Opinion – Election Endorsement: We Need the Green Party

I had been contemplating a trip into Jacindamania, but have come to my senses. A partnership with the Greens would make a change of government more meaningful. The Green Party needs to be a part of a progressive Labour-led government and if Labour doesn’t win, this country needs a Green voice in parliament.

Under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, the Labour Party finally has a very good chance at forming a government after election day this coming Saturday. Unfortunately, the sudden surge in Labour’s support has mostly been at the Green Party’s expense and is dangerously close to the 5 percent threshold in recent polls. However, it would be unfair to say that Labour’s rise has completely relied on the implosion of the Greens as there have been notable downward slides in the opinion polls for National and NZ First as well.

Polls aside, there is an undoubtable feeling of hope that time may finally be up for this three-term National government and, as an incumbent that is only now acknowledging the housing, poverty and environmental problems, they are having to fend off attacks from the left, right, and centre.

This election is tight. So, if Labour wins, what will that new government look like? Labour would almost certainly require partners in order to form a government and so we should be asking ourselves, do you want Winston Peters lurking around the negotiating table or do you want the Green Party to be part of the next government?

The progressive government that New Zealand needs requires Green Party values and policy. A Labour-led government will need an environmentalist force to tip the balance when it comes to our rivers and energy infrastructure. Imagine where we’d be in the climate change discussion without the Greens.

The Green Party is actively talking about the steps that will need to be taken for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050, acknowledging that we need to put a stop to oil, coal, and gas activities while Labour either avoids the question or outright refuses to have a position on the intensified deep sea oil exploration that has taken place under National.

More still, the Green Party would be able to exert influence regarding social issues. They are more than just an environmentalist party. They’re no longer a bunch of hippies (if they ever were) and have stuck to their values consistently in each parliament since 1999.

They are proposing a $260 million plan to combat suicide rates that includes an increase in the number of trained counsellors in schools and free counselling sessions for those under 25. They want companies to track and fully disclose pay gaps between male and female employees. Last week they said they would push for a 20 percent rise in the student allowance, which would become universal, a policy that would include postgraduate students. There’s also the free off-peak public transport for students and winter energy grant policies.

Yes, James Shaw isn’t the most inspiring figure in politics, but he sure strikes me as someone who actually gives a damn and is a bit of a nerd when it comes to opportunities for energy and job innovation. Regardless, he is not alone. Number two on their party list, Marama Davidson, is a genuine fighter for the downtrodden and has quickly become a well-known face of the party. The Green’s future leaders (think Julie Anne Genter, Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman) would be valuable advocates for young people and add to the diversity of ideas and backgrounds for parliament.

Let’s use the powers we have under the MMP system and make sure there is some ideological competition on the left of centre. Otherwise we will inevitably be disappointed when a governing Labour Party with a disrespectful and reactionary friend in Winston Peters becomes stagnant and content with the same lackluster ‘management style’ we’ve seen in the last nine years.

If you’re thinking about voting for Labour over the Greens for strategic reasons, then look at it this way: a vote for the Greens is in no way wasted. They are as committed to changing the government as Labour is. If the Greens win more than 5 percent (which I still think they will, especially if you vote for them) then that contributes to fewer seats for the National Party. If Labour loses, the opposition will retain its strongest and more influential progressive and environmentally concerned voice in parliament. If the Greens don’t meet the threshold and the votes for them are thus annulled then the National Party will not need as much of a share of the vote in order to govern.

The great challenges we face – child poverty, the housing crisis, suicide and mental health and climate change – call for meaningful change and a fundamental shift in the values and ideas of our leaders. Whether they are in parliament or standing next to Labour, the presence of the Green Party is vital in the march forward.

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2017.
Posted 11:07am Sunday 17th September 2017 by George Elliott.