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 the Labour Party's Kiri Allan, who is running for a seat in the East Coast electorate. Here's her pitch to you.
Give us the elevator pitch: why should young women vote for you?
Young women should vote for whoever inspires them, whoever gets their minds thinking and their hearts pumping for a more equitable society. My aim is to get people pumped about being engaged and involved and feeling like our political system isn’t just for a few folk who have it all – it’s for the people, and all people should feel like this system is ours.
If you are elected, what - if anything - will you do to close the gender pay gap?
I promise to keep harping on about gender equality as a cornerstone measure to the success of our society – I’ll support policy and legislation that allows women to have our worth recognised, whether that’s through paid parental leave measures, supporting a living wage, or lifting the minimum wage for all employees. We need gender equity and we need it now.
What economic benefits will you deliver for young women?
I come from a commercial background and from a regional electorate. Right now, our regions are being hamstrung by the fact we haven’t got basic things like internet services and 3G or cell phone coverage across large areas in my East Coast electorate. For a start, I’d introduce some simple stuff: technological infrastructure in the regions so that anyone has the ability to work from home and access the world beyond the gates of our homes; second, I’ve always been a long-time supporter of Sue Moroney’s bid for extending paid parental leave; third, Labour’s policy to provide $60 per week, per child under three helps families with young children to live. These types of initiatives are basic but really important to helping young women thrive economically.
How will you combat violence against women (including domestic violence)?
In Gisborne, we have an awesome initiative run by men, for men, that are perpetrators of violence in the home – I think that’s important. On the other hand, I’ve had my Women’s Refuge’s tell me they haven’t had funding increases since Labour was last in Government, but demands on their services have increased. Women’s Refuge are telling me they are having to send women back to violent homes because there aren’t rental homes that they can put women and their children in due to the housing shortage. So, building more homes is a priority for Labour and supporting our service agencies that are supporting families in immense pain is a fundamental Labour value.
Beyond that, violence (and addiction) are all too often the symptoms of a greater cause, such as poverty. Labour has a plan to tackle poverty: build homes, create jobs, and support families. We have to tackle the structural issues as much as responding to the crisis moments that so many women and families are finding themselves in right now.
What will you do to reduce rates of sexual violence and improve the way that the justice system deals with crimes of sexual violence?
There’s a lot of shame and silence around sexual violence. I think compulsory sexual consent should be incorporated into the school curriculum. The Law Commission recommended improving trial procedures, and while some changes have been made, the victims of such offences still are required to go through an intensely traumatic process to speak out. We need to stop re-victimising victims of sexual violence through the current criminal justice process and while the Sexual Violence Pilot Courts are currently being trialled, I would like to see appropriate resourcing and expertise being provided to these forums to ensure the least harmful process through the criminal justice process for women (and men) that are victims of sexual violence as possible.
Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?
Repeal s183 of the Crimes Act 1961, enacted in 1977, on the grounds it is simply not fit for purpose in a modern day society. Abortion needs to be decriminalised and the current process is archaic and needs to change.
How will you ensure that New Zealand’s environment is protected for future generations?
I have waterways in my electorate that are contaminated with E. coli, and rivers that are now unswimmable. It’s not the NZ I grew up in, and I want to be able to hand over a healthier environment to the next generation than the one we have inherited.
I’ve worked around the world with folk who are working to protect our environment. Currently, I sit on the Board of 350.org (NZ) that is tackling climate change and have worked with organisations all over the world to protect our environment. I think climate change is one of our generations most pressing challenges, as is our reliance on fossil fuels.
I’m all for fundamentally rethinking the way we think about our environment – changing our mindset from the environment being a resource to exploit, to a taonga (treasure) that we nurture.
In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?
Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the foundation upon which our nation was established. I am pro-New Zealand becoming a republic and I think that the undertaking made between Māori and the Queen in te Tiriti o Waitangi will become fundamentally important to the way in which our future republican constitution is designed and developed. Our unique relationship between Māori and the Crown is something our nation should take great pride in, and I don’t think that is something to be nervous or afraid of – in fact, I think our unique relationship is something we should celebrate.
However, I think that some folk think that Treaty settlements mean the end of the Treaty relationship. I don’t. I think that Treaty settlements are an inadequate disproportionate compensation for the actions of the Crown in breach of the Treaty relationships over the past 160 years.
Looking forward, if Māori (through hapū and iwi) and the Crown work together to grow our nation positively, New Zealand will have a bright future.
Are you concerned about rising levels of inequality in New Zealand? If so, what would you do to close the gap?
Day in and day out in my electorate I see the growing disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” – people living in cars, going without food, working without fair wages. Labour was established for the sole purpose of restoring the equitable balance between the “workers” and the “bosses” and ensuring New Zealand was a fairer place for everyone.
My priorities are on building decent and affordable homes, focusing on job creation (particularly in the regions) and getting tougher on making folk pay their fair share of taxes so that New Zealand can operate the much-needed safety net we once we so proud to have had.
Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?
The things people speak to me about are: (a) ensuring that queer sexual education is open and freely available to all kids; and (b) ensuring that sexual consent is taught at schools. In my day, they taught all the Māori kids how to put condoms on a wooden thing a year earlier than all the other kids “because we were far more likely than the rest of them to get pregnant”. I hope a lot of the stigma for today’s kids has gone – I tell ya, it wasn’t really cool being separated when we were 13 or 14 and told we were probably going to have kids while we were at high school!
What will you do to combat New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide?
In the past week, we have had a series of suicides of young, vulnerable people – mostly young women. Our kids can’t access the mental health services they need, our young parents can’t afford to put food on the table and pay the rent. Suicide often occurs when one is at a complete point of hopelessness and helplessness. Labour is going to pump cash into funding comprehensive school-based mental health teams in secondary schools and we are targeting poverty by focusing on health, housing and education – as well as job creation.
At a micro level though, we know suicide is reduced when people feel connected to one another and to something. I want to help create environments where we reduce isolation and are connected (again) to family and community. Also, I’m always on hand if anyone needs to talk at any time on any day. Once upon a time, many, many years ago, I was lucky enough to have someone pull me out of a very dark rut. I can pay that favour back by paying it forward to anyone who needs a hand themselves.
Last chance: Is there anything else you’d like to say to young female voters?
You are important. Your voice matters. Demand accountability from decision makers – our job is to be accountable to you. Hold us to it! Last election, too many people that look like me didn’t vote because they thought it wouldn’t make a difference/wouldn’t change anything/couldn’t be bothered/didn’t feel connected, etc. I look around my electorate and I don’t think my community can endure another three years of a Government that prioritises the rich and feeds off the poor. New Zealand needs change – if not for yourself, please vote because it may just save a family or two from being homeless or without food. We need you and we need change.