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New Zealand Needs Family Friendly Parliament

18 February 2008

New Zealand Needs Family Friendly Parliament

The departure of Katherine Rich from politics has highlighted the need for all political parties to support a Select Committee inquiry into how our Parliament currently operates, maintains the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ).

“The Council does not hesitate to endorse Katherine Rich’s motivation for leaving politics”, says Christine Low, NCWNZ National President. “Parenting is a life-long commitment and Katherine has put her responsibilities to her children ahead of her political aspirations.”

NCWNZ is concerned that the current parliamentary system may act as a barrier to women standing for central government and then, elected, retaining them.

“Like Katherine Rich, there are other very talented women MPs with children – New Zealand society can not afford to lose their drive, ideas and commitment”, said Christine Low. “We also recognise that this is not just limited to the women MPs, but that some of the more family-focused male MPs may also be feeling conflicted.”

Alternative models could be considered in the inquiry, such as the Scottish Parliamentary system. The Scottish system places limitations on when Parliament sits, so that it operates according to standard business hours of 9am – 5.30pm, with some variations dependent on the day of the working week. The seasonal Scottish holidays, including school holidays, are observed by Members of Parliament and a crèche is provided for Members and parliamentary employees under-fives. In 1998, following a consultative review of the Scottish Parliamentary system, a family-friendly policy was adopted to ensure that men and women had equal opportunity to engage in political life.

“If CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Article 7 – equal opportunity for women for advancement in public and political life is to be actuated, then there needs to be greater commitment from all political parties to address the current problems in Parliament. This does include all parties endorsing a code of conduct, more representation of women at cabinet level and greater emphasis on a family-friendly working environment,” concluded Christine Low.


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