UPDATE: On August 1, Andrew Little stepped down as Leader of the Labour Party. He remains at Number 3 on the Labour list.
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.
Kicking us off is the Leader of the Opposition, Labour's Andrew Little. Here's his pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: why should young women vote for you?
We know that housing, education and health are important issues for most New Zealanders – and young people are especially affected. Right now, it’s almost impossible to buy a home, going to uni puts people into crippling debt, and we’ve got a mental health system that is in crisis and can’t support young people when they need it.
Labour will help young people get onto the property ladder by building thousands of affordable homes around the country for first home buyers; we’ll offer Kiwis three years of free post-school education and training, so more of our young women get qualified; and we’ll put National’s massive health cuts back into our health system and prioritise mental health.
I think another special reason to vote Labour this year is the quality of the outstanding women candidates on our list: people like Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Jan Tinetti, Willow-Jean Prime, Kiri Allan, Ginny Andersen and many more. That’s added, of course, to our great women MPs who are already doing excellent work, like my Deputy, Jacinda.
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap isn’t acceptable, and is the result of decades and decades of discrimination and prejudice. This is the 21st century and we need to change things.
The recent pay equity settlement, where Kristine Bartlett and unions won equal pay against sheer Government resistance, confirmed the need for modern and fairer pay-setting mechanisms.
We will establish an easily accessible mechanism to deal with pay equity claims. We’ll also promote and encourage more women in senior public sector roles through appointments and personal development.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
We’ve just had the Budget, and one thing my Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson and I have been speaking about is reforming our economy so that everyone gets their fair share of New Zealand’s prosperity. That’s something we’re absolutely committed to.
We have an economic plan to create new opportunities in every region in New Zealand, not just the big cities.
We’ve also got our three years free post-school education and training, which means young women won’t have to go into huge debt to get qualifications. We’ll offer young people a secure financial future by building homes people can afford to buy, and selling them to first home buyers at cost.
We'll create jobs to get unemployed young people off the dole and doing work to improve the environment with our Ready for Work policy.
And as I’ve mentioned above, we’ll work to reduce the gender pay gap.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
There are some encouraging changes in the overhaul of family and domestic violence laws currently before Parliament.
However, these changes centre on better supporting the victim after the violence has occurred. Of course, that’s massively important, but it doesn’t stop the violence happening in the first place.
As a country, we’ve got to do better with violence prevention. We’ve got to change cultures that encourage people to stay silent when they see disturbing behaviours in their friends and family, and we have to make sure there’s treatment there for men exhibiting those behaviours to try and stop it happening again. At the end of the day, it’s men who commit violence against women, so it’s men that can and must stop it.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
New Zealand’s shocking rates of sexual violence urgently need to be addressed. In the last twelve months alone there were over five and a half thousand reports of sexual violence from victims, and we know what’s reported is actually only a small fraction of what occurs.
One of the things we’ll do is continue the Law Commission’s work on improving trial procedures, so victims of sexual offences are not re-victimised.
No initiative by itself, as good as it may be, will fix the problems that we face as a nation. We need to take a serious and hard look at how our society treats women.
One of the best steps we can take is to teach young people about consent and healthy relationships. This year it was revealed that fewer than half of secondary schools are using Government-endorsed consent and relationship programmes. That’s not good enough. Labour firmly believes we’ve got to do better about teaching consent in sex education.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
I’m a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose.
The legislation for abortion has been around for about 40 years. I believe it needs to be reviewed and updated, and that’s also the view of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.
Basically, abortion should not be in the Crimes Act. It is not a crime.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
Our environment is under threat, and Labour knows we need ambitious targets to lower carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, including transport.
Late last year we released a policy to improve transport and reduce congestion by committing funding for half the cost of the light rail line from Mt Roskill to the CBD. When we’re in Government, we’ll work with Auckland Council to begin construction as soon as possible.
One of the biggest environmental issues right now is that many of our rivers aren’t swimmable. It’s such a Kiwi birthright to swim in your local river, and all our rivers should be clean.
We’ll regulate to clean up our rivers so that Kiwis can swim in their local river without getting ill, and without getting covered in slime.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
Te Tiriti is the foundation for government in New Zealand. It is vital Parliament honours the agreements made in it.
Better Māori representation will ensure that continues to happen. That’s why, after this year’s election, at least one in four Labour MPs will be Māori. That’ll be the largest representation of Māori MPs of any party, ever, in New Zealand politics.
Māori aspiration sits at the core of Labour’s vision for New Zealand. Through all Labour’s policies and in every decision we make, Māori will be at the table.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
Yes, I’m really concerned about this. Right now, there’s a huge inequality gap in our country.
Decent work and incomes is a core Labour value, and we’re developing a strategy to address inequality. We’re going to reform our economy so that it works for everyone, and provides more good jobs and higher incomes.
A Labour Government will ensure that government bodies buy Kiwi-made wherever possible, and make job creation in New Zealand one of their criteria when awarding contracts. We’ll also invest to lift economic growth in regions through our Regional Development Fund.
Labour stands for stronger collective bargaining, which gives workers a better chance at getting decent pay rises. We’re committed to fair workplace laws for all workers and we also must make sure the benefits of work and a growing economy are fairly shared, especially when so many people are working hard, but barely able to make ends meet.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
Some schools are doing a good job, but there is room for improvement. I firmly believe we’ve got to do better when it comes to sex education.
As I said earlier this year, I believe sexual consent should be a compulsory part of a school’s curriculum. School is where young people are doing a lot of their growing up, it’s when they’re being confronted with big choices and changes, and school is the best place for education about consent and healthy relationships to happen.
Our policy to make comprehensive school-based health teams available in every state secondary school, from decile 1 to decile 10, would provide any extra support needed.
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
We know the health system has been terribly underfunded by National, and we know one result of this is that our mental health system is in crisis. It’s appalling that we have one of the highest teen suicide rates in the OECD.
We’re committed to putting National’s funding cuts back into our health system, and we’ll make mental health an absolute priority. In our first 100 days, we’ll review mental health services to identify gaps in the system and where resources are needed.
One policy we’ve announced is that we’ll make comprehensive school-based health teams available in every state secondary school. These teams are crucial for ensuring mental health issues are picked up by health professionals at an early stage.
But it’s not enough to just identify that there are issues without services to refer people on to. That’s why I’ve announced Labour will fund the first stage of primary mental health teams in eight sites across the country. That means high-needs patients will have access to a free GP consultation, counselling, and NGO social support. Basically, we’ll increase frontline mental health resources.
Last chance: is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
This election is about the big issues: housing, health, and education.
These are priorities for Labour because getting them right is the basis for equality of opportunity and strong communities.
After nine years, this Government is not building a New Zealand which is delivering opportunity for all. Do we want to continue in the direction our country is headed – where very few people can afford a house and thousands are homeless, where doctors and nurses are forced to turn people away from hospitals all around the country, where classes are overcrowded and kids can’t learn – or is it time for a fresh approach?
Labour is ready to tackle the big issues: we’ll start fixing the housing crisis, we’ll put National’s $1.7 billion of cuts back into our health system, and we’ll fund our education system properly so our young people get the best possible start to life.
We’ll back our young people, and we’ll make sure that everyone gets a fair go, and their fair share. We’re also committed to bringing more women into our Caucus, and bringing more women to the decision-making table in Cabinet.
Your vote will help us build a fairer New Zealand where all of us can prosper and be the best we can be. It will help us get better representation for women within Labour, and within Parliament. It will help us change the Government, and bring a much-needed fresh approach to the key challenges facing New Zealand.Support Villainesse