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Donald Campaign Launch.: Why Settle For Less?

7 July 2002

Why settle for less?
2002 Election Campaign Opening
Speech Notes
Rod Donald - Green co-leader Auckland

What a line-up, what a team! 13 more good reasons to party vote Green. Wait, there are more! I would like every candidate in the hall to stand up and take a bow.

We're not only very proud of you, but honoured to have such a talented team of individuals prepared to represent the Green Party at this year's election. You are real people willing to be politicians rather than politicians trying to be real people.

Are they scary?

You bet!

Perhaps that's why our opponents are again attacking our people rather than our policies. Remember at the last election National's assaults on Nandor and Sue Bradford? They backfired badly, helping boost our party vote to over five per cent.

This time Helen Clark has helpfully highlighted the extraordinary diversity of our list. Did you hear her disparaging remarks about Metiria and Christchurch Central candidate Matt Morris?

Former Labour PM David Lange was also very helpful in when he wrote in the Sunday Star Times last weekend that "unlike National, [the Greens] do more than offer a variation on the theme played by Labour. And they have the potential to become a significant force."

He added "many in Labour and National cannot stand the sight of them. Their reaction brings to mind the response of the political establishment in days long past to the first appearance of Labour members of parliament in the house. Like Labour of old, the Greens are a threat to the established order."

Indeed we are. Sue and Nandor successfully broke political convention three years ago and helped to make parliament truly a house of representatives.

But now that we have a former Goth and an anarcho-feminist in our midst you've both become mainstream!

In fact, it happened long ago. Sue convinced the sceptics early on with her work on the Employment Relations and ACC Bills. In one year she went from being portrayed as a rabble-rousing street brawler to being judged Politician of the Year by both Radio NZ and the NZ Herald.

Nandor has earned the respect of friend and foe alike by quietly, confidently getting on with his parliamentary duties as well as his networking in the community. And so it has been for all seven of our MPs.

We've worked extremely hard over the last two and a half years. And we've got a solid record to show for it.

Labour is making a lot of noise about what a stable, effective government it's run over the last two and a half years.

But who gave it that stability?

That's right, we did!

And we did it without losing our identity.

The Labour-led government implemented many worthwhile measures during the last term. We were pleased to make that possible. We gave them supply by voting for their budgets. We backed them on confidence motions. We were the only party to support them on 30 bills, including Employment Relations, ACC, Paid Parental Leave, Property Relations, the marine farming moratorium and ending logging on West Coast Crown land.

We worked hard on amendments to those bills, and others, to ensure they are better than they would have been.

Are those the actions of a 'destabilising' force in politics?

We have lent stability to the labour-led government - but we have not sold-out our principles along the way

When this government went too far, we made our objections known.

We opposed the so-called free trade agreement with Singapore which has led to a trade deficit blow out of $196 million in its first year, the equally disastrous Electoral Integrity Act and the Cullen Superannuation Fund, which is both extremely risky and a massive opportunity cost to New Zealand.

Once, when Labour wouldn't listen, we even co-operated with National to get improvements to the health reforms, to ensure that the underlying causes of illness would be addressed and that there would be quality standards across the whole health sector.

Two of our own bills passed - Jeanette's Energy Efficiency Conservation Act and my Single Transferable Vote option for local body elections. Sue Bradford's bill to restore the emergency unemployment benefit for students was defeated by Labour and the Alliance, despite both parties being outraged when National took it away.

And they both also voted against Jeanette's bill to extend New Zealand's Nuclear-free Zone to 200 miles. Four others - Keith's International Treaties Bill, Nandor's Clean Slate Bill, his Industrial Hemp Bill and Jeanette's Traffic Reduction Bill have been carried over to the next parliament.

We also initiated several select committee enquiries: into organics, climate change, human rights and cannabis. And we negotiated three Green Budgets worth a total of $55million, which boosted support for organics, authors, biosecurity, conservation awareness, energy efficiency, environmental protection and education, health, justice and youth drug education.

Have we made a difference?

Yes we have.

We added value to the last Labour-led government. I have no doubt that we will add considerable value to the next one. I personally hope we will also have the opportunity to be part of that government. Whether that happens depends on a number of factors.

We will only contemplate coalition if we hold the balance of power, can negotiate a good coalition agreement, and have enough MPs to make it work. That means Labour will need to modify its stand on the commercial release of GE, the party membership will need to be satisfied with the agreement and the voters will need to support us in droves.

The signs are good. Out on the streets the feedback is great. Turnouts at meetings are bigger than ever before. Our TV opening and print adverts are cutting through the clutter. And the polls are overwhelming. Since taking our stand on GE we have leapt from five per cent to a record high of 10.8 cent in one poll. Over the four main polls our average is now up to 8.5 per cent. That makes our target of 10 per cent both realistic and achievable.

But are you satisfied with that?

Well, I'm not either.

If we want all eight of those stunning new candidates you have just heard to join our seven MPs then we need to shift our goal to 12 per cent. That means 264,000 party votes. Last time more than 106,000 New Zealanders gave us their party vote. Another 53,000 supported our candidates but not our party.

One of our biggest challenges is to convince all those people who voted for a Green candidate last time to party vote Green this time.

We can do it. We are stronger than ever before. Our membership has grown by 400 since we effectively launched our election campaign on May 23. We have 56 constituency candidates, our highest number ever, and another 15 who are list only, including one in London and one in Sydney.

Thank you for what you've already done. But we need more money and we need every one of you on the campaign trail for the next three weeks. That's all we've got: three weeks to get our message across. And getting it across directly is vital because once voters hear our policies first hand rather than filtered or distorted they quickly see how practical our policies are and how principled we are.

What's is the single most important issue in this election?

Is it health?

Law and order?

Keeping GE in the lab?

Education?

We say 'yes' to all the above, and more.

The single most important issue is: the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Not just whether we should play God and embrace GE. But whether we are going to stop talking about child poverty and unemployment and poor health and the education crisis and the brain drain and the state of the railways and the fragility of the economy and start doing something about them.

New Zealanders face a simple choice on July 27 - either they give Labour absolute power to rule without any checks or balances, or they give the Greens enough support to keep the Clark government under control and heading in the right direction.

Remember what happened last time Labour governed alone? Some of the front bench faces may have changed since the Lange Douglas era of the 1980s but five of those ministers who sold off state assets and cut taxes for the wealthy remain in power.

After the election it will be our responsibility to put the brakes on Labour where we need to. I'm talking here about so-called free trade, and about foreign ownership.

We must be there to strengthen Labour's resolve where it counts on issues such as child poverty and valuing teachers properly.

And we must steer them in the right direction on key goals such as buying back the rail track and giving tertiary students a living allowance.

Let me end by asking you one more question - and I want to hear your answer and I want the people on the street and around the country to hear your answer:

Should - we - settle - for - less?

Party vote Green.

ENDS

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