Update: A National staffer from their Leader's office has clarified as follows:
"We have responded as a party because if MPs responded individually to each request they would never get out into the electorate to campaign, such is the number that have come in. Hence there will be no individual answers. But thanks for the opportunity."Make of that what you will, dear readers.
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 economy is a major concern at the moment. Women are worried about paying the bills, feeding their family, and job security. They are worried about rising prices and paying the mortgage. Many women are employed in lower-skilled areas and they are worried that their employment may not be secure. Women are also concerned about rising debt levels. National will be stronger economic managers than the Labour Government has been. National understands the importance of financial certainty in these tough economic times. That is why we are committed to a responsible programme of on-going tax reduction on 1 April 2009, 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2011. This is in addition to maintaining all existing Working for Families and paid parental leave entitlements.
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 National Party wants to lift the wages of all workers, irrespective of gender or occupation. It’s interesting to note that the gender pay gap has not budged under the Labour Government. It’s true that women tend to be clustered in low-paid occupations and that’s why National has policies that support economic growth and education. Lifting wages will mean women will be better able to save in retirement, will have more money to help raise children, repay student debt, and have more disposable income which ultimately will give them greater choice. Economic growth means that as a wealthier country we will be able to do more for our citizens and be able to afford the best medicines, afford good healthcare, social and education services, and pay for things like the extension of paid parental leave. The Labour Government has tried a range of bureaucratic mechanisms aimed at pay equity, but without success. National believes anti-discrimination legislation is still the most effective tool to secure equal pay for equal work.
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?
Abortion is a conscience issue.
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.
National has already announced that it plans to enable police to issue on-the-spot protection orders in situations where a woman and/or her children are under serious threat from an abusive and violent partner. We are troubled by the fact that though recorded incidents of domestic violence have increased, the number of applications to the courts for protection orders has declined by 26% over the past six years. Not surprisingly, many victims simply don’t apply to the court for a protection order, either because of the associated delays and costs, or for a fear of the repercussions. We think empowering the police to take immediate action will ensure potential victims are protected until courts are able to fully deal with the matter. In turn, it is incumbent upon police to treat breaches of protection orders with the severity they deserve.
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?
National will increase access to respite care for those caring for aged family members. We will expand access to dedicated respite beds by $5 million per year. More respite beds means more support for unpaid caregivers so that the stress of caring doesn’t affect their health.
We will also provide an additional $18 million per year to help rest homes support and retain nursing staff. Currently, registered nurses working in residential care facilities are generally paid less per hour than those working for DHBs, and this pay differential has been increasing.
National’s programme of ongoing tax reductions will improve the financial circumstances of parents caring for their children. In addition, National will increase from $80 to $100 the amount that beneficiaries can earn before their benefit is affected. This will take effect in April 2009. It has not been increased since 1996. We have also pledged to keep all existing Working for Families and Paid Parental Leave entitlements.
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?
Breastfeeding is important. Please see our maternity policy for more information.
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?
Focus on education. A National Government will focus on education standards because education is the essential rung on the ladder of opportunity. For example, we will introduce national standards in numeracy and literacy, and we will introduce a Youth Guarantee so all 16- and 17-year-olds can access, free of charge, education towards school-level qualifications.
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)
Domestic violence is an issue for ALL New Zealanders, because its effects are felt across the spectrum of our society, and we have a collective responsibility to do something about it
If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?
A National Government will also ensure there is good collaboration between those agencies with a role in responding to domestic violence – something that the recently released evaluation of Family Safety Teams found was lacking. It has also taken too long for the Labour Government to establish a process for reviewing deaths from family violence, which would potentially add to understanding of its causes and contributing factors. Finally, we would also like to see the current social marketing campaign move towards providing preventative strategies for the perpetrators of domestic violence to better manage their behaviour. Too much of the current focus puts the onus on victims to come forward and open up about their situation, and not enough responsibility has been placed on the perpetrators to address their offending.
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)
By convention, benefits are increased each year according to movements in the CPI. However, indexing benefits to the CPI is not guaranteed by legislation which means that beneficiaries do not have the same certainty that superannuitants enjoy. Therefore, National will cement the CPI- indexing of benefits into legislation.
National believes that work is the best way out of poverty. The OECD has said that the DPB creates poverty traps for sole parents and another OECD study from 2007 concluded that ‘It is in the long-term interests of all families, including sole parent families to engage in paid work, as this is the most effective way of reducing the risk of family poverty, enhancing child development, and generally giving children the best possible start in life.’
National will introduce a part-time work obligation of 15 hours per week of employment, training or job-seeking activities for DPB recipients once their youngest dependent child turns six. International studies show that having a working mother does not have a detrimental effect on measurable child outcomes. For more disadvantaged families, including sole parent families, studies have found positive effects from a mother working.
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?
As with the response to Question 1, the key to increasing access to good food is to aim for higher household incomes. Lifting the performance of the New Zealand economy is crucial to lifting household incomes. Higher incomes will mean more money in the pockets of Kiwis and more money to buy fruit, vegetables and fresh meat. National will also be keeping the Working for Families package which will give support to households during these tough economic times.
Some commentators have suggested that the removal GST on certain items could be used as a means of decreasing the cost of food. However, this fails to appreciate the cost of such a scheme on consumers. Exempting food from GST would inevitably lead to calls to exempt other things, such as books, children's clothes, and shoes and so on. Such exemptions would complicate the tax system and result in a red tape nightmare as can be seen in the following examples of Australia’s differential GST system: If I had a dairy and sold bread and butter, it would be tax free; but if I put butter on the bread and sold it, it would be taxable. Cold cooked chicken is GST free. Hot cooked chicken is taxable.
National shares the sentiments of an increasing number of New Zealanders concerned about the rising cost of living, and are resolute in our commitment to an ongoing programme of phased tax cuts that will give real money back to all hard-working New Zealanders. .
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.
(no answer given)