Human Rights Commission badly skews data

July 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Human Rights Commission said:

A gender stocktake of appointments to state sector boards reveals some Government ministers are doing very well while others need to try a lot harder says EEO Commissioner Jackie Blue.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs gender stocktake of state sector appointments shows little has changed in ten years: including those years when Labour were in power.

“It’s 2015 not 1915: Ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards must do better, they have no excuse but to do better,” said Dr Blue.

“I congratulate those ministers close to achieving equity and urge their colleagues to see them as best practice.”

“Ministers doing well include: 45% (Upston) and 50% (Tolley, English) and those who have slightly surpassed 50% (Woodhouse, Coleman, Dunne, Parata). Minister Goodhew achieved 66% female representation and the case must be made that future appointments need re-balancing.”

“However ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards (McCully, Bridges, Brownlee, Key) have a lot of catching up to do.”

However the Human Rughts Commission made a fatal error, as reported by Claire Trevett:

Women’s Minister Louise Upston and Transport Minister Simon Bridges are among those copping blame for the deeds of their predecessors after analysis named and shamed ministers with low rates of appointing women to boards.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue released information showing the percentage of women appointments to boards in ministerial portfolios, broken down by individual ministers.

However, the analysis was based on appointments in the 2014 year and many were before the election resulted in a reshuffle of portfolios.

That means many ministers are now either benefiting from or being blamed for the deeds of their predecessors.

The Human Rights Commission should apologise to the ministers it named. The stocktake by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs just referred to portfolios, and it was the HRC which then attributed them all to the current Ministers, rather than the Ministers in office for most of 2014.

Describing someone as a former hockey player is not sexism

April 16th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In her letter to Henry, Blue said female representation in Parliament had been stuck at around 30 per cent since the first MMP election in 1996, and even went backwards at the 2014 election.

In her letter to Henry, Blue said female representation in Parliament had been stuck at around 30 per cent since the first MMP election in 1996, and even went backwards at the 2014 election. 

Blue questioned whether lawyer and public servant Vicky Robertson, who is the new chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment would have been described as a “former hockey player” in a media headline if she was a man.

There was still “a lot of work to be done,” Blue said. 

There definitely is still significant sexism in NZ, where women in work get judged far more on what they wear, look like etc. However this example from Jackie Blue is not a good one, as I am sure a former NZ representative rugby player would also get a headline of “Ex All Black becomes Chief Executive”. In fact David Kirk is almost always referred to as an ex All Black, even in the context of his very successful business career.

The article I saw at Stuff said this about Vicky Robertson:

A rising star at the Treasury is quitting to head the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) as it prepares for overhaul of the Resource Management Act.

The State Services Commission on Tuesday confirmed Vicky Robertson, who is deputy chief executive at the Treasury, had been appointed chief executive of MfE, replacing Dr Paul Reynolds, who quit last November. …

The mother of two is a former national hockey (Black Sticks) representative and has competed at national level in mountain biking.

At Treasury Robertson was responsible for the corporate and financial operations, as well as monitoring the Crown’s commercial investments and debt management.

Robertson, the first woman to head Treasury’s tax unit, was seconded to the United Nations Development Programme in New York in 2010, where she led a strategic and structural review of the organisation.

The sporting mention was minor, and I think of interest.

If there was anything I would criticise it is the mention of being a “mother of two”. You don’t see many male executives described by how many children they are the father of.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that the reference to “mother of two” comes from Vicky’s own bio on the Treasury website, presumably authored by her.

Jackie Blue’s valedictory

May 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Was in Parliament yesterday for Jackie Blue’s valedictory speech. It was a nice reminder that you can achieve things in Parliament as a List MP. Some extracts:

While I was a new MP in 2005, Herceptin became high-profile, with many countries funding a 12-month course for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. It was being used for treatment in metastatic breast cancer in New Zealand, but the trials were showing that it was reducing death in early stage, newly diagnosed breast cancer. I am grateful that Tony gave me the opportunity to advocate for 12-months’ Herceptin funding for women with breast cancer in New Zealand. I was extraordinarily proud when John Key made this a National Party election promise in 2008. One of the most marvellous memories from my time in Parliament was shortly after the November 2008 election, when I joined Tony, who was the new Minister of Health , and key officials from the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. The meeting was to work through the logistics of ensuring that the women who needed Herceptin had access to it by Christmas 2008. The timing was very tight, but it was a case of “Yes, Minister.” at its very best. Everyone worked together to ensure that the policy rolled out smoothly. With results of recent trials, time has proved that funding 12 months’ Herceptin was the right decision. Twelve months is considered to be the international gold standard.

A decision that has helped save lives.

Early in 2008 I met with a group of refugee and migrant doctors who were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service , or ARMS, in Mount Roskill. The group had been struggling to get registration with the New Zealand Medical Council . They were frustrated that we did not have a bridging programme like Australia had. Over several years they had made successive approaches to health Ministers without making any traction. They were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service to study and to support each other, and I would like to acknowledge the amazing support that Dr Mary Dawson and Anna Fyfe-Rahal from the service have been providing to this group. Without their support and encouragement, I am quite sure that this group would have disbanded long ago. My heart went out to these doctors. After the election I re-established contact with the group and began to meet with them each month. I went back to Tony Ryall and I said that we simply had to do something for them. Tony was very supportive and agreed that I could start investigating options, and I began discussions with the Ministry of Health and the Medical Council. However, when Professor Des Gorman, chair of Health Workforce New Zealand, got involved in the latter part of 2009, the project developed a momentum all of its own. The NZREX preparation placement programme began in 2011 and has been hugely successful, with 33 out of 38 migrant doctors passing the Medical Council registration exam. This programme has been truly life changing for those doctors and their families.

Stuff like this often flies below the media radar.

 It has been the work of these committees that has left me utterly convinced that society must back its women and girls. Women make up one-half of the world’s human capital. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs. Empowering and educating women and girls is fundamental to succeeding and prospering in the ever more competitive world. This is particularly true in developing countries but it is also absolutely relevant in developed countries like New Zealand. As women progress, everyone in society progresses, including men and boys. Tapping into the potential of women and girls is not only the right thing; it is the smart thing. Sexual reproductive health and rights and education go hand in hand. When women have the opportunity to control their fertility and have access to reproductive health services they are more likely to stay in education, get employment, and provide for their family. Education leads to more choices and opportunities.

All true.

Jackie Blue appointed EEO Commissioner

April 16th, 2013 at 9:57 am by David Farrar

Judith Collins has announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the appointment of Dr Jackie Blue as the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Commissioner.

“I congratulate Dr Blue on her appointment as EEO Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission,” Ms Collins says.

“The EEO Commissioner has an important role to play in championing EEO principles, issues and practices in New Zealand as well as appreciating their relationship to social, economic and labour market trends.

“Dr Blue is committed to human rights and equity issues and is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament. I’m confident she will be a very capable Commissioner.”

Dr Blue will be leaving Parliament to take up her new position. She will assume office on 4 June 2013.

Congratulations to Jackie on her appointment. I was very critical of the appointment of former National MP Brian Neeson to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, so I will criticise political appointments that lack merit. but this is not one of those cases.

Jackie has a good track record at working with MPs from all parties, and will do well in the role I am sure.

Her departure from Parliament will of course create a list vacancy. The next candidate on National’s list is former MP Paul Quinn. Media have previously reported he does not desire or intend to return to Parliament. If he declines the spot, then Wellington Central candidate Paul Foster-Bell will become a List MP.

If Tim Groser does become WTO Director-General, then the next on the list is broadcaster Claudette Hauiti.

Stopping forced marriages

November 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

After hearing of a distraught school girl forced to marry by her parents, National MP Jackie Blue knew she couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

The 100 teenagers – most of them school girls – who marry each year in New Zealand would require a court’s permission to walk down the aisle under Dr Blue’s proposed amendment to the Marriage Act.

Marriage under the age of 16 is illegal in New Zealand, but 16 and 17-year-olds can marry with parental consent.

More than 1000 teenagers gained consent to marry over the past decade, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Four out of five of those were female.

Dr Blue said only a small number of teenage nuptials would be marriages forced upon girls for cultural reasons.

“The majority are probably quite legitimate, but the majority of those minors are young girls. I can’t not do anything. If it saves one young girl it’s going to be worth it.”

I think this is a good idea. A 16 or 17-year-old is still officially a minor and is far more likely to be able to be coerced by their parents.

Yes some 16 and 17 years olds want to marry on their own initiative. But I don’t think the proposed change really disadvantages them. Either they merely have to wait until they are 18 (they can be engaged until then) or they get the permission of the court which will check the marriage is truly desired.

The idea I think is that it will discourage parents from forcing their child into an arranged marriage if they know a Judge will question their child on whether they really want it.

This is not a huge problem in NZ, but I don’t see the proposed law at having much downsides, and if it saves even a handful of young girls for a forced marriage then it is worthwhile.

Four more candidates

April 9th, 2008 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

National has announced a further four candidates, bringing them close to the end of their selections with 61 out of 63 electorate candidates selected. Only Dunedin North and Selwyn remain. The candidates list has been updated.

Dr Jackie Blue has been re-selected in Mt Roskill. Jackie has been high profile for a new MP, especially on the Herceptin issue.

Mita Harris is standing in Mangere. Mita is a Programme Manager for Community Relations and Biodiversity Asset.

Cam(pbell) Calder standing in Manurewa is is a Doctor and Clinical Research Director, and a past President of the French New Zealand Business Council.

In Manukau East, Kanwal JS Bakshi is the candidate. He is a graduate of Delhi University, the Secretary of the Auckland Sikh Society and Vice Chair of the Indian Trade Group and Hindu Heritage Management.

The selections are not quite complete, as there are up to five list only candidates to be nominated plus the two outstanding seats. However it is interesting that it is already one of the ethnically diverse slates of candidates with six Maori candidates, a PI candidate, a Chinese candidate and two Indian candidates. National isn’t into quotas at all, but does have an awareness that it is desirable for its candidates to represent the diversity that makes up NZ. Heh in some parties diversity probably means you have been a member of both the EPMU and the SWFU 🙂

I’ll wait until all candidates are confirmed before doing a full demographic breakdown. The occupational breakdowns are often interesting too – how many from business, how many farming, how many doctors, teachers, community sector employees etc.