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Kedgley: Green Party Adjournment Debate Speech

18 December 2008

Green Party Adjournment Debate Speech

Sue Kedgley MP

On behalf of the Green Party may I congratulate you on your new role, Mr Speaker, and thank the Clerks office for its excellent management of the House this year. I want to thank our hard working and fantastic Parliamentary staff, everyone who has supported the Green party this year, the activists we work with on many issues, and all of the staff in Parliament who support us in this place -the travel office, security staff, select committee staff, Hansard reporters, the wonderful librarians in the reference library, the messengers, Bellamy's staff, the cleaners who come in at the dead of night. I wish all of you a wonderful and well deserved Christmas break

And may I take this opportunity to welcome the new MP's who have joined us in this House. I welcome the commitment and passion you bring and Parliament feels energised by your presence here.

The Green party has already signalled its intention to work constructively with all parties in this House wherever we can find common ground. We intend to be a positive, independent political force in this House, focussed on the future and the world our children will inherit, rather than the next election cycle.

But we have been alarmed, frankly, at some of the undemocratic goings on in this House over the past few weeks --bills tabled in the dead of night, introduced before MP's have had the opportunity to read them and rammed through the House without select committee scrutiny, and we hope this does not signal a new and unwelcome pattern of undermining the democratic processes of this House that former colleagues fought so jealously for.

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We need to remember that our Parliament does not have the safeguards and checks and on the abuse of power that other Parliaments have. We do not have a written constitution or a second House, or a formal separation of powers between the executive and legislature. That's why, under our old first past the post electoral system, many democratically elected Parliaments ended up as elected dictatorships. MMP, and the presence of a range of different parties in Parliament, is a safeguard against one party's ability to ram its agenda through Parliament in an undemocratic way, and that is why we will be vigorously campaigning to keep MMP.

2008 has been a good year for the Green party, and we have emerged from it strengthened and invigorated by the presence of three more MPs in the House, and pleased to be the third largest party in our Parliament. We have clocked up many impressive achievements this year, such as the passage of the Waste Minimisation bill, and of course we had five private members bill passed into law in the last parliamentary term.

But we're worried at the continuing focus of this House on short term issues, at the expense of long term threats to our very survival.

We're worried that this was a year where the global financial meltdown crowded out debate on all other issues, and put climate change on the back burner, when the reality is that the meltdown of the ice in the North and South poles and glaciers around the world will have far more impact on our future than any banking collapse.

The American government has spent more than 4 trillion dollars this year in response to the financial crisis. Meanwhile 40 million more people have been plunged into chronic hunger this year because of the global food crisis, and the World Food Programme lacks the resources to provide enough food aid to more than 33 countries where a large proportion of the population suffer from persistent hunger and malnutrition.

The money governments have pledged to bail out the banks would have financed the worlds Millennium Development goals many times over. But instead of meeting them many governments have failed to even meet the commitments they pledged at the world food security conference this year.

Earlier this week I attended a conference on climate change and food security in Asia, along with three other Parliamentary colleagues. It was a chastening experience, representing New Zealand at a conference on climate change. Our clean green image is pivotal to our identity as New Zealanders, as well as being worth billions of dollars to our economy. And so it was frankly offensive and embarrassing to have to admit that our government is backtracking on climate change, hasn't decided whether its real or not, and that our much cherished clean green image is fast becoming something of a sham.

Let me assure this House that Asian parliamentarians are not sitting around debating whether climate change is real. Many Asian countries are already experiencing the reality of climate induced natural disasters such as floods, droughts, typhoons on a routine basis. Floods have destroyed crops in many countries this year; countries like Indonesia and Vietnam are experiencing 6-7 major climatic disasters every year; the Himalayan glaciers are receding rapidly and many could melt entirely by 2035, which will affect major Asian rivers, and water supplies throughout the region.

The Vietnamese government is well aware that climate change could devastate the most fertile, food producing areas of Vietnam, and affect 20 million people living in their low lying coastal areas. Bangladesh knows that a one metre rise in sea would inundate 17% of its country, destroy much of its food bowl and displace 15 million people, while the Maldives Islanders know that climate change will cause their low lying country-like many Pacific nations-- to disappear off the face of the earth.

So Asian politicians are not sitting around discussing whether climate change is real.

They know that once global warming really kicks in, no country will be immune from its effects. And they know that millions, more likely billions, of poor people living in developing countries, will be the hardest hit. They will suffer the terrible consequences of a problem they did not contribute to, and will have no choice but to continue to live in the disaster prone areas.

There was an interesting debate at the conference about the idea that countries with high per capita emissions -like New Zealand, with the sixth worst carbon footprint in the world -should have added global responsibilities for combating climate change and assisting low carbon emitting countries-and a special obligation to take in the millions of climate change refugees that will need somewhere to live.

So even if we were to follow the advice of Rodney Hide, and put our collective heads in the sand, we will not be immune from the devastating global effects of climate change. We will be called to account by future generations, and we will be called on to assist the billions of people who will suffer if we don't respond quickly enough, not to mention the large numbers of climate refugees who may turn to New Zealand as a safe haven to escape to.

Instead of thinking about these issues, we are debating whether climate change is real or not. Our government is trying to weaken the post-Kyoto protocol, and systematically overturning all the progress we had made on sustainability issues and climate change-undermining our renewable energy industry, our biofuels industry, getting rid of the billion dollar home insulation fund, to name but a few.

Frankly, I cant understand why the government is doing all this. Members of the National and ACT parties have children. Why are they condemning their children to an uncertain and perilous future? And how will they explain to their children why, when they were in government, they procrastinated and dithered in the face of the greatest threat the world has faced.

Lets face it, the world is in a precarious state. The glaciers are melting, the oceans are acidifying, the bees are disappearing and everywhere there are signs of ecological collapse.

Our forebears did not realise the environmental consequences of many of their actions they took. They didn't realise that pesticides would poison our earth and rivers, or that CFC's would destroy the ozone layer, but we do. We are only too well aware of what will happen if we fail to act to reduce the impact of climate change, so we will have no excuses to fall back on.

So let us hope that after our much needed Christmas break our government will have a change of heart, and that 2009 will see us back on track again, meeting our global obligations and our obligations to our children, and facing the challenge of climate change head on.


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