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Greens Ready for the responsibility of government

Ready for the responsibility of government

Speech by Rod Donald at launch of Green Party 2005 Election Campaign

The fourth big issue in our campaign is the environment - the one theme that binds them all. Without a thriving environment there would be no peace, no justice, no democracy, and no future.

The very survival of the human race depends on looking after this planet, because there is only one earth. We should treat it with respect. But we don't. Instead, we abuse it at our peril, because of our greed rather than our ignorance.

People know more than enough about the destructive impact our unsustainable lifestyles and our depleting, wasteful and polluting economic systems have on the natural world. The UN commissioned Millennium Ecological Assessment is the latest attempt to wake us out of our lethargy.

Closer to home, New Zealand's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment churns our report after report which not only highlight the problems our behaviour is causing but also spell out solutions to those challenges.

What is lacking is the political will to make fundamental changes to the way we live, the way we do business and the way we run our country. The Greens are here to help! We have the political will to do what is right, not just what is popular.

But our opponents, and some commentators, such as John Armstrong in yesterday's Herald, say that our policies are too radical. What's so radical about wanting to clean up the 95% of lowland rivers that are too polluted to swim in, let alone drink from? What's so radical about keeping our waste, and animal effluent, out of those rivers and lakes?

Surely a country that sells itself, and its produce, to the world as clean, green and 100% pure ought to have national water quality standards, and mechanisms for enforcing them? If we don't we should be accused of fraud.

But being clean and green is not something we should be, and do, just for the sake of our marketing image. We must clean up our act for the sake of future generations, for the sake of the other species we share this planet with, and for our own quality of life. Our kids won't thank us if we don't.

Neither will the dolphins, seals and albatross thank us if we don't stop using fishing methods that cause their slaughter. And we need to stop destructive bottom trawling from clear felling the coral and other life forms on the sea floor.

We simply cannot afford to continue treating our oceans as a dumping grounds for heavy metals, fertiliser run-off and human sewage. And we should stop creating garbage mountains on land, especially when other developed countries are well ahead of New Zealand when it comes to implementing extended producer responsibility for products and their packaging. I'm talking about bringing back deposits on bottles. Is that so radical? Waste not, want not! It's just plain common sense.

As are all our policies. But, then again, some people seem to think that outlawing child beating is too PC! We don't. Is it politically correct to try to reduce child obesity and diabetes, or simply sensible health policy? Surely prevention is better than cure?

And a stitch in time surely saves nine when it comes to ensuring people have access to healthy, affordable housing, a quality education, including extra support for those with special needs, and a decent income, so that no child grows up in poverty. Is that too much to expect in a country that has so much wealth?

We have high expectations in the Greens, of ourselves and for our nation.

When I joined the Values Party way back in 1974 it was with the intention of one day becoming a member of parliament. I wanted to make a real difference. I still do. I believe I have achieved a lot in my nine years as an MP - we all have - but I'm not satisfied, and I won't be until all the work is done. I'm damned if I'm going to stand by and watch greed and stupidity destroy God's own country and the only earth we have.

Parliament has been a big disappointment for me. When I worked for VSA in the '80s I used to go to the House to watch question time for my lunchtime entertainment so I should have been under no illusions. But in my naïve optimism I expected that the growing ecological crisis and the obscene poverty that stalks this planet would be enough of a wakeup call for conventional politicians to focus on serious issues, instead of fixating on trivia, sensation and sleaze.

Their failure only fires me up to fight harder and makes me even more determined to get more Green MPs elected this year.

We don't go to parliament to eat our lunch, and we don't want to be in government to ride around in chauffeur-driven crown cars. We want to make a real difference.

Keith and I didn't leave our jobs at Trade Aid to stand by and watch governments shirk their responsibilities to the world's poor. We are determined that New Zealand should lift its overseas aid funding into the top half of the OECD and speak out more on human rights abuses wherever they occur.

Jeanette didn't spend 30 years researching and promoting sustainable energy and transport solutions, 30 years standing up for conservation and the environment to let this or any other government backslide on its responsibilities to the planet.

Sue Bradford came to parliament from the beneficiary and unemployed rights movement because she is committed to full employment - committed to kiwis enjoying real, satisfying jobs paying decent wages, and to ensuring benefits are lifted to bring an end to poverty.

Sue Kedgley continues her work as a dedicated campaigner on food safety, on saving our kids from greedy corporations, on helping people to be healthy and for improved animal welfare because she is passionate about these issues.

Nandor advocates for sensible drug laws in the face of hypocrisy towards alcohol and is the champion of students deserving a decent living allowance and low fees in the face of a generation of MPs who enjoyed taxpayer funded tertiary education.

The decades of local government and community arts experience Mike brings to bear in his campaigns on waste reduction, Buy NZ Made and living simply in a lush green way mean that his personal credibility carries the day with all but his most blinkered critics.

And, in three short years, Metiria has earned respect right across the political spectrum, particularly, but not only, for her forthright advocacy of the rights of tangata whenua.

Together we are a formidable team, a champion team, and we don't stop there. I hope that Catherine Delahunty, Russel Norman, Steffan Browning, Dave Clendon, Luci Highfield, Jon Carapiet and Roland Sapsford will all soon become household names too.

They are already well known in their respective fields - Catherine as a Greenpeace and anti-mining campaigner, Russel as a community activist, Steffan as Marlborough's pre-eminent organic horticulturist, Dave as a resource management lecturer, Luci as a union lawyer and rainbow activist, Jon as a GE free campaigner and Roland as a sustainable transport campaigner.

But they won't be in parliament if we don't do better on election day than we are currently polling. Today's Herald on Sunday poll has us on 4%. Yesterday's Fairfax poll has us on 6%. Our rolling average of 5% gets us back in but with only seven MPs. We've got to do better than that. And we have less than five weeks to do it.

I'm very confident we will cross that magic 5% threshold. After all we did it in 1999 against seemingly insurmountable odds. But 5% is not good enough. We need to win enough seats to give Labour the majority it needs to govern without Helen having to ask for Winston's hand.

Can you think of a worse outcome for New Zealand than Winston First holding the balance of power? Which way would he go? He claims not to know!

If Winston Peters puts Brash in the driving seat would Don keep New Zealand nuclear free? Would he end child poverty? Would he send our sons and daughters to fight in George Bush's wars?

I don't trust Dr Brash. After all he is ACT's 10th MP - soon to become their only one. I don't want him to lead our nation. Do you?

Then here's what we all have to do. We must take our message onto the streets and into the lunchrooms, the villages and the back-blocks. We need to convince every Green thinking voter that a party vote for the Greens is the best and only insurance against a Brash-Peters government.

As Jeanette said, once you explain the MMP equation to people they get the message loud and clear. Unlike first past the post, MMP governments are determined by which side is largest, not which party is biggest. So Labour plus the Greens need to win a majority of the seats.

And not just to keep Brash out of the Beehive, because, the truth is, Labour won't always do what's right without a little help from its friends.

We need to strengthen Labour's resolve, steer them in the right direction, and, on occasions, slam on the brakes to get them back on track.

In July 2002 David Lange wrote in the Sunday Star-Times that the Greens have the potential to become a significant political force. As we mourn his death let's do our best to live up to his expectations.

We offer hope to a generation. We have the policies, we have the people, we have the political integrity.

We are ready for the responsibility of government. And we are willing to share that privilege with Labour.

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