Thursday, 30 October 2008

Election Survey: The Maori Party

The Maori Party have offered a collective response to our election survey, as the Kiwi Party has done (and the Greens also, for most of the questions), which you'll find below. A full index of candidate responses to date can be found over here. We have now had responses from either the party and/or at least one candidate from all current Parliamentary parties except National, NZ First and the Progressives.

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?
With 27% of Maori children already living in poverty, and 150,000 children categorised as living in ‘severe and significant hardship’, the most critical issue facing women and families today is that of poverty. To address the entrenched and increasing poverty in Aotearoa, the Maori Party has a range of policies to lower living costs, such as removing GST off food, and raising the incomes of low-income families by exempting those who earn $25,000 or less from tax and by raising the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour. We will also reinstate (and rename) the in-work tax credit to all children, regardless of the source of parental income. Significantly, the Maori Party will establish an official poverty line in Aotearoa, and set a date, 2020, for the elimination of poverty.

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 Maori Party will raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour and we would support the introduction of pay and employment equity legislation to address the lower pay rates of occupations and industries which are predominantly populated by women.

We are also very concerned to address the income inequalities still existing on the grounds of ethnicity. In 2007, the average weekly income for Europeans was $723, while for Māori it was $526, and $477 for Pacific Peoples. We are committed to addressing the double whammy of both gender and ethnicity discrimination in our consistent advocacy of pay and employment equity.

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? (have broadened to focus on reproductive rights in general rather than abortion specifically)
The Maori Party does not have a specific policy on either abortion or contraception.

However, our commitment to whanau ora – literally the life-force of whanau – instructs us that every decision to do with an individual member of a whanau, will always impact on the health and wellbeing of the wider group. The protection and enhancement of whanau and whanau self-determination is one of the Maori Party’s three foundational commitments.

This commitment has two important implications, the first being decisions around reproduction rights are decisions for whanau to make. The second is that families should have real choice in making decisions on reproduction, i.e. that mothers and families can be assured of appropriate income, medical and childcare support so that financial considerations are not the determining factor. Enhancing whanaungatanga is also important, where extended family networks are sufficiently supported by policy to be enabled to take up the care of children if their parents are unable or unwilling to do so.

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.
There is an urgent need to address domestic violence in Aotearoa, and as such, there is an urgent need for a greater investment by government in whanau restoration programmes which address violence in a collective context, and ‘whole of whanau’ initiatives to ensure the active participation and engagement of all whanau members. For the Maori Party, what is also critical for whanau wellbeing, is the need for initiatives to create drug and alcohol free homes. We will support and resource providers with a track record of success in attaining mauriora and in preventing family violence We are also committed to supporting child, whanau and families, and are proposing a Neighbourhood Renewal Fund which may include incentives to encourage living more collectively.

Violence in homes, however, cannot be properly addressed unless the violence in our communities and society at large is also addressed, including that of racism. The Maori Party supports the elimination of institutional racism, and the development of a cultural audit framework to ensure that government systems responding to whanau do so in culturally safe ways. We promote cultural competence as an employment standard in justice, health, education and social services.

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 Maori Party will promote and strengthen whanau-based and home-based care options for older people and people with disabilities to choose to remain in their homes, connected to their family and social networks. These options need to be better resourced – particularly the pay rates and training of home-based carers; and the respite care arrangements for whanau-based carers.

The current rates of pay in the aged care sector are far too low, and vastly beneath comparative rates received by health care assistants in DHBs. The Maori Party supports the call from the NZNO for pay parity across the aged care sector.

We know that aged care workers are often Maori and Pasifika women. The 2006 Census revealed that the median annual income for Māori women aged 15 years and over was $17,800. We have a problem with embedded low wages in this country, and this burden more often than not falls on Maori and Pasifika women. Pay disparity is obviously a major issue for Maori women. We have called for the minimum wage to be raised to at least $15 per hour, as we believe this would lead to a massive improvement in the lives of those that currently have to subsist on the minimum wage.

Currently, caregivers are compromised by high staff to patient ratios, meaning that our elderly people and people with disabilities are not being given the level of care they deserve. This is hard on staff, those being cared for and their families. We will support measures to see minimum staffing levels introduced, as this is critical for the provision of safe, quality care.

Safe care also requires adequate training for all staff, including cultural safety training. We support the need to improve access to training and education for aged care workers who want to upskill or achieve national qualifications. A more skilled workforce has positive ramifications for the entire sector.

Core benefit levels need to be increased across the board, along with accommodation supplements, including those for sole-parents. In addition, the in-work tax credit needs to be extended to include all children regardless of parental income. Our poorest families have been denied this crucial $60 per week payment for over 10 years, at a collective cost to them of around $4 billion. In this time of economic uncertainty, the last thing laid-off workers need to contend with is the loss of another $60 per week.

The Maori Party would increase investment in early childhood education to better ensure the availability of affordable, high quality childcare for parents and whanau. Our particular priority of the Maori Party is to extend the 20 hours fee childcare to all kohanga reo and playcentres. Only 25% of kohanga reo are able to access this funding at present.

We also advocate for better pay for early childhood teachers, which would impact positively on recruitment and retention in the sector. We are passionately in support of changing attitudes to the teaching workforce so that our communities value teachers. A key part of our interest in valuing teachers is to ensure that they are paid what they are worth.

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?
There are a number of policy and legislative changes that can be made to increase breastfeeding rates which continue to be low in Aotearoa, particularly for Maori and Pacific mothers. It is our view that increased investment in maternity services to address the midwifery shortage is critical for mothers to receive breastfeeding education and support.

In the 48th Parliament, the Maori Party voted in support of the Employment Relations (Breaks and Infant Feeding) Amendment Bill which requires facilities and breaks to be provided for employees who wish to breastfed in the workplace or during work periods. However, the New Zealand Government has not yet ratified ILO Convention 183 (maternity protection), which requires not only facilities and breaks to be provided, but for the breastfeeding breaks to be paid breaks. The Maori Party supports ratification of ILO Convention 183.

In our 2008 Policy Manifesto, He aha te mea nui, we have also signalled our support for encouraging whanau and communities to live more collectively, including providing post-natal support for parents.

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?
Research on the cost of tertiary education and student debt, and their impacts on participation, retention and completion rates in tertiary education shows that cost is a strong determining factor, with too many young people deciding not to study or studying shorter courses as a result of their concerns about debt repayment. These concerns are particularly experienced by women. For the Maori Party, education is a front-end investment in the future of the nation, and we will introduce a debt reduction policy to reduce fees to a nominal level and also introduce a universal student allowance, pro rated for part-time students.

In addition, rangatahi (young people) require vehicles through which to be mentored in community leadership and development roles. The Maori Party has advocated for the creation of Regional Rangatahi Councils that would interface with local and regional authorities.

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?
Reiterating from response to question 4 above, domestic violence continues to be a priority issue in Aotearoa. For the Maori Party, solutions must lie in investing in rejuvenating whanau; in whanau restoration programmes which address violence in a collective context, and work to ensure the active participation and engagement of all whanau members. We will also investigate and implement initiatives to promote drug and alcohol free homes.

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)
Yes. Core benefit levels need to be increased, along with accommodation supplements, and the in-work tax credit needs to be extended to include all children regardless of parental income.

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?
The Maori Party is advocating a GST off food policy, as is currently in place in Australia, England and Ireland. Food should be exempt from GST on the grounds that GST hits low-income people disproportionately.

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 need to equally recognise mana wahine and mana täne is reflected in the Maori Party’s constitution which requires the appointment of both a male and a female co-leader. In the 2007 Hui-a-Tau of the Māori Party a recommendation was also unanimously passed to ensure there is a male and female vice-president. Particular attention to the representation of women was given to the party’s list as part of the selection criteria.

As such, the Maori Party has five women in the top 10 of our Party list. They are: Tariana Turia, Co-Leader and candidate for Te Tai Hauauru (No 1); Angeline Greensill, candidate for Hauraki-Waikato (No 5); Rahui Katene, candidate for Te Tai Tonga (No 7); Naida Glavish, List candidate (No 8); and Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, List candidate (No 9).


Hugh said...

This is quite a mix of the vague and the detailed, the promising and the unsettling.

The Good: A strong commitment to increasing the wellbeing of poor New Zealanders (and not, as their critics would say, only Maori New Zealanders) with minimum wage rises, GST off food, and increases in benefit levels (hopefully at least bringing us back to 1991 levels). The tax-free low income bracket is also nice, although I'd like to hear a bit more about how they plan to fund it.

They also seem to have given serious thought to the care-work issue, moreso than any other party (sorry, The Greens).

The Bad: Not having a policy on abortion and contraception. Additionally, perhaps it's hard for a Pakeha to understand, but it seems to me that the focus on whanua decision making doesn't offer the focus on the mother's right to control her own body that I would hope to see.

I'm also not sure that the focus on drug and alcohol free homes is a good idea. It would be a shame to penalise parents who are able to prevent their drug and alcohol use from having dehabilitating effects on their children.

The Vague: Question 2 is basically not answered. The implication seems to be that the wage gap between Pakeha and everybody else is a more pressing matter than the gender gap. This is a reasonable position (although I'm not sure I agree) but they would have got more credit from me if they'd come out and said it.

I'm also a bit curious as to how they plan to close the pay gap between pacific islanders and maori, since they don't seem to feel that there's any racial preference towards the latter.

Overall this is a pretty positive manifesto that actually contains much more of the economic-redistributive meat than, say, the Greens'. My biggest theoretical problem with it is a lingering social conservatism. My biggest practical problem is that apparently the Maori Party feels this could be accomplished in coalition with National, which means they don't understand National, or the manifesto is a pack of lies.

anna c said...

I think they did answer question 2, albeit not as clearly as I'd have liked. They were asked for a first step, and I think they gave that but did not - as many other correspondents did - give a detailed analysis of the situation or a detailed plan. Increasing the minimum wage would make a huge difference in closing the gap and the lowest end of the scale. What I inferred from their response - and I may be reading something that is not there - is that they want to make sure that the difficulties in defining equivalent work, particularly with regard to areas which pay low and employ a large proportion of women, are looked at and the results included in law. If I'm correct I think this is a good - albeit not very clearly expressed - first step.

I'd really like to see how they envisage the idea of reproductive choices being a decision for whanau to make working in practice. Like Hugh, my perspective is limited as a non-Maori, but I do feel that whilst I am 100% committed to the individual having genuine reproductive choice, I don't think it necessarily has to be an individual decision. I've really only conceived it as that, though, so I'd be keen to see a conception (no pun intended) of a collective approach which doesn't undermine individual rights.

I do fear that this response may have been partly a wish to avoid a divisive stand on the issue - which is a shame.

Tui said...

I feel a bit frustrated that they're asked a question about problems facing women, and they respond with problems facing children and families. Yes, women are often more concerned with the family and suffer more in association with familial poverty, but... I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea that "women's problems" = "family problems." I don't know, I guess I feel that this (along with the whanau-based abortion and contraception ethic*) indicates a lingering social conservatism about women's roles and responsibilities that I'm not completely comfortable with.

*I am all for women having real choices about abortion. But the people I hear this rhetoric from are usually trying to say, hey! Once women have real choices they'll never have evil evil abortions, they'll totally choose to undergo a significantly-more-dangerous pregnancy every time, and that's how it should be! Which a) I do not think is true - that is to say, I think all the support in the world will not, and should not, make all abortions go away - and b) I find it very judgemental. I'm also pretty uncomfortable with the idea of families making decisions for their teenage daughters.

Hugh said...

I don't want to seem like I'm harping but it seems like I was right to be suspicious about the Maori Party's commitment to abortion in light of this: