This year, on September 23, New Zealand will vote on who gets to lead the country for the next three years. We've watched the unbelievable political events in the US and the UK, and now it's our turn. If there's anything that we can take from the wild currents of world politics it's that young people have to get out there and vote. Because the politicians elected to Parliament are the ones who will make important decisions about our future. But in amongst the spin and the bluster, it can be hard to know exactly who to vote for. Who stands for what? Who stands against what? Who cares about the issues that are important to you?
We get it.
So, in the lead-up to the election, Villainesse has reached out to politicians from all of the parties currently in Parliament, asking them why they think they deserve the vote of young women. In our 2017 election series, 'The Pitch', we've asked politicians to make their case to you so that when you go to the ballot box you'll know exactly where they stand.
Next in the series, we have Carmel Sepuloni, of the Labour Party. Here's her pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: why should young women vote for you?
I believe it’s our time. There has been heightened activity in recent years regarding the need to close the pay gap – it is unacceptable that in 2017 women would be paid less than men. Women are more likely to be sole carers for children, more likely to be living in poverty and more likely to be homeless. For all of these reasons women have a huge economic stake in this election and need politicians who are committed to ensuring women are a priority. We currently have a government with an agenda that isn’t focused on younger people and ensuring that our country is future-proofed for them. I am committed to prioritising women and future proofing for the next generation.
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
I am a member of the Labour Party because it is the party committed to fairness, opportunity and upholding the dignity of all citizens. The undervaluing of female-dominated occupations is one of the largest remaining barriers to equal pay. It is shameful that men earn a median of $25 an hour and women are only earning $22 an hour. It’s even more concerning that the median hourly pay rate for Māori women is $19 and for Pacific is only $18.30. Labour is ABSOLUTELY committed to closing the gender pay gap. We will do this by increasing paid parental leave, introducing fair pay agreements and implementing recommendations from the Working Group on Pay Equity Principles.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
I am passionate about ensuring access to educational opportunities. Access for all women. I’ve experienced first-hand the role that education can play in lifting a person and their family out of hardship and equally as important it has enabled me to serve communities and empower others. Labour is committed to supporting access to tertiary education through our 3 years free policy but we have other policies that facilitate access. I’m particularly committed to ensuring sole parents have access to upskilling and training so they can realise their potential, role model educational aspiration and achievement to their children and increase their chances of being able to enter in to better paid and more secure employment.
Labour commits to closing the gender pay gap and will encourage policies that remove barriers and discrimination for women in the workforce and that supports and encourages women to engage in meaningful employment opportunities – both formal and informal work.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
Family violence occurs at an alarming rate in New Zealand. Over the last nine years, we have seen a critical underfunding of family violence intervention and prevention services, as well as a lack of access to court mandated programs and lowered thresholds for legal aid. This has resulted in fewer positive outcomes for families experiencing violence, with the police advising only around 20% of incidents are reported. This should concern all of us. We want to make sure we have a coordinated and comprehensive system in place to deliver crisis intervention and work toward reducing family violence in our communities.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
As my colleague Grant Robertson recently said, we’ve got to stamp out sexual violence and rape culture. We know that at the moment only a fraction of sexual assaults are actually reported. Labour will look at reviewing how the courts deal with sexual violence and ensuring everyone has access to legal counsel and support services they need.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
I want to see a review of the abortion law and Labour has committed to making that happen. I do not believe that abortion should be in the crimes act. And I do strongly hold the view that a conscience vote should be had on matters regarding abortion.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
I believe along with the Labour Party that our rivers need to be cleaned up so that they are clean enough to swim in. This is one of the most important freshwater issues in this election. We know we must act urgently on issues with respect to environmental degradation and climate change to protect our environment for future generations.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
Te Tiriti o Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document and there is no doubt that it must hold a central position in New Zealand society, and law. Labour recognises the Crown has not always lived up to its requirements from the Treaty, but we must make sure that does not happen again, and doing so requires placing the Treaty, its values, and its commitments in everyday life. The Treaty’s core values of kotahitanga, manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, and kaitiakitanga are completely consistent with Labour values.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
Inequality is one of my biggest concerns. I see it daily in my electorate where we have decile 10 schools and decile 2 schools. There is poverty, homelessness and a relatively high rate of unemployment in my area. How can we not be concerned when there are 125,300 more people across the country living in relative poverty when taking in to account housing costs than when National took office nine years ago? When a third of NZ children (295,000) live in income poverty, while 90,000 children are living in severe poverty? I’m concerned for the 60% of children in beneficiary households who are living in poverty and the 40% of children in poverty who live in a working household.
Labour has announced a range of policies to help tackle the massive issue of growing inequality including our Families Package which offers $60 a week to new parents, improvements to Working for Families and a Winter Energy Payment. We will also put more focus on assistance getting people into work including lifting the abatement rate for beneficiaries so they can earn more through work without being penalised and place a much greater emphasis on supporting beneficiaries to engage in upskilling and training.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
I was really concerned to see the state of some of the resources in schools on this issue when I was on one of my local secondary school Board of Trustees. We’ve got to look at the resources we are providing to schools to ensure they are up to date and support them in effectively rolling out our health curriculum. There is no doubt that we need to improve education around consent.
We’ve also got to look at what support and services are provided to schools around consent to help get the message across. We need to support schools to develop comprehensive policies and actions to deal with bullying on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status, implement the Ministry of Education’s Sexuality Education Guidelines and ensure intensive intervention and adequate levels of support for Rainbow youth in the compulsory education system.
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
I’ve worked in the mental health sector as CEO of a Mental Health, Disability and Older People support organisation. I have seen the way in which the under-funding of the sector impacts on the services available. It is one of the fastest areas of concern within my own West Auckland community and nationwide. Mental health is reaching crisis point in NZ after years of National’s underfunding to the health sector. This is not an area that New Zealander’s want their Government to scrimp on.
Our suicide rate is an embarrassment to us as a country and our young people deserve better. We want to make sure there is support available for every young person by putting a GP in every secondary school and students have access to comprehensive youth health services.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
Just vote! Vote for you, for your families, for your communities, for our kids, for our country, for your now and for your future. Just vote!Support Villainesse