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 Green Party leader James Shaw. Here's his pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: Why should young women vote for you?
The Green Party cares about the issues you care about – a fair society, a clean environment and action on climate change. We also have an amazing line up of young female MPs who I am incredibly excited to see in Parliament. They are going to lead our Parliament into the 21st century, working with Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister!
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
It’s 2017, and women need to be paid the same as men, pure and simple. Last week we announced that we would commit to pay equity for core Government staff by 2020, and broader state employees by 2025. Government needs to show leadership on this and the private sector will follow! Green MP Jan Logie recently had a member’s bill that would have exposed the difference between what men and women are paid, but unsurprisingly National voted it down.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
We recently launched our Mending the Safety Net policy which guarantees that anyone who finds themselves in financial hardship will not be under the poverty line. Young women who need support – as mothers, students, people with disabilities - will have enough to pay their bills, feed their family and get back on their feet. We’re also committed to supporting working women who are currently getting a raw deal. In addition to ending the gender (and race) pay gap, we are committed to more paid parental leave, increasing the minimum wage and ensuring fair pay for female dominated occupations like care and support workers.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
To start off, we’ll make sure that violence prevention and support services have the funding that they need. Green MP Jan Logie’s Bill to guarantee workplace protections for domestic violence protections recently passed its first reading at Parliament unanimously, which was a massive win. But in the long term, we need to work harder to prevent patterns of violence from repeating themselves. That’s connected to a more compassionate and effective justice system - locking more and more people up does not help us to prevent more violence – and fostering communities where people feel connected and supported.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
Sexual violence in New Zealand is such an urgent issue. We would start by improving sex education, by making sure that more young people get good advice and that consent is taught at every school. Frankly, at the moment we are failing young people by normalising aggressive sexual behaviour and failing to condemn adults who perpetuate awful stereotypes about sex and sexuality.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
We believe that abortion should be safe and legal. Abortion should be removed from the Crimes Act and dealt with as a health issue, giving women the right to make choices that are best for them and their whanau.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
The Green Party loves this country and we need to protect it. We need urgent action from Government to clean up our waterways, defend conservation land and native species, and protect our drinking water. There are so many pressing issues it’s hard to know where to start, but right now we are fighting for proper funding for the Department of Conservation, ending mining in Maui’s dolphin reserves and making sure that we can swim in our rivers. Long term the greatest threat facing our environment is climate change. We need to stop investing in polluting fossil fuel industries and intensive farming and seize this opportunity to create a clean, Green economy that can deliver a better quality of living for everyone.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
We are committed to honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of our nation. Te Tiriti is important for all New Zealanders as it gives Pakeha a right to stand in this land, and it guarantees the protection of Maori rights. It should be given the respect it deserves - in Government, we promise to do that.
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 the greatest political challenges of our time, and a stain on New Zealand’s reputation. Reducing inequality and ending poverty in New Zealand is one of our top three priority issues in this election.
We have a billion dollar plan to reduce inequality which will start by tackling the people in greatest need in Aotearoa. Our plan will increase all core benefits by 20 per cent so that families and individuals on the benefit can afford enough food, clothes and a warm dry house to live in. We will increase Working For Families credits so that low middle-incomecome families have more support from the Government while raising their children.
Inequality is not just about poverty but also about disproportionate wealth being held in the hands of too few. Our plan to increase the top tax rate to 40 per cent acknowledges the need to more fairly distribute wealth.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
It obviously isn’t! I think we should be listening to the amazing young people across New Zealand who have been protesting and petitioning the Government to properly fund consent-based sexuality in all schools. It’s the 21st century, let’s teach young people to respect themselves and each other in intimate relationships.
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
Right now we urgently need more money for front line mental health and counselling services which are literally saving lives. Young people need to be able to see a mental health professional when they are crying out for help, not three months later. Long term, we need to build a society where all young people are celebrated and supported, not written off as ‘pretty hopeless’. That means a better social safety net, a more compassionate and effective justice system, more affordable education and stronger communities.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
We want you to have a voice in how this country is run, and what it values. Get involved! We need you.