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Address In Reply - Green Party Russel Norman

We're here to progress sustainability, justice, peace and democracy

Russel Norman Green Party Co-Leader Address in Reply 2008 - Parliament 9 December 2008

Mr. Speaker

Green Party Vision

The Green Party has a vision of Aotearoa New Zealand as a place where people respect each other and the natural world that we share. It is a vision of our country as a healthy, peaceful and diverse place.

We aspire to an Aotearoa New Zealand in which we know our different histories and we are secure in our identity. An Aotearoa New Zealand which honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Greens are seeking to build a country in which our children, our elders, our families and our communities are at the centre of national life - where each person's unique contribution is valued. The Greens come to this Parliament to strive for a future in which participation, justice and quality of life for all are valued over individual attainment of wealth.

We come here to transform our economic system to one which enables people to meet their needs from the bounty of the earth, within nature's limits.

We are here because we have seen the damage being done to our beautiful country and we believe that indigenous ecosystems need to be restored and replenished.

We are here to support all New Zealanders so that life in our country is a celebration of diversity and creativity. We have a vision for the future in which all are able to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect them and future generations.

In coming to this House we recognise the rights and interests of those who cannot speak for themselves and we will continue to be voice of those who have no voice.

The Green Party exists so that we can play our role in making these islands a shining light in the world for peace, justice, sustainability and democracy. That is our vision. That is the vision we will promote in this Parliament over the next three years.

Green approach

The Green Party has a tradition in this place of listening to the arguments of others. We have a tradition of working constructively, where we find common ground with others, to make progress towards our vision. These are traditions that we will hold onto in this new Parliament.

But we also have a tradition of being vigorous advocates for our vision and staunch opponents of those who seek to take our country and our planet in the wrong direction. We will continue to be a staunch voice and those who have come here to oppose sustainability, justice, peace and democracy will find us formidable advocates.

We represent 160,000 New Zealanders, 7% of votes cast, who expect us to behave respectfully in this house but they also expect us to tell the truth about the state of the world. And if that means upsetting some of those in the old grey parties then so be it.

This Parliament

This Parliament is of course significantly different to the last. The old grey parties have swapped sides and roles.

To National I say congratulations on forming the new Government. You received the votes of 45% of New Zealanders, it is an awesome responsibility. We are fortunate to live in a democracy where we can change governments peacefully based on the will of the majority. With our hearts we hope, for the future of our country, you use your new found power wisely and judiciously. With our heads we have our doubts as to that wisdom. But if you put up sensible proposals we will happily work with you to improve them, just as we promised prior to the election.

To Labour I say, congratulations on getting 34% of the votes. We had a difficult but sometimes productive relationship with you when you were in Government - your negotiators were ruthless, you often lacked vision, many of you are still in awe of the new right, but many of you are fine people trapped in an old grey suit. Perhaps you should ask yourself what party that young idealist Michael Joseph Savage would have joined had he turned up here today. I hope our relationship can be productive but make no mistake the Greens are an independent party of principle and won't be participating in any shadow cabinet like the Progressive.

To the Maori Party I say congratulations on winning five of the Maori seats. I know you wanted more, and the Greens did what we could to assist, but it is still a strong foundation. We have a disagreement of tactics with you as have decided to hitch yourself to the National Party Government, or what is now the National/Act/Maori/United Future Government. Every time this Government does something stupid, like opposing progress at the climate talks in Poland currently, you will wear some of that. Time will tell whether your decision to go with the Nats was the right one. We hope that your decision will help the land and the people of the land. We wish you well.

Act, we have worked together cooperatively and respectfully as MMP parties and I hope we continue to do so. However, your ideology really does seem to represent the right wing of the US Republican Party in New Zealand so far as I can tell. The climate denial, the opposition to science, the three strikes policy, the taxpayers' rights bill, the war for oil, these are all Republican Party policies that have failed in the US and you are now trying to import into our country. The US Republicans have just been ousted after the most disastrous presidency in memory, leaving that country staggering from a financial crisis, a massive prison population, a crime problem, an unresolved illegal foreign war, a massive debt and more. Let's move on.

I give greetings to the Hon Jim Anderton and Hon Peter Dunne.

Those who are yet to come

This election campaign the Greens campaigned for our children's future. The Greens come to this place to be a voice for generations to come and for those who don't have a voice for themselves. Those who are yet to be born but who will bear the consequences of our actions.

To paraphrase Shakespeare from Henry the Fifth

"And some are yet ungotten and unborn That may have cause to curse the Government's scorn"

Unborn New Zealanders will live to curse this Government if it decides to go into climate change denial. We've already had one ineffective government on climate change - emissions increased over 10% over the course of the last Government - we can't afford another one.

And so will New Zealanders as yet ungotten and unborn curse this Government's scorn if it continues to stand by as the last one did while our rivers, lakes and beaches are polluted. The Resource Management Act is so weak that it provides little protection and yet this Government bleats the mantra of industrial agriculture that we must weaken the RMA and cut out community participation in decision-making.

Weakening environmental protection is not in the interests of our society or economy.

The Greens are the voice for the brand of New Zealand: clean and green; 100% pure. A brand that is worth upwards of a billion dollars a year in export earnings according to a study commissioned by the Government in 2001.

Think of the millions of dollars spent promoting 100% pure. Think of the generations of New Zealanders who fought to achieve a nuclear free New Zealand, our nuclear free status being the underpinning of the clean and green branding.

Why are we trying to throw it all away? It won't work as a tourism strategy to say 'Welcome to New Zealand but don't swim at the beaches or you'll get a case of diarrhoea or skin infections or ear infections or eye infections.'

How can it possibly be in our long term economic interests to lose our clean and green brand? The problem with the last Government was that it was too scared to take on Federated Farmers and industrial agriculture to clean up our rivers and lakes and constrain greenhouse emissions. Is this Government similarly scared? Is this Government going to sit on its hands while things get worse like the last one?

I would remind the Parliament that three of the largest corporations in the world just went begging to the US Congress for billions of dollars to avoid bankruptcy. GM, Chrysler and Ford thought all this talk about finite resources and greenhouse was bunkum and now they are up against the financial wall when their big gas guzzlers went out of vogue as oil went through the roof and the world became more climate conscious.

Economics and environment are joined at the hip

The Prime Minister has stated a desire to pursue an "appropriate balance" between environmental responsibility and economic opportunity - as if these two goals can only be pursued at the expense of one another. As if we can have a thriving global economy so long as we do not go overboard in terms of addressing a climate crisis that threatens the safety of our very species on the planet.

Let's weigh it up - future of humanity on the one side, and - let's use John Key's words - 'economic opportunities' on the other. Tough call. If I were a betting man - or perhaps a trader - I think I'd know which side to give a little more weight to.

Of course the real problem is that what's being put forward is a false dichotomy - we don't have to choose between the environment and the economy.

The real dichotomy is that we can either protect our planet - on which our economy entirely depends - or we can sacrifice both in a medieval anti-science book-burning.

It's the environment stupid

And where do we think the next wave in innovation and jobs is coming from? Either New Zealand will lead in developing innovative ways to protect the environment or we will find ourselves once again being technology takers paying for the technology developed overseas to reduce greenhouse emissions, to clean up rivers. The Republican Governor of California talks about the green revolution, the economic transformation that is creating millions of green collar jobs around the world. New Zealand can be part of the Green Revolution or we can once again fall prey to the laissez faire anti-science brigade who say the market knows best.

The market-knows-best brigade just collapsed the global financial system.

Smart green solutions that face the science honestly and use the innovation and creativity of ordinary New Zealanders are going to be our future if the Green Party has anything to do with it. Bright green ideas that deal with the environmental challenges while building new businesses that employ New Zealanders in worthwhile occupations will be the future the Greens offer to our country.

There are those who say that the Greens should only speak out about what they call environmental issues. But there is no simple division between social and environmental issues.

Climate change is the biggest social justice emergency this planet faces. Millions and millions of inhabitants of planet earth will die if we don't act. It is an environmental issue, it is a social issue.

Protecting our children from violence has been a Green priority from the beginning and will continue to be so. We make no apologies. Sadly the referendum coming up on parental discipline will add little to the debate.

Poverty will continue to preoccupy the Greens. Even the Treasury briefing to the incoming Government acknowledged that poverty is an obstacle to economic development because poor children's abilities are never utilised because they never get the chance. Our Prime Minister got a hand up through the welfare state and state housing and now he wants to cap that opportunity for others. We need more social housing not a cap.

A society that is divided on itself, a society that treats people like a means to the end of a corporation's profits, an unequal society where the rich eat the future's of the poor, is not a society that will be able to deal to the challenges of environmental sustainability. And, by dealing with the environmental challenges we can have a more prosperous society with a better quality of life. This is the virtuous circle.

We will continue to campaign for safe food and country of origin labelling of food, just like our trading partners Australia, US and Europe. The Chinese melamine scare showed once and for all that country of origin labelling is a food safety issue as you can't avoid Chinese melamine contaminated products if you don't know where the food came from.

Global financial collapse

And any response to the global financial meltdown needs to acknowledge the environmental reality. We need a green new deal.

The infrastructure investment that the Government is about to embark upon must be focussed on our long term needs. We need a decent public transport system, we need to plant-out eroding hillsides, we need to insulate our cold damp inefficient houses, we need to invest in high speed broadband. We need to invest in dilapidated sewerage systems around our country that pollute rivers and beaches, discourage tourists, and stop New Zealanders enjoying their birthright - a swim at a clean beach and feed of kaimoana.

The transition to a sustainable economy can start now if we use our heads and face the future instead of the past.

I hope the Government reassesses backward looking steps like stopping the Buy Kiwi Made campaign and abolishing the tax incentive to invest in research and development. How on earth will we improve productivity if we don't create incentives to invest in R&D?

Silencing the opposition

I now want to turn to our democracy. The Greens are now firmly established as the third party in our democracy.

There are those who would silence the voice of the Greens. During the campaign we saw a shameful collaboration between Labour and National to keep the Greens out of the televised leaders' debates. The result was a rather uninspiring debate.

There are those who are frightened by what the Greens have to say, there are those who are threatened by our truth telling about the state of the planet and the state of Aotearoa.

But we will not be silenced.

There are those who want to try to silence the Greens by abolishing our proportional voting system and replacing it with some form of undemocratic elected dictatorship like the supplementary member system. If the last election had been run under supplementary member system then the Greens would have one seat in Parliament instead of nine and that is exactly what the enemies of proportional voting want. It is not very different to first past the post.

And MMP not only brings a diversity of views it brings a diversity of people into Parliament.

In the current Parliament we have a third woman, compared to a fifth in the last first past the post Parliament.

In the current Parliament we have 15% from a Maori background compared to 8% under FPP.

In the current Parliament we have 3% from a Pacific background and 3% from an Asian background, compared to 1% and 0% respectively under FPP.

This is what the enemies of MMP and proportionality want - to return us to a time when Parliament was well funded white men in suits.

Well I warn those with aspirations to silence dissent and diversity - your attempt to get rid of proportional representation will fail. Enough people remember what happened last time we had an elected dictatorship - our economy was wrecked and our society was ripped asunder.

And how about letting ordinary people have a say in all this. The Greens put forward a citizens' assembly to look at electoral finance law. Citizens' assemblies allow a group of citizens to have an informed discussion about a topic. After all we allow juries of 12 regular men and women to make some of the most important decisions in our society - whether someone is guilty or not guilty of a crime and hence whether they will have their liberty taken from them.

Why don't we take the partisanship out of electoral law by using citizens' assemblies to come up with proposals for electoral law just like juries do? This system has been used in a number of countries and we would've had one here had not National squashed it.

Wrap up

The Greens have come to this place to progress our vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand that is peaceful, just, democratic and sustainable. We will be both constructive and staunch as we need to be to achieve these goals. It is indeed Once more into the breach dear friends once more.

ENDS

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