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Privacy Bill to be Debated

Posted by on May 16th, 2013

Today, my Bill to give more tools to the Privacy Commissioner to deal with privacy breaches was drawn from the members’ ballot.
The Bill gives the Privacy Commissioner the ability to undertake investigations into agencies and require them to become compliant with the Act.
Currently the Privacy Commissioner can only act on complaints from individuals – the Bill would allow her to instigate investigations and require information-handling audits.
It is timely, given the huge number of embarrasing privacy breaches happening under this Government.
From ACC to EQC, through to the deliberate privacy breaches committed by Minister Paula Bennett against two sole parents, the breaching of New Zealanders’ private information has been rife under National.
If they are serious are about addressing these issues, then they will support this Bill, as will other Parties across our Parliament.
Having had three bills drawn out of the ballot in the last 12 months, I’m keen to get to the races to see if I can pull off other trifectas!
Now, for my next bill….

Equal Pay getting Further Away

Posted by on February 21st, 2013

Today the Business and Professional Women of NZ are commemorating Equal Pay Day to mark the number of days extra each year that women have to work to earn the same as men.
Sadly, Equal Pay Day this year is three days later than it was last year because the gender pay gap has grown again according to the StatisticsNZ Quarterly Employment Survey.
It shows the average hourly wage for men is $29.09, while women earn $25.25 per hour – a gap of almost 12%.
This comes on the back of the Minister for Women’s Affairs telling a select committee that the correlation between gender and low occupational status is “debatable.”
She was responding to a petition signed by 10,607 people calling on the Government to properly fund aged care services.
Her answer was that women would get better pay if they did jobs that men had traditionally done and this would fix the gender pay gap.
All very well, Minister Goodhew, but who is going to take care of you when need rest homecare if all of those hard-working women go off to be plumbers?

Young Labour Find Hamilton Roots

Posted by on January 21st, 2013

Yesterday Young Labour was in Hamilton West for the second leg of their Clarion Tour.

The Clarion tour is named after the famed Clarion Cycling Club, which consisted of a group of dedicated British political activists who rode around the English countryside in the 1890s talking about their vision for a better and fairer society.

Young Labour are following this tradition: travelling around New Zealand living out Labour values.

In Hamilton Young Labour and I went to the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park. We got out there and did what we call the “Pukeko stomp” where we release the newly planted native plants from the faster growing grass and weeds. It is an essential park of the community vision to provide both a home for Tui and a great location of community education and recreation.

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is the first step in the much needed restoration of native bush in the Waikato. From the 1820s European settlers began arriving in the area paving the way for the famous land clearances of the 1860s. It was clearing and draining of the land that gave the region much of the open pasture land we are renowned for today.

But it also destroyed all but 1% of the wetland once widespread in the region and meant native New Zealand birds were all but banished from Hamilton.

As with any story what struck Young Labour and I was how great community initiatives like Waiwhakareke are determined by abstract decisions about priorities. The Hamilton City Council lost millions of ratepayer’s money when it made the ill-fated decision 48 to bring the V8s to Hamilton. I fear it will be great initiatives like Waiwhakareke that may bear the brunt of Council attempts to recover that money. Pensioner housing units have already been sold off in a short-sighted attempt to reduce the city’s debt.

You can check out the other great community projects Young Labour are undertaking from West Auckland to Christchurch at

Be Careful Who You Quote

Posted by on October 25th, 2012

In a desperate bid to find a reason to oppose my bill to extend paid parental leave to 6 months, Business NZ rolled up to the select committee citing the opinion of Member of the European Parliament as evidence that employers in NZ might stop employing women of “child-bearing” age.

“Absurd legislation such as this closes the door on opportunities for young women and consigns them to a role as second class citizens, trapped at home by stupid legislators,” said the un-named MEP in Business NZs submission.

A quick google search revealed him to be Godfrey Bloom from the UK Independence Party.

Turns out, Godfrey has a lot to say about women.

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.” For example. Closely followed by:

“I just dont think (women) clean behind the fridge enough” and “I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home.”

And Godfrey also has something to say about NZ. Wikipedia reports that he was filmed in 2009, congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior.

My advise to Business NZ is simple. Don’t make assertions that denigrate both women and NZ employers and use an MEP of questionable repute to justify your position.

Its a very bad look and the issue deserves better treatment than that.

Did Business NZ Contract Alasdair Thomson to Write PPL Submission?

Posted by on October 18th, 2012

Watch Phil O’Reilly try to avoid explaining why Business NZ asserts that employers will employ fewer women of “child bearing  age” if paid parental leave was extended – even though employer dont pay for the leave.

He gets so tied up in knots here, that I think he ends up arguing for Metiria Turei’s Bill that the National Party voted against last night, to get money into beneficiary household with children.

By the way, he’s got Bill English’s disease here of inflating the figures he uses and forgetting that we still havent got the final figure of what my Bill will cost over three years yet.

Shades of Alasdair Thompson here…


Stop New Zealand From Parading A Convicted Rapist Around – Legend!

Posted by on October 5th, 2012

This week, school teacher Juliana Venning showed how powerful one determined woman can be.
When she heard convicted rapist, Mike Tyson was being given a visa to come to New Zealand even though he should be barred under our immigration criteria for being sentenced to more than 5 years imprisionment, she acted.
She wrote to Immigration NZ and complained about Mr Tyson gaining entry to NZ and they wrote back explaining that he had been given a “special direction” by the Minister and his application had been supported by the Life Education Trust.
Many would have stopped there – not Juliana.
She did what the Minister should have done. She went to the Life Education Trust and asked them to explain their support.
They told her they had been approached to support Mike Tyson’s application and would receive around $60,000 from the event he was coming for, but DECLINED to be involved.
The rest is history, but the point is that Juliana’s persistence in standing up for victims of sexual assault resulted in Mike Tyson’s visa being revoked.
Round one goes to the school teacher, against the boxing champ.
Round two is now gearing up, as the Minister strangely opened the door up for another visa application from Mr Tyson.
Some argue he is a great role model for young NZrs because he has turned his life around.
But where’s the proof of that?
Mr Tyson was clearly annoyed when a TV interviewer in NZ asked about his conviction and replied: “I didnt do that f****** crime.”
Hardly the reaction of a remorseful man who has turned his life around and not the performance I would expect of a role model.
In fact Tyson has been convicted on two further charges of violence since his 1992 conviction for raping an 18 year old woman.
The most recent charges laid against him were in 2007.
The purpose of Mike Tyson’s proposed visit to NZ isnt to turn lives around in South Auckland. He wants to come here to make a buck by entertaining those who can pay up to $395 a ticket to see his show.

This week, Police released crime stats showing sexual assaults had risen by 15% in the last two years. The last thing we need, is a convicted rapist getting special treatment and being paraded around as a celebrity.

Well done Juliana.  You are the real role model in this match.

National’s New Stance on Why They Oppose 6 Months Paid Parental Leave

Posted by on September 19th, 2012

Courtesy of Melissa Lee, on Suffrage Day …

Where’s the Plan for Children?

Posted by on September 19th, 2012

On Monday, I visited Christchurch to check out how early childhood education is holding up under the huge pressures it faces.
Not only have they had to deal with the Government’s budget cuts that came into effect in January 2011 which took $400m out of ECE, but they have had falling rolls which also affects their funding.
Unlike Canterbury schools, ECE services didnt get the 12 months’ funding at pre-earthquake roll levels.
They have had to struggle on with the double-whammy of reduced funding, while providing critical support to the youngest children and their families.
Staff have reduced hours, taken wage cuts and gone the extra mile. Providers have kept fees low or free because they understand the plight families face.
Like other Cantabrians, they havent complained, they have got on and done it because they care about the children and families they work with.
So, imagine how they feel at being treated like an afterthought in last Thurday’s announcement by the Government on Christchurch.
They were expecting innovation and a valuing of early childhood education – what they got was more uncertainty and being regarded as an afterthought to the compulsory sector.
The ECE meeting to notify them of the “firm” proposals wasnt even held until 2 hours after the rest of NZ was officially told.
It was the ideal opportunity for the Government to develop community hubs with ECE services – the concept that other social and support services for families co-locate with ECE services to make things easier and more accessible for the community.
Instead the Government proposed to close and merge schools that these ECE services currently feed into.
For the local Kindergarten Association, 36 out of their 58 Christchurch kindys are affected by those decisions.
Once again, this Government has demonstrated by its actions how low early childhood education is on its list of priorities.
What would Kate Sheppard think? #wwkst

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What would Kate Sheppard think?

Posted by on September 18th, 2012

This year we are taking Women’s Suffrage Day to the Twittersphere to hear what you think about how Kiwi women are faring 119 years after we won the right to vote.

I feel sure that Kate Sheppard, the woman who led the charge and graces our $10 note, would have some opinions to express if she were alive today.

But sadly, she’s not! So we want to hear from you, by posting your comments below or on Twitter from 8am tomorrow morning, 19 September 2012, using the hashtag #wwkst – What would Kate Sheppard think?

Kate Sheppard fought for New Zealand women’s political and economic independence and thanks to her more than five generations of women have now been able to influence decision-making through their vote.

There are things that we have achieved that I think would make her smile, like Marriage property laws, Equal Pay laws, the election of the first woman, Elizabeth McCoombs to Parliament and many more including Mabel Howard as the first female cabinet minister, and our female Prime Ministers Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark.

But there are some things that I think would make her frown. What would she think about female accountants being paid 30% less on average than their male counterparts in 2012? Or about the National Council of Women, which she founded, supporting the removal of working women’s rights in the first 90 days of employment?  What would she think about the fact just 6% of private company boards having female directors; or that just 32.5% of our House of Representatives are female, when women make up 51% of the population?

I think she’d say there’s work to be done.

And there are some things she would be down-right angry about. Like our rates of domestic violence, or the fact that 270,000 Kiwi kids live in poverty, or that in 2011 voter turnout was the lowest since the 1880s at just 65%.

I think she would expect more from this government and more from its Minister of Women’s Affairs. What do you think?


By The Numbers

Posted by on September 11th, 2012

Yes, I am trying to steal David Clark’s thunder- but I’m not the only one.
A few weeks ago at the Women’s Expo in Tauranga, the National Party had a stall.
They decided they needed a fresh idea – a “hook” to get women interacting with them.
They needed something to get attention, something that would let women know they were on their side.
Problem was, National are out of any new ideas of their own and their current policies are bad for women.

So here’s what they chose to ask the women of Tauranga about :-

“Should Waitangi Day and AnzacDay be Mondayised when they fall on a weekend.”

Expo-goers were asked to put a dot under “Yes or “No” and I have it on good authority that it was a landslide to the Yes vote.

I wonder of the Nats will now reverse their opposition to this excellent Labour Bill after this feedback from the good folk of Tauranga. Or will they continue to ignore them?

Meanwhile, around the corner, the Labour stall was promoting another excellent Labour Billl – my proposal to extend paid parental leave to 6 months which was also enjoying great support.

So, “by the numbers” when it came to great plans for the future embraced by the people of Tauranga:

Labour – 2
National – 0
Women of Tauranga thinking about Labour’s great policy ideas – Heaps!

Education & Inequality #4

Posted by on August 31st, 2012

Early childhood education costs have risen 4 times faster than wages since June 2010.

The Best Place In the World to Raise Children?

Posted by on July 25th, 2012

Last week the United Nations chastised Minister of Women’s Affairs Jo Goodhew and the NZ Government for our low level of paid parental leave.
Tonight the Government gets a chance to rectify it, by supporting my Bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks.
Instead, they plan to veto it for trumped up financial reasons.
Follow the debate from 8pm tonight.

Lack of PPL Dragging us Down

Posted by on May 10th, 2012

Our lack of paid parental leave is holding us back from being the best place in the world to raise children.
This was confirmed by the “State of the World’s Mothers” report released this week by Save the Children.
Even though we were placed fourth in their 13th annual report, its clear that our low rate of PPL was a key reason we slumped to 19th place when rated on their breastfeeding policy scorecard.
The report shows that 88% of NZ babies were breastfed at some stage, but that by 3 months that fell to just 56% and the data wasnt even available for NZ babies aged 6 months.
It is also of concern that NZ rated just 25th/44 countires on Save the Chidren’s scorecard for children living in developed countries.
I want NZ to be the best place in the world to raise children. Extending paid parental leave is one practical way we can achieve this.

National Government failing Women

Posted by on May 3rd, 2012

Today’s unemployment figures show the female unemployment rate to be 7.1% – the highest it’s been since 1998.
This bad news follows hard on the heels of the Government’s announcement that they will veto extensions to paid parental leave; their mother-bashing proposals under the so-called “welfare reforms” banner and the news that Police will no longer report family violence data in their annual report.
So it’s time to ask a few questions.
Why is Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jo Goodhew, sitting on her hands while her Government fails the women of New Zealand?
Why have two CEO’s resigned from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the three years that National has been the Government? (MWA CEO Rowena Phair has just announced her resignation this week)
What does National have against women and mothers in particular?
They can’t say they didnt know women were suffering. In March, EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor warned that the cuts to public service jobs; the disproportionate loss of retail, accommodation and food service jobs in Christchurch and the reliance on construction in Christchurch to lift employment would all lead to increasing unemployment for women.
Women are bearing the brunt of the Government’s inability to pull the economy out of recession.
Not only are women losing jobs, but they bear the brunt of the emerging housing crisis, the fire-at-will bill and short-sighted cuts in early childhood and tertiary education.
And as the economic mismangement puts financial pressure on the family budget, guess who cops it then? Shockingly, sometimes in a physical way.
But of course the Police annual stats will hide that fact and we can all go back to pretending that domestic violence doesnt exist.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Women’s Affairs sits quietly outside of Cabinet and that’s just the way the National Party like it.

More News on Finland

Posted by on March 28th, 2012

Just in today – a ringing endorsement from the OECD that Finland does have something to learn from NZ.
“Finland could learn from programmes in New Zealand and Sweden that have boosted the flow of young professionals into preschool education and improved staff qualifications,” says the OECD Report.
Unfortunately, the National Government have dismantled the New Zealand programme which involved having a goal to reach 100% qualified staff by 2012 and providing funding for up to 100% qualified staff.
Now, that’s what John Key and Gerry Brownlee should be apologising for.
Sorry, Gerry. You won’t be able to use that as an example, either.

Govt drops target bomb on International Women’s Day

Posted by on March 8th, 2012

Today, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jo Goodhew, announced the Government will only seek to appoint 45% women on state sector boards by 2014.
The target set by Labour was to appoint 50% women by 2012.
This Government clearly lacks ambition for taking the lead in increasing women’s leadership in New Zealand, even though it is one of three priorities they have for women.
Even worse is the low expectation they have set that private company boards should only aim to get to 10% women on boards.
Today, the Grant Thornton survey found that NZ has also gone backwards in the number of women in senior management roles – dropping from 32% in 2011 to 28% in 2012.
But what else can you expect when we have a Government that doesnt lead by example.
Happy International Women’s Day!

Women on Boards – NZ’s dismal record

Posted by on February 9th, 2012

Yesterday recruiting company Korn Ferry released a survey showing New Zealand running last in the Asia/Pacific Region for female directors on boards.

Its embarrassing that China, India, Malaysia, Siganpore, Hong Kong and Australia all fare better than us. We used to lead the world when it came to representation of women. Kate Sheppard must be turning in her grave.

I thought Institute of Directors Ralph Chivers hit the nail on the head when he said:”There is no shortage of women who aspire to work at that level, or potentially suitable candidates. Women have told us they have difficulty getting noticed for opportunities to be promoted.” How refreshingly honest! He wasn’t prepared to use the tired, worn-out excuse that the problem is women dont want to be directors, or that they weren’t good enough and needed “mentoring.” If I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard that one, I would be a wealthy woman.

Despite the National Government having a glitzy launch of a “Women on Boards” initiative aimed at the private sector in 2009, the reality is they had just scrapped the target Labour had set of getting 50% women on public sector boards. And so the survey shows that there has been no increase in the proportion of women on our boards and in the public sector (where the Government itself appoints board members) there has been no improvement on the 41% representation Labour had achieved by the time we left office. And its important, because research shows that companies do better with women involved in their decision-making. Women directors are better at risk management, less prone to group thinking, better at problem-solving and better able to link to diverse customers. That’s what research tells us.

Across the ditch, they have made some quick progress on this issue by simply requiring companies to report the facts of the organisation’s gender balance. The result has been that women now make up 25% of new appointments to ASX company boards, compared to just 5% in 2009 before the measure was brought in. In less than a year, the number of women appointed to Australia’s corporate boards has gone from 8% to 14% by just taking this simple measure.It seems that when companies are required to look at their own dismal records, that’s when women start to get noticed. We could do the same – actually we were doing something remarkably similar to this with pay equity audits in the public sector before National scrapped it when they came into Government.

Funny that!

Watch Out Students

Posted by on September 28th, 2011

Today National and Act passed a law to reduce the effectiveness of student unions.
Earlier this year they passed a law that took student reps off polytechnic councils.

Seems they dont want students to have a strong voice when it comes to tertiary education. I wonder what they have in store for them?

Putting Kids First

Posted by on September 17th, 2011

This week I had the privilege of announcing Labour’s plan to lift achievement in primary schools – or more accurately, years 1-8. We called it “Reaching for the Stars – Whakamaua Nga Whetu” and it spells out the way forward from the debacle that is National’s national standards.

Our policy ensures that parents get plain language information they require on their child’s achievement, progress and next learning steps without schools having the flawed national standards imposed on them. Labour will require schools to use recognised assessment tools and teacher judgement to assess children against the celebrated NZ Curriculum. Simple really – no major drama.

Meanwhile, the Government has resorted to having the Ministry write national standard targets for the non-compliant schools. So much for self-managing schools! As we speak, those school boards are now being threatened with the sack if they return those charters to the Ministry with the words “under duress” on them. This Government seems determined to go to war with the education sector, rather than work with them to get good outcomes. As Labour’s policy shows, its all so unnecessary.

It is telling that Mrs Tolley hasnt been able to work out how to attack our policy. She started off with ” the policy is written by the unions,” but then changed tack later on to say it was a “watered down version of national standards.” Of course, neither is true – but the contradiction in her statements demonstrates how Crosby Textor are struggling to find the attack line on our policy. Which all adds up to it being just more great policy from Labour.

I prefer for our educators and school boards to be focused on providing excellent education for our children, than going to war with the Ministry of Education. Labour’s policy lets them get on with the job, while making sure parents are kept in the loop too. After all, we know that our kids’ education thrives when parents and teachers work in partnership.

In Defense of Alasdair Thompson (kinda)

Posted by on June 29th, 2011

Poor Alasdair Thompson – he got the “hospital pass.”
He had to go on National Radio for the Employers’ and Manufacturer’s Association and defend its position against legislation that would help to identify where women were getting paid less for doing the same work as men.
He was given the job of defending the indefensible and he came up with, well, the inplausible. But what else could he do?
There was no logical way he could mount the EMA’s opposition to a Bill proposed by Catherine Delahunty MP that simply gives employees transparency about pay rates so they can see if equal pay laws are being adhered to.
So, in the absence of logic he chose prejudice. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last.
Now that the EMA have distanced themselves from the statements made by their spokesperson, will they now drop their ridiculous opposition to equal pay?
That’s the real test of what they stand for.