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Experience : What have you learned from failure & how would you apply it? Labour Leadership Q&A #13

Posted by on September 13th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 13

Experience : What have you learned & how would you apply it?

Question : To ensure a victory in the 2014 election we need courageous leadership. Failure is part of courageous leadership. Tell us about a time that you failed as a leader. What did you learn from that experience and how would you apply your learning in the future?

Submitted by : Dalene Mactier, Southbridge


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Shane Jones

Prior to becoming a Parliamentarian I was the Leader within Maoridom that bought the fifty plus tribes together and resolved the Treaty fisheries dispute.

This took great courage.

Obviously I enjoy a florid style of speaking. This campaign has been a lesson to me about softening some of my rhetoric.

Immoderate remarks have offended some women and I realise I need to improve.


Answer from Grant Robertson

The best example in my life came from time as a leader of the student movement in the 1990s.

After fighting rising fees, cuts to allowances and massive interest on student loans for several years, we were struggling to get people involved in our campaigns.

Re-igniting the movement required going back to the first principles of what we were fighting for (equality of opportunity) and knowing that whatever happened we had to keep fighting.

We took inspiration from the civil rights movement saying “Keep your eyes on the prize, keep your mind on the struggle.” We kept the faith, and it was great to be part of working on Labour’s policy many years later that saw interest removed from student loans.

The lesson being – always remember why you are doing what you are doing, and never, never give up.


Answer from David Cunliffe

I have learnt some hard lessons about leadership in the past year. I have listened to colleagues and supporters, buckled down in my portfolio, and worked hard.

Going through hard situations can really prepare you well for the future, and as Labour’s leader I would want to put the lessons I’ve learnt to really unifying and energising our party to win the election in 2014.


Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination? Labour Leadership Q&A #4

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 4

Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?

Submitted by : Lesley Soper, Invercargill



Answer from Shane Jones

The previous Labour Government made progress in this area.

It increased the wages of nurses.

I will use my position of leadership to ensure that the States resources are spent to give concrete improvement towards pay equity.

This is a core feature of Labour Party strategy and will not be neglected if I am leader.


Answer from Grant Robertson

I am really proud of the work of SFWU, Kristine and her lawyer Peter Cranney in getting that ruling.

It offers the prospect that equal pay will now become a matter of common law, and we will not need legislation to ensure it.

But we must be vigilant. National has no commitment to equal pay, and if legislation is needed, just as previous Labour governments have done we will pass it.

An immediate increase to the minimum wage, scrapping the Youth Rates, support for the Living Wage campaign and re-establishment of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit within government are also important parts of ensuring that we achieve equal pay for work of equal value


Answer from David Cunliffe

I believe we need to lead by example. National has not been ambitious for women. When National took office, there were 1153 women in boardroom positions. Today, there are only 1059, and falling. Government has a role to play in setting a leadership example, that is why I am committed to no less 50 % of the Labour caucus being women by no later than 2017.

Labour has a strong record of working to address gender pay inequality.

I am committed to investigating legislative and policy changes to close the gap based on the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. This includes, recognising the right to equal pay, a positive duty to advance equality, and a mechanism to determine work of equal value.

I am also supportive of ensuring information about pay rates are made available so that comparisons can be made and unfair inequalities in pay rates between men and women are revealed.


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?

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.

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.

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!

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.

Total Employment Change from 2008 Reveals Imminent Crisis

Posted by on February 21st, 2012

Increase in unemployment under National

Increase in unemployment under National

The Household Labour Force Survey Survey report of the December 2011 Quarter released last week revealed that our unemployment rate slipped slightly to 6.3% from 6.6%. While a rate of 6.3% in itself doesn’t necessarily mean we have reached crisis levels, the focus on the overall unemployment rate does conceal detail about our employment situation that if brought to the surface will shine light on what I believe is an immiment crisis looming in our economic horizon.

Since JohnKey’s National took office in November 2008, 53,000 New Zealanders have joined the unemployment ranks. That’s a 54% increase in the number of people unemployed to a total of 150,000. For these people, National’s promise of a ‘brighter future’ has utterly failed to materialise, especially if you have a mortgage and teenage children you are supporting through school.

While the impact of the recession cannot be ignored, the number of people unemployed has actually increased since the recession officially ended in mid-2009. The official unemployment figures only tell part of the story. Many more people are without work but are not counted as being unemployed. Many are described by the Salvation Army as being “discouraged unemployed”. They would like to work and would accept a job offer if given, but they would not be deemed as actively seeking work because for instance looking for work through a newspaper does not meet the threshold of “actively seeking work”. The number of Kiwis jobless has increased by almost 100,000 under National’s watch to now 261,300 people as of December 2011. In the meantime 59,964 people are receiving the Unemployment Benefit as at December 2011 a fall of 7% from 67,084 as of the December 2010.
So is this it? Is this the brighter future promised to all New Zealanders?

Number of people jobless

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!

Happy Suffrage Day from National?

Posted by on September 18th, 2011

On the eve of Suffrage Day it is worth contemplating the track record of National in terms of progress for NZ women.  I tried on Thursday to explore this with the Minister of Women’s Affairs.  You can judge for yourself.  I believe NZ women deserve better than this.  Tomorrow, on the 118th  anniversary of Suffrage Day, the day we celebrate the acheivement of those who fought for and won the vote for women, I will be announcing Labour’s Women’s Policy.   The policy is comprehensive and builds on Labour’s proud record of working for real equality, real choice and real opportunity for women.

That woman

Posted by on September 16th, 2011

I’m talking about Frances Walsh. The so-called “hobbit-hating woman”, who dared to stand up for her members in MEAA when Mr Warner Bros and his hired guns came to town last year to attack New Zealand’s sovereignty and labour laws, in the name of “jobs”.  Our  feeble government wooed Warner Bros, along with Peter Jackson and Co with big limos and flash hospitality and then did the ultimate sell-out by amending labour laws to ensure film and video production workers don’t have the right to challenge their status as employees under our labour law.

That woman, who along with Helen Kelly, CTU President, became the target of the worst case of New Zealand union-phobia we’ve seen in a decade.  That woman, who has a distinguished career as a journalist, and who has now published a quite wonderful book, called “Inside Stories” – a history of the New Zealand Housewife 1890 – 1975.

Walsh’s book takes a look at the artistic, cultural and historical role of women in New Zealand. It’s a reminder of the stereotypes of women I grew up with and fought against, and the struggle of the right to vote in the late 1890’s through to 1975, when modern feminism asserted the right to sexual and reproductive freedom.

It’s an artistic romp through women’s magazines and their reflection on a women’s place and a political commentary on how far women in New Zealand have come – and have yet to go.

The book is beautifully illustrated with cartoons, advertisements, colours and wallpapers of the eras.  I bought it willingly, because I think it’s one not just to read, but to keep. But I also bought it in honour of Frances’ role as a trade unionist – sticking up for a whole bunch of workers, who may seem by many to be privileged because they work in an industry that is on the surface glamorous and adventurous, but has underneath, a whole lot of problems and issue. The National Government turned their back on them last year when they sidled up to Warner Bros and did the indecent thing, selling out a whole category of workers and giving a message that this is in store for any other group who dare stand up for their rights.

Well done Frances. And all women like her.

The right to vote

Posted by on September 15th, 2011

I believe everyone aged 18 and over, who is able to, should vote. I believe it’s our responsibility as citizens. I believe it should be a requirement of citizenship.

How you vote is your affair. You can cast an invalid vote to protest against the system. But I believe we should.

I talked about this in my maiden speech. This is my view, not my party’s.

The ancient Greeks, who gave birth to democracy, held that it was every citizen’s duty to participate in decision-making. Let’s have the discussion.

In 1893, New Zealand women were the first in the world to be granted the vote. That’s not long ago. My (and your ) ancestors fought for that right.

That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners. In 1891, 1892 and 1893 they compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. The biggest of them all, submitted on 28 July 1893, was signed by ‘Mary J. Carpenter and 25,519 others’ – about one in five New Zealand women at the time.

 The petition contains the signatures of many leading suffragists and feminists, including Kate Sheppard, Marion Hatton, Rachel Reynolds, Ada Wells, Tailoresses’ Union leader Harriet Morison, writer Edith Grossman, and sisters Christina and Stella Henderson (whose younger sister, Elizabeth, then too young to sign, would later achieve fame as New Zealand’s first woman MP – under her married name, McCombs).

To mark Women’s Suffrage Day on 19 September, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has made the names and address details of the women who signed the petition available as a searchable database on NZHistory so New Zealanders can search for family ties to this historic event.

‘Women’s suffrage is rightly celebrated as a great milestone in New Zealand history,’ says Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian at Manatu Taonga. When the governor signed a new Electoral Act into law on 19 September 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In most other democracies – notably Britain and the United States – women couldn’t vote until after the First World War. ‘New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage has become part of our national identity,’ says Atkinson.

I think that’s a great initiative. I’m proud to be a woman MP in our parliament. We’ve achieved 30% representation. MMP has been responsible for increasing that representation. Which is one of the reasons I support and will choose MMP when I cast my vote in the referendum on 26 November.

The right to vote is a precious thing. Let’s all exercise it. Wisely.

Message to women – the numbers say it all

Posted by on September 5th, 2011

Continuing a well established pattern the latest National list continues to sideline women.   Are there no competent women out there who share National’s philosophy?

If we compare the National and Labour lists by gender this is what we find – in the first 10 positions National has 2 women, Labour has 4; in the first 20 positions National has 5 women, Labour has 8; in the first 30 positions National has 7 women, Labour has 12; in the first 40 positions National has 10 women, Labour has 16; in the first 50 positions National has 14 women, Labour has 21.  So National has women in 28% of the first 50 places and Labour 42%.

Women make up just over 50% of the population so I accept that Labour needs to work harder to increase the number of women in our Caucus.  But at any given point in our political history Labour has led National in terms of representation of women in Parliament.  Fighting for real equality for women is part of Labour’s core values and there is no doubt we have delivered consistently in this area with strong leadership from Labour women MPs.

In comparison this National Government has failed to deliver for women. In fact National has an appalling record in areas like progressing pay equality (closing the Pay and Employment Equity Unit, failing to act on pay investigations and cutting funding to the EEO Trust) and violence against women (cutting successful programmes and creating  less secure funding for those delivering successful programmes like Girls Self Defence, leaving the Domestic Violence Bill languishing on the order paper).  A number of legislative and policy changes have disproportionate negative effects on women (reducing access to the Training Incentive Allowance, 90 days fire at will provisions, meagre increases to the minimum wage and cuts to Adult and Community Education).   Where are the strong voices advocating for women in the National Caucus?  The current Minister’s priority seems to be increasing the number of women on Company Boards.   This is important and I support greater representation of women everywhere (including in the National Caucus) however I don’t think this initiative is really the most burning issue for the many NZ women who are struggling to make ends meet.

Abuse of women in NZ -highest in OECD

Posted by on July 28th, 2011

A recently released UN Women report shows that NZ has the highest rates of physical and sexual violence in the OECD with 30% of women having ever experienced physical violence and 14% having ever experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner from 2000 – 2010.  This is something we should be very worried about.  Physical and sexual abuse by intimate partners is generally about power and control.  It is often about men having a very negative view of women.  There is no doubt that stress and alcohol play a role.

The consequences of this violence are huge.  I have previously worked in the women’s health movement and I have seen first hand the depression, the loss of confidence and the other consequences that remain long after the physical injuries have healed.  Children are also hurt by this violence in so many ways including fear and trauama from seeing their mother hurt.  They can often learn and become caught up in similar patterns of abuse.  I have also seen the guts and determination women muster to leave violent relationships and to rebuild lives that have been shattered.

We must do something real to change the violence that pervades our culture. Just to give a sense of scale – in 2008 the Police responded to 82,692 incidents involving some form of domestic violence.  I find it appalling that at a time when reported violence is increasing  that successful programmes like Child Advocates and Te Rito have been cut as has funding for residential services. 

In contrast, earlier this year the Gillard Government in Australia announced a 12 year multi-million dollar framework for action to reduce violence.   This unified strategy across agencies has cross party support.  The strategy includes a major focus on prevention. 

I don’t for one minute claim this is a new problem or indeed one that is unique to NZ.   Last week I attended two meetings focussed on women on consecutive nights .  In the first Marilyn Waring was speaking about the Solomon Islands and the second was a presentation by Ratna Osman from an organisation called Sisters in Islam.  Both presentations referred to the significant problem of violence against women. 

Violence against women occurs in all societies but I do worry about the scale of the problem in NZ.  I think we need to do more to address this problem and reach some sort of consensus on what is needed.   In my maiden speech I committed to working to on the issue of family violence.  I want to acknowledge those who work in paid and unpaid capacities to try to prevent such violence and to deal with the consequences of such violence.  Yours is an important and difficult job. 

Women’s Refuge is one such group and last week Jacinda, Carmel and I made a small contribution by collecting for Women’s Refuge in Auckland.


Thought provoking visit to Arohata Prison

Posted by on July 18th, 2011

As Labour’s Women’s Affairs Spokesperson I visited Arohata Women’s Prison with my colleague, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Charles Chauvel, this afternoon.  I have never been in any prison before in any capacity and I have to say the visit has really got me thinking.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but one thing I can say is that anyone who calls a prison a holiday camp or a luxury hotel has got it completely wrong.  The facilities were basic and functional.

After a warm Maori welcome we were shown around the prison.   The highlight was talking to a group of about twenty five women who are part of the prison’s Drug Treatment Unit (DTU).  The DTU operates a therapeutic community model with a structured programme operating in a community environment with community expecations, community support and evalutions.  Charles and I asked the women to tell us the things that would reduce the chances of them reoffending when they go back into the community and what things might have stopped them offending in the first instance.

I  think the women were pleased and surprised to be asked these questions by MPs and  I was really impressed with the answers.  One area that stood out is that in Arohata the women have an opportunity to learn and to gain qualifications.  This is clearly valued by the women -this was stated by both the inmates and the staff.  They want to keep learning and to use that learning to get jobs and to help their children. 

What is also obvious is the strong desire of the group to deal with their addictions.  Arohata  is the only women’s prison that operates a DTU and so many of the women have had to move away from Christchurch and Auckland women’s prisons and proximity to their families to take part in the programme.   They clearly make the link between violence, drugs, alcohol and their offending. 

The women who spoke clearly want to move forward, to get jobs and to get their children back.  They want to be given a chance by employers.  They are also worried about what support there will be once they leave Arohata.

Some things that were reinforced for me were:

  • we need to focus on the causes of crime and not solely on punishment
  • we especially need to consider whether imprisonment is the best  response to all of the situations people are currently imprisoned for
  • the need for drug treatment programmes in all our prisons and in the community
  • the importance of life long learning opportunities, to name a few

Charles and I have committed to going back and continuing the conversation. We are intending to visit the other women’s prisons too.

How safe are our Hospitality workers in the World Cup?

Posted by on June 19th, 2011

The recent  arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF for sexually assaulting a hotel housemaid got me thinking about the New Zealand hospitality industry and the potential exposure of NZ workers to inappropriate behaviour during the Rugby World Cup.

The housemaid involved in the Strauss-Kahn case is a union member, which makes all the difference. But by far the majority of hotel workers in New Zealand are not union members.

Sadly, the further you go down the hospitality chain, from large hotels to motels, restaurants and bars, the worse it is.

New Zealand’s laws protect workers against sexual harassment, but it’s a hard row to hoe.  There are two routes – through the Human Rights Commission or through personal grievance.  New Zealand’s hospitality industry is repsonsible for 10% of all workplace sexual harassment complaints to the Human Rights Commission, but I know from experience that’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s just not that easy to take this on.

If you are a young worker, not in a union, new to a job, on a 90 day trial period, are you really going to have the courage to challenge your employer if a sexual harassment incident occurs?

There’s an attitude issue here. The Hospitality Industry is not only responsible for the behaviour of their staff, but also their customers and clients. To their credit, some work has been done in the industry to educate employers about their responsibilities.

I came across this comment from the Restaurant Association in a newsletter about sexual harrasment.

I accept that some people will regretfully be sexually harassed, but at the risk of being challenged, I have formed the opinion that the majority of complaints are motivated by the monetary rewards that might result.

According to this, there’s a golden pot of money waiting for workers who complain about sexual harassment!

However, it’s not just about sexual harassment. It’s also about decent pay and fair conditions.

The government needs to work with unions and business to set standards for how we expect New Zealand workers to be treated during an event like this.

We want our visitors to have a great time, but not at the expense of New Zealand workers.

2 min 38 secs on the national party leader’s plan – have a look

Posted by on June 17th, 2011

Annette = substance, Bennett = useless spin, play of the day

Posted by on May 6th, 2011

And from what I read she is struggling in Waitakere too.

For those without broadband, the Hansard is below: (more…)