Friday, 24 October 2008

Election Survey: Michael Wood (Labour)

Michael Wood is a list-only candidate for Labour, ranked at number 56 on the Labour party list. In the interests of full disclosure, I will also share that he is my partner, but I didn't help him with his homework! You can find a full index of all candidate responses to date, including several others from Labour, here.

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 pressure to balance work and life commitments, particularly for women in low and middle income households.

With increased economic pressures over the past three decades, and (until recently) a long run decline in real wages many families do not have the ability to make choices between work and life - it's a case of working as much as possible, and squashing the rest in somehow

I would address these issues by continuing the work of the Labour-led government to lift wages, and improve provisions that allow for flexibility such as paid parental leave and flexible working hours.

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?
There is overwhelming evidence that work undertaken predominently by women is very often paid less than work undertaken predominently by men. I am very interested by work undertaken in the public sector to examine and resolve this issue, and would like to see consideration given to extending this work to the private sector.

Ongoing increases to the minimum wage and good collective bargaining rights will also be important in closing the gap.

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?
Yes, broadly.

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.
Further investment in strong social marketing campaigns such as the highly successful "It's not OK" series of advertisements, better anti-violence education in schools, and ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of protection orders.

Underlining all of this we know that poverty breeds violence, so in the long run policies that reduce poverty and income inequality will be essential in addressing violence in our society.

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?
For those doing paid work, strong collective bargaining rights so that these often mis-treated and under-valued workers can win a fairer deal. For those doing unpaid work I do not think there is a simple answer, but in an ageing society we need to start a serious and wide-ranging discussion that considers all of the options for better recognising unpaid work in this field.

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?
Recent legislation supported by Labour sets out a legal right to breastfeed at work. The change that now needs to happen is cultural, so that it is seen as an OK thing to do at work or in public. Ongoing public education, working with groups such as La Leche league and Plunket would in my view be the best way of making this change over time.

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?
Moving away from formal, bureaucratic structures that stifle participation. The best way for political organisations to attract and develop people from groups with low participation rates is to be as open and relaxed as possible.

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?
Violence in our society is a problem for everyone, but the evidence is utterly overwhelming that the majority of victims of domestic violence are women.

As covered earlier I believe that we must promote a culture of non-violence through a variety of methods, and reduce poverty in our communities.

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)
No Answer - too complex to be boxed into a yes or no.

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?
Very few people would suggest that the government control food prices, and nor would I. The solution therefore must be to increase income levels, particularly for low and middle income households. Labour's record in this area is good with Working for Families, the increased minimum wage, and rising real wages making a real difference for many people. These measures need to be continued and enhanced as conditions permit.

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.
New Zealand has always been a leader in advancing the role of women in our society. This has made us in my view a far saner, more civilised country than we otherwise might be. I believe that enhanced political participation (for women or any other group) occurs when progressive economic and social policies are enacted. In a nutshell, that's why I'm Labour.

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