In a panel discussion organised by the Khadija Leadership Network (KLN) and Pearl of the Islands Foundation in Auckland on Tuesday, three women MPs – Golriz Ghahraman of the Green Party, Parmjeet Parmar of the opposition National Party, and Priyanca Radhakrishnan of the ruling Labour Party, participated.
Moderated by Tayyaba Khan, CEO of KLN, the hour-long discussion saw the two-term MP [Parmar], and first-timers [Ghahraman, Radhakrishnan] sharing their “secret super-powers”, their party’s plan to revive the economy post-covid especially as the wage subsidy ends in September, on the essentialness of migrant workers in New Zealand, and whether they think the country can have a women of colour as the Prime Minister one day.
To the last question, which was also the only one, where there was complete unanimity. “Yes, definitely. We feel one day New Zealand can have a woman Prime Minister of colour,” they said.
Rest of the exchange was along the party lines, as was expected considering we are in the midst of an election campaign.
More so, when Radhakrishnan and Parmar went head-to-head, with the former defending her PM’s handling of the pandemic, and Parmar accusing the government of not doing enough.
“The unemployment statistics just out reveal that out of 11,000 people who have lost their jobs due to covid, 10,000 are women. And I have not heard anything from the government on how they plan to support our most vulnerable,” Parmar noted.
She then went on to list her party’s flagship policies such as Business Start and Job Start, while adding, “A business owner in South Auckland took his life recently due to financial hardships. I met a mother just the other day, who lost her son to suicide. Such cases are increasingly by the day. One way out of this is investing in innovation, which I am afraid is not the focus of this Labour Government.”
To this Radhakrishnan responded, “This is not true at all. Labour is always focused on the most vulnerable, and more so amid this pandemic. The most prominent example is the wage subsidy scheme, which has kept the unemployment numbers low. Even the expansion of the Flexi-wage programme announced by the PM at our Auckland campaign launch, which will support up to 40,000 more people into work, is a step in that direction. We must also keep in mind that there is no play-book on what is happening in the world right now. Our government is focused on creating jobs, in a way which is good for the country.”
On her part, Ghahraman, came hard on the ruling coalition for its handling of the plight of migrant workers ever-since Covid-19 struck. “The fact is we have not taken care of our migrant community. Even if there has been some support, it’s just ad-hock. So overall, I would say there’s been no dignity in how we have treated our migrant work force over the last few months.”
To this, the Labour MP did push a little and listed the support from several channels that have been provided to the migrant workers who are struggling because of the loss of livelihood. “The Government has worked with NGOs, distributed food parcels, provided places to self-isolate, extended visas, as well as translated the support available in ethnic languages to make it more accessible. But I do agree we need to do more, and we are working on it,” Radhakrishnan said.
The evening ended with Rochana Sheward, CEO of Belong Aotearoa, urging the politicians to come up with policies making transition from part-time to full-time work easier for women. “Or when a woman re-enters the workforce after a break of few years during which she was raising a young family. I urge you all to work towards implementing those pathways for transition,” she said.
Secret superpowers of the three MPs:
“I listen” – Radhakrishnan
“I am determined” – Parmar
“My deep belief in democracy” – Ghahraman
When Khan asked the three MPs, how they think social cohesion can be promoted in Aotearoa New Zealand, they replied:
“By ensuring equality” – Ghahraman
“By encouraging inclusion” – Parmar
“By treating people with dignity” – Radhakrishnan