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 David Seymour, leader of the ACT Party. Here's his pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: why should young women vote for you?
Anyone should vote for ACT to elect more MPs who believe in our fundamental principles of freedom and choice. They should vote for us if they want to keep more of their income. They should vote for us if they want more MPs who believe it is a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and health – we support abortion law reform. They should vote for us for real solutions to the shortage of housing – reforming our planning law and housing regulations so that more houses are built and the cost of housing can fall. My party’s deputy leader, Beth Houlbrooke, is a successful businesswoman and local body politician – who I believe is a role model for young women who want to serve their community. The number three on our list, Brooke van Velden is a 24-year-old woman who wants to make a difference and be a voice for young people in Parliament.
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
Closing the gender pay gap is, unfortunately, a long-term project. Legislation, regulation and government intervention can only go so far when there are unconscious biases that affect the pay gap. In the long term, it is attitudes that have to change. We support equal pay for equal work. Practically, we want to increase opportunities for everyone by providing an education system that isn’t one-size-fits-all, and meets the needs of every student so that nobody is left behind. Remote working through better technology, and the app economy, have the potential to boost incomes for people who have to fit work around childcare – the majority of whom are currently women.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
The Government accounts show surpluses rising every year, ACT is the only party wanting to give that money back to the people that earned it through tax cuts. Young women who are business owners will also like ACT’s proposal to cut company tax from 28 per cent to 25 per cent.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
ACT has recently supported the boost to family violence laws announced late last year. ACT would take this boost a step further and include non-fatal strangulation as a strike offence. The Three Strikes law has been working well to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars and away from potential victims.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
ACT have already demonstrated their commitment to this through the Three Strikes Law, an ACT initiative. On conviction of their third serious violent offence, the offender will receive the maximum penalty in prison with no parole. We support victims of crime and are open to supporting ways to reduce the stress placed on victims in the court system.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
I have always believed in personal choice and that extends to the issue of abortion. Morally, abortion is about a women’s body and her choice. Practically, prohibitions on this choice have had horrible consequences such as child neglect and unsafe abortions. Nobody believes that 97 per cent of women who have abortions are mentally ill, but that is what we are expected to believe according to official statistics, I believe the current law should be reformed. My End of Life Choice Bill has been my member’s bill on the ballot this parliamentary term, but with a bigger and stronger ACT we will have more opportunities to get big issues like this in front of Parliament.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
ACT values the environment. Clean water, fresh air, efficient disposal of waste and the preservation of natural and historical features are all important for quality of life. We believe the free markets, far from being incompatible with good environmental custodianship, are essential to it. It is wealthy countries (Prosperity), where people take ownership (Property Rights), people pay the true costs of valuable resources and pollutants alike (Pricing), and communities have opportunities to get out there and make a difference (Private Initiative) that makes the difference, that have the best records on the environment. These are ACT’s four P’s of smart environmentalism. In future Governments, ACT will push to better price roads and water, and set up more wildlife sanctuaries. ACT will introduce better water management, where water rights are tradeable, giving owners greater incentives to conserve water and oppose pollution of it. ACT will sell landcorp, an environmentally harmful Government activity and put the proceeds into a Sanctuary Trust for applicants who wish to operate inland sanctuaries for native wildlife.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
It is a good document that guarantees we are all equal before the law (article three), and our property is safe (article two), but some of the more recent interpretations have been more divisive than inclusive.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
Two of the greatest drivers of inequality are housing affordability and education. The high cost of housing is widening the gap between people who own houses, and those who don’t. The housing crisis is not a market failure, it’s a government failure. People want to build and buy homes but they face a wall of rules that choke the creation of new housing supply. Governments both local and central artificially restrict the supply of land, and they monopolise the provision of infrastructure and the consenting process. ACT would remove New Zealand’s large cities from the Resource Management Act, and create separate urban development legislation that prioritises land supply and reduces red tape on developers. New Zealand also has one of the most unequal education systems in the Western World. To solve this, ACT’s successful Partnership Schools Policy allows communities, iwi, philanthropists and business organisations to partner with educators to open new innovative schools.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
There are clearly issues with the delivery of sex ed in New Zealand. At its core, our sex ed programme in schools should focus on the principles of respect for bodily autonomy and the importance of consent, as well as understanding that there are a range of identities, sexualities, and beliefs about sexuality that are all entitled to respect. At a practical level we also need to make sure that students from a young age know how to access (and use) contraception and sexual health services – ensuring we get the basics right.
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
ACT believes in a New Zealand where people can be themselves and exercise their own choices about their lives. A tolerant and understanding society will be one where fewer people experience mental illness and depression. I received a petition to Parliament from Epsom resident Lucy McSweeney who gathered signatures in support of her call for the Government to provide better guidelines and training for mental health education in schools, and I support it being investigated by one of Parliament’s select committees so that MPs and the public can work together on ideas and solutions.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
ACT wants all New Zealanders to have equal opportunities. A bigger and stronger ACT in Parliament after the election can help achieve this. ACT’s list for the 2017 election is a good reflection of New Zealand – The top 10 is 50 per cent women, the average age of the top 10 is 36.9, which is the average age of the whole country. ACT MPs will fight to cut red tax and red tape. They will expand choice in education and restore affordability to housing by reforming the Resource Management Act. They will welcome immigrants who embrace our values and positively contribute to New Zealand. They will provide both stability and spine to a centre-right government.Support Villainesse