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?
Peak oil. Perhaps not obviously a women-specific issue, but the big issues affecting us all often have a disproportionate impact on women. Failure to respond adequately to the challenges posed by peak oil will at best result in severe economic downturn and greatly increased poverty and unemployment, and women will likely bear the brunt of this. The importance of reducing poverty comes up in a number of subsequent questions, and obviously an increase in poverty will have the opposite effect. We risk the winding back of many of the advances in women's rights we've made in recent decades, both economic and social.
Our society is utterly dependent on oil, and we don't know how long we have left to change that - it appears that oil production may have already plateaued. There are two broad areas of change required to address the approaching decline of oil. The first is energy efficiency, especially with regards to transport. We need to invest heavily in quality public transport powered by renewable energy sources, instead of more roads and motorways. A large scale insulation project would also make a lot of sense, and could be funded out of the Alliance's $1.5 billion annual housing budget.
The other major change is reducing our dependence on international trade. Not only will travel and freight become more expensive, but the prospects for the entire global economy are not good - none of our trading partners are taking peak oil and climate change seriously. We need to invest in local production to meet NZ's needs, to improve our balance of payments and meet our goal of full employment.
Making these changes will require time, and if we wait till the oil shortages start before we take action, it will be too late. They're also sensible in their own right, on social, economic, and environmental grounds.
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?
The Alliance has a number of policies that would help reduce the pay gap:
- Free childcare services for pre-schoolers, and free after-school care.
- 12 months paid parental leave.
- Extending pay equity to the private sector.
- Women are disproportionately represented amongst part time and casual workers; the Alliance would introduce additional rights and protections for such workers.
- Women are disproportionately represented amongst low-wage workers; the Alliance would increase the minimum wage to $17 an hour.
- The Alliance would make tertiary education free, and provide a liveable universal student allowance, removing barriers to obtaining qualifications.
- Progressive taxation to fund Alliance policies, including a top tax rate of 54% on income over $100,000, and no tax at all on the first $10,000.
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 current "de facto" free access to abortion isn't good enough; women's right to choose should be an explicit legal right, not dependent on subjective interpretations of mental health. There should be no financial barriers to abortion either; abortion should be fully publicly
funded, including assistance with transportation where necessary. Contraception should likewise be freely available, in all senses of the word. It's Alliance policy to significantly increase health funding, eliminating consultation and prescription fees and reducing waiting lists.
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's Alliance policy to increase funding for protection of women from violence. This could cover:
- Providing decent funding for women's refuges and other support services.
- Ensuring the availability of effective support for those who believe they are at risk of committing violence.
- Educational/advertising campaigns against violence.
- Benefits should be increased, including the DPB, and financial support should be available immediately without stand-down periods.
- The Alliance budget allocates an additional $1.5 billion a year for state housing, to ensure that everyone can have an affordable, decent place to live.
- Providing better education against violence at all levels of schooling.
- Promoting a culture of non-violence in general. Tolerance for violence against/between men is liable to counteract any efforts to discourage violence against women.
- Working to change the "macho" police culture. One idea would be aregion-by-region approach to increasing the proportion of women in the police force - aiming for an equal gender balance in limited areas to encourage rapid change and a better working environment within those areas, to aid retention and recruitment of female officers.
- Changing the way the court system works to make trials a less harrowing experience for victims.
See question two for how the Alliance would help the lowest paid. Unpaid carers are a trickier problem, though paid parental leave and our universal family benefit of $16 a week per child help parents. There should be flexibility in funding, to allow payment of volunteer carers whose charges would otherwise be taking up hospital beds etc. Funding for respite care and other support for carers should be increased. Paying all carers what they deserve would be extremely expensive, and require a major restructuring of the entire economy - not something that could be done overnight, though we should be working towards it long-term.
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 Alliance's 12 months paid parental leave is very useful here, once again. Perhaps make some of the recommendations in http://www.ers.dol.govt.nz/publications/pdfs/breastfeeding.pdf
into legal requirements, eg paid breastfeeding breaks for the first two years. Creche facilities in the immediate vicinity of workplaces are ideal, but not practical for all jobs.
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?
Um... good question. It's certainly a worthwhile goal, but I don't have any easy answers.
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.
One major contributor to domestic violence, though certainly not the only factor, is poverty. Financial difficulties put a big strain on any relationship, which can result in violence. Economic security for all is a key goal for the Alliance, and we have a wide range of policies designed to eliminate poverty. This also makes it easier to get out of abusive relationships. See also question four.
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?
It's Alliance policy to scrap GST, starting with food. This would be funded by a financial transaction tax of 0.02%, which would have a far smaller impact on low-income households. Increases to benefits and the minimum wage and a much more progressive income tax schedule would also help ensure everyone can afford decent food. And the Alliance would introduce quality free school meals to ensure all children get decent nutrition.
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.
The Alliance is committed to ending discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and I believe we're the only party that supports same-sex marriage.