The Green Party has scrapped one of its core election promises championed by former co-leader Metiria Turei https://t.co/WCLKzCQXC2
— Newshub Politics (@NewshubPolitics) December 6, 2017
That’s an opinion piece from Lloyd Burr, where he is trying to make out that the Green Party has changed its welfare policy. It hasn’t.
Burr quotes James Shaw,
Our policy is what the Government’s policy is. So now we’re in Government, we need to do what Government policy says.
We only want to get rid of the most excessive sanctions.
There’s no context for that quote, so we have no idea what the question was or even where and when Shaw said it. If that was being done on The Standard, I would be calling it selective quoting to mislead. It looks like a mistake by Shaw, but we have no way to know, presumably because Burr isn’t telling us.
Burr’s opinion appears to be that the Greens have dropped policy,
The party no longer believes in immediately abolishing all financial sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries.
Problem is, James Shaw, or the caucus, can’t do that. Policy development is member-driven, and goes through a process that involves the whole party. MPs can’t just choose which bits they will and won’t keep. Green Party activists have been pointing this out on twitter,
So, for all who are wondering and haven't already got it from the MPs: James Shaw misspoke. Green Party sanctions policy hasn't changed. In fact, co-leaders CAN'T change policy on their own, because we're a democratic party. But he IS allowed to vote for the govt policy.
— Matt W – Just Say No To Judith Collins (@MJWhitehead) December 6, 2017
Green MPs too,
ae aroha mai our policy and political stance has not changed at all. We will be clearer on this.
— Marama Davidson MP (@MaramaDavidson) December 6, 2017
Kia ora! Our policy has not at all changed. This is pretty vicious reporting to try and drive a wedge and make more news.
— Chlöe Swarbrick (@_chloeswarbrick) December 6, 2017
As a journalist, Burr should know this about Green Party policy. So either he doesn’t and is too ignorant for his job, or he’s telling porkies, or he’s boxing clever with the language he uses in order to dissemble.
It also appears that Burr believes the Greens don’t understand how government works. As Matt Whitehead tweets, the Green MPs are empowered to vote for government legislation, but that’s not the same as the Green Party having changed its policy. Unless Lloyd is suggesting some magic version of government whereby a smaller party gets all its policies enacted, it’s normal for there to be compromise. This isn’t news.
It’s also not news that having values and compromising aren’t mutually exclusive. What I heard from the Greens pre-election was that once in government they might compromise on policy but they would not compromise on values. This means that they can vote for a piece of legislation pragmatically and still retain their own values-based policy and keep working towards that. They’ve been upfront about that all the way through.
It looks to me like Shaw misspoke. I’m sure there will be people willing to jump on Shaw and roll out another round of ‘the Greens are incompetent’ or need to up their game or whatever, because as we know by now, Green MPs have to be perfect. And not just Green ones. The whole edifice of parliamentary politics is based on macho values that say human fallibility is a crime and must be stomped on as hard as possible, and often with glee.
So instead of a MSM journalist using their position of power to clarify what the Greens are doing in government, we have another round of gotcha politics that is blatantly misleading.
Here’s what I expect the Greens will do. They’ll review what happened and make a statement acknowledging the mistake (assuming there was one), and clarify what the party’s actual position is. That’s how adults behave and it’s what serves NZ and democracy. But what a waste of time and resources having to jump through those hoops because a journo is playing games. I’d rather the government spent its time, you know, actually governing, and being held accountable for that.
Here’s the Green Party policy on welfare Mending the Safety Net. The synopsis says this,
Remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits.
There are some semantic issues here. What is meant by ‘sanctions’? What is excessive? Afaik the Greens still intend for there to be requirements for people on benefits, so where’s the line between that and punishing beneficiaries for not complying? How is the process going to work between various approaches on welfare from Shane Jones, Labour, and the Greens?
Getting answers on those issues would serve NZ, especially given the kind of government we have currently with the three parties working together across commonalities and diversity of policy.
By 2017 standards this is rather light bullshit from Newshub. But it all adds up and it’s evident that smears are going to be an ongoing part of the next three years, so we may as well name when we see it.
The Greens aren’t above criticism. Shaw’s words are unclear and need clarifying. But the appropriate response to that isn’t to make shit up. If we want democracy to work, we need media that is willing and able to explain current events in ways that increase understanding. Burr’s opinion piece fails miserably.