Tuesday, 27 May 2008


i saw this small article on the stuff website today, which links back to deborah's piece last week. it seems the young woman who decided to strip in response to wolfwhistles seems to have some deeper problems. i only highlight this to show that her act (of stripping) was perhaps not as strong as it seems. it would be interesting to know what the bar worker might have said (if anything) to provoke such an attack by her - possibly some reference to the recent publicity she had received? the article doesn't tell us if the bar worker was male or female. in any case, it's a sad development for her, and an inexcusable act of violence. there must be a better way of fighting back (hollaback, if you will) than this.

on another note, in all the furore that has resulted from kate wilkinson misspeaking (thank you hilary for a new word!) this morning, there was one aspect that seemed a little odd to me. mr key, in responding to media questions this afternoon, said "she's not involved in designing our kiwisaver scheme".

which is odd. why is she spokesperson in that area, or why was she sent to represent the party at this particular breakfast if she has absolutely no hand in developing policy on this issue, or is not even made aware of developments? what precisely is the role of spokespeople then, in the national party, and who is responsible for developing their policies?

as i was pondering these questions, i thought i'd have a look at the roles national women MPs currently hold. and here they are:

Paula Bennet: Associate Education (early childhood); Associate Welfare, Associate Labour & Industrial Relations

Jackie Blue: Women’s Affairs; Associate Health

Judith Collins: Family Affairs, Pacific Island Affairs, Welfare, Veteran’s Affairs

Jacqui Dean: Archives NZ; Associate Environment & RMA

Jo Goodhew: Associate Health

Sandra Goudie: Internal Affairs, Senior Citizens; Associate Local Government

Katrina Shanks: Associate Commerce, Associate Economic Development

Georgina te Heuheu: Maori Affairs (culture & development); Associate Defence

Anne Tolley: Education; Associate Welfare (CYFS)

Nicky Wagner: Youth Affairs; Associate Arts, Culture & Heritage, Associate Environment & RMA

Kate Wilkinson: Consumer Affairs, Labour & Industrial Relations; Associate Justice

Pansy Wong: ACC, Ethnic Affairs; Associate Education (international education), Associate Immigration

the missing woman in katherine rich, who understandably no longer has any portfolios. there aren't too many spokesperson roles for the women, and most of them relate to minor portfolios. the only major ones to go the women are welfare and education, possibly labour & industrial relations. and that's it. all the rest are minor portfolios or associate roles.

i'll concede that there aren't too many women to spread portfolios across. even so, compare this with labour women, who have major portfolios like justice, police, transport, commerce, customs, housing, as well as social development & employment. not to mention a woman prime minister and a woman speaker of the house.

it's sad that women of many years of experience such as pansy wong and georgina te heuheu are so underutilised (i actually have a lot of time for georgina, she's a nice person). the portfolio allocations above also show that national don't seem to be too serious about developing their women MPs to take on more senior roles in the party. there's possibly a health portfolio to come to dr jackie blue if tony ryall ever resigns and she can push aside dr jonathon coleman; i doubt kate wilkinson will be in line to take over justice now nor will simon power be stepping down soon. but that is it. no other major portfolios will be coming to this group of women in the short to medium term (assuming you have to get experience in an associate role before getting to be the main spokesperson). if they do get one or two new women MPs after the election, they certainly won't be in a position to take on major roles.

i don't think this is good enough from one of our major parties. they may very well say that they promote people on merit, not on gender. that seems to imply that their women MPs are not capable enough for promotion, which is not only a slap on the face, but also begs the question: why are they there then?

actually, i do feel sorry for kate wilkinson. we all make mistakes and although this is a major one (in that it involves committing her party to $2.4 billion of expenditure), i hope that her leadership is forgiving. given the line-up above, they can't really afford to be demoting their women MPs.


Anna said...

I had exactly the same thought about Kate Wilkinson and Kiwisaver. It gives the impression that the women of the National caucus are there to try to attract the female vote rather than to contribute in a meaningful way. Katherine Rich seems to have been the closest the Nats had to a woman in a powerful position, but she got the unpleasant task of being the female face that defended horrible policies - which she was clearly uncomfortable with several times.

Idiot/Savant said...

National is a Boy's Club. They realise they need women to avoid looking like one, but they're not willing to take them seriously or give them senior roles (or apparently any which are unrelated to kinder, kirche, and kuche). This is a step up from the complete knuckle-draggers they used to be (at leas tthey have female MPs), but a lot less than I'd expect from a modern, merit-based political party.

As for Wilkinson, she's being blamed for following the existing party line in ignorance of the fact that National's inner clique had changed it in secret. That's just a little unfair.

Deborah said...

Ooops indeed! Poneke commented about it over at Strange Land, and I've updated the post there. Will go and do the same here....