Climate change linked by Greens to inequality, power, corporations

It’s common to see Greens link climate change and environmental issues with a major reform of the world’s financial and business systems.

They don’t seem to recognise the good that large companies, big money and corporations have done for the world. They have also inflicted significant problems. But is a war on big business the best way to combat climate change?

One of the ways of dealing with climate issues is to develop alternatives. Socialist style governments are unlikely to lead the way or succeed there.

The motives of the Greens are admirable, but the means with which they want to achieve major change is, at best, a huge experiment that is certain to be difficult to achieve smoothly if at all.

 

“Whiteness”, decolonisation and dumping capitalism

Max Harris writes about Racism and White Defensiveness in Aotearoa: A Pākehā Perspective

More accurately that should be ‘one Pākehā’s perspective’.

I want to talk about an aspect of whiteness in Aotearoa New Zealand. And when I say “whiteness”, I’m not just talking about skin colour. I’m talking about the power, privilege, and patterns of thinking associated with white people.

I think that there are a wide variety of ‘patterns of thinking associated with white people’ – whatever ‘white people’ means.

Whiteness is connected to economic power and class — and is probably least understood by those it privileges. Most white people seem blind to its existence, while most non-white people are not.

Sweeping generalisations. Harris speaks for himself, fair enough, but not for ‘white people’. He doesn’t back up his ‘most white people’ and ‘most non-white people’ claims.

I think for those of us who identify as Pākehā, or grew up in Pākehā-dominant spaces, there’s a special responsibility to strive to be aware of our own advantages in Aotearoa New Zealand.

While I have no problems with the term Pākehā I don’t identify as Pākehā. I identify as a New Zealander. I don’t think I have any special responsibilities based on someone else’s pigeon holing of me.

White advantage is maintained in many ways: through intergenerational wealth, discretionary decision-making, and everyday racism.

Some people may take advantage of racial privileges – and not just ‘white people’.

One aspect of how racism is talked about in Aotearoa is white defensiveness in response to discussions of racism. By white defensiveness, I mean an anxiety, closing-down, and insecurity among white people and white-dominated institutions when racism is raised.

Perhaps some people feel some of those things. I don’t.

I see at least four types of white defensiveness.

First, there’s Denial: kneejerk responses that attempt to deny that there is racism, rather than taking claims seriously or considering its roots.

The second type of white defensiveness is Diversion. This is where, in instances in which facts about racism or colonisation are raised, the conversation is derailed through a claim that Māori themselves are guilty of some other wrong.

A third form of defensiveness is Detriment-centring. That’s where there’s a focus on the disadvantages faced by Māori, but without any acknowledgment of the advantages or protective factors which flow from being Pākehā.

The fourth form of defensiveness is the demand to Move on. This is where defensive demands are made for discussions about racism to end.

Let’s move on this discussion.

This discussion isn’t meant to demonise white people, or Pākehā, either. It’s about being honest and open about our advantages — and thinking about how to dismantle the system that produces them.

Dismantle the system?

Pākehā people can, and should, remain proud of our heritage and roots. But we also need to be aware of the injustices of the past and present, and how we may have contributed to them.

One very valid question is how all this relates to class and New Zealand’s system of capitalism.

Dismantle the system of capitalism?

We need to talk more about class in this country — to speak back to another lamentable and longstanding myth that we are somehow class-free. Fortunately, a new generation of activists in New Zealand is breathing fresh life into that conversation.

I think that class in a new Zealand perspective is a largely different different thing – I wouldn’t call it an issue.

There’s a need to support Māori-led efforts at decolonisation: the process of understanding and undoing the negative effects of colonisation, and recentring indigenous views.

Decolonisation? Harris doesn’t explain what that might entail.

We all must also push for a different economic order, given the way that the twin forces of capitalism and colonisation have amplified the power of whiteness.

He associates capitalism with whiteness – it is not just white people around the world who have benefited substantially from capitalism, and who continue to benefit from it, despite it’s shortcomings.

Harris seems to be suggesting dismantling ‘colonisation’ and capitalism.

Dismantling systems of oppression, including those based on race and class, is important for the powerful as well as the powerless.

While this is an interesting discussion there is a major omission.

Dismantling colonisation, capitalism and systems of oppression are a big deal.

But Harris makes no attempt to explain how this dismantling would happen, who would decide what is dismantled and how, nor what would take their place.

Many things in our world and our country are imperfect, but dismantling your house, or dismantling your country, must be retrograde steps unless you have somewhere else you can live.

It’s all very well to pile on ‘white people’ guilt, and to condemn colonisation and capitalism, but without any attempt at viable alternatives it seems to be a half cocked argument.

Like our form of democracy both colonisation and capitalism have some crap aspects, but they remain worse than everything but all the alternatives – unless perhaps Harris can suggest something better.

How will we get to net zero emissions by 2050?

A goal of Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050 is the number one policy for Green co-leader James Shaw, but Shaw either isn’t sure how to achieve it, or seems unwilling to openly say what he wants – a drastic cut in cow and sheep numbers.

Net Zero Emissions was number one on the Labour-Green C&A agreement.

Sustainable Economy

  1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
    with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
    energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
    Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
    and industries.

a. Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b. All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c.  A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.
d. A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

It seemed like an idealistic pledge without much of a plan.

But it is still far from certain about how this might be achieved. Shaw is looking for ideas, and points at some, but even they say “how we plug the gap between 95% and 100% in New Zealand isn’t obvious yet.”

Briony Bennett claims “Changing land-use from dairy, sheep and cattle farming to new forests or low-emissions crops and horticulture (growing fruit, vegetables and flowers) is key to achieving carbon neutrality in New Zealand by 2050.”

That seems to be something that Shaw and the Greens are not prepared to come out and push openly.

Bennett has a Masters in Energy Economics and Policy from Sciences Po, Paris. She moved back to New Zealand in late 2017.

Before Christmas, the new climate change minister and Greens’ party leader announced the Government’s intention to pass a Zero Carbon Act, whereby the New Zealand economy would achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Industry, think-tanks and public sector officials have produced huge volumes of data, modelling, analyses and arguments since then. Within the last few weeks, the Interim Climate Change Commission was announced and the Productivity Commission published a 500-page draft report on the transition to a low-emissions economy. We all want to know what do we need to do to reach net zero.

It seems that Green co-leader James Shaw made the pledge first, and is now looking for ideas on how to achieve it.

This points to Bennett as a Guest Writer at The Spinoff:  NZ has pledged zero carbon by 2050. How on earth can we get there? (abbreviated):


100% renewables

Around 85% of New Zealand’s annual electricity supply is generated from renewable sources. Gas or coal-fired generation is used to meet winter demand peaks and back up supply in low rainfall years. Hydroelectricity constitutes more than half of the national power mix. In a high hydrology scenario, with good seasonal rainfall and snow melt, hydro-power can meet up to 65% of our annual power needs, but dry years present a great challenge and a barrier to reaching 100% renewables.

Under current resource management laws, it is highly unlikely that a new large-scale hydro-power scheme would get built in New Zealand. We could feasibly expand lake storage in current schemes, but not double it, which is what would be required. Further, this would do little to address the main barrier to reaching a 100% renewable power supply, which is our dry-year risk.

Wind power

At an emissions price of $75 or greater it will be economic to build enough wind farms to reach about 95% renewables in New Zealand, according to Concept Consulting.

Today, a significant number of wind projects have actually been consented, over 2.5GW according to the NZ Wind Energy Association, but project developers are waiting for prices to rise before starting construction. However, wind power cannot ensure our power supply is 100% renewable in a dry year since it is not guaranteed to be available during winter peaks when demand is at its highest.

Grid-scale or rooftop solar exacerbates the seasonal storage challenge as it only generates during periods of low demand and has a much higher output during the summer. We need power sources that are as flexible as coal and gas-fired power plants to meet seasonal demand.

Big batteries

Grid-scale battery storage projects have been making headlines around the world. Tesla installed a massive battery in South Australia after Elon Musk made a promise to do it in 100 days or for free on Twitter. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) lithium-ion battery price index shows a fall from US$1,000 per kWh in 2010 to US$209 per kWh in 2017.

Nevertheless, this technology cannot economically provide seasonal or dry-year power storage of the scale required at present. They just do not pack as much punch as hydro storage.

…this suggests we need 400 million batteries, or over 250 Tesla Powerwalls per household. Even at a discounted price of just US$2000 this would require an investment of over US$500,000 per household or US$800 trillion in total. More than four times our current GDP. We could spend that money more wisely to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Car culture

Power sector emissions have declined 13% since 1990 and make up less than 10% of total emissions. In the same period, transport emissions rose 70% and constitute 20% to New Zealand’s emissions. Car ownership reached its highest level ever last year, at 774 light vehicles for every 1,000 New Zealanders.

This is the beast we must tackle. Electrification is the key pathway with existing technology to cut the majority of transport emissions. To charge electric passenger vehicles and e-buses, electrify trains, and reduce fossil fuel usage for heating, a reliable and affordable electricity supply is crucial.

Power outlook

With more wind, batteries and additional geothermal power plants, it is technically feasible to reach the 100% renewables target when we have average or high rainfall. This would be achieved at great expense and put significant upwards pressure on power prices. Other flexible technologies, such as demand response or renewable power-to-gas, hold great potential to help New Zealand reach 100% renewables. Biomass or tidal power generation could emerge as affordable means to generate electricity in New Zealand in the next few decades.

Solar and wind offer a comparatively low-cost pathway to reduce emissions in most countries that currently have a high share of coal and gas-fired generation, but how we plug the gap between 95% and 100% in New Zealand isn’t obvious yet.

Planting trees

All pathways to net zero, require forestry to play a major role. Afforestation is like a credit card, buying us time to develop alternative technologies to replace current agricultural and industrial processes. A methane vaccine for animals or other biological inhibitors that can be mixed with their feed are being researched, but these technologies remain unproven. Selective breeding, though it can take decades, will also continue reduce the amount of methane produced per animal.

Farming

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is our main tool for encouraging decarbonisation. The scheme requires emitters to pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas produced – this is called an emissions unit. Farmers are currently exempt from participating in the ETS, which covers energy, waste and industry. To achieve net zero this will have to change since agriculture contributes over half of our emissions. To ensure a gradual transition for farmers, they should receive free emissions units upfront and have trading at the full emissions price phased in over time.

Changing land-use from dairy, sheep and cattle farming to new forests or low-emissions crops and horticulture (growing fruit, vegetables and flowers) is key to achieving carbon neutrality in New Zealand by 2050.

This implies that fewer sheep and cattle will be farmed in the future. Reducing, though perhaps not eliminating, dairy and meat exports raises important questions about food production. The carbon footprint associated with a diet rich in animal protein is an issue that is likely to loom larger in public debate.

There are few affordable means to cut emissions from pastoral and dairy farming without reducing herd populations at present.

If all sectors are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme, businesses that reduce their emissions will be rewarded and pay for fewer emissions units. It is the main tool we have to encourage the changes and innovation required in all sectors to dramatically cut our emissions and reach net zero by 2050 in New Zealand.


So Bennett largely explains that it will be difficult to attain 100% renewable power – and she promotes electric vehicles as a way of reducing fossil fuel emissions, but this would require substantially more electricity.

She is basically saying planting a lot of trees is one way of getting to zero net emissions, but that’s only a short term solution,

Her primary suggestion is effectively applying the Emissions Trading Scheme to farming to drastically force cow and sheep numbers down.

Is this what Shaw and the Greens want? If so they should come out and say it.

Shane Jones wants to shit kick through bureaucratic brick walls

Shane Jones is promoting more power for politicians over public servants, and has claimed it takes too long to have funding allocated to projects. This is a bit scary given the amount of money he has to hand out to the regions, but it is on his personal wish list and he didn’t speak on behalf of the Government.

Stuff: NZ First’s Shane Jones wants ministers to have more power over public sector

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones, says he would like to “soften that line” between governance and the bureaucracy, including allowing ministers to appoint top officials.

In an interview on the provincial growth fund Jones, the Regional Development Minister railed against a bureaucratic system he characterised as a “treacle-riddled”, slowing down process around funding economic projects, without evidence of improved efficiency.

This is scary given Jones’ short record to date in proposing funds for shaky projects and then claiming he forgot about getting advice pointing out serious shortcomings.  See Shane Jones ‘genuinely forgot’, Sage ‘memory let her down’.

“I’m looking forward to fighting an election to change the way that politicians relate to the bureaucracy,” Jones said.

“I know we have this separation of governance and the bureaucracy, but I’m really attracted to the idea where the Aussies have softened that line, and key ministers bring in their s…-kickers to get things done. That’s always been my preference.”

I’m sure a number of ministers would like to shit kick their policies through bureaucratic brick walls, but there are good reasons to have some checks on impatient and extravagant politicians.

Jones said his comments were not Government policy and were “not consistent with the State Services Act” but were ones he would like to campaign on in the future.

Campaigning on bureaucrat bashing may win some votes from the plebs, but it should meet resistance from Parliamentary voters.

Among other things the State Sector Act gives the State Services Commissioner the power over chief executive appointments, without influence from the Beehive, at least in theory.

Unlike many other countries, public servants are required to act in a politically neutral way.

The Public Services Association warned in December that the influence of ministerial advisors, Beehive staff which are appointed to serve the interests of their minister, are undermining this neutrality.

This aim at public service neutrality may be flawed but it is very important in New Zealand. Giving more power to ministers, unfettered by public servants, would be a big risk as we don’t have checks and balances that other countries have – no Lords and no Senate to oversee Parliament.

A much more powerful Jones in charge is something we should be very wary of.

Jones followed up the interview on Facebook:

“Surely I’m not the only one who would like to see less bureaucracy in this country? Meeting high governance and probity standards should not come at the expense of efficiency and pace in my books”.

He wants to have the power to push through what he wants at the expense of probity standards?

That should be a worry with any Minister. Especially so of Jones given his record to date.

Allowing Ministers to shit kick through the bureaucracy would be a very risky removal of one of the few means of checks and balances we have.

Some tough love for the Green party

Ex political journalist John Armstrong has some views on Metiria Turei and her political crash and burn,  which is unlikely to go down well in the Green camp. Tough truths.

Metiria Turei could have said a lot during the seven or so months which have passed since her hugely dramatic and equally traumatic exit from politics.

Her ghost stalks the Greens, however. In particular, it is stalking the upcoming election of a new female co-leader to fill the vacancy created by her spectacular demise.

In some quarters of the party, Turei the Welfare Fraudster is both martyr and saint; a veritable Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa all rolled into one.

It was much easier to blame the media for her fate, however, than admit to the real reason why she had to quit.

Her consistent refusal to divulge any detail about the circumstances surrounding her fraud was tarnishing the party’s image.

The party’s stance was untenable. It was blaming the media for doing their job. It was saying it was okay for James Shaw to join the Opposition hunt for the scalps of Bill English and Todd Barclay, National’s errant former Clutha-Southland MP.

The application of similar scrutiny to Turei’s behaviour was somehow deemed out of bounds.

That’s fairly typical of Green supporters, in my experience. They are very critical of people and ideas they disagree with, but get almost apoplectic when their party or MPs are put under scrutiny.

Turei’s downfall was the first time in a very long time that the Greens had felt the heat of the media blowtorch on its highest setting.

Now that they are party to government, such bouts of relentless questioning and grilling by the media will be the norm. The Greens can expect it to occur on anything and everything no matter how big or small or how important or trivial.

They really wanted to finally be a part of a Government. Now they are in power they have to expect they will be put under more scrutiny – they were generally given a very easy time when in opposition, so the scrutiny of power is coming as a bit of a shock to some.

The question is whether the Greens have the necessary political management mechanisms in place to ensure the party is not an accident constantly waiting to happen.

The omens are not good. The party’s handling of the New Zealand First-instigated legislation which will block MPs from party-hopping has been as shambolic as it has been shabby.

Perhaps they (the Green Party and their MPs) will learn how to deal with being in awkward political situations that inevitably occur when in Government, and the scrutiny that goes with the territory, but those learnings are likely to be lagging or lacking in the rank and file.

One senior party figure should be exempted from such accusations of complacency, however.

He suggests that Julie Anne Genter is unusually realistic for a Green and would make a good replacement for Turei as co-leader. More on that in Green leadership – sickly sweet political correctness versus political realism.

Power by percentages

Now the final numbers are in for the 2017 election they can be scrutinised – number crunching is a lot more fun than watching the media go into another frenzy of speculation while they wait for parties to sort out our next government.

Power is supposed to be approximately proportional, but any government will have received just over half the votes, which is substantially less than half the eligible voting population.

  • Estimated eligible voting population: 3,569,830
  • Total enrolled: 3,298,009
  • Total valid votes: 2,591,896

Voting percentages:

  • Percentage enrolled: 92.39%
  • Percentage of enrolled voters who cast valid votes: 78.59%
  • Percentage of eligible voters who cast valid votes: 72.61%

Percentages of power if National and NZ First form a government:

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
National 1,152,075 44.4% 86% 56
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 14% 9
Total 1,338,781  65

National has about 6 times the number of votes and MPs as NZ First, so theoretically should have about 6 times the power and 6 times the number of ministers (20-21 for National, 3-4 for NZ First).

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
Labour 956,184 36.9% 73.3% 46
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 14.3% 9
Greens 162,443 6.3% 12.4% 8
Total 1,305,333  63

Labour has about three quarters of the vote, with NZ first having just over an eighth and Greens just under an eighth.

This equates to about 17-18 Labour ministers, 3-4 for NZ First and 3 for Greens.

If Labour and NZ First form a government with Greens supporting them from outside government:

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
Labour 956,184 36.9% 83.7% 46
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 16.3% 9
Total 1,142,890 55

Labour has about 5 times the votes of NZ First so NZ First would be theoretically a bit stronger in this arrangement in forming a government, but with Labour would have to get green approval for any legislation.

But of course the reality is things come down to negotiating ability and strength.

 

Greens launch electricity policy

The Greens launched their electricity policy today. Most of it is wordy and not easy to get a quick understanding of it.

The Empowering New Zealand comprehensive plan for the electricity sector includes:

  • $112 million for winter warm-up payments to help low-income households cover their power bills
  • setting a goal for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 (in average hydrological conditions)
  • an investigation into the electricity wholesale market
  • encouraging lines companies to work together and embrace new technology to bring down costs
  • modernising industry rules to encourage competition, transparency and use of data.

“Our plan will see more than half a million Kiwi households pay less to heat their homes every winter,” Green Party energy and resources spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

“Setting a goal for 100 percent renewable electricity generation is bold, achievable, and the right thing to do for our planet.

“New Zealand can help lead the global clean energy revolution, creating jobs and exporting our clean energy expertise to the world, but we need Government leadership to make it happen.

“We have consulted the electricity industry to design a future-focused system and I’m confident the plan we announced today is ready to be acted on by the next government,” Mr Hughes said.

Of course it is subject to the Greens becoming a part of the next Government and getting Labour and perhaps the Maori Party or NZ First to agree to this policy.

A key feature is a handout to families with a joint income of less than $50,000 p.a. of varying amounts depending on where they live. You have to dig in to their documentation to find the nitty gritty:

GreenPowerHandout

These seems to be an odd way to help out poorer families, with a substantial administration overhead.

Why is the West Coast payment so low? Is power that cheap on the Coast? Or do they use a lot of coal and not so much electricity?

It’s not clear exactly how it would work but it appears to be a cash handout able to be used for anything, it just happens to be calculated on average power price increases for the winter. Which makes the power aspect more marketing than anything, and more complicated than it needs to be.

I don’t think this will be a ‘priority policy’ in Green campaigning. There’s a lot of other details that will sound fine to some but most won’t care if the understand.

Read it all if you like:

Moving on from Trump’s speech

There have been many interpretations of one of the most picked over speeches in history, President Trump’s inauguration speech.

Some see it as a unifying speech for all American people (that is, the United States of American people, not the other North Americans, the Central Americans or the South Americans).

Others think that it targets white Americans and alienates others.

While the speech will have been very carefully crafted and checked before going to air it is impossible to prevent negative interpretations. While many people only see good in President Trump, many others only see evil.

Trump has spoken publicly a lot over the past two years, through the Republican primaries, through the presidential campaign, and since then leading up to his inauguration.

He has talked and talked and talked the talk.

Now it’s time for him to walk the walk. Trump is president, that’s a done deal. Now the real dealing begins. He acknowledged this in his speech:

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

We won’t know how he will be as President until we see what he actually does. It may take years to get a good idea whether his radical ideas and unconventional approach works or faisl.

There will be some some successes and some failures. The US and the world waits, with some hoping the pluses outweigh the minuses, and others in dread.

If Trump is true to his word his biggest battle won’t be with immigrants or ISIS or China or Russia, it will be Washington.

How Washington reacts will have a major influence on Trump’s presidency. Washington is probably the biggest bureaucracy in the world.

Saying ‘drain the swamp’ is easy, and it was a successful campaign slogan.

Draining the excesses and inefficiencies, while maintaining and rebuilding a functioning capital, will be a massive task.

Trump has promised to give power to the people.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The people have never been the rulers of the nation, they just get to vote occasionally.

The people, or at least some of the people, voted for Trump’s biggest promise – to give them power, for Washington to listen to them and work for them.

This is Trump’s biggest challenge.

Toxic masculinity

Research in the US suggests that sexist men who want to have power over women are more likely to suffer from psychological problems. The traditional dominant macho behaviour can be harmful to men as well as to women – a “toxic masculinity”.

Washington Post: Sexist men have psychological problems

Psychologists looking at 10 years of data from nearly 20,000 men found that those who value having power over women and endorse playboy behavior and other traditional notions of masculinity are more likely to suffer from psychological problems — and less likely to seek out help.

The new meta-analysis, which was published Monday in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, synthesized 78 studies on masculinity and mental health gathered between 2003 and 2013. The participants ranged in age from 12 to over 65, and the vast majority were men.

Researchers then identified 11 norms considered to be “traditionally masculine” — desire to win, need for emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, sexual promiscuity or playboy behavior, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality and pursuit of status — and looked to see whether they were associated with particular mental health outcomes.

In general, the men who stuck more strongly to these norms were more likely to experience problems such as depression, stress, body image issues, substance abuse and negative social functioning. They were also less likely to turn to counseling to help deal with those problems. The effect was particularly strong for men who emphasized playboy behavior, power over women and self-reliance.

Not all of the traditionally masculine norms that Wong studied were linked to psychological problems. For example, putting work first didn’t correlate with either positive or negative mental health outcomes; perhaps that’s a reflection of the fact that investing a lot of emotional energy in work can be fulfilling, even though it taxes relationships, Wong said. And risk taking was associated with huge positive and negative mental health outcomes, possibly because how you feel after taking a risk depends on whether the risk pays off.

But valuing playboy behavior and power over women — aside from being explicitly sexist — was strongly correlated with psychological problems.

I think that men trying to impose power over women – or anyone trying to impose power over anyone else – is a symptom of a lack of confidence in themselves. They have trouble earning respect so they try and demand it, which doesn’t work out well.

A growing group of psychologists are interested in studying “toxic masculinity” — the idea that some traditional ideas about how men should behave are harmful to men, women and society overall. 

The point is not to demonize men, or the attributes some of them possess. It’s more to understand how behaviors encouraged in men can be damaging for everyone involved.

Basically, if you sort your own shit out you are less likely to try and shit on others.

Labour at 100, reborn or a cot case?

The Labour Party will be celebrating it’s 100th birthday this week. New Zealand, politics and the party have all changed hugely over the last century.

Colin James looks at this in his weekly column: Labour at 100: dotage or revitalisation?

There is global turmoil and the forces on Labour’s side of politics are divided. Answer: get together, to build a voice against a conservative coalition.

The year: 1916. Come to 2016: there is global turmoil and Labour and the Greens have got together to build a voice against a conservative coalition.

Is this book-end history or a phase? That is the question for those celebrating Labour’s centenary this week.

We won’t know whether the Labour-Green get together will have been successful until later next year.

What it seems to acknowledge though is that Labour on it’s own is a spent force.

On Friday a day-long seminar will include a keynote assessment of the 100 years by former historian, acute intellectual and formidable 1999-08 minister Michael Cullen.

Cullen was chief whip, then a minister in the 1984-90 government which, though it boosted social assistance, banned nuclear ships and Springbok tours and set us en route to a bicultural society — all true to Labour — ripped the party apart with un-Labour radical market-led economic reforms.

This compounded Sir Robert Muldoon’s 1970s pitch to “ordinary blokes” which siphoned off wage worker votes.

Since then, like social democratic parties in other liberal democracies, Labour has not worked out how to rebuild a broad social base.

Helen Clark’s and Cullen’s capable cabinet masked this erosion, helped by a credit-fuelled boom and skilful coalition management to creditable low-40s votes in 2002 and 2005.

Labour certainly seems to have lost it’s way, lost it’s mojo, lost capable leadership, and has lost the last three elections.

Hence Labour’s disastrous 25% vote in 2014. But, unlike National after its disaster in 2002, Labour chose not to do a root-and-branch shakeup.

Apart from frequently changing leaders, changing the way that leaders are selected effectively giving unions the deciding vote, changing their minds on past policies without replacing them with much, Labour has done little to shake themselves up.

Labour will take a step on Saturday afternoon with a special conference to adjust the list selection process to preferential membership-wide regional selections and a smaller-than-2014 committee to finalise the national list.

There is no suggestion — at least not officially — of a “man ban” of the sort dumped on the hapless David Shearer in 2013 to lift the proportion of women MPs.

But the 2017 election challenges go far beyond the list.

One is to get Andrew Little connecting. Little’s strength is that he is a straight-shooter. But communications team mistakes and his own political inexperience and need to score points have skewed his aim at times and sometimes the bullets have ricocheted. Examples: an unthought-through attack that caught up Jacinda Ardern’s (innocent) father and shining a media light on a “homeless” family that was actually renovating its house.

Little cannot out-Key Key. But he needs to out-Little Little.

The current Little has failed to fire up any enthusiasm in the party let alone in the wider voting public.

Unlike past leaders who distanced themselves from negative attack politics (they used others to do their dirty work) Little has taken it upon himself to be the party’s main hit man. It is far from attractive, and has been botched too often. There are currently two defamation proceedings against him.

Labour’s second 2017 challenge is to present a government-in-waiting. In 2011 and 2014 those who wanted a change of government had no visible alternative to vote for. Labour was too weak.

The deal with the Greens potentially provides that alternative. Little was bowled over by his reception at the Greens’ conference. Little and Green co-leader James Shaw have been doing some joint business briefings. (Shaw goes over better, some say.)   

By belatedly conceding Labour is not a 45% party and can’t do command performances as National can but must have a partner, Labour has changed the electoral game.

Whether Labour+Greens can win that changed game will depend in part on how convincing the coalition looks. There is a growing understanding on both sides that they will need three or more major joint — “coalition” — policies.

There is currently no sign of substantive joint policies.

And there remains a major problem anyway, Winston Peters, who with NZ First looks to be essential to make up the numbers and Peters will not do pre-election joint policies.

Plus the Peters-Green clash is unresolved. There is no sign of Peters working alongside Turei and Shaw.

But what about the longer-term? Is Labour now forever shackled to the Greens? Might the Greens even morph into the senior partner?

There are no signs of Greens growing enough to become the senior partner, so it would need Labour to decline substantially more for that to happen.

But a 2 to 1 or less power balance between Labour and Greens is totally new territory for Labour. There is little sign yet that that are willing to share power as much as the numbers suggest they need to.

 As in 1916, Labour in 2016 is in turbulent times with big global and societal changes underway that will test it to destruction — or revitalise it.

Unlike Australia, the UK and the US, New Zealand looks very stable politically. Unfortunately for Labour it is National that looks boringly steady.

In Australia, the UK and the US much of the turbulence is within the major parties. Turbulence has also been apparent within Labour here, although that seems to have settled down.

Perhaps next year’s election, and Labour’s fortunes, will be reliant on whether New Zealand voters choose to add to the political turmoil evident elsewhere, or end up preferring the status quo stability that is currently prevalent.

It will be another year or so before we know whether Labour can become born again progressives or are cot cases destined for a rest home.