Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is the new patron for the National Council of Women and she shared her stimulating thoughts and insights at the national conference in Auckland yesterday.
In an interview format with NCW chief executive Dr Gill Greer, Clark talked about violence against women, pay equity, leadership, abortion law reform, and sustainable development aid in the Asia-Pacific region.
Clark is a former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference theme was He Toa Takitini – “strength in diversity”.
The Pacific Media Centre’s Del Abcede, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), was on hand at Mount Wellington to get some pictures.
He Toa Takitini – ‘strength in diversity’
1. “All that separates whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.” – Kate Sheppard. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
2. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark … keynote speaker in interview. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
3. Former PM Helen Clark being interviewed by National Council of Women chief executive Dr Gill Greer. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
4. He Toa Takitini …. “Strength in diversity”. The theme of this year’s NCW national conference. Image: De; Abcede/PMC
5. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
6. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
7. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
8. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
9. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
10. Vira Grace Paky of UN Youth Auckland at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
11. Pacific Media Centre and WILPF’s Del Abcede at the NCW conference.
12. Former PM Helen Clark at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
13. Helen Clark with Ruth Coombes of WILPF at the conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
14. Helen Clark with the PMC’s Del Abcede at the conference.
15. A cartoon message for men – “listen!” Image: Del Abcede/PMC
16. He Toa Takitini – “Strength in diversity”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Chelsea Manning visit exposes hypocrisy on left and right
The latest free speech debate – ignited by the National Party opposing Chelsea Manning coming to speak in New Zealand next month – illustrates that many on the political left and right are actually in broad agreement in their desire to severely limit free speech when it suits them.
All they differ on is who should be allowed the right to speak. In the case of the left, they generally want the likes of the recent Canadian alt-right speakers suppressed. The political right wants anti-war dissidents like Chelsea Manning kept out.
In this, immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse explains National’s objection: “She was convicted of a crime for which she has absolutely no remorse and not only that, she intends to profit from it by selling tickets to meetings where she talks about exactly what she did. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I think the associate minister should be declining it.”
In response, the Free Speech Coalition has condemned National, with spokesperson Chris Trotter quoted saying, “As a democracy, we have a right to be informed on the activities of our friends on the international stage. New Zealanders deserve a chance to hear her speak.” The report says, “He gave examples of other convicted criminals allowed into New Zealand – including Nelson Mandela”.
For more on all this, see Henry Cooke’s National wants Chelsea Manning barred from New Zealand. Woodhouse is also quoted saying, “I’m a firm believer in free speech. But I don’t believe there is a basis to say that her crimes are victimless.” Woodhouse also cites New Zealand’s relationship with the US, suggesting that this would be negatively affected.
For a very strong enunciation of National’s position, see Mike Hosking’s column this morning: Chelsea Manning is a crook, keep her out of NZ. For Hosking there’s an important principle at stake, which over-rides free speech considerations: “Manning would not be here if it wasn’t for her criminality. If it wasn’t for the stealing and leaking of classified paperwork that ran the risk of undermining American security, you would never have heard of her. Far less be in a position to consider buying tickets and lining her, and her promoters’, pockets.”
Hosking explains that there’s a tension between political freedoms and law and order: “So on a free speech platform Manning deserves a go, if it were not for the critical fact that she’s a criminal – and wants to make money from criminal activity. That is fundamentally, morally, and intellectually wrong. And not just in this specific case, but the precedent it sets. If crooks are free to create income from illegality, where do we draw that line? That’s a Pandora’s Box we do not want to open.”
Not everyone on the political right agrees with this approach, of course (even if they strongly disagree with Manning’s actions). For example, rightwing commentator Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) has tweeted: “Chelsea Manning is a thief, a traitor and a disgrace. And she should be welcome to come to New Zealand to speak, including at @AklCouncil premises. And @WoodhouseMP should be sacked as @NZNationalParty immigration spokesperson.”
Here’s Seymour’s main point: “The reason I have taken the position that she should be admitted is that ministerial discretion should depend on the public interest. It is in New Zealanders’ interest to be able to hear the views of important figures in recent global events and make up our own minds about them. It is not in New Zealand’s interests, as National’s Michael Woodhouse has suggested, to become a client state of the U.S., making decisions based on what Michael guesses will please them.”
Conservative commentator Karl du Fresne is also aghast, blogging today to ask: What on earth was Woodhouse thinking? He concludes: “Unfortunately the National Party has demonstrated that its support for free speech runs out the moment there’s a risk of upsetting an important ally. And this is the party that champions individual freedom? Pfft.”
In general, though, it seems the left has come out in support of Manning’s visit, and the right against. Therefore, it’s the mirror opposite of the ideological positions on the visit of the Canadian alt-right duo. For this reason, blogger Martyn Bradbury has expressed his frustration with both sides: “There isn’t just hypocrisy from the Right on this, watching those on the woke left demanding free speech now with Chelsea when barely a month ago they were screaming censorship shows the intellectual bankruptcy that has overcome so many in this debate” – see: If crypto-fascists can be allowed into the country – a human rights legend like Chelsea Manning should be allowed to as well.
Bradbury suggests that in trying to clampdown on reactionary voices, the left have simply set a precedent for the right to do the same about progressive voices: “when we deplatform, we open the door for the right to play the same game.”
Danyl Mclauchlan makes a similar point in his excellent column, Chelsea Manning and the limits of free speech absolutism. His conclusion is that in the wake of the latest free speech controversy, it “seems like a good time to point out to all the supporters of deplatforming and restricting public speech that the more power you give the state to determine who can and cannot speak, the more power you give to people like Michael Woodhouse, who was a minister just over a year ago, and may easily be one again.”
Mclauchlan’s opinion piece also seeks to explain how the National Party could so easily go from championing free speech values in recent months, to suddenly switching sides: “National is also – like most right-wing political parties the world over – a party that somehow believes in limited government and individual rights while simultaneously championing the expansion and empowerment of state security agencies, maximising their ability to spy on their own citizens while minimising any attempts to hold them accountable. Manning’s actions and pro-transparency activism are a direct attack on the legitimacy of the modern surveillance state that National were so deeply committed to in government. So Manning is an ideological enemy of the National Party.”
I’ve also written today about the problems of National being so “willing to clamp down on political freedoms based on the politics and ideologies of the individuals involved” – see my Newsroom column, Let Chelsea Manning speak.
And I also suggest that the more censorious left have opened the gates to Manning’s possible barring from New Zealand: “In fact, progressives and leftists might be suddenly re-thinking their stance now that one of their own is under threat of being banned from New Zealand. Unfortunately, the New Zealand left has been working hard to convince the public that it is okay to ban people based on their politics and backgrounds. In seeking to curtail some less than savoury individuals, the left have handed over to the right the ideological ammunition to then attempt to do the same to those that the left might favour speaking here.”
Therefore, it’s not surprising to see that the arguments many on the left are making in favour of Manning being allowed to visit rely on the idea that she is a special case, rather than arguing for political freedoms. For example, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman makes a strong case for the US dissident to be regarded as a hero, but her logic isn’t based on principles of political freedoms – see her opinion piece: Criticism over Chelsea Manning’s NZ visit is about condemning whistleblowers.
In reply to Ghahraman’s arguments, leftwing blogger Steven Cowan accuses her of hypocrisy: “Ghahraman clearly has a very flexible view of what freedom of speech is all about. While she continues to harbour an unhealthy urge to shut out opinions she can’t tolerate, she shouldn’t be surprised that she should be charged with being a hypocrite when she defends Chelsea Manning’s right to speak just because she happens to agree with Manning’s political views” – see: Golriz Ghahram: Guilty of hypocrisy.
Similarly, Gordon Campbell puts an excellent case for Manning to be allowed to speak in New Zealand, saying “if we let Manning into the country we might hear some intelligent, informed comment on the difficulties faced by the transgender community, and this would be of positive use to the deliberations of Parliament, as well as to the wider public” – see: National’s crusade against Chelsea Manning.
Ultimately, however, Campbell agrees with Woodhouse that we have to take each speaker on their individual merits, and that there’s good reason to treat the alt-right Canadians differently to Manning. Where Woodhouse and Campbell disagree is that this difference should favour the free speech rights of Manning rather than Southern and Molyneux: “Yup, there’s a difference alright. Southern and Molyneux specialise in speech and actions aimed at inciting fear and hostility against vulnerable minorities. By contrast, Manning leaked 700,000 documents that exposed the means via which the US government secretly practiced violence against vulnerable minorities around the world.”
This difference is also emphasised by Greg Presland blogging at The Standard, saying that Manning “is very different to Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. She is not known for attacks on ethnic groups. She does not go around manufacturing dissent for Youtube clicks or engaging in hate speech. She has not taken parts in efforts to sabotage efforts to save refugees from drowning” – see: Let Chelsea Manning speak.
Newstalk ZB’s Kate Hawkesby has an excellent response to all of this: “Isn’t this just both sides arguing against what doesn’t suit their own political leaning? I don’t see how you can cherry pick it. Otherwise it’s conditional free speech only, based on what we deem fair or not fair, based on our own political viewpoint – which suddenly doesn’t sound that free at all. You either have free speech or you don’t” – see: On Chelsea Manning NZ’s visit: You can’t cherry pick free speech.
Finally, in terms of deciding free speech based on the relative merits of various speakers, some on the political left are still arguing that suppressing Southern and Molyneux was justified but banning Don Brash was not. Liam Hehir has responded with a very thoughtful point-by-point rebuttal of such arguments – see: Is Don Brash really different from those Canadians?
Headline: Keith Rankin Analysis: Will we keep living longer?
Will we keep living longer? – Analysis by Keith Rankin.
A recent Economist article (Life Expectancy in America, 4 January) notes that actuarially-calculated life expectancy in the USA has fallen for the second year in a row. This is no surprise to me; nor will it be to anyone who follows health-related news stories, or who understands the insidious effects of growing wealth inequality and ever-tightening bureaucracy around income support. We are not going to have life expectancies of ninety-plus in the 2040s, as many in the retirement-finance industry would have us believe.
To what extent is the United States turning point reflected in New Zealand? A release of life-expectancy data on 19 February indicates that life-expectancy at birth of males has increased from 79.5 to 80.0 since 2012-14, and for females from 83.2 to 83.4.
I have decided to look at New Zealand death rates by age, sex and birth cohort. What is the experience of people born in the 1950s compared to those born in the 1940s? What indications are showing for younger adults today in New Zealand; people born in the 1970s and 1980s?
Looking at older New Zealanders first, we see substantial decreases in death rates for people born in the 1920s compared to the 1910s, and again for those born in the 1930s, and the 1940s. After that we see a levelling out, with death rates declining more slowly, or no longer declining at all. This is especially true for males currently aged under 60. If we look at the numbers, men born from 1954 to 1993 show slightly higher death rates for their present ages than men born five years earlier. Female death rates are also showing signs of levelling out.
For younger adults, female death rates remain considerably lower than male rates, reflecting traditionally risky male behaviours in early adulthood. Young male death rates, which were particularly high for men born in the 1950s and 1960s, have declined substantially. (For myself, born in the 1950s, I lost a first cousin to asthma at 21, a schoolmate in a mountaineering accident at 19, and a second-cousin at 16 of kidney failure. Each case was associated with some kinds of risk-taking.) The worry, however, is that males born after 1970 are showing, in the most recent data, rising death rates for their age.
I suspect that we are at a turning point in life expectancy in the western world, with males born in the 1970s and 1980s representing the ‘canary in the mine’. The bigger cost is likely to be meeting their healthcare needs when they are in their 50s and 60s, and not the cost of their New Zealand Superannuation benefits when they are in their 90s.
Headline: Indonesia losing only female top justice amid gender rights worries
By Rieka Rahadiana and Yudith Ho in Jakarta
Indonesia is set to lose its first and only female constitutional justice, whose term is up next year, potentially dealing a blow to women’s rights in a country where they’re being challenged in the face of growing religious conservatism.
Maria Farida Indrati will end her second and final term in about eight months, leaving the nine-member board of justices entirely male on one of the two highest courts in the country — where cases on discrimination, domestic violence, early-age marriage and female political participation continually arise.
The constitutional court differs from the supreme court, where the top judges are all male and which determines final appeal in legal matters not deemed to be constitutional.
“The point of view I bring to the table is different from what my male colleagues present,” the 68-year-old judge told Bloomberg in an interview.
It’s not a certainty that Indrati’s replacement, who likely will be chosen by President Joko Widodo from a list of three candidates picked by a committee, will be male.
While her successor won’t be known for several months or even until after her departure, Indrati said there are several qualified women to consider. She herself was chosen by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2008 after decades of lecturing in law at the University of Indonesia and assisting lawmakers in drafting legislation.
In Indonesia, female law students prefer a career outside the courtroom rather than in it because “women don’t like to be seen as argumentative or to debate,” said Indrati, who plans to return to teaching full time when her term finishes. Quotas aren’t the solution to increasing women’s participation in public life, including on the bench, she said.
‘Be unafraid’ “It is important that women take this role and be unafraid to take this role,” said the judge, who suffered from polio as a child and walks with a limp.
Although when she was young she aspired to be a piano teacher, Indrati listened to the advice of her father, a journalist and former teacher who had wanted to complete his unfinished law degree.
He encouraged his daughter to study to become a law professor instead, according to her official biography.
When the constitutional court in 2015 declined a judicial review to raise the decades-old minimum legal marital age for women from currently 16 years old to 18, Indrati was the only justice with a dissenting opinion.
Raising the marriage age to 18 would allow girls more of a chance to secure their futures, Indrati said. The challenge was brought by a group promoting women’s health. Activists are again appealing, seeking to have the case heard again.
Last week, Indrati cast a decisive vote in the court’s decision rejecting by 5-4 a petition by conservative academics seeking to deem extramarital and gay sex as crimes punishable by prison terms.
She has also ruled in favour of other gender and minority-related cases such as pornography and blasphemy.
More difficulties “It’s not always the case where the existence of a female justice means the law will take the side of women,” said Indri Suparno, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women. “But the absence will give more difficulties to women to become more progressive.”
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is considered a model of moderate Islam.
The president, known as Jokowi, has put more women into senior roles compared with other Muslim-majority countries — a record nine of 34 cabinet ministers, the most among the world’s most populous countries.
High profile officials include Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi — a first in the country’s history — and Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. Rosmaya Hadi became Bank Indonesia’s only female deputy governor this year.
The country also imposes gender quotas for political party candidates put forward for public office.
In 2016, Jokowi launched the first nationwide survey on violence against women and children. However, he’s been silent on calls from human rights groups to end virginity tests for women applying to the military and the police.
Polygamy app Worries over women’s rights have increased as attempts to hamper equality have been made more openly. A Tinder-like app, AyoPoligami, or Let’s Do Polygamy, and a seminar called “The Quickest Way of Getting Four Wives” have sparked controversy.
Indonesia allows Muslim men to take up to four wives if granted by a court and approved by the first wife.
Some 26 out of 153 countries have women as chief justices, or 17 percent, according to a World Bank report in 2016 called “Women, Business and The Law.”
Outside court It’s possible that the challenge to the law legalising the age of marriage at 16 may be heard again while Indrati is still on the bench.
Campaigners for women’s rights say that women who marry young will miss out on what’s being called a demographic bonus by 2030 — when the numbers of working-age people are greater than the numbers of elderly — by not being able to further their educations and embark on careers.
The government wants to improve its professional workforce, but allowing women to marry at 16 means they likely will have to stay home and raise families instead of being able to participate, said Zumrotin Susilo, chairwoman of the Women’s Health Foundation, who was involved in the first appeal of the marriage law.
A Central Statistics Agency census in 2010 found 6.7 million out of 78 million women age 15 to 64 hold a bachelor’s degree, or 8.5 percent. About 500,000 women have postgraduate degrees.
“Women have to fight for the presence of female justices and build strong communications and perspective at the constitutional court,” said Suparno of the women commission.