Welfare overhaul announcement ‘imminent’

Jacinda Ardern has said that an announcement on aims to overhaul welfare delivery is ‘imminent’, but it will rely on yet another working group so any decisions are likely to be quite a way down the track.

Some (Greens especially) have proposed a much more generous ‘no questions asked’ welfare payment system.

The Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement stated:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

That is toned down from what Metiria Turei promoted before crashing during last year’s election campaign, in a policy labelled ‘Mending the Safety Net’:

We will:

  • Increase all core benefits by 20 percent
  • Increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut
  • Increase the value of Working For Families for all families
  • Create a Working For Families Children’s Credit of $72 a week
  • Remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits
  • Reduce the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent on income under $14,000
  • Introduce a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000 per year.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $17.75 in the first year and keep raising it until it’s 66 percent of the average wage.

Our welfare system should provide effective support for people who need it, while they need it. The social safety net should stop families from falling into poverty and guarantee a basic, liveable income. That’s what it means to live in a decent, compassionate society.

Punishing people through benefit sanctions, cuts, and investigations has not worked. Rather than giving people ‘incentives’, it traps them in a cycle of poverty and puts children’s wellbeing at risk. Children suffer when the welfare system punishes their parents, and in the long term, so does society. It is never ok for the government to use poverty or the threat of poverty as a weapon.

The Green Party’s plan will ensure the people on the highest incomes pay their fair share and those that need help are treated with respect and dignity.

That last paragraph looks like code for a major redistribution – one could wonder if it aims at ‘fair share’ being equal share, no matter what work one does or doesn’t do.

Stuff: Welfare overhaul working group details leak out online

Details of the “imminent” Government overhaul of the welfare system have emerged in online job listings.

The job listings show the Government is setting up a welfare overhaul “expert advisory group” supported by a secretariat of officials from different departments.

The listings for a project manager and strategic communications advisor were posted in March of this year on the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) website.

In the job description MSD write “the Government has committed, through the Labour/Greens Confidence and Supply Agreement, to overhaul the Welfare System. This work will be led by an independent group of Experts, supported by a Secretariat of officials from MSD, the Treasury and Inland Revenue.”

The listings have emerged as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said an announcement on the welfare overhaul is “imminent”.

Ardern has made clear that some sanctions would remain after the overhaul.

She said a culture change was needed at Work and Income, but acknowledged that “by and large” case managers did a good job.

“Culture change is difficult. We are coming in after nine years of there being an expectation that there be a singular focus on reducing benefit numbers and of course we want people in work, we want people who are seeking work to be able to find work, but I think it has tipped over into a space where it actually denying people who need help the help they need,” Ardern said.

This reform could be a real test of Labour versus Green aims.

Greens want a radical change to generous state assistance as a right and a choice. This may meet some resistance from people who pay tax, but is likely to be supported by those who can’t work, and also by those who don’t want to work.

If I was offered the option of a comfortable income from the Government I would be very tempted to retire early.

We already have sustained high immigration because we don’t have enough New Zealand workers for a number of industries. If we have more of a choice to not work would higher immigration to compensate be acceptable?

Welfare reform is a big and contentious issue.

There is no doubt that the current system has serious flaws and is punitive, but it will be difficult – and potentially very expensive – to make major changes.

For the Greens to get what they want it will involve much more than welfare reform – their wish list would require…

  • welfare reform
  • tax and revenue reform
  • employment reform
  • serious reconsideration of immigration

…and probably more

If it ended up how some indicate they want it too it would involve a radical shift towards virtual socialism.

Swarbrick emphasises Green ‘holistic pillars’, but…

Further to a recent post about how the Greens say how social just and environmental issues can’t be separated – see How ‘intrinsically linked’ is the environment and social justice? – Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has emphasised how much loyal Greens insist that substantial economic reform is essential for environmental survival.

The Spinoff: Why we can’t divorce genuine climate action from social justice

A slew of commentary and cartoons around the Green Party co-leader contest suggests we have to ‘choose’ between policy priorities, and it couldn’t be a bigger stack of nonsense, says Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.

Right there, in our daily assumptions and prejudices, lies some of the more salient examples of why environmental and social issues are inextricably linked. We have a system that produces and even incentivises harmful defaults: plastic bags, junk food, petrol guzzling. Operating outside of those systemic defaults require time, energy, and money.

The inextricable connection between our social and environmental issues go far deeper than that, though. Evidence demonstrates that the wealthiest in our country, and our world, are responsible for the large majority of climate-changing emissions, yet maintain the resource to continue moving further and further away from the destructive impact they’re having on the environment.

Meanwhile, the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies contribute the least in emissions but hugely disproportionately suffer the consequences of rising sea levels, poisoned waterways, polluted air, and a climate changed world.

I think there are some highly debatable claims made there.

Such commentators often simplistically point out that our name, and colour, is Green. The slightest bit more research would uncover that our charter is explicitly holistic in its four pillars:

  • entrenching values of ecological wisdom
  • social responsibility
  • appropriate decision making
  • non-violence

All laudable ideals – but an interesting selection.

You don’t get paradigm shift towards genuine sustainability without all four. And, it’s worth remembering, they’ve been there from the grassroots genesis of our party.

The thing is, each of those four ideals can be promoted individually. You can clean up rivers, promote social responsibility (including opposing benefit fraud), improve our democratic system and reduce horrendous levels of violence separately.

But there is a fairly critical ‘pillar’ missing from that list.

I think Jeanette Fitzsimons said it best when she said, “We have an economic system that exploits both people and the planet.”

The economic system is critical – countries without sound economic systems tend to have less money and resolve to deal with these pillars.

To simply claim that rich people pollute the most and poor people don’t is debatable.

To individualise the systemic problems of inequality, homelessness, or mass incarceration in a wealthy and supposedly enlightened country like ours is to uphold a fundamentally flawed house of cards at the expense of our fellow human beings. It’s also proven a spectacular failure in approach if we’re genuinely seeking to solve these issues.

Actually, while each of those problems deserve fundamental changes and improvements they are all better than they were a hundred or two hundred years ago. Under a capitalist system with social measures quality and length of life has improved markedly for most people in the world.

The irony of a web of law and tax that allows subsidising business by paying workers poverty wages, or spewing commercial waste into indigenous waters, is that we ultimately end up privatising profit and socialising cost. Citizens are underwriting bad business.

This system wasn’t divined by the gods. The social and environmental crises we face are not natural. They’re man-made, as is the system that underpins them. That means we have every ability to change the system – for the better of our people, and our planet.

Certainly we have the ability to address the problems we face as a country.

But Swarbrick seems to be angling for a fundamental change in the economic system as a necessity to deal with these problems. I think this is very debatable.

As is the Green insistence that the ‘pillars’ they have chosen are the only primary issues and are inextricably dependant on financial revolution.

Trade too important to be decided by public opinion?

Consultation with the public has become more important in a modern democracy such as we have in New Zealand, but a representative democracy gives the ultimate responsibility for decisions to MPs, especially Ministers. Apart from constitutional issues that is generally best.

Public opinion, and especially opinion that dominates PR and social media, may not always be right – public opinion can be formed  formed and  fought for with superficial and often distorted knowledge and information.

And popular opinion may not always support the interests of the greater good.

There can be a difference between popular opinion and populist opinion. Ongoing public pressure has resulted in an escalating prison population, but this appears to be a very costly failure.

Ordinary people may not have the depth of knowledge to understand some issues properly. Like trade.

Dominion editorial: Tinker with trade at your peril

Since Labour came to power, Trade Minister David Parker has made subtle, yet significant, changes to the way the Government communicates about trade to the public.

Rather than simply talk up the benefits of selling goods and services overseas, Parker has validated concerns by making changes, in the name of sovereignty, pledging to ban foreigners from buying residential property.

He has also offered a more sympathetic ear, even as he points out opponents are often blaming trade, when their real concern is something else, such as the inevitable change brought on by new technology.

This approach appears to have taken the heat out of the debate, allowing Parker to sign the CPTPP with little fuss from the public, something National could never have dreamed of achieving.

Parker may well have helped take the heat out of the debate, but I think there is more to the dramatic reduction in TPP opposition – Labour and the Greens were prominently involved in the TPP protests in 2016, which were as much anti-National government as anti-TPP, an obvious political ploy.

Now that Labour leads the government they obviously wouldn’t get involved in stoking protests against themselves, and the Green  opposition has been muted apart from some token protest, in part so as not to appear to be divisive of the government they are a part of.

‘Popular opinion’ is often manipulated by minority political parties for political purposes.

The benefits of trade are not necessarily understood by everyone, partly because they are simply taken for granted.

That does not mean that the direction of New Zealand’s trade policy should change in any material way.

Every year New Zealand sells tens of billions of dollars worth of goods and services around the world, boosting our material standards of living.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are directly linked to international trade, but even that measure does not capture its significance.

Whether or not any particular New Zealander works in a trade-related industry, this trade is, to a large extent, what gives the dollars in their pockets meaning and value, especially when buying goods or services from overseas.

Parker appears keen to set stricter conditions for future trade deals, while maintaining an openly pro-trade stance.

An openly pro-trade stance may cause friction between Labour and the Greens, and also with Winston Peters and NZ First, especially now that Russian trade deal moves have been put on hold.

Provisions which would allow foreign investors to sue New Zealand overseas – provisions which are almost never used – will be out. Environmental and labour standard protection clauses may be required.

These changes are well-meaning and may be beneficial.

But what if the process becomes a debate about whether trade is beneficial?

Just because the new Labour Government has managed to take the heat out of the debate in recent months, it would be risky to assume this is a lasting peace.

Now that the Greens have a second leader again the peace may be threatened by a more left wing, more radical, less trade friendly Marama Davidson.

Overseas, the rise of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union appears in no small way to be driven by anti-globalisation sentiment, exploited by populist politicians.

What if this sentiment was to catch on here?

It wouldn’t look unusual for Winston Peters to try to drive a populist anti-globalisation sentiment, but it would be could be conflicting for the Greens to oppose international corporations and non-green trade in a similar manner to Donald Trump.

Consultation has become an essential part of public process at all levels. The problem is that in some cases, the public may not deliver a well-reasoned response.

Business groups have admitted not enough has been done to prove the case for global trade to the public.

But anything resembling a public education campaign driven by corporate interests may backfire.

Parker needs to run a process which is sufficiently “comprehensive and inclusive”, without running the risk that it could end up damaging New Zealand’s economic interests.

Can Parker keep Peters and Davidson on side with this approach?

Trade may almost be said to be too important to be left to public opinion.

That’s unlikely to deter populist politicians, especially as we approach 2020 and the next election, and it’s unlikely to deter parties with significantly different ideas on trade to Labour and National.

One of the anti-TPP protest organisers was Barry Coates, who then became an MP for part of the last term, and was expected to remain an MP until the Green upheaval last campaign. He has still been working against the CPTPP.

Parker is one of the Government’s best performing ministers. But he could have a challenge promoting trade against public opinion and partner parties.

 

Government proposes more fuel tax, more spending on walking, cycling and trains

The Green influence seems obvious in changes to funding and expenditure on transport, with a possible increase in  fuel tax (for Aucklanders that would be a double hit), and substantially more funding to go towards public transport, and cycle and walking infrastructure.

Stuff:  Government to invest in road safety and rapid rail at expense of state highway upgrades

The Government has unveiled its 10-year plans for land transport, which includes huge investment in road safety and rapid rail at the expense of state highway upgrades.

The annual $4 billion a year National Land Transport Fund is a work programme carried out by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), which is guided by the priorities set by the Government in the Government Policy Statement (GPS).

  • Proposing a fuel tax increase of between nine and 12 cents a litre to fund a raft of new land transport plans that focus on investing in road safety and rapid rail.

The tax would be a double whammy for Aucklanders who can also expect Auckland Council to introduce about ten cents a litre in regional fuel taxes to pay for major transport projects.

  • Walking and cycling infrastructure is getting a 248 per cent boost in funding over three years and a whole new area is being set up to deal with funding for rapid transit.
  • The other big investment areas in the GPS are regional roading improvements, public transport – which is receiving a 46 per cent hike in funding – and new investment in rapid transit and rail.

So a major shift being tried from private car use to public transport and Shanks’ pony.

But National’s transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross says the Government’s proposal will be met with “anger and disappointment right around New Zealand”.

Cutting $5 billion out of the state highway construction programme over ten years is an “extraordinary blow for regional New Zealand from a Government which has claimed to stand behind it”.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter:

Today marks our first huge win for the Greens in government.  Alongside Labour, we’ve just announced an exciting, transformative transport strategy for Aotearoa.

The National government were stuck in neutral, taking money from the regions to spend 40% of the transport budget on just a few stretches of motorway. Instead, we’re putting that money into projects with high total returns and focussing on public transport, cycling and road safety upgrades, especially in regional areas where we have seen far too many accidents and roads in disrepair.

What does it mean? We’ll more than double expenditure on public transport and cycleways in cities, but we know that half of all travel occurs on local and regional roads. New investment of $800 million will focus on desperately needed safety improvements – more median barriers and passing lanes on the open road, and safer streets in our towns. We’re also investing in regional rail to reduce big trucks on your roads.

And we’re tackling climate change. For the first time ever, we’re making the environment a major priority in transport. From now on, transport spending must focus on how it can reduce climate pollution as well as other negative impacts on public health such as water quality.

I’m so proud of these wins. They wouldn’t have happened without the Greens in government.

Some good will come of this, but not everyone will be happy.

You may be best to hope for subsidised walking shows and bicycle clips, and hope you live c lose enough to a railway line but not too close to be annoyed by the noise.

Labour topped election spending after Ardern surge

Labour says that a flood of donations after Jacinda Ardern became leader leading into the election campaign enabled them to outspend National for the first time in a campaign since 2008.

NZH: Rise of Jacinda Ardern sees Labour outspend National on election campaign

Labour spent more than National in last year’s election campaign for the first time since 2008 – but at least $275,000 worth of advertising and campaign work was effectively wasted and written off after Andrew Little stepped down and Jacinda Ardern took over as leader.

The election returns show Labour spent $2.58 million on election advertising during the 2017 election campaign while National spent $300,000 less at $2.55 million.

National got better bang for its buck – once the taxpayer-funded broadcasting allocations for each party were added in National spent about $3.40 for each vote it secured while Labour spent $3.85.

That’s debatable – National simply held most of the support it had in 2014, but Labour gained a lot.

It’s also debatable how effective spending is, especially given how much free publicity Ardern and Labour were given by media.

But the nose to Labour shows its dramatic change of fortunes since 2014 when it was cash strapped and spent just $1.27 million on the campaign led by David Cunliffe – slightly less than the Green Party and less than half National’s spending.

Over double, thaty’s a big turnaround.

Ardern’s campaign was focused on youth and Labour spent more than four times as much on social media advertising than National – from gay dating site Grindr to Facebook and Google.

It spent $475,400 for advertising on Facebook and Google compared to National’s $101,255.

It’s surprising that National didn’t do much on social media.

An ad agency owned by Ardern’s friend Eddy Royal, Curative, was also paid $62,000 which Kirton said was for advertising work done in the initial stages of Ardern’s leadership before the new ad agency was selected.

As significant as Labour’s surge was the Green shrinkage:

The returns show that the Green Party spent $818,500 while NZ First spent $666,150 and Act. The Opportunities Party spent just over $1 million on advertising for its first campaign, much of it funded by founder Gareth Morgan.

Greens have been pushing for donations since the election to try to pay their bills. The Turei gamble didn’t pay off financially as wel as electorally.

 

 

Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

The Greens have long been staunchly opposed to the waka jumping (party hopping) legislation, but due to their confidence and supply agreement commitments they may be obliged to back the bill prompted by NZ First. They have been caught out because NZ First did not campaign on this policy (voters would have good cause to question NZ First sneaking this policy in after the election).

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

NZH: Green Party may have to support waka-jumping bill

The bill, which would ensure Parliament’s proportionality in the event that an MP leaves or is ejected from a party, is part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement – but needs the support of the Green Party to pass into law.

Young Greens co-convenor Max Tweedie, in a Facebook post last week following a call with the party executive that was screen-shot and posted to reddit, said that the party had no choice but to support the bill.

“James [Shaw] has explained why the Greens are supporting the waka-jumping bill,” Tweedie wrote.

“NZF and Labour, and the Greens and Labour, conducted blind negotiations for the agreement. Labour requested a list of NZF policies that we don’t support, and while we went through, we didn’t even think of the waka-jumping bill.

“As a result, because of the agreements between us, we have to support the bill because our opposition wasn’t flagged.”

A spokesperson for the Greens confirmed that the party did not raise it as an issue during coalition talks with Labour because NZ First had not campaigned on it.

“We looked at the policies that parties ran on during the 2017 campaign. Waka-jumping wasn’t one of them. We are now managing this issue within the Green Party.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the party had to support the bill beyond the select committee, where the Greens hope the bill will be improved.

The Greens have vehemently opposed similar legislation in the past, and co-leader James Shaw has sought to appease the membership by saying that the party’s ongoing support for the bill is not guaranteed.

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

That seems to oblige the Greens to enable the Labour-NZ First agreement to be complied with. That means voting enabling the waka jumping legislation.

Some Greens are not happy.

It would be dishonourable of the Greens not to support the bill too. Caught between the two with no tidy solution – but expect an amendment to the bill that the Greens claim make it ok for them to support it.

This is another challenge of being in Government, especially as the junior of three parties.

 

Government at risk of revolt against the TPP?

There were large protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership when the then National Government passed the agreement through Parliament. Labour was vocal in it’s opposition to the TPP, and some of their MPs were actively involved in the protests.

It wasn’t clear how much of their opposition was just political opportunism and trying to make things difficult for National. It’s also not clear (to me at least) how much Labour was involved in organising the protests and supposition.

Then in November in Vietnam the now Labour Government worked on getting a revised CPTPP agreement between the eleven countries (Trump had pull the USA out).

And last month an agreement was reached, with NZ First also switching to support of Labour, but also needing National’s support. The Greens remained opposed, but their protests have been conspicuously muted.

Jane Kelsey immediately complained, but it has taken a while for other TOP opponents to start to complain.

John Minto at The Daily Blog in 100 days and the first broken promise

In their first 100 days Labour has offered us “not-National” policies but little else – unless a Woman’s Weekly Prime Minister is considered in the common good.

I’d like to be able to offer well-deserved praise to the Labour-led government but their policy offerings from their first 100 days have been uninspiring.

In each case the issues involved are central to the public interest and the new government is acting quickly and firmly to mop up the previous government’s failures.

In each case the public support was already assured for each announcement so there was no chance of serious kickback from National or its vested interests.

On the other hand, three crucial decisions of the new government will have a wider impact on the country and in each case Labour has failed the public interest in favour of vested corporate interests.

TPP:

Having done their best, before the election, to pretend they were opposed to the TPP and the secrecy around its negotiation, the new government has simply helped repackage the agreement with a few cosmetic changes to make it seem more palatable. It isn’t. It’s the same old bill of rights for foreign corporations to plunder our economy that its always been.

Minto and his fellow protesters were happy for Labour “to pretend they were opposed to the TPP” when it suited, but now they have woken up to being duped – although it had been obvious that Labour was milking as staunch opposition some fairly minor points of disagreement.

Political activist and trade unionist Elliot Crossan wants the Greens to actively oppose the CPTPP rather than whimper and roll over, to the extent that he thinks they should threaten to drag down the Government.

Against the Current: IT’S TIME FOR THE GREEN’S TO PLAY HARDBALL ON THE TPPA

Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power? If the answer is the latter, what do we do to stop this corporate stitch-up of an agreement once and for all, now that Labour and New Zealand First have betrayed us?  

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her coalition government intending to  sign the reheated agreement on March 8, Elliot Crossan says its time to play hardball.

It cannot be understated just how crucial it is to any progressive vision of Aotearoa that we stop TPPA. TheInvestor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms were the main catalyst for concern around which the opposition movement mobilised.

But Labour and the other countries now call the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive TPP!

LabourNew Zealand First and Green politicians turned up to our marches against the TPPA, and made political capital from voicing their concurrence with the demands of our movement.

Then-frontbencher Jacinda Ardern said of TPPA that “it is unlike any free trade agreement we’ve been party to before”, and that “it wasn’t just state to state, it was corporate to state.” The Labour Party’s minority submission in the Select Committee concluded with the statement “the TPPA will have ramifications for generations of New Zealanders.

Winston Peters went so far as to write a piece for theDominion Post entitled “With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, New Zealand is signing a blank cheque”, and opining that “being a beacon of free and fair trade is what New Zealand once claimed it stood for.

Barry Coates, who was one of the leaders of the campaign against the TPPA, briefly served as a Green MP, and was highly placed on the party’s list going into the election; the Greens were sounding alarm bells about TPPA as far back as 2010, and of the three parties in government, have the most consistent record of opposition.

The Greens have been consistently opposed, but not consistent in how actively opposed they are. A roar has become a whimper.

Now that they are in power, both Labour and New Zealand First have decided to support what campaign group It’s Our Future are calling “the Zombie TPPA”, the revived agreement minus the United States.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker are desperately insisting that their sudden shift of stance is “nota u-turn”, while Winston Peters is claiming that “the deal is not the deal inherited, it’s different … with substantial changes with the types that the Canadians were holding out on as well, that we both have seen changes that mean we can support this deal”.

Only the Greens remain against it, with new MP and trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman maintaining staunch opposition and outlining how the Greens believe that disagreement and protest within government, including on the TPPA, are essential to the Green vision.

Ghahraman has voiced some opposition, but her party doesn’t seem to care much about reviving the protest movement they were an active part of.

Here lie two essential questions. Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power?

It was both, sort of. There was staunch probably not very broad  “opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites”, including the Greens. But Labour used this to build broader protest against the National Party.

If the deal goes to a vote in the House, then National, ACT, Labour and New Zealand First will vote for it, with only the Greens opposed. It will pass 112 votes to 8. But the opposition to TPPA must not melt away quietly, resigned to defeat. It may be that we cannot stop the deal now, but there is no question that we have to try with all our might to bring it down.

So what  is to be done? Firstly, we need to educate people on how the “CPTPP” is no different from the deal National tried to sell us. Jane Kelsey is going on a speaking tour to this purpose this month—you can find your local meeting here.

When the TPP protests were being supported by Labour Kelsey had a speaking tour then too, and I went to her meeting in Dunedin. Now Labour minister but then Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark attended, and spoke at an anti-TPP rally in the Octagon see Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment? and David Clark on the TPPA.

Secondly, we need to organise to hold demonstrations as big if not bigger than our protests against the original TPPA. We should not tone down our resistance when so-called progressive parties are in power—we should be angrier!

Would it be any more than Twelve Angry Activists?

Thirdly, we need to mobilise forms of protest which show the threat people power can pose to those who seek to govern us. The unions should strongly consider strike action to demonstrate the high political price any government will pay if it tries to serve the interests of profit over looking after the wellbeing of the people and planet.

Union strikes against the union supported Labour led government would be interesting.

 

Perhaps unions could threaten to withdraw their financial support of the Labour Party, and threaten to withdraw from Labour’s leadership selection arrangement.

I make my fourth argument as someone who has been a member of the Green Party for three years and served in 2017 as the Co-Convenor of the Young Greens. The Greens only have eight MPs, three of whom are Ministers outside of Cabinet—apart from the areas agreed in our Confidence and Supply agreement, the party has little to no power over government… other than the power to bring the government down in a situation desperately important enough. And I would argue that TPPA presents such a situation.

The founding document of the Greens simply cannot be implemented within the structures TPPA would entrench. This poses an existential threat which cannot be ignored to the hopes and dreams that Greens, and progressives in general, have for the future of Aotearoa.

Bringing down the government is a drastic move to make, especially so early in its term. There are few things which could necessitate such a play being made, but TPPA is, in my view, undeniably one of them. There is simply no alternative if we are serious about creating a better future.

What would the effect of the Greens withdrawing Confidence and Supply be? Given it is far too late now for Winston to make a u-turn and support National, and given the Greens would never prop up National, neither National or Labour would have the confidence of the House. This would mean Ardern would have to choose whether to concede to the Greens, or to call another election.

Withdrawing from the Confidence and Supply agreement would likely remove any doubt that the Greens would be a liability to any government and could not be trusted. The Greens must have known the likely outcome of the TPP when they chose to support Labour and NZ First into government.

What would happen in another election?

Polling taken in 2012 through 2016 indicates a broad public opposition to TPPA. An election held on the basis of the agreement would favour the Greens well, as long as the party could effectively communicate the gravity of the threat posed by the agreement, and hammer home that we are the only party who have never wavered in our stance against it. Given their u-turn on the trade deal so many of its members and supporters despise, Labour would be at risk of losing its progressive base to the Greens.

There would be a far greater risk of:

  • Green support plummeting and never recovering due to being viewed as too radical and unreliable to be in Government or in Parliament.
  • NZ First support remaining where it currently is according to the latest polls, below the threshold.
  • Labour support dropping, dragged down by anti-TOPP activists and punished by voters for trusting the Greens.
  • National would likely win a forced election and become a one-party government.

The CPTPP would be already signed so nothing would be achieved except political chaos and a strong swing rightward.

Perhaps a compromise is in order. Given the fact that Labour and New Zealand First went into the election opposing TPPA, and given that it permanently removes democratic rights from New Zealanders, the very least that the government should do would be to allow a binding referendum to take place before agreeing to the deal.

A referendum on the CPTPP could not be forced and organised before the signing next month. And it would be quite undemocratic for a small minority to force a delay and referendum when a huge majority in our representative Parliament supports it progressing.

There could not be anything more destructive to the Greens than to allow a trade deal to pass through parliament which would allow corporations to sue governments.

Yes there could – Greens self destructing, destroying the Government and putting National back in control.

Even if the Greens succeeded in turning Labour against signing the CPTPP this would likely confirm people’s concerns about the Greens being in Government, damage the Government significantly, and consign it to a single term, if it lasted that long.

I also question Crossan’s assertions about the degree  the CPTPP “would allow corporations to sue governments”, but that’s another story.

Green plans for female co-leader

Metiria Turei resigned as Green co-leader last August, leaving James Shaw as sole leader since then. Shaw has just announced plans for finding a new co-leader.

Any female MP or party member can put themselves forward, with Marama Davidson, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage touted as likely contenders.


Timeline announced for Green Party Female Co-leadership election

The Green Party will have a new Female Co-leader by April 9, following the announcement today of an early special election for the position and a truncated campaign period of two months.

The Female Co-leader position has been vacant since Metiria Turei’s resignation in August last year. Green Party Co-leaders are normally elected annually at the party’s AGM but the party executive has decided to bring the election forward in order to fill the vacancy sooner.

“We are keen to get a new Co-leader in place as soon as possible. The party has decided to bring the election of the Female Co-leader forward, with nominations opening next Friday, closing the week after, and then moving into a shorter two month campaigning period,”  said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“The last Co-leader election was drawn out over a five month period and in hindsight was too long. Two months is plenty of time for the candidates to get out among the party members and for members to have their say.

“Like we did when deciding on joining the new Government, we will be using video technology extensively in the campaign, with video calls for members and delegates planned. We are excited about using technology in the campaign and giving all members a chance to connect with the candidates.

“I would advise Green Party member to make sure that their membership is up to date so that they can vote in their branch deliberations and they get to know the candidates and participate in this process.

“A lot’s happened in the period that I have been sole Co-leader, not least that we are now part of Government. It will be great to get a new Co-leader on board as we traverse our first term in power and start to implement good green change and grow our party,” Mr Shaw said.

The Co-leadership will be chosen by Green Party delegates, representing the party’s branches. Branches will have a number of delegates proportionate to their local membership size. The vote will use the single transferable vote system.

Election timeline:

Fri Feb 2 – Nominations open – all female current Green Party members are eligible to run

Fri Feb 9 – Nominations close

Mon Feb 12 – Full list of nominations announced, however candidates can individually announce their candidacy any time after nominations have opened and they’ve filed their paperwork

Sat Mar 3 – Co-leader candidate session at Green Party policy conference in Napier (open to media, details to be advised closer to the time)

Sun Mar 25 – All delegates Zoom (video) call with Co-leader candidates.  This will be a virtual version of what normally happens at AGM with co-leader candidates giving speeches and answering questions from delegates

Mon Mar 26 – End of official campaigning

Mon Mar 26 to Sat Apr 7 – branch consultation and delegates cast their ballots

Sat Apr 7 – Balloting closes

Sun Apr 8 – Ballot counting and winner announced

Most parties support improved TPP

New Zealand looks set to join ten other countries in signing a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in Chile in March, although after being a strong advocate National say they want to see the final text before giving their full approval.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the revisions have substantially improved the agreement, but it’s probably closer to being a few final tweaks.

It has been reported that Ardern has spent some time over the holiday period encouraging Canada’s Justin Trudeau to get on board after backing away late last year. Canada look like they could lose the NAFTA agreement (with the USA and Mexico) so being left out of the TPP would have isolated them more.

NZ First say they will now support the agreement.

Greens say they will still oppose it, but the three larger parties plus ACT make up most of the votes in Parliament.

Jane Kelsey and a few others will continue opposing the deal, probably regardless of what is changed.

There may be some protests but I think they will be nothing like the protests here in 2016 – Labour won’t be organising protests against themselves obviously, and while the Greens remain opposed they are likely to be far less active acting against the interests of the Government they are now a part of.

Most voters are unlikely to care much, and are unlikely to be motivated to moan.

So it looks like a done deal that will get approved by a select committee, ratified by Government and signed in Chile in March.

A weakness of parties, not of MMP

Karl du Fresne claims that the way coalition negotiations were conducted (with Winston Peters in charge) is a problem with MMP, but I think he has the wrong target. Peters was allowed to run the post election process because National, Labour and the Greens let him.

All political systems have weaknesses. It largely comes down to how much politicians try to exploit them or allow them to be exploited.

Stuff: Winston Peters top of the political pops with willingness to exploit wonky system

For the first time since New Zealand adopted the MMP system in 1993, the party that won the biggest share of the vote didn’t form the government. How we arrived at this outcome was down to one man: Winston Raymond Peters.

Nope. There were four parties and four party leaders responsible for the procedure and the outcome.

The Peters party, aka New Zealand First, won 7 per cent of the vote. It lost three of its electorate seats in Parliament, including Peters’ own.

That’s incorrect. NZ First only had one electorate seat, won by Peters in a by-election in Northland early last term. They lost that plus reduced their list seat allocation.

Despite this less than resounding endorsement by the people of New Zealand, Peters ended up determining the makeup of the new government.

Many insist, bizarrely, that this is an example of MMP working exactly as intended, but I would argue that it points to a gaping void in our constitutional arrangements – one that allows a politician whose party commanded an almost negligible share of the vote to decide who will govern us.

7% is not ‘almost negligible’ in this situation.

The MMP system allowed for a wide variety of ways for negotiations to be conducted and for a Government to be formed.

The National, Labour and Green parties al played a part along with NZ First, as did three party leaders as well as Peters.

Nonetheless, for his willingness to exploit this wonky system to his advantage, and for the sheer audacity of the way he went about it, Peters is a hands-down winner of my award for Politician of the Year in 2017.

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

It’s in the nature of politics for leaders and parties to work a political system to their advantage as best they can, it would be ludicrous if they didn’t.

Peters was allowed to run the negotiation process simply because the other parties and leaders allowed him to. That isn’t a fault in the MMP system. It was how all parties and leaders and MPs allowed it to happen.

And, so far at least, the end result has worked ok, with a secure majority in Parliament.