Greens struggling in Government

I suspected that Greens were naive about the responsibilities and requirements of being in government, and this is being proven by an outpouring of green angst over the granting of water bottling rights to a Chinese company.

Some Green supporters (presumably party members) and some Green MPs are showing that they still struggle with the reality of governing.

Government 101 – you can’t get into power, especially weak power overshadowed by one much larger party and another party whose leader holds most of the bargaining power and influence, and change the law every time one of your own party ministers is required to follow procedures and fulfil their responsibilities.

Stuff: Green Party members revolt over water bottling decision

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is facing intense backlash from members threatening to quit over a decision made by one of her ministers to allow a Chinese water bottler to expand.

Davidson has said she “doesn’t like” the decision after the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie wrote on an internal Facebook page that that he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, one of three Green ministers, announced the decision on Tuesday which allows in principle a Chinese water bottling giant to purchase land in order to expand their existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

The decision was made with associate finance minister David Clark based on advice from the Overseas Investment Office.

In other words, doing what her job required. But Sage was obviously uneasy about some Greens would think so tried to explain to them.

Sage put out a blog post on the decision on the Green Party website.

She acknowledged it was surprising the call had been made by a member of the Green Party as it had an election policy to ban new water bottling consents, impose a levy on water exports, and more concretely respect Treaty of Waitangi rights around water.

“Some people might wonder why a Green MP who is a Minister has allowed such a land purchase involving a water bottling plant to go ahead,” Sage wrote.

“Basically the law is clear about what Ministers can and cannot take into account.”

The Overseas Investment Act only allows Ministers to take into account “substantial and identifiable” benefit to New Zealand and conservation values – but not Treaty of Waitangi rights.

That sounds fairly obvious.

Despite this post, prominent members of the party were fuming on an internal Facebook group on Tuesday night, and asking the Greens to publicly disown the decision.

“What the f… is the point of us being in government and having this portfolio if we throw our Te Tiriti [Treaty] obligations in the bin,” wrote Tweedie.

“This is an absolute joke, I’m extremely disappointed in Eugenie and so angry that this came from us … This is a test for us as to how we respond to this, I would like the non ministerial part of our caucus to oppose this publicly, I’m actually livid.”

Tweedie also seems ignorant of how a democratic government reliant on law works.

Davidson, who ran for co-leader on a platform of greater connection with members, acknowledged in a comment on that post “we don’t like this decision.”

“There were strong legal implications for us opposing this. We will have to seek changes in the legislation to avoid legal consequences. While there are definitely Tiriti implications in this issue, it’s not a core Treaty issue in this case,” Davidson wrote.

A prominent member of the party wrote he was “fuming”.

“I don’t know if I can stay in the party, on principle after this. Ngāti Awa people (who almost universally oppose this) are absolutely livid.”

Davidson responded that this position was “valid and shows how much we need to be accountable on this.”

Speaking on her way into the House Davidson repeated that the decision was not consistent with Green Party values or policy.

“This decision does not sit with Green Party kaupapa and long-time policy.”

Simple fact – Greens have 8 seats in a 63 seat MMP government, so proportionally they have about 1/8 of the power. They don’t have a mandate to change every law they don’t like.

Sage told Stuff she understood why Green Party members would be upset.

“I absolutely understand members’ concerns about the decision. The Green Party leadership and MPs understand our members’ concerns,” Sage said.

“There are opportunities to improve the law and I hope people will get involved in that. Green MPs will push hard for changes to the law and for a charge on bottled water exports.”

“I made a decision under the current law.”

That’s pretty basic stuff. What did Green members think they would be able to do in Government with 8 MPs?

Sage was put on the spot on this in Parliament yesterday, which resulted in Davidson asking patsy questions to try to address party concerns:

From Question No. 11—Land Information:

Hon David Bennett: Has the Minister discussed with the Minister of Trade and Export Growth how the overseas investment criteria could be changed to implement core Green Party policy to impose an immediate moratorium on new bottling?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I am confident that the Minister who has responsibility for that issue of water bottling is looking at all the issues, and we will have discussions.

Marama Davidson: Was the Minister able to consider the environmental impacts of taking the water when she made this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That is not a matter that the Minister for Land Information can take into account under the Overseas Investment Act; it is a matter that is considered under the Resource Management Act. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council notified its application.

Marama Davidson: Was she able to take into account Te Tiriti concerns and the opposition of mana whenua when making this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The application concerned the purchase of sensitive land under the Overseas Investment Act. That Act limits the issues that can be considered. I considered those issues, and I wasn’t able to take those concerns into account.

A Minister has responsibilities beyond their party ideals. No Minister can quickly change laws to appease their party members, especially small relatively weak third parties in Government.

It could be a difficult term for the Greens, and a challenging campaign in 2020 – if they haven’t self destructed before then.

Greens want to dump referendums so they can force separate Māori wards

Several local bodies have failed in their attempts to impose Māori wards on their constituencies, with voters initiating petitions forcing referendums that subsequently voted strongly against separate democratic privileges – see Māori wards and democracy.

Undeterred by determination through the current democratic process, Green co-leader Marama Davidson is promoting “a movement”  for  “Māori wards right across the country”.

NewstalkZB: Green Party not giving up on Maori wards

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is refusing to give up the fight to create separate Maori wards, after Whakatane and Palmerston North both voted against the wards in binding referendums.

Davidson says it’s wrong for the majority to be setting the rules for minorities.

“Passing my law, which would have removed that referendum step and which would leave the decision in the hands of the elected councillors, is what is sorely needed.”

She has a law to take a means of democratic decision making out of the hands of voters.

Last year: Greens introduce Bill to make local wards process fair

The Green Party has today entered a Member’s Bill into the ballot that would make local government representation more equitable by ensuring that the establishment of both Māori and general wards on district and regional councils follows the same legal process.

“I’m really excited to be launching my new Member’s Bill today, which will ensure that the process for establishing Māori wards at a local government level is equitable and fair, and honours our commitments under Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” said Green Party Māori development spokesperson Marama Davidson.

Green Farm: ‘All votes are equal…but some vote should be more equal than others’.

“This unfair double standard in our electoral law works to limit Māori representation at local government level throughout the country.

Māori currently have the same opportunities for representation as everyone else. Davidson wants them to have separated representation. Davidson is promoting one standard for Māori the is different for the standard for everyone else.

Why just Māori wards? Why not women’s wards, LBGT wards, immigrant group wards, and white male wards?

“Removing this discriminatory provision is the right thing to do.

With a more discriminatory, less democratic provision?

“The Green Party has a proud history of standing up to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is a continuation of our work as the political leaders on advancing kaupapa Māori and honouring Te Tiriti,” Ms Davidson said.

By promoting separatist local body democracy. I’m not aware of Te Tiriti o Waitangi stipulating separate democratic rights. There are valid historical reasons for the establishment of the national Māori electorates, and there is no strong indications that voters want that changed – but there are strong indications in New Plymouth, Manawatu, Kaikoura and Whakatane that separate wards are not wanted.

Having lost out in the democratic process Davidson wants the rules changed so she can have what she wants. This is alarming from a party leader.

From the Green’s Open Government and Democracy Policy:

Vision

  • We have a proportional electoral system that is transparent and fair.

This refers to ‘a proportional electoral system’, not dual systems. Fair for all, or ‘more fair’ for some?

Key Principles

1. Key decisions on the shape of the nation’s electoral system belong to the people, not political parties.

And not councils. But Davidson wants this principle overturned so councils can ignore their constituents.

2. The votes of all electors are of equal weight in influencing election results.

Except Davidson wants added weight for a select minority.

6. The electoral system should encourage close links and accountability between individual MPs and their constituents or constituencies.

8. Active democratic processes require more than periodic elections and stronger mechanisms are needed for the ongoing engagement of informed citizens in the development and enactment of key national and local policies.

But Davidson wants to remove the right of local body voters to petition for referendums so they can have their say.

A. Changing the existing system

The Green Party will only consider supporting changes to the Electoral Act if:

1. The only effect of the change is to grant the right to vote to some group of citizens and permanent residents of Aotearoa New Zealand, who were previously ineligible to vote; or
2. The changes are adjustments to the existing electoral system that have been recommended by an independent commission, and that are consistent with our Key Principles.

Separate Māori wards are excluded by point 1. because Māori are already eligible to vote.

I’m not aware of any independent commission recommending Māori wards.

Māori wards are not consistent with Green Party Key Principles, but who needs to bother about principles when a party leader wants to override the current democratic systems?

Another Green democracy ‘vision’:

  • We are actively engaged in our democracy and are able to meaningfully participate in government decision-making.

That’s ok as an ideal, but you can’t make people actively engage in our democracy. Local body referendum turnouts were all close to 40%.

And Davidson wants to remove a petition/referendum means of meaningful participation because she disagrees with the democratic outcome.

Perhaps Davidson should try some meaningful participation and actively engage with Māori non-voters, and find out what would encourage them to engage and vote. That would be much better than trying to change the democratic rules when you don’t get the results you want.

It would be great if more Māori voted. It would also be great if more Māori  candidates stood, and if more Māori candidates were good enough to get voted on to local body governments.

B. Changing to a new system

The Green Party will consider supporting changing to a new electoral system only if:

1. The new electoral system is approved by a free and fair referendum of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand eligible to vote under the existing laws. The referendum should have the following characteristics:
a) The referendum process is determined by an independent commission not by members of parliament

Davidson wants to do the opposite.

Great to get more Māori  voting and standing and elected. But terrible for a party leader to try to change the rules to get what she wants.

Not only is Davidson promoting double democratic standards, she is promoting very different democratic standards to he party principles and policies.

Green budget leans towards the environment

The Green parts of the budget lean heavily towards environmental causes, with less addressing the social issues that Metiria Turei would have championed, and who her successor Marama Davidson is passionate about.

Perhaps this is at least in part due to James Shaw being sole Green leader through the coalition/confidence & supply negotiations as well as for most of the their term in Government to date, and now being the only-co-leader with Ministerial clout.

In Greens defend share of wins after NZ First gets triple the cash NZH lists the Green ‘wins’, which I separate out.

Environmental $454.5m:

  • Conservation funding – $181m
  • Home insulation – $142.5 million
  • Green Investment Fund – $100m
  • Sustainable Farming Fund – $15m
  • Climate Commission – $11m
  • Overseer farm management tool – $5m

Social $155.1m:

  • Midwifery services – $103.6m
  • Expansion of Household Economic Survey – $20m
  • Te reo teaching – $12.5m
  • Youth mental health services – $10m
  • Sexual abuse services – $7.5m
  • Welfare system review – $1.5m

Total: $610m

Greens say that they also support policy wins for Labour and NZ First – but National broadly supports many of them as well.

Shaw’s main focus is on environmental issues, and ik think the same can be said of the other Green ministers, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage. I think that is reflected in the environmental balance here.

The social wins are important enough midwifery appears to be facing a crisis, and while relatively very modest the boost for youth mental health and for sexual abuse services are very worthwhile.

The welfare system review, something Turei championed, gets a kick the can down the road sort of pittance.

I think that Labour will have no problems with Greens getting credit for addressing the environment, but Jacinda Ardern has designs on things like being a ‘child poverty’ warrior herself.

The strong leaning towards environmental funding is a good thing for the Greens – I think many voters will support a lot of this.

How much Shaw can accentuate this versus Davidson’s strong preference for promoting social and socialist issues may play a big part in the Green’s next campaign and in their chances of surviving the threshold cut next election.

Marama Davidson on the budget – more ‘grate Greens’ than ‘great Greens’

Green co-leader Marama Davidson’s response to the budget gushed Green greatness, as well as smooching smugness while ignoring why the Government has a healthy surplus with which to invest in some green projects.

This Budget begins the process of rebuilding our public services. Restoring our health and education systems. Putting in place the foundations for our future. The foundations for a Green future.

A real government builds houses and shelters the homeless. National stuffed around as rents and house prices exploded.

A real government funds hospitals to deliver the best healthcare in the world to our people. National blew smoke rings while mould grew in the walls of Middlemore Hospital, where three of my babies were born.

A real government thinks the justice system is for delivering justice, not feeding Māori and Pasifika men and women to the private prison industry.

This is what we campaigned for: a real government. A government that takes action rather than kicking the tyres. A government that builds, not a government that shuts things down.

People ask why we didn’t go with National and focus on environmental stuff. But being Green means understanding how our social and economic systems fuel the destruction of our environment.

The environment doesn’t sit in a box on a shelf. Mama nature is all around us. She affects our lives, and our actions affect her, every minute of the day. 💚💚💚

The issues facing our environment – water and air and native species – are connected to the issues facing our society – low wages, high rents, mental health, violence and discrimination.

These all have roots in an economic system which isn’t broken – it’s working exactly as intended, siphoning off the wealth we all create into the hands of a few who missed kindy the day we were taught to share.

This Budget has the largest redistribution of wealth since the Mother of All Budgets, but more Robin Hood than Ruth Richardson – helping those who need it the most. That’s what a real government does.

When National were in government, they were so focused on the surplus they ignored the massive moral deficit: families living in cars. Hungry kids. Toxic rivers, dying kauri and dead dolphins.

National certainly struggled to deal adequately with some problems, but they did try. And the current Government has the benefit of a healthy economy and a growing surplus with which they can fund more initiatives – in large part thanks to the careful financial management of National.

Claiming moral superiority means Davidson has a lot to deliver on, and she is a long way from doing that yet.

Today we’re turning the waka around. We’ve ensured every rental will be warm, dry and well ventilated. We’ll fix Auckland’s transport issues. We’re delivering real justice and aroha to the families of the Pike 29.

We’ll deliver a rent-to-own scheme in KiwiBuild, more services for mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, and overhaul our welfare system to focus on helping people, not reading their Tinder profiles.

We’ll transform Aotearoa into the country we know it can be. Where kids grow up in warm, dry homes in vibrant cities and towns, and can swim in the river and drink water from the tap without getting sick.

A country where everyone who works has a decent income and a good life, and paid employment is not the only kind of work we acknowledge and value.

A country which honours and does MORE than just honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. A country which leads the world in tackling the global problems of climate change, inequality and injustice.

There’s a lot of idealistic maybes there.

We’re not just managing until the next election: we are governing for the next century, planning for the world our mokopuna will inherit: one built on love and community and kaitiakitanga.

This government is going to transform our country. We are so proud to stand with our friends in Labour and New Zealand First and vote for this Budget.

Some of her claims are a bit premature. The world won’t be transformed into a Green nirvana with one largely unremarkable budget.

Greens have only just got their feet under the Government table. They have a lot to deliver yet if they are to achieve what Davidson is claiming.

And her divisive ‘them versus the great us’ moral superiority attitude does not look like ‘one built on love and community and kaitiakitanga’.

More humbleness and more results would help achieve some real and significant Green achievements,

The attitude that Davidson has brought to the top of her Party is more ‘grate Greens’ rather than ‘great Greens’. That’s a real shame.

I applaud some of what the Greens are bringing to budget decisions, but I cringe at how some of their ideals are delivered.

 

Davidson (Green) question ‘not a patsy’

When the Green Party (James Shaw) announced last month that they would give their parliamentary oral questions to National they reserved the right to still use some of them. They chose to do so today, giving new co-leader Marama Davidson her first crack at holding the Government to account.

Here is Davidson grilling the Prime Minister:

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i tana kōrero mō te iti rawa o te mahi haumi i roto ratonga tūmataiti, ā, nā runga i tērā, “we didn’t know it would be this bad” ā, mēnā kua pēnei rawa, ka pēhea te nui o te iti rawa o te mahi haumi nei?

[Does she stand by her statement on underinvestment in public services that “we didn’t know it would be this bad”, and if so, how significant is this underinvestment?]

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, absolutely, and much of that we could see from Opposition, as could New Zealanders in everyday life, as they saw individuals sleeping in cars or being unable to access health services. But what we are seeing now is in almost every portfolio I can find other signs of under-investment.

Marama Davidson: Does she agree that the state of the books she inherited from National represents a moral and fiscal deficit, which we see every day in our homeless and unemployed, in our impoverished families, and in our threatened species?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and being in Government obviously is about making choices and about priorities. The last Government decided that the priority, rather than investing in issues around unemployment and homelessness, was tax cuts—a huge amount of which went to the top 10 percent of income earners. This Government has different priorities.

Marama Davidson: How significant is the under-investment in health in light of revelations that there is sewage and mould running through the walls of Middlemore Hospital, as a direct result of it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would say Middlemore Hospital is emblematic of a much wider problem. District health boards are telling us that 19 percent of their assets are either in a poor or a very poor state. If you add to that the fact that they’re running what will be an estimated up to $200 million deficit, I think it’s fair to say New Zealanders in every walk of life will be experiencing issues with their health services.

Marama Davidson: Has there been significant under-investment in other areas of Government spending, and has that impacted on core services, as we have seen in our health system?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I say, health, I think, is emblematic of what’s gone on in other areas. You’ll hear today, for instance, the Minister of Education talking a little bit more about the under-investment in early childhood education, which, essentially, has meant that parents have been picking up the tab from a lack of investment from the last Government. I’m happy to share the numbers.

Marama Davidson: What plans does she have, if any, to restore investment in public services to urgently help those who are struggling the most, such as the 10 to 20 homeless people I spoke with who were sleeping outside the City Mission yesterday morning?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I say, we identified from Opposition that this was an issue. We made a very deliberate decision to cancel the tax cuts. The second decision that we made was to run a slightly longer debt track than the last Government, because we wanted to prioritise investing in housing and making sure that there wasn’t the scale of homelessness we saw under the last Government. As I say, Government is all about priorities, and ours are very different to the last Government.

Marama Davidson: Will the Government consider any new taxes in the future to help solve these problems, given that it has ruled out any new revenue streams this term?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, there will be no new tax regimes in this term of office, from this Government. Of course, we do have the Tax Working Group under way, but they may very well produce an outcome that could be fiscally neutral as well. Ultimately, we have budgeted and set out a debt track that allows us to make the investment that is the priority, and we did things like cancel tax cuts, so we could reinvest in health, education, and housing.

Marama Davidson’s acceptance speech

Some interesting extracts from Marama Davidson’s Green co-leadership acceptance speech.

I will be a leader who strives for consensus in everything I do. All of our contributions and views are essential in the work we have ahead of us.

Consensus with whom? Consensus in the Green Party? I presume that’s what she means, Greens promote consensus style democracy – when it suits. But that’s not how some of them work in practice, Green supporters and activists can be very intolerant of any person or party with whom they disagree.

Consensus with her supporters? Consensus with the New Zealand public? That would be radical for Green radicals.

History shows that smaller parties struggle to retain their support in coalition governments, lose influence and can sometimes fracture.

My number one goal as co-leader is to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

That could be a big challenge for Davidson, promoting a more left wing radical social agenda without fracturing the Labour-NZ First-Green government.

We can’t clean our rivers, save our native species, lift our families out of poverty, build warm safe houses and new public transport if our party isn’t united and positive, governing and campaigning for change.

And there is a lot to change.

The National Government has left our country in a mess. It is worse than even we imagined.

So consensus with National on environmental issues seems out of the question. I think this is disappointing – sustainable policies on a sustainable environment would work much better with a degree of consensus across all parties.

Steven Joyce was right, there is a fiscal hole. We see it every day. In the sewerage in the walls of Middlemore Hospital where the Government was more interested in delivering a surplus than making sure our babies were born in safe conditions.

We see National’s fiscal hole in our homeless and unemployed,

In our impoverished families

In our lonely and isolated elderly

We see it our polluted rivers

In our threatened species

And in our climate pollution

But National didn’t just leave a fiscal deficit, they left a moral one too.

So I guess Davidson means consensus with allies, not with everyone.

More than ever we need to deliver on our policy programme and stamp our mark on the Government with bold and effective Green solutions to the fiscal and moral deficit left by National.

More than ever we need to be strong and united. Backing our Ministers and MPs to lead lasting Green change and working with our coalition allies to go even further, be even bolder.

We can make the change Aotearoa needs and grow our vote, returning after 2020 with more MPs and influence.

Remember Metiria? She nearly obliterated the Greens last election. Davidson is generally seen as a Metiria replacement. Will she learn from Turei’s big mistake, or try something similar.

I am a leader who, alongside James, can deliver that real change and grow the Greens by representing a broad cross-section of New Zealanders.

This seems to be Green self-delusion – that they represent a broad cross-section of New Zealanders. They got 6.3% of the vote.

I am very much looking forward to working with James and with our different backgrounds, skills and experiences I think we will make a strong leadership team.

Between us we represent the broad church of green voters. Our different backgrounds and experiences mean we empathise and understand the cross section of issues from economic to social. From human rights to environmental sustainability. We are a team that can reach all.

I think she is right here – Davidson and Shaw probably do represent ‘the broad church of green voters’ – but that’s far from ‘a broad cross-section of New Zealanders’.

James and I will work to regain the trust and support of those voters who left us in the last election, and we also need to be reaching out to new audiences.

A big task.

In order to be a genuine and relevant voice for modern Aotearoa, we need to reflect its diverse reality.

We need more members from all backgrounds and communities.

We need to be present in multicultural, Māori and Pasifika communities, in provincial and rural communities, and in the suburbs, with women, young people and workers.

I have the connections and credibility in these communities. I’m proud to have helped lead the work to start to diversify the party over recent years and as Co-leader I will prioritise it.

A fairly selective diversity. ‘With women’ pointedly excludes half the population. Her National bashing also by association excludes about half the voting population. Farmers and small business owners don’t feature in her diversity, but are a very important part of the New Zealand fabric.

As an activist for social and environmental justice, I stood with many communities on the frontlines of the climate change and inequality crises and the struggles for indigenous rights.

Indigenous rights are important, there are still wrongs and flow-on effects effects that need to be righted. But the rights of the non-indigenous also need to be considered.

I have demonstrated the ability to pull together teams, inspire the best in everyone, and elevate the voices of those who are not otherwise heard.

She may well help inspire better from National MPs, but in reaction rather than cooperation.

And I intend to make that a defining feature of my leadership, elevating voices and working alongside our friends up and down the country campaigning for change.

Good on her for that. It’s good for a minority party to work with minorities and promote minority rights.

I will make sure those without a political voice are heard, and I will be the only leader of a political party in Parliament that brings to the table deep sustained experience in these communities.

Some of those communities. Davidson does not try to represent many of the ‘silent majority’, just selected minorities. That’s not a bad thing, but believing she represents all New Zealanders would be a mistake.

As the most progressive party in Parliament, it is the role of the Greens to continue to be a loud and active voice on behalf of our communities.

‘Progressive’ is highly debatable here. Some see some Green policies, especially the more radical leanings of Davidson and her core supporters, to be regressive.

The next few years will be critical for Aotearoa and the world as we grapple with the crises of climate change, inequality and environmental degradation.

Labelling them crises may not encourage wide support, and excluding the official name of the country could also be divisive.

In this country, two men own more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of the adult population.

The richest 10 per cent have more than half of the wealth, while 90 per cent of the population owns less than half of the nation’s wealth.

Depends on how you define ‘wealth’. This is populist bashing of people with paper money.

We are losing our indigenous biodiversity at an alarming rate – three-quarters of native fish, one-third of invertebrates, and one-third of plants are threatened with, or at risk of, extinction.

Addressing this is likely to be widely supported.

We have among the highest rates of homelessness, child poverty, suicide among young people, and incarceration in the developed world, alongside among the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world, and rivers so polluted you can’t even swim in them.

Some issues of serious concern there, that have to be addressed much better.

These environmental and social crises are the direct result of a flawed and broken economic model.

I’m not sure that fits with consensus views. It sounds more like a promotion of a revolution, a change to a radical and untested alternative that would be out of step with most of the developed world.

Parliament needs to turn our faces to the streets, to communities right up and down this country, and understand the hardship and struggle that so many of our people are facing.

Yes – to all of the communities, the many struggles people face.

New Zealanders have been waiting far too long for a fundamental shift in our politics, for the return of care and compassion, for a real commitment to our natural world.

Except there is little sign of a fundamental shift in voting preferences.

For an economic system that measures its success by the wellbeing of the people and the environment, not simple GDP growth and the massive accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a few.

A minority party fighting for the many against the few.

The Green Party vision for Aotearoa would restore us as a world leader through the greatest challenges of our time.

Restore? New Zealand omitted again. I support at least debating whether to rename our country or not, but not to ignore the widely accepted name of New Zealand. (She does refer a couple of times to ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ and also to ‘New Zealanders’ – Aotearoan doesn’t seem to have caught on yet.

It would ensure all children grow up in healthy, liveable cities, in warm, dry homes that are affordable for their parents.

A vision for a country where all people have a liveable income and people don’t have to work two or three jobs just to survive.

Worthy ideals to aspire to, but they are ideals that ignore realities.

And that recognises the central importance of honouring our founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and celebrates our unique and vibrant diversity.

Our whole diversity. We all should have a good look at what Te Tiriti means and should mean in modern New Zealand Aotearoa.

Parliament needs leaders and parties that champion minority rights. But they will alienate more than succeed if they believe they represent popular opinion and wishes while picking the minorities they want to represent, and at the same time alienate large groups of others.

If Davidson championed issues that faced the majority of New Zealanders in the middle who face struggles and challenges of their own, if she didn’t omit non-females and non-Māori and those who value the input and diversity of past and recent immigrants, then she could do well, and might widen support for the Greens.

But if she pretends to represent the many while being divisive and excluding large chunks of New Zealand society she and the Greens are likely remain a small minority party fighting for small minorities.

Greens return leftward, away from National

Green’s sole leader over the last eight months, James Shaw, is seen as relatively moderate, almost centrist-ish (in some ways at least). He is regarded as business friendly, not a particularly NZ green attribute.

The Green Party has just chosen a new co-leader, Marama Davidson, by a wide margin of 110 delegate votes to 34 over the more business savvy centris-ish Julie Anne Genter.

Davidson has been active on left wing issues as an MP. She is likely to remain so. And she has much more scope than Shaw to promote her more radical views and policy positions – while not in Cabinet Shaw has some responsibility as a Minister not to rock the Government boat too much

As she doesn’t have any ministerial responsibilities Davidson is not so constrained, and without a ministerial workload she will have much more time to work on issues of interest to her and the Green membership.

Both Shaw and Genter are learning the realities and compromises of working in a Government. Davidson doesn’t have this, she is firmly in the Green idealist activist bubble.

And that bubble is staunchly anti-National.

Henry Cooke at Stuff: Greens swing left with Marama Davidson in the co-pilot seat

This should finally and completely end the notion that the Green Party could consider going into Government with National. It was never going to happen under James Shaw and it is really never going to happen with Davidson, who took care in her victory speech to trash-talk the former National-led Government for the massive problems at Middlemore Hospital.

Just as some Green Party members threatened to leave the party if Davidson didn’t get selected, similar threats have been made in the past when any suggestion of a Green-National deal.

By supporting Davidson so strongly the membership of the Green Party have shown their desire to make the party more than just a junior partner in Government, pushing Labour to the left in the areas its ministers are responsible for.

We just have to accept that the Greens are two parties in one – a strongly pro-environment party, and a staunch hard left social issue socialist-type party. They claim that the two are co-dependent, but that’s more of an attempt to justify their more hard-left policies.

Environmental issues are acknowledged across the political spectrum, to different degrees, but both National and the business world know they have to work more on sustainable practices and lowering pollution. They do differ with the Greens on the preferred levels of socialisation and socialism.

Big business and big money are going to be important influences in New Zealand, especially with farming practices.

In tone, tactics, and perception, however, Davidson was always the left candidate, even if she prefers to say “progressive”.

‘Progressive’ is a left wing populist attempt at deception.

Many Green members don’t want to put more women in the boardroom, they want to destroy it. Davidson made clear in her acceptance speech her distaste for the fact that two men held more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of New Zealanders. In our debate she professed support for a new top tax rate on higher earners and free dental care for all Kiwis.

Davidson-Green is to a large extent anti-business (and pro socialism). Shaw-Green promotes more responsible business.

Of course, the Green Party hasn’t lost the more suit-and-tie Shaw as co-leader. There will be plenty of members who voted for Davidson because they want balance at the top, with the environmentally focused climate change minister fighting besides the new co-leader for a holistic Green vision.

It’s impossible to know how many Green members and Green branches preferred the far more left wing leanings of Davidson, or chose her for balance. The Māori  factor can’t be discounted either.

But for the next wee while –  at least –  Davidson has the mandate to make some real change to how the Green Party operates in Government. Ardern and Winston Peters should expect some well-publicised disagreements – which will be particularly biting as non-Minister Davidson isn’t bound by Cabinet collective responsibility.

The party now enters into a somewhat strange two-year period, where the Green ministers actually making change arguably represent the wing of the party just rejected by the membership.

It will be interesting to compare the so far moderate ministerial missives of Shaw, Genter and the third Green minister, Eugenie Sage, and the more radical activism of Davidson and her activist Green supporters.

Genter has been seeking attention during the two month leadership contest but may well retreat to her ministerial responsibilities. She probably won’t want to compete with Davidson for attention now.

Shaw has been fairly anonymous as he gets to grips with working in Government. Sage would have also been barely noticed except for her embarrassing involvement in publicity over allegations of interference in state agencies, and her changing claims due to ‘poor memory’.

So Davidson may well get a disproportionate amount of attention. This will please the activist socialist Greens, but how will this affect wider green support?

But there are over a hundred thousand more Green Party voters than there are members. For that number to keep steady or properly increase both wings of the party will need to rack up some decent wins in the real world, not just the tiny landscape of internal party politics. Everyone in the party will be watching the next poll with a whole lot of interest. It’ll be what makes this whole thing finally real.

It will take more than the next poll, it will take several months and several polls to see how things pan out. It will also take that long to see how the Green Ministers perform and get attention, versus Davidson’s freedom to promote a more radical agenda.

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.

 

Davidson chosen by Greens as new co-leader

It’s not a surprise to see that Marama Davidson is the new Green co-leader. She was widely expected to take over eight months after Metiria Turei stood down.

I can imagine that Davidson is popular within Green membership, but we will have to see whether she appeals to voters generally.

Davidson served part of the last term, becoming an MP after Russel Norman stood down, in November 2015.

Greens have already changed their website:


South Auckland-based MP Marama Davidson will join James Shaw in the role of Green Party Co-leader, after the result of the leadership contest was announced this morning in Auckland.

Ms Davidson secured 110 delegate votes. Julie Anne Genter, the Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Transport and Health, also contested the Co-leadership role and won 34 votes.

Ms Davidson entered Parliament in 2015 following Russel Norman’s resignation. She is the mother of six children and has before entering parliament worked as a youth worker in South Auckland and as an advisor at the Human Rights Commission for 10 years. She was the Chief Panellist on the Owen Glenn Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.

“It’s the greatest honour of my life to be elected Co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa. It is also an enormous responsibility and for party members to have confidence in me to lead the Party is truly humbling,” said Ms Davidson.

“I want to congratulate Julie Anne Genter. My respect for Julie Anne and her obvious talents has only increased over the course of the campaign. I’m proud to call her a colleague and a friend and I know she will continue doing a fantastic job as a Minister.

“History shows that smaller parties struggle to retain their support in coalition governments. My number one goal as Co-leader is to make sure that doesn’t happen to the Greens.

“Without ministerial responsibilities I can focus on the party and ensure the full delivery of our confidence and supply agreement while maintaining unity. With one leader as a Minister and one not we can able to avoid the pitfalls other parties entering Government have experienced who have seen their support fall.

“I intend to stay connected to the community I come from, South Auckland, and other communities like it around the country. I will be the only party leader in Parliament that brings to the table deep sustained experience of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in our country and I plan to ensure they are given a voice.

“The community I come from is at the coalface of the most pressing issues we face as a society: rising poverty and inequality, the housing and homelessness crisis, polluted rivers and poor health and education outcomes. I will ensure their voices are heard, in Parliament and within the Green Party.

“Our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party commits to providing a transformational Government. I am looking forward to working even more closely with our colleagues’ right across the Government to achieving our Government’s ambitious agenda,” said Ms Davidson.

“I am incredibly excited about this new era of leadership in the Green Party and getting to work with Marama to deliver great green change and further growing our party,” said Mr Shaw.

“Marama is a magnetic politician, people are naturally drawn to her and respect her. She is acutely aware of how some people and communities are struggling in this country, and she will be an excellent advocate for their interests in Parliament and in our Party.

“Between us we represent the broad church of Green voters. Our different backgrounds and experiences mean we empathise and understand the cross section of issues New Zealanders face. We are a team that can reach everyone committed to a better and fairer New Zealand.

“Member elected Co-leaders have provided decades of unity and stability to the party, and I am sure this new pairing, the first as part of a Government, will be no different.

“I want to congratulate Julie Anne Genter, whose leadership skills and political acumen remain invaluable to our party.

“I have no doubt that Julie Anne will continue to be a stand-out minister in this Government, well into the future.

“I want to thank Green Party members who participated in the leadership contest. Our electoral system is the most democratic of any party and this result represents a clear mandate for Marama to lead our party,” said Mr Shaw.

Another two weeks until Green co-leader is announced

The Green Party will announce a new co-leader in two weeks, on 8 April, eight months after Metiria Turei resigned as co-leader (on 9 August last year).

It was understandable that in a dire situation going into an election campaign with polls plummeting to  below the threshold that the Greens would defer replacing Turei until after the election, but they left it until early this year to get the ball rolling.

Two candidates put themselves forward, Julie Anne Genter and Marama Davidson, and they have been campaigning for the last month.

It may not be a coincidence that Genter has stuck to her guns amidst publicity over the last few days about her suggestion that white males in their sixties should consider standing down from company boards to make way for more diversity – seeOverreaction to silly Genter ‘old white men’ comments.

Henry Cooke at Stuff: Battle for the future of the Green Party comes to a close

Finally, it’s almost over. After Metiria Turei resigned as co-leader of the Green Party 229 days ago, the vote will begin on Monday to decide whether Julie Anne Genter or Marama Davidson will replace her.

We’re still two weeks out from an actual result on April 8, but the official campaign period has ended.

While the two candidates are warm to each other in person, both on and off-screen, their supporters are not always so kind. A small group of Davidson fans have pledged to revoke their membership if Genter wins.

For a party that champions democratic processes and MMP (that requires political, policy and ideological compromises to work) some Green supporters are staunchly uncompromising and averse to alternative views.

Now the decision is over to the Green membership.

Each of the 71 electorates’ Green Party branch will meet to decide how their delegates will vote over the next fortnight. The normal process involves a lot of consensus-building discussion before a secret ballot, but there are not hard and fast rules.

The delegate votes are distributed on a somewhat proportional basis to every branch. A branch with less than 20 members gets one, more than 20 two, more than 100 three, and more than 200 four – the maximum. That means Green strongholds like Wellington Central with hundreds of Green members only have as much vote as two electorates with 50 members between them.

This ensures the regions aren’t trampled over but also gives real power to very small branches: one Maori electorate branch is said to have a single member deciding its vote.

That doesn’t sound very democratic.

Going into the two-week voting process, Davidson’s camp is more confident – and with good reason. A lot of Green Party members are very much in favour of the argument best made by Morgan Godfery; that if they were to elect Genter, the Green Party would be the only major party with a fully Pakeha leadership team.

Godfrey and others have been playing the race card and diversity cards to promote their preference.

The membership is generally considered to be older, whiter, and more environmentally focused than the wider party’s support.

Green membership has oddly seemed different demographically to their activist base.

… while Davidson is a firm favourite, predicting an electoral college-style vote with no polling is a fool’s game. People weren’t expecting Metiria Turei to beat Sue Bradford, or James Shaw to beat Kevin Hague – but they did.

Davidson is said to be the favourite, despite far less parliamentary experience. Davidson replaced Russel Norman part way through last term, in 2015. She has been promoted by some as the obvious heir to Turei’s social justice throne.

Genter became an MP via the Green list after the 2011 election and is now one of the green ministers, despite Davidson being ranked above her on the party list.

It seems to be a contest of experience versus activist ideology. Davidson may appeal more to the Green activist base, but Genter is likely to have wider voter appeal.