Girl Power.

  • Tue, 1, Aug, 2017 - 5:00:AM

The Pitch: Chlöe Swarbrick

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 Chlöe Swarbrick, of the Green Party. Here's her pitch to you.

 

Give us the elevator pitch: Why should young women vote for you?

Young women aren’t this homogenous group. We all come from different backgrounds, are living different lives, have different aspirations, goals, and dreams, and probably have different ideas about how we solve the world’s problems.

What unites us, I think, is a passion for a better tomorrow. We’re savvy to the fact that things aren’t great for many people at the moment, and aware of the short-term thinking rigged into our economy to serve those at the top.

I’m proud to stand with the Green Party because we’re dedicated to doing politics differently. We’re here to deliberately and openly transform the system into one that works for everybody. A vote for the Green Party is a vote for our kaupapa of ecological responsibility, social justice, appropriate decision making and non-violence. It’s well past time that we reoriented politics to focus on values.

If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Jan Logie recently had a member’s bill voted down in the House, which would’ve provided the transparency necessary to figure out exactly where the gender pay gap is, and thus where and how to combat it. Turns out, National doesn’t want to know about it. In Government, we’d ensure that pay discrepancy was out in the open and grounded in the numbers, instead of unfolding behind closed doors.

What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?

The Green Party believes in equity and equality. As mentioned above, we’re committed to closing the gender pay gap, and we recognise that there’s a stark racial pay gap too. We also recently launched our Mending the Safety Net Policy, which will lift benefits by 20 per cent. In a nutshell, that ensures that when anybody in this country falls on hard times, they will not fall below the poverty line. It will provide young women who need financial support – whether they’re a student, a mum, out of work, or anyone else on a benefit – [with] more money in their hands, to spend on food, study and transport costs, the rent, or the power bill. Not to mention the dignity, time and space to bounce back should one fall from the grace of paid work.

How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?

We need to do everything we can to end violence against women, children, and our people in Aotearoa New Zealand. The incredible Green MP Jan Logie has a great member’s bill going through Parliament at the moment that will ensure better workplace protections for victims of domestic violence, and better access to help for perpetrators. That’s where we’ll start.

What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?

We’d start with teaching more and better consent education in our high schools. We also need a massive culture shift in this area, away from victim blaming, towards the conscious dismantling of rape culture. So, too, do we need more rehabilitation programmes in prisons.

Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?

We’d start by taking it out of the Crimes Act. I think a lot of New Zealanders may not realise that abortion is currently a criminal action, for which one need get exemptions. There’s a legal and social stigma attached to that, so it needs to change.

How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?

The Green Party is the only party who’ve campaigned endlessly to prioritise protecting and cherishing our environment. We’re going stop the pollution and degradation of our waterways, protect our tap water, stop drilling for oil in the Māui’s dolphin habitat and conservation areas, and properly fund DOC so they can get on with doing what they do best – looking after our stunning conservation estate.

The incessant focus on GDP as the measure of our country’s success, as bandied about by the current government, is meaningless when it’s unsustainable. GDP is literally just a measure of economic transactions – meaning it’s presently propped up by our housing crisis. GDP also goes up when there’s an environmental disaster, or somebody’s health takes a turn for the worse.

Our co-leader James Shaw has been fighting in Parliament for recognition of a social measurement that recognises and integrates our health, housing, environmental state, and even the happiness of our people. That’s long-term, sustainable thinking.

In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is entrenched in the Green Party Charter as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. The United Nations, of which we’re a signatory country, recognises that it’s the indigenous text of a treaty that is the legitimate version.

Recognising te Tiriti in modern Aoteroa to me means realising that colonisation happened, and its effects are still felt. There must be a conscious and focused effort on undoing this damage, and it can only be done so if led by Māori, not those seeking to act on their behalf.

Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?

Of course. As I mentioned above, we’d fix the broken social safety net by increasing benefits so that people are lifted above the poverty line. We’d also put more rules in place around housing speculation, so that houses are treated as homes, not commodities – a lot of inequality in this country stems from rising housing costs.

Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?

I’m about six years out of high school. My memory of sex ed is a full-frontal video of a woman giving birth, and putting condoms on bananas. If [it] remains anything like that nowadays, it’s woefully inadequate.

When we don’t talk about sex, consent, intimacy, or relationships, nor acknowledge that porn is a thing, we have a problem. The problem is a whole lot of young people getting their sex education by way of what’s accessible to them – namely, porn. Porn doesn’t teach consent, intimacy or relationships. It teaches a myopic view of sex. I’m inspired by the young women of Wellington Girls College who protested for consent education, who recognised the pervasive nature of rape culture, and stood up for tolerance and openness and respect. Human beings can figure out the technical bits of sex. Education is supposed to fill in the blanks, which is where consent, intimacy and relationships should be highlighted. Also, it could be less heteronormative (condoms on bananas? Seriously?).

What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?

The response to our mental health crisis has to be holistic. We need sustained, real funding for frontline services like YouthLine and LifeLine. We need to ensure people have access to counselling when they want or need it, not months down the track. We need a structural framework for an equitable society that doesn't pile on unsustainable stress and impossible costs of living.

We need to celebrate everyone in our society, and the unique contribution and perspective that they bring. We need to champion a culture of inclusion. We need to move beyond individualising systemic problems, as we’ve been doing for the past few decades, and build communities on the back of stable housing and secure work.

It disgusts me to hear commentators talk about young New Zealanders as lazy and entitled – a convenient narrative in light of intergenerational inequality. Every generation’s struggles are unique and not to be undermined, but it must be said that my generation faces crippling costs of living, huge potential student debt, precarious work and insecure housing.

Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?

Things can change.

As an individual looking at the monolithic problems of poverty, inequality, homelessness, climate change – the list goes on – it makes sense that some people get fatalistic. So how do we tackle those problems? Well, the people whose job it literally is, who have the power and the resource, are politicians.

I’m worried about the potential for a cyclical lack of accountability. When we’re fed and buy into this narrative that all politicians are the same – cheats, snouts in the trough, what have you – we either end up settling for the default because “they’ all seem as bad as each other, or we tap out of participation entirely. That’s when those with vested interests in the status quo win. But worse, that’s when we get a feedback loop of inaction – we don’t trust politicians, so we don’t vote/engage, so they don’t act, so we don’t trust politicians, so we don’t vote/engage, ad infinitum.

We close that loop when we demand action, and when we consciously engage. Political engagement doesn’t and shouldn't start and end every three years at election time. As citizens, we have rights to participate in protest, petitions, make submissions to select committees, contacting a local MP over concerns, and so on. I’ve been inspired so deeply by the Nelson [College for] Girls students I spoke to recently who took this to heart, and despite not being of voting age, are now lobbying Nick Smith to put a charge on plastic bags.

The challenges of our time are political – they’re all the result, ultimately, of political decision-making, action or omission. Regardless of whether we participate in this system, it governs our lives, and keeps churning out decisions that’ll affect our future.

It’s time to demand our politicians work for us – all of us.

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