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August 3, 2014 | by  | in Features |
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Interviews with MPs on Womens Issues

It’s election year, so Salient asked New Zealand political parties for their stances on important women’s issues.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What is the party’s stance on abortion-law reform?
  2. Will the party increase funding for Rape Crisis?
  3. What reforms will the party make to the law regarding domestic violence?
  4. What will the party do to end the gender pay gap?

 THE NATIONAL PARTY

1. Abortion is a conscience issue. The National-led Government has no plans to reform laws around abortion at this time.

2. National knows how vital sexual-violence services are for victims, so we are increasing funding for sexual-violence services. Budget 2014 is providing $10.4 million in new operating funding to support sexual-violence services over the next two years. This funding boost will support New Zealanders and their families impacted by sexual violence.

The extra funding will include support for front-line crisis-response services, community-based treatment services, services for male survivors, and people accessing medical and forensic services. The Ministry for Social Development will be working closely with the sector during each step of the process.

We also want to try to prevent sexual violence before it happens, so the National-led Government has launched the ‘Are you that someone?’ campaign. It encourages young people to identify the signs that someone may be at risk of sexual violence, and find ways to safely step in early.

3. Although our nation is experiencing its lowest crime rate in 35 years, violent crime is not falling as fast. About half of all homicides in New Zealand are a result of family violence. This is unacceptable.

The National-led Government has introduced a cross-Government package to address family violence, to ensure home is a safe place for all women, children, and men, and ensure victims are not re-victimised.

The package will increase the safety of family-violence victims, and make services more responsive to their needs. It will establish a Chief Victims Advisor to advise on the needs and views of victims, trial GPS technology to keep victims safer, test an intensive case-management service for victims at high risk of serious harm or death, and explore the possibility of a conviction-disclosure scheme.

We are also working to develop a comprehensive, long-term approach to break the cycle of family violence through focussing on changing attitudes and behaviours towards family violence, and using early interventions for drug and alcohol addiction.

Since National has been in Government, we have taken steps to better protect victims. We increased the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order from two years’ imprisonment to three, and have introduced Police Safety Orders. Officials are also exploring the use of GPS and other technology to monitor people who breach protection orders.

National also passed new laws to protect vulnerable children through greater government accountability, better screening and vetting of people working with children, and stronger guardianship and child-protection laws. We have also ensured there are social workers based in all decile 1–3 schools and all district health boards.

National is a Government that takes the safety of New Zealanders seriously, and is taking action to build safer communities for everyone, and ensure future generations will grow up in safe homes, without violence.

4. New Zealand’s gender pay gap is the equal-lowest in the OECD (along with Ireland). While the gender pay gap has narrowed, any gender pay gap is unacceptable. The National-led Government has continued to work to better understand the causes of the gender pay gap, such as the need for greater access to flexible workplaces, good quality and affordable childcare, and increasing the number of women in leadership and management positions. We want meaningful change – led, developed and owned by communities and businesses, spearheaded by women and men who are champions of change. Achieving further success will take a determined effort over time and the collective actions of many.

THE LABOUR PARTY

1. Abortion is a conscience issue for Labour MPs. However, we have set down general principles that we agreed upon in the Labour Party’s Policy Platform Conference, which say: “Labour supports safe, affordable and universal access to contraception, sexual and reproductive services and information. Labour recognises all women have the right to make their own choices about their own bodies, and should have access to abortion services.” Labour will undertake a comprehensive review of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 and all other related legislation. We’ll ask the Law Commission to undertake the review.

2. Yes, Labour will provide $60 million over four years for family and sexual violence to support front-line services, primary prevention, and education. This includes increased support for transitional housing.

3. Labour will take decisive action with the aim of being world-leading in eliminating violence against women and children, focussing on prevention, support services and justice. In addition to providing $60 million over four years for family- and sexual-violence services, we will provide sustainable funding to build a nationwide network of violence-prevention services, including primary, secondary and tertiary prevention services, and increase resources into primary prevention for sexual violence.

Specifically with regard to sentencing, Sue Moroney currently has a Member’s Bill in the ballot, the Sentencing (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill, which will make domestic violence an aggravating factor at the time of sentencing.

We have a comprehensive policy on eliminating violence against women and children.  Other commitments we’ve made are to:

– Provide leadership to eliminate violence against women and children from the Prime Minister down with the lead agency being DPMC.

– Adopt a collaborative, resourced, long-term New Zealand Action Plan to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Children, in consultation with other parties and the sector.

– Reform the justice system to provide real justice to survivors while protecting the right to be presumed innocent. This includes providing specialist training.

– Review prosecution guidelines to ensure Police appropriately and consistently arrest and charge offenders, and review the operation of Protection Orders.

You can find our full policy on our website.

4. Labour has a strong commitment to addressing gender-pay inequality, and recognises that a comprehensive approach is necessary to address this systemic and enduring inequality. Labour proposes using the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit’s detailed audits of the state-sector gender pay gap to determine legislative and policy changes required to close the gap. Solutions will need to be able to align with our human-rights and employment-relations frameworks.

Our responses will recognise the right to equal pay, require a positive duty to advance equality and provide the mechanism to determine work of equal value.

THE GREEN PARTY

1. The Green Party believes that abortion is a health issue and not a criminal issue.

This is why we believe that abortions should be removed from the Crimes Act. The Green Party is seeking to bring the law around abortions in line with current practice and to assert the right of women to choose.

2. The Green Party believes that front-line services play a huge role in tackling the high rates of domestic and sexual violence in the country. They provide the most crucial of services when the victim needs it the most, and, also as importantly, they provide the leadership and education for culture change. That is why the Green Party went to the National Party to jointly initiate the select-committee inquiry into funding for specialist services. This resulted in the interim $10.4 million over two years that we hope will keep the core agencies afloat until we can properly fund the sector. The Green Party believes New Zealand cannot afford to continue chronically underfunding this essential sector, and we are trying to build a cross-party consensus on this.

3. The Green Party has been active and at the forefront of advocating more action around domestic violence. Domestic violence is endemic throughout the country. Three reports this year – the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC), ‘The People’s Report’, and ‘The Way Forward’ – have described a system in breakdown. We believe there needs to be a change in the way society sees and deals with domestic violence, and leadership for this change must come from government. We see violence against women and children as a wicked problem that needs a whole-of-system response. The Green Party is committed to a complete review of our laws, policies and funding to address this problem at a national and local level.
We will also progress our member’s bill to provide workplace protections for victims of domestic violence.

4. The Green Party believes that pay equity is a basic human-rights issue, and one that should have been addressed many years ago. For the past two years, the Green Party has had a Bill in the ballot to address the lack of transparency. We also have another draft bill with much wider reforms ready to go, but are awaiting the results of the Kristine Bartlett case, which is currently testing the scope of the existing Equal Pay Act, to see if it is necessary. We will work towards a mechanism for all employers to undertake pay audits and report on pay and employment equity in all sectors, and require employers to modify or eliminate pay rates or practices that continue inequity. We would also establish a Pay and Employment Equity Commission to collect, collate and analyse data on pay and employment equity. Most importantly, though, since we know the public sector currently leads the rest of the population in exploitation of women workers, we are committed to funding the state sector and contracted organisations in a way to deliver pay equity.

THE MĀORI PARTY
1. The issues associated with abortion are absolutely central to any understanding of whānau wellbeing, of Whānau Ora. The protection and preservation of whakapapa and genealogy is fundamental to the health of our whānau. We believe the involvement of whānau in considering the wider context around abortion is important.

2. The shocking rates of abuse for Māori women are sharply disproportionate to those for women from other ethnic groups. Sexual predators must be exposed and addressed, and doing so is not an act of betrayal but an act of protection. However, many victims feel too afraid, either of their attacker, the stigma, or the justice and legal systems, to come forward.

We believe it would be appropriate to increase funding for Rape Crisis to not only support victims, but to address the issue itself through inclusive education for students to understand, appreciate and practice respect to oneself and to each other to ensure that young people do not grow up to become the kind of people that commit violence.

We believe the greatest need is in supporting whānau to support their own in the context of prevention, healing and strengthening whānau. We support the concept of a paralegal/ Iwi facilitator to help work with whānau to respond to the traumatic impact of sexual violence.

3. We would ensure full implementation of the report from the Expert Advisory Group which was tasked with providing independent strategic advice to the Government to assist in determining key priority actions to address family violence in New Zealand. In particular, we seek to develop new legislation or legislative change, and to enact a proposal to make the Minister of Finance one of the Cabinet Ministers with responsibility for family violence.

The Māori Party also wants a national strategy that adopts zero tolerance to child abuse and domestic violence, promotes and strengthens family relationships, protects those affected, prevents abuse and violence, restores relationships and families for the benefit of children; and that the systems are overhauled, especially the justice and legal systems which have often led to more victimisation.

Current programmes by the Māori Party such as E Tū Whānau, which is a Māori-led response to high levels of family violence in New Zealand, work best when families and communities take ownership and action for themselves within whānau and hapū, and where a kaupapa Māori delivery framework is used.

4. We will monitor both pay equity and cultural competency in all agencies to ensure the quality of services, and equity of access and outcomes to bring out wellbeing. Chief executives will be required to report six-monthly on how they are progressing positive outcomes for whānau. Cultural competency will be an employment standard in justice, health, education and social services.

Women make an enormous contribution to every aspect of our society. Our candidates, our MPs, have also been profoundly inspired by the leadership so many women across our whānau, our communities and our nation have exhibited. We remember the wisdom of the late Dr Irihapeti Ramsden: “once were gardeners, once were astronomers, once were philosophers, once were lovers.” We need to be proud of our capacity to be hunters and gatherers as well as scientists and businesswomen. Women also nurture and raise whānau – and that is a major contribution to our society. Pay must not be based on gender, but by competency, and no gender is more competent than the other in their contribution to society and the workforce.

THE ACT PARTY
1. ACT has no policy regarding abortion-law reform. If the issue arises in Parliament during the next three years, it is likely to be the result of a private member’s bill. ACT will allow its MPs a free ‘conscience’ vote.

2. There is currently a Parliamentary Inquiry into Sexual Violence Services underway, which began in October 2013. In the meantime, the Government has made an interim funding provision of $10.4 million to Rape Prevention Education (formerly Rape Crisis). ACT will await the release of the Inquiry report. However, ACT is concerned that the funding provided by the $50 offender levy, of which some of the $12.6 million gathered since July 2010 has gone to RPE, does not meet the real costs caused by offenders. ACT proposes that the offender levy be increased.

3. ACT would support the adoption in New Zealand of a UK scheme that allows people to find out if their partner has a violent history. ‘Clare’s Law’ was introduced after British woman Clare Wood was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who had kept his abusive history a secret.

4. Differences in earnings between men and women have many causes, including the fact that women often take time out of their careers when pregnant and raising young children and then often prefer part-time work, which slows career progress. The Government should not stop women from making these choices. Nor should it subsidise them. ACT believes that incomes are properly determined by market forces, not by politicians or bureaucrats.

MANA
1. MANA has not developed any policy on abortion law reform as yet.

2. Yes. Our policy priorities are to:
· Provide stable, sufficient funding for women’s refuge, rape crisis, men’s stopping violence groups and other organisations working to support those affected by sexual and family violence.
· Provide free counselling and well subsidised legal support for those affected by sexual and family violence.
· Provide appropriate frontline support for rape and domestic violence.

3. The law is clearly not working and MANA is advocating for an urgent and comprehensive review. A top priority would be to remove the discretion of the Police to not prosecute. The issuing of 24 hour protection orders is not sufficient long-term protection if there is no requirement for follow up. Another priority is to institute alternatives to long term parole for perpetrators to restore wellbeing for them and those they have harmed, including marae-based programmes.

4. MANA supports the introduction of pay and employment equity legislation.

NZ FIRST
We put these questions to Tracey Martin, NZ First’s spokeswoman for Women’s Affairs, but she never got back to us. What a pity.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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