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The Nation 29/3/14: Patrick Gower interviews Russel Norman

Patrick Gower interviews Russel Norman


The Greens could support a Labour-led government that voted for deep sea drilling and TPP trade deal; will depend on voters says Norman

“It all depends on the votes as they fall on the day. I’m a democrat, so that’s what I’ve got to rely on.”

The deputy prime minister position is “on the table” for post-election negotiations

Says he doesn’t believe Labour is cannibalising the left vote, and isn’t bothered by Shane Jones’ comments

The Greens are investigating a Green Bank modelled on a British government initiative

Says he doesn’t like the prospect of a Mana/Internet Party deal


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Patrick Gower: Good morning Russel and the 3News/Reid Research poll is out tomorrow night. But let’s take a look at how the Greens are going. Actually you’ve taken a hit downwards, you’re down 1.2% and personally, as preferred Prime Minister, you’re actually down 1.7%. That’s actually you’re lowest since the last Election. What’s going on?

Russel Norman: Well if you look at the polls, I mean the last polls were 14, 13 and 11 that’s about what I think we’re actually polling at, somewhere around 11. At the last election we increased our polling very significantly. We went up 50% to 11% and I think we’ve been pretty much around that ever since, which is a good starting platform for election year. This is about 3 percentage points ahead of where we

were 3 years ago. So we’ve got a good platform to build on in the next 6 months running up to the election.

But you’ve picked up on it yourself, you’ve gone from 14 to 11. It’s obvious what’s going on, David Cunliffe’s come in, he’s taken Labour to the left. They’re desperate, they’re cannibalising you’re vote. The left bloc isn’t growing – it’s a lose, lose.

Well what I was actually referring to was the other polls. I know we shouldn’t refer to other than TV3 polls, but if you look at the other polls we’re on 14, on 13 so… and on this one, we’re on 11. The average of the polls is a bit over 11, which is I think probably where we are. And I think the Greens are in a strong position running into this cycle. After the last election we had a big increase, and it was important to us to solidify that support and I think we’ve done that over the last 2 years.

Sure, but it’s –

But now coming into election year, we’ll be focused on launching policy as we go into the year.

But the reality is that you’re going backwards at the start of the election year and I want to talk to you about Labour’s tactics. They are cannibalising you’re vote, and at the same time they’re playing a double game. We saw Shane Jones in Torben’s piece there attacking you. What do you make of Labour’s tactics?

Well, I’m not particularly interested in them to be honest. I’m interested in the Green tactics and so we’re obviously very interested in rolling out policies so that people can see what a new government would look like on September 20, because the Green party will be a key part of it.

A new government requires the Labour party. At the moment they’re attacking you. Shane Jones belittles you, he belittles your MPs – what’s happened to him? Nothing’s happened to him.

Well, that’s an issue for Labour. So, I mean – you know, you want to talk about Labour, but I mean from my point of view…

No, I want to talk about a potential Labour/Green government.

Sure so –

Including one of its most senior MPs, Shane Jones, effectively given free reign to take the Mickey out of you.

Well it doesn’t really bother me. That’s the thing, like in that clip I think you had, I mean every time Shane Jones talks people get the message that if you want a genuinely new government, progressive government, on September 20 you need a strong Green party in there because the Green Party are the ones who are putting

up the new ideas. Whether it’s making sure that kids get a decent start at education through our school hubs policy, whether it’s reducing congestion on the roads –

Yeah sure

Like making sure that kids can walk themselves to school.

The division caused by Shane Jones, indeed David Cunliffe on this same programme said that there’s no guarantee that you’d even be in government. The division that is being shown here, you even saying that it’s Labour’s problem – what does that present to the public who are looking for a potential Labour/Green bloc?

Well I think what it shows it that there’s always going to be a bit of competition and a bit of co-operation, right? So there’s always a bit of both. And we’ve been quite open about that. And so what we’re saying, from the Green Party point of view, is if you want a party that’s organised, knows what it’s doing, we’ve got a plan, rolling out policy – we’ve rolled out more policy than any other party this year so far-

Let’s talk policy, some of the big ones. Deep sea drilling, you are absolutely opposed to that? Labour wants to carry on with it. Could you be part of a government, could the Greens be part of the government that carries on deep sea drilling?

So my starting point is if you look at the OECD, Secretary General – what he says is he said “look all of these fossil fuel reserves, we can’t afford to burn them” so they’re stranded assets, is how he describes them, right? So if we’re going to avoid out of control climate change, they’re stranded assets, why would we gamble New Zealand’s economic future on trying to find these oil fields or gas fields

Sure -

Which we then can’t burn if we’re going to avoid out of control climate change.

So that’s a “no” to deep sea drilling from the Greens?

That’s right.

But if you’re in government and Labour keeps on drilling, like David Cunliffe has said they would do, can you stand by and be part of that kind of government? Can you stand by and be part of a government that deep sea drills?

Well it will all depend on the election outcome as to the relative strength of the parties. So my job is to say “look, if you really care about climate change and protecting the environment, give your party vote to the Green party, because we’re the ones who will stand up for it.”

The Greens are all about transparency. So tell us in a Labour/Green-type government could you be in one that carries on deep sea drilling – yes or no?

Well we’ll be looking at what comes out of post-election negotiation. So it all does depend on that. So I can’t pre-determine an election outcome, and I don’t think you should.

That means yes. That means yes.

It all depends on the votes as they fall on the day. I’m a democrat, so that’s what I’ve got to rely on.

Ok, you’re open to it, it could happen, couldn’t it. So let’s move onto fracking, because you want a moratorium on that. If Labour doesn’t stop fracking, can you be part of a government, can the Greens be part of a government that carries on fracking.

You could go through fracking, a bunch of policy areas where the Greens and Labour disagree, right? Because obviously there are, because we believe –

And that’s what we’re going to do, because it’s important.

So we’re standing up strongly to protect the environment and to avoid out of control climate change and also to make the move to the smart green economy, which is low carbon, right. Now Labour’s taking a different path, right? So somehow in the post-election negotiations, we’re going to have to find a compromise that we can live with.


And that’s what politics is about, that’s what the voters demand of us.

And that could include carrying on fracking, now decriminalisation of cannabis. We had Colin Craig on here, he spoke to Simon a few weeks ago – we asked him this, have you ever smoked a joint? Have you ever smoked a joint?

Yeah, yeah, of course I’ve smoked a joint.

Yeah, so decriminalisation of cannabis, that’s a Green party policy, it’s been a Green party policy down the ages. Will you pursue that in a Labour/Green government?

It’s still part of our policy and so whether it’s part of the priorities – so what we do is before each election is we announce our ten point priority list, right? And we did it last time and we’ll do it again this time and so in any post-election negotiations, you’ll know the what are the key areas we’re going to prioritise. So, I doubt –

So where will that be?

Yeah, yes. So I doubt – we haven’t decided it, right? But I doubt that decriminalisation will be one of the top ten. But, that’s up to the party to decide, but I doubt that will be.

Sure, ok. So, decriminalisation, you’re not into it really. But the TPP -

Well, no Paddy. You can paraphrase it like that, but it doesn’t mean that we -

But let’s move onto something that is a priority, the TPP.

We’re going to tell people what our priorities are in a post-election negotiation. Let’s say we get 15% of the vote, which is what we want –

Sure, and will the TPP be out there?

That will certainly be part of a post-election negotiation.


And so for example we know that the Australian Labor party has said that it doesn’t support the Investor State Disputes clauses, which are the ways that multi-national corporations can sue governments in international tribunals if governments do things that multi-nationals don’t like. So that Australian Labor party has said “no, we don’t support that”. So we’ll be going to the New Zealand Labour party and we’ll be saying “look, if the Australian Labour party can handle it, why can’t you?” And so we’ll be looking for what are the kinds of negotiated areas around the TPP, so that we can find the common ground – obviously because there is where we differ.

So could you – because eventually you would have to end up voting for the TPP, voting on it or not. Could you end up voting for the TPP if the Investor States Dispute is out of it?


The Greens this is

I think it’s not the only chapter, so there’s a bunch of issues. So what I was trying to identify is some areas where I think we could get Labour to move, if you like. But there’ll be other areas where we differ. So it all will all depend on how that relative balance of power is in a post-election negotiation

But the reality is –

Which is why we need more Green votes so that we can push for a more progressive and genuinely new government.

But a Green party could end up being part of a government that signs the TPP, couldn’t it?

Well, it could, potentially. But it will depend on the votes on the day and that’s the end date

And you could even vote on it. And you could even vote for it in the right circumstances?

Well, it would have to change very significantly. The current TPP is so far way from basic democratic rights, environmental protection. I mean – you think about the deal with-

Sure. But you could still prop up a Labour government that puts the TPP through, couldn’t you?

Think about the current negotiations between the EU and the US. They’ve said they’ll go public about what the Investor State clause or chapter looks like. Why can’t we have transparency in the TPP negotiations?


Think about the negotiations between the EU and New Zealand at the moment. One of the key issues there is human rights, so why can’t we have human rights clauses in trade deals? Why can’t they depend on that? Those things now are all on the table in international negotiations and the Green Party of New Zealand will push to put them on the table on these ones too.

The reasons why I’m asking you these questions, Russel, is because the Greens have walked away before on a point of principle. We saw there 2002 – GE. That’s not going to happen this time around, you’ve changed, haven’t you? You’re willing to compromise.

What we did –

On almost everything, even the TPP?

Well, what we said in 2002 was we made GE the extension of the moratorium bottom line. The only election and the only issue we’ve chosen to make that a bottom line. Every other election what we’ve said is it depends on –

Will you have a bottom line this time around?

No, what we’ve said in every other election on every other issue is that we don’t have a bottom line. These are the things we stand for. How much progress we can

make on having a smarter, greener economy depends on the size of the Green vote and the post-election negotiations. Likewise looking after kids, if we’re going to look after our poorer kids, the strength of the Green vote will determine how much we’re looking after our kids. Protecting our rivers, the stronger the Green vote, the more protection for rivers. That’s what it’s all about, and the voters will decide this and that’s how it should be.

Sure, now listen, in any sort of post-election government formation, if it is a formal coalition, would you expect to be deputy Prime Minister?

Well, we’ll talk about it post-election. Obviously, it depends on the size of the vote again. But there’s obviously a precedent.

On the current kind of numbers, there’s a precedent. Would you expect that?

It’ll be certainly on the table. That will be part of what we’re negotiating.

So you want to be deputy Prime Minister?

That will be part of the negotiations post-election. Because you know –

And you’ll expect a proportional cabinet as well, because David Cunliffe came on this programme and ruled that out. Would you expect that as well? Do you think that’s fair?

Yeah if you’re a democrat, surely it’s all about the votes.

He’s a democrat, isn’t he?

Well, so that’s why he should support proportionality and I look forward to negotiating about that, thank you, later.

And in these negotiations, you’re going to want to get some concessions. We know last year you went to Europe, and you looked at the Green Bank in the United Kingdom that the Tory government has set up. It invests in green projects, it’s effectively government funded. Could something like that work here?

Well we’ve certainly been looking at a Green Investment Bank on the model that the UK Conservative party established. David Cameron put up the Green Investment Bank, and I spent some talking to them when I was in London. We’ve also looked at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which is established in Australia, which has a similar job. And what they’re trying to do is make sure that the new energy projects and the green economy has access to capital, so that it can launch itself.

Something like that would work here?

It’s something that we’re looking at the moment.

Out of the say for instance, where the Ministry of Economic Development, somewhere like that?

No, no, these are independents. So the whole idea of it is you have an independent board so the government can’t meddle in it. And they’ve got to make a return on their investment. It’s not a subsidy, in the sense that they can’t just waste money. They’ve got to make a return on their investment

So how much would it need, say $100 million or something to…?

Well, we’d have to look at the numbers. But the key thing they have two priorities. They’ve got to make environmental gains and they’ve got to get a return on the capital. And it seems to me that that kind of idea is critical to the development of a smarter, green economy. Let’s remember those stats are just –

I can see Steven Joyce’s press release now, we could write it together “Green Slush Fund” for, you know, to pick favourites…

Well that’s a bit rich for the man who’s spending $400 million to subsidise dairy intensification. So Steven Joyce’s and the National party’s strategy is milk powder and raw logs. That’s their export strategy. That’s their strategy for the New Zealand economy. Our strategy is a much more diversified economy, much more value add, much more smart – it’s up in your head. Using our brains to earn a way in the world. Things like the second internet cable to the world –

I need to ask you thing quickly, because we’re nearly out of time.

Those are the things. That’s how we can make money.

Kim Dotcom’s not coming in, but obviously his party representative is. Do you really think that Kim Dotcom has got an electorate MP on side?

Oh look, I don’t know what they’re doing. I mean, you know, I’ve been pretty clear from the beginning, I don’t think this is a great idea. You know, the Green Party stands up for digital freedom and the bill of rights around digital freedom and the internet –

If they do do a deal with Mana, there won’t be the wasted vote that you’re worried about.

Well let’s see if they do a deal with Mana, it looks pretty scrappy at the moment.

Yeah, and I mean, if they did, would you work with them? Because you’re against electorate deals…

Well, we’ll obviously have to see what the election result produces. We’ll work with anyone, who is - who supports our policy

You are against electorate deals. You are against electorate deals. So if someone came in off the back of Mana, would that be acceptable to you as the Green Co-Leader?

Well, I wouldn’t like it. But if the electorate votes that way then –

So, you don’t like the Mana/Dotcom deal, do you?

No, of course I don’t. What do you think? I’m a competing political party, I think people should support the Green Party. If you’re into the internet economy and it you want to protect working people and poor people you support the Green Party. If you want the smart green economy, you support the Greens. But we’ll work with other people in order to progress policy, because that’s why we’re in this business is to make good green change.

Alright, Russel Norman, thanks for coming in. I really appreciate it.

My pleasure.

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