New Minister for Women insists she's liberated by her portfolio being dropped from Cabinet

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Unlike her National Party predecessors, the new Minister for Women has no problem calling herself a "feminist" without trying to soften what that title means.

The new Minister for Women unpacked what being a feminist in 2017 New Zealand means to her.
Source: 1 NEWS

There's no trace of Paula Bennet's vague claim of being a feminist "most days", or Louise Upston's outright rejection of the label.

But despite this, Greens MP Julie Anne Genter also thinks it's advantageous her women's portfolio has actually been demoted from Cabinet.

So what's the reason for this seeming inconsistency?

"We had asked for the women's portfolio and we had to weigh it up, do we want to do this work, and we do, and I believe we have a very strong ally in the Prime Minister, so I don't believe it being outside Cabinet is going to reduce my effectiveness," Genter says.

"Being outside Cabinet is actually really important for the Green Party at this point in time.

"We have these ministers outside Cabinet and that means we are still free to retain our distinctness and independence as the Green Party.

"So if there are decisions made by Cabinet that we disagree with, we have some ability to publicly disagree, whereas if we were in full coalition, we wouldn't be able to do that."

And it's not just preserving the Green Party's "unique identity".

The new Minister for Women explains why it's to the Green Party's advantage they sit outside Cabinet.
Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Genter is also quite candid about the challenge which the leap in responsibility to both coalition government, and their first ministerial roles, poses for the Greens.

"I actually think it's in the Green Party's advantage to be in confidence and supply because it's our first time with ministers," she says.

"I mean we had 14 MPs the last two terms and now we're down to eight, so it would be incredibly risky for us to go into a full coalition as such a small party. So here we have this halfway point.

"Many smaller parties have not made it through a full coalition or a governing arrangement. After three years they're invisible and they don't get voted back in."

"There are going to be issues which we don't agree with what New Zealand First and Labour are doing and if we'd been in cabinet we wouldn't have been able to say that, we would have lost the vote in cabinett and they we wouldn’t have been able to say.

With the Green Party yesterday announcing they opposed the new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal Labour is keen to sign, it's clear Ms Genter's party will not be just paying lip service to this independence.

But when it comes to Ms Genter's own Ministry for Women, how will she turn a portfolio which she admits has historically only been one of advocacy for women's rights, into a role which can enact real policy change?

Firm eye on gender pay equity legislation

Ms Genter has her eyes firmly fixed on gender pay equity legislation for this.

And it was not taken lightly by some of the most prominent female National MPs, that one of the Labour-led Government's first policy undertakings last week was to completely scrap the National Party's own pay equity legislation introduced in July.

Senior female National MPs have taken aim at the PM for her decision.
Source: 1 NEWS

On the first sitting day of Parliament last Wednesday, November 8, National MPs, Nikki Kaye, Amy Adams and Judith Collins all made a concerted swipe at Jacinda Ardern and her Labour-led Government over the policy scrap.

"It is a very sad day that one of the first actions of our woman Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to remove this piece of legislation," Ms Kaye said.

Ms Genter, unsurprisingly, has a very different take on the new government's decision to redraft an entirely new pay equity legislation based off the original joint government and industry working group report.

"Because the (National) government saw this as a fiscal liability rather than a core responsibility of government to make sure people are paid properly for their work, when they brought their pay equity and equal pay legislation to the house, it contained some provisions around merit," Genter says.

"What this government is going to do, we've scrapped that legislation, it's not going to pass, it won't put in place hurdles and barriers for cases that are already going to the courts."

The existing New Zealand gender pay gap has men paid on average 13.1 per cent more than their female colleagues.

This means that today, November 14, effective marks the date women in New Zealand working for free the rest of 2017.

Ms Genter says new legislation to remedy this gap, which has been stagnating for 10 years, will be introduced to Parliament next year.  

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