Anderton's News Conference On Alliance Split
3 April 2002 Speech Notes
News Conference On Alliance
2:30PM Wednesday, 3 April 2002
When we invited Helen Clark to speak at the Alliance conference in 1998, the Alliance made a choice.
We chose to be a constructive, co-operative and common sense partner in a progressive centre-left government.
I believe that strategy was crucial to securing the election of this government in November 1999.
The result has been a very successful government.
It is implementing policies that are genuinely moving New Zealand forward.
And the Alliance can take our share of the credit for helping to achieve that.
For some in the Alliance, the success of this government is a failure.
They want the Alliance to distinguish itself from this successful government regardless of how good the government is.
Their strategy is self-defeating; It means the Alliance can never win.
No matter how progressive the government, they would say, ‘Yes, but.’
There is nothing that Alliance MPs could achieve in this Government that would persuade our critics to say, “This is a good government, and our MPs have done as much as possible.”
Conflict over this issue has reached crisis point in recent months.
It has not been resolved.
That has not been for lack of effort.
Even the mediation process that was established was compromised by yet another leak, with the most unfortunate consequences for Greg Fortuin.
It was compromised at the very time that people who could and should have made a constructive contribution were proclaiming publicly that I was ‘disingenuous’ in wanting a solution and that I was unwilling to mediate.
The dispute is over something fundamental to political activity.
It is impossible to run a constructive, co-operative strategy in government, when senior members of the party organisation publicly disparage the Government and privately undermine it.
Although they sometimes publicly claim they support the Government, they devote their efforts to finding ways for the Alliance to distinguish itself by highlighting policies we have not achieved.
The Alliance cannot do that and simultaneously take credit for our share of success.
In March, Sandra Lee and I wrote to Alliance members seeking their support for the approach we have taken.
In the short space of time since then, we have received replies from 2121 members, out of 3730 who received our letter.
Some came back with simply an indication of support for us and a few words of encouragement.
Many were returned with lengthy, thoughtful and often moving comments.
Eighty-one per cent of members who wrote back told us they fully supported us and our commitment to a constructive, commonsense coalition.
About eight per cent felt we could do more to reconcile points of view in the organisation.
Eight per cent – 181 people – said we had lost their support.
Several members of the Alliance Council have made a great deal of media comment supposedly on behalf of the grass roots membership.
In fact ordinary members are quite capable of making up their own minds and they have done so.
They have seen through the stories they have been told.
We have carefully considered the replies we received and we have explored every possible option to restore a unified Alliance.
We have also had to reflect on the behaviour of some senior members of the Alliance Council, who have not shown any meaningful commitment to that goal.
As a result, Sandra Lee and I are sending a letter to Alliance members announcing that we will not be standing under the Alliance banner as it is currently configured at the next election.
Our commitment stands to the overwhelming majority of the membership who believe that we have played and must continue to play an important role in government.
I have called directly for their support, and that support has been given.
New Zealanders who have supported the Alliance have yearned for years for an end to the New Right agenda that tore our country and our communities apart.
This Government has proven that a fresh direction that takes people into account can be achieved without compromising the economic development of our nation.
We believe that the Government we are part of is the best Government of New Zealand in a generation.
If it is going to be re-elected, and continue to make significant progress for all New Zealanders, then Labour needs a reliable, commonsense coalition partner after the next election.
A small group of people outside the parliamentary process should now search their own consciences at this time over how much their efforts have contributed to us reaching the point we have reached today.
We gave a commitment to remain Alliance MPs until the next election, and we will honour that commitment to the letter.
We will remain as Alliance MPs.
We will honour all of our pre-election policy commitments and we will continue to represent the people who voted for us to the best of our ability.
All sides have acknowledged this will not affect the stability of the government or change the Coalition Agreement in any way.
As long as we retain the confidence of a majority of the MPs in the Alliance parliamentary caucus, we will continue as leader and deputy leader of the parliamentary party.
I will make no apology for standing at my post and remaining determined that this work continues during this parliamentary term and the next.
There are hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who welcome our achievements in Government, but who told us that they couldn’t support the Alliance as it currently presents itself to New Zealanders.
They want us to stand at the next election for a new movement.
The movement they support will offer the only prospect of a reliable, constructive and commonsense coalition partner for Labour.
It will be a voice for full employment, innovation and strong local communities in partnership with industry.
It will stand for using the fruits of economic growth to make social services stronger and to lift incomes.
And it will stand for secure communities and protection of our natural environment.
An interim management committee is being created to explore the strength of that support.
If New Zealanders come forward with the passion and commitment they have expressed to us, then a new political movement will be formed to contest the next election.
An announcement on the future of the new organisation will be made in May.
I don’t believe that the militant approach is supported by the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders.
It lacks commonsense.
It is unworkable to negotiate policy in government, find a compromise both parties can live with, and then go out and denounce the compromise for not going far enough.
The differentiation provisions of the coalition agreement provide for us to vote against each other where our policies differ fundamentally.
It functions as a pressure release valve: It means that the government doesn’t have to fall merely because there is a single issue on which we cannot agree.
The differentiation provision is not there to absolve us of the need to work as hard as possible to win our policies, including making progress where possible.
I want to address those who have said we should have tried harder to compromise inside the Alliance.
For example, it has been suggested that we could do a ‘deal’ on list places.
The Alliance has some experience of that.
We know what it is like to take into parliament people we do not have confidence in, only to see those MPs let us down, as well as Alliance voters and New Zealanders generally.
I do not want ever again to bring into parliament on my coat-tails people in whom I do not have confidence.
Nor do I intend to stand for parliament on a policy platform that is unachievable and unpopular.
As chair of the Alliance policy committee, I am convinced that the policy programme being prepared for the Alliance would have been uncompromising and unattractive.
There are far too many New Zealanders who need us, and who need the difference we can make, to let them down with policies that are unelectable.
MMP’s opponents have always claimed that MMP gave too much power to unelected party officials.
I believe that our announcement today proves they are wrong.
The majority of Alliance MPs are saying that members of the Alliance Council cannot expect to govern the country as de facto MPs, using elected representatives as mere pawns or puppets.
It is time to move on from the difficulties the Alliance has had.
We are committed to seeing out the parliamentary term and to remaining part of the government.
There is no threat to the stability of the government.
It continues to hold the confidence of the House.
It deserves to, because it is a good government, and we are proud of the contribution we have made.
The interpersonal issues had to be brought to an end before we could move forward.
The path ahead for those who don’t support is now in their own hands.
The singular issue that my colleagues and I will be pursuing now will be one of advancing the policies that we have stood for over many years and will continue to stand for now and in the future.