I’m Going To Party Vote Green This NZ Election. Here’s Why.

Early voting opened today in the 2020 New Zealand General Election. Like much of the electorate, I plan to vote early – but not today, because I suspect polling booths will be busy. When I do vote, I’m going to give my party vote to the Green Party, because they have put reducing inequality and taking meaningful action on the climate crisis at the core of their policies.

Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led Government deserves a lot of credit for the way they’ve handled successive crises: the Christchurch terrorist attacks, the Whakaari / White Island eruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister’s intelligence, compassion and crisis management skills have passed multiple tests.

But when the opportunity to make transformational, necessary change has come along, Labour have mostly fudged it: they’ve failed to provide genuinely affordable housing, done little to reduce inequality, backed off the idea of a capital gains tax to reduce land banking and property speculation, and doubled down on building new roads without doing anything to prevent those roads being filled with climate-destroying gas guzzlers. They’ve also failed to do enough to address the environmental and climate damage caused by the New Zealand economy’s dependence on low-value dairy exports.

The Greens have played an important role in pushing the Government to do more on climate justice, inequality and a transition away from fossil fuels, and I want them to keep playing that role in a second-term Labour-led Government. Because, left to its own devices, Labour will continue to act as if the real crises we face are no more than inconveniences. Plus, the Greens have some excellent candidates, and I want as many of them as possible to get into Parliament.

I’ve also been impressed by the leadership of Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, the co-leader of the Māori Party – whose climate and energy policies are excellent.

New Zealand First has acted as a handbrake on necessary action, including a just solution at Ihumātao, and I hope that Winston Peters’ party of failure and inaction is not represented in the next Parliament.

As for National? A Todd Muller-led National would have at least offered the possibility of some bipartisan action on climate change. But there’s no way Judith Collins – cynical, Trump-lite, Dirty Politics-espousing Judith Collins, with her climate denial and contempt for the natural environment – will ever get my vote. And nor will ACT, that unsavoury – but very 2020 – combination of libertarians and gun lobbyists.

Why I Won’t Be Voting National

 
I won’t be voting National at this year’s General Election.

Now, this won’t come as a great surprise to those who know me. My opposition to the National Party started in the Muldoon years and hasn’t wavered since – so a government which is Muldoon 2.0, but with a friendlier smile, isn’t likely to appeal to me. I live in Wellington Central, and for the record, I will be giving the Green Party my party vote and Labour MP Grant Robertson my electorate vote.

But I think I have got some particularly good reasons for not voting National this time – and ironically, perhaps, they date from before the 2008 General Election. At that time, I was the Convenor (and I’m still a member) of the Sustainable Energy Forum, and, much to my surprise, I was invited to a lunch with National Energy spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and a whole lot of energy company heads.

I felt like a fish out of water, but more to the point, Gerry felt he was among friends, and he told those energy company heads, in no uncertain terms, that when National came to power the shackles would be off. They could forget any concerns the Labour Government might have had about climate change or the environment. You dig it or drill it or mine it, Gerry said, and we’ll back you up.

You could say many things about Gerry Brownlee, and I’d be happy to join you, but you couldn’t say that he hasn’t been true to his word. From the moment National came to power, they have shown a complete disregard for New Zealand’s and the world’s environment. While cynically promenading a “clean and green New Zealand” brand in international tourism markets, they have thrown the doors open at home to:

  • Mining in National Parks – yes, they lost the first round on that issue, but they haven’t given up
  • Offshore oil drilling in waters even deeper and riskier than the Gulf of Mexico
  • The mining of massive quantities of lignite in Southland which would release billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere
  • Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to extract more oil and gas – a dangerous technique which has already been shown to lead to both groundwater contamination and localised earthquakes when used overseas, and which has been banned by France, a country not known for its environmental credentials
  • A massive and vastly expensive programme of motorway building to serve the interests of the trucking industry, which is also being served by National’s downgrading of our rail system.

In other words, National are taking our economy back to the 1950s and massively increasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

And how do National propose to reconcile all this with New Zealand’s international commitments to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? They don’t, perhaps because the Cabinet is full of climate change sceptics – as recently as 2005, John Key professed himself among them. They simply hope that the international audiences to whom they promise action on climate change won’t notice what the Government is doing at home.

Now, there are lots of other excellent reasons not to vote for National. But New Zealand’s environment is the foundation of New Zealand’s wealth, and in turn, the liveability of New Zealand depends on the world having a liveable climate. John Key’s Government has shown utter disregard for any meaningful action on climate change, either with New Zealand or internationally, and complete contempt for the New Zealand environment. That’s why I won’t be voting National.

Good Times, Bad Times

I had a good time at the launch of Before the Sirocco, the 2008 New Zealand Poetry Society anthology, which includes the winning poems (in open and two junior categories) from the NZPS 2008 International Poetry Competition. A packed and appreciative audience at Turnbull House heard poets from all over the country read poems included in the anthology. There was a sizeable Christchurch contingent, and I had the pleasure of meeting Joanna Preston for the first time, and Helen Lowe for what turns out to have been the second time.

Then I went home and had a less good time watching the results of the 2006 [err, make that 2008] New Zealand General Election come rolling across the screen. The outcome was a conclusive win for the right, with a National-ACT-United Future coalition government set to be installed within the next few days. My biggest fear about this is that the modest – very modest – gains which have been made in climate change policy under the previous Labour government will be rolled back, and in particular, that King Coal will be enthroned as the “answer” to New Zealand’s energy needs. It’s going to take a big effort ot prevent that outcome.

To finish on a positive, though, I’m writing this while watching the concluding minutes of a very exciting Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup football (soccer) quarterfinal between Japan and England – currently locked at 2:2*. Having watched and enjoyed the semi-final and final of the recent senior Women’s World Cup, I expected to enjoy these games, but they have even better than I expected: full of skill, commitment, excitement and some wonderful goals, and almost completely free of the cynicism, cheating, time-wasting and boorishness that so often mars the men’s game.

New Zealand’s Young Football Ferns were very unlucky not to progress from the group stages of the tournament into the quarterfinals. A lack of polish in front of goal meant that they lost their first two matches 0-1 and 1-2, but in their final game, against South American champions Colombia, they more than made up with it with a 3-1 victory. You can see NZ striker Rosie White’s hat-trick here, uploaded by an enamoured fan.

The game was played in absolutely atrocious conditions: a howling northerly gale and driving rain. Being there and seeing the game live felt like a badge of honour. I’m delighted I went, and now looking forward to seeing how many of the same players perform in the Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile in a few weeks’ time.

The semi-finals and final of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup are still to come (semifinals Thursday 13/11 in Christchurch at QEII Park, final and 3rd/4th playoff Sunday 16th in Auckland at North Harbour Stadium). If you get the chance to go along to these games, do take it!

*England won in a penalty shootout – another thing that doesn’t happen in the men’s game!