Good cause, good speeches, good Parliament – bereavement leave for miscarriage

Some very good speeches for a very good cause in Parliament yesterday for the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2) — Second Reading. It helps that all parties have worked positively together and are are in general agreement

Parliament often gets negative coverage, and that can be for good reason. I was able to with Oral Questions (question time) yesterday and it was relatively mild but full of pointless and patsy questions, often repeated, and avoided answers. This from question 8:

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker This is a question on notice, and the second part of the primary question about how many projects have completed due diligence but are unannounced I don’t believe was actually addressed by the Minister.

SPEAKER: I think it was addressed. It wasn’t answered, but it was addressed.

What’s the point in having questions that are supposed to hold Ministers and the Government to account when they don’t have to be answered?

But following Question Time was some of the best Parliament I have seen. The Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage bill was a private member’s bill introduced by Ginny Andersen, Labour list MP.

Most of those speaking for the Bill are MPs we don’t see much of.

GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour):

I move, That the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time.

At the moment, New Zealanders are entitled to bereavement leave after the loss of a family member or child, but that does not include loss through miscarriage or through stillbirth. This bill enables a simple change that allows existing bereavement leave to be automatically made available for those families that have been through a miscarriage or a stillbirth.

It is important that we allow families time to grieve, and I know for a fact that this is a sensitive topic that affects many families in New Zealand. I believe that it is important that parents know they have the right in law to grieve after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Currently, the bereavement leave provisions of the Holidays Act 2003 are ambiguous in their application to miscarriage. Employees are entitled to three days’ bereavement leave on the death of a child, but it is unclear whether this would also apply when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage or in stillbirth. This ambiguity means that an employee’s entitlement is left at the discretion of the employer, and some families have not been able to take much needed time to grieve.

My bill makes a very simple change: it allows families certainty that they have a legal right to access bereavement leave following a miscarriage or stillbirth. This bill removes the ambiguity by making it clear that, at the unplanned end of a pregnancy by miscarriage or stillbirth, this constitutes grounds for bereavement leave and that the duration of the leave should be in line with entitlement of other deaths within the immediate family.

Experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth is an incredibly difficult time for a family, and I believe what this bill represents is showing that we have compassion in allowing families time to grieve, through having the right in law. Not everyone who experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth may feel like they need to access bereavement leave; however, it is important that we give people the option to access that leave should they choose to or wish to need it.

There has been significant public support for this bill, with almost 7,000 members of the public signing an online petition to support the advocacy of members. Also, I would like to mention the person who initiated this bill, which was Kathryn van Beek, through being brave enough to tell her own story and to tell that in a public context.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the women and those families and organisations that came through the select committee process and told their stories, and acknowledge that that process was not an easy one for many of those women. Many of the submissions at select committee on this bill spoke about the importance of legislation to provide time for those who have had a miscarriage and to have time to grieve that loss.

Submissions spoke about how a miscarriage or stillbirth is a traumatic time for all involved and how arguing with an employer about leave entitlement could potentially create further stress at this time. Submissions mentioned that many women in New Zealand experience miscarriage, with around 20,000 a year, and that there is a significant amount of stigma and discrimination surrounding miscarriage. The committee heard that bereavement leave may help to eliminate some of the stigma, shame, and silence and allow people to get the support they need, including in the workplace.

There were also personal stories amongst the submissions which spoke about the huge toll of having a miscarriage and how that can take a toll not only on the individual but also on the wider whānau. Women stated that having the ability to take time for bereavement leave would make a huge difference to those immediately involved surrounding that loss. They spoke about how this bill is an acknowledgment of those who have suffered miscarriages in the past and that has largely been done in silence, and it would acknowledge that grief.

I’d like to quickly run through some of the submissions, because I think the statements made by some of those people and those organisations were most apt in describing the current situation that can happen in the workplace and the issues which this bill is addressing.

I’d like to acknowledge the Council of Trade Unions. They stated that when a baby is lost through miscarriage or stillbirth, it is bereavement leave and not sick leave that is required. Bereavement leave is distinctly different from sick leave. Bereavement leave provides time for a person or people that have had the miscarriage or stillbirth for grieving that needs to be done after a death.

There are many stories of people who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth and have had to argue to take that leave. As well as having paid leave and having entitlement to that paid leave, it’s a statutory right that means job losses or job insecurity is not threatened by taking that leave or requesting to take that leave. A miscarriage or a stillbirth is a traumatic time and arguing about leave entitlements creates further stress and high emotion and it should not be at this time. It should be guaranteed as an employment right.

I would like to acknowledge Family Planning for what they contributed, and I think this contributes to the wider debate around what some of these issues are for New Zealand. They state: “Like other areas of sexual and reproductive health, it is important that we work to eliminate stigma, shame and silence surrounding miscarriage.

Historically, women have been blamed for and judged because of miscarriage, and sadly there are still societal beliefs and attitudes which perpetuate this discrimination, particularly in some areas of the world.

Misconceptions about the causes of miscarriage, as well as the ongoing discrimination women face about reproduction and reproductive decision-making contributes to shame and emotional distress experienced by people who have a miscarriage. This needs to change.

People deserve support, compassion and respect no matter what the outcome of a pregnancy and no matter what their decisions around reproduction … We hope this legislation not only provides relief to individuals who experience miscarriage, but helps to eliminate stigma, shame and silence surrounding miscarriage so that people can more easily reach out for the support they need from friends, family, colleagues and their wider community, where that is helpful.”

I would like to conclude by running through some of the key changes that the select committee made when considering this bill, and I would like to acknowledge the excellent work that was done. I believe that these changes strengthen the bill and provide greater clarity. Initially, it has made it clearer around the knowledge of pregnancy. It makes it clear that a mother does not need to have known they were pregnant. It acknowledges that sometimes when someone has a miscarriage they did not know that they were pregnant in the first place, and not having the word “confirmed” makes it clear you are still eligible.

Secondly, around proof of pregnancy, this is a change to clarify the proof that would not be required for an employee to take bereavement leave. The committee considered that removing the term “confirmed” is important because they did not want the term to be misunderstood and lead to an uncomfortable exchange between employee and employer.

Finally, also the definition of miscarriage—amending the definition of miscarriage to clarify that bereavement leave could be sought for the unplanned end of a pregnancy no matter how far along that pregnancy was. The committee recommends changing the definition in order to reflect that. This would ensure that any pregnancy that ends after 20 weeks would still be defined and included.

The fourth change is expanding the definition that would be able to be taking bereavement leave. The committee believes that parents planning to adopt a child and parents having a baby through surrogacy should also be entitled to bereavement leave on the unplanned end of a relevant pregnancy, and that that should be reflected by changing it in the bill.

The final change is the cause of pregnancy ending. It clarifies that employees who experience the end of a pregnancy by way of an abortion would not be eligible for bereavement leave. The committee believed that the intent of this bill is to provide bereavement leave to those who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth, not for abortion. The committee recommended changing and removing the word “unplanned” from the bill.

In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge all of those women who submitted, all of the time that has been given to drive a change that I know will make a real difference in women’s and whānau lives around New Zealand. Nō reira, I commend this bill to the House.

BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country):

It’s a pleasure to stand and take a call on this bill this afternoon. I was a latecomer to this piece of legislation. I’ve only been the spokesperson for women for the past two weeks, and so I came into the select committee at the very last moment, when we were adjusting the last few pieces of wording before it came back to the House.

But I do want to congratulate, first of all, Ginny Andersen for putting this bill forward. Often, members’ bills see somewhere where there’s a small gap in a piece of legislation that makes such a huge difference, and this is going to make a big difference in the lives of women who suffer from miscarriage…

So National supports measures which support women and families, and that’s why we’re supporting this bill….

So I think, from me, that’s about all I’m going to say at this point, but I again congratulate the member and I congratulate the committee on the way with which they’ve worked with this bill and brought it to the House in the way it has been brought to the House, and it’s a pleasure to commend this bill to the House. Thank you.

JAN TINETTI (Labour):

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is truly a pleasure to stand in support of this bill here this afternoon, and I too want to take the time to congratulate my colleague, Ginny Andersen, on firstly bringing this bill to the ballot and then having it drawn from the ballot and then working through it with our Education and Workforce Committee.

I say my congratulations here this afternoon because I was away when this bill went through its first reading at the end of last year. I was really disappointed that I was away because I have a personal affinity to this bill, as I have suffered two miscarriages myself, one before my two children were born and one after my two children were born. Both were devastating on my life, and working through this with the select committee at the time brought back a whole lot of personal anxiety as I was working through that, but it also reminded me of just how necessary legislation like this is.

As the previous speaker, Barbara Kuriger, has said, sometimes there are small changes that are required in our law that seem small to many of us but make the biggest difference to so many people. This piece of legislation, as we heard in our select committee, will make a very, very big difference to so many people, and I will say particularly women.

It’s not just women; there are a number of men who will benefit from this bill as well, but I think that from my perspective, it really is the women who will benefit greatly from this bill…

Following speeches largely echoed similar sentiments, but I will note one of those, from first term National MP Dan Bidois. All I have seen of him is getting criticised and ridiculed on Twitter.

DAN BIDOIS (National—Northcote):

 It’s a pleasure to rise and take a brief call on the bereavement leave amendment to the Holidays Act bill that we’re discussing today. I do want to echo the congratulations to the member Ginny Andersen for bringing this issue to the House. It is through members’ bills that I think issues like this can be identified and resolved, so I do want to applaud her in the House. Also, to my fellow select committee colleague Jan Tinetti, I didn’t know those stories about what you faced, and thank you for giving realism to the bill that we’re discussing today and for sharing your story.

…But this is an important day for Ginny Andersen. It’s an important day for the more than 20,000 women out there who go through this process every year, and I want to acknowledge the members of the select committee, the officials, the submitters, and I commend this bill to the House.

It is good to see good Parliament. I was quite moved by some of the speeches. And I’m pleased to see a sensible use of a members’ bill that will achieve something worthwhile with cross-party cop-operation and support.

All transcripts: Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2) — Second Reading

Dan Bidois on his Northcote win

New MP Dan Bidois has a lot to learn now he has won the Northcote by-election. He will have that chance on the National back bench for at least two years.

Simon Bridges says he will give Bidois some minor responsibilities – his biggest task initially will be coming to grips with being an electorate MP and setting himself up in Northcote.

1 News interviewed Bidois before his win: ‘I have been a fighter my entire life’ – New Zealand’s newest MP Dan Bidois takes out Northcote by-election

“I have been a fighter my entire life. I dropped out of school at 15, found out I had cancer and beat it, completed my butchery apprenticeship, eventually getting mentored to go to University and falling in love with education. Ultimately I went on to win a scholarship and complete my Masters at Harvard.”

“I have had to fight for everything I have achieved in life, and so I want to bring that determination to Northcote and fight for the things that matter locally – improving transport, stopping the fuel tax increases, and getting more investment in local services like health and education.”

He said prior to his victory when asked what issues he would pursue in Parliament, that he was “passionate about education and making sure we’re getting more kids learning good trades. I would like to see more done around apprenticeships”.

The economy has been doing well the last few years, which has lifted incomes and meant the Government can afford to invest more in public services, but we can’t take it for granted. The new Labour-NZ First Government is making a range of changes that will slow that growth down, which is really bad for families. We can’t take good economic management for granted.

There is currently no scheduled vote on abortion or cannabis, but I haven’t seen evidence the current systems aren’t working properly. I would want to study the issues more before I made a decision on these two.

I haven’t read the proposed euthanasia legislation yet. I do have some concerns around it though, in that we have to make sure that there appropriate safeguards so our sick and elderly aren’t abused.

Sounds like he has been well indoctrinated with standard National responses in preparation for the by-election.

Time will tell whether he fights for his own voice and his own views.

 

Michael Wood talks up Labour’s Northcote result

Michael Wood won the Mt Roskill by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned so he could take over as mayor of Auckland.

He has tweeted his thoughts on the Northcote by-election (@michaelwoodnz):

What can we say the morning after the Northcote by-election? The first is to congratulate new MP . He seems like a nice guy, ran a clean campaign, and should be proud of his result.

The second is to acknowledge @shananhalbert for a superb campaign. I had the pleasure of being his Campaign Chair and saw 1st hand the huge effort he put in and the qualities of the man. Built up an incredible team. Will be a great MP one day.

Then to the numbers. Labour’s vote increased by 10% from 34% to 44%. This is a significant result in a seat Labour has not held in 13 years.

This represents a swing to Labour of 4%. Swings *to the government* hardly ever happen in by-elections.

What he doesn’t say is that Bidois got 50.98% of the votes (on election night numbers), just 1.29% less than MP for 12 years and Minister in Cabinet for 7 years Jonathan Coleman in last year’s general election.

While National was in government they faced 6 general electorate by-elections:

  • In Roskill 2016 a 24.5% swing to the oppstn
  • In Albert 2017 no govt candidate
  • In Chch East 12 a 25 % swing to oppstn
  • In Mana 2010 a .5% swing to govt
  • In Botany 11 a 5% swing to oppstn
  • In Albert 09 a 19.5% swing to oppstn

And while I have not checked the numbers I am pretty sure that all by-elections in the 1990s and 1980s saw swings to the opposition.

So, the swing of 4% to the government candidate in the Northcote by-election is unprecedented in recent electoral history.

Politicians are good at picking statistics that suit their narrative.

The ‘swing’ to Labour was mostly due to a slump in the Green candidate support (6.73% to 2.9%), and no NZ First candidate who got 3.73% in 2017 (they stood as an independent getting 0.47%).

The ‘swing’ from Government parties to National was negligible.

Finally, here is what John Key said when National reduced the Mana Labour majority from around 6000 to around 1400 (very similar to Northcote) in that by-election:

“John Key said “I never thought coming second in politics would feel so good….Sometimes losing is winning and this is one of them where we have had a tremendous result here. In all probability, the swing should have gone against National because that’s what happens when you are the Government campaigning in a very safe Labour seat and he has been thrashed. When this campaign began, Phil Goff said this by-election would be referendum on the Government’s policies. Well he was right!”

Jacinda Ardern seems to have a good feeling about coming second in Northcote.

Newshub: ‘Very good outcome’ in Northcote despite the loss – Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she’s proud of the party’s efforts in the Northcote by-election, despite coming up slightly short of victory.

“There was a lot of eyes on this, and you did us proud, Shanan,” she told the runner-up. “You were an excellent candidate, you spoke about the things that mattered.”

She said it was a “very good outcome” for a sitting Government’s candidate to improve on his vote so much.

“We’re really proud of that. We certainly expected it to be close, and of course you go into every election race hoping for a win. We couldn’t have had better in Shanan and the team that ran the campaign here.”

She said it alarm bells would be ringing for National, despite their win.

“When you compare other by-elections when you’ve been in Government, this is a very good outcome for us.”

She doesn’t mention the collapse in the Green candidate Rebekah Jaung’s vote, despite her seeking votes for herself, and there was no attempt by Greens to promote tactical voting for the Labour candidate.

Labour without the Greens would be a problem for Ardern, especially with National’s support overall support (like their support in Northcote) remaining above Labour’s.

 

Northcote by-election candidates

Greens have announced their candidate for the Northcote by-election – Rebekah Jaung selected as candidate for Northcote

Jaung wasn’t on the Green list in 2017 but stood in the Northcote electorate. She got 6.73% of the vote, almost the same as the party vote for the electorate which was 6.75%. This is slightly better than the 6.27% overall Green party vote.

Greens have been criticised for standing a candidate as it makes it much harder for the Labour candidate Shanan Halbert, but an upset was unlikely anyway (he lost by 6210 votes in the general election), and Greens need to be showing they are not just a party supporting Labour’s interests.

Candidates announced so far (Wikipedia):

  • Stephen Berry (ACT) – 2017 candidate for East Coast Bays, 5th on party list
  • Dan Bidois (National) – economist, 72nd on National’s 2017 party list
  • Tricia Cheel (Democrats) – social justice campaigner, 22nd on Democrats 2017 party list
  • Shanan Halbert (Labour) – head of Relationships at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, 2017 candidate
  • Rebekah Jaung (Greens) – doctor, Greens 2017 candidate for Northcote

Winston Peters has said the by-election is a waste of money and NZ First won’t stand a candidate, which will only save money for the party, and may be aimed at saving face (not putting NZ First to the test in an election).

Nominations close next Tuesday 15 May.

The by-election is in four weeks, on Saturday 9 June.

Nation: Northcote by-election

Is anyone interested in the Northcote by-election?

As usual media select their preferred candidates and ignore the rest – poor democracy.

With a by-election looming, National’s Dan Bidois and Labour’s Shanan Halbert join Lisa Owen to discuss why they should be Northcote’s next MP.

One of them is almost certainly going to become an MP after the 9 June by-election.

Both are pushing themselves as a local electorate MP. That’s the nature of by-elections, but most of the country is likely to have little interest.

Auckland traffic problems is not the a particularly riveting topic.

I don’t really care who wins. It’s up to the Northcote voters who take the time to vote.

‘Future qualification’ on Northcote by-election candidate’s profile

Three candidates have been announced for the Northcote by-election (to be held on 9 June) – National selected Dan Bidois and Labour selected their general election candidate Shanan Halbert, and Peter Wakeman seems to have selected himself. Brief details (some from Wikipedia):

  • Dan Bidois – Economist, 72nd on National’s 2017 party list
  • Shanan Halbert – Head of Recruitment & Relationships at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, 51st on Labour’s 2017 party list
  • Peter Wakeman – Perennial candidate

National Party announcement: Bidois selected as National’s Northcote candidate

Mr Bidois is currently Strategy Manager for Foodstuffs. He was raised and educated in Auckland, leaving school at 15 to complete a butchery apprenticeship with Woolworth’s New Zealand. Aspirational for his future, he went on to study at the University of Auckland, and attended Harvard University on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has worked as a strategist and economist in New Zealand, the United States, and Malaysia.

Labour party announcement: Shanan Halbert selected as Labour’s candidate for Northcote

Shanan is an education professional with experience across the sector including secondary, tertiary and with the education unions. Locally he has been in leadership and governance roles at Northcote’s Hato Petera College. Currently he is head of Relationships and Recruitment at Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

“I look forward to campaigning in Northcote on the issues that matter locally – transport, decent housing, health and education,” says Shanan Halbert.

(Oddly that can’t be found on Labour’s website,  had to go to Scoop for it).

I don’t recall hearing of Bidois or Wakeman before, but Halbert featured in the Labour intern issue last June – see Little and Labour MPs with interns.

Earlier in the week Labour party secretary Andrew Kirton promoted Halbert’s selection:

And David Farrar dissed Halbert’s chances and promoted all National candidates in  It’s Bidois vs Halbert for Northcote.

Yesterday Farrar tweeted on a Kiwiblog post What happened to Shanan’s MBA?:

He saw a MBA from AUT listed for Shanan Halbert (the Labour candidate). He checked out the AUT graduate page and they do not have Halbert as a graduate.

He then checked back Halbert’s Linked In page the next day, and the MBA mention was gone.

Stating unearned qualifications on your CV looks bad, and more so if you are a head of the Recruitment & Relationships department at an educational institute.

And the misrepresentation has been confirmed by Kirton in a response to Farrar on twitter:

That’s a remarkable explanation. The LinkedIn  page says nothing about ‘a timeframe of 2016-2020’, and it is extraordinary to list under Education courses you are enrolled in and are nowhere near completing. If Halbert wins the by-election he will have less time still to study.

And Kirton  goes further:

It’s not a dirty trick pointing out a candidate falsely claiming a qualification, it is holding to account, something some who are new to Government don’t seem to comprehend.

I don’t know enough about any of the candidates to rate them as potential MPs, but Halbert and Labour have not started their campaign very well.

UPDATE: I have just found Halbert’s profile on the Labour website. It includes:

As a senior manager in the education field, Shanan knows that life-long learning must be made available in our fast-changing world.

Changing so fast he got ahead of himself in claiming to have an MBA.