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Transcript: BFM's Noelle McCarthy IVs Rod Donald

Transcript: Noelle McCarthy IV With Rod Donald


Audio courtesy of 95Bfm, Transcription By Rosalea Barker


Rod Donald on a happier day - Image Scoop.co.nz

On Tuesday, the afternoon after what was clearly not a high point in the political history of the Green Party, 95Bfm News Director Noelle McCarthy interviewed Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald about the election 2005 coalition negotiations, their outcomes and the elevation of Winston Peters to Foreign Minister.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW – 7 Mins

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TRANSCRIPT

(note: The opening question was missed in the recording of the interview…)

Donald:

... policies in place, but to have the power to implement them. But on the other hand, we had one bottom line in this campaign, which was to stop National from forming a government, and we've achieved that, and that's one of the reasons why we've taken this on the chin. But we're far from happy that Peters and Dunne held the country to ransom. I think it's outrageous that both of them said to Helen Clark, "Look, if you let the Greens into government, we won't support you." I mean, that is holding the government hostage.

But, you know, they did; she let them do it and we've got what we've got. And from our point of view we're gonna be putting solar water heaters on people's homes. We're going to achieve more energy efficiency. We're going to create jobs through Buy Kiwi Made. There's going to be more money for student allowances. More public transport. Hopefully, less child poverty, and more money for overseas development.

McCarthy:

Lifting the minimum wage.

Donald:

Lifting the minimum wage to $12 an hour. I mean, we don't go to Parliament to ride around in limousines. We go there to do a job and that's what we're going to get on with.

McCarthy:

The Greens did miss out on a Cabinet seat, though, and you can blame Winston Peters and Peter Dunne for their intractability on that point. But the truth is, these centre party leaders are reflecting a sort of a suspicion that a lot of sectors of New Zealand society feel about the Green Party. I'm thinking about business interests in particular.

Donald:

Yeah but, you know, the big business types are a pretty small sector of society. They actually have undue influence. That's one of the reasons why we're in Parliament. If you certainly look at all the opinion polls, more people support the Greens being in coalition government with Labour than any other party. So they don't reflect popular vote--they reflect their own prejudices and pettiness. But they've held sway and we've got to live with that.

McCarthy:

And you'd never think about modifying your policies or changing your image slightly so that you become slightly more centrist, as it seems to work for the other two?

Donald:

Well, being centrist is being blah from our point of view. I mean, I'm not interested in being a nothing. We want to stand tall on what we believe in. Sometimes those policies are popular; sometimes they're not. And over time, our positions become mainstream. Thirty years ago, if you'd talked wind turbines, people would have laughed at you. What's happening now? Most of the new energy projects are wind energy projects. It's the same with energy efficiency and solar water heating and rail. All those types of initiatives. Concerns about the environment generally are much more in vogue than they were when I started out in Values 31 years ago. I'm not about to sell my principles just to get the baubles of power.

McCarthy:

Yeah. Playing a long game in that respect.

Donald:

Well, in some respects too long. Not just at a personal level, but from the point of view of the planet and the people who live on it. There is some pretty radical change that needs to take place if we're actually going to save this place. That might sound over the top, but you've just got to look around you to see what we're doing to this earth, and it can't cope with much more abuse.

McCarthy:

What about this arrangement, though--pragmatic or cynical, you could call it, depending on your mood--where Winston Peters and Peter Dunne have portfolios but they aren't bound by collective responsibility outside of their portfolios because technically they're outside of Cabinet. Do you think that can work?

Donald:

I think it can work. It's certainly, though, stretching the credibility of governance arrangements. It's something that we've never struck before, and it's going to be an arrangement that all the constitutional experts are going to have great fun debating.

I mean, even what we've got is rather strange because effectively the agreement we have was what started out to be a confidence and supply agreement. But in the end, the Government actually said to us, "Look, we can't give you confidence--ask you to give us confidence under these circumstances. You keep your agreement as long as you agree not to vote against us." And we said, "Well, thank you" because our self-respect was [unclear]--

McCarthy:

Taking a bit of a hammering

Donald:

Yes.

McCarthy:

What about the Greens and the Maori Party? Earlier on in negotiations, there were some murmurings that you two were talking. Did that fall over, or just peter out?

Donald:

We had a couple of chats and those conversations were just fine. But we were never interested in sort of jumping into their waka or building a canoe for ten. As far as we were concerned, we both needed to paddle our own way, and a lot of the time that would be in the same direction. We certainly said to the Maori Party, "Look, if you want to offer confidence to a Labour-Green government, then that certainly suits our ends."

But they seemed more interested in trying to dance with Brash, which didn't make any sense to us. Certainly, we had ruled that out. And unfortunately, because of what the Maori Party did, it gave Winston Peters more leverage than he deserved. We can see what the consequences are.

McCarthy:

That's interesting. You're saying that maybe perhaps because Tariana Turia, if you want to personify it, had so many problems with Helen Clark, that going off National was a mis-step that's led to the situation we're in at the moment?

Donald:

Yeah. I mean, she claims she didn't have a problem with Helen Clark, but I don't know how else you can read it. Certainly the other thing I can't read is: Why give power to Winston Peters when he was the man that enabled the Foreshore and Seabed legislation to pass? It just doesn't stack up to me to dance with National so that that forced Helen into Winston's arms.

McCarthy:

A lack of foresight there, perhaps? I mean, they're very new to the game.

Donald:

Well, a lack of foresight, some political naivety, perhaps too narrow agenda, not seeing the big picture. Because, you know, you might be able to convince National to keep the Maori seats, but we've got them now. So what's the benefit there? You might convince National to get rid of Foreshore and Seabed, but where are they going to get the votes from? Because it would need Winston's vote and Winston voted for it. But ultimately, the National Party would bring back things like market rents for state houses, which is bad news for Maori. And it's Labour that cut unemployment in half for Maori.

McCarthy:

So can I ask, where exactly are the Greens, there? Because technically you're not in opposition. Or are you in opposition?

Donald:

No, we're definitely not in opposition. We, I guess, sit in the middle and we physically will in the House too. In fact, what the agreement says is we will not vote against the government on confidence and supply. That's been shorthanded to us abstaining--

McCarthy:

So, kind of the position Winston said he'd take.

Donald:

Exactly.

McCarthy:

So you're New Zealand First.

Donald:

But there may well be occasions we actually vote with the Government and certainly, depending on what else is in the Budget, we may vote for it. Because, of course, a number of our own funding bids will be in the next Budget. So it's a matter of what the combination is. I mean, we could never vote for a budget that drives a road through Transmission Gully when that money should be going on passenger rail service and buses and so forth. So we'll just have to wait and see.

McCarthy:

How do you feel about having Winston Peters, finally, as Minister for Foreign Affairs?

Donald:

It's not just how I feel about that, it's how--

McCarthy:

The Green Party feels?

Donald:

Well, no, no. It's the whole country [laughs]

McCarthy:

I've heard a variety of different reactions.

Donald:

Yeah, potential for major embarrassment. Let's hope he stays awake, because, you know, when he's in--even sitting next to me at select committee he usually drops off pretty quick-smart, so it's going to be interesting to see how he performs.

McCarthy:

Rod Donald, thank you for your time.

Donald:

It's a pleasure. Thank you.

McCarthy:

Rod Donald there, the Co-leader of the Green Party. Disappointed but not angry. Sort of like a parent when you've stayed out a bit too late, or not done your homework, or maybe brought home a D on your report card. More disappointed than angry. Rod Donald. Green Party.

--ENDS--

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