Pride and Protest

Over the weekend I posted on facebook about the attack on protestors at the Pride parade.

I’m going to personalise this response rather than make it abstract because in this case it makes more sense to me to do that.

My post, which I had been asked to share, got a very strong response and quite different versions of events were presented.

In the initial post the suggestion was police had broken the protestor’s arm – that certainly concerned me and was something that as an MP I could have potentially taken action on.

When it seemed it was security and not police who were involved and when there were accusations that the protestors had assaulted a volunteer (consequently I understand this was corrected) it became clear that social media was not the place to try and work out the details of what had happened and there was no parliamentary political role for me to play.

My second post was written in that context. It was not intended to discredit the protestors or side with the police. When I read the responses to my second post I realised (and was advised) saying anything more might be unhelpful.

I think this is something we need to work through as communities, and people within communities.

I would now just like to say – as an individual in the community – that I am still distressed by what happened.

I acknowledge that my personal history – having had friends assaulted by police, having had a friend raped by a police officer, having had a friend unjustly arrested and charged by police, and seeing friends regularly harassed – predisposes me to mistrust the police. I acknowledge that. This is of course tempered by my desire to be able to raise issues about police and corrections within a political context without being dismissed as ‘anti-police’. However I know that all too many marginalised people have experienced violence and injustice much more directly and much more recently.

In light of that reality I want to thank the protestors for their bravery. I support your message and your right to safely deliver it.

I have friends in the police force and people I really like and respect who were marching in the Parade. I know they have been working relentlessly to make the police force a place that is safe for LGBTI people to interact with. I know too that they felt the decision by the police last year not to allow them to participate in uniform was a sign of homophobia and that they had been working really hard to get that decision reversed for the ultimate benefit of the community.

I really appreciate and admire the efforts of people in the police force who are at significant personal cost working for the safety of all. Institutions are slow to change and don’t change without people inside them working for change.

I have called the police when I’ve had concerns about domestic violence. I’ve called the police when my flat was robbed. I’ve worked with good police on DV and sexual violence ‘cases’. I can appreciate the value of the police.

I want to acknowledge their work and efforts to change the police and the ultimate belief in the possibility of a police force that is safe for all inside and out.

I also know some of the Pride organisers who have spent hundreds of volunteer hours organising a huge range of events for the community with the goal of increasing pride and ultimately the safety of us all. There are so many amazing things that have been happening as part of Pride that I’ve heard such incredible support for. BGO, all the community events and the theatre! Pride really has been an amazing accomplishment. Amazing.

I want to thank them for their work.

I also understand that corporate sponsorship is the contemporary model for organising events and that the organisers have been incredibly successful with this. I get that for many people having major sponsors interested in being part of Pride is a sign of equality and success. I can also see that for many the prettiness of what money can buy – with gorgeous blinged out ATMs and large stunning floats is a good in itself – I love pretty. I can see too how for some this is proof to the “straight community” that whatever they can do we can do better.

But I also understand that this creates a conflict for those of us who have an ambivalent relationship with capitalism; who might not see success as being a niche market for big corporates; who indeed might struggle against being brought more fully into that world.

For me while it doesn’t sit quite right I haven’t engaged in the discussion partly probably because I’m so immersed in a compromised world of parliamentary politics. But I don’t see the protests as hate. I see them as cultural dialogue – and I’m really interested in where this discussion goes. I’m saddened that cultural dialogue resulted in someone being physically hurt. I hope we can all find a way to work through this so our differences can be safely expressed.

Window dressing is not an appropriate response to injustice and abuse.

The appalling and heart-wrenching situation for the woman in Invercargill whose rapist moved in next door highlights several areas for legislative review and policy & funding change.

This woman has an indefinite protection order in place but this does nothing to prevent her abuser moving in next door. The police have been for a ‘chat’ and suggested he move but cannot do anything else unless he breaches the order and crosses that line. His friends have been threatening and harassing her but this does not constitute a breach.

NZ has high incidences of sexual abuse, as well as low reporting and conviction rates. Making a complaint and taking a case through court is something the majority of people are too intimidated to do. I believe that bravery deserves acknowledgment and I believe we owe it to victims to make sure they are looked after. This means, in part, finding a legal process that will not finish at conviction or acquittal as if that’s all there is to it.

Work by NZ Legal academics Tinsley and McDonald recently highlighted some of the limitations of our justice system in relation to sexual offending and suggested we need to reinvestigate protection orders and how they work. Sexual offending is a notoriously difficult area of law. Despite reforms over many decades, the evidence continues to show stubbornly unchanged prosecution rates for sexual offences and victim dissatisfaction with the system.

This election the national party pledged to double the penalties for breaches of protection orders. This was window dressing for domestic violence designed to appeal to the get tough on crime lobby. It doesn’t address any of the concerns raised by the research, this woman or others in similar situations.

Further I know a significant number of women are struggling to get police to enforce breaches of protection orders when the victim and abuser share responsibility for children. Doubling the penalties will make some police even more reluctant to enforce the orders and then if they do the fines may just mean the abuser cannot pay maintenance and so the children will end up paying or the woman will not call the police in the first place.

And protection orders are just one piece of the puzzle. Kim McGregor from the Rape Prevention Network has noted that there have been numerous instances of abusers moving in close to their victims. She also noted it is likely these offenders have not completed a treatment programme. Attending a treatment programme for 1-2 years reduces the risk of re-offending to 5%. Yet there is a waiting list to get into the programmes within prisons and perpetrators need to fund themselves to do programmes after release or if they haven’t been to court. We must invest in support for victims and one of the ways to do this is to invest in treatment for perpetrators.

Ultimately we need to get serious about making the cultural, legislative and funding changes required to make a real difference and stop hiding behind populist proposals that end up just perpetuating the problems.

Thoughts on this the final day of the 2011 election campaign.

Before I head out leafletting again I thought I’d just write a quick final summary of the campaign

Best moments – The Young Feminists Electoral panel turn out and questions, the Plimmerton meet the candidate meeting, visiting community groups and elders in Porirua, when house after house said they were going to vote green, PHAG, our Soiree, being put through my paces by people at the market and of course all of your support.

Worst moments – National party people throwing things at me, and unnecessary drama

Biggest issues being raised by people– housing, low wages, a decline in funding and lack of stability in community funding, the Sandhills Expressway, Rena, education, welfare, health, a lack of hope and opportunity for the young, and an increasing lack of faith in the system.

Our response:

Housing -The Greens will extend the home insulation scheme to a further 200,000 houses and build a further 2000 houses for social housing.

Low wages – The Greens will raise the minimum wage to $15ph immediately and then peg it to 2/3rds of the average wage. I spoke to a couple of guys around my age the other weekend one was a carpenter and the other a mechanic their wages have only gone up by about $5 over the last 10 years. I believe we need to return to the idea of a living wage and employers and employees having a fair contract relationship not employers offering charity to their workers in the form of wages as all too much of the discussion around employment seem to suggest.

Funding for community organisations – The Greens will reduce reporting requirements, fight to bring back COGS (which is a community administered govt. funding scheme that works using the knowledge of the community) and seek to extend funding periods to ensure stability and security.

The Sandhills Expressway – The Greens will do whatever we can to stop this 8-12 metre high expressway being ploughed through the heart of our gorgeous community.

Rena/off shore drilling – the Greens will put a moratorium on further deep sea oil exploration until we know we have the capacity to respond to any disaster and we can be satisfied the companies have good safety records. We will also work to stop ships of convenience having such free access to our waters.

Education – The Greens will scrap national standards and reduce staff student ratios, and better resource our teachers and schools to work with children from a range of cultures, with a range of learning needs. We will address child poverty, poor housing and over crowding to even up the playing field for children in school.

Benefits – The Greens will extend the in work tax credit to give beneficiary families an extra $60 a week in the hand. We will also stand up against the idea that everyone should be in paid work. We know and accept that until we have enough jobs, eliminate domestic violence, child abuse, mental and physical illness, and create an enabling society that does not discriminate against people with disabilities we will need welfare. We will try to support benefits at a level that will not exclude all these people and their children from participation in society.

Health – The Greens will seek to make sure health care services are appropriately tailored to the communities they serve and we will adequately resource prevention and early intervention.

Young people – The Greens will radically reduce child poverty and give children a better start and this in turn will help young people. We will also create a smart green economy that will provide meaningful work for young people.

A lack of faith – The Greens will maintain our integrity (possibly the most important thing we can do in parliament). We will work towards a participatory democracy and promote transparency and honesty in all our dealings. We will hold on to voting according to our policy so everyone knows what we stand for. I do believe we are different from the other parties; our values are clearly articulated and available for all to see (ecological wisdom, social justice, non-violence, and appropriate decision making).

So in short, I think the Greens have got the answers for the communities concerns AND we can provide these solutions without going into debt or selling off assets. It’s amazing what can happen when idealists get practical.

7% for the Greens and I will be an MP next week.

My speech to the Wellington Young Feminists Election Panel

I’m Jan Logie the Green party candidate for Mana and with your party vote, I along with the wonderful Holly Walker beside me, will be one of the new Green MPs in parliament.

I want to start first by acknowledging our Te Tiriti o Waitangi, children, youth, disability, elders, ethnic, and rainbow policies are as important as our women’s policy when it comes to understanding the changes needed to achieve gender equity in Aotearoa.

We are always mindful of our diversities and the potential to unintentionally increase inequalities if we work towards the liberation of the generic woman who all too often seems to be cis middle aged, white, middle class, straight, and physically and mentally abled. We also recognize not everyone is male or female.

Tonight I will talk about gender based violence.

The statistics in Aotearoa- New Zealand are horrific and as many of us know dearly the lived reality of this violence is much much worse. The pain and energy and work that we spend surviving and trying to heal ourselves and those we care for in a culture that predominantly still distrusts and blames us is an ongoing tragedy. We clearly need to change the culture that still too often automatically blames or disbelieves women.

Tonight I will speak mostly about response measures needed but that is not where the balance of effort is needed. We need to properly resource and support a variety of prevention measures.

But on to responses needed to support women leaving violent relationships.

The Greens will ensure the benefits provide enough of a safety net to enable women to stay away from places that are known to their abuser, such as work, and really focus on looking after themselves and their children, if they have any, until they’re feeling safe again. This will mean increasing benefits and not pressuring people to get back into paid work as soon as it’s available. Violence is a failure of our society and an adequate income during a time of transition is surely the least we can do to provide reparation.

We will also raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately and up to 2/3rds of the minimum wage within 3 years, strengthen collective bargaining, bring back the Training Incentive Allowance and address equal pay to enable women to be financially independent in the longer term.

There is a chronic housing shortage in this country and many women become homeless when they leave their relationships. Refuge is there, though often full, but it can only ever be a short term option. The Green party will increase support to Refuge and increase the stocks of warm healthy social housing. Maaori, Pacifika, refugee and disabled women should not be forced into relying on our prejudiced private rental market.

We will also ensure quality affordable child care and parenting help, and adequately resource Womens’ Refuge, Rape Crisis and other allied community groups and govt agencies to help ensure the courts, police and WINZ follow policy and practice consistently. This is not happening now.

Legal Aid needs to be reinstated and easily accessible so women can actually enter the justice system.

The National party is proposing to double the penalties for breaches of protection orders and give women some money to put locks on their doors. Doubling the penalties may just mean police are even less likely than now to enforce the orders or women will end up not getting child support as their ex pays off the fines.

The Green party believes we should listen to women and shape our policy around their needs not what might sound good to people wanting to get “tough on crime”. An increasingly punitive approach is not helpful. Many women still love their partners and want their children to have both parents. Harsher penalties are not the solution. Women are asking for the police to consistently enforce the orders and not interrogate them to decide if they will or not.

In terms of sexual violence I believe there are three things we need to do:

One we need to adequately resource the agencies working with survivors and change the Charities Act and funding contracts to enable them to advocate strongly for change without compromising their funding. Currently all too many community organizations are effectively censored by government policy and practice.

Secondly we need to actually start making the change away from the adversarial justice system that is so often revictimising women and children and completely failing to bring perpetrators to justice.

Thirdly we need to go back to challenging the socio, cultural and political systems, institutions, values and practices that continue to support gender based violence directly or indirectly. We need to undermine gender roles, victim blaming and sexism and promote non-violence.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

I hope you will party vote Green this year so we can do this work together.

The Value of Work

In my humble opinion Robyn Kahukiwa is a national treasure. 

Her art has supported political movements, changed lives and adorned walls in wealthy homes. It makes me very sad that the print she sold at the Kapiti Arts Trail was going towards her panel beating bills.  I’m sure she was relieved to sell it, but really is this how we value people who contribute so much to our society?

Speaking of national treasures I think the people (mostly women) who look after our  elderly/older people are amazing. While there can definitely be personal rewards for caring for people in the later years of life, I don’t think many of them get to experience these rewards very often as part of their paid work.

 All we have to do is imagine ourselves as old and infirm or suffering from dementia to realise these are the workers on whom many peoples’ entire lives, let alone quality of life, depends. To pay them the minimum wage of $13 per hour is to my mind, an abuse of power and an exploitation of their labour. That’s less than $500 per week for working full time in a physically and emotionally demanding job with life and death consequences.

These wages are keeping people and their children in poverty. Their labour is   subsidising the quality of life of other New Zealanders, because we do not value them.

To paraphrase Helen Kelly from a meeting the other night – we need to actually put it out there that, according to our labour laws, we no longer expect someone working full time to earn a wage that will pay their basic expenses. In our major cities less than $500 pw will not enable an inidividual, let alone a family, to live healthily.

What has happened in this country that we allow that, and at the same time, allow some CEOs to earn over $2,500 per hour?

 To believe this is wrong is not a politic of envy or nostalgia.

 To pretend that trickle down economics works for all of us is dishonest.

I don’t believe most New Zealanders think that we’re all better off because the CE of Westpac earned of $5.5 Million dollars and the 150 people on the rich list got $7billion dollars richer last year.

 In fact, I think I remember most of us being told to tighten our belts because we were in a recession.

 As a global community, and as a country, we desperately need to reassess how we value work and what kind of societies we want to live in. 

A good start would raising the top tax rate, and setting the minimum wage at 2/3rds of the average. Then we could actually cost out how much is needed to live healthily and participate in society and maybe even consider a Universal Basic Income to ensure everyone, including our national treasures, can do that.

 

Could Kapiti fall victim to an oil disaster?

All of New Zealand has been watching the environmental disaster unfolding in the Bay of Plenty. As I write, the broken container ship Rena still sits precariously on the Astrolabe reef and bad weather is closing in. The ship holds 1700 tonnes of fuel oil and innumerable containers. Already 300 tonnes of oil has leaked into our environment and a meagre 90 tonnes has been safely pumped out of its tanks.

Here on the beautiful Kapiti coast some are asking, could the Kapiti coast fall victim to an oil disaster? Sadly, the answer is yes.

In November last year an oil spill in Taranaki led to oil washing up on our beaches here in Kapiti. A year ago I raised concerns about prioritising short term economic gains at the expense of the environment. I pointed out that the environment is the basis of our core economy as well as our lifestyle.

This week an oil exploration ship arrived in Taranaki to start exploring for oil off Raglan for US oil giant, Anadarko. Anadarko was a part owner of the deepwater Horizon well which leaked 780 million litres into the Gulf of Mexico.

 Since 1992 New Zealand has allowed uncontrolled entry to ships, like the Rena, that do not meet safety standards in their country of origin. Letting unsafe, “unwarranted” ships with thousands of tonnes of oil on board into our harbours is irresponsible.

One of the reasons the Green Party is here is to help ensure that the Government does everything it can to protect our beautiful country. This is about much more than politics.

We are doing everything we can on the ground in Tauranga to help out with the clean-up. Local Greens will be out in force helping to look after the coastline and our MPs will be up there to provide support where they can.

Green solutions

The Greens would stop deep sea oil drilling and exploration. The Rena disaster shows that we don’t have the capacity to deal with potentially massive and catastrophic deep sea oil spills. There needs to be higher standards for coastal shipping that supports the use of local crews and ships that know New Zealand waters and hazards. New Zealand needs to invest in our emergency maritime service so that they have the capacity and resources to respond quickly if accidents do happen. We also need a stronger legal framework, so that when accidents do happen the corporations responsible are financially liable for their mistakes. New Zealanders should not have to bail out corporations for damaging our beautiful country. There needs to be better enforcement of marine regulations by Maritime NZ to make them effective in protecting our marine environment and there needs to be an independent inquiry into the speed of the Government response, maritime regulations and the capacity of out maritime services to respond to accidents.

The solutions we need to prevent our beautiful Kapiti coast falling foul of an oil spill are known, all we need now is the will to make them happen

Rushing Towards a Surveillance State

This week the Government is attempting to pass legislation under urgency that will retrospectively validate the currently unlawful practice of police trespassing into someone’s home and installing covert surveillance cameras in their private space.

The legislation is in response to a recent Supreme Court decision that ruled covert video surveillance evidence against the Urewera 18 inadmissible, because it had been obtained unlawfully.

John Key says that the rushed legislation is just a technicality to update our laws with new technology. He says “it’s necessary because police have been using hidden camera for evidence in 40 pending trials and in 50 operations, and doing nothing would risk letting serious criminals get away with breaking the law.”

A reading of the Supreme Court’s judgement shows National’s legislation isn’t about serious criminals at all; the Evidence Act lets judges allow unlawfully gathered evidence when there are serious charges already. Several legal commentators have clarified that there is no risk of serious criminals getting off under the current law.

While the Evidence Act effectively allows covert video surveillance in people’s homes it puts checks and balances in place to ensure it is not used lightly. It is only right that Police need to justify why they are spying on people in their homes.

Further, it is quite rare for Police to rely on this type of evidence to prove a case. If there is no other evidence of a crime beyond what is discovered through covert video surveillance in someone’s house there is reason to question the case.

This is no benign technical change to our laws. This is a change to our understanding of the Bill of Rights that protects all of us from unreasonable search and seizure.

This is about much more than bad criminals with something to hide, it’s about Police and Government misusing their powers. If you think this won’t affect you and there’s nothing to worry about, I would just say the activists I know who have lost four years of their lives to the “terror raid” trials will tell you otherwise. The Supreme Court agreed with them.

To use parliamentary urgency, whether it ends up being “all-stages urgency” or not, to take away our fundamental rights under urgency is an outrage.

Legal ages in NZ

Here are the Legal ages in NZ – from the Office of the Commissioner for Children. Does anything strike you as wrong about this?

 6 – are required to be enrolled in and attend school (though can start school earlier, at five)

10 – can be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter

12 – are able to swear an oath if giving evidence in court (children younger than this must only promise to tell the truth in court)

14 – can be left alone without an adult looking after them

– are able to babysit for younger children but only if capable of reasonable supervision and care

– can be prosecuted for any criminal offence

15 – can sit a driving test and obtain a learner’s driver’s licence

16 – can leave home without parents’ consent (but until 17, Child, Youth and Family can send the child home if they believe they are at risk)

– can get married or enter into a civil union with parents’ consent

– can (usually) decide which parent to live with if parents are separated, and decide whether to visit the other

– can not be made to undergo treatment for mental disorders without their consent, unless under a compulsory treatment order

– may be eligible for certain kinds of benefit assistance, e.g. Independent Youth Benefit, Invalids Benefit

– can leave school or be expelled from school (excluded if younger than 16)

– can start full-time work and earn minimum wage (after a period of probation for 16 and 17 year olds)

– can legally consent to sexual intercourse

17 – are heard in the District Court rather than the Youth Court if charged with a criminal offence

18 – can be legally independent of their parents’ guardianship

– can be employed in a position which offers minimum wage

– can open a cheque account, borrow money, or apply for a credit card (subject to different banks’ rules)

– are no longer protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

– can vote in local body and general elections, and can stand as a candidate for election

– are able to purchase and consume alcohol and cigarettes

– can enter into contracts

20 – are legally classed as an adult, with full capacity to make their own decisions

Housing in New Zealand

So much for the NZ dream of everyone owning their own home. NZ is apparently unique in the OECD for our raipidly dropping rate of home ownership.

In NZ 37% of people rent and of that 37% only 5% are in social housing. Social housing covers state houses, council homes, and community owned housing.

In contrast, in the U.K only 30% of people are renting and 27% of these people are in social housing.

We have a tight rental market, otherwise known as a shortage of housing, in many places.  In Auckland it’s estimated we are short of over 10,000 houses. This means the market favours landowners and in practice this further marginalises the poorest people and Maori and Pacific people. 

In this context the Government is looking at reducing the Housing NZ rental stock and is moving more people more regularly into the private rental market. From July 1 Housing New Zealand has told people who were categorised as C or D on the waiting list that they are no longer elligible for a State house.  While  the HNZC website says any resident who has a low income, not many assets (things of high value you own), and a high housing need are elligible, it’s actually far more restrictive than that. I’ve been told category A is usually people being released from Prison or a psyhciatric ward.

HNZC has also introduced reviewable tenancies for all new tenants:

“A tenant’s circumstances will be reviewed once every three years to ensure their housing needs are being properly catered for. When their circumstances improve significantly and they are able to afford a home outside state housing they will be assisted to move – freeing up a state house for someone in greater need,” Mr Heatley said.

To say it’s only fair to give housing NZ houses to those most in need sounds sensible but this will actually mean children (and other people) will lack stability as their families are pushed out into the private rental market with no security of  tenancy. 

Talk to any teacher in a low decile school and they will tell you about the difficulties of helping students to achieve educationally when the family is transient. This policy will create more transient families and consequently worsen educational,social, health and economic outcomes for the the already marginalised.

I know whole families are right now crammed into single rooms in boarding houses because that’s the only place they can get that they can afford.

It would be fairer and better for our society if  we increased our social housing stock and also regulated our private rental market to ensure minimum standards.

Letter to Judge Philippa Cunningham

Judge Philippa Cunningham
Auckland District Court
Fax 09 916 9611

Dear Judge Cunningham,

I am writing to express my dismay and disquiet at your ruling last week.

My heart goes out to the partner and mother who did what we would all hope and expect a mother to do.

Our media in recent years has profiled more family cover ups of child abuse than cases like this. Having worked for women’s refuge in the past and supported a mother and child through the process of laying a complaint of child abuse I have seen first hand the fear and trauma involved in taking a case to court.

In this example the comedian concerned admitted his guilt and while this will certainly have made the process prior to your ruling easier for the family your ruling must have been absolutely devastating.

I am not a proponent of punishment for the sake of punishment but I do believe an essential part of justice is the acknowledgement of a crime and rehabilitation and or restitution.

You reportedly decided the comedian had no paedophilic tendencies I am supposing this is because he was drunk. This suggests that if you’re drunk and your partner doesn’t want sex and you have a child in your bed then anyone might end up conducting sex acts on that child. I would suggest this is not true. How was it he didn’t perform a sex on (attempt to rape) his partner while she slept if he was so drunk he was not accountable for his own actions? He knew it was his daughter and this is not the behaviour of a man with a healthy sexuality.

I believe this judgement sends a harmful message to victims and their families. So few cases of sexual abuse make it to court in this country and even fewer manage to get convictions. Now there is even less incentive to try.

I also believe it sends a message to men that they are less responsible for their actions if they’re socially privileged and drunk.

We need a justice system that we can all have confidence in. Your decision has undermined my faith in justice in this country.

You can’t change this ruling, but at the very least I do hope you reflect on the reaction to your ruling and organise time to talk to some of the agencies working with victims of sexual abuse.

Yours sincerely

Jan Logie