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"Party Hard, The Campaign Starts In The Morning!"

Speech marking 2nd anniversary of Greens' election to Parliament,
at Pokororo Hall, Motueka
By Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald

I am delighted to be in the Green capital of New Zealand. Pokororo is now known far and wide as the place where the Green Party scored its highest party vote in percentage terms - 41% - in the 1999 elections. Congratulations to the 46 of you who voted Green. Not only did we win this booth our vote was more than Labour and National's combined.

Our success at Pokororo, indeed our success throughout the Nelson-Tasman area, is a reflection of the dedication of our candidates Richard Davies and Mike Ward and their campaign teams and supporters. Despite the West Coast's anti-green image we also did remarkably well in that half of the electorate. But it's the Golden Bay-Tasman side where we really shine. In the 20 Tasman booths our party vote averaged 12.7% - just behind our top electorate Auckland Central, while in Golden Bay itself we achieved over 18% in 14 booths, with Onekaka running Pokororo close on 40%.

The result was more than a tremendous achievement. It made the difference to the whole election outcome. With 2835 party votes in Nelson and 2377 in West Coast Tasman you were our third and ninth highest polling electorates respectively. If either electorate had polled as poorly as our lowest polling seat we would only have six MPs instead of seven (1481 votes made the difference). If both seats had polled as poorly as our lowest polling seat we would not have made the 5% threshold and, without Coromandel, wouldn't have won any seats in parliament. Truly, every vote counts!

So the message is party hard tonight because we've got plenty to celebrate but in the morning please remember that there's less than a year to run to the next election and there's a lot of hard work to put in between now and then. Not that it can't be fun as well. In fact we have a "compulsory fun" edict in caucus. While politics is a serious business if you don't get any enjoyment from it then you're better off doing something else.

The same goes for sense of achievement. We've got a lot to crow about but we're still a long way from implementing our Green vision of an eco nation.

On this our second anniversary since the 1999 election let me summarise some of our parliamentary achievements over the last year. I know there are also many more outside the house including our success in the local body elections, including Pat O'Shea's re-election to the Tasman District Council.

* Genetic Engineering While we haven't yet secured a GE free future we did pressure the Government to take a position closer to our goal than they otherwise would have. Along the way Jeanette, Sue Kedgley and Ian presented our vision of a GE free New Zealand to over 30 well attended public meetings around the country and we performed with great credit at the Royal Commission hearings.

* Organic agriculture Ian's select committee inquiry into organics produced a unanimous report which is largely positive. We have reinforced our commitment to organics with several Green budget initiatives including a small growers organic development programme and the encouragement of organic gardens in primary schools.

* Energy efficiency strategy Following the passage of Jeanette's Energy Efficiency Bill last year and a second $3m in this year's Green budget to the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority New Zealand's first ever national energy strategy was launched in October.

* Green budget initiatives We broke new ground in 2000 when the Government's first budget included fifteen Green budget initiatives worth $15m. This year we negotiated to roll over 13 of those initiatives and added a further seven which covered a broad range of projects in the employment, environment, conservation, fisheries, bio-security and health areas in addition to organics and energy. The total package was worth $17.5M.

* US intervention in Afghanistan The Greens were the only party to vote against the parliamentary resolution totally supporting America's actions in Afghanistan and the only party to oppose sending NZ SAS troops there. While isolated in parliament our principled stand has been embraced by many members of the public, leading to a noticeable increase in membership and support.

Keith successfully forced the Government to halt its attempt to rush through secret draconian anti terrorist legislation and open it up to public submissions and debate.

* Cannabis Law Reform The Select Committee enquiry on Cannabis Law Reform finally got underway this year with some excellent evidence coming from unlikely quarters supporting the need to reform the law.

* Proportional representation for Local Bodies My baby, STV for local body elections, was finally passed into law earlier this year. It means that STV can replace first past the post at the 2004 local body elections but only if councils or communities want to make the change. I believe STV has the potential to do for Councils what MMP has done for parliament including significantly lift the level of Green representation throughout the country.

* Clean Slate Bill Nandor's Clean Slate Bill, which wipes out old minor convictions, has been languishing in select committee while the Government stalls on calling for submissions. We hope to remove the impediments to progress next week.

* Other campaigns on the boil There are many other things we are engaged in which have yet to come to fruition. Staff and MPs have put together a rail strategy which requires the Government to buy back the rail network in order to secure its future. Despite purchasing the Auckland rail corridor it has been slow to do the same for the rest of New Zealand. Sue Bradford continues to advocate for the restoration of the emergency unemployment benefit for students over the summer and even got support from the Alliance member on her select committee but the Government refuses to budge on this.

Sue Kedgley is working with the RSPCA to campaign against keeping pigs in sow crates and is taking that cause nationwide. Roland Sapsford coordinated and compiled a thorough submission on eco taxes for the recent tax review. This has had a predictable response so far but we continue to push for sanity to prevail. I have led a campaign against the Government's superannuation fund to the point of abstaining this week on the Bill to put $600m into the fund. We are taking our message around the country that the Cullen fund is not only risky because it will be gambled on the global share market but it stops the Government from reducing debt and investing more in health, housing, education and training, employment creation, greening the economy and encouraging private saving.

We must be earning our keep: membership has tripled to over 3000 since the election and we are now polling consistently over 5% and up to 9.5% in one TV3 poll.

That best poll is close to our target of 10% but a word of caution: opinion polls are very fickle creatures. After our strong reaction to the Government's responses to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on genetic engineering our polling actually eased rather than firmed, contrary to what many people expected and certainly not consistent with the feedback we get on the streets.

The streets are where we need to take our campaign to double our vote at the next election. While the mainstream media will be important we can't expect to rely on them to do our work for us. That's where everyone of you has a crucial role to play. You are our front line advocates, communicating the green message, defending our actions in parliament and leading by example in your community.

Amongst the reasons for the Belgian Greens' success in coalition are that they involve the grass roots membership in policy development and keep them in touch with what their representatives are doing. They encourage their members to check the website night or morning so that when they go to work, the shops or universities they know what is happening and why, when friends tackle them about what the Greens are up to.

Within the constraints of our limited resources we are doing our best to do both. This year's summer policy gathering in the Coromandel is an excellent opportunity for you to contribute to our election year policy. And our revamped website > is the way to keep up with the play on what's happening in parliament and in the party. The front page is now chock full with the latest highlights from the house, making it worth logging on to every day to keep up with the play.

Please make the effort. You are our best advocates and it's those 'one on one' conversations that really make the difference when it comes to changing voter behaviour.

We also need you as a conduit for feedback from the public. We need to know what they think about our positions on issues and on our strategy. We can't afford sophisticated market research like the big parties so consider yourself our focus group facilitators!

The big question is whether our supporters see us as just an environmental party or as a holistic Green Party. The answer has a significant bearing on the relationship we might have with Labour following the next election.

If our supporters only expect us to moderate the worst excesses of Labour's free trade and economic policies, in other words backing their 'corporate capitalism with a heart' approach, plus do our best for conservation and the environment, then they will want us to do whatever it takes us to achieve that goal, including going into coalition. If, however, they expect us to stand strong for our vision of an eco nation then their message will be "don't compromise your principals in pursuit of power".

Of course you never get everything you want in politics and we would be foolish to think otherwise. The question is, do you risk going into coalition where you might get some big gains but also find yourself acquiescing to policies you don't agree with, or do you stay on the cross benches where you can remain relatively pure but only pick up a few policy or budgetary crumbs?

In my conference speech this year I said that I believe our team is ready to run with the ball instead of simply offering advice from the sidelines. I also said whether or not we decide to play the game will depend on the rules and our relationship with our new team mates. To mix the metaphors, I believe you need to have gone out for a while before you start living together.

The state of our relationship is an additional criteria to the ones Jeanette spelt out in her Eco Politics speech last week. She said the right time for us to go into coalition will depend on five things:

* First, the numbers. There is no magic number but seven is too few and 20 is more than enough. Numbers are more than crude voting power, they also represent parliamentary resources, the capacity to address a multitude of issues at the same time and the mandate to demand a fair share of the decision making. * Secondly, the coalition agreement. The lesson from Europe, as well as from New Zealand First and the Alliance, is that you need to nail down at the outset the policy programme, both content and timeline, as well as the portfolios and resources to implement them so that the majority party can't back out of their commitments or undermine your achievements. * The ability to differentiate our position from the coalition partner is also vital. The current Cabinet Manual allows a party to differentiate but only until the final decision is made, at which point all coalition parties are bound by the decision. At the very least we would need to be able to decline one of our Ministers having to implement a policy we are opposed to. That will require a further change to section 3.23 of the Cabinet Manual which the Alliance initially negotiated in 1999. * Fourth, maturity on the part of our party. In other words, understanding that we will not always get our way or all of our way and being prepared to live with that where it does not involve fundamentally compromising our principles. * Fifth, strengthening our relationships with our constituency. We must be confident that we can continue to work closely with the movements in the community that we represent in parliament.

But ultimately for me it will be the quality of our relationship with Labour, and the Alliance, if it's still around, which will determine whether we go into coalition government or continue to support a Labour-led government on confidence and supply, or take a more independent stance by allowing Labour to form a government by ensuring the budget could be passed but abstaining on confidence motions.

Whatever happens, we have ruled out supporting a National government under any circumstances at the next election. While Labour is becoming less progressive every day and in some ways is similar to the 1987 Labour Government - red on the outside, blue on the inside - National is even worse.

That doesn't mean we accept Labour's sycophantic support for free trade, its unquestioning commitment to economic growth and its support for the US invasion of Afghanistan. On that issue it's worth noting that even the 87 - 90 Labour Government resolutely opposed sending New Zealand military forces under US command to the Gulf in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

On 5 December 1990 - soon after Labour lost the election that year - Helen Clark said in Parliament that "the Labour position has not changed. We seek a United Nations response. We reject direct military involvement. We feel New Zealand's interests are better suited by way of aid, medical teams, refugee assistance, and transportation than by sending fighting ships and fighting men".

What has changed? Then Labour was marking out an independent foreign policy stance even if its economic policy supported corporate globalisation. Today Labour has compromised its position on the international stage in the hope of reaching the mirage of a free trade agreement with the United States.

After being pilloried in parliament for our position on the Afghanistan invasion it was a salutary experience to discover what Labour's position was only a decade ago. The similarities with our current position are striking. The difference is that we haven't changed. We still rely on our principles and our intuition to determine our position on issues rather than on what the polls say we should do or what favours we might gain.

Which leaves us in the position, as Jeanette said last week, of "expressing confidence in a Government that supports the bombing of the desperately poor; has declared its intention to embrace genetic engineering wholeheartedly as a key part of its economic strategy with just a two year delay; proposes anti-terrorism laws that contravene basic civil rights; is intent on free trade agreements with no safeguards for New Zealand jobs; and has done almost nothing to reduce poverty or invest in tertiary education." As she said, it is becoming a serious threat to our self-respect.

It also provides us with a tremendous opportunity. We've got to get the message through to voters that how much influence and input we have in the next Labour Government is in their hands. If they want a Labour-led government but support fair trade rather than free trade, a sustainable economy rather than indiscriminate economic growth, economic self-reliance rather than corporate dependence, then we are the party for them because they can safely vote Green without risking the return of a National Government.

Both the old parties are wedded to economic growth as though it is somehow the answer to all our problems. Despite the Government's rhetoric about sustainable development and triple bottom lines they are so keen to not upset the business sector that they are not prepared to state the obvious, not all growth is good and even good growth is not an end in itself but a means of generating wealth.

Any government involving the Greens would need to challenge indiscriminate growth and thereby distinguish between growth that adds to the long term wealth of individuals and the nation and growth that subtracts from our human, social and natural capitals. We would also want to replace GDP with GMP - genuine measures of progress - which would include social and environmental indicators along with natural resource accounts.

The key to Green economics is doing more with less. Of course we want growth in some areas such as renewable energy and energy conservation, public transport, organics and import substitution. But growth isn't the only way to generate wealth. Reducing waste has the same effect. It's time we bought good old fashioned common sense strategies back in vogue: a dollar saved is a dollar earned; and waste not want not.

What lies behind those truisms is a recognition that if you don't need to exploit something in nature then you are best to leave it as is, where it is. If you do need it then you should use it as efficiently as possible to produce durable products rather than goods which take a lot of energy and resources to manufacture, have to be transported long distances and get trashed after they have been used once.

Last but not least, we want to make sure there is enough for everyone instead of some people not having their material needs met while others don't know when to say enough.

Reducing materialism and consumerism go hand in hand with eliminating poverty, and I mean that more than just in the sense of reducing material poverty. There has got to be more to life than sitting two hours a day in an Auckland traffic jam. We need to implement alternatives to one person one car. There has got to be more to life than those parents who have to work double shifts to make ends meet who hardly ever get to see their children. We would raise the minimum wage and make a commitment to full enjoyment for everyone. Yes, I mean full enjoyment not just full employment i.e. work needs to be rewarding as well as remunerative.

We will only get there if we are bold and take control of our destiny. That means doing what's best for our nation and its people and not kowtowing to the global corporates and their governments.

We will get there by believing in ourselves. By accepting that we do have a collective monopoly on common sense and wisdom. That we do have a country that is unique in so many respects, including its passionate people, and that we have the potential to forge a national identity which involves striving together, sharing together and caring together.

Believe it and it will happen. You don't have to wait until the next election. Greens will only succeed in power if the people want us to use parliament to achieve what they believe in.

I take great heart when I visit this part of the country and see so many people practising what we preach. It gives me strength in parliament to know that you are out here making the green vision a reality. We need each other and I particularly need you to find time in the next twelve months to be overtly political so that we can achieve our goal of at least doubling our representation in parliament. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their world.

Ends


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