The below response is from the Labour Party, in addition to the individual candidate responses received from Labour candidates to date (which are listed in the index). I must say I'm quietly surprised, and impressed, to get a response from Labour, as a party, and it's nice to add them to the Greens, the Kiwi Party and the Maori Party who have all sent party-wide responses. Still nothing from National...
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?
Currently, the biggest issue facing all New Zealanders is the state of the economy. With New Zealand facing an economic downturn, our shared challenge is to ensure that all New Zealanders are supported through these tough times through strong employment and access to affordable food, healthcare, housing and education.
New Zealand women can feel assured that Labour will continue to invest heavily in education and skills training for them and for their children. Changes to social assistance, Working for Families and the minimum wage will increase family income and improve circumstances for many women in New Zealand.
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?
Labour is committed to improving the economic wellbeing of women by ensuring steady jobs and good pay for women who choose to enter the paid workforce. After restoring the balance to workplace relations with legislation that included the Employment Relations Act and the Holidays Act, Labour established the Pay and Employment Equity taskforce and has begun to address the gender pay gap in parts of the public service, the public health and education sectors.
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?
In general, Labour has sought to give women access to affordable primary health care services and good information so they can stay healthy and a safer environment in which they may address their own reproductive health issues. Under Labour, doctors’ visits and prescription costs have dropped significantly and access to nationwide screening programmes for women, such as breast and cervical cancer, have been widened and given new impetus.
The issue of abortion is a conscience issue for Labour MPs, therefore individual members will be free to take their own position.
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?
We believe that every single incidence of domestic violence is one too many. While the success of the ‘Its Not OK’ publicity campaign has confirmed that we have made some progress in changing attitudes, our priority is to improve protections for women against violence, and improve access to health and parenting support services for women.
To bring effect to a review of the Domestic Violence Act, Labour will enact legislation that, in particular, provides for police-issued ‘on the spot’ protection orders; strengthens penalties for protection order breaches; and requires closer Family Court scrutiny before protection orders are discharged.
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?
Labour believes all workers deserve a fair wage and decent working conditions; and we’re going to work hard to make sure all New Zealanders get that entitlement. Under Labour the minimum wage has increased nine times, and we’ve committed to increasing the minimum wage with inflation or tied to the average wage – whichever is greater.
We recognize the need to support and develop workers who provide valuable support to older New Zealanders and our children and we know that low pay and high staff turnover have been a major issue in aged care, health and education. We want to see wages rise in these sectors.
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?
Labour is dedicated to ensuring that all New Zealanders have the very best start in life, and we believe there are great health benefits from more babies being breastfed and breastfed for longer.
We introduced paid parental leave to give mothers more time with their newborn. We changed the law so parents can ask for flexible working arrangements and employers are now required to provide appropriate facilities and breaks for employees who wish to breastfeed or express. Labour will continue to promoted breastfeeding and do whatever we can to make it easier for mothers to breastfeed for longer.
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?
The Labour Party has a proud history of encouraging gender representation. Currently 36 per cent of our MPs in Parliament are female, led by Prime Minister Helen Clark. Our female MPs make a major contribution to the party and we are always looking at ways of encouraging more women to get involved in decision making.
Nevertheless, finding women in leadership roles within our economy is still an exception, rather than the norm. Labour recognises that we still need to encourage greater participation by women on public and private sector boards as well as positions of leadership in the public sector.
Labour will develop initiatives that increase the percentage of women on public sector boards and encourage greater representation of women on private sector boards. For women in business, there should be help where they need it.
But reaching the top also involves role models and sharing a sense of the achievable. Labour will encourage mentoring schemes for women interested greater leadership participation and development. Labour will also develop policies that support women in the public sector to attain senior management positions.
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?
Family violence is one of the most serious problems facing all New Zealanders. We will continue to support the work of the Taskforce for Action on Family Violence and their It’s Not OK! campaign. We are committed to providing ongoing support and security of funding for community groups who are at the front line. And we will strengthen the Domestic Violence Act to better protect victims and enable police to crack down on perpetrators of domestic violence.
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)
Labour values the job that sole parents undertake when raising children and do not believe there is a need to adopt a punitive approach - punishing beneficiaries only means their children suffer the most.
Labour actively encourages people into work where possible. The key point is that the government, through incentives such as Working for Families, abatements and 20 Hours’ Free early childhood education, supports people into the workforce when they are ready.
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?
Labour is committed to affordable basics for all Kiwi families – that is why we cut taxes at the lowest rate and increase benefits, Working for Families and Superannuation every year to help families meet rising costs. We are committed to doing what we can to help ease some of the pressure. While we can't control global prices, we are committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable Kiwis are always able to access affordable food for their families.
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.
In New Zealand today, women’s participation in the paid workforce is increasing, the level at which they participate is improving, and more women are moving into self-employment. Government-funded, paid parental leave is available to assist women to balance paid work commitments and family responsibilities. Across a number of indicators, improvements can be seen in women’s general health and women are performing particularly well in education. These are some of the advances achieved for women in recent years, despite persisting inequalities.
But Labour understands that despite these improvements, we cannot rest on our laurels. Work will go on to ensure that Kiwi women have access to affordable healthcare and food; that they are protected from the uncertainties of the economic downturn through opportunities to work for good pay; and they can raise families in a New Zealand free from family violence.