Here's another response from an Act candidate, this time from Matthew Gardiner, who is standing in Wigram and is number 38 on the Act party list. Matthew also has a blog. The other Act response to date has been from Colin du Plessis.
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?
The single biggest issue facing New Zealand women is ensuring that the opportunities are there for females to pursue what they wish to do with in their lives. These opportunities not only include the choice to become a stay at home mother (and the partner in a job with real wage growth opportunities), but to also create a strong economic environment where is high demand for employees which allows individuals entering the work place to have a leverage in the negotiations over working hours and pay. This high demand, low supply will force companies to accommodate those women who may have children and require more flexible hours of work.
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?
Firstly it is important to look at the source of this income disparity - of which it is a lot more complicated than just a flat out men are being paid more for doing the exact same job as females. Specifically it important to understand how these numbers are actually generated - and realise it isn't as simple as comparing two people from the same job. These numbers are generated on the basis of average wage of which there is a disproportionate number of males in higher paying jobs and thus it pulls up the average wage for males.
Secondly, The current tax system results in punishing those individuals who have more than one job. For example, when I was working at a supermarket I used to talk to the merchandisers for big name companies. Many of them would tell me that they would have 2-3 of these small jobs each week with the total hours of around 20-30 hours per week. The reason for having all these small jobs is the flexibility of such arrangements. The problem is, however, they find that their income is taxed at a higher rate than if they one single income working the same number of hours. The solution is to flatten the tax and remove the discrimination between those who have one job and those who have more than one job.
Thirdly is the attitude held held by some within the community where by women are looked down upon if they choose not to get married or choose not to have children (and in some cases, the same sort of 'look down upon' is done to stay at home mothers as well). Although it is impossible to change this at the governmental level I do believe that non-profit organisations need to work together to counter these
stereotypes. I believe that part of living in a free society is for individuals to pursue, without prejudice, what ever direction they wish to in life - and should not feel guilty for it.
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?
I find it largely hypocritical that the most vocal against abortion and contraception tend to be males given that they are the least impacted an unplanned pregnancy. I believe that the right for an abortion should be unimpeded by legal red tape. If a female decides to have an abortion - no one has the right to restrict that decision.
Regarding contraception - again, that should be accessible without restriction; be in the morning after pill or what ever latest technology has come out in reference to birth control and safe sex.
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.
Firstly create an environment which improves the self esteem of women so that they do not fall into the trap of having relationships with undesirable partners. This can be achieved through positive role models and work done through non-profit organisations.
Secondly to educate females so that know what their rights are - and that a partner who is verbally or physically assaulting them is absolutely unacceptable. Ensuring that once this knowledge is there, that refuges and services are there to serve those who are wishing to
escape from a violent and abusive partner.
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?
Through lowering taxes across the board as well as creating an environment where philanthropy can thrive - the responsibility of these issues can be addressed at the grass roots level rather than having a large bloated beaucratic top down management take charge. Through the grass roots organisations taking charge, issues can be addressed quickly, delivery of assistance can be catered to the needs of the individual rather than the one size fits all model of the top down approach.
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?
It is not the governments responsibility to legislate whom a private business allows or disallows onto its property. If a private business wishes to allow breast feeding on their property - then it is their own choice in doing so.
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 am currently at university where I am involved with ACT on campus - we have one female involved with it. I've been in numerous classes where by there has been almost an even split between male and female students - the number of females who participate in tutorial
discussions are very few. Neither environment discourages females from participating in such discussions or joining the said organisations. In fact many times we have stopped discussions and tried to encourage females to participate. I am confused that you're expecting something
to be done by government to address what seems to be a conscious decision not to get involved with these said areas. That there is this assumption that because there aren't enough females in the said jobs as outlined in your question that is the result of active discrimination occurring.
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?
It is an active issue for all New Zealanders, regardless of whether it is between a couple home, out on the street or some other location. Violence, regardless of the parties involved is unacceptable. The government can go so far as to improve the rehabilitation in prison and to provide a deterrence but at the end of the day it is at the grass roots itself where the changes must occur. If as a society as a whole, the image of masculinity and power is based on physical
violence then all the policies in the world aren't going to change the basic underlying culture. When mothers and fathers tell their sons, "stop acting like a poofter" and enforce a false masculine stereotype - what we see today is the result of this.
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)
The first point that should be made is actually preventing this from happening in the first place. Secondly is to ensure that non-profit organisations can assistance in caring of the children whilst the mother is at work. Working is important because it ensures that the individual does not fall into the trap of welfare dependency but also instils a ethic of responsibility.
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?
Ensuring that is a competitive market which addresses the needs of customers within the market. When there is a competitive market where people can start up businesses to address the demands of consumers - the demand for health, quality food at reasonable prices will be
fulfilled. It is up to the consumer him or herself to vote through their purchasing habits on what products are demanded and which aren't. It isn't the role of the government to regulate or demand that individuals or businesses create certain products because a small group of people think they know what is best for everyone.
(No answer given to Q11, which is the do you have anything else you want to share about women and our society one)