Women's place 'is in the Cabinet'

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2014

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Having a minister for women's affairs outside Cabinet "lowers the status" of gender equality, the National Council of Women says.

The council is calling on the next government to show it is serious about addressing inequality by giving the minister a seat at the Cabinet table.

It is also calling for a national women's action plan and urging the smaller parties to draw "bottom lines" underneath their gender policies if they find themselves talking coalition deals.

The nationwide advocacy group recently asked all political parties to answer questions on gender equality. All responded except the Conservatives and the Maori Party. Parties were asked what they would do to reduce violence against women. Responses ranged from trialling GPS safety alarms for domestic abuse victims and establishing a chief victims adviser from National, to a long-term action plan and increased funding to frontline services from Labour.

The Greens, who have been the most vocal on gender equality, have committed to a complete review of all laws and policies related to domestic violence and crime. Both NZ First and Internet-Mana called for greater education on gender equality in schools.

NCW vice president Rae Duff said the promises were encouraging.

"As always we see lots of promises, but we actually want to see action. I suppose the responses from the larger political parties weren't surprising, but it was good for us to see some of the smaller parties laying their cards on the table.

"One of the other issues is that the minister of women's affairs is a minister outside of Cabinet, which lowers the status of the Ministry of Women's Affairs."

Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew said being outside of Cabinet had not affected her ability to be an effective minister, but ultimately it was a decision for the prime minister.

She attended Cabinet meetings "whenever a policy discussion requires input from a female-gendered perspective". The Government placed a high priority on increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles, and ensuring every woman felt safe from the threat of violence or abuse.

Labour woman's affairs spokeswoman Carol Beaumont said a Labour government would require a "gender implication statement" on every Cabinet paper.

"I would expect, given the policy we've got, a Labour minister for women's affairs will be in a very active role."

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