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Metiria Turei on The Nation


Interviewed by DUNCAN GARNER

Duncan Rifts have been revealed in the Green Party which now stands accused of forsaking its principles by moving to the right. It announced at its annual meeting last weekend that it may consider working with National despite major policy differences. That’s infuriated former Green MP Sue Bradford who says the right wing shift was the main reason she quit. So how willing are the Greens to get into bed with the National Party? Co-leader Metiria Turei is with me, thanks for joining me.

I look at your speech at your conference last weekend where you said it's highly unlikely we could support National on confidence and supply, but we have not ruled it out entirely. To the voting public that looks like you may get into bed with them in a confidence and supply agreement.

Metiria Turei – Green Party Co-Leader
Well what we said is we've worked really well with them over our Memorandum of Understanding and we've achieved excellent gains about $400m dollars' worth of good green change in the last three years, and we think we could do that again, but it is highly unlikely we could support them in confidence and supply, we haven’t ruled it out completely though.

Duncan So why don’t you stop confusing the public then?

Metiria it's not a confusion actually, I think it's a more straightforward, a more honest approach. There may be some time in some future an opportunity for us to work closer with National. They would have to change a great deal, and they could do that, in order to make that possible. But we are letting the public know that we want to be constructive in parliament, and we will work across the political spectrum to get the good green change that the public wants to see.

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Duncan But on their current policy platform and you're looking at 2011, some big changes around Welfare and asset sales, two crucial moves. On those two policies alone you'd rule it out wouldn’t you, it would be more than highly unlikely.

Metiria Well that may well be the case, and in fact yes on policy, one policy in particular, Welfare policy, I'm very critical of what they're doing. That is why we said, it's highly unlikely, it is certainly highly unlikely.

Duncan What about an abstention, there's all this talk about perhaps you could abstain to allow them to govern. How realistic is that?

Metiria Well we would put that in the highly unlikely bundle, because it doesn’t allow them to govern, and we've said that that’s highly unlikely to happen. So an abstention just as much as a vote for sort of operates in that same space. We've worked really well with them. We've worked really well with Labour in the past. We can get good things done, that’s why we're there. We're just being more upfront about the fact that it is possible to work across this political spectrum for good green change.

Duncan Because one of your former MPs Nandor Tanchos wrote on our website at 3News this week, it is unlikely but not impossible that the Greens would support a National government. You see he seems to be suggesting to Green voters out there that you might do the deal.

Metiria I certainly think it's highly unlikely in this election, and it may be highly unlikely for some time, because National would really need to change a great deal of its focus. It has been a different kind of party in the past and it could be different some time in the future, but the most important thing for us is that we are an independent, principled and rather patient party, and we know how to get good things done regardless of who's in parliament, regardless of the coalitions.

Duncan And those good things, you’ve had this Memorandum of Understanding. What is it you could work with them on in the next three years. What is it? I know you talked about not bottom lines at the weekend, but what is it you want?

Metiria There's a range of things that we could work on. One of the things I propose is that we reintroduce the training incentive allowance for DPB and sickness beneficiaries through to the university level, and that’s something that they may decide that we could work on that together. We might be able to work on more environment issues like we have with pest control and cleaning up toxic sites, and I certainly think we could extend the home insulation programme with them over time. So there's lots of areas, small areas and discreet areas where we may be able to work together, but we have to work through those carefully as we've done in the last three years.

Duncan You talk about those minor things, well not so minor but they would be in a Memorandum of Understanding, what about the Emissions Trading Scheme which you're vehemently against the one that they’ve got in the market?

Metiria Mm, well again they would have to make some changes. I mean you’ve gotta remember National and Labour want to be in government much more than anybody else does, and if they genuinely are prepared to change, a great deal of their economic policy in particular, then we might be able to see what can happen. But they won’t do that because they're on a path to destruction of the country in my view, so we'll see.

Duncan What about this argument that’s come from your, I don’t know if it's former friend now, Sue Bradford, that she says it's not a matter of perception that the Greens have moved to the right, it's a matter of fact, and if you want to get rid of the National Party you may not now vote Green?

Metiria Well that’s what Sue thinks, and what's actually happened is that we've made clear what our position is. We're highly unlikely to be in a coalition of any kind with National. Sue has decided that means we've changed. In fact nothing about us has changed. We have the same principles, the same values, the same policy, the same priorities, which is our people our environment and a compassionate economy that works for everybody. Now she wants us to be along that scale because it satisfies I think her concern about why it was that she left, but we haven’t actually changed at all.

Duncan But you could you see. As Bryce Edwards has pointed out this week that no one thought Winston Peters would go with National in 1996, no one Treaty the Maori Party would go with National in 2008.

Metiria And we've learnt the lesson which has shown that when you do deals like that you get slaughtered for it, and the Green Party has learnt the lessons both of our own relationships with Labour which were not always so fantastic, but also the lessons of other parties that have been involved with government. Government is actually very bad for you if you are an MMP party, so you have to be very careful.

Duncan So why didn’t you tell people last weekend hey we're gonna stay out of government full time. We're not gonna be like the European Greens, we don’t want to be in government at all, because we'll be slaughtered?

Metiria No cos that’s silly. No because actually we do want to be in government.

Duncan You want to be Ministers?

Metiria We do want to be Ministers, but we will do it on our terms, and we will do it according to the processes that we have in place and our principles, and we will make sure that regardless of whether we are in government or not, we will get good change. We are an independent party, we don’t belong to either of those tribes. We are an independent party and we can do good things regardless of the kind of relationship we have with government.

Duncan And for the last 15 years Nandor Tanchos has pointed out that you’ve been hanging on to mama's skirt if you like, which is the Labour Party. What do you owe them, because you’ve still got much more…

Metiria Nothing.

Duncan What do you owe them?

Metiria We owe them nothing. I mean I can see why he said that, but I don’t agree, and I think we've been clear about that, and particularly clear about that over the last week or so with the political position we've got. We don’t owe National or Labour anything, we are an independent political force, and we're successful and effective.

Duncan Look at the Labour Party's record for instance on climate change. Labour Party's record on climate change, can you name the climate change spokesperson?

Metiria it's David Parker or Charles Chauvel, one of those two.

Duncan No, Brendon Burns.

Metiria Oh is it, well there you go.

Duncan Brendon Burns, and do you know where they’ve ranked him?

Metiria No, no I don’t know where they ranked him.

Duncan 29 in the caucus. He's the 29th. So you don’t know that, you don’t know he's 29, why would you go into bed with a Labour Party that doesn’t put that as such a high preference?

Metiria Well we haven’t said that we will. This is the point that we have said that of the two we would be more likely to support Labour than National and that’s fact and that’s true, that is the case, but that does not guarantee at all that we will support Labour, because again it would come down to what kind of policy gains that we could get and what their overall political programme was.

Duncan And look at Phil Goff. Do you think he can win the election?

Metiria I think it's going to be tough, I think it will depend on his friends, I think that a Labour led government will be one that’s – they will have to work out carefully what their positioning is gonna be.

Duncan You don’t have confidence in him do you?

Metiria I think well I mean if he doesn’t belong to my party, I don’t have to have any confidence in him, but…

Duncan No but for you to be a Minister you rely on Labour effectively getting there?

Metiria Ah, well no, no backtrack a bit. You're assuming that if Labour was in government that we would be in a coalition deal with them. You can't assume that, that is not what we've said. We've said because it may be that we decide to stay out of any coalition government because of other reasons. You go into these deals for a whole lot of complex reasons and there's a lot of other considerations other than being Minister you take into account.

Duncan Is your positioning in the last seven days, it looks highly opportunistic too of course because you don’t believe Phil Goff can win the election. You want to make concessions, you want policy concessions …

Metiria We're effective mature you know political players, we've been in this game now for a very long time, and we can see you know how we can survive long term because that is our aim, were not gonna be a short term political party. If we do get into government it will be because we can get good policy gains.

Duncan But it seems like if you want to have some kind of gain in parliament in the next three years it's not going to be with the Labour Party, it's going to be with John Key.

Metiria And something like a Memorandum of Understanding might be the best way to do it, and if it is and that works out and we can find good policy areas to agree on, to work with, then we will do that, but we will never give up our independence or our principles for any kind of government position.

Duncan Right, Metiria Turei Greens Co-leader thank you for joining us in the studio today.

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