With only two days to go until the New Zealand General Election, I’m not going to have enough time to do a post per minor Party for the ones I haven’t covered yet. So I’m going to combine all the rest into this single post, providing links and general summaries of each. As usual, I’m looking at their disability / disability-relevant policies, with a particular focus on those policies that would affect autistic people and their families.
The Maori Party‘s main disability policy can be found about a third of the way down this page. They attended a public meeting asking Parties to share their disability policies a while back (no doubt there were many such meetings, but I can only go by what I can find record of online); the main points from that meeting can be found here. They were also one of only three Parties to respond to Autism New Zealand’s questions about autism issues heading into the election. Their response to Autism New Zealand can be found here (pdf).
A core focus of the Maori Party’s disability policy, is on moving towards individualised funding. The Maori Party is also keen to allow and encourage the disabled to remain in the care of their own families, and want to resource caregivers in such a way as to promote this outcome. They want to review the work conditions, pay, and training opportunities of those in the disability sector. The Maori Party wants to encourage employers to develop part-time and flexible working arrangements (which would be of benefit to both the disabled and their families). They also want to hold an annual disability employment summit (they are the first Party I’ve seen mention such a thing, seems like a good initiative). They will support school-leavers into employment, which sits well along-side their other employment / disability policy points already mentioned. The Maori Party wants to see special education as a part of all teacher training. And they support the “nothing about us, without us” approach to disability issues.
It’s also worth nothing that the Minister for Disability Issues this past government term, was the leader of the Maori Party.
Overall, the Maori Party is supportive of the disability community and sector, and have some attractive and original ideas in their arsenal.
The Mana Party considers themselves to be a Party that stand up for the vulnerable, including the disabled. They accept the social definition / model of disability. The Mana Party support the right to full participation in society, including the right to be educated alongside peers. On the issue of the potential closure of some special education units, the Mana Party opposes those closures and want to see instead the creation of more such special units. The Mana Party wants to let the disabled control and influence policy and planning. They want to introduce a non means-tested benefit for the disabled, and see better financial support for carers and family, including the payment of whanau caregivers. They take an interest in all stages of life of the disabled, and understand that caring for the disabled means also supporting the carers of the disabled.
Overall, the Mana Party show a clear interest in the lives of the disabled and their carers, and would evidently like to see a substantial increase in the funding provided to these people across the board.
New Zealand First (NZ First) don’t appear to have a disability policy (here’s their website). I had a look through their other policies and couldn’t find a mention of the disabled or the carers of the disabled. I did find some relevant policy from them on this page over at IHC, where NZ First argue that increased health spending and support of carers is vital.
Overall, nothing particularly scary and nothing particularly exciting from NZ First on disability issues. Like some of the other minor Parties when it comes to disability, your main guidance on whether to vote for them when it comes to what’s best for the disabled and their families, is going to be a broader approach to whether their overall values and general policies lead to a better New Zealand.
The Alliance want a Disability Commission to mostly be staffed by people with disabilities, repeating a theme found in most of the Parties this election; of including the disabled more in the policies and planning that directly affect them. They want to encourage “real pay” and “real jobs” for the disabled. Again, repeating ideas found commonly in other Parties, Alliance wants to see parent and family carers paid for the care they provide. They also want to see a closing of what is perceived to be an inequitable gap between those with disabilities covered by ACC, and those who don’t fit under the more generous ACC scheme. Alliance wants travel subsidized for the disabled. In an original point, Alliance expressly states that it wants disabled people supported to artistically and culturally express themselves. In another original (and this time, particularly important) point, Alliance also says it wants to address the problem that though the disabled are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse, they often do not have real access to the support services in place for those who are subjected to violence and abuse.
Another policy area where Alliance specifically mention the disabled, is under education, where they state they’d like to see smaller class sizes and better teacher/student ratios for those with special needs. They also want (again, an orginal policy by them) to reward schools who welcome special needs students, by linking funding to the number enrolled (sounds quite sensible I think). Under the topic of “suspensions”, Alliance says they want to support teachers who are facing challenging behaviours from students. Not much in specifics there, but nice to hear all the same; this directly affects many of our children in mainstream schools where the teachers are inadequately trained or resourced to cope. Alliance also wants the local public consulted before changes are made to the way a school is reorganised, again these sorts of issues often impact on our children (think of the special situations and units set up for our children).
Overall, another Party clearly interested in serving the needs of the disabled, but this time with some more original ideas than what I’ve been encountering in most Party’s policies in my research.
The Conservative Party of New Zealand wants to shift the focus from the government telling families what to do, to giving that power and responsibility back to the families. Beyond that, I couldn’t find anything directly relevant to the disabled or families raising disabled children, even under education and welfare. Again, you’d have to decide if they would support this Party as it impacts on the disabled, based on their broader policies, which can be found here.
The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, has a “Disability Issues” link, but nothing written underneath it. There are those in the autism community who would like to see cannabis available (in properly controlled dosage and availability) to those with autism since it arguably addresses autism symptoms, or at least want to promote the further research needed to investigate those benefits (link to my previous post on the issue). So I suppose that is the tightest relationship I can see between this Party and disability / autism issues: Around the question of health. As usual, you can look at the rest of their policies to see if you think they would benefit the disabled in a broader / less direct sense. (Doing a quick summary of each minor Party in this post really doesn’t allow me to go into that sort of detail, but feel free to discuss it in the comment section below if you like!)
NZ Democrats for Social Credit (DSC) are one of the Parties who want to bring support for all disabled, in line with the support received for the disabled covered by the more generous ACC scheme. DSC want to give employers interest-free loans to assist with modification to the workplace to assist the disabled. (As usual, more general policy points can be found on their website disability policy page, do click-through if you want further details; most of their other points though are rather vague and unhelpfully general.) I had a look through their other policies too – particularly education and health – nothing specifically directed at the disabled / special needs was found.
So that’s my round-up of all the Parties running in the 2011 New Zealand General Election (phew!). I’ve found the process of writing these posts quite informative, and it has helped me to decide who I’ll be voting for (I was choosing between three Parties, this task made that decision easier); I hope it has helped and been informative for others too.
Something I learnt along the way is that the Political Parties in New Zealand are frequently confused about disability discourse; many holding self-contradictory views on ideals and models of disability, that also conflict with their precise policy. Almost all the Parties failed to provide examples or details about their claims, which is perhaps something you’d expect when it comes to general policy, but the lack of details and examples often made it hard to see exactly who they have in mind in their policies, and how they actually intended to help those people and change the current system. Many Parties just avoided the disability issue, and focused on their core constituency or focal issue instead (not surprising necessarily, but disappointingly unhelpful).
Whichever way you want to vote, make sure you do vote, and make it an informed vote. This is a democracy after all.
Bring on Saturday!
Please note, I’m not endorsing voting for these Parties, and I am not a member of these Parties, or indeed any other Political Party. No one has asked me, or paid me, to write these posts. If I become aware of these Parties introducing any major changes to their policy relevant to autism pre the election, I will add it as a dated edit under this paragraph. I welcome feedback from any and all parts of the political spectrum to this and the other Election 2011 posts I have done, which are filed under the category “NZ Elections 2011; Autism.”
Links to the other posts I have done on Party policies, in this series: