The 52th Parliament was an important one for women. There were highs (abortion law reform passed) and lows (sexual harassment scandals). But what will the 53rd Parliament do for women? We asked eight leading parties about their plans, and set a tight 50 word limit for each question so they would have to be creative. While we can’t publish the full answers here, we were thoroughly impressed by the depth and breadth of the responses.
In the last few months that Parliament was sitting, a culture of (particularly sexual) harassment was revealed. When asked about what their party would do about this, all parties apart from New Conservatives mentioned to varying degrees a Code of Conduct. Beyond that, the most notable party responses all took a different approach.
The National Party was at the centre of one of the most memorable incidents, with their MP (at the time) for Rangitata Andrew Falloon in the news for sending explicit text messages to at least five young women. National’s Barbara Kuriger came out with the strongest rebuke: she condemned the “unacceptable” behaviour that had been exposed, and pointed out that their members involved in such scandals were no longer part of the National Party caucus. She also looked forward to the next term, and said that work needs to be done around safe zones so that survivors can report such behaviour in a place that respects their privacy.
Both ACT and TOP spoke to the alleged internal culture within their party that dissuaded such behaviour. David Seymour said on behalf of ACT that ultimately voters were the best judge of behaviour, and that ACT’s record of defending civil liberties reflected that they were the party that believed most in the “inherent dignity of every individual”. Shai Navot from TOP noted their party culture rewards “work, integrity and professionalism’, rather than Parliament ego-culture that led to inappropriate conduct. Jenny Marcroft from New Zealand First took a more holistic view. Marcroft said the current laws meant there was enough power to prevent this from happening, and the bar was not inadequate legislation but rather the culture across Parliament.
New Zealand’s shocking rate of family and intimate partner violence has long been a stain on our country. One in three women will experience a form of violence in their lifetime, and 76% of those violent events go unreported. When asked about their approach to combating these statistics, most parties that are currently in Parliament pointed to a previous legislative achievement. Standout Green MP Jan Logie was touted by both Marama Davidson from the Green Party and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer from the Māori Party.
Davidson highlighted Logie’s private members Bill that passed in 2018 which allows for 10 days of paid leave for family violence survivors. Ngarewa-Packer from the Māori Party also commended Logie’s work, noting that it was a shame New Zealand First blocked her recent Sexual Violence Legislation Bill. Ngarewa-Packer also stressed the importance of eliminating racism within mainstream institutions so wāhine Māori can get the support they need. ACT focused on their legislative achievement (albeit from 2010), claiming that the Three Strikes Law helped ensure victim safety. Marcroft from New Zealand First highlighted Minister for Children Hon. Tracey Martin’s introduction of compulsory Healthy Relationship courses for year 9 and 10, and how that was a useful starting point for tackling how access to pornography distorts healthy sexual relationships.
TOP and New Conservatives (as two parties not currently in Parliament) presented more future-focused plans. Navot from TOP said that TOP’s plan to give New Zealanders a Universal Basic Income will provide women with financial support that may remove one of the hurdles that might prevent women from leaving an abusive partner. Deborah Burnside from New Conservatives pointed us to their website, and highlighted their policies that included ‘relationship training’ and the importance of having two loving parents in a committed relationship.
Finally, we asked each party to identify an under-discussed issue facing Māori women and what they would do to advocate for change. As we had contacted individual MPs rather than party reps, we got an interesting look at some smaller areas of the law that particular MPs were passionate about.
Kuriger from National and Burnside from New Conservatives looked at healthcare. Kuriger pointed us to National’s policy to fund a more effective and less invasive screening test for cervical cancer, as screening is as low as 44% and predominantly kills Māori women. Burnside explained that her own history as an endometriosis survivor made her frustrated that the Ministry of Health had not yet implemented newly accepted health protocols addressing the disease (she did not explain which protocols these were).
Marcroft from New Zealand First said financial independence has long been overlooked as the key to self-determination for Māori women, but it is becoming more pressing in a post-Covid economy that will be largely male dominated. Marcroft said financial independence allows women to “leave a relationship when she wants, move house…provide for her children, [and] access healthcare, transport, [and] education”.
Davidson from the Green Party said we need “more discussion around the intergenerational trauma caused by colonisation and the dismantling of traditional Māori caregiving structures”. However, the most detailed and passionate response to this question was from Ngarewa-Packer from the Māori Party. Ngarewa-Packer said more focus needed to be paid to supporting traditional whanau structures so Māori women could mother their tamariki. She also called for the resignation of Children’s Minister Tracey Martin and CEO of Oranga Tamariki Grainne Moss, and for Oranga Tamariki to be disestablished.
Apart from the Labour Party, who did not respond, we had lots of unique responses. Obviously, 150 words is not enough for each party to fully lay out their policies, and they were going to use it to put their best foot forward. Likewise, a short article is not nearly long enough to do a deep-dive into which policies are actually going to be best for women. However, you can read the full responses on our Facebook page and decide for yourself! In the meantime, we have the following awards:
Most detailed responses – New Zealand First
Most prompt at replying – TOP
Nicest letter back/best stationery – Maori Party
Best at keeping to the word limit – National