Women in the House – updating the numbers

All the special votes have been counted, and as a result, Maureen Pugh (National) has lost her list seat, and Steffan Browning (Greens) comes in instead.

That changes the numbers around. We’re down to 38 women in the House, out of 121 MPs. That’s just 31.4% women – the lowest proportion of women in the House since 2002 (graph, txt file).

Here’s the breakdown by party, excluding the one person “parties” both of which are represented by men.

Greens – 7 men, 7 women, 50% women
Maori – 1 man, 1 woman, 50% women
Labour – 20 men, 12 women, 37.5% women
National – 43 men, 17 women, 28% women
New Zealand First – 9 men, 2 women, 18% women

Women are 51% of the population, but less than a third of our elected representatives in Parliament are women. That’s a disgrace.

Women in the House – some numbers from the 2014 election

Based on the election night results, we will have 121 MPs in the House, of whom 39 will be women. That’s 32.2%. It’s the same proportion of women as there was following the election in 2011, and it’s down from 34% in 2008.

Excluding parties with just one MP (ACT and United Future), here are the numbers for each party.

Greens – 6 men, 7 women, 54% women
Maori – 1 man, 1 woman, 50% women
Labour – 20 men, 12 women, 37.5% women
National – 44 men, 17 women, 28% women
New Zealand First – 9 men, 2 women, 18% women

Well done to the Greens and the Maori party.

My own party needs to do some very careful work on selection. The proportion of women in the Labour caucus doesn’t meet the party’s goal of 45% at this election, and it’s slipped backwards from 2011. We lost three strong women last night – Moana Mackey, Carol Beaumont, and Maryan Street – and that’s very hard to take.

We have good Maori and Pasifika representation in caucus, but no Chinese New Zealanders, and no Indian New Zealanders.

UPDATE: The numbers have changed due to special votes – see Women in the House – updating the numbers.

On separate swimming hours for women

Hamilton City Council is proposing that up to three hours a week be set aside at one of its community swimming pools for a women-only session.

Man ban at public pool

And the response is…. predictable. Start with the headline, with its overtones of “Begone, ye wicked men!” It’s designed to elicit a negative response.

Then there the usual “PC gone mad” trope.

…the proposal was concerning and represented “separatist thinking”.

Excluding ratepayers from public facilities based on their gender was “political correctness going too far”.

“If we are going to do this for women, what about all the shy men among us. Can we have a couple of hours free from women?”

I’ve gotten very tired of the “PC gone made” trope. I’d like to know exactly what the speaker thinks is wrong with the proposal, and his reasons for thinking it’s wrong. Perhaps he’s concerned that it will lead to divisions in the community. Perhaps he’s concerned that it means that some people will miss out on swimming altogether because they are not able to use a particular facility at a particular time. If he had spelled out his concerns, instead of waving his hands in the air and saying, “PC gone mad”, then at least we would have the beginnings of a conversation.

Of course, it could be that the speaker *did* specify some of those concerns, and they just didn’t get reported.

And, Kiwiblog is onto it. DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. Really, just don’t. (‘Though there are a few people in there fighting the overwhelming tide of, you guessed it, “PC gone mad”.)

How much better to think of this from the point of view of what the community needs. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is. Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.

It’s all very well to say that women should just adapt and fit in and get on with it. The net effect will be to exclude these women from swimming altogether, all for want of a little flexibility. Setting aside this time means that Hamilton City Council is working towards providing for the needs of *all* the members of its community. More to the point, there are plenty of other swimming facilities in the city. No one is going to miss out on swimming, or on swimming at a particular time (there are other venues), or on swimming at a particular place (there are other times).

If we are to live in a tolerant and inclusive society, then we need to find ways to accommodate difference. Yes, there are some differences we must not tolerate (forced marriages and clitoredectomy performed on people who have not consented come to mind, and no doubt there are others). This is a difference that a society can tolerate, and ought to tolerate, on the grounds of being inclusive.

And a big shout out to my lovely friend Anjum Rahman for making the case for setting aside a few hours to allow women to swim only in the company of other women.

Taniwha and belief

In a curiously timed release, the National Party has let us know that Labour Party leader David Shearer thinks that taniwha ought to be respected. Oh ha ha ha, isn’t he silly, etc.

The usual suspects are coming up with two lines of criticism. First, it’s absurd to believe in taniwha, and second, how come we aren’t allowed to be rude about belief in taniwha when we ridicule Christian belief all the time.

The fist criticism conflates two sets of attitudes about taniwha. One can believe in taniwha, or one can respect, or at least tolerate, other people’s belief in taniwha. Personally, I don’t believe in taniwha, or elves, or the Norse gods, or the Christian god, or all sorts of other things, but I can see that other people believe in these entities, and even more than that, that they order their lives by reference to their beliefs. So while I may not believe their belief, I’m prepared to tolerate it, to the extent that it doesn’t cause harm. That’s a fairly standard move in liberal thinking.

I’ll even go a step further than that. When it comes to many indigenous beliefs, I’ll take the view that if there is a legend or a belief about spirits, or monsters, or blessings, or whatever, then it may actually encode other important knowledge, such as hidden water currents, or seasons of the year, or degrees of genetic relationship that lead to appalling birth defects, or whatever. So there is good reason for the belief, even if the way that the reason is communicated can seem very odd to someone from a different cultural background.

Or those beliefs may encode important information about who has guardianship duties, or property rights, or ethical duties, within a particular land area, or cultural grouping, or whatever. The beliefs are a way of structuring lives. And as such, they need to be respected.

So when David Shearer says that he respects belief in taniwha, he is doing exactly what a clear thinking liberal ought to do – acknowledging the reality of the belief, and its importance, even though it may not be a belief he holds himself. It’s a straightforward difference between believing a belief, and respecting a belief, and any liberal thinker, or indeed any thinking person ought to be able to grasp the difference.

So much for the first claim.

But what about the second claim, that Maori beliefs are sacrosanct, while Christian beliefs are ridiculed?

This is simply not true. Maori beliefs are routinely trampled over in this country. Witness the current furore over taniwha.

And we pay a huge amount of respect to Christian beliefs. Christian leaders are invited to pray at our festivals, such as at Anzac Day ceremonies, we structure our work week around the Christian holy day (Sunday), we have public holidays for the two major Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, our parliamentary sessions open with a prayer to the Christian god. If this is not respect for Christian beliefs, I don’t know what is.

David Shearer has got this one exactly right.

The tax rate for Maori authorities

According to Otago University student paper Critic, John Ansell wants to start a campaign aiming to make New Zealand “colourblind” (sic), because our laws are completely unfair to white people and Maori people get far too much special treatment under the law.

Ansell claims that he’s got plenty of factual evidence to show that Maori get special treatment, and he’s going to cite it in the campaign.

Speaking to Critic, John Ansell, the advertising guru behind the campaign, described the planned advertisements for Treatygate as “short sharp little messages with one piece of evidence in each one”, such as that “Maori companies pay 17.5% tax, [while] others pay 28%.”

So, do Maori companies really pay 17.5% tax, while every other company in the country pays 28% tax?

Let’s start with the definition of a company, for the purposes of taxation. You can look it up on-line, and you will find it in section YA of the Income Tax Act. If you scroll down to “company” you will find that there is no special type of company called a “Maori company”. Scroll even further through the list of definitions, and you still won’t find anything that’s called a “Maori company”. However, you will find a “Maori authority”. The list of definitions tells us to go to part HF of the Act for all the rules to do with Maori authorities. It turns out that there are various entities owned by Maori organisations that can elect to be “Maori authorities”. But those entities are all involved in holding and managing assets for the benefit of Maori. The ultimate owners of the assets are Maori people.

So what is the tax rate for Maori authorities? To find that, you need to go to Schedule 1 of the Income Tax Act. There you will find that the rate for ordinary companies is 28%, and the rate for Maori authorities is indeed 17.5%.

The question is, why?

To understand why, you need to understand a little bit about the way we tax companies.

We tax company profits at 28%. Then companies pay out dividends to shareholders, out of the tax paid profit, and the shareholders have to pay tax on those dividends, at their own individual tax rates. So if you are someone who earns say, $100,000 a year salary, then you will be on the top tax rate of 33%. When you get dividends in addition to your salary, you will pay tax on them at 33% too. And that starts to look unfair, because you’ve already paid 28% tax on the company profits, via the company itself.

However, the New Zealand tax law is very clever. Through what we call the dividend imputation system, you get a credit for the tax that has already been paid by the company. The mathematics is a little complicated for a blog post, but take my word for it, please. The overall effect of the dividend imputation system is to make sure that you pay tax on your dividends at exactly the right marginal rate for you, even after the credit for tax paid by the company is taken into account.

Most investors in companies have reasonable incomes, so they pay one of the higher rates of tax. At present, for every dollar you earn over $70,000, you pay 33% tax, and for every dollar you earn between $48,000 and $70,000, you pay 30% tax. So given that companies only pay tax at 28%, most people who earn dividend income end up having to pay a little more tax on their dividends, to bring the overall rate up to 30%, or 33% (depending on how much other income they earn). Some shareholders get a refund. If you earn less than $48,000 a year, then the top rate of tax you pay is 17.5%. So given that the company has already paid 28% income tax, you will get some tax back (or in some circumstances, you will get a credit to carry forward to your next tax return).

It’s all a bit complicated, but in the end, it works out. We describe this as an integrated system of company taxation, because the taxation of the company is integrated with the taxation of shareholders.

As it turns out, when it comes to Maori authorities, we have an integrated system too. People who receive income from Maori authorities also get a credit for tax paid by the Maori authority. However, they only get a credit for 17.5% tax paid, because that’s the rate of taxation set for Maori authorities.

And the rate of taxation for Maori authorities is set at that much lower level for very good reason. There is an increasing number of highly paid Maori people. We can all name Maori lawyers and doctors and university lecturers and business owners and senior public servants, all people earning good incomes, and paying a higher rate of tax. However, sadly, because this is one of the many ways in which Maori as a group are simply not equal in New Zealand, we know that a greater proportion of Maori people do not earn high incomes. Accordingly, the applicable tax rates are lower, just as they are for other New Zealanders who earn low incomes. Someone who earns less than $14,000 per year pays only 10.5% tax on that income, and someone who earns between $14,000 and $48,000 pays 17.5% on that income (that is, the income between $14,000 and $48,000).

The Maori authority rate is set at 17.5% because it more accurately reflects the underlying tax rates paid by the people who are entitled to the income from Maori authorities. And ultimately, when those people who have received distributions or dividends or income from Maori authorities pay income tax themselves, it all gets evened out. It’s as simple as that.

But evidently, that’s far too complicated for John Ansell. It seems he would far rather distort the truth of the situation in favour of a quick and nasty headline grab. This is a poisonous approach.

I can’t stop Ansell from spreading his distortions. But what I can do is tell the truth. Consider this post a start.

On Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cross posted
I was a young student at university when Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill was introduced to the House in 1985. Back then, over quarter of a century ago, it caused an uproar. And back then, as now, groups sprang up in support of the bill. I recall one group in particular: HUG, or Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays.

I was puzzled by HUG. Why did one need to assert one’s heterosexuality in order to support decriminalising consenting homosexual sex between men aged 16 or over? I thought that a person who was truly unafraid of gay men wouldn’t need to run up a banner to declare themselves straight.

I see the matter a little differently now. Perhaps it’s just the passage of time, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Perhaps it’s because I have come to realise just how malleable sexuality can be. Perhaps it’s because I have been happily ensconced in a monogamous relationship with a man for so long now that I am very secure in own identity as a straight woman. Perhaps it’s because New Zealand society as a whole is much more accepting of difference. To me, there is no great import to declaring my sexuality. It just is, and that’s all there is to it.

But of course, I am free to say that, without consequence, because my sexuality is accepted, and acknowledged, and even valorised by our society. What I see now is the great need for people like me, straight, accepted, acknowledged, valorised, to stand up and say that it is important to work to create the same possibilities for all people in our society. Not just say it quietly in the privacy of our homes, but OUT LOUD, in public. There are no consequences for me declaring my sexuality: there can be enormous consequences for the boy in Stratford, the woman in Hokitika, the lad in his first job labouring on a farm, the girl sitting in the pews every Sunday listening to homophobia because her parents make her go to church. We need to shout, as loud as we can, that there is a massive amount of support for gay and lesbian New Zealanders, to have exactly the same rights and privileges as New Zealanders who are straight. A huge number of people who are straight support marriage equality, and support people who are lesbian and gay, just because. And that’s all there is to it.

That’s why I’m part of Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s part of the shouting and clamouring and agitating for change.

In a perfect world, I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bisexual and polyamorous people too. But I’m not about to let the perfect defeat the good. While my longterm ideal is for people to be able to form households and homes and marriages in whatever configuration they like, with the support of the state, I will at least support and work for this particular change, that people who are gay or lesbian can enjoy the same rights as people who are straight. It’s a start.

If you’re on Facebook, you might like to like Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Keeping on talking about marriage equality

I almost can’t find anything to write about the Marriage Equality Bill which is now before New Zealand’s Parliament. Not because I don’t think it’s important! It’s a vital step in making sure that all New Zealanders have access to all services provided by the state, in this case, the recognition of the status of their relationships as valid. If the state is going to register marriages for some New Zealanders, then it shouldn’t be telling other New Zealanders that they’re not good enough to be married. To me, the arguments in favour of marriage equality are so obvious, and so well rehearsed, that it almost seems pointless to go through them again. And now that the Prime Minister has said that he will support the bill, it seems very likely that it will pass.

But over at The Hand Mirror, Luddite Journo makes a very powerful argument for keeping on speaking out and talking and writing and making a great clamouring for marriage equality.

Queer people will have to listen to homophobes telling us there is something wrong with loving someone of the same gender, that “homosexual relationships” are not normal. This will be painful and horrifying and dangerous for queer people in ways it will be difficult to describe to our straight friends. …

For that gay kid coming out in Te Awamutu, this debate will be terrifying. For that closeted bisexual public servant, this debate will be painful. For that lesbian who wants to leave the church and her husband with her children, this debate will be life-threatening. For all of us who don’t look like the gender norms we’re supposed to, this debate will be dangerous.

The bigots are out in force already, shouting their nasty words in the newspapers and on-line. We need to get the other stories out there, to take apart each horrid claim, to show the sheer absurdity of the anti marriage equality arguments.

So with that thought in mind, here’s a post I wrote a few years ago, in support of marriage equality: On marriage for lesbian and gay and other non-traditional couples.

Or you could take yourself over to Ideologically Impure, where the Queen of Thorns has a great series of posts:
Merv Duffy is wrong, dangerous, and unnecessary
Colin Craig: why is anyone listening to this dude, again?
“Those people” are a “problem” – gosh the Nats love their revealing language
Protect marriage! No, really

And across the Tasman, BlueBec has some great opinions: Strapping on the ranty pants – Marriage Equality edition (again)

And that reminds me of the one sad lack in the current campaign for marriage equality – it’s all about couples, and only couples. It would be good if it covered polyamory too. However, just as I supported civil unions even though I wished it went all the way to marriage equality, I will support this bill, of course, and then wait until we can take the next step.
Cross posted