Q and A: Jessica Mutch interviews Metiria Turei
Sunday 2 June, 2013
Jessica Mutch interviews Metiria Turei
Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that the party is well positioned ahead of next year’s election and is rolling out new policy to prove it.
Metiria Turei announced on Q+A plans to put a nurse in to every decile one to three primary and intermediate at cost of $30 million a year.
“It’s around 280 nurses to cover a bit over 600 schools and around 112,000 children. We already have services in secondary schools – school-based health services in secondary schools – and we have the free before-school checks for little kids, but there is a gap in primary and intermediate schools, and we think that gap needs to be filled.”
Metiria Turei also said the Greens support a universal child allowance, a proposal ruled out on the programme by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
“We know at heart the causes of poverty
are income-based. That’s why we say there should be a
universal child allowance, as the Children’s Commissioner
has recommended, a living wage, an improved benefit so that
families have a decent amount to survive on.”
On the party’s relationship with Labour, Metiria Turei said “I think it’s really important that they understand where we’re going with our policy.”
She said that the Greens are not damaging Labour’s brand.
“Oh, absolutely not, and I think Labour need to take responsibility for their own brand, as the Green Party does. So we know that we are a very strong and effective third political force in this country. We are growing in strength every day...
“So we’re in a great space at the moment. That’s why we’re putting out these solutions – because we need New Zealanders to really understand where the Greens will take any government we’re part of in the future.”
Metiria Turei conceded that Greens have held National to account at this weekend’s party conference.
“Oh, we’re going to tell the truth about what they’re doing. You know, if you look at their history of legislation over the last little while with the Sky City deal, with the carers legislation, with what they’ve done in Christchurch – and we are here today with our AGM. You know, they have removed democratic rights. They are making it much more difficult for New Zealanders to have a say.”
Metiria Turei refused to be drawn on which portfolio she would like if elected next year.
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Q + A – 2 June,
Green Party Co-Leader
Interviewed by JESSICA MUTCH
JESSICA Metiria Turei, thank you very much for your time this morning.
METIRIA Kia ora.
JESSICA Can you outline for me why is this nurses policy a priority for the Greens?
METIRIA Well, I’m about to tell you about the nurses policy. We have decided that we will put a nurse in every decile one, two and three primary and intermediate school. We know that healthy kids are ready to learn, but too many of our kids are hungry and sick, and they don’t need to be that way. We can deliver health services to them where they are in a trusted environment. So we can make that better, and we will.
JESSICA What will the cost of that be, and how many extra nurses will that buy?
METIRIA Sure. So it’s about $30 million a year. It’s around 280 nurses to cover a bit over 600 schools and around 112,000 children. We already have services in secondary schools – school-based health services in secondary schools – and we have the free before-school checks for little kids, but there is a gap in primary and intermediate schools, and we think that gap needs to be filled.
JESSICA Because that’s right – the Health Minister Tony Ryall did put $10 million over the next few years into the secondary schools and really targeting that. Why do you think that we need to spread it out through all the rest of other schools as well?
METIRIA Sure. So, children who suffer from asthma, for example, lose around 550,000 school days a year. We know that rheumatic fever is getting better in some respects because of the throat-swabbing programme, but it isn’t rolled out across all schools and certainly all children who need access to that programme aren’t getting it. If we want our kids to do really well in school and to reach their potential, have a good life and a fair future, we need to make sure that they’re well. And what we know from the assessment of both the rheumatic fever programme and also the secondary schools health-based services is that, you know, families trust those school nurses, children get better access to healthcare, and those nurses can then help make sure that they’re a gateway to better and more care if those children need it. You know, we know that we can deliver it there, so we should.
JESSICA Is this just a perky little election promise, though? It’s easy for people to digest. Is this really the role of the government?
METIRIA Yes, it is, actually. We know that the PHOs and DHBs are funded to provide these services to children, but that too many of the poorest children, in particular, aren’t getting access to it. So children in the poorest areas, most deprived areas are three times more likely to be hospitalised for avoidable illness than those in wealthy areas, so why not do that?
JESSICA But why announce this now, though, just a year out from the election? Is it part of the policy going forward? Is that why you announced it now?
METIRIA Oh, it is part of our policy. We want the public to know that we have solutions for both the immediate consequences of poverty, as well as the causes of poverty. We know at heart the causes of poverty are income-based. That’s why we say there should be a universal child allowance, as the Children’s Commissioner has recommended, a living wage, an improved benefit so that families have a decent amount to survive on. But we also have to deal with the consequences of poverty. Our children can't wait for us to fix the structural problems. They need help right now, and we can deliver it.
JESSICA What does this say about the state of poverty in New Zealand? We’ve had this Food in Schools announcement this week. You're announcing this today. It seems the government’s chipping in on all of these different things, but perhaps the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather than at the top.
METIRIA Well, it’s certainly true that this government doesn’t believe that poverty exists. Finance Minister Bill English has said that there's no solution to poverty. He’s absolutely wrong. The solutions are very clear, and in fact the Children’s Commissioner has produced a report with 78 recommendations for solutions to child poverty that this government has largely ignored. So the information is available to government, but they simply won't invest in the children who need it the most, and particularly the causes of poverty.
JESSICA With this nursing policy, have you talked to Labour about that?
METIRIA Yes, I have sent it to them. I haven’t heard back what they think about it, but I’ve sent it to David Shearer and Annette King so that they have a heads-up about it. We’ve also talked with paediatricians, with nurses, with schools about the policy. It’s already in place in some parts, so we already have it to some extent in secondary schools. We just want to make sure it’s available to all children – trusted service that’s accessible and free.
JESSICA But is that what you’re doing now with Labour – letting them know when you're announcing those new policies as we move into next years’ election year and you try and work closer with them?
METIRIA Sometimes we let them know what we’re doing. Sometimes we don’t. I think it’s really important that they understand where we’re going with our policy, so I gave them a heads-up on that. We’re yet to see what they think of it, but certainly at $30 million, it’s not an expensive policy. We must remember that it costs about $40 million a year for hospital treatment of rheumatic fever. So it’s a very cost-effective treatment.
JESSICA Let’s talk more about this relationship that you have with Labour. Are you damaging Labour’s brand?
METIRIA Oh, absolutely not, and I think Labour need to take responsibility for their own brand, as the Green Party does. So we know that we are a very strong and effective third political force in this country. We are growing in strength every day. Our polls, actually, are holding up exceptionally well. If you look at the poll of polls, we’re on around 12%, which is much greater than our election day, and in fact 18 months out from election, we’re much more likely to increase our polling over time. So we’re in a great space at the moment. That’s why we’re putting out these solutions – because we need New Zealanders to really understand where the Greens will take any government we’re part of in the future.
JESSICA Because we’re talking about this whole relationship – we talk about Labour-Greens, and it’s part of the language now. I mean, is that just a ploy from National because they don’t think that voters are very comfortable with this whole Green influence?
METIRIA Well, I think National’s problem is that, of course, they have no friends, and so they’re increasingly desperate and quite shrill in their attacks, and I think it shows that John Key really doesn’t understand—
JESSICA And you’ve been attacking them back this weekend at the conference, haven’t you?
METIRIA Oh, we’ve certainly held them to account for their anti-democratic crony capitalism, and we will continue to do that. Voters expect us to really tell the truth about what's happening in Parliament. But I think at the heart of John Key and National’s attacks on the Greens is that they are genuinely threatened by our increasing influence— increasing vote, and I think that’s—
JESSICA Have you been deliberately targeting National this weekend? Have you been deliberately setting aside and saying, “Look, we’re going to go in there. They’ve been giving us a little bit of a slap-around about this quantitative easing and printing money. We’re going to go right back at them”?
METIRIA Oh, we’re going to tell the truth about what they’re doing. You know, if you look at their history of legislation over the last little while with the Sky City deal, with the carers legislation, with what they’ve done in Christchurch – and we are here today with our AGM. You know, they have removed democratic rights. They are making it much more difficult for New Zealanders to have a say.
JESSICA But was that a tactic this weekend?
METIRIA No, this is what we need to tell the truth about what National is really doing, and what John Key really means when he smiles on camera. He’s not smiling because he’s trying to do the best for New Zealanders; he’s smiling because he knows he’s doing the best for his friends. Now, when Sky City can get a $400 million-plus deal by taking the Prime Minister out for tea, but 270,000 children don’t get access to the healthcare and the school food that they need, you know, we really know who John Key is actually working for. That needs to be said out loud.
JESSICA Do you need to be careful about this rhetoric, though? Do you need to be careful that you’re not painted as anti-everything?
METIRIA No. This is about telling the truth about politics, and this is also why we’re putting out the solutions, whether it’s our Home for Life proposal earlier in the year to make sure that people have access to affordable housing or our nurses in schools policy today.
JESSICA But it’s clearly not resonating with people at the moment, is it? Our latest ONE News Colmar-Brunton poll shows that you’ve dropped a big chunk. I know other polls are showing something a little bit different, but we’ve showed you drop away quite a big chunk. How do you explain that? Why are you not resonating with our voters?
METIRIA Well, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think you can take one poll out of a number and base an entire campaign on that.
JESSICA Well, let’s focus on this one just for a moment.
METIRIA No, no, let’s focus on the poll of polls which shows that we are holding up and improving on our election result over the last 18 months and indeed other polls that have shown that our NZ Power proposal does have resonance and people are supporting that because it delivers fair power prices to families and to small businesses, so our policies are resonating.
JESSICA Are you always going to be a party, though, that caps out at about 10%, 11%?
METIRIA No, absolutely not, and what we’ve seen in the last election is that the Greens can make significant jumps in our support, and we intend to keep doing that. We are a growing political force. We have a very strong membership and a very strong kaupapa, and that is what we’re putting forward. We will tell the truth about what's happening in New Zealand politics and provide solutions to the problems that New Zealanders are facing every day.
JESSICA Just finally, we’ve talked a lot — Russel Norman has obvious indicated pretty strongly that he wants the finance portfolio. If you’re in government next year, what would you like?
METIRIA These discussions will be on the table when we meet with Labour after the election.
JESSICA Social development?
METIRIA As I’ve said before, my areas of expertise have been in a wide variety of social policy, but at the end of the day this is a discussion we need to have with Labour, and we’ll do that after the election.
JESSICA Would you be pushing for that portfolio, though? Would that be a dream of yours?
METIRIA Well, I think it will be up to voters, actually, to decide what portfolios we get and how many we get, because it’s up to them to see what influence we have after the next election. I look forward to having those discussions.
JESSICA And that’s a nice place
to leave it. Thank you very much for your time this morning,