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Address in Reply Speech - Rod Donald

Address in Reply Speech
Rod Donald
Green Party Co-Leader

8 February 2000

He mihi aroha tena koutou katoa

Three years ago when I delivered my maiden speech in this house I talked of mixed emotions: elation, sadness and trepidation. There was a certain amount of nervousness as well. Today the elation is magnified. Then it was because New Zealand finally had a parliament elected by proportional representation, and it's first Green MPs. Now there are seven of us and we have been elected in our own right.

My sadness was because the National NZ First coalition deal had severely undermined public confidence in the new electoral system. That sadness has been replaced by optimism for the future of MMP as the new Labour Alliance coalition government rebuilds the damage done by the previous administration.

My trepidation remains as the Green Party now has the capacity to make or break this government. We know that a lot rests on our shoulders. We know it won't be easy. We know we won't always get it right but we are confident that overall we can succeed, both in terms of keeping faith with those who voted for us, and ensuring there is strong durable government.

This will be a balancing act. We acknowledge and relish the responsibility on the one hand to "green" this government and on the other hand not to hold it to ransom. We want to develop a relationship with the coalition which is built on trust and cooperation. We want to make a positive contribution in all the areas where we have ideas and expertise. And we believe our MPs and our party have much to offer to help the government and the country meet the challenges which are facing us.

As Jeanette has said, we will advocate strongly for what we believe in. And we won't always agree with the government. Already we have strongly opposed their anti-defection legislation as unnecessary and anti-democratic. We know we won't always get our way. For example we have called for the allocation of select committee chairs and deputies to be made in proportion to party size but have only achieved limited success.

We will regularly raise issues of concern with the government, as we did when we met the Prime Minister last week. When we stated our positions on rimu logging on West Coast Crown land, the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering, the punitive work for the dole scheme, the introduction of proportional representation for local body elections, a moratorium on motorways and funding for energy efficiency we were not making demands, contrary to interpretations by some in the media. They weren't demands because there was no threat attached. As part of the "no surprises" approach we are developing with the government it is simply imperative that we keep them informed as indeed we expect them to inform us of their priorities and concerns.

For example, it was vital that we advise the government not only of our support for the STV electoral system to be available to local authorities but also the need for rapid action if it is to be in place for next year's elections. After the last government killed off a members bill which would have given local bodies and their citizens the option of dumping first past the post in favour of proportional representation I lodged a fresh members bill in the ballot. I'm more than happy to give it to the government because, by my calculations, if legislation is not in place by May 8 then this choice will be denied until 2005.

As Jeanette Fitzsimons said, procedures for formal cooperation and consultations between the government parties and the Green Party are currently being developed and will be finalised soon. The protocol will confirm in writing that the Green Party will ensure the government has confidence and supply and that there will be a close working relationship at all levels to achieve stable and effective government.

The coalition agreement between Labour and the Alliance and the protocol between the government parties and the Greens guarantees a positive future for MMP. As I said at the outset we needed a new beginning after the shambles of the National NZ First coalition. Satisfaction with MMP is undoubtedly rising because the public do not feel betrayed by the shape of this new government.

Ensuring people got what they voted for started well before the election. In my maiden speech three years ago I said voters deserve to know the likely coalition options in advance and that they would demand to know this time round. I predicted then that the betrayal of trust that led to the formation of National NZ First coalition would guarantee that voters would not be taken in at the next election. I was right. NZ First was the only party that didn't make clear before the election its coalition preference and its support fell to less than a third of what it was at the previous election.

Conversely, the Green Party went from 1% in the polls a year out from the election to over 5% when the final votes were counted. Our election campaign has inspired a whole new generation to get involved in politics. Not only did young people vote Green they are now also joining up in droves. It is a challenge to all of us to encourage people in their twenties and thirties, and indeed their teens for that matter, because that is when I first joined the political party, to get involved in political parties and gain a sense of ownership of the political process.

We're a party which is strong on principles, both in terms of policy and process. The fact that we are here at all vindicates our decision to separate from the Alliance in the way that we did. Many people said we were naïve and foolish to meet the commitments we made at the last election but we have proved we were right.

We are also enterprising and innovative. A campaign to win votes overseas was scoffed at by our opponents but in the final analyses may well have won us that all important seventh seat.

Jeanette has outlined why we support Labour over National. For me a fundamental reason is that Labour recognises society needs good governance, that we are citizens not just consumers in a market place and that many decisions, particularly those that have long term ramifications, need democratic input rather than merely price signals.

We genuinely hope the new government will put the casino economy in its place, boost the productive sector and give the community sector the recognition it deserves. The environment must not become the Cinderella as we strive to rebuild our society. Our natural capital needs to be acknowledged along with our human capital. If we do not treat our non renewable resources, the air we breath, the water we drink and the soil which grows our food as assets rather than perpetual income then we will destroy the very basis on which our survival depends.

It is time for the business sector in particular to apply their knowledge of balance sheets and income and expenditure accounts to their impact on the natural environment and recognise that it is not sustainable to deplete productive assets let alone to externalise costs on to workers, the community or the environment without consequences.

As a country we also need to face up to the un-sustainability of our present trading situation. For five years in a row we have imported more than we have exported, culminating in a trade deficit of 3.6 billion dollars for the year to December. That is more than twice the previous highest deficit in 1984, even after one subtracts the Te Mana frigate. The answer does not lie solely in increasing exports.

Yes we can do that as Jeanette Fitzsimons has said. Going organic will boost income because of the price premiums organic produce commands. Diversifying our primary production, as is being pioneered in Southland through the Topoclimate South progranne, will create jobs as well as extra export income.

But we also need to reduce our dependence on imports. As Tim Hazeldine says in his book "Taking New Zealand seriously - The Economics of Decency" 'Imports may be the spice of life but they are not the meat and potatoes of a healthy national diet'. We are simply importing far too much that we used to make ourselves, destroying jobs in New Zealand . It doesn't make ecological sense and it doesn't make economic sense. Many of the consumer goods we are importing are only cheaper because they are made with exploited labour. Free trade has perpetuated and exacerbated this exploitation rather than addressed it. Relying solely on exports is like trying to fly with one wing. Far better that we also reduce imports as part of a self reliance strategy.

If we don't then our balance of payments deficit, highlighted as a concern in the speech from the throne, and identified as being of crisis proportions by the Deputy Prime Minister today, will only get worse. New Zealand is not paying its way in the world and instead we are selling off our assets to fund consumption. That is simply not sustainable. You would not run a business like that, or your personal finances, because you would soon be bankrupt.

The government must take the lead on this issue but individual communities can also take control of their own destiny. Throughout the last year the Green Party has promoted a Buy Local strategy up and down New Zealand as part of our strong communities policy . It has been received very positively in provincial towns because it is seen as a common sense solution to build strong communities and reverse rural de-population, high unemployment and the consequent break down of the social fabric.

Buy Local is one of the many sensible policies that we have already put into practice and hope to contribute to this parliament over the next three years. Many others are outlined in our framework for an eco nation entitled "Thinking Beyond Tomorrow".

Fundamentally we are saying that it is time to challenge growth for growths sake and ensure there is fair sustainable distribution of resources. If we don't reduce our consumption and waste, if we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, if we don't stop logging our precious native forests, if we don't stop exploiting the oceans, if we don't address the serious poverty which exists, if we don't invest in peace, if we don't put in place new measures of genuine progress, then the world will simply not be worth living in and we will have failed in our duty as elected leaders of this nation. It is pleasing to see that the speech from the throne takes first steps on a number of these concerns. But there are others that are not yet touched by this Government

The Green MPs will work as a team to support these initiatives and propose others. We will also play to our individual strengths. Amongst other things, I want to see the Waihopai Spy Base closed down and the Government Communications Security Bureau got rid of. I want to see a network of community banks established around this country to replace Trustbank that was sold from under our noses. I want to see the introduction of a packaging tax as one step to reducing the volume of waste that is currently being forced on to communities such as those surrounding Christchurch where the council is searching to find a new super dump and is forced into having to dispose of rubbish by that means, because previous Governments have not tackled the waste issue where it needs to be tackled and that is at source. Instead, councils have had put upon them responsibility for waste, but not the resources or the regulatory framework to deal with it. I want to see permission given to farmers so that they can grow industrial hemp in New Zealand, like their colleagues in Australia, Britain, France, South Africa, and numerous other countries. I want to see genuine sustainable jobs created on the West Coast to replace logging our pristine forests. We are working on a package of ideas that we are looking forward to presenting to West Coast community leaders and to the Government in the near future.

Jeanette and I are delighted to be joined by such talented new MPs. Each one will speak for themselves over the next few days about what they hope to achieve in Parliament. I would just like to say how proud we are to have five people join us who are all leaders in their own right. They will demonstrate by their leadership that not only are we a party of leaders, rather than a party of followers, but that is where this nation needs to go. We need to set an example to the people of this land, but the people also need to pick up the challenge and lead each in their own way, whether it is in their community, business, sports teams, family or at their schools. Whatever it might be, leadership is something that has been sadly lacking in recent times in New Zealand and it is what we need to get this country back on its feet again.

Ian Ewen-Street, the NO. 3 on our list, is described in this weeks Listener as one of those leaders. It called him New Zealand's most influential organic farmer, and I am sure that he will lead our campaign for New Zealand to go organic. He is also a former outward bound instructor and a geologist by profession. Sue Bradford, well known for her passionate stand on behalf of the poor and oppressed, is a highly qualified former journalist, community entrepreneur and development worker. She is committed to achieving full employment. It is something that is possible, if only we believe in it and set out to achieve it.

Nandor Tanczos brings to parliament not only his flair for hemp but a culture of enterprise and innovation backed by a hands on commitment to justice causes. He, I know, has already captured the imagination of young people throughout New Zealand. That in itself I believe is inspiring and is a hope for the future of parliamentary democracy. Sue Kedgley has many years of local government experience as well as a detailed knowledge of food safety issues and a commitment to feminism. I know that she will be a strident advocate for all of the causes she has campaigned for over the years.

Last, but certainly not least, Keith Locke is a person whose dedication to peace, justice and human rights spans a lifetime and shines through in his dedication to organisations such as Trade Aid. Keith Locke more than anyone else, can carry the mantle of a dedicated activist in this House. I know that before he was born he was probably marching for worthy causes in the womb of his mother Elsie Locke

Together we see ourselves as a third force in this parliament. Our loyalty is to our voters and everyone who wants a sustainable future for this planet.

ENDS

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