more nutritious. (Not to mention enhancing our clean, green image and boosting our export earnings.) I understand that our food is 60% less nutritious than it was 40 years ago, and if that's true, it is no wonder we have growing obesity and malnutrition. I would like to see every primary school in the country adopt a programme of teaching children to grow vegetables and plant fruit and nut trees, engaging older people as mentors. We must not lose our gardening skills to the supermarkets.

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 are the main sex. We are stronger, longer lived and better educated than men. Although the gender pay gap is an issue, sometimes I think that life's too short and too precious to waste chasing after lots of money. Perhaps unconsciously a lot of women feel like that, and we see more important things to do, like nurturing and volunteering, than spend all our waking hours making a gazillion dollars. Which is not to say I wouldn't like more money at times, and I know there are many, many women who desperately need the choices that money could give them.

What I would really like to see women have is more control over their own lives, more say in what happens to them and their families. This is what I work towards in everything I do. I am not just a candidate, I am also a member of Citizen's Advice Bureau and involved in the National Council of Women, presently as convener of the Economics Standing Committee. All of the issues raised in this survey are important to NCW, and as an umbrella organisation with many individual and group members, we are increasingly consulted by government on current issues. I am proud to be associated with the strength of our collective voice that refuses to be silent.

Politically, I feel that Democrats for social credit has more to offer women in the way of income, support and control over their lives than any other party.

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