We have An Accidental Centre Right Govt - Donald
New Zealand has inadvertently elected a centre-right government, Green Co-leader Rod Donald said this morning, as his party announced that it would not be entering a confidence and supply agreement with Labour.
The Greens called a press conference to announce that they would retain their independence, as Prime Minister Helen Clark was expected to announce a minority coalition government with Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition, with support on confidence and supply from United Future.
“We put our bottom line on the table before the election. We are only now finding out what United Future’s bottom lines are,” Mr Donald said.
United Future was the dark horse of the election – not expected to significantly increase its representation beyond the one seat held by leader Peter Dunne until an extraordinary rise in the party’s polling following Mr Dunne’s “worm” performance on a TV1 leaders debate. United Future emerged from the election with eight new MPs that the public and the media knew virtually nothing about – and the balance of power.
“People were generally looking for some kind of bland stability – they’re not going to get it,” Mr Donald said.
Asked by Scoop whether his assertion that the electorate didn’t get the result it was looking for indicated a flaw in the MMP system, which Mr Donald lobbied for ahead of its adoption, he shifted the blame to the media.
Mr Donald said the media is making up for its failure to scrutinise United Future during the campaign after the fact.
Investigations following the election have brought to light that one of United Future’s new MPs, former Christian Heritage member Paul Adams, has lobbied in the past for AIDS sufferers to be quarantined.
Mr Donald said he thought the media commentary following the worm debate did more to aid Mr Dunne’s rise than the worm itself. But neither he, nor Ms Fitzsimons, said they would favour outlawing the worm, or any further regulation of the media during election campaigns. He said the impact of the worm could not have been predicted.
“Voters should look at the small print, not just the glossy big picture,” he said.
Ms Fitzsimons lamented how presidential elections had become.
Mr Donald said that in choosing to make an agreement with United Future rather than allowing the moratorium on Genetic Engineering to be extended in a deal with the Greens, Labour has chosen to form a government that wants to quarantine AIDS sufferers rather than GE. He said some of United Future’s views were “outrageous.”
“The centre is actually somewhere over to the right, if not over the edge,” Mr Donald said.
“It’s Labour that’s chosen big business and chosen to follow whatever George Bush’s agenda is,” he said.
Mr Donald said the Greens don’t believe the moratorium on commercial release of GE crops will necessarily be lifted. He said it wasn’t just the Greens opposing it – a whole range of lobby groups across the political spectrum continue to oppose it, and public sentiment is opposed as well.
“If Clark thinks she’s going to get this off the political agenda she’s made one big strategic mistake,” he said.
Ms Fitzsimons said Helen Clark’s attacks on the Greens hurt both parties, with the Labour-led coalition shedding five votes and the Greens failing to capitalise on their early polling, adding only one MP to their previous seven.
But she said she wanted to rebuild the relationship between the parties, and said Labour would still need the Greens to pass progressive legislation.
Ms Fitsimons said the Greens expect to be working more closely with unions, who would be concerned about Labour being pulled right by United Future.
Mr Donald and Ms Fitzsimons rejected suggestions that they’d been left out in the cold.
“Why would we go under the shelter of Labour and United Future?” Mr Donald asked. He said that Labour really weren’t offering the Greens a lot at all, and that convinced the party to go it alone.
The co-leaders said the greens would not be an opposition party or a support party, but would work to further their objectives in Parliament.
The pair said they wanted Labour to share out select committee chairmanship, saying that proportionally the Greens should head at least one committee, and that National deserved to head some as well.