Do Greenpeace causes deserve immunity from prosecution?

I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this – protests and degrees of lawbreaking and importance of causes can vary a lot.

But Russel Norman and co-defendant Sara Howell are claiming that if they are convicted for “low level civil disobedience” it would prevent other protests for fear of prosecution.

There are ways to protest without breaking the law, but that’s not part of this story.

Stuff:  Greenpeace activists oil ship protest was just ‘low level disobedience’

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman and fellow activist Sara Howell appeared in Napier District Court on Friday to apply for a discharge without conviction after admitting a charge of interfering with an oil exploration vessel.

The prosecution

Crown prosecutor Cameron Stuart said the pair caused significant disruption and danger and there was a high level of perseverance and premeditation by the defendants, as evidenced by the fact they acknowledged they rehearsed their moves in advance.

Their actions posed huge risk to them and to the ship’s crew and sensationalised what would have been a peaceful and legal activity”.

“This hearing is not about the morality of the law. It’s not about oil. It’s not about climate change,” Stuart said.

He said the consequences of a conviction would not be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending. He said the pair had leveraged what they called an “unjust prosecution” as a means of publicising their views.

This raised questions as to how their reputation could be damaged if they were convicted, he said.

The defence

Norman and Howell were represented by Ron Mansfield, said the pair were devoted to fighting climate change and the burning of fossil fuels.

Their views were genuine, well-held, and designed to care for generations to come, Mansfield said.

He said the pair had entered the water at a distance from the vessel that permitted it to avoid them without too much disruption.

He said the danger had been “completely overstated” and the pair could have been removed from the water at any time.

Mansfield said the offending was “low level civil disobedience” and it would be concerning if others undertaking such protests were prevented from doing so because they feared being convicted.

The judge

Judge Arthur Tompkins said that argument “cut both ways” and there may be an argument as to why a conviction was necessary.

Judge Tompkins said other protesters had been convicted in the past and this had not had the “chilling effect” Mansfield suggested.

The verdict – not yet

Judge Tompkins reserved his decision. The pair were remanded until September 24.

The pair faced a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to $50,000 for the offence of interfering with or coming within 500m of an offshore ship involved in oil exploration.

The discussion

Protest is an important part of a democratic country.

Laws are generally to protect safety and freedoms.

The offence of interfering or coming close to a ship involved in exploration was contentious. From NZ Petroleum & Minerals:

People are free to protest on the water as they are on land – provided they do not interfere with structures or vessels involved in lawful petroleum and minerals activities.

While a number of laws cover activities at sea, provisions specific to offshore petroleum and minerals activities were introduced following protests that hindered a seismic survey vessel in 2011.

In May 2013 the Crown Minerals Act 1991, which governs the allocation of the Crown’s petroleum and mineral resources, was amended. New offences were introduced for damaging or interfering with structures or ships being used offshore in prospecting, exploration and mining activities – including incursions into specified Non Interference Zones.

Green MP Gareth Hughes in parliament 13 April 2017:

GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she agree with Dr Russel Norman, who said that section 101B(1)(c) of the Crown Minerals Act 1991, known as the Anadarko Amendment, was “put in place by the Government to protect the interest of big oil and to stifle dissent”?

If the “Anadarko Amendment” is all about protecting people’s safety, why does it apply only to the oil and mining industries, and is this simply a case of one law for us and one law for oil?

Can the Minister confirm that that 2013 amendment, used to charge Dr Norman, was passed under urgency with no consultation and received no New Zealand Bill of Rights Act check, and that polls at the time showed 79 percent of Kiwis wanted to see it withdrawn or sent back to committee?

I remember the opposition to the bill, but I don’t remember the poll, and I can’t find it..

 

 

No more offshore oil permits, existing permits remain

Jacinda Ardern has announced that no more offshore oil exploration permits will be granted, something that will please the Greens, but she has made some short term exceptions for Taranaki (where most of our oil exploration is based), presumably to try to appease NZ First.

Stuff: Ardern announces an end to offshore oil exploration, with short reprieve for Taranaki

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an end to offshore oil exploration, with no new onshore permits outside Taranaki.

Actually the way I read things it just stops new permits being given, existing permits can still be used.

Ardern said the Government was “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand”

As well as an immediate end to new offshore permits, some onshore will be offered to the industry for the next three years in onshore Taranaki, none of which will be on conservation land.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

The decision to continue to offer onshore permits was partly a concession to Labour’s coalition partners, New Zealand First, which expressly supports extractive sectors. The move is also designed to head off the risk of judicial review.

“All three of the parties in this Government are agreed that we must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change. I’m grateful for the support of New Zealand First in ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels protects jobs and helps regions equip themselves for the future. I also thank the Green Party for their continued advocacy for action on climate change.

Russel Norman, the former Green Party co-leader who is now Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director said the Government “has listened to people throughout the country who have campaigned for seven years to bring an end to offshore oil and gas exploration”.

“The tide has turned irreversibly against Big Oil in New Zealand”.

The industry has warned that ending oil exploration will do little to cut emissions in New Zealand or overseas, as the move will not affect demand or supply.

We will just keep using oil drilled elsewhere in the world.

All existing permits, some of which could continue to operate for decades, will be protected under the Government’s plans.

So it doesn’t cut offshore drilling, it just rules out new offshore exploration permits, for now at least.

This may be largely symbolic given that oil exploration companies aren’t rushing to drill in the oceans around New Zealand. But it is an important symbol for the Greens.

Q&A: Greenpeace and fossil fuels

Greenpeace was declined charity status this week because of their activist activities and law breaking – see Greenpeace declined charity status.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given mixed signals about what the Government’s position is on the use of fossil fuels and on oil and gas exploration. She has said that climate change is the issue of the time, and received a petition against exploration that Greenpeace presented to Parliament recently, but she has been vague about what they will actually do.

This morning on Q&A theor director Russel Normal is interviewed about fossil fuels.

Farewell fossil fuels?
Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman is on the programme today to explain why New Zealand must end all new oil and gas exploration.

Māori versus the environmental lobby

More on the lack of consultation with Māori, who have existing rights granted under a Treaty of Waitangi settlement, over the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and the reality that environmental groups are willing to put their own ambitions ahead of Māori rights.

And opposition parties.

Stephanie Rodgers has posted on the environmental lobby at Boots Theory and reposted at The Standard, where there are some interesting comments – The Kermadecs and racist environmentalism.

We’re not even arguing about meaningful consultation around establishing the Kermadec sanctuary, we’re talking about ZERO consultation by white politicians who assumed they knew best. National are literally in coalition with the Māori Party but didn’t even pick up the phone to give them a heads-up…

It was handled poorly by the Government initially, and worse since with Environment Minister Nick Smith making more of a mess of it, to the extent that the legislation has been put on hold until it is sorted out.

But Rodgers in particular blasts environmental groups.

This week has been a revelation in the racist imperialism of mainstream (white) environmental organisations.

Problem 2 is the (very Pākehā) environment lobby’s outrage that anyone might stand in the way of an ocean sanctuary. “Think of the planet!” they cry, which is appallingly arrogant coming from the ethnic group which has done the vast majority of screwing up the planet to start with.

We have to take a hard look at how environmental organisations and Pākehā liberalism exploit indigenous culture. When it suits us, we happily draw on the notion of indigenous people being ~more in touch with the land~ and having a ~spiritual connection to nature~ and painting with all the goddamned colours of the wind. When it helps our agenda, we happily retweet the hashtags opposing oil pipelines and trumpet the importance of honouring the Treaty.

But scratch the surface and all the smug superiority is there. We know better; our thinking is more advanced because we care about ~the whole planet~.

It’s very easy to care about the whole planet when you’re on the team who took it by force.

That’s scathing of the “very Pākehā environment lobby”.  Rodgers doesn’t name names, but there has been angst expressed over ex Green leader and now Greenpeace leader Russel Norman’s performance on The Nation in the weekend, where he appeared to see the Sanctuary as sacrosanct and effectively, to hell with Māori ownership of rights.

A press release on Friday:

Environmental Groups support Government on the Kermadec/Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary

Representatives of leading environmental groups have reaffirmed their strong support for the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

The groups include Greenpeace, WWF, Forest & Bird, the Environmental Defence Society and Ecologic.

Greenpeace Executive Director Dr Russel Norman said that he backed the Government’s determination to create the Sanctuary in spite of strong resistance from the fishing industry.

“The Kermadec proposal will be the largest ever marine protected area in our jurisdiction. It will have immense ecological benefits, allowing marine life in 15% of our Exclusive Economic Zone to prosper without any form of commercial exploitation,” said Dr Norman.

Which means all fishing rights should be removed.

WWF-New Zealand’s Senior Campaigner, Alex Smith, said that fishing industry lobbyists had consistently opposed the creation of no-take marine reserves so the current opposition was not unexpected.

“New Zealand has obligations under international law to protect the marine environment that surrounds us. The Government is entirely within its rights to create marine protected areas like the Kermadec/Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary,” said Mr Smith.

“The Sanctuary is backed by solid science and by 89% of New Zealanders. We urge the fishing industry to break away from its traditional opposition to full marine protection and get behind this initiative.”

That uses the term ‘fishing industry’ and omits the fact that Māori fishing rights are involved.

The Executive Director of Ecologic, long-time environmentalist Guy Salmon, said:

“This is the biggest conservation gain for our oceans in my lifetime and is of international importance,” he said.

“I don’t believe the Sanctuary involves a breach of property rights, and that claim will now be tested in Court.”

That’s a line up of “a very Pākehā environment lobby”.

But it’s not just environmental groups involved. The sanctuary has cross party support, with both Greens and Labour supporting National on it.

From an interview on Waatea News with Te Ohu Kaimoana chair Jamie Tuuta:

“…I think it is important for the Green Party to reflect on their view on the treaty and indigenous rights because it is fair to say if they support the bill in its current form, they are supporting the unilateral extinguishment of Maori rights and interests,” he says.

Normally the Greens put some value on Māori rights and would hate to be seen as “very Pākehā”.

In comments Rodgers again slammed the Government (with some justification)…

There’s nothing “novel” in the government’s approach on this. They announced a major decision affecting a Treaty settlement with zero consultation with the affected parties. Par for the course for European colonisers in New Zealander, really. No one can be surprised that now Māori have a (somewhat) larger voice in the public discourse, they’re raising hell about it.

It is clear racism when Māori are expected to accept “full and final” Treaty settlements, the Government of the day unilaterally changes those settlements, and then all the white folk run around pontificating about “commercial interests” and “gifts to the planet” and “extinction of the moa”.

…but doesn’t mention the Greens. Nor her own Labour Party. Alwyn brought them into the discussion:

  1. Labour take a Maori leaning approach, oppose the sanctuary, and cause a split in the MOU between them and the Green Party. The Green Party can hardly oppose the sanctuary can they?
  2. Labour supports the sanctuary, which was in the policy for the last election, and whip their own Maori MPs into line, thereby showing that Labour don’t really provide any reason for Maori to vote for them.
  3. Alternatively the Labour Party supports the sanctuary and the Maori members of the Labour Party Caucus cross the floor and vote against it.

Then you get the question of why the Maori members are remaining in the Labour Party at all. What do you think the Labour Party are going to do?

It was pointed out that the “Labour position is they support the sanctuary but oppose the process”.  And “that sounds very like their TPP stance and we know how that’s worked for them”. A bob each way politics, opposing the Government but supporting what they want to achieve.

Most people support the Kermadec sanctuary, including the Māori Party (and Māori generally as far as I’m aware).

It’s not just National who should be having a serious look at how they want to progress the sanctuary. Environmental groups and the Greens and Labour may like to have a rethink as well.

Radicalisation of the Greens and Labour

Losing Russel Norman last year and now losing Kevin Hague are blows to the Green Party. Their replacement MPs move Greens more towards a radical social activist party.

Norman did a lot to try and ‘normalise’ the Greens, to make them appear as if they were credible on business and economic matters in particular. He succeeded to an extent.

But last year he decided to move on (to Greenpeace). He was replaced by next on the list, Marama Davidson, who is more of a social activist who has attracted some attention, currently to the forefront of the inquiry into homelessness.

Hague tried to take over Norman’s co-leadership position but was rejected. Hague was one of  the Green’s best assets as a practical and hard worker who backed his principles but was prepared to work with anyone from any party or political leaning to try and achieve results.

Hague is now moving on to head Forest and Bird. So both he and Norman have moved on to environmental roles, and away from the Green Party.

Hague’s replacement will be next on the list, Barry Coates. He used to head Oxfam, and  aid organisation that has become more active in promoting social reform.

Coates has been leading anti-TPP protests in New Zealand. Social activism.

Norman’s replacement as co-leader, James Shaw, has not made a huge impression yet.

Greens’ other co-leader Metiria Turei has been involved in social activism for some time.

Greens could soften their radicalisation somewhat if they elevated Julie Anne Genter, but despite quiet rumours there is no solid sign of Turei stepping aside or down. Fortunately Genter at least looks to be a stayer at this stage.

While Greens do promote environmental issues such as clean rivers and climate change they appear to be moving more towards social activism with a strong socialist tinge.

Greens were ambitious last election so were disappointed not to increase their share of the vote in 2014, despite Labour’s weakening. They seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

This year they have entered into a Memorandum or Understanding with Labour so they can campaign as a combined Labour-Green ticket.

Labour under Andrew Little’s leadership also seem to be trying to move left and have also become more involved in social activism, promoting a number of petitions and joining the Greens in the homeless inquiry, and also appear in part at least to oppose the TPP.

With the growing radicalisation of the Greens and their closer association with a more radical Labour it’s no wonder Winston Peters sees growth potential for NZ First in the centre.

Greens and Labour may think their future lies in popular movements similar to Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK but neither of them have succeeded yet beyond exciting a vocal minority.

While our next election is probably more than a year away Greens and Labour have tied their colours to the campaign mast – fairly red colours with a tinge of green. They either know something about the future intention of voters that isn’t apparent, or are taking a huge punt.

It’s probably about 50/50 whether National would need NZ First to form the next government. It’s closer to 90/10 that Labour+Greens would require NZ First.

A more radical Greens+Labour plus the determination of Peters to remain an unknown quantity will be a hard sell to voters. Add to that recent policy announcements on education and housing indicate an attempt to outdo Labour’s large spending promises and we could have a fairly radical option next year, versus National plodding along.

 

Sack them all?

It’s not uncommon so see calls to sack politicians. Andrew Little was at it again today:

SackSmithTweets

Duncan Garner picked up on this: Little calls for fifth minister to be sacked

Andrew Little has called for Nick Smith to be sacked as Housing Minister.

Shock. Horror. You’re bloody joking me?

If Andrew Little had his way there may be no Cabinet Ministers left.

Maybe that’s the grand plan?

In the last year or so Little has called for the sackings of:

  • Murray McCully for the Saudi sheep deal.
  • Todd McClay for his position on China trade sanctions.
  • Simon Bridges for his Northland one-way bridges policy.
  • And Gerry Brownlee for his management of the Christchurch rebuild.

And now Nick Smith. Are there any more?

So; does Little have a point?

Has Nick Smith been so bad on housing that he deserves to be sacked by the Prime Minister?

Or does Andrew Little need to get a bit more original and find some better lines and more creative material.

There’s a real cry world type problem here. How would anyone know when it was really justified for a Minister to be sacked? Not by listening to Little. Or others.

I don’t think Little has called on John Key to resign yet but both Russel Norman and Winston Peters have in the past.

It’s hard enough getting capable people standing for Parliament as it is without sacking all and sundry at the whim of a political opponent.

Wouldn’t it be good if more leaders actually led by example instead of trying to trash everyone else?

Russel Norman’s valedictory statement

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

RusselNormanValedictory

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

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

Some of these topics may be worth exploring separately.

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

Draft transcript:

Valedictory Statements

Speech – Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The state of democracy in New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fourth estate

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

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

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

A bad culture around dissent

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

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

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

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

Sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are too many cows

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

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

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

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

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

Justice and inequality and poverty

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

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

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

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

A few thanks in my closing remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

[Applause]

Members’ bills

Three new Members’ bills were drawn today.

Carmel Sepuloni’s Social Security (Pathway to Work) Amendment Bill

This bill removes the disincentives to engage in part-time work by lifting the threshold of how much persons can earn before their benefit is reduced by abatement rates.

Dr Russel Norman’s Climate Change (Divestment from Fossil Fuels) Bill

This Bill will direct public fund managers to divest from companies directly involved in the exploration, mining, and production of fossil fuels

Clare Curran’s Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Bill

This bill amends the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013, establishing a Technical Advisory Board to which matters must be referred in instances where the Minister will be required to exercise his or her discretion or prescribe an additional area of specified security interest.

Russel Norman leaving Parliament

It’s not really surprising to see Russel Norman announce that he’s leaving Parliament. This is how he annolunced it via email:

I’ve got some news.

At the end of October, I’m going to be leaving Parliament. I am stepping down as a Green Party MP to take over as the Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand.

I am looking forward to the new challenges and the hard work I’m embarking on. But of course, at a time of change like this, I’m also finding myself looking into the past.

It’s sure going to be the end of an era for me. I’ve been a Green Party MP for over seven years (and was Co-leader for nine) and when I look back at what we have achieved over the last decade… crikey! Working with others, we not only achieved really practical things, like home insulation, rail electrification and bikeways, we also won many more people to the ideas of sustainability.

During my time with the Greens we have campaigned hard on issues that really matter to New Zealand. When I am an old man looking back I’m going to be proud of the part I have played in giving hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders a voice in opposition to asset sales, protecting our fresh waterways, shining a light on secret spying and the secret TPPA deal, and pushing for some desperately needed real action on climate change.

This is probably the last email you’ll get from me as a Green MP, and the only thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you for your support, your energy, your passion and your action. Thank you for the part you play in driving forward new ideas and solutions against the old headwinds of fear and inertia.

My work, and the work of all of us MPs, would have been nothing without your support and action – on the ground, outside of Parliament, in the real world.

It’s been a huge privilege to represent your voice. But it’s time for me to leave and step into a new challenge, with Greenpeace New Zealand.

My leaving, of course, also opens up a seat in Parliament for the amazing Marama Davidson, the next on the Green Party list. Marama will be a great addition to the Green team and will make a massive contribution.

So, for one last time, thank you and kia kaha.

Dr Russel Norman

Green Party MP

Parliament is a tough gig, especially at party leader level. Norman can justifiably be proud of what he has achieved.

Norman first stood for Parliament in Australia in 1990. He moved to New Zealand ih 1997.  He first stood here in 2002 and was placed seventeenth on their list. He didn’t stand for an electorate in 2005 but was placed tenth on the list. However that wasn’t enough to get him into Parliament.

He became party co-leader from outside Parliament in 2006 after the death of Rod Donald., defeating Nandor Tanczos. In 2008  when Tanczos resigned the next two on the Green list stood aside so Norman could take a seat in Parliament.

Since then Greens increased their number of MPs to fourteen in 2011 and held steady at that in 2014. Greens were kept out of power largely due to Labour’s failure to impress since Helen Clark lost and left.

Interesting to see that Norman is moving to lead Greenpeace in New Zealand,

McLay has learnt the correct answer

In Question Time in Tuesday Todd McLay, speaking for the Minsiter of Trade, four times avoided answering a reopeated question from Russel orman on the TPP. See  Todd McClay: arrogant stonewalling.

He was prepared for a repeat of Norman’s line of questioning yesterday and had answers ready.

7. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green) to the Minister of Trade : Will the New Zealand Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement if the Government signs the TPPA; and is it Parliament or Cabinet that ratifies the TPPA?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): I welcome the question from the member. The Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders set out the procedure for Parliament’s examination of international treaties, and, as with all international treaties, Parliament is not able to amend parts of a treaty. However, Parliament has significant involvement prior to ratification of an agreement. Although it is the executive that ratifies treaties, Parliament has an important role to play in the treaty examination process. The executive will only ratify a free-trade agreement after Parliament’s completion of treaty examinations.

Dr Russel Norman : So would a correct summary of the Minister’s answer be that the New Zealand Parliament is not able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement once the Government has signed it, and that it is Cabinet, not Parliament, that ratifies the treaty?

Hon TODD McCLAY : As with my first answer, the rules around this, in so far as the Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders are concerned, are clear. But it is correct to say that no one single country can amend an agreement unilaterally and therefore not one of the 12 countries can amend the agreement, should agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership be reached. This is the same with agreements that we sign up to under the World Trade Organization and the UN. It is also important, I think, to note that for New Zealand the reason this is something that is in place is so that any hard-fought gains that we receive through that negotiation cannot be changed following agreement.

Dr Russel Norman : Does it strike him as a particularly democratic process when the elected members of the House of Representatives have no ability to influence the negotiation because it is done in secret, elected MPs cannot modify the agreement once it has been signed in secret by the Government, and nor does Parliament have any decisive say over whether New Zealand ratifies the agreement?

Hon TODD McCLAY : It strikes me that this is the same procedure that has been followed for a number of agreements that have gone through this Parliament—indeed, it is the same procedure that took place in the China free-trade agreement, the Hong Kong agreement, and, most recently, the Korean agreement. But I would say, as has been publicly stated, that if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is agreed, we are likely to see a different procedure in the way that it is followed through in this Parliament than was the case with China. It will be close to the Korean agreement, where the agreement was available prior to signing. Certainly, the parliamentary process must be finished before ratification will take place.

Dr Russel Norman : Has he seen the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s lead negotiator on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which said that all explanatory material from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, such as briefings to Ministers, would be kept secret for 4 years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement comes into force; and will not keeping that material secret make it very difficult for ordinary New Zealanders to get their heads around the detail of the treaty, which is the size of a book and is written in—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Hon Todd McClay—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon TODD McCLAY : The procedure that will be followed here is that the agreement will be available for the honourable member, others in this Parliament, and the public to see prior to signature. We will need to follow the same procedure that has been in place in this Parliament for all other agreements through the treaty examination procedures before ratification takes place. Our Minister of Trade is negotiating the very best deal possible for New Zealand. The Government has said that it will sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement only if it is in the best interests of New Zealand. I think the public will have plenty of time to go over the very detailed text of this agreement before that member gets to cast further doubt upon it.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specifically about the explanatory material—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I listened very carefully to the question. It was not specific enough; in fact, there were at least two questions in the question. I cannot help the member if he does not ask a concise question to get the answer that might be more satisfactory to him.

Even Danyl Mclauchlan sees the problem with Norman’s approach.

Danyl Mclauchlan ‏@danylmc

If Parliament could modify a trade agreement wouldn’t all the signatories do that and trade agreements be completely pointless?

Yes. The Green approach to trade deals – have all negotiating positions publicised, then when reaching an agreement putting the treaty back to the New Zealand Parliament to discuss, then the Greens can discuss it internally, then Greens can organise protest marches and petitions against it, then if Parliament agrees to ratify the agreement Greens can organise a ‘Citizen’ initiated referendum and insist that if the public are against the treaty we should withdraw, then the Greens still only get about 11% in the next election.

Graeme Edgeler ‏@GraemeEdgeler
It’s why the US negotiators needed fast track authority 🙂

Rob Hosking ‏@robhosking
@danylmc Yeah. This is godawfully silly stuff. Student Union politics of the worst kind.

Norman is showing the lack of experience Greens have of being in Government – it’s fine to have democratic ideals, but the reality of running a country means that the Green way isn’t necessarily the best way, nor a way that would work.

Norman must know that the Green way would make it virtualy impossible to reach any meaningful trade agreements.

Good to see that McLay learnt from his poor responses the previous day.