Well, that was quick! I thought it'd be ages before we got any replies to the candidate survey, but in fact there were a few in the inbox overnight. Here's the first one to come in, from United Future candidate Kelleigh Sheffield-Cranstoun. Kind of fitting that a woman is first off the blocks. Kelleigh is United Future's candidate for Waimakariri, and number 17 on their party list.
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?
Post-natal care. Women are being sheparded in and out of the delivery suite and pressured to go home very soon after delivering their baby, like they do it every day. Our health system displays an acute lack of care and resources for women who bear children. Women are supposed to be funded for 2 nights following birth, but even this is not real in practice. Women (including me) have been told straight after birth that there are no hospital beds for them, they are made to wait in the delivery suite if they are lucky, or are pushed into the public hallway with their newborn baby to wait for a bedspace to become available. Women are pressured by hospital midwives to go home after the birth, rather than making women feel comfortable in taking their allocated and funded rest and recovery. This has even resulted in the death of a baby from Wellington hospital recently, when a midwife pressured the mother to take her new baby home within hours of the birth. The baby died at home that evening.
This is disgusting and shocking. Women should be allocated 5-7 days of unpressured, supported recovery in our maternity wards or after-care units, not sent home to get straight back on with life as if having a new baby is an every day occurrence. This should be available for all women regardless of location. This time is important for several reasons: rest and recovery for the mother after a traumatic and demanding event for her body, establishing breastfeeding, better monitoring of baby and mother in the days after birth, and allowing a bond to develop between mother and baby. This bond development is crucial, and being pressured to leave hospital so soon after birth may be placing so much pressure on some new mothers that they are unable to bond closely with their child as a baby, which could in turn affect their relationship in the future.
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?
We need to know what is behind the difference you have highlighted to establish whether there in fact is a real problem. Is that a general figure, or based on like-for-like jobs? With Maori and Pacific Island groups, we know that education is a factor. For Maori we currently hold special seats open for them on tertiary courses, which are not done for other ethnic groups. I also do not know whether you are taking into account women who have left the workforce for a while to pursue mother-hood, and whether that has had an affect on the comparitive pay. Sorry, I would need more information on your findings to answer them appropriately.
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?
A woman's body is not a political sphere and she should be free to choose to continue a pregnancy or not within the natural termination window, without being answerable to society for her choice. Those women who are identified by doctors and health workers to seek repeat terminations should be offered education and help in pregnancy prevention.
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.
It is not the role of the Police to be Johnny-on-the-spot for violent crime. This is an impossible expectation as it can happen anywhere, anyplace. As a violent crime victim myself, I believe there are several contributing factors. None of these excuse the crime though, and tougher measures need to be in place to deter offending, and repeat offending.
I would like to see no bail for repeat violent and sexual offenders, non-parole periods increased from 1/3rd to 2/3rds of the criminal's sentences. Concurrent sentences served NOT to be the norm. Plus, judges need to consider the circumstances of the CRIME in sentencing, not the circumstances of the criminal. Our penalty system must be much stronger than it currently is.
We would like to see family support centres established to encourage and foster strong families: courses and support offered may help identify and prevent family violence.
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?
This question has a very wide scope so I will keep it to a few points.
Children: raising children is a vital role of families and we recognise the cost of raising children. Working for Families is working for some, but others who are just out of the threshold are finding it hard to manage. We are promoting Income Splitting. Rather than parents being taxed as individuals, parents would be taxed as a unit, their income combined and split 50-50 for tax purposes. The mother or father still recieves their own paypacket as normal, but due to Income Splitting, pay far less tax. E.g, where one parent supports the family and earns $70,000, it would instead be taxed as two lots of $35,000. This would be optional for parents, and is not means tested - no salary cap! This financial relief recognises the importance of the contribution of the stay-at-home mother or father.
Caring for disabled children in schools: Schools are currently underfunded when it comes to support staff for disabled children, and this results in many poorly paid support staff who put in extra hours, and effort, with no appreciation. We believe support staff should be funded from government to ensure adequate funding and salaries for these skilled workers, and not be reliant on the current inadequate funding system which sees them paid through the schools' funding.
Caring for the sick and/or disabled: where a nurse or caregiver would otherwise be required, if a spouse or parent need to support their family member who is sick or disabled with full-time care, they should receive financial support from the government for doing so. While the person is a family member, and probably not a trained specialist, they are regardless of that undertaking the work and this is worthy of being acknowledged and supported.
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?
As a current breastfeeding mother I believe the single barrier to women breastfeeding (having spoken to many who can't) is a lack of assistance for mothers post-natal that cannot establish breastfeeding whether the problem is with latching-on, milk production, or pain. A program should be implemented where women who want to feed from birth are actively supported by midwives in the first 6 weeks (midwife after-care window), and directed to facilities that will help where there are problems. These facilities need to be able to adequately support women with professional advice and support on how to conquer the problems they are having establishing feeding. Hospital midwives also need to ensure they do not place pressure on new mothers to bottle feed in hospital if it is not the desire of the mother!
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?
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?
A big problem with domestic violence is repeat offending. Sadly, many women in violent relationships do not report their problems. Women need to be actively encouraged to report domestic violence because they are more worthy and need to know they do not deserve to be a victim of it. If they require someone to speak to about it, who can remain anonymous, they need to be encouraged and supported in doing this. That means the option needs to be more accessible. They do not need to turn to Police in the first instance if they are unsure about what to do. A phone link similiar the the "Healthline" etc funded by government would be a good start to having an option to reach out to for these women.
For the men (or women) who commit violent crimes against their family members, the penalty needs to be toughened - see my answer above on crimes. At the same time, we need to make sure there are adequate and successful rehabilitation and anger management courses available for those that are identified as having violent behaviour.
Society in general also needs to be encouraged to report when they see domestic violence occuring. By not reporting violent domestic crimes, they are negligible and abbeting it. It is difficult when a friend is involved, so perhaps the support-line should be open to witnesses who are unsure of what to do also.
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)
I do support extending paid parental leave to 12 months so mothers can have that first important year with their baby. I am very sympathetic for women who find themselves in this situation and wish to be a full time mother for longer than that, but I do not believe it is the role of the rest of society to pay for them to have the right to do that until they so desire to return to paid employment.
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?
Setting up of family support centres could help those in difficulty with establishing a family budget.
It does not seem fair that we are paying international prices for dairy products that are produced in NZ - they should be sold at domestic market rates. There needs to be an investigation into why this is happening and whether the goverment has any grounds with which to act in support of lowering prices on these products.
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.
From personal experience, women are far to undervalued when it comes to their role of child bearing and raising. I would like to promote more respect and dignity for mothers. A drastic improvement in post-delivery care, Income Splitting which recognises the important contributions of stay-at-home mothers in our society, and getting tougher on domestic violence offenders will be a great start in supporting these women and making them feel proud and valued in the crucial role they have in our society.
I hope to get survey answers up from the other four responses I have received so far some time over the next two days.