Welcome, Cath, to Parliament!

It was my utmost pleasure to sit in the public gallery, alongside many whanau, friends and collegues of Cath Delahunty, and hear her maiden speech in the House – a long time coming, but there at last.

The video, from Parliament TV, and the text of the speech, are here.

We all adjourned to the Caucus room in the Green Party suite in Bowen House afterwards, where speeches were made, refreshments were enthusiastically consumed, and much happy mingling occurred.

Cath and Jeanette

Cath and Jeanette

Gratuitous picture of Jeanette’s speech of welcome in the Caucus room.

Gifts were given, stories were told, and waiata were sung, and the various threads of Cath’s life as an activist, feminist, supporter of environmentalists, anti-nuclear campaigns, unemployed rights groups, disability activists, unions, teaching programmes and various trusts supporting women in hardship, were woven together.

Visitors from Tamaki, Tauranga, Whakatane, Ruatoki and Te Aupouri, as well as some locals of Whanganui-a-Tara, all gathered to share our esteem for this longhaul, hardworking, green-thinking dynamo, who has touched so many lives on her way to this place and time.

Kia Kaha, Cath, arohatinonui ki a koe.

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The New Premier

There’s been much talk of the pragmatism and centrism of John Key lately. It’s true his cabinet picks and coalition dealing have been showing that in John Key, the National Party finally has a leader who understands and can work MMP. This isn’t worthy of any special praise in my opinion- there was nothing inspired or difficult about his negotiations, and the moves he had to take were all very obvious- including dumping his senior embarassments in big-name small-impact roles. In that respect, he’s showing he has some of the capability that Helen showed, and that he’s going to make this government function reasonably smoothly.

What he has not done is show any overt signs of centrism. It’s still uncertain whether he will merely be a moderate right-wing Prime Minister who leaves most of Labour’s employment and social policy intact, but still approaches his first term from a right-wing ideology. Or he could show himself to be a genuine centrist willing to bring new initiatives to the table that New Zealanders on the left of the political spectrum can warm to, and demonstrate his concern for communitarian politics that engages all New Zealanders- a role that no Party in parliament has ever really filled properly. The first signs of that will be how he deals with the remaining government and members’ bills left on the order paper, and even then it’s possible to judge too hastily.

Let’s not declare him a centrist just yet.

Getting it off my chest

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It has now been about two weeks and three days since election night, so plenty of time to reflect, recuperate and ignore my blog. It really is time to do what I’ve been avoiding and record my post election-musings.

First things first. Me. It was the first general election for me that I could vote in (after having made up my mind a long time ago) and the first time I ran as a candidate. I felt it had to be done. Not to get into Parliament – it’s far too soon for a serious run like that – but to increase the Green Party Party Vote, creatively vent my frustration at lack of youth participation and representation in politics, and I guess have a good time, learn a lot and see whether it was a role I could see myself in in the future – as either a lowly-ranked candidate again and/or a serious candidate.

I felt I did make a difference, and most importantly for myself, felt I did as much as I could have hoped to do to increase the Green’s Party Vote. I had a good time. I learnt things across the board, from creating event ideas, organising them and organising media to honing my public speaking skills (something I really enjoy) and talking to strangers one on one about issues that they’re passionate about, and I’m passionate about. I’ll tell you the biggest thing I’ve noticed since November 8 though. I thought that I might burn myself out on the election trail and then go on hiatus for a little while afterward. But that’s not the case. It’s put a fire in my belly that’s stronger than ever before, and it’s not going out. And every time Rodney Hide says climate change is a hoax, or John Key champions the free market over simple social and environmental logic it will only get stronger. Because if there was ever a time to dither over climate solutions, it is not now – I think there’s been enough of that since Kyoto was signed in 1997.

Which brings me on to my next subject for my pre-bed muse. The election result. Boy was I nervous on election day – the worst I’d felt the whole campaign. I’m learning to trust my instincts a little more now, and my nervousness gradually morphed into the inevitable disappointment as the results rolled in. I said a few months ago that I would be disappointed with anything less than 8% for the Green Party, and so I was disappointed. I also wasn’t expecting the result to be so decisive for National.

So what happened? Well Labour were punished for running such a crappy campaign. Weren’t they watching the US elections, and seeing how John McCain was punished for running such a negative campaign against someone who was running such a positive and inspiring one? Labour gave us plenty of reasons not to vote National, and to vote for Labour in the last three elections, but I still haven’t figured out what they would have done if they were elected again (other than go into coalition with the Green Party and implement a whole bunch of our brilliant ideas because they had none and ours are so intellegent and needed). Nationals campaign wasn’t very inspiring either, but at least they offered something, which was change, some positive messages and a nice guy as their front man. Since Brash disappeared, Key got better and better at saying either “Don’t worry, we’ll keep what Labour did” or “We’ll keep what they did, just change it a bit” which completely took the wind out of Labour’s sails. Then he just had to come up with a few issues that struck a chord with the public and voila, he romped home in the end.

As for the Green Party, I think we can count it as a pretty successful campaign. It’s so difficult to sell our message when we got so little media coverage compared to the big parties, given that our message is a whole new way of looking at things. But of course, it is a very necessary and logical way, we just need to keep working on getting it accross. We had by far the best billboards and advertising campaign, which got to the heart of our message and our voters. And so we increased our vote against what was a big swing towards a National-led Government. We now have 9 MPs, solidifying our place in Parliament as the third largest Party and a major political force. This is a great base to build on. But the challenges ahead are immense – for both the Green Party and every citizen of Earth. We, along with all the groups and individuals fighting on our side, are the only ones that have the solutions for the future. But we do have the solutions, so we’re half way there. All we have to do is make sure the left side of the brain wakes up the right side so that we can all move forward – not just those with the same ideologies. We’re all in the same boat.

In the meantime, ponder this: What were those things that National promised to do before the election again?

(PS You’re hoping for an explanation about the photo right? Well, on the final day of the campaign we had a bit a fun with some sumo suits. Can you guess what their underpants might be a symbol of? Anyway, after the two fought it out in many battles it turns out they both fall over time and time again whenever faced with a challenge. When it comes to having a positive long term vision that everyone should be a part of, the Green Party was the winner of the day – the only ones that could stand on their own two feet. Below is some more of the action.)

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Original post on Zackarate Island.

Yay!

The special votes are finally in, and along with them new Green MP, Kennedy Graham:

The Greens gain a new MP and National lose one with the special votes now counted.

There were 270,965 special votes – that is people who voted in advance, from outside their electorate or overseas.

The results were released by Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden on Saturday afternoon.

The Greens picked up about 0.3%, or about 70,000 more party votes.

That gives them a ninth MP – Kennedy Graham. He has been attending Caucus and preparing to become an MP as it was always likely he would make it in. The Greens traditionally do well on special votes.

70,000 votes out of 270,000 specials cast is nearly 26 percent.  Which apparently was a misprint by NZPA/TVNZ.  It looks like we got about 23,000 votes or roughly 9.1 percent. That suggests the Greens’ twin overseas vote and late enrolment vote campaigns were both very successful.  It seems kind of appropriate the Graham should be reliant in part on overseas votes for his seat in Parliament given his work towards global disarmament and peace.

Nice work Kennedy!

Young Guns @ the Backbencher

By the time I got there, the Backbencher pub was packed, with more young student politicians than I’ve seen in a room together for a long time – a table packed with VUWSA/NZUSA types, and luckily, a few feminists of my acquaintance, who offered me a seat with them. Having dropped my bags on the chair, I jumped back up to speak to Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, who introduced me to Chris Hipkins, new MP for Rimutaka – someone I remember from his years in VUWSA, far too long ago! Along with panelist Jacinda Adern, that was 3 new MP’s in the room, and the Labour support crew were very voluble.

The scene was set for a lively debate – the Young Nat’s represented by their president, Alex Mitchell; Jacinda Adern fronting for Young Labour; Kimo Winiata representing the Maaori Party; and Gareth Hughes, recent contestor of Ohariu electorate, for the Young Greens. Presenter Wallace Chapman reeled out the questions, and kept the pace moving in-between the recorded clips pasted into the programme.

Various funny things happened – one stunt, involving a ‘prize’ framed photo of John Key, fell flat when someone was asked to name Phil Goff’s deputy; having correctly answered ‘Annette King’, he then vociferously turned down the ‘prize’, at which point a voice yells from the back “I’ll have it!”, and along comes Joel Cosgrove, recent past-President of VUWSA, to claim John key’s photo – stunning Chapman into reading out the caption on his (Workers’ Party campaign) t-shirt. Just watch the video on-line, it’s priceless footage.

Back Benches Ep 34

At intervals, Chapman repeated to the assembled (mostly) students, how great it was to have such a good crowd, and please come down for the next 4 weeks, until the last episode of the season.
Info about the show here.

And since they were looking so photogenic, I’ll add some pix:

the panel, being wired for sound

the panel, being wired for sound

View of the crowd as filming begins

View of the crowd as filming begins

'the bogan from Gisbourne'

'the bogan from Gisbourne'

Why the centre-left lost power

It has been interesting to see the political commentator speculating about the reasons for the demise of what had been widely seen as an economically competent centre-left government which had served New Zealand well during the good times and had the experience to cope with the not so good.

Most don’t seem to be able to come up with anything more than “a swing to the right”, or it was “time for a change” – neither of which really say anything about why the electorate voted the way it did, especially when many countres overseas seem to be moving leftwards.

I’d suggest that it had a lot more to do with a Government that was perceived as losing its grip. During her first two terms as Prime Minister Helen Clark appeared decisively in command. Incompetence (apart from, inexplicably, Judith Tizard) was not tolerated. Nor was misconduct. Ruth Dyson (drunk driving) and Liane Dalziel (lying to the public) were promptly dispatched. Dover Samuels was stood down while allegations of sexual misconduct were investigated.

But in her third term, things inexplicable changed. These are the things that I think lost the centre-left the election:

  1. The Taito Phillip Field Affair Allegations of misconduct against Field had been simmering since just before the 2005 election. Instead of implementing a proper investigation with the teeth to interview witnesses under oath, Clark implemented an Claytons inquiry that was widely perceived as a whitewash designed to clear Field. Then despite further very serious allegations, Field was retained in the Labour Caucus right through to February 2007, creating a perception of tolerance of impropriety and possible corruption.
  2. The pledge card Labour’s handling of the pledge card and the Auditor-General’s report was appalling. The should have simply admitted “we got it wrong, and we’ll pay the money back” (as the Greens did). Instead, they allowed the pledge card affair to drag on interminably, and were subjected to daily allegations in Parliament of corruption. They hadn’t actually done anthing that most other political parties had done, but their reluctance to own up to their mistake and put it right undermined public confidence in them as a Government.
  3. David Benson-Pope Much like Taito Phillip Field actually, although the allegations were not so serious. The perception was created, through Clark’s continued tolerance of Benson-Pope through the “tennis balls affair” in which he had quite clearly been economical with the truth. He was finally dispatched in July 2007 after allegations of him lying to Parliament over matters relating to the appointment of a Communications Manager in the Ministry for the Environment. Clark said at the time, “The way in which certain issues have been handled this week has led to a loss of credibility and on that basis I have accepted Mr Benson-Pope’s offer to stand aside”. Pity for her that she didn’t realise he had lost credibility much earlier.
  4. The Electoral Finance Act This was handled by Labour in the most appalling way. The original Bill was so poorly drafted that Justice Minister Mark Burton deserved the sack for allowing a Bill that was such a shambles to come before Parliament. He was later quietly stood down, but by that time the damage had been done. Labour railroaded the Bill through Parliament, refusing to consider very pertinent submissions from organisations such as the Human Rights Commission or suggestions from the Green Party who were left with a “take it or leave it” option. This allowed the right to create the perception of the Electoral Finance Bill, and consequently of Labour, being undemocratic – a task which the NZ Herald took up with great gusto.
  5. Winston Peters Need I say more. Clark stood by Peters as allegation after allegation of impropriety and, in the last few weeks, even corruption emerged against Peters. In her first and second terms he would have been promptly dispatched, at least temporarily, for allegations of far less substance, but her continued tolerance of him as a Minister allowed her and her government to be tarred with the same brush as Peters.

New Zealanders don’t like the perception of tolerance of incompetence, deceipt or corruption, nor will they tolerate a Government that they perceive as acting in a high-handed or self-serving manner.

If Clark had acted decisively on these five issues above, she may still be Prime Minister.

Green Wellington

Check out these great Green results from Wellington province:

  • Ohariu – 2nd biggest Green gain after Dunedin North (+833 votes)
  • Rongotai – 3rd biggest gain (+777 votes)
  • Mana – 7th biggest gain (+531 votes)
  • Hutt South – 10th biggest gain (+502 votes)
  • Wairarapa – 12th biggest gain (+435 votes)
  • Rimutaka – 14th biggest gain (+399 votes)

And that’s not including Wellington Central, New Zealand’s highest polling Green electorate. Wellington Central didn’t have as large an increase in actual votes (127) but due to falling turnout increased its percentage of the vote from 15.8 percent to an incredible 20.1 percent. (Te Tai Tonga, which encompasses Wellington, also increased its percentage of Green vote, but again due to reduced turnout.)

With nearly a quarter of a million special votes still to be counted the Greens have already increased our nationwide party vote by 14,101 and Wellington electorates won 3,787 of them (27%).

Advice from Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party

The progressive party’s Prog Blog> notes, helpfully:

The Greens will be devastated. They would have hoped for 10%. They need to rethink what they are doing – the continual opposition to everything. Their self-marginalisation. They have kept themselves out of government repeatedly. It won’t be a surprise if they do a cooperation agreement with the new government.

Thanks Prog. We’ll take that advice firmly on board given your impressive ability to shrink your 1.16 percent of the vote last election to 0.93 percent this time.

A response to campaign critics.

Ooookay, this got written as a response to a bunch of spinning over on frogblog, from whingers who wanted to discount our efforts to be intelligible to voters. It got me grumpy, and I don’t even have a hangover! (BTW, it was a great partee last night in Wellington Central …)

As far as getting our message out goes, we spend less on advertising in print media than most other parties. The editorial bias came out promptly.

Have you noticed the two-party bias in the media over the past 3 – 4 weeks? Right down to the TV channels not running a leaders’ debate with leaders from all parties?

I went to a lot of candidates’ fora in Wellington; these were routinely not reported in media, even though media attended. Hearing from their own mouths what other parties’ candidates espoused in the way of policy and core values was very educational.

Shame most of the electorate missed out on hearing about that, ‘cos apart from one sarcastic & condescendingly reported piece in the Dompost, only Capital Times regularly did a round-up question to all the candidates.

Most of the green membership are engaged & capable of recognising, and dismissing, this bias; but mere citizens going about their daily lives, who are not political insiders, didn’t stand a chance of evaluating the ‘minor’ parties in this election race. It says a lot about the media self-selecting ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ early on, and hammering home points to the anxieties of the electorate.

The fourth estate has taken on pretensions of ruling/kingmaking in other countries, this is something we have avoided here up ’til now-ish, but I ‘m concerned that a pattern has been set that will be continued.

In my experience of campaigning for Green electorates, this has been one of the best election campaigns in the past decade. We’ve grown the vote by 33%, added 2 MP’s (and maybe 3) to Parliament, and mobilised a huge force of young campaigners and young voters. All of these seem like good outcomes to me!

For those outcomes, much kudos must go to Gary Reese, the National Campaign manager, and Pete Huggins, his assistant. I’m hoping they both had a huge sleep-in today, and don’t come near the net for a while; but shout-outs, if you’re reading this, guys! 😉

Arohanui ki a koutou katoa, nga kakariki, e hoa maa.

And, in my usual form, here’s some crowd shots from the night:

The Craftsman Bar, from the pavement

The Craftsman Bar, from the pavement


A view of the crush inside ...

A view of the crush inside ...

Umm, there’s more pix up on FB, for those who can find the Green Party event page…