First published on Saturday the 2nd of September, 2017, this piece comes in at number 19 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2017.
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.
Concluding our series, we have Jacinda Ardern, leader of the Labour Party. Here's her pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: why should young women vote for you?
I remember one of the first sentiments that motivated me into politics. The best way I can describe it is that I absolutely believed that New Zealand could be better than it was then. That is the same thing that motivates me now. Whether it’s eradicating child poverty, closing the gender pay gap, ending homelessness and lifting our game on environmental issues – and now I am hoping that young women see the same opportunity that I do, the opportunity to turn things around.
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
In 2017 there should be no such thing as a gender pay gap. I have committed that Labour will not rest until we have pay equity.
We need our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and our aunties to be valued no matter what workforce they are in. We need to start by scrapping the equal pay legislation that is before Parliament, because it will not deliver equal pay. By forcing pay equity claimants to compare themselves with colleagues in their own businesses and sectors, rather than with similarly skilled workers in other sectors, we will essentially never see again an equal pay claim like the one we saw for home care workers. That’s not right, and that’s why we’ll fix the law.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
For me it’s about bringing down some of the barriers that exist - like for instance the cost of accessing education. We know women spend longer carrying student debt. I want to phase in three years of free post-secondary education, so that anyone who hasn’t studied before can go to polytech, university or take up an apprenticeship for free. The first year will start in 2018, the second year in 2021 and the final year will kick in from 2024. I also want to reopen our night schools, so that women have the chance to further their education no matter where they live and what their circumstances are.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
If we want to confront violence against women in New Zealand, we need to start right at the beginning. That means incorporating conversations about healthy relationships and consent, into our school environments.
We also have to adequately fund the sexual violence and family violence community partners that deliver crisis intervention, and support the delivery of the kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency programs that have seen Police, and other government agencies working in partnership to respond to violence in the home.
And finally, I have seen a number of cases involving the Family Court reforms that tell me we need to urgently look at the changes that were made to the law, and the impact those changes have had. We’re committed to a review.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
So much of the prevention needs to happen early on, and that includes the work we do in schools. Discussing issues like consent really is critical.
In terms of the justice system, Labour is committed to reviewing how the courts deal with the victims of sexual violence, including the progress and work of the sexual violence courts. That includes looking at the way the Police responds to victims reporting sexual violence to encourage victims to come forward and make statements. At the moment the rates of reporting are so horrendously low – we have to listen to what that is telling us.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
Abortion should not be in the Crimes Act, so we will remove it from there. We will also review the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 – work that the Abortion Supervisory Committee has asked Parliament to undertake.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
I want the next generation to be able to swim in our rivers, so that means taking really urgent action. We will help farmers and other owners of waterways with fencing and riparian planting through our Ready for Work programme. We will give the regional councils the resources to clean up their waterways through a water royalty.
We will also need to walk the talk on climate change. We’ll start by legislating our emission reduction targets. We need to have a plan as to how we are going to reduce emissions, that includes having an independent climate commission who is tasked with carbon budgeting. It’s all about restoring our clean, green image, but also making a clear decision that we don’t need to be fast followers when we can be leaders.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s a living document, and should be honoured in government, and beyond. At the heart of Te Tiriti are the core values of kotahitanga, manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, and kaitiakitanga. These values are also closely held Labour values, and they continue to guide our relationship with Māori and drive our collective commitment to lift the well-being of Māori in every area.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
This issue is one of the reasons I am in politics. I absolutely believe we have the potential to be the best place in the world to be a child – but we have a lot of work to do. We have 290,000 children living in poverty, and there doesn’t seem to be any genuine focus on changing that. I want to start by holding ourselves to account. We will officially measure child poverty and pass a law forcing the Government to publish the numbers every Budget.
We will also:
- Boost Working for Families to all those who currently receive it and extend it to 30,000 more families, in addition to the Working for Families changes announced in Budget 2017.
- Introduce a Best Start payment of $60 a week to help low and middle-income families with costs in a child’s early years.
- Introduce a Winter Energy Payment for people receiving superannuation or a main benefit.
- Introduce 26 weeks paid parental leave to ensure that families are provided with vital support at a crucial stage in their children’s lives.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
We could be doing a lot better. We’ll 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?
This one feels really personal to me – but it probably does to many of us. It’s hard to find someone that doesn’t know a family impacted by suicide. We know that there are things we can do to make a difference – like making sure there are proper services in schools. That’s why we will fund comprehensive health services in every secondary school to provide mental health support. Currently, services only exist in decile 1-3 state secondary schools and is patchy at best. We know we can do better.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
No matter how you vote, please vote!