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Keith Rankin: Reasons to vote Green

Reasons to vote Green


by Keith Rankin, 20 October 2008

Many New Zealand voters would like to see a change of government. The present Labour-led government is past its used-by date.

Further, with respect to the international financial crisis, Labour is a part of New Zealand's problem. The risks New Zealand banks face are a result of a (Monetary) Policy Targets Agreement which led to New Zealand offering absurdly high interest rates to savers in the rest of the world.

The result was an unrequired flood of foreign money, a substantially over-valued exchange rate, a highly leveraged banking sector in New Zealand, a housing bubble and a consumer binge. The banks, flush with overseas funds, sought to throw money at anyone (including the already failed finance companies) who might conceivably accept a loan. Further, the economic growth depended on debt-fuelled consumption, given that the after-tax incomes of lower income households (and many higher income households with children) were insufficient to maintain the levels of aggregate spending that our kind of capitalism requires.

The problem for electors now is how to achieve a change of government without having either a National only government or a National-Act government.

The perfect solution for liberal voters – for voters with a social conscience – would be a National-Green government. Such a government need not be a formal coalition, although it could be.

It's imperative that the Greens keep their options open, while clearly signalling that if the electorate shows it wants a change of government, then the Greens will facilitate such a change of government rather than prop up a Labour government that has been deeply unpopular for the last year and most of the year before.

If the Greens declare a "preferred coalition partner" today, they risk falling below the 5% threshold as they will reinforce the media message that this election is only about Labour, National and the Maori Party.

The Greens need to indicate to the voting public that they will assess the election result first, and then seek to form a constructive partnership with either party, in light of that result. The Greens will need to convey the message that any government involving the Greens will be neither a National Government nor a Labour Government.

If the Greens declare a "preferred coalition partner" today, they substantially increase the likelihood that we will be faced with a National-Act or a National-Maori government on 9 November.

A National-Maori government might well be closer to the political centre than a National-Act government. But the Maori Party has welfare policies that are very different from those of the Green Party.

As was the case in the early 1930s and the early 1990s, as unemployment rates increase sharply the battlefield in the coming years will be over welfare.

Under another Labour Government, or under a National Government, many of the people that Working for Families was designed in 2005 to help will become the most prominent victims of the deepening recession. When single-income families lose their single income – or the breadwinner is placed on short time – then these families will lose their Working for Families tax credits as well as losing their wages.

The simultaneous loss of two sources of income will not go down well with the "battler" class. And it is the battler class that most looks for extreme solutions when economies turn pear-shaped.

We need a change of government. For many people, by far the most attractive alternative government to a Labour-led government is a National-Green government. It would be a tragedy if the possibility of such a government were to be ruled out before the election on 8 November.

*************

krankin @ unitec.ac.nz

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