• Jenny Shipley
Women's Affairs

"Over the last seven years the Government has delivered significant legislative protections and policies that have improved women's lives," said Hon Jenny Shipley tonight addressing the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators dinner.

"The contribution women make to families, our communities and our society is vast but often undervalued. The Government is committed to promoting initiatives and policies that will deliver equal opportunities for women.

"However, in striving to achieve equal opportunities for women we have to be realistic about what Governments can achieve and what requires the commitment of individuals, institutions, organisations and society as a whole.

"Whilst in some areas, such as human rights, equal opportunity can be legislated for, in other areas such as the gender pay gap there are no simple straightforward legislative remedies. Attitudes and education may hold the key towards women achieving equal status and this will require men and women working together.

"This year the Government has continued to build on the previous six years with the announcement it will fund a Time Use Survey over the next three years. The Survey will allow us to better understand the contribution unpaid work, including childcare, care of the elderly, household work and voluntary community work makes to our economy. With this knowledge it will improve public policy making and the development of programmes in health, employment and welfare.

"We also introduced legislation to support women wanting to leave violent relationships. The Government is not indifferent to domestic violence and will not stand by while it continues. The Social Security (Conjugal Status) Bill seeks to support women as they move out of violent relationships and is consistent with the intention of our domestic violence legislation which was introduced in 1995 to make women safe while condemning domestic violence and abuse.

"I believe women's participation at all levels, including management, in business, community organisations and local and central Government, will bring about gains for women. In order to promote more skilled and experienced women being appointed to the boards of crown companies the Government announced a new director training initiative. The first course was successfully run recently.

"With respect to representation for women the Coalition Government is continuing to work on the best way of delivering a women's advocate.

"The Government has a proud record of advancing the status of New Zealand women and making a difference through a number of programmes and policies that have been implemented in the last seven years. They include:

Legislative protections including, the Films, Video and Publications Classification Act 1993 making the possession of objectionable material illegal, amendments to the Crimes Act outlawing female genital mutilation and also increasing maximum penalties for sexual violation, the Human Rights Act 1993 prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, age, employment status and family status and disability, and the Domestic Violence Act 1995 improving the safety of women.

Employment initiatives including, Wahine Pakari, a training programme designed to give Maori women skills to run their own businesses, funded from the Maori Women's Development Fund to encourage Maori women into business by providing loans to either start-up or expand businesses, established the Equal Employment Trust and Fund to promote within the public and private sector a commitment to equal opportunities in employment, promoted family-friendly workplaces, funded OSCAR development programme to promote out of school care in low income communities. And since 1990 there are now over 48,000 more women in fulltime employed and over 60,000 more in part-time employment.

Education and health initiatives including child care, Compass programmes, training incentive allowance, gender neutral student loans, increases in early childhood education services, a nationwide mammography screening programme and the sexual health and reproduction strategy.
"The National New Zealand First Government is now making significant progress on delivering policy options identified from the Beijing Platform for Action. In particular work on the gender pay gap continues, the women's directors course will help enhance women's role in decision making, the Time Use Survey will provide information on women's unpaid work, and the Ministry of Women's Affairs have developed a gender analysis tool which is designed to mainstream a gender perspective in the development of government policies and programmes.

"In the coming months the Government will continue to ensure issues that are important for women are not marginalised, but advanced. We expect to finally see the amendments to the Matrimonial Property Act come before parliament.

"New Zealand women are some of the most advantaged, worldwide, in terms of legislative protection and income-earning opportunities," Jenny Shipley concluded.