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robson-on-politics Fri 12 September

robson-on-politics Fri 12 September

A special edition of robson-on-politics on our conference, just eight days away, and on how the Progressives made eight steps forward on problem gambling: a story the media didn't report.

Progressive conference:

Ten reasons to come to Waipuna Conference Centre, September 20 - 21 I'll give you ten reasons why you should be at the Progressives' inaugural conference on the weekend after this one in Mt. Wellington, Auckland. Full info at or ring 09 273 8150.

Delegates are welcome to all sessions, while anyone can attend what most interests them: the Leader's Address at 1:30pm on Saturday or the 2 p.m. session of the Sunday on "Early intervention and being anti-drugs".

Reason #1. We've had an independent progressive Left party in Parliament since Jim Anderton resigned from the majority Labour government in 1989 in protest at the then unemployment rate 7.3% and rising, a massive state asset sales programme and a loss of hope. The Progressives' number one priority is a full employment economy. Now that Labour depends on us to form a coalition under MMP, come and find out why the present 15-year-low unemployment rate of 4.7% isn't good enough for us and how we plan to keep the pressure on Labour to move toward zero unemployment. See:

Reason #2. In our MMP Parliament, there is one big party and six minor parties of which just one - the Progressives - has met the challenge of actually making it into the Cabinet room. The Progressives judge every education and health policy proposal against one criteria: Does it make education and health services more accessible? If the answer is yes, we support it. When Labour proposed recently to let tertiary institutions raise fees significantly, the Progressives strongly resisted because we fear higher fees will act as a deterrent on students getting additional education and training which isn't in the interest of building a world class economy and society. See:

Reason #3. Under MMP a party that is really serious about helping to support families and those in need, leaving no one behind, will have an impact. The Progressives are in Cabinet and it was our leader, Jim Anderton, who managed to make sure that when WellTrust's good work was about to be stubbed out, the investment in its work was made by the coalition. See:

Reason #4. Delivering strong, safe communities requires a commitment and an investment by government. In Budget 2003, it was the Progressive Party's budget bids that included a series of measures to fight youth drug problems and back suicide prevention strategies. Of the seven parties in Parliament, the most serious one about delivering safe communities actually managed to get the funding and the investment made. See:

Reason #5. Parties like ACT, which had the opening to enter into government in 1998 when the National/NZ First coalition imploded, could have gone into government and delivered strong anti-drugs policies. Instead parties like that choose to stay in Opposition issuing press statements. In contrast, it was the Progressive leader Jim Anderton who made sure that after just a few months as chairperson of the Ministerial Group on Drugs & Alcohol that 'P' was re-classified into a Class A drug. And it is the Progressive part of the coalition government that is keeping Labour's feet firmly on the ground on so-called "cannabis law reform." See:

Reason #6. A Progressive Party must be the most optimistic and positive about New Zealand's future, not a reactive party of Opposition. Our first session, on Saturday morning, traces developments in the core areas of employment, education, health, Maori development, drug use and housing over the past 30 years and how a progressive New Zealand might look in 30 years' time.

Reason #7. Nurturing and then building intelligent partnerships between firms, across industry sectors including representatives of employees and Maori organizations and within and across regions is the great way for the coalition government to help leverage the most of New Zealanders' talents and the country's competitive advantages. That is why the CTU President, Ross Wilson is a keynote speaker on Saturday morning along with Sir Howard Morrison, who has spent the past quarter of a century building up the capacity and skills of young people

Reason #8. A Parliamentary democracy is informed by participation in decision making which all starts within political parties' workshops. On Saturday, there'll be policy workshops on regional development, education issues, safer communities, the ownership and development of New Zealand resources, positive settlement in New Zealand, GE, Pacific development and more.

Reason #9. If MMP is to survive, then small parties will have to desist from promising to bring down any government that doesn't do everything that they want. For the benefit of the public, but also parties struggling to adjust to MMP, Sunday will include a panel debate on how successful coalition government actually works with Margaret Wilson and Paul Swain joining myself and Jim Anderton.

Reason #10. The tenth reason is to have fun with other like-minded people who care passionately about New Zealand and are serious about contributing progressive policies for our country which requires the patience, wisdom and a huge sense of commitment. See:

Responsible gambling

This week was an important example of MMP at work. In the third reading of the Gambling Bill on Thursday, I said that we were voting in favour because the bill represents eight steps forward. By contrast the Greens would rather that the eight steps forward not be made at all, just so they can have the satisfaction of putting out a press statement accusing Labour of being "arrogant". As the media did not report our position, here is my speech yesterday: See also: and and

Mr Speaker,

As I noted in this House earlier this week, it is with a sense of both pride and disappointment that the Progressive Party is supporting the Gambling Bill.

The disappointment is due to the fact that - despite the three centre-left parties holding 63 seats in this Parliament - we've not got as much to celebrate in the battle against problem gambling as we ought to have had given our absolute majority here.

The Progressives' position is perhaps best summarized by Richard Northey, a former member of Parliament and now chair of the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Mr Northey says the Gambling Bill before us represents "eight steps forward" because it provides a tougher regime to control gambling than the present law of this land. That is why the Progressives support the Bill. We don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In the last Parliament, when the first Clark-Anderton minority coalition relied on the Greens as our Supporting Party on confidence and supply, I was confident we could have made ten steps forward to tackle problem gambling.

Like the Progressives, the Greens know problem gambling is a clearly identifiable cause of poverty and misery to some of our most vulnerable families.

There is no doubt that the values and concerns of most New Zealanders includes an intelligent compassion to protect the children of problem gamblers, to protect the spouses of problem gamblers and to enhance safer communities. The three centre left parties in Parliament are here to represent the values of most New Zealanders and we have a majority between us in Parliament.

But sometime earlier this year the Green Party walked out of its negotiations with Labour on the then Responsible Gambling Bill.

The Greens walked away because they weren't getting everything that they wanted and now vow to bring the Bill down altogether.

They would rather that the eight steps forward being made here today not be made at all just so they can have the emotional satisfaction of putting out a press statement accusing Labour of being - I quote - "arrogant".

But Labour is the only party in this House they could ever possibly enter into a future coalition government with. The responsibility MPs have to their constituents and voters is to not walk away and leave a vacuum.

The Green members have been an Opposition Party since their inception as a Parliamentary party, just like ACT. And just like ACT that is a conscious choice because the opportunities have been there but rejected!

The Greens could have entered into government at any time over the past four years.

Indeed Labour and the Greens have the numbers between them to form a Majority Government - a luxury neither the first Clark-Anderton coalition nor the Labour Progressive coalition today have ever had - but still the Greens choose to be over there.

The honourable member, Sue Bradford, talked in this House yesterday of the arrogance of Labour - a party that won over 41% of the vote last election - two times more than any other single party.

Yet when the Greens walk out of negotiations with Labour, Labour and the Progressives have no choice but to find at least one other Opposition Party to allow us to enact legislation.

In other words, to make eight steps forward on Problem Gambling - as we are - we've had to turn to a conservative party: In this case United Future.

That is a party led by the Honourable Peter Dunne who was elected as a Labour MP in 1993 but in the subsequent Parliamentary term somehow ended up in Jim Bolger's National-United coalition Cabinet! That is how conservative they are!

Dare I suggest to the Greens, that perhaps your own position on this bill has been arrogant. Arrogant means having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one's own merit or ability.

Surely the test of any party's merit or ability is the success they have in getting their policies actually enacted and representing the people that voted for them.

People voted Green to get tough action on problem gambling and to promote the environment. How much will the Greens ever be able to deliver to their voters when even when they have the numbers to form a Majority Coalition with Labour without the need of any other party they still can't deliver.

The Progressives, in conjunction with organizations tackling poverty, have serious concerns about Internet gambling. We have accepted the assurances that this will be monitored closely, but we ourselves will also be watching carefully.

We want to cut, then cap, the number of pokies around New Zealand and are disappointed the conservative United Future Party didn't vote with us when I introduced an SOP on the issue. But I do thank the Greens for voting with the Progressive SOP.

We in the Progressives reject note acceptors to make it easier for problem gamblers to throw their families' dollar notes into gaming machines.

We thank the Greens for supporting us. But, again, we wonder how United Future will justify its stance on gambling when they are supposed to be pro-family. However I also note that United Future does not support the Progressives' pro-family four weeks minimum annual leave Bill. Apparently the only families they wish to strengthen are rich families.

I give notice to Parliament, Standing Orders don't permit me to introduce a Private Member's Bill to reform gambling laws this year - but from next year I will gamble on the Private Member's Ballot lottery to get a Bill up that really will be pro-families and do more to protect families from problem gambles.

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