[Sitting date: 08 May 2012. Volume:679;Page:1991. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Prime Minister: Does he still stand by his statement that “The welfare system will always be there to support those who genuinely need it”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
Metiria Turei: What advice has the Prime Minister received that having Work and Income officers “assist women to decide whether they want to have children” is in breach of the UN convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, which guarantees that women have the right to make their own decisions on the number and spacing of their children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Women in New Zealand will continue to always have that right. The Government is giving about a million dollars so women who may wish to can go to get medical advice, and we are investing $55 million over the next 4 years for 155 dedicated Work and Income staff to support job seekers. But I think the Government is doing the right thing in assisting women in a programme that is totally voluntary and totally reversible.
Metiria Turei: How could this policy not be designed to discourage deprived women and their daughters from having children, when this contraception policy is in direct response to the Welfare Working Group, which said that the work-testing regime may provide an incentive for women to have children and therefore Work and Income should assist women on a benefit to decide whether they want to have children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the Government assisting what can be very vulnerable young people to make sure they have both adequate access and advice when it comes to
planning a family or potentially preventing unwanted pregnancies is the right thing to do. In fact, Governments of all different colours have a history of supporting both family planning and providing support, subsidised services, and all sorts of contraceptives, which have been very beneficial to a great many young New Zealand women and men.
Metiria Turei: If the Prime Minister is genuinely offering an option for vulnerable young women who would like contraception but cannot afford it, why is he providing this through Work and Income case officers, who can exert financial pressure over these vulnerable women, and not through the safer, proven, and private environment of health services that already do that work?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are not. Doctors would provide that advice, but they will go to Work and Income for a reimbursement of their costs. I think that is actually a sensible and mature thing to do, and it is what historical Governments have done in the past.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he considering improving access to contraception for all low-income women, or just those on benefits; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. At his point we are not considering widening it out, because we already subsidise a number of contraceptive options for a wide range of people, including fully subsidising the emergency pill.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister believe that men and their sons should also be “assisted to decide whether they want to have children” and be given funding for contraception by their Work and Income case managers, or does he believe that sexual reproduction is solely a woman’s responsibility?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Far from it. I think New Zealand parents have an absolute responsibility to speak to their sons and daughters, and where possible give them the best advice that they possibly can. But I think that we are talking about a group of young women who are particularly vulnerable, and the statistics show us that a great many of them do fall pregnant and actually go on to the DPB.
Metiria Turei: Given that poverty data shows that a third of all children in poverty are living in homes where their parents work, why will he not offer fully funded contraception to all families who want it through the community services card, and if he will not do that, how is this policy not just a blatant discrimination against, and coercion of, vulnerable young women who find themselves on the benefit?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because we already subsidise through the community services card certain contraceptives for low-income people. I think one thing that will make those women particularly vulnerable is if they have an unwanted pregnancy.
Mr SPEAKER: Just before I call the honourable member, Metiria Turei is asking questions, and I am finding it hard to hear the answers because of interjections from the Labour Party. I think it is only reasonable that Metiria Turei should be able to hear the answers more clearly.
Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister guarantee that not one single young mother will be told by her case worker in some form: “You should take up this offer of Depo-Provera, because if you have another child on the benefit you will have to go to work and be work tested when that baby is just 12 months old, and if you don’t your benefit is at risk.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would expect Work and Income case managers to ensure that any client of Work and Income understands the Government’s policies, and the Government’s policy is that if you are on the DPB and have a further child on the DPB, then you will be work tested when that child is 1.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a document, which is a letter from the Ministry of Social Development to my office, dated 11 April 2012, confirming that the
contraception policy in the Budget is directly a response to the Welfare Working Group, which wants to disincentivise women from having children on the benefit by requiring Work and Income to assist women to make decisions about their number of children.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.