The Spectre Of A Right Wing Coalition Government
Jeanette's Speech To Public Meeting Last Night
Six years ago the Greens came to Parliament - at first three of us, then seven. And things began to change. Issues were discussed that had never been raised in the House before. The old ways of thinking and acting practised by the old parties were challenged.
The logging of old growth forests on the West Coast became a regular matter for debate as we interpreted to Parliament the views of those camped out in the trees in a cold wet winter. And eventually the logging stopped.
We asked why ships carrying plutonium and high level nuclear wastes were allowed through our so-called nuclear free zone and introduced amendments to the Act to stop them. All other parties voted that down.
We asked why it was counted as a great success that the Crown balance sheet had just grown by $3 billion dollars when that turned out to be made up of student loan debt to the government and a revaluation of state houses because they could now earn market rents!
We raised issues of dioxin before most of Parliament could spell it and linked environmental contamination with ill health.
We asked why we were spending $64 million a year to prosecute adults and give them criminal records for personal use of a drug but doing so little to break the crime rings that peddle drugs to children and spending so little on keeping children safe from drugs.
We asked why so many homes were cold, damp and uninsulated and why NZ wastes so much energy and we introduced and had passed legislation to change that.
In the last term we have asked why we are letting a foreign owned company run down our rail system, close services and fail to maintain tracks and we put forward a proposal to regain control of our rail network, invest in it and use it to reduce energy use and get big trucks off the roads.
We've asked why we have only ever had a roading strategy when we need a sustainable land transport strategy and over the summer we negotiated such a strategy with the Government, including ring fenced funding for public transport, alternatives to roading, cycling and walking facilities.
We have brokered agreements across the House to amend the new Health legislation so that it will not be thrown out and replaced when there is a change of government and we've got agreement from all parties to a sensible change to the Rating Act that is now saving money for ratepayers across the country.
And we have constantly and repeatedly asked why there is such a rush to allow the release of GE into our farms and our environment when non-one wants to buy GE food and it will destroy our main marketing advantage and our ability to sell at a premium the clean, green, GE Free food the rest of the world is crying out for.
Our MPs are seven people who are all experienced campaigners for issues we believe in. We have stuck to the issues and not wasted time on petty point scoring and mudslinging and Parliament has not been the same since.
These changes are happening all over the world as Green parties grow in strength. Just last Saturday the Tasmanian Greens scored 18.4% in the state elections and increased their representation from 1 to 4 or 5 in a Parliament of 25. That result is the highest by a Green party anywhere in the world but in Belgium, in Germany, in Sweden and throughout Europe, Green is the colour of the future.
Over the six years I've been in Parliament I've seen two coalitions formed and the smaller party destroyed in each case. We have learned the parliamentary system through holding the balance of power and supporting the Labour led government on confidence and supply. Thirty pieces of legislation including key issues like Employment Relations and ACC have passed only because of our support but we have also voted against some of Labour's bills - notably the so-called "Electoral Integrity" Bill.
I think the sight of a Deputy PM leaving his party while still claiming to be its Parliamentary leader have shown we were right when we said that couldn't work.
So we are in a good position now to add to our team of experienced MPs a new intake of community based activists, all expert in their fields. Let's look at what that team could add to a new government.
Clean air and water
Transport - rail
With all this you couldn't possibly say we were a single issue party. But that's the way we have been portrayed, because we have said a continuation of the moratorium on commercial GE release is a necessary condition for support of, or participation in, any government.
Over four years now we have educated and built awareness of the risks and benefits of the genetic revolution. We have argued that genetic science and even genetically engineered organisms in a contained lab can benefit us with new knowledge, new diagnostic tools and new medicines.
But that transgenic organisms are too unpredictable to release into the environment or our farming from where they can never be recalled. Because these new crops and animals can have unexpected and dangerous side effects the world does not want to eat them and is prepared to pay a good premium to get food that is not contaminated by them.
The formation of the Sustainability Council has shown that this is not a fringe issue. Their main issue is the damage to our markets and our economy if we gave up our ability to produce what the world really wants. Their scientist, professor Garth Cooper, has said that, as a previous member of an ERMA committee, he was not confident that ERMA was equipped to protect New Zealand.
Labour's position rests on their assertion that we have the strictest regulatory system in the world. That belief has been seriously challenged by Corngate. Whatever you believe about what was in the corn, the record shows more than a month of official chaos and confusion. The eventual decision was to resolve the issue by setting an allowable level of GE contamination in any batch of imported seed while allowing it to be called GE Free.
What is less well known is that the Government itself ordered no testing. They relied on the testing ordered by the seed company and when the testing lab told them it had more test results and that it believed it had discovered the definite presence of GE, the Government did not even ask for those results. This is what enabled it to "reassess" the results it did have and decide that Genescan, the internationally recognised testing company was wrong about what it had found; ERMA's assessment was wrong; the Ministry for the Environment's assessment was wrong. It also enabled it to give us a huge sheaf of papers last week in response to our request for all documents, which did not include positive evidence of contamination - because they had never bothered to ask for it.
The Corngate story has faded from the news, leaving the lasting impression of the PM's incandescent anger and categorical denials that there was any contamination or any cover up. But the government response has raised more questions than it has answered. In particular, it makes me very, very afraid of allowing this regulatory system to handle arrangements for release of GMOs.
A few weeks ago the only real question for this election was whether Labour would have the numbers to govern alone or whether they would need to work with the Greens. But Labour has campaigned to destroy the vision many had of a Labour-Green government with its extraordinary position that having just one policy that we insisted must be part of such a government would rule out a coalition. In the process they have seriously damaged their own poll ratings as well as ours and created confusion among voters who are now casting their votes all over the place as they seek a sharing of power that will give some balance to Labour.
People didn't vote for MMP in 1996 so they could end up with an homogenised government where everyone agreed all the time with the Leader. They voted for sharing power, for consultation, for more voices round the Cabinet table so that a major party could never again do what Labour did in the eighties or National did in the nineties.
In a desperate bid for absolute power Labour called us pathetic, fringe, Luddites, anti-science, against growth and unready for Government, and paid thousands of dollars to tell the country our policies will lose jobs without ever being challenged to say how. We have not returned the name calling but we have refused to budge on our one bottom line.
Tomorrow you will see ads in the main dailies funded by the anonymous big business backers of the Life Sciences Network. They will feature the young talented scientist, Margie Gilpin, whose work was destroyed in the Lincoln lab break in last January. They will imply that the Greens somehow supported this stupid action and that we would damage the careers of such people. What they won't tell you is that Dr Gilpin's work could continue under the Greens' policy. It was in a contained lab and although it used GE processes in the lab it was not designed to lead to the release of a transgenic organism. It is just one example of the many uses of genetic science which can remain contained in the lab.
The ad will refrain from quoting my press release after the attack which condemned the break in and will not raise the interesting question of how an outsider could have got past the considerable security and why the police didn't really bother to investigate and still have no idea who was behind it.
Particularly, the ad won't tell you about the many scientists whose funding has been withdrawn because of the rush to do mainly GE work. It won't tell you of the bright future our scientists could have if we positioned ourselves as leaders in the science that underpins sustainability and which could make the "clean green" brand a reality.
I want to know who is funding these ads designed to attack us - is it the multinational corporations who have the most to gain from release of GE in NZ or is it government money sourced from those Crown Research Institutes who support and largely make up the Life Sciences Network? AgResearch, Crop & Food Research, Forest Research, HortResearch are all listed members. Voters have punished Labour for their vehement attacks on their most likely partner in government and Labour support has crashed from a high of 56% in one poll to a low of 41% yesterday.
The kaleidoscope has been shaken and other small parties are now being considered as coalition partners. Let's look at their record.
Both Peter Dunne's fundamentalist Christian party and NZ First have consistently voted with National over the last six years. They have both voted for a less precautionary position on GE even than Labour. Peter Dunne voted against more than sixty bills in the last parliament and voted against the Government on every confidence motion.
It's hard to guess what price United would extract for its support for Labour, as they are very light on actual policy but their moral conservatism is unlikely to sit well with Labour . We know Winston extracts a very high price for his support which is why he has been Labour's last choice in the House in this term. In return for supporting Labour's fund to invest our super savings in the overseas stock market and the anti-defection bill Winston demanded and got the badly-drafted pre-Christmas bill on making areas alcohol free. What would Winston squeeze from Labour in return for his support? After all, he's campaigned this election on just three policies. Will Labour agree to cut off the infusion of new blood that immigration brings to this country? Will it remove all reference to the Treaty from legislation? Will it tackle crime by building the dozens of new jails necessary to house all the people Winston wants to put away?
Any deal between Winston and Labour must inevitably wreck Winston's credibility - or Labour's. More likely, both would be irreparably damaged.
Which brings me back to the credibility of the Green Party.
No-one should be fooled by Labour's spin that the moratorium would stay in place and the Greens would "bring the government down" in 14 months time. Given their choice of partners, they will find it very easy to extend the moratorium and run a co-operative full term government. It doesn't cost any money, it doesn't stop any NZ research and the only people likely to have a GE organism ready for release in the next three years are the multinationals.
We have worked with Labour before without agreeing with them on everything and we can work with them again. The pundits have devoted much time in this campaign to looking at the permutations of which parties could work in coalition with each other but one thing is certain. Labour and the Greens are the only possible combination that can form a Government that will deliver policies that improve our quality of life, while preserving our environment.
The spectre of a right wing coalition forming the next government of New Zealand has become a distressing possibility over the last few days. It would be a tragedy if Labour's desperate grab for absolute power backfired and made this unholy alliance of the right a reality.
We hope Labour - and the people of New Zealand - realise the danger before it is too late.