• Christine Fletcher
Women's Affairs


Good morning.

In 1996 the Women's Communication Centre in London, a non-profit organisation creating social change from personal visions, coordinated The What Women Want Social Survey and compiled the responses into a book entitled `What Women Want'. I'd like to start this morning with a quote from this book from a British MP, Clare Short, illustrating that as diverse as we are as women there are issues common to us all, whatever our politics and wherever in the world we may be.

"When the women of today compare their lives with those of their mothers and grandmothers, it is clear that massive social change is taking place. It is driven by women's desire to enjoy all aspects of their humanity.

"Women want to love their families and have time for their children, parents, lovers and friends. Women also wish to use their brain and creativity, to be treated as equals at work and in public life.

"These reasonable aspirations are transforming the world."

We in New Zealand are at the forefront of this international vision - even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes.

When I have attended international women's conferences, I have always felt very proud that women from other countries have praised the progress New Zealand has made for women. But I will also admit that this is not something I instinctively feel is so. I know we still have such a long way to go.

However, it is good occasionally to reflect upon what we have achieved. It is fitting that this tenth anniversary conference, provides the opportunity to celebrate your past achievements, and to acknowledge the difference you have made for women in New Zealand during that time.

It also allows your organisation the chance to look ahead to the next ten years - to explore what progress you want for New Zealand women.

Recently, the Ministry of Women's Affairs has also celebrated its tenth anniversary and achievements over this time - I have no doubt that the combined efforts of you all has contributed to these achievements.

The Ministry's vision is to "Make A Difference for Women in Aotearoa New Zealand". Through the Ministry's work as the Government's primary provider of gender-specific advice, it seeks to achieve for all women;

opportunity and choice
full and active participation in all levels of society and decision making
adequate resources
no discrimination
and a society that values the contribution of women
As a Member for Parliament and Minister, my impression of the Ministry is that they are a dedicated policy only agency with limited resources. They do not have an advocacy role.

This is also true of other small policy departments like Cultural Affairs, Pacific Island Affairs and Te Puni Kokiri. It is little wonder that Government rarely deals with issues holistically.

Naturally, there is a sense of frustration among the smaller Ministries that their views may not always be fully considered. The reality is that the Ministry owns very few issues or policy projects, and more often than not their work is produced for other departments, in the hope that it will be influential in the development of policy.

Not surprisingly many women have expressed concern that the Ministry does not have a high profile. Indeed, a lot of women living outside of Wellington may not even be aware of its existence.

This has been of concern to me and I know to you also. Women want to hear more about what the Ministry is doing and women also want to be listened to in the policy arena. This is where I, as Minister want to make change, and I will come back to this.

We are all learning to work in the new MMP environment and, quite obviously, it is not without its frustration's. I am a supporter of MMP and firmly believe in the more diverse and consultative environment it should encourage.

That's not to say that we have yet, similar reform and diversity in the executive and bureaucracy!

But MMP has delivered for women at a Parliamentary level - we now have more women than ever before in Parliament - a recent survey ranked New Zealand sixth in the world for the percentage of women in Parliament.

I am encouraging cross-party communication with women MPs, particularly on those issues that are common to us as women and I am pleased to report that we will be having our second Parliamentary Women's Committee on the 29th of this month. Naturally superannuation is on the agenda, but it is not the only issue.

The new environment is not without its challenges for women and the Ministry. The Ministry used to have two Ministers, Jenny Shipley and Katherine O'Regan - there is now only me, and I am outside of Cabinet.

This not only sends a philosophical message to women about our importance in Government, but also brings practical difficulties. I am not at the decision making table with other minister when the substantial decisions are made. I find this frustrating, it means that my role is often more one of lobbyer than decision debater and maker.

I don't want to be hard on myself but we need to be realistic and pragmatic about the machinery of Government. I am only one person, outside cabinet, with three portfolios, a constituency, four cabinet committees and a select committee to attend too.

There's an awful lot that I want to achieve that thus far I have been silent on. There are only 2000 hours available in the house this year to process legislation, the competition to get `your' work on the legislative programme is fierce. There is also more legislation on the programme than ever before. And there are more opinions to be canvassed and egos to be satisfied before progress can be made.

If we are to achieve outcomes for women, not only politicians, but the whole community has to learn to work with this new system. And that will mean, just as the Women's Committee is doing, talking and listening to each other to find the common ground and the strategies to forward the issues.

I don't offer this to you as a pre-excuse for work that might not get done or to suggest that I expect us to agree on everything.

But if we are to make and measure progress for women, we do have to be realistic about setting goals and priorities - we must concentrate our energies on those issues where we can make a difference.

It troubles me in this context as to whether in women's organisations we have perhaps confined our work within too narrow boundaries to achieve this. We have focussed on our efforts to achieve equality and to breaking the glass ceiling..

Many of us, you all know well, have pursued the causes of equal opportunity with passion. The Ministry of Women's Affairs however, sees this search as one for Gender Equity.

It considers gender equality to be based on the premise that women and men should be treated in the same way. The term fails to recognise that equal treatment will not produce equitable results because men and women have different life experiences....

It is the lack of understanding about this important distinction I believe that underlies much of the discontent and misunderstanding in relationships between men and women certainly at a political level..

Gender Equity is intended to take into consideration the differences in men's and women's lives and to recognise that different approaches may be needed to produce outcomes that are equitable - fair - reasonable.

We become mothers, we become family income providers, we often out of necessity move in and out of the work place several times. We nurture children. We regularly face multiple pressures even the most committed and caring men can find difficult to fully grasp and to understand the implications, both personally and for society.

Gender equity, seeks to recognise that different policy approaches are necessary by governments to produce outcomes that are equitable for women. Gender equality, on the other hand, is based on the premise that women and men should be treated in the same way.

This we reject, because it fails to recognise that equal treatment will not produce equitable results.

Lets agree on this at the very least as a starting point for the Parliamentary Women's Committee to be working on.

I believe that to achieve gender equity we must throw off some shackles and prejudices, particularly about power and the process of change.

There is a quote I like from Maria Liberia Peters, a former Prime Minister of Netherlands Antilles. She wrote: "I've realised that you cannot reach your goal without power. So its not a nasty word, it's an important word. But you must know what you want to do with that power. Serve mankind, serve for humanity, and, then, yes, give me all the power in the world."

I believe the quote is particularly applicable in New Zealand. Far too many of my committed friends don't think in terms of power, they think in terms of issues.

They're usually pretty diffident about power, and find concepts of politics, politicians and power one gigantic turnoff. They don't like to see the abuse of trust that the exercise of power has historically entailed. They go for a cause. They seek to develop programmes to meet specific issues, and assume that common sense and "right" will prevail.

Experience shows that without some well managed direction and careful use of power the desired outcome is not always achieved and disillusionment prevails. The gap is filled with those that are more adept at using power, those who are not always motivated by a sense of urgency nor a pressing need for positive change, but instead motivated by entrenching their own position.

This is a trait which fits more easily into a male dominated environment.

If positive societal change is to occur women must become better strategists, they must become better at understanding and using the media and understanding that government is generally reactive rather then proactive.

I say to you that if you know what you want to achieve don't be diffident setting a course for achieving a position of power whereby you can influence decision making - be aware however that power comes often with some very great personal costs in your life.

I believe we as a society will be capable of achieving more if we are not operating as a minority force. We require fairer representation of women based on merit, from a range of different backgrounds in Parliament, in Cabinet and in the highest positions of the civil service and commerce. It should go without saying that women with varied backgrounds can contribute with a greater degree of understanding of human needs and aspirations that few men, either individually or as a team, can ever match.

Let's consider the views of American author Laura A. Liswood in writing the introduction to a book she authored on the experiences of women world leaders.

First she raised the question: Why are qualities that we often identify as feminine -- qualities of nurturing and co-operating, among others - not more active ingredients in world politics?

She sought proof that women's leadership makes a difference. Answers came in a survey carried out by Debra Dodson among women in American state legislators. Dodson noted: "Women are diverse and some are more likely than others to reshape the policy agenda and work on women's rights bills. But it is clear that, overall, women law makers do more to help women than their male colleagues."

Lismore reported that the survey showed women do reshape the policy agenda through their legislative priorities and their work on women's rights bills

The survey, she wrote, also provided evidence that women public officials are changing the way government works. Women legislators were more likely to bring citizens into the political process, to favour government in public view rather than government behind closed doors, and to be responsive to groups previously denied full access to the policy-making process.

We share the view that the higher number of women in our own Parliament has to be a plus, for the reasons succinctly noted by Lismore. It is essential that more women reach the Cabinet table. The qualities summarised by Lismore tell us why.

We know that with more women in positions of power we will be better able to address change in way that is less stressful to society,. The generally more open and more inclusive approach is suited to the task.

I am yet to find anyone who is happy with the status quo in terms of the Government role in defining social policy in New Zealand. Clearly change is required. You will agree with me I'm sure that any change to our social structures must recognise and involve all those who will be affected.

Recently I was privileged to hear an address by Dr Lester Levy, one of Auckland's most successful health administrators. During the course of the address he praised the health model but condemned the practical application of the model recognising that part of it's failure to deliver was that a vital ingredient was missing - it lacked the committed involvement of the professionals working within the health sector.

It is essential, he says, if not critical that in any change process you recognise and involve all of those who have a sense of equity, of ownership, of pride. You involve them in the research for change, through the analysis stages and into implementation and beyond. By following this process you minimise resistance.

In the context of the social reform needed in New Zealand, certainly to meet the needs of our children be it health, welfare, justice or education, the stakeholders here are parents and children, most particularly mothers. We have to make sure that they are supported and their appropriate skills and qualities are used to the fullest possible extent, be that parental education or economic freedom so that that they have the ability and power to raise happy, healthy, well adjusted children who have a better chance of becoming responsible adults.

This is why I believe so strongly that MWA should have regularised across the board input into the making of this nation's social policy and certainly be involved with current consideration of policy changes in the area of Families at Risk. Why? Simply because it represents women. And across the broad spectrum of government policy making there are issues of vital importance to women being addressed every day.

Let's look at why as women our involvement is required in greater numbers, with greater influence. Statistics from the U.S. provide clues.

The Population Council, an international, non-profit organisation established in 1952 and dedicated to two broad, closely linked goals: improving reproductive health and achieving a balance between population and resources, recently published a study entitled: Fertility in the United States: New Patterns, New Theories. It declared that the rise and fall of fertility levels has major implications for policy formation in such vital areas as social security, education and poverty.

The study declared the American fertility pattern to be puzzling. It is characterised by persistently high teenage childbearing despite significant improvement in the availability and accessibility of contraception, as well as delayed childbearing by women in their thirties.

Large families are rare with a slowed pace of transition to second and third births to women of all ages. Substantial proportions of women either will remain childless or will have children outside marriage. Racial and ethnic differences in fertility behaviour are large.

Among other points a summary of the study noted:

Out of wedlock child bearing has increased 19 percent between 1970 and 1992 to 30 percent of births.

The implications: While marriage has declined as a central part of adult lives it is partly offset by a substitution of cohabitation. While the decline represents women's increased economic independence it also suggests that men have begun to reject the financial considerations and responsibilities of a traditional family, the central part of parenthood. Most of the retreat from children has been on the part of men.

It notes that efforts to increase male involvement may encounter resistance by women. Why? Because this may decrease female autonomy in decisions about whether to bear children and how to raise them.

The study also notes that an increased supply of women willing to bear children out of wedlock would increase the attractiveness to men of nonmarital fatherhood and no responsibility.

Dealing with women in work, statistics showed: In 1991 about 43 percent of new mothers returned to work within three months of giving birth; 69 percent returned within 12 months and 86 percent returned within three or more years. Employment by women with children under six doubled between 1970 and 1992 from 30 percent to 60 percent.

A chilling fact if those women are there out economic necessity and not personal choice --- in view of recent biological evidence that a child's mental growth is closely linked to nurturing by its mother up to the age of five or six --- was that from 1970 to 1991 the proportion of married women of child bearing age who thought a child suffers if the mother works fell from 73 percent to 34 percent.

It is an area in which I see the women's ministry playing an important role. Vigilance is called for to see that the Ministry is an automatic choice for analytical and policy contributions on social issues. It must not be called on only when men in power think a matter is a "woman's" issue.

They must realise that the social crisis before us calls for greater input from the women of our community. In turn we in the women's movement must make it clear that our interests are much wider than gender issues.

It appals me that it took a major outcry from women to have greater account paid to women's views in designing the proposed compulsory superannuation scheme.

I'm reserving public judgement until I see the final scheme. However on the basis of the little I have seen to date I will be very suprised if the final scheme announced does not most savagely discriminate against women.( I will come back to this later in my speech) We do need to keep up pressure to ensure our vital interests are secured.

This is most important in the development of new social policy. I am so tired of the "bottom of the cliff" syndrome. Let us become proactive in identifying the causes of failure amongst our young and society today.

Lesley Max, in her book Children:Endangered Species, highlighted a crucial question facing our society. Why should Britain and the United States, with their ancient and permanent slums, their bag people and their huge populations of poverty-stricken immigrants, be a safer environment for children than that available in New Zealand.

This is clearly an unacceptable situation and change is required..

There is no doubt that in the interests of quality and costs, service delivery co-ordination for families at risk must be addressed. However the strategy taken to date places emphasis on the service delivery rather than the fundamental problems for women and children in the social dislocation that has occurred in the last twenty years.

Any Government desiring change in this area must take the public with them, particularly women's organisations by demonstrating overwhelmingly that their motivation is a genuine attempt at improving the social capital of our country for families rather than fiscally driven from a narrow welfare perspective.

We need to identify the need to analyse the factors that contribute to good life outcomes for Maori and Pacific Island girls because of the critical role they play in present and future life outcomes for Maori and Pacific Island families.

Similarly ther is a need to develop a framework to evaluate the real effectiveness of all the programmes delivered over the past decade that address parenting and family participation skills.

Unless we address the multiple factors contributing to poor family outcomes there will be no assurances that the most effective and efficient service delivery co-ordination, family law changes and parental sanctions will, in the long term, reduce an unsustainable cost to the state or improve outcomes for families.

There has never been any truly comprehensive research and policy work done. As politicians of all political persuasions we are too fond of embarking on new projects.

The same scrutiny must be given to Justice issues.

We forget that it is only six months ago that thousands of Auckland women and girls were terrorised by the activities of a serial rapist. His activities disrupted the lives and forced unwanted changes to the day to day living patterns of women.

Every women is entitled to feel secure in her own home.

We know there is more to the debate over police numbers than financial consideration but perhaps we must expect government to change priorities and place a heavier weighting on the human factor.

I'm not advocating fiscal irresponsibility however we must not concede defeat too easily. We should be involved in advocacy on these wider issues.

We know that serious crime including rape has origins in petty crime. If we can focus our energies on reducing petty crime and its involvement of youth the rewards will come in a reduction of more serious criminal acts.

The cost for this has shifted to the community for failing to address this issue. We are not winning the war on burglaries.If you doubt this speak to any insurance assessor or recent victim of crime. If this cost was being factored into treasury statistics and met by the state I suggest officials would be crying for a greater presence of police on the streets.

Likewise the Marijuana issue, why are we having this debate? I suggest it is because there is a strong feeling that the battle has already been lost, become too hard. I'm not prepare to concede defeat here either.

My list is long. Needless to say we learn to pick our fights - I have certainly learnt that the hard way. Marilyn Waring's advice to me for survival was try not to run too many issues at a time - difficult advice with three portfolios but sound advice nonetheless.

There are some issues, like matrimonial property, that are not negotiable. Others like superannuation one must be one must maintain a watching brief. The trick is not overextend oursleves and become ineffective.

The Government, has set its work programme for the next three years through the Coalition Agreement. Because this document will largely dictate what we will be doing throughout this time, I think it's worthwhile to spend a couple of minutes going through what the agreement means for women and examine where the opportunities lie.

Firstly and most importantly, the Government has affirmed its commitment to the Ministry and the work they do.

Secondly, and very relevant to this gathering, the Government have stated that greater participation of NGOs (non-government organisations) in women's policy development should be supported and encouraged.

Thirdly, Government sets out its commitment to the National Cervical Screening Programme and the introduction of the National Breast Screening Programme over the next three years to cover all women from 50 to 65.

The agreement also specifies key policy initiatives, some of which I will come back to later. They are outlined as follows:

Agree in principle to establishing a Parliamentary Officer to be known as the Women's Commissioner, whose role would be one of advocacy in co-operation with the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the Equal Employment Opportunity Trust in terms of progress being made in advancing pay equity and consider whether any further non-legislative initiatives are required to progress the closing of the pay gap.

Review current child care policies to better integrate existing services and reduce barriers to women seeking financial independence.

Resource violence prevention and education programmes within schools and the community.

Increase funds to the EEO Trust on the basis of a 2 to 1 Government to Private Sector subsidy.

Fund the Maori Women's Development Fund to assure its continuation.

And, given that a business plan for a time use survey is almost completed, both Government parties agreed that a time use survey was a high priority.
So, as you can see, there are some real opportunities set down as to what we can focus on and achieve in the next three years.

I acknowledge Jenny Shipley and Ann Batten, for their role in the coalition negotiations. They ensured women's issues were part of the agreement.

There are other Portfolio areas where the Coalition Agreement is silent making it more difficult to work with - it may not say all we want it to say however it does give us the mandate to move in some key areas.

I would like to focus now on some specific points from the Coalition Agreement that are significant for women, but not necessarily documented under "Women's Issues".

And that in itself is something we need to be wary of. Just because they are not tagged as women's issues, doesn't mean that justice and law and order issues, health and welfare policies are not equally critical to women and their lives.

There is much work being done on families programmes and developing packages around them. We need to be targeting these families before they enter the justice system via parental education programmes, via a women's health policy. Obviously healthy women are better able to handle the multiple stresses of raising children.

There are good reasons for development of a specific policy on women's health. The Federation of Women's Health Council says policy development should focus on setting out from a woman's perspective health priorities, health goals and health research needs. It believes a policy document would provide a framework for informed debate, but it does say such a policy should come from and reflect grassroots New Zealand women.

It seems to me that sound health policy for women should be holistic in it's outlook and be based on women's life time experience and diverse roles. Given that women juggle responsibilities as mothers, main income earners, unpaid community workers and caregivers for extended families. I look forward to developing with the Ministry of Women's Affairs the basis for introduction of a specific women's health policy.

Let me give you another very topical and key example of issues affecting women that are not necessarily documented as such;

The Government is committed to improving women's economic independence. I applaud any initiative that encourages women to develop confidence enabling them to return to the paid workforce as their children become less dependent on them. This for many women can be a difficult transition.

However, the important issue for mothers is that they can choose what is best for themselves and their families. Recent changes to the Domestic Purposes Benefit require women with children 14 years and older to return to the work force.

We must not allow women to consider the work as parents they do within the home as having no value or status. In my opinion the only difference between doing a good job at home and a good job in the paid workforce is the pay cheque.

For many single Mums, returning to the workforce when their children become teenagers is what's best for them and their family. And, the new benefit requirements will help them to access the Employment Service.

However we must protect the women who wish to be with their children during periods outside of school hours and during school holidays. To be put in this situation is a particular dilemma for single mothers.

It is imperative that the system gives women the freedom to make that decision and then supports them in their choice.

It irritated me that when I spoke earlier in the year about the role of women in family life - some people commented that I wanted to take women backwards.

I want to make it clear to you that this is something I feel very passionately about. If we don't put our stake in the ground now, and say that women must have the choice to live the life they want, and for that life to be valued as part of our society, be that as a business woman, a woman at home, or a woman who wants to do both, we will indeed be going backwards.

Women in the community raising children, caring for elderly parents is every bit as valuable to our country as those of us who are in the paid work force. We must address the current attitude that assumes the universal answer to our problems is to have every in paid employment.

And it is in the same vein that we must collectively address the issue of the compulsory superannuation referendum.

How far have we come?? Let's have a look.

We are still waiting on the actual design of the scheme to be announced and until that time it is difficult to know exactly what we are dealing with. However, I would like to comment on the effects of compulsory superannuation on women in general, because, whatever the design, it must take into consideration on our specific needs and lifestyle patterns.

Before I do that I want to acknowledge the contribution Angela Foulkes has made to the superannuation debate in New Zealand. Not only did she play an important role on the Todd Taskforce but she continues to highlight the issues of concern to women and those on lower incomes or no incomes,

Women have a different earning capacity to men over our life times. We are not in the work force as long, we come in and out of it more than men due to child birth and child care, and, as we know, earn less over our life times. Women also suffer financially in partnership break-ups, often later in our lives when there is not the time to stay in the workforce long enough to rebuild financial stability.

The current New Zealand Superannuation scheme has several positive features crucial to women;

it does not discriminate against women in that it has an individual unit of entitlement (ie. it is not income tested against their spouse's income)

The level of the entitlement is not linked to paid work through previous contributions from earnings.
If what we receive in our retirement to see us through, is related to what we have earned in the paid workforce, women will be disadvantaged.

To ensure that the scheme does not disadvantage women in comparison with current arrangements, the Ministry has put together a set of high level principles. These don't seek to tell the scheme designers what they should design, but rather can act as a check for them, and us!, on the impacts of the design options put forward.

The principles are:

That the compulsory scheme is integrated with NZ Superannuation, or other forms of state provided pension, in a way that ensures everyone has an adequate level of income in old age.
Women on average earn around 60% of what men earn over their lifetimes. Women involved in long periods of unpaid work earn substantially less than this. A state-funded pension needs to remain the primary source of income for many women.

That the scheme does not significantly diminish paid work incentives.

Any move to reduce current disposable income is likely to have some negative effect on work incentives. What will be particularly important for women who have a low or marginal attachment to the labour force is to ensure that they are still better off overall by remaining in employment.

This has been an important principle behind the recent changes to encourage beneficiaries into paid employment.

That the scheme, in tandem with adjustments to tax and social assistance policies, does not reduce the disposable income of those on the lowest incomes. The issue here is not to undermine the disposable income level of this group.

That the scheme ensures voluntary contributions from employers, and voluntary schemes, that are counted as compulsory savings, do not discriminate against women.
What will be important here is to encourage employers to make contributions that are designed in ways that reflect changing work patterns and therefore benefit women as much as men. Examples are having preservation policies and low vesting periods.

Similarly, we would want to discourage certain policies, such as having high costs associated with suspending contributions, which disadvantage women who have been unable to contribute when they have children, for example.

That annuities are unisex, rather than gender rated. A current Human Rights exemption allows insurance companies to offer policies at different prices to women and men.

That women live longer generally than men means that women can buy life cover at a lower price than men, but pay more for annuities in old age. Thus, the exemption accentuates the savings disadvantage women already have as a consequence of lower lifetime earnings. We believe that this differentiation, in an environment of compulsory saving, is ethically unfair.

And lastly, that the scheme, in tandem with adjustments to tax, social assistance and NZ superannuation policies, should not lead to a deterioration in the relative lifetime income or position of women, compared with that of men.
The ultimate test of the scheme is an assessment of the anticipated impact on the relative disposable income position of women and men, both over their lifetime and in retirement. This test could also be applied in respect of other identifiable groups in the population who have lower than average incomes currently. In particular, Maori and Pacific Islands populations.

Needless to say, in my opinion, a compulsory superannuation which failed to meet these tests could NOT deliver for women.

We have a vital role in the education of our sisters.

Talk to women, make sure they understand the implications of a scheme that will not serve them well in their retirement. If we are to protect women's quality of life in retirement, we must be vigilant and passionate in our efforts to ensure women's needs are not forgotten or overlooked in the referendum campaign.

I am very pleased that a Parliamentary Women's Committee has been established and superannuation is on our agenda. It doesn't mean that we will all agree all of the time, but I am confident that by talking to each other and finding the common ground we can and will make progress on this issue.

I know that you are also interested in the Coalition Agreement's mention of the gender pay gap, and that this has been a longstanding concern of the CTU and a key priority for your work this year. This is of course also one of the issues arising from the Beijing Platform for Action the Government has committed itself.

Latest figures show that in the November 1996 quarter, women earned 80.8% of men's average ordinary-time hourly earnings and 80.5% of men's average total hourly earnings, including paid overtime. This means that women receive nearly 20% less than men in terms of their average hourly earnings.

In weekly earnings, in November 1996 women earned 76.5% of men's average ordinary-time weekly earnings and 73.4 percent of men's average total weekly earnings. This means that women receive 27% less than men in terms of average total weekly earnings. Or, in other words, women earn less than three quarters of what men receive in their weekly pay packets.

On top of this women face additional costs simply being in the work force. An obvious example is childcare - Government subsidises some, yet this is still a very significant cost to many women. we don't have tax deductible programmes widely available - yet!

Who is the one who takes time off when kids are sick or when an elderly relative needs a trip to the hospital?

And so it goes on - you will have your own examples I'm sure.

Our real difficulty lies in that we still can't fully explain why the gender pay gap still exists, given that in theory and in law it shouldn't.

We know that human capital differences explain a significant proportion of the pay gap. Work experience, on-the job training and educational qualifications, because of women's work patterns, are all not readily available to women.

We also know that job segregation is a major contributor, for example, "male" jobs pay more than "female" jobs. For example, early childhood education jobs pay less than secondary teachers jobs. I believe that that is because women make up the majority of early childhood workers.

However, the unknown factor in the gender pay gap, we believe, comes back to age-old, plain and simple, discrimination.

We knew that instinctively and analysis bears that out.

So, where to from here?

It is clear that closing the gender pay gap is a long term goal and that a range of measures are needed if we are to be successful.

It is also clear that we still need more information about the pay gap to fully understand it and therefore fully address the issues and underlying causes.

The Ministry will continue to monitor trends and provide ongoing advice and are also working to ensure better data is available on earnings and employment of women in the workforce relative to men, so that we understand why the gap exists and what to do about it.

I am also always interested in hearing other women's views on this issue - where do you think the problem is and what do you think we can we do about it?

We must understand and then address the gender earnings gap, if the value of women's work, paid or unpaid, is to be genuinely recognised and valued and if women are to have true economic equity and independence.

I return also to the concern that has been expressed at the lack of monitoring and advocacy for women and women's issues and I recognise the need for these two roles.

I believe that the collective knowledge and expertise of voluntary women's organisations has not always been sufficiently accessed by the Government.

I would like this to change and have been, consulting and will continue to do so, with a wide range of women's organisations, including the CTU.

But we need to put this consultation into a more structured and effective process.

Before we jump into setting up a women's commissioner, I believe we need to look at how best such a role might work. We need to look at the experience of others, such as the Health and Disability Commissioner, Children's Commissioner and the Environment Commissioner, some of whom are Parliamentary Officers.

I am therefore recommending that we set up a transitional consultative process on key issues for women.

I intend for this consultation process to monitor Government outcomes for women and provide Government with a direct feedback on the views and concerns of New Zealand women.

We will be able to learn from this initiative how we go about the next step of setting up an ongoing and formal process of consultation with women throughout New Zealand.

Whatever form it might take in the end, please be assured I will be calling on the wisdom and advice of organisations like the CTU during the establishment of this process over the next few months.

Thank you for your attention this morning. There are frustrations and challenges that we need to face.We won't agree on every issue. But I am pleased to have been here and look forward to maintaining a regular dialogue with you.

In closing I would like to repeat the quote from Maria Liberia-Peters;

"I've realised that you cannot reach your goal without power. So it's not a nasty word, it's an important word. But you must know what you want to do with that power. Serve mankind, serve for humanity, and then yes, give me all the power in the world."

Thank you.