Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation Speech

Metiria Turei gave Greens annual ‘State of the Nation’ speech yesterday. It was more a State of the Greens speech, which is fair enough.

The worst part was the last line – “Together we are heading towards a beautiful tomorrow.” Her Green fans will probably love that but I doubt if it’s a new vote winner.

The best part was a proposal to establish an election policy costing unit in Treasury.

Today, the Green Party has sent a letter to each party leader, asking for support from across the House to establish an independent unit in the Treasury to cost policy promises.

Political parties could submit their policies for costing to this independent unit, which would then produce a report with information on both the fiscal and wider economic implications of the policy.

This was well reported and applauded. More about this in a separate post.

She promoted Green policy successes from outside Government over the years and tried to overcome one of their problems.

And I hear the same doubts expressed about the Greens as they said to Savage. We like you. We like your ideas. We’re worried about the future. But you’ve never been in government before, so how can we trust you with our vote? It’s a Catch-22.

So today I want to talk about these reservations people have about us and tell you why you can trust us with your vote and with the responsibility of helping to govern the country.

She tried to dispel the notion that Greens were radical, trying to attack that label to National.

The first thing I want to talk about is this idea that the Greens are too radical. Too outlandish. We have all these audacious ideas that won’t work in the real world.

There are two lessons here. The first is that ideas that are attacked as radical when the Greens propose them become conventional, sensible solutions very quickly when other parties adopt them. That tells us something about the gap between perception and reality when it comes to the Green Party.

The second is that if you still think Green ideas are too radical for government then you have a problem. Because no matter which party you vote for, a lot of the new ideas and new solutions still come from us.

It’s not radical to stand against the disintegration of our environment and our society. It would be radical not to do so.

The solutions to the problems we face are not radical, or outlandish, the solutions are transformative.

Instead she claims the current and previous governments have been radical.

We think that the economic experiment imposed on our country over the last thirty years is radical. We think that doubling the number of dairy cows and the increasing pollution killing our rivers and streams is radical. We think a government that wants to mine our national parks is fanatical. We think the steep rise in child poverty and poverty related child death is radically irresponsible.

However most people won’t read about this attempt at a radical shift in radicalism. It’s a hard argument for Greens to make.

Saying ‘radical’ ten times in speech trying to dispel a perception of Greens being radical is unlikely to dissociate them from the term.

But Turei got some useful headlines, on a practical policy suggestion – costing policies – that is a good approach from a party from Opposition.

So overall it was a useful speech that had an impact, padded out with most parts that are unlikely to reach any new voters let alone swing them towards the Greens.

Most people won’t even care about costing policies, there’s a lot of scepticism of election promises regardless of who has costed them.

“Together we are heading towards a beautiful tomorrow” sounds like wistful Green dream of utopia if only the people would listen and understand. Most of them never will.

Full speech: Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation speech

 

State of the Nation speeches

Today there will be two State of Nation speeches.

Metiria Turei will give a State of the Nation today, at 12:30 pm today at the National Library in Wellington.

This will be live streamed: http://livestream.com/nzgreens/StateoftheNation

No mention of this on their website but it is on their Facebook page.

Winston Peters will also give NZ First’s State of Nation speech tonight, again not on their website but details are on their Facebook page:

The Rt Hon Winston Peters will be giving his state of the nation speech at the Orewa Rotary Club at 6pm.

Orewa Rotary Club
Rotary House
War Memorial Park
4 Hibiscus Coast Highway
Silverdale

This will compete for media attention with another political event tonight in which another NZ First MP will be speaking:

NZ First Trades Spokesman Fletcher Tabuteau – NZ First MP will be part of a political panel about the TPPA at Auckland Town Hall at 7pm.

Auckland Town Hall
Queen Street
Auckland Central
Auckland

I get the impression that the TPPA event will be in Auckland.

Metiria will also be on the political panel at the TPPA meeting.

 

 

TPPA petitions

There are two separate petitions trying to stop the New Zealand Government from signing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, an online petition and a more traditional paper petition.

As reported yesterday by Radio NZ: TPPA petition gets thousands of signatures

A petition against New Zealand signing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has gathered over 11,000 signatures in just two days.

Barry Coates from the ‘It’s Our Future Coalition’ set up the petition and said he expected more people to sign it.

“If we continue at that rate we’ll be in the hundreds of thousands of signatures. This petition particularly says to the Government ‘don’t sign the TPPA’. It’s a crucial point when our government signs it and we don’t think that they have a mandate to sign the agreement and this petition gives people a chance to say no.”

Barry Coates said the deal was designed to serve the interests of large corporations rather than those of people or the planet.

The petition doesn’t actually say to the Government ‘don’t sign the TPPA’. It says:

We, the undersigned, do not consent to the Government of New Zealand signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

It currently has 15,000 ‘signatures’.  It will probably get a lot more signatures over the next week or two.

Online petitions have been used to campaign against a number of things but they have generally been ineffective.

It’s confusing who is behind the petition. Here Barry Coates is named as having set it up.

But on the It’s Our Future website (that Coates is involved with) it states:

Our friends at ActionStation are hosting a petition opposing the signing.

Perhaps that’s because Action Station has the facilities to run the petition – and collect email addresses.

TPPAPetition

Action Station have been active in a number of social media campaigns.

ActionStation is here to enable the large community of Kiwis with shared progressive values to take powerful, coordinated action on urgent issues we care about.

They claim to be independent:

Independent and member-led, we are affiliated with no political party, and answer only to our members.

But people involved in establishing Action Station were also involved with the Green Party.

And Coates is also closely associated with the Greens. He was placed at 17 on the Green list in 2014 which was a position thought to have had a good chance of making it into Parliament. Should another Green seat become vacant Coates is next in line to become an MP.

Coates was a candidate for the Mt Roskill electorate and is still listed as a Green candidate on their website.

The paper petition was launched last month:

TPPA Free and Action groups petition the Governor General – “Save our Democracy”

TPP Free Wellington today launched a petition calling the Governor General to Command the government to put the question of proceeding with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to a binding referendum.

This petition press release was posted on the It’s Our Future website. Signed paper petitions take a long time and a lot of effort, so it’s possible Coates and It’s Our Future and Action Station decided to try the much simpler and faster online approach.

The online source for this petition seems to be here:  No Mandate Do Not Sign TPPA – GG Petition

We’ve launched a petition calling the Governor General to Command the government to put the question of proceeding with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to a binding referendum.

We have produced a number of resources to support the No Mandate – Do Not Sign TPPA campaign. 

The petition available here:

https://www.facebook.com/download/1643735472546615/Petition%20of%20the%20People%20of%20Aotearoa%20-%20Copy.pdf

I think there’s no chance of this petition getting sufficient signatures before the signing which is in early February (possibly February 4).

Petitioning the Governor General is a novel approach but it would be a major change in how we do democracy if the Governor General became involved in Government processes due to a petition.

Here’s the explanation of why we take this approach.  

The Governor General is the appointed Guardian of our representative democracy.

The petition asserts that the Government has no democratic mandate for TPPA. The Government kept the text secret from voters at the last election.1 Without information, we have not mandated our elected representatives.2
Treaty negotiations Minister Tim Groser in July 2012 stated: “trade agreements involve concessions over the sovereign rights of countries”3
The enormous and unprecedented scale of TPPA requires a democratic mandate.4
Once in force, withdrawal might be impossible in practice, so the deal could not be undone.5
The petition states as follows:
We, the UNDERSIGNED citizens and residents of Aotearoa New Zealand, PETITION Your Excellency:
  1. to COMMAND the Government to put the question of proceeding with, or withdrawal from TPPA to a BINDING REFERENDUM; and
  2. to PROHIBIT the Government from signing any final agreement, or taking any binding treaty action UNLESS the People vote in favour; and
  3. to REFUSE Assent to any enabling legislation UNLESS the People vote in favour.

Our petition requires that the Governor General use his Reserve Powers6 to protect the democracy.

 That looks bizarre as far as democratic process goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IPCA to investigate Hager house search

The Independent Police Complaints Authority has propmtly confirmed to the Green Party that it will investigate a complaint about the police actions in searching Nicky Hager’s house.

Metiria Turei has advised by press release:

IPCA to investigate Green’s complaint over Hager search

The Green Party received a letter this afternoon from the IPCA confirming that it will investigate, after the party wrote to the authority on Monday. A High Court judge last week found that the police warrant and search on Mr Hager’s home, which followed the publication of his book Dirty Politics, were unlawful.

“We welcome the IPCA’s prompt decision to investigate the decisions that led to the police warrant and unlawful search of Mr Hager’s home,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“There are many unanswered questions from the Dirty Politics scandal, and why the police made the decision to search Mr Hager’s home is one them.

“Given that the warrant and search on Mr Hager’s house has been ruled unlawful, I asked IPCA to investigate the decisions of senior-ranked police officials involved in applying for the warrant.

“It’s important to remember that Nicky Hager’s work uncovering the dirty politics regime run out of the Prime Minister’s office was the reason for the search.

“The Prime Minister has never properly addressed those allegations, other than to attack Mr Hager’s integrity.

“However the Inspector General of Intelligence did investigate one of Hager’s claims and confirmed the Prime Minister’s staff had handed confidential information provided by the Security intelligence Service to the attack blogger Cameron Slater,” Mrs Turei said.

I think this investigation will be useful in determining whether there was political involvement in police decisions to search Hager’s house.

Labour MPs including Annette King and David Parker have also suggested political ‘pressure’ – see Labour accusations of political pressure on police.

Turei’s emphasis here on ‘Dirty Politics’ suggests a wider agenda as her motive but the IPCA should focus on what influenced police decisions to search Hager’s house.

If there was interference from politicians it’s important that comes out.

And it is as important to know if there was not political pressure in this case, to counter the political accusations and insinuations.

Gareth Hughes calls democracy into question

Green MP Gareth Hughes has called our democractic process into question because his flag choice got one tenth of the votes of the favoured designs.

Hughes was a stong promoter of the Red Peak design, being instrumental in having it added belatedly to the ballot. It got about one tenth of the votes of the two Lockwood silver fern/southern cross designs.

Now he wants the public to vote to keep the current flag.

NZ Herald reports: Green Party MP Gareth Hughes not giving up on Red Peak.

Hughes believed the Red Peak design will continue to grow in popularity and it is still a viable option to become the new national flag of New Zealand.

Does that mean he will campaign for the olf flag in the referendum, in the hope that in twenty years Red Peak will be still around and will replace it?

“Half of the people did not bother to vote in the referendum, anyway, which means the whole existing process has to be called into question,” he said. “Red Peak still has a strong future.”

Hughes calls into question a referendum where one and a half million people voted?

1,127,191 people voted for a Lockwood silver fern/southern cross design.

A similar number – 1,131,501 – voted for National in the last general election. Does Hughes call into question whether National should be in Government?

In comparison 119,672 voted for Red Peak.

Hughes seems to be calling into question democratic votes that don’t match his preference, no matter how small a minority it is.

DCC votes to be Green climate lobbyists

The infiltration of Green national politics into local body government took a worrying turn yesterday. Dunedin City Council has voted in four climate change resolutions:

• Urge the Government to adopt a tougher carbon emissions target.

• Support the Government in that goal by reducing Dunedin’s carbon emissions.

• Join the international ”Compact of Mayors” agreement to measure and reduce emissions across Dunedin.

• Ask the Government to place a moratorium on deep sea oil and gas exploration.

It looks like there is a big dollop of Green Party national politics in those resolutions, with the Dunedin City Council voting to allow themselves to be Government lobbiests on issues of national and international interest.

The resolutions were brought before the council by Crs Jinty MacTavish and Aaron Hawkins.

I don’t think McTavish is officially in the Green Party but is closely aligned with more extreme Green policies, and has been influential in promoting Green policies and practices at a local body level.

Hawkins stood as a Green Party candidate in 2013 local body elections when he became a councillor.

The ODT reports in Council says yes to climate change resolutions that there was some opposition:

Cr Andrew Noone said Dunedin would be better off ”walking the talk” than telling the Government what to do.

Cr John Bezett said the issue was one for central Government, and Dunedin was ”wasting our time” giving its opinion.

Cr Andrew Whiley said climate change was a problem needing to be addressed first and foremost by the world’s biggest polluters, including China and India.

Both there was more support in a fairly left leaning council:

But that view was rejected by Cr Richard Thomson, who said grass-roots pressure was what drove governments to make big decisions.

Cr David Benson-Pope brought cheers from the gallery for his speech on why Dunedin had to take a stand.

”Like it or not, colleagues, we are part of our community. In fact, we are supposed to be some of the carriers of the moral leadership.”

”There was no question what thousands of New Zealanders thought about the issue during the weekend’s climate change marches,” he said.

”They think this community needs to move.

”I agree with them, and I’m not reluctant to … tell the Government it’s time that they got real and re-established a degree of political integrity and moral fibre on this issue.”

Benson-Pope has a Labour rather than a Green background. He was an MP from 1999-2008.From 2005-2007 he was Minister for the Environment in the Clark Government.

Unusually for a setting MP he was not selected by his party to stand again for Dunedin South in 2008. It seems like he still has a hankering for being involved in national politics.

I’m not surprised with this Green politicking in Dunedin, the Greening and Lefting of the council was an issue of concern raised in the 2013 election.

I would rather the Dunedin council put more effort into administering and improving Dunedin for their rate payers rather than delving into Green national politics.

UPDATE: In other news in the ODT today things that don’t seem to matter so much to DCC councillors:

Queenstown-Lakes also fared well in the number of dwelling consents issued in October with 96, up from 65 in September and by far the highest for the past 12 months.

Central Otago had 19 dwellings consented, up from 16 and again the highest total for the past 12 months.

Dunedin slumped to 19 dwelling consents in October from 25 in September.

That’s depressing enough, but more so given the headline: New year looks good for Otago builders.  Not so much for Dunedin builders.

 

Greens on RMA

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has spoken up about National’s proposed Resource Management Act reforms, expressing concerns that ‘people’ and ‘neighbours’ won’t get to have their say adequately.

Greens: RMA reforms will ‘lock people out of having their say’

The Green Party has criticised proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA), saying the overhaul would leave many people out of the consultation loop.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the changes will leave too many people without the means to voice their opinion on changes in their neighbourhoods.

“The major part [of the legislation] will be locking people out of consultation and having a say,” Ms Turei told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

She says even under the current laws, only a relatively small number of people are actually involved in the process.

“More than 90 percent of the consents that are issued under the RMA are not notified, there’s only a really small proportion where people get a chance to have a say about what happens in their neighbourhood and we think their right to have a say should be protected.

“There are people who are affected by the decisions that other people make, they should have the right to say [something] about that.”

“We’re talking about people’s neighbourhoods; there are big issues in Auckland at the moment about the nature of development in Auckland City – should Aucklanders be locked out of having a say about what happens in their city?”

Turei seems to be confusing two things – people having their say (there’s many ways they can do that) and potentially bogging down RMA applications because some people want to stop anything changing in their neighbourhood.

This is already a real problem here in Turei’s electorate of Dunedin North, where people oppose building on the other side of the harbour to where they live (and other places) because they don’t like the look of it.

And it could get worse.

The Dunedin City Council is currently proposing a ‘second generation’ district plan. A proposal in that is to designate large areas of the city above the 100 m contour as a ‘significant landscape zone’. And thatb will significantly restrict what you can do with your land if it’s above 100 m in those zones.

A lot of Dunedin is over 100 m.

I have a special interest in this because I own properties that straddle the 100 m contour.

Under the new proposals if I want to build a building larger than 60 square metres I will need resource consent.

If I want tp build a house higher than single story or with paint greater than 30% luminosity or plant particular species of trees or a number of other things I will need notified resource consent.

So neighbours and people on the other side of the harbour will be able to have their say. And if past experience is anything to go by people will oppose.

The local Green dominated council and the Green Party want everyone to be happy before anything is built, and if someone doesn’t like the look of something in the distance then they can do more than have their say – they can stop people doing normal sorts of things with their own land.

There’s a vast difference between environmental protections (important) and allowing neighbours to have their say and prevent people douing what is not out of the ordinary on their own land.

This illustrates a major problem many people have with the Greens.

Just about everyone wants to protect the environment as much as possible, so having someone sticking up for environmental issues is great.

But most people don’t want severe restrictions on what they can do with their own land and property.

And they don’t want extreme Greenies preventing them from doing fairly normal and reasonable things with their own property just because the extreme Greenies have what they want and don’t like the look of something else.

Jan Logie’s ‘many rapists are not always monsters’ comments

There is now a clip at One News of Jan Logie’s comments on rapists – ‘Rapists are not always monsters’ – Green Party MP

LogieOnRapists

Logie: The problem is, and what makes it so hard to disclose in this country and anywhere else is we create the perception that rapists are monsters, that nobody could ever associate with them.

But the truth is that many rapists and sexual offenders are known to us, they’re our family members, they are people that were previously our friends.

So when the Prime Minister creates this impression that this is the absolute worst possible thing it is silencing so many survivors and victims of violence.

Interviewer: Isn’t it though for some people the worst possible thing?

Logie: It is truly an awful awful experience, and these are peoeple we know, and part of what makes it hard to disclose and to hold those people to account  is that we also know them, in many cases as people who are not always monsters.

Now I think I sort of get the point that she’s trying to make, but this is likely to dismay many peoeple who have suffered from rape and sexual assault. And others.

Yes, many people convicted of sexual crimes were friends or family of the victim. (Some are strangers).

And yes, there’s a wide variety of levels of seriousness of sexual crimes.

And yes, some sexual offenders don’t always act like monsters. They may have only once acted like a monster. And they have to live in society after committing their crimes.

But this is a very strange approach from Logie.

If John Key had tried to play down the seriousness or monstrosity of rape like this my guess is that he would have been widely and strongly criticised. He woulld have been hammered. He would still be getting a hammering.

Very odd comments from Logie.

UPDATE: Logie had also posted this the previous day:

The Government’s treatment of sexual violence survivors and history of cutting funding to sexual and family violence services stands in stark contrast to John Key’s tirade about rapists in Parliament yesterday, the Green Party says.

Prime Minister John Key caused widespread offence yesterday with his outburst claiming that members of the opposition were “backing rapists” when they questioned his Government’s unwillingness to challenge Australia’s record on human rights.

“John Key should ditch the playground abuse and turn his energy to backing the rights of sexual violence survivors who, by and large, have had a tough time under this Government,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“Rape crisis centres, and other sexual and family violence services have been forced to cut services under the National Government, victims of sexual violence have been denied help because of ACC changes, and John Key backed decisions to shelve the Law Commission’s work on alternative trials for sexual violence crimes and gut family court protections.

“John Key himself has a history of publicly minimising sexual violence, once telling the young men known as Roast Busters, who got young girls drunk in order to abuse them, to “grow up”.

“My Select Committee inquiry into sexual violence services funding has highlighted huge problems in funding for services, including the need for secure, long-term funding.

“The fact remains, that only about one percent of sexual violence offences result in a conviction, but despite this, the Government has given the Law Commission an impossible time frame to come up with good solutions on alternative trials or other ways to improve the low conviction rate.

“The Government has corrected some of its mistakes lately  – including an emergency funding allocation to keep some services afloat, – but much more is needed before victims feel safe coming forward, and violence is prevented from occurring in the first place,” Ms Logie said.

Jan Logie on Key’s rape comments

Green MP Jan Logie was interviewed on Breakfast this morning.

Initial Twitter coverage:

“I’ve spent a huge number of years fighting against rape culture and have experienced sexual violence myself” – @janlogie

“I really hope the Prime Minister listened… and thinks twice about the impact of those comments”

“The Prime Minister’s comments were knowingly offensive and provocative.. he was using it to distract from a very real concern”

She made some odd comments about rapists, appearing to defend them. According to feedback some people are incensed by her comments.

It’s not online yet.

Video of a brief part: John Key’s rape comment was ‘deeply personally offensive’ – MP

Russel Norman’s valedictory statement

Russel Norman was not everyone’s cup of green tea but he believed strongly in what he stood for and he was a significant force behind the improvement in Green vote (but could also be responsible in part for it hitting an apparent Green ceiling).

RusselNormanValedictory

There are a number of interesting and important points in his speech including:

  • Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people…
  • The state of democracy in New Zealand
  • The fourth estate
  • A bad culture around dissent
  • Sustainability
  • There are too many cows
  • Justice and inequality and poverty

Some of these topics may be worth exploring separately.

Inthehouse video: Valedictory Statement – Dr Russel Norman – 22nd October 2015

Draft transcript:

Valedictory Statements

Speech – Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green)

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green): I rise to pass a few comments and a few thanks at the end of my 7 years as a member of this Parliament and 9 years as co-leader of the Green Party.

I want to start with a little story from Queensland. Some of you may know that I was born in Brisbane—if my accent does not give me away. The thing about Brisbane is that, aside from having a very right-wing Premier for many years, who was very anti-democratic, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who of course was a Kiwi expat, but I have never held that against New Zealand, it also had a terrible history of the treatment of Aboriginal people.

After the frontier wars, Aboriginal people were locked up in concentration camps, called reservations. There was a reservation near Cairns, called Yarrabah. In Yarrabah there was of course a lot of conflict between the Aboriginal people of the Yarrabah reservation and the white overseer, who also owned the store and sold rancid meat, amongst many other things.

The conflict developed between Percy Neal, who was a leader of the Yarrabah community, and the white overseer. Percy Neal, in his argument, spat on the screen door that separated the two of them and for this he was charged with assault and put before a magistrate.

The magistrate said he was an agitator. He said Mr Neal was an agitator. The magistrate sentenced him to 2 months’ jail, with hard labour, for spitting on the screen door. Percy Neal appealed to the Queensland Supreme Court, which in active injustice, increased that penalty to 6 months’ hard labour for spitting on the screen door.

Eventually the appeal went to the High Court in Canberra, the highest court in Australia, and was heard in front of Justice Lionel Murphy. The thing about Lionel was that he was a little bit of an agitator himself, and was appointed by the Whitlam Government on to the High Court of Australia. Lionel wrote a judgment about this case. I just want to quote a little bit of Lionel Murphy’s judgment.

He said, and I am quoting from Justice Murphy: “That Mr Neal was an agitator or stirrer in the magistrate’s view obviously contributed to the severe penalty. If he is an agitator, he is in good company. Many of the great religious and political figures of history have been agitators, and human progress owes much to the efforts of these and many who are unknown.

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people…

As Oscar Wilde aptly pointed out: ‘Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them … there would be no advance towards civilisation.’ ”

Lionel Murphy finished with a very famous quote, where he said: “Mr Neal is entitled to be an agitator.”

I use this quote to tell a little bit about my story about Queensland, and growing up in Queensland, but it is also about the value of activists and agitators—people who challenge the status quo and people who have the courage to stand up against the established order and try to win other people to those ideas.

I believe that activists and agitators have a critical role in human progress. I have been very proud to call myself amongst one of them—one of the many. The other reason I bring it up is that democracy itself is never absolutely secure nor finished.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen was a deeply anti-democratic figure.

I believe that democracy is a lot more than voting once every 3 years. In fact, I think in some ways that is the least part of it. It is all the institutions and culture that sits around it.

The state of democracy in New Zealand

I want to use my remarks to voice my concern about the state of democracy in New Zealand. Democracy is not a black and white thing.

There are gradations of democracy. Putin has elections once every several years, or whatever, but that does not make Russia a democracy.

Some of the institutions I think we should be deeply concerned about: access to information, and Government information in particular, is critical to the functioning of a democracy. In my view, the Official Information Act is relatively moribund now in New Zealand. It is very, very difficult to get information from the Government that the Government does not wish to release. That is a problem.

There was the Jane Kelsey case recently, where the High Court found against Tim Groser, and the Chief Ombudsman, I mean, shamefully, supported Tim Groser in this illegal activity, under the Official Information Act, of suppressing information.

I think we have got a problem with access to information in this country, and that is a critical part of our democracy. Written questions—it is very difficult to get written parliamentary questions answered any more. It is hard to get straight answers. How do you have a proper democracy if you cannot access information?

Question time—let me try to be diplomatic. Lockwood Smith said that a straight question deserves a straight answer. I loved question time with Lockwood Smith. It was one of the highlights of my parliamentary career. He was electric. He made Ministers answer questions. Question time was answer time.

It is no longer answer time, and I think that is a big problem for our democracy because if you cannot access information, it does not work.

The fourth estate

The second institution that I think really matters is the media, the fourth estate. This is not a complaint about a status quo bias to the media. Sure the media does have a status quo bias.

Media institutions are large financial institutions, existing in the status quo, and no one should be surprised that they do tend to have a bias towards the status quo. That is not my gripe.

My gripe is the resources available to journalists. Journalists used to have to produce one or two stories a week in some cases. Now they have to produce four a day. It is very difficult for journalists to do their role in our society, to hold the Government and powerful institutions to account, when journalists do not have the resources to do their job. I think this is a problem for all of us, and I think it is a problem for our democracy.

A bad culture around dissent

I also think we have developed a bad culture around dissent. Look at what happened to Eleanor Catton, look at what happened to Nicky Hager, and what he is currently going through, after the police raided his house because he dared to criticise and get involved in the Cameron Slater issue—one of the Government’s favourites.

There is a bad culture around dissent, in my opinion, and it makes it difficult for people to speak out. The culture that exists matters in a democracy—whether we have a real democracy or not. That is important.

And finally there is the investor-State disputes settlement clauses. These are about placing restrictions on democratically elected Governments. That is why they exist.

So I would say we can fix this. Democracy is an evolving institution. It is a living institution. But it will take a concerted effort from civil society groups and those outside of this institution, I suspect, as much as those within in it, in order to make our democracy healthier than it currently is. That is the first thing I wanted to say.

Sustainability

The second thing I wanted to say was around sustainability. Finite resources, I think, is one of the key insights that the green movement brings to the world—that the small “g” green movement brought to the world. That is, resources are limited and the ability of the planet to absorb our pollution is relatively limited.

There is a connection between democracy and sustainability and that connection became apparent in what happened to Environment Canterbury. The reason why the elected councillors were removed from Environment Canterbury was because the people of Canterbury started to vote for councillors who wanted to restrict the dairy sector. It is as simple as that. That has been stated pretty publicly by the agriculture Minister at the time.

That in my opinion is very problematic because in order to protect our democracy and in order to protect our environment we need a functioning democracy. This is really important and I think that was a classic illustration of it.

But there is a bigger problem, and this came out in the environment report that was released yesterday, and that is around dairy intensification. We need to confront the fact that we have got a big problem now. It has been growing for probably 15 to 20 years but it is now an astronomically large problem around dairy intensification.

It is causing massive climate change emissions, water pollution, water abstraction, compacted soil as the Environment Aotearoa report said, biodiversity loss, and polluted aquifers.

When you think about the fact that if you take water from the Canterbury aquifer—parts of the Canterbury aquifer—and feed it to infants, that water is so polluted that those infants will die. The medical officer of health in Canterbury has said that and it should be a wake-up call that we have got a major pollution problem on our hands.

There are too many cows

It needs to be said that there are too many cows. We just need to say it because it is true. The world is finite. There is not infinite capacity to absorb our pollution. There are too many cows and I think we need to confront that fact and we need to deal with it if we are going to clean up our environment.

One of the great things about my job is that I went on this dirty rivers tour. You know, I went and paddled in lots of dirty rivers—dozens of them; not hard to find—and there are communities all around the country that are trying to protect their rivers.

There are courageous people in rural communities who are speaking out about the impact of dairy intensification on their rivers and their communities and we need to listen to the voices of those people.

I do not think that leadership is going to come from Government and I do not think it is going to come from the industry because there has been plenty of time to fix this problem and it is not getting any better—it is getting radically worse.

It is going to rely, I think, on the NGO sector and the community sector to speak out in order to save our rivers and to protect the natural environment of New Zealand, not to mention the climate change emissions that are coming out of the agriculture sector because, of course, the agriculture sector does not face a price on its greenhouse emissions, so what would you expect.

Justice and inequality and poverty

The third thing I just want to touch on briefly is about justice and inequality and poverty. We have said it 100 times but it has got to be said: there is too much poverty and inequality in New Zealand. Things got worse after the new-right reforms. The Gini coefficient got worse after the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s but things have not really got any better and that is a major problem.

People say the Government cannot do everything. Well, that is true. The Government cannot mend a broken heart; but the Government can fill an empty stomach. That is within our capacity. We can do those things and I think we should, and I think we have a moral obligation to deal with the issues around poverty and inequality.

Honestly, I think it strikes to the very heart of our democracy as well, because when you sit in a society that is highly stratified and you look below you and think “Goodness me, that could be me if I speak out, if I do the wrong thing. If I lose my job, I can’t pay the mortgage, feed the kids, that could be me next.”

It makes everyone very frightened and on edge and it does not give the peace of mind and the stability that a mature democracy needs in my belief.

A few thanks in my closing remarks

I would like just give a few thanks in my closing remarks. Firstly, I would like to thank my partner, Katya Paquin. Katya has not only been a tremendous personal support to me but also a real political support as well. Katya used to be the political director for the Green Party before she got a much more important job, which is looking after our three beautiful kids: Tadhg, Frankie, and Stella.

Aside from doing a fantastic job bringing up those beautiful kids, Katya has been a key political support for me and has provided me with enormous insight into politics. To Tadhg, Frankie, and Stella I would just like to say you have changed me in ways that I never expected—as having kids does to you. But it was only possible really to bring up those kids because of the community we lived in and I would like to thank the people at playcentre, and at kindy, and I would like to thank Katya’s mum, Mary, who has been very, very supportive of us, and also my mum, Ollie May.

My mum is one of those people who is very disrespectful to authority—still is—and I suspect that that was very, very helpful. I do think that those in power often have a vested interest in telling you lies. It is true—it is just true.

So I think it is very important that people look at people in power and do not believe everything they say, take it with a grain of salt, and think for themselves, because the people in power are not always going to tell you the truth.

I would like to thank my brothers and sisters: Linda, Peter, Richard, Alan, and Sandra. I come from a big family. I also thank my friends. You cannot do the kind of work we do here or have a great life without great friends, and I thank Helen and Steve, Rebecca and Steve, John and Paula, Jeff and Roddy, and lots of other people who have been great friends of mine and great people support to me during all of this.

In terms of my staff I have been really blessed with fantastic staff. I thank my assistants Jo Beaglehole, Anna Hynes, Izzy Lomax, Charlie Chambers, and Simon Tapp . You have gone beyond the call of duty.

To all the staff who have supported me over the years—there are too many people to mention. But I thank Ken Spagnolo, Robert Ash, Babs Lake, Andrew Campbell, Holly Donald, Paul Benzeman, Scott Compton, Katya Paquin, Michael Pringle, Sarah Holm—there are more and more of them.

The Green Party, I think, has been extremely blessed with very, very talented staff over the years. I would also like to thank the members of Green Party, and also the members of all political parties.

Democracy has survived only because people join political parties and get engaged in them voluntarily. So although I disagree with people who might be members of other political parties, I certainly respect the fact that they get involved in democracy. I think it is really important.

But I would particular like to thank the members of the Green Party, especially the Rongotai branch, who have been incredibly supportive to me. To the co-leaders I have worked with—Rod, who tragically died, Janette, and Metiria—and good luck, James—it has been great to work with you.

I thank all the Green MPs. It has been great to work all of you—those of us who are here, those of us who have come before. I think the Green MPs have made a huge difference. I would like to really thank the green NGOs, or the environmental NGOs.

Environmental NGOs often have to do the heavy lifting of protecting New Zealand’s natural environment on behalf of everybody else in the courts, day in, day out, and everywhere else. Really, they are often doing the job that the Government should be doing to protect our natural world. It is the environmental NGOs that end up doing it. So I would really like to acknowledge their work.

I would also like to thank the voters, the 250,000-plus people who voted for us at the last election. Thank you for your act of faith in voting Green. I hope you got what you wanted, and I hope that you continue to support the Greens.

I thank all the parliamentary staff: the cleaners, the messengers, the Clerk’s Office, all the people who provide the food and the security, but especially the Parliamentary Library.

Particularly when you are in Opposition it would be very, very hard to do your job without the Parliamentary Library. So I would really like to thank the library staff for all their hard work over the years.

In conclusion

In conclusion I would just like to say that my view is that humanity faces some really big challenges in the decades ahead, particularly around sustainability and climate change, and around inequality and poverty, but also around democracy. I think that democracy faces some big challenges globally, actually. But we also have huge opportunities.

The world is finite—that is true—but human creativity is infinite. Human generosity is infinite. Human courage is infinite. So we have access to some fantastic resources.

As well as facing these big challenges and problems we have inherited from the past, we have also inherited lots of great things from the past, and we have the opportunity to really create a world of abundance for everyone and for all of us living within the finite limits of the natural world.

I think that it is an opportunity that we really should grasp with both our hands, because our children deserve nothing less.

Finally, I would like to dedicate my time here to the people who stand up for a better world regardless of the cost. We are all entitled to be agitators, as Justice Murphy said, and we should exercise that entitlement frequently, and I intend to do so. Kia kaha.

[Applause]

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