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Speech: Turei - If not for the Greens, then who?

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei’s speech to Green Party AGM

If not for the Greens, then who?

Introduction
Over the last few weeks I’ve had a glimpse of the future and I’ll tell you what, it looks absolutely beautiful.

With our education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty, I’ve travelled to schools all over the country.

I’ve met hundreds of kids - all electric with potential. Tiny people filled to the brim with hopes and dreams, and mud and marmite, and craziness and irreverence, and childhood.

And the coolest thing of all is they are completely politically colour blind.

None knew there was an election this September.

While the pollsters obsess about who’s voting for who, these kids don’t stop for a moment to think whether the green person, or the red person, the blue or the purple person would be best at running the country.

That’s adult business because, when it all comes down to it, they trust us to get on with it and do the right thing.

They trust us….

That could break your heart if you let it.

Well I’ve got a message for those kids: The Green Party takes your trust very, very seriously and we are here today to honour it. We have you at the heart of everything we do.

We know it’s not possible to run rough shod over the environment, to trash the RMA, if we’ve got children at our heart.

We know that it is not possible to let our rivers, our awa, be poisoned; if we’re thinking of their future.

We know that you simply can’t build a smarter economy if you deny whole suburbs full of children the opportunity to reach their potential.

The kids I’ve met wouldn’t dream that decisions are being made today, by those they trust, that will make their world a more dangerous place when they grow up.

It wouldn’t cross their minds that the Government would leave them out of its plans for a brighter future.

They trust us. And so I promise those kids, and all of you here today, that I treasure that trust and I will not betray it. Because, if not for the Green Party, what kind of future will our children have?

Who, if not the Greens, will stand up for those children?

We can win

Forty years ago, the Values Party led the debate in New Zealand with what is the most profound new idea of the last century – that we live on a finite planet with finite natural resources.

This simple idea is changing the course of human history.

And it’s led to the point today where the Green Party is looking forward to being a major part of a new progressive Government.

We are ready for that role.

The Green Party is strong, we are prepared and we are ready. Today we stand on the cusp of change.

Together, we are building the biggest Green team ever to fight the election this September. We are polling the highest we have ever polled four months out from an election – 12 % on average - twice what we were polling last time.

Our goal of 15 per cent - 20 Green MPs - is even starting to look quite modest.

We have a vibrant line-up of candidates who will forge a new era of long term sustainable thinking in
Government – candidates who bring both experience and fresh ideas.

We have proven leadership.

We have led the opposition and set the political agenda, winning ground on environment and inequality issues.

We’ve pushed so hard that even the National Party is talking about poverty now, even if that’s through the filter of the deserving and the undeserving poor.

We’ve lead the political fight against crony capitalism, like the SkyCity deal, cash-for-access Cabinet Clubs, and we have shone the spotlight on John Key’s habit of backing the wealthy over the rest.

And while leading the opposition to the Government, we have also been able to work with them to advance good green change. Our MoU with National has delivered the national cycle way, the Tui mine clean up and nearly 300,000 New Zealander’s homes have been insulated.

But with 600,000 homes still damp, cold and uninsulated we still have a job to do. That is why I announced earlier this week our new election promise to restart the Warm Up New Zealand Home Insulation scheme, and over the next three years insulate another 200,000 homes. Good green change is on the way.

We have delivered fresh new thinking on the big issues for New Zealand households.

Our Home for Life Policy offers a genuine pathway to homeownership and addresses the declining rates of homeownership, especially among lower and middle income New Zealanders.

Our Schools at the Heart programme, helps remove the barrier of inequality where kids are 5 days a week – at their school. Our hubs will offer disadvantaged kids healthcare and social services at school, connecting families to their kids’ learning.

Our NZ Power scheme will stem the flow of power prices rises under National and cut $300 for household power bills; and our Solar Homes package will liberate Kiwis from rising power prices and deliver real sustainable energy freedom.

We are on the edge of history. But the edge is no place to pause for a breath.

Yes we’ve set the agenda; we’ve pulled the far right a few centimetres towards us on some things, but history reminds us there is only so far those guys will go.

While John Key acknowledged that new babies need a financial boost in the early weeks of life, he reserved that help only for babies whose parents had a job.

The rest, the poorest babies born into the poorest homes, he left out in the cold.

The day a newborn baby is judged unworthy of the support given all other babies, just because of the family they’re born into, is a dangerous day for Aotearoa New Zealand.

We must not let these insidious Victorian notions of the deserving and undeserving poor infect our moral identity.

Yes, National gave free doctors’ visits to more kids in the budget. Great! But was it just me, or did anyone else wonder why it had taken so long to do that?

And then they stopped short of giving free healthcare to all kids. Why stop at age 13? Do they seriously think teenage hood is all sunshine and roses and no stubbed toes?

You and I know that it’s not.

Healthy teens, healthy futures

New Zealand doesn’t have a great record of looking after the health of our teenagers. We’ve got one of the highest rates of teen suicide, and teenage pregnancy in the developed world.

One in four teenagers put off going to see a doctor when they need to.

Girls, and young people from poor neighbourhoods, Māori and Pacific teens, are the most likely not to go see their GP when they need to.

So let me make this major election commitment to our teenagers today.

In Government the Green Party will extend free doctors’ visits to all New Zealanders up to the age of 18.

Of course it should be free to go to the doctor! No child should ever be prevented from going to their GP because of the cost, even if they’re a teenager.

Just this week Bill English told a conference that he had agreed to the free doctors’ visits for kids in the budget because it was cheap. “Kids that age don’t go to the doctor anyway” he said.

Well, teenagers do get sick. In fact, they have complicated needs, like mental illness, and sexual health issues, which can damage them forever if left untreated.

These kids shouldn’t be written off as too expensive to help.

By extending free doctors’ visits to teenagers, we will send a message to those young adults that they matter at a time in their lives they really need to hear it.

By ensuring teenagers can get to the doctor when they need to we will reduce hospital admissions, we will help prevent unwanted pregnancies, and give them the support they need to navigate young adulthood.

And we’ll take the pressure off parents who, let’s face it, are already tearing their hair out during one of the most stressful times in their child’s life.

It’s bloody hard being a teenager, no matter where you live or who your parents are.

And it’s bloody hard for their parents too.

Our policy will cost just $29 million a year. It will help make our teens healthier. And it will help them to become stronger and more resilient adults.

Free doctors’ visits are just one step among many we need to take to ensure young people have a good life and grow up into a healthy future.

The Green Party will make sure all children get the health care they need after-hours too.

We commit to working with doctors and PHOs about what they need to provide free after-hours visits for all children up to 18. All children need free healthcare 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As any parent knows, kids need lots of time, energy and resources spent on them if they’re to have the best shot at a happy childhood and a productive life as adults.

And as parents also know, the return on the investment they make in their children can be enormous.

As a country, we can make a serious dent in the $8 billion a year we spend on the preventable cost of poverty.

Governments can choose to put in what young people need to grow up healthy, secure, educated and prepared for productive lives.

Or, they can choose not to and we will all suffer the consequences.

That is the stark choice New Zealanders will face on September 20 this year.

Two very distinct options for Government will be on the table.

Voters can choose National, and its Cabinet Clubs, Charter Schools and crazy hangers on, and we will all watch while a tiny few get richer as a result.

Or we can have a truly Progressive government committed to giving everyone a fair go, with the

Green Party a major player making sure that kids, jobs, and the environment are at the heart of everything we do.

If that is indeed your choice then the Green Party will have to be strong to have the kind of influence that our children need.

We have lead as the third largest political party in New Zealand; built a genuine, and growing Green movement. Transformation to a just and sustainable country is not some strategic political project – it is a lifelong commitment. There are no shortcuts to real change.

We have worked hard over past years so we can change the direction of our country for the years ahead. And that starts with changing the government on September 20.

The Green Party is the only major political party prepared to fight for the rights of all children to be treated equally.

We are the only party who will put our people and our environment at the heart of our economic management.

Who else other that the Green Party will fight for a smarter, better, fairer and more sustainable future, one that lives up to the expectations of our children?

Who will honour the trust of our children to get it right for them?

We will. The Green Party will.

ENDS

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