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Fitzsimmons Speech: Politics for Beyond Tomorrow

Politics for Beyond Tomorrow

Green Party Campaign Launch Auckland, 25 October, 1999

Speech given by Jeanette Fitzsimons, MP, Co-leader

We Greens begin this election campaign with an unexpected responsibility.

The question of who gets to form the next government may well be determined by the Green vote. We are not exactly holding the balance of power, as we are not prepared to play one party off against another as Winston did. But it is clear that on current polling Labour and the Alliance cannot form a government, and that with us they may be able to.

So voters have the right to know: what is the unique feature the Green Party brings to this election? It is that we think beyond tomorrow; because we are not afraid to face the truth.

All other parties are in denial. The world is in denial. The election is being fought on issues like whether some people should have $20 more a week (and of course they should) or others should pay a few cents more tax (and they should, too); whether the markets will take fright; what will happen to 90 day bill rates; and whether you can be prime minister without having children.

Meanwhile Auckland is choking on its solid waste, periodically runs out of water and energy and is gridlocked with cars. Our children have to cover up from neck to knees to go swimming because we have damaged the ozone layer for the next couple of generations. Global climate change threatens worse storms, hurricanes and droughts, the spread of foreign pests and diseases and sea level rise that will swallow whole islands and coastal areas. Poisons never known on earth before are giving us cancer and damaging our immune systems. Our children's children may never see a kiwi or a kaka, and it's getting harder all the time to catch a fish for tea.

Every single living system on the planet is in decline and we are still in denial that we humans are systematically destroying our own life support. It is not only the extraordinary and unique beauty of the earth and its plants and animals that are being lost; it is the foundation of our economy - the basis of our livelihood.

It's not that people don't know, and its not that they don't care; but the problems seem so overwhelming, they don't see what they can do about it. They need a vision and practical leadership. The Greens can provide both.

The world we want to create is not one where technocrats make the rules to fix the problems, but where everyone feels empowered to live their own lives as though the future mattered. A world where individuals, corporations and governments take responsibility for living within our environmental income. Where we earn our living in the world sustainably, adding value to our agriculture with organics, to our industry with Cleaner Production, to our tourism by demonstrating a way of life that cares for people and the planet and is the envy of other nations.

That means replacing the competition model with co-operation. It means valuing every citizen and investing in their health and education. It means rebuilding community structures and supporting local economies. It means recognising there is more to life than money. It means thinking beyond tomorrow.

We have no illusions that governments can force people to respect each other and the environment. For the Green movement taking part in government has always been just one field of action. NGOs, local government, citizens' groups and green business are all essential if we are to turn around the juggernaut of social and environmental abuse.

Some of us here have been in Green politics for 25 years. Some will carry on for another 25 years. But all of us have been activists in some arena or other, working for a more socially just and environmentally sustainable and peaceful world. Standing for Parliament is just another way of working for the same goals. That is why we say, "This is not an election campaign. This is our life's work."

But governments do have important powers and opportunities to lead the changes that are needed and it is time the Green voice was heard strongly in government. If we are asking people to vote Green we must tell them what they can expect for that vote over the next three years.

Because we are appalled at growing poverty alongside a grossly rich elite; because we want to ensure decent housing, a public health system, stop the punitive work-for-the-dole, and lighten the burden of student loans we have made it clear that we will not support a National-Act government.

However, we do not have confidence that Labour will lead us far towards our vision of the future unless we are there to lead those changes. There are a number of unique contributions we would hope and expect to make to a Labour led government. They are the practical, achievable steps voters can expect if they give us their support.

* A halt to genetic engineering

ERMA could be instructed immediately to give no further approvals to genetic engineering field trials or releases until the findings of the Royal Commission have been studied and implemented. We would also expect to have input to the terms of reference of that commission. It would then be up to New Zealanders to argue passionately and convincingly at the Commission for a genetic engineering free New Zealand if they agree with us that it is the only way to go.

* Go organic

Our package to encourage organic growing costs very little money and could be underway in the first year, with the creation of an advisory service for growers, the changing of research objectives for the Public Good Science Fund and a mortgage guarantee scheme for those wanting to convert their farms. Compare this inexpensive and carefully targetted programme with NZ First's rash promise in 1996 of throwing $30 million at the organics industry without the least idea of how it would be spent or what it was trying to achieve.

* Stop the logging

We would insist on immediate cancellation of all the West Coast timber contracts that have been signed in a deliberate attempt to tie the hands of a future government, and a renegotiation of those pre-existing contracts which had been signed earlier in good faith. Pine should be made available for processing on the coast instead.

* Pass the Energy Efficiency Bill

Now back in the House with a unanimous recommendation to proceed, our bill could be passed in the first month of sitting. Communities, businesses, local government and citizens' groups could be discussing their part in NZ's energy efficiency strategy within a few months and the first energy performance standards could be in place this time next year.

* More funding for conservation

In the first budget we would argue strenuously for increased funding for DOC, especially for pest control to protect threatened species.

* Sustainable transport

A significant shift of funding from new roading to public transport and a reduction of car dependency in cities.

* Ecological tax reform

The Greens have a unique offering to the tax review Labour has promised. As well as arguing about how much to tax and who should pay it, we need a shift in what we tax - away from goods like work, income and enterprise and on to bads like waste, pollution and toxics. Few could argue with a system that, for the same level of revenue, encourages employment and discourages waste. We should look for the first $5,000 of all incomes to be tax free, replaced by waste and pollution taxes, starting with a carbon tax.

* Alternatives to prisons

An end to building more prison capacity and a commitment to habilitation and restorative justice.

* Sustaining fishing communities

A publicly funded multi-stakeholder process for fisheries management.

When Australian Green Senator Bob Brown addressed our conference earlier this year he said we should decide how to deal with difficult issues by asking, "will people thank us for this in 100 years?"

A hundred years from now people will look back with amazement at our profligacy with the natural environment and our lack of support for the weakest in our society.

There is no risk that they will disapprove of our far-sighted decisions to remain a GE Free nation; to get the poisons out of our food and water; to protect our West Coast forests; to break the cycle of criminal violence; to cut waste and encourage employment; to develop alternatives to the motor car; to use energy more efficiently.

They will certainly care more about those things than what the 90 day bill rate in 1999 was, and in fact their economy will be much stronger because those things have been safeguarded.

That is why we are urging you at this election to "Make your vote last for generations". Anything less is selling our children's birthright.


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