Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Election Survey: Victor Billot (Alliance)

Victor Billot is ranked third on the Alliance party list, and is standing in Dunedin North. He has a blog, focused on his experiences on the campaign trail this year, and his reply to our candidate survey is below. Here's a full list of all candidate responses to date, including several others from Alliance candidates.

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?
It's hard to rank issues because so many of the problems have inter-related causes.
I would have to say inequality. Specifically, we need affordable housing, access to free education, high quality public health care, and reduction in the financial stress on low income people through progressive taxation. Improved paid parental leave is another goal. Such policies would reverse the inequality that undermines peoples lives. The role of unpaid work must be acknowledged, not just in rhetoric but in practical steps. I see the prime driving force between many of these issues as the economic structures that our social and cultural lives are based on.

The violent and misogynistic undercurrent that runs through New Zealand society is real and needs to be confronted. The democratic socialist values I hold, and the Alliance holds, are compatible with many feminist values. We reject the "free market" as an organizing principle for society and the economy.

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?
In my view the essential problem is the growing class difference between a managerial elite and working class people. This is made worse by the undervaluing of womens work in a market economy. Once you add disadvantaged ethnic groups into the mix, it becomes very serious.

Raising minimum wage to $17 per hour is a key policy. The Alliance would attack the contracting out casualization model of employment that hits women hard. We would require employers with contracts to the public sector to meet basic employment standards, and bring back many contracted out services into public control where wages and conditions can be assured at a decent level. This would have a major effect on women's employment standards.

Excessive shift work, insecure hours, and the so-called 24 hour society are damaging peoples lives. (This is one area where the left may be able to find some support from the moral conservatives who see the negative effects of market policies on the family.)

Our progressive taxation policy will reduce the tax burden on low and fixed income earners and get rid of the regressive GST tax.

The Alliance will extend pay equity to the private sector. Pay inequities will be reduced when we have free childcare and after-school care.

We will introduce 12 months’ paid parental leave for primary caregivers and two weeks’ paid parental leave for their partners.

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?
The Alliance has no plans to make any major changes here as far as I know. We do support improved education for young people on sexual and reproductive issues and access to contraception as part of our free health care policy.

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.
If the police and courts are failing, then their operations need to be reviewed. Continued support for violence prevention work and access to services such as refuges. In the end it will require a cultural shift and the overall goal of the Alliance is obviously to create a society free from oppression.

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?
I agree with the premise. I believe I answered this in Question 2, above.

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?
I would not claim to be an expert on this matter but support the goal. Would be happy to hear what women and womens organizations suggest as the best way to make this happen.

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 think that while many women are actively involved in politics, there are some barriers. Often it comes down to confidence and experience, so there needs to be an active effort to encourage young people and young women. However this is not just a womens problem. I would say the difference is more pronounced between the highly educated middle class and a working class who are given few opportunities to be involved in the political process, especially with our low level of unionization, which is a traditional way for working class people to gain political experience and a voice.

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.
Ensure the resources are there to fund education, anti-violence programmes, protection, and refuges. Work towards fixing the social environment that leads to violence, often linked to poverty, economic disadvantage, dysfunction and social breakdown. Specific strategies should be sought from those health professionals, advocates and affected women who will best know what will assist them.

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?
Firstly remove the regressive GST tax, which hits food budgets. Secondly introduce a progressive tax system to increase the incomes of those on low incomes. Thirdly, raise the minimum wage. In addition, education about food, regulation of poor quality food in schools and advertising of junk food, and reduction in hours of work and unsociable hours of work will improve peoples ability to afford and prepare healthy food.

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 Party womens policy can be viewed at http://alliance.org.nz/policies/alliance-party-womens-rights-policy/


anna said...

I'm disappointed by the fact that the Alliance candidates interviewed so far have failed to take a proper stand for genuine reproductive choice, particularly when it comes to abortion.

Of course, they could be worse, but I really would have expected better.

Alison said...

I'm interested by how many of the male candidates have said that they don't have sufficient knowledge about breast-feeding, and that they'd need to get information from various lobby groups. I'm glad they're not writing it off, but it's interesting that even though most can see that domestic violence is an issue for "all NZers", they don't see that breastfeeding might be too.

It's a fraught topic, for sure, since while we want to make sure women can breastfeed, we don't want to force them to do it against their will, but surely there are benefits for all of society in making breastfeeding possible.

I'm aware through all these responses that the candidates seem to be treading a knife edge between women's issues as "special interest" vs "in society's interest". With domestic violence we seem to have finally realised that while it effects women disproportionately, it has an effect on all of society, but haven't yet extended that logic to other areas.

Victor said...

Hi, good to have some responses.

Anna - I'm interested to hear what you would like to see as genuine reproductive choice.

Alison – I think I will be able to give a more useful answer to this breastfeeding question in a few months as I am about to become a first time parent soonish :)
I would support the right of all women to breastfeed, if it is suitable for them and possible, and wanted by them.


anna c said...

Victor - the key issue is whether the current law should stand, that is for women to get an abortion they have to fill a number of criteria, the main ones being, from memory, a threat to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, incest or that if the pregnancy went ahead it would result it would result in a serious disabled baby (not sure of the exact definition of the last one, sorry).

I'd like to see abortion being solely the woman's choice, rather than them being required to jump through hoops.

I understand that the majority of women who want abortions in NZ can get them, and this may be why the candidates whose responses have been posted so far see no real problem with the current situation.

However the current law leaves things open for a far more restrictive interpretation of the law and really is paternalist at best - implying that women can't make their own decision on the grounds they choose, but rather that they need to be protected by being permitted an abortion when it is deemed to be good for them.

(btw I've changed my display name to avoid confusion)

Anna said...

Hi Victor

I'm another Anna (not the one asking about reproductive choice).

Here's a question/discussion point for you, the other Alliance candidates and the Green and RAM candidates.

Leftie activists are notorious for splitting into small groups on the basis of ideological differences which they see as important, but which other leftie folk see as less important. It makes it hard to build solidarity and harder to do well electorally.

The right also have their philosophical differents (eg within the Nats you've got the more conservative, the socially liberal, the interventionist, the libertarian leaning) but they seem to hold it together to a reasonably degree.

What do you think is the way forward for the left in this regard (assuming you agree that this is a problem)?

Julie said...

My word what a lot of Annas. I wonder what collective noun you might use for a group of Annas, eg a parliament is a group of owls, a labour is a group of moles. Or do you just become Anni? (Or if I remember my latin declensions properly, Annum, a la templa templum)

In regard to abortion and the Alliance I recall the party being quite staunchly pro-choice in the past. To the point where there were discussions within the party (probably during 2000 or 2001) that it wouldn't/might not be considered a conscience vote for Alliance MPs, given the strong policy for choice and the depth of feeling amongst the membership. But I could be recalling that all wrong, as I was quite ill at that time and my memory is a bit dodgy for that period.

And like Anna the Third, I'm very interested in Victor's thoughts about splits too. I've seen him write elsewhere about his frustration that there are a lot of ex-Alliance people out there wanting a party like the Alliance but not prepared to get involved in rebuilding the party that's already there. And I can see both sides of that argument, having been in the Alliance until 2008, and now being one of those outsiders who are yearning.

anna c said...

Just to clarify, the first anna and myself are the same person - this is not the only blog where it became confusing, so I changed my display name to something very slightly more distinctive.

Brucealmity said...

It is wrong for sluts to get up the duff in the first place outside of a decent God fearing marriage bed

Julie said...

Ah Brucie, how dull and predictable.

Matthew Stephen said...

Anna, Julie,

I'm another Alliance candidate but my responses to the questions have yet to be posted.

As far as I am concerned, the Alliance is committed to women's right to choose. Although not an expert in the field, I understand that in New Zealand we have de facto abortion on demand, even if the law is worded rather differently. If the law started to be interpreted differently then it should be changed. But I also think it is a good thing to speak to a doctor about these things.

Regarding splits on the left, I agree that this has historically been a problem. Part of the problem is that right-wingers tend to be self-interested and will set aside ideological differences in order to get access to power, whereas lefties tend to be quite idealistic and therefore uncompromising.

But as far as I can see the Alliance is the only left-wing democratic socialist party in the country, so rather than being fractured the left is just small at the moment. We are explicitly committed to being "a broad inclusive party of the Left" and have people of a variety of views: Quaker pacifists, militant atheists, democratic socialists, feminists, social democrats, eco-socialists, etc. That is why we are renewing the party and it would be great to see some of our old members coming back!