Last Thoughts for 2011, Climate Change on top.

There have been some insights into the issue of global responses to Climate Change during this year. The Durban round has highlighted that the rich nations, particularly the USA, want to keep denying reality, denying science, and continue with ‘business as usual’ until their activities constitute genocide for those who live in ‘less favoured’ nations. Good roundup at Hot Topic shows the inconsistency in the NZ Government position.

The resource wars have been going for nearly a decade now.
If there’s anyone left out there who thinks there really were WMD in Iraq when Bush invaded, now would be the time to check into that hostel for the delusional, and settle into the nice padded room with abundant security staffing and food service.
Iraq was a genocidal war to control oil resources, as is Afghanistan/Pakistan currently, as have been the insurgencies in the whole ME region.

We sit on our hands and ignore the rapacious and genocidal mania of the USA at our peril.
They have sunk, by means of their own economic policy of stealing from the poor, killing foreigners to gain resources, and lying to their own countrymen (and women) in order to extract the greatest profit from every human being within their sphere of influence, from being the great hegemony of the 20th Century to being a genocidal, imperialist facist state for whom surveillance and control of their own citizens is becoming a higher priority than any of the many wars they have engaged in on many fronts in the 21st C.

So as we roll towards NYE 2011, and New Years’ Day 2012, here’s my New Year’s plea:

To our neighbours in the Pacific Ocean, I pledge that we as citizens of NZ, and myself personally as a member of the Green Party, will do our utmost to reverse the decisions being made by selfish, greedy, over-consuming rich people in our country.

We will fight to get climate refugees from Tokelau, the outer islands of Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Tonga, Kiribati (and other Pasifika nations who were not historically under the protection of NZ) some justice, some recompense, and above all, a safe haven to come to.

We in New Zealand have benefitted for decades from the willingness of our pasifika neighbours to come to our country, to work in our factories and fields, to do the jobs that our nice, pakeha, middle-class and educated children don’t want to do [because they're 'worth more' to us working in corporations overseas, paying back their student loans] which is why we need a brown underclass to clean office buildings, work in biscuit factories, and pick fruit and vegetables during our harvest season while our office workers holiday at the beach.

In short, for all the racism and class warfare we have inflicted on our pasifika neighbours (and I’m speaking here as a university-educated pakeha, a seventh-generation NZ’er of predominantly UK extraction, so there’s a large ‘we’ who identify in that category, you know who you are!), we owe a future to those who have not been driving SUV’s and European sports cars around the car-obsessed suburbs of our major cities.

In 2012, when the argument comes up about bringing the inhabitants of Tokelau to NZ in one big block, I don’t want to hear about your petty racism. I don’t want to hear you say that it’s a huge drain on our country to allow in the elderly grandparents of Tokelauans who have worked here for decades.

Have some compassion, the islands are salinating to the point where food cannot grow, and even the racist fiction that keeping the old people in the islands where they are ‘comfortable’ and have ‘familiar routines of life’ isn’t going to wash any more.
Remittances from their children and grandchildren who work here in NZ for minimum wages are not going to compensate for the inability to grow food that has been engendered by our carbon-rich, resource-greedy lifestyles.

Why am I getting rude and angry about this now, you ask?

Because christmas in my extended family has been about these issues, as my son-in-law’s father has flown back to Fiji to visit the old folk who remain, while his wife stays here and works through the christmas period, caring for elderly white folk in a provincial NZ town.
She can’t get her own mother into the country to look after her, because our immigration laws are so strict for brown people with the normal conditions of infirmity of aging.

Before you ask, every member of my extended family who has moved here from Fiji is in work, as is my daughter.
It’s all minimum wage or deeply working-class work, but it’s work.
They are exemplary citizens, plugging their way through the paperwork loops from work visas to residency, and eventually to citizenship, and they are the most uncomplaining, grateful, and apolitical members of my family, including my blood relatives who are much better off materially!

So as you pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly this New Year, listen to music at a festival, or just relax on a beach with family and loved ones, count your privileges and acknowledge them, and consider the possibilities:

1) that a small reduction in your life consumption over the next twelve months might be achievable,

2) that sustainability in business and personal life is not only acceptable but necessary, and

3) that Labour wasn’t just stealing policy points from the Greens in the run-up to the election to score media points, but because the time has come when these things have to be faced, and the Greens have already thought it through, in excruciating detail, driven by members with a conscious and conscientious input to policy development.

Firstly, to all my paid and unpaid colleagues in the Green Party around Aotearoa/NZ, let’s leave behind the many tragedies of 2011, and work towards a better year in 2012. Because we’re worth it, and so is every single citizen of our country, and every single worker who is here propping up our low-wage economy without the benefits of citizenship that we so blithely bestow upon our children at birth.

Secondly, to the fourteen Green MP’s who were sworn in before christmas, thank-you for standing, for campaigning so strongly, and for stepping up to serve us for the next three years. I’ll try not to be on your office threshold every week, but you may be seeing more of me, lol.

Thirdly, thank-you to every candidate who stood, campaigned, and contributed to this historic rise in our representation in Parliament, your efforts all around Aotearoa lifted the water-level for everyone who got in. Some of you are now my especial friends, we will work together in the future on issues of importance, arohanui a koutou, you also know who you are.

Arohatinonui ki a koutou katoa.

See ya in the other side in January 2012, I’m going bush, don’t expect replies to comments. ;-)

Final Back Benches for 2011, Merry Xmas Mr Chapman

This is a very brief overview of what was a very busy night.
MP’s on the panel were David Parker (L), Chester Burrows(N) and Jan Logie, our new Green MP on her first Back Benches.

In the audience were many more MP’s, so the guys had a quick chat with David Shearer, Grant Robertson, and Mojo Mathers (first deaf MP, interviewed well by Damian, who expounded on her MSc in Ecology and Environment, which is going to be equally important to her as her Disability issues portfolio).

The show is here at TVNZ7.
The petition to save TVNZ7 is still here. Go on, it’s still worth sending them a message! Buy a t-shirt, even!!!

I edited this today to add the links, but I can’t be arsed describing all the wierd and wonderful things that happened during the show, so just click through and watch it, already. Chester Borrows gets an honourable mention for behaving like a complete arse. No prizes for identifying how many people I know got a chance to state an opinion during the vox pops, but I was assiduously avoiding Damian by hiding near the kitchen for most of the show.
And now here’s pix from last night:

Jan Logie with YG admirers

Jan Logie with YG admirers

New MP's Mojo Mathers and Holly Walker

New MP's Mojo Mathers and Holly Walker

Wallace and Damian, didn't they do well?

Wallace and Damian, didn't they do well?

A few tips for David Shearer in congratulating him on ascendency to the Labour Party leadership

Congratulations, David, on being elected Labour Party Leader. Here are a few thoughts from a Green activist on how to best get an effective progressive Government after the next election:

  1. The Greens are your best friends outside your own Party. Don’t go trying to claw back votes from the Greens, or they may not continue to be so. There are plenty of soft National votes to target.
  2. A progressive government will necessarily involve both the Greens and Labour. Both parties should focus on our political enemies on the other side of the divide, who care little for either social justice or ecological sustainability.
  3. Stop stealing Green policies (e.g. $15 minimum wage, removing the employment status discrimination in Working for Families, introducing Capital Gains Tax) and claiming them as you own. Voters will see that for what it is. Instead, give the Greens credit for good policy advances, and acknowledge the Greens for those initiatives.  In return, the Greens are likely to address issues Labour has raised, such as your concern about the sustainability of NZ Superannuation, which is a valid economic concern the Greens have not yet addressed.
  4. Don’t worry about the Greens’ and Labour’s respective share of the vote. Trust the Greens’ “highly unlikely” position on giving National support on confidence and supply.
  5. Adopt a “degree to disagree” position with the Green on issues we have significant policy differences about – e.g. foreign investment and trade policy, finite resource exploitation policy, and drugs and alcohol policy.  We can sort those out post-election 2014, when we see how the numbers stack up.
  6. Don’t trust New Zealand First. They sold us all down the river in 1996 when they campaigned on defeating a National Government and then supported one post-election.  They also had a large part to play in the defeat of the Labour-led Government in 2008.
  7. Don’t continue to shut out Mana. They may have only one vote at the moment, but I suspect they will grow. They are a strong force for observing and promoting Te Tiriti and for positive social change – things I hope the Greens and Labour agree on.
  8. Don’t shut out the Maori Party. For reasons I think are misguided, they are on the other side at the moment. But if National (including its most bigoted supporters) can accommodate them and survive, so can the Greens and Labour; and we can do more to deliver Te Tiriti obligations and economic and social justice to Maori Party supporters than National could dream of getting away with.

Now MMP is locked in for our lifetimes, we have to get past the old FPP thinking. It is voting blocs that count now, not the dominance of one of the two old Parties.

MMP does it the tough way

If MMP wins the referendum, as I expect it to do, it will be a victory in the toughest of circumstances:

  • National voters are statistically the most opposed to MMP, and National is and has been at its strongest ever in recent months.
  • The one major flaw in MMP – the ability to coat-tail extra MPs in by creating a situation where a minor party can win an electorate seat, due to an accommodation with a major party – was exploited cynically and publicly in both Epsom and Ohariu.
  • This election was going to have a low turn out, and a low turnout should have hurt MMP’s chances.
  • The Rugby World Cup and the General Election sucked away many opportunities for informed debate about fairness, proportionality and good governance.  It allowed potential misinformation to flourish uncorrected. Despite all that most voters I talked to already understood what MMP was and how it was different from non-proportional systems.

If MMP wins despite all those factors, I don’t think anyone can complain any longer. I’m looking forward to the review now – and in particular a fix that stops the sort of tomfoolery we saw in Epsom and Ohariu.

 

Back of the brain niggles

First, let me say I thought the Green’s campaign team ran a strategically awesome campaign.  It was smart, nuanced and pitched very elegantly.  It was the best run campaign of the election (with the possible exception of Winston Peters late-finishing ‘smell of an oily rag’ campaign. Congratulations to the whole team.

However…

I’ve had a few niggling concerns at the back of my brain throughout this campaign. I understood that the ‘highly unlikely’ positioning thing was important in terms of being an independent party and positioning ourselves as separate from Labour. But let’s be honest – No party has been more diagrammatically opposed to National in their voting record over the last three years that the Greens (92 percent voting against the National Party vs Labour’s record of voting 58 percent against the National Party).  Much as we may be sick of it, our role for this next three years must staunch opposition to the National/Banks/Dunne government. Getting people to vote for us under the pretence that we might be able to work with National felt deceptive.

But the ‘highly unlikely’ thing didn’t bug me too much – it was relatively honest if we ignored the dog-whistling to soft National voters and looked at in a purely analytical way.

But more concerning for me has been the general tone of the policy presentation for the campaign. Instead of climate change we talked about holidaying people being able to swim in rivers.  Our advertising defined poverty purely in terms of children, and we presented a Green economy as some utopia where we need make no sacrifices, and everyone has jobs building windmills and goes camping every summer.

When ‘Vote for a richer New Zealand‘ first came out I thought it was cleverly ironic – undercutting our traditional beliefs about the value of economic growth. But, as the campaign went on it felt less ironic, and more divorced from an accurate reflection of what I understood Green economics to be. I believe a true Green economy will take away some people’s jobs.  It may create other jobs too but it will involve some hard choices that will hurt some sectors of the economy and benefit others. A Green economy should be challenging, because it is radically different from the current capitalist economy that both National and Labour support.

I know the party’s policies have not changed. But it felt to me that what we offered people to vote for us on was sun-drenched holidays swimming in rivers, pink batts for children and jobs for everyone constructing windmills.

What worries me is that our new MPs now face a tough choice. Do they represent the traditional Green values or do they represent the Green-lite values for which I suspect large numbers of voters voted? I hope they (the MPs), who will have talked to lots more voters than I, feel they have a mandate to be more than the advertising presented them as.

Blog Meme time – “How I’m voting”

Having spent an appreciable amount of today surfing the net and reading posts by other political bloggers on the topic of “How I’m voting tomorrow”, some adding “and why”, I have finally succumbed.

So I’m going to tell you who I advance-voted for last week, and why I ruled out the various other options that have peppered my in-box with information in the past few weeks.

Firstly, I’m (as regular readers may know) a voter in the Wellington Central electorate. I’ve blogged enough times about our ‘new kid on the block’, James Shaw, who is standing in Sue Kedgley’s stead as Sue is retiring at this election.

So it will come as no surprise that I have voted two ticks Green, one candidate vote for James and a party vote Green, which has actually been my Wellington Central strategy since I moved back into the electorate before the 2002 elections.

My long-term strategy is actually anchored to a deep distrust of the Labour leaders, and especially Phil Goff who was the relevant Minister of Defence, since the first SAS sortie into Afghanistan, which they have repeatedly lied about in Parliament and media questions.

There have been books written about this period of our recent military history, most recently Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars, and also this one, an official 50th anniversary history sanctioned by the SAS and NZDF hierachy. Woops, they should have cross-checked with Hansard to find out where their line of plausible deniablility stood.

I genuinely like Grant Robertson; I know very little about Paul Foster-Bell, but he seems to be a nice young man, if a little like dishwater. I have heard the Libertarianz, ACT, ALCP, Pirate Party and New Economic Party’s candidates speak at various Wellington Central forums, and I have been very much entertained by their presentations.

My view of National as a party has been refined over many years (nay, decades…) of interaction at a local level with Bill and Mary English, whose many children overlap three of mine in ages, and have shared educational institutions with them from primary through to secondary.
I have heard Bill’s spiel about private schools getting a hard deal so many times I could practically give it myself, if I felt motivated. I do not.
It is essentially the selfish howl of an over-entitled man, pleading special interests to those who are similarly selfish and over-entitled, and as a former public servant in the Education field, I have always found that position to be repugnant.

John Key has further compounded the selfish policy ground of National by busily driving the country into the ground, slashing taxes for the rich, while cutting services to the poor, and throwing public servants on to the redundancy scrapheap.
This is such short-sighted policy that I am astounded, until I reflect on the behaviour exhibited by the Coates Government during the Great Depression* – they protected Farmer’s incomes, forced unemployed and starving men into work gangs, sleeping by night in the fields next to the roads they were ‘mending’. This is the Government that lost to Micky Savage’s first Labour Government in the election that led to the institution of the welfare legislation that gave us such a stable and prosperous period in the years immediately after the war – when the generation that are today’s Baby Boomer retirees were brought up.
National appears to have no clue that by giving tax breaks to the well-off, demonising those who can’t find work, sacking public service employees, and bailing out failed businesses who should have been allowed to fail instead of continuing to trade, they have merely repeated the worst of the excesses of the Coates Government.

Those who do not heed history are doomed to repeat it.

The lessons of the past might be well learnt by John Key and his cronies, as he tries to cynically manipulate his way into another term, with asset-stripping as a Key policy for the next three years,and a probable golden parachute lurking outside New Zealand once he’s overstayed his welcome.

Aah, but what about Labour’s future plans? Well, I’ll be interested again when Goff finally gets rolled by Grant Robertson. This election, despite a strong finish, the Labour leader has looked weak, indecisive and feckless, and made me glance wistfully at the “I miss Helen” button that I bought from Unity Bookshop shortly after Helengrad was vacated when her Helenship departed for the UNDP.

*Update:
If you wish to ascertain the accuracy of my statements about the Coates Government, I thoroughly recommend the works of Tony Simpson, “The Sugarbag Years”, published in 1975, and “The Slump”, published in 1990, both available in Penguin NZ editions. Should be available in any public library with a decent NZ History section.
Or you could read any of the biographies of John A Lee, Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser, or indeed anything written about the Coates Government itself. Here ends the history tutorial assignment, don’t post me the answers, I’ll be happy enough if you just educate yourselves.

Going for Green: Businesswoman and Mother Viv Kerr

Viv Kerr is a dentist with her own practice. As you might expect, she’s a gentle, thorough, practical and thoughtful person. What is unexpected is her passionate and informed concern for her children’s future. That is what fuels her many informed and persuasive letters to the paper and to politicians, to making submissions on environmental issues, and, recently, to joining the Green party.

“It was the climate change issue that actually got me motivated. In the run-up to the Copenhagen talks they were talking about a 2050 vision, and my son was seven at the time. I was 47. That made it matter to me. They were talking about his future, at my age. My serious worries crystallised and I realised I had to actually do something.”

Having a scientific background, Viv started reading and learning all she could. “My training as a dentist gave me a good grasp of evidence-based research, and of course to first ‘do no harm’. I started reading and listening to James Hansen and David Suzuki and George Monbiot – and always looking at their background research.”

What she learned made the political highly personal. “I would hate to sit there at the end of my life and see things really start to disintegrate. Now at least I know I did try to do something, and whether I have any effect or not I will go down fighting. Not that we will go down!

“I have also learned that a small group of people can have a big effect. Take the Dunedin Sound, which is internationally known, yet it was only a small group of people.”

Viv’s activism is best known ( so far) in Dunedin for her letters to the paper. She began these when the Otago Daily Times covered climate change projections for the city and oil drilling off the coast on the same front page. “There have been lots of reactions to the letters – some quite surprising, and almost all entirely positive. It surprises me so few do write letters, when so many of us are concerned.”

She also now uses her education and skills to make submissions on environmental issues, such as on mining in national parks. “It was the first time I’d ever put in a written submission on anything, so I treated it like a research project.”

Viv joined the Greens because “I think that’s the only sensible option. The things that they say make sense to me. What appeals most is their focus on environment. Although social justice is important to me, the environment is the main thing because without it nothing else will happen. Recognising the Treaty also matters because I’ve married into the iwi.

“And the Greens’ decision-making is transparent. I was a really new member when they developed a new policy on the Christchurch earthquake, and I thought it was cool that they asked for feedback from members on that. The Greens walk the walk.”

Good Golly Ms Tolley

National announces its Education policy:

People wanting to be teachers may soon have to pass a personality test to assess whether they are right for the job.

It’s one of the moves planned by National should it retain power after Saturday.

Education spokesperson Anne Tolley released her extensive education policy today which covers everything from plans for a new funding structure for the early childcare sector to clamping down further on people who take out student loans.

Schools know that because the Standards are so flawed, the level of moderation is so inconsistent, and implementation is so varied around the country, any student achievement data based on them is completely unreliable. It is unfair and dangerous for ‘National Standards’ to be used to compare and judge school performance, let alone as an accountability measure”.

NZEI is also concerned that National wants to shift the resourcing model to ‘incentivise school performance’ as it suggests that money will be removed from those schools which are not complying with ‘National Standards’ or are not performing against them.”

“More measuring doesn’t make the pig fatter and National’s policy will simply increase the bureaucracy in education without adding value to the people who matter – children.

Going for Green: Christina Gibb

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Christina Gibb now has a great-grandchild on the way, but says her children were not the primary motive for her environmental values. “I’ve always been green”.  She grew up in Malta and England and “my mother was very keen on all kinds of natural history, so we always looked for the birds and plants and tried to identify – that’s been part of me since I was very small.”

Again, like Pat Scott and Elizabeth Duke, Christina went to university in England, came to New Zealand with small children, and her spiritual values drive her social and environmental ones. “I’ve been a Quaker since 1984. Quaker values and Green values go together quite well – being non-hierarchical and having the belief in equality and the worth of every person. It’s about caring – for the planet and for people”.

Christina has worked for a variety of organisations such as Rape Crisis, the Howard League for Penal Reform, and the Just Housing group.  She’s lived in Ravensbourne for 30 years, and has been restoring her patch of bush with a QE2 covenant and her neighbours as part of the Ravensbourne Environment Trust.

Her involvement with the Greens started about ten years ago. “I hadn’t even joined a political party before but I was so angry with one of the mainstream parties I thought right I must join the Greens – the only one that stands for the things I stand for. It’s the whole social justice thing, the commitment to the Treaty and to Maori rights, and to creating a green economy and green jobs.”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

Going for Green: Eli Kerin

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Eli Kerin grew up on a small mixed farm in Australia and spent a lot of time observing nature.

It was a harsh climate with extremes of flood and drought. “I noticed the native plants and animals could cope but the introduced species needed more help to survive. Also I noticed the reduction of bird life after we started using DDT and other sprays in our orchard. This particularly reduced the number of small birds that ate insects hence we had to spray more.

I did not have a religious upbringing so I developed my own spiritual views/beliefs which are centred on respect for our environment and the view that humanity needs to stay in a symbiotic relationship with its environment rather than attempting to control and dominate.”

As a young adult, Eli turned his close observational skills to consumerism. “As an apprentice tradesman I thought a lot about how the standard of work we did determined the longevity of our products. I naively thought things should be made to last and then we would not have to work as long to have our needs met. As I got older I realised this is not how our economy worked but I could not imagine this approach being sustainable in the long term.”

While still in his twenties, he “became more aware of the unfairness and negative consequences of the way wealth is distributed and became a supporter of socialist views.”

Eli now supports the Green Party because it “respects our respects our environment and aims to protect it; does not believe we can have continual growth in wasteful consumerism without destroying our environment; and believes in social justice and democracy – and  practises those values in the way it is organised”.

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington