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Green Party candidate in UK - speech

Green Party candidate in UK - speech

Speech notes & answer to question, “How would your party stimulate economic growth?” New Zealand News UK 2002 Election Debate Westminster University 309 Regent St, London 10th July 2002

Christiaan Briggs
UK-based Green Party Candidate

When I came to London debating with a bunch of New Zealand MPs in the coming election wasn't exactly on my to-do list of overseas experiences, but it's good to be here and it's good to see other parties are represented.

There are three topics I'd like to touch on this evening. What the Greens are really about, the founding principles of the Greens, and genetic engineering.

Not long ago it was a common misconception that the greens were only an environmental movement.

Thankfully, in New Zealand, due not in the least to the work of the Green Party, this is a dwindling misconception.

As Mahatma Ghandi said:

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.

It's no coincidence that most of greens I communicate with always seem to sign off with “have fun!”

The Green vision is not one of self sacrifice and cold baths, but of people living a lush life, one with flair and relish. It is about having air that is sweet, water that is crystal clear, and food that is tasty and nutritious. It is about having time to sleep. It is about having jobs that are enjoyable and well paid. It is a vision that addresses the concerns of ordinary people, about living in a beautiful country and having the time, confidence and the wisdom to enjoy it.

It is about living in strong self-reliant communities. Communities that take responsibility for providing for many of their own needs. Communities that assess their well being by the measure of human happiness, the state of their environments and the beauty of their surroundings. Communities that are smart enough to share their work around so that every one is able to contribute, participate, and feel valued.

It is one where people irrespective of race, age, gender, social status, income etc., are healthy and feel able to contribute to the life of communities that value them. And that they are able to avail themselves of whatever educational opportunities are necessary to equip them with the skills and values to live wisely and well. We should use all varieties of the public and private institutions and communities we have created to achieve this.

The green philosophy is not just an environmental platform. It simply recognises that with no environment there's no where to worry about other issues. Sounds a bit obvious doesn't it? That's because it is. Therefore it's the foremost principle, but not the only one, and there are four.

1. Ecological Wisdom: The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.

2. Social Responsibility: Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.

This is starkly illustrated by today's global injustices. Until social issues are faced and resolved it will be a hard road to redress a lot of the environmental problems facing our country and the world.

3. Appropriate Decision-making: For the implementation of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, decisions will be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected.

I am a firm believer in participatory democracy. In fact I would go as far as to say that anything other than participatory democracy is not really a democracy at all.

Participatory democracy, a good democracy, is about defining who is affected by a decision. It is about informed public debate and consultation. And it is about devolving decision making down as close as possible to those who are affected by the decision.

A good example of this is public local budget meetings where votes are binding.

4. Non-Violence: Non-violent conflict resolution is the process by which ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision making will be implemented. This principle applies at all levels.

Now, Genetic Engineering...

“Did an iceberg sink the Titanic or unfounded technological optimism, over-confidence and pride?”

That's a quote from a Kiwi document, Key Lessons from the History of Science and Technology.

New Zealand is widely known as being nuclear free, yet we use nuclear materials in cancer treatment, in radiotherapy. We use them in the laboratory, in diagnostics and tracer techniques. We use them in smoke alarms. We use them out in the community in small-scale safe ways. And yet we are nuclear free because we banned power stations and ships.

Just like we are Nuclear Free, we can be GE Free. This does not mean turning our backs on the positive things the understanding of genetics can do for our medicine, our research, our understanding of life and commercial opportunities. It simply means we do not release genetically engineered organisms into our environment, our agriculture.

It's this potentially irreversible and unpredictable release of genetically engineered organisms that New Zealanders are rightly concerned about.

I believe that in a world environment where it can be expected that bio-technology will become increasingly practiced, the case for maintaining the New Zealand environment as a sanctuary of non modified genetic material becomes a very rational proposition. We have the geographic isolation to be able to establish what could virtually be regarded as an Ark of original life forms. I believe that such an environment could ultimately become the worlds most precious possession.

I believe that the risks of releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment far outweigh the supposed projected benefits.

And so does the insurance industry.

Insurance companies place genetic engineering in the exclusive company of wars and nuclear accidents as the only three categories of risk for which they will not accept premiums.

Why is the Labour government willing to take this massive risk when even the masters of risk management are not?

Labour has refused to release a report on to what extent the government would be liable if GE contamination occurs.

If GE is so safe, why won't the Government accept total liability for contamination?

With this mornings revelations that the Prime Minister and other key Ministers might have been involved in a cover up of a large release of genetically engineered sweet corn in New Zealand the Greens are needed more than ever to keep the next Labour Government honest.

New Zealand needs to take out third party insurance on Labour. To do this all you need to do is give the Greens your party vote.


Answer to Question 1 How would your party stimulate economic growth?

GDP, the common measure of our economic growth, is a measure designed to monitor and maximise wartime output, invented during WWII, as such it is not a good measure of quality of life.

Unlike the other parties, we don't see economic growth, as measured by GDP, as the panacea to all problems. The question is not whether to grow but what to grow.

For instance, GDP doesn't take into account bad economic factors such as oil spills. GDP measures the activity surrounding a massive oil spill as a positive...as growth.

In other words, we would look to add a measure that takes into account quality of life, and seek to stimulate growth of that measure.

Things such as personal and national debt reduction, base wage increases, lower crime, and better health of citizens can all reduce a nations GDP whilst improving quality of life.

Based on this other parties start to look a little silly arguing for their versions of growth.

The Greens will happily support an increase in a wide range of life enhancing and job rich goods and services.

We would gradually move tax off income and shift it onto waste and pollution. Why tax initiative? Let's instead tax the dirty water used in production or clothes washing for instance....and thereby encourage new technologies which would reduce one's tax liability.

The essence of the Greens economic approach is that we want goods and services that are well-made by people who are well-paid and which are proudly taken to the world not just as products but as messages of hope from the cleanest, greenest, funkiest nation on Earth.



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