Last night Stuff’s political reporter Henry Cooke hosted a Q and A session with Green Party female co-leader candidates Marama Davidson and Julie Anne Genter. There is useful insight into what the two women are thinking about the co-leadership and where the party is going, as well as how the Green Party works.
Cooke asked good questions and there were no gotcha politics. It was a million miles from the Goweresque chaos of last year but still elicited the useful things we might want to know.
Genter and Davidson came across as on the same page with most issues but having different approaches (thus Genter and Davidson not Genter vs Davidson). The format was each candidate having a minute to answer questions with a few rapid fire yes/no answer questions nearer the end. The interview video is below (30 mins).
Both women started by talking about the importance of a smaller party like the Greens growing their vote in an MMP environment.
JAG said what we really need is affordable and available rentals. She thinks that with an increase in housing there will probably be a lowering of house prices relative to income, and that it’s unlikely that incomes would catch up with housing on their own.
MD focussed on affordable housing via increasing the supply. Housing should be affordable to those on single incomes. She also thought a lowering of market values was possible and probably necessary to give everyone affordable and secure housing.
Both women commented on the need for tenant rights.
(as an aside the point was made that National and Labour intend for income to increase to make housing affordable with no drop in market rates. I’d not heard that stated so baldly before. This has huge implications for beneficiaries, with neither National or Labour intending to raise benefits).
Budget Responsibility Rules
Ok, this is exciting (at 7:50). Cooke’s question is around the pre-election joint L/G commitment (PDF) to get debt down to 20% of GDP within five years, the criticism of that at the time and whether paying of social deficits was more important. He asks “would you sign up for those budget responsibility rules again in 2020?”
JAG said there are five rules, and three of them are quite good (e.g. agreeing to measure things differently). The GDP ones are not grounded in sound economics. She talks about the case made internationally for governments borrowing for infrastructure for long term benefits e.g. responding to climate change, or the housing crisis.
We need to be going into the 2020 election year a very clear and compelling reason why our economic vision is different and that it actually makes a lot more sense than the type of conservatism that National is often going off.
She confirms that she thinks the Greens shouldn’t sign up to that particular GDP provision again, but that the idea of the Greens and Labour working together on a fiscal position before the election made sense with the MOU.
MD starts by saying,
People are waiting for a better economic narrative that understands the connections to our environmental, our social and economic wellbeing…
The Greens have a responsibility to push beyond the narrow confines of things like the BRR rules… we need better indicators, we need fuller indicators about the whole wellbeing, we cannot simply look at the databooks, the spreadsheets, and ignore everything else that is happening around us.
It’s not just about the GDP issue that is important, NZers are waiting for leadership on the importance of secure housing, clean rivers, employment and the whole labour market, and they want the Greens to front this “transformational economic narrative”. She also had concerns about the BRR agreement at the time.
Growing the Green Vote
MD’s position was about her immersion in diverse communities, including those communities that the Greens have traditionally not had a presence in. She talks about the value of having a non-Minister co-leader who can commit time to growing the vote in the regions, working class communities, small businesses, and culturally diverse communities. She already has experience in this, and those communities need to be reflected in the membership and candidates.
JAG’s position is that the Greens need to be more hard headed about where the votes come from and basically they need to win back the votes they lost, particularly to Labour. She wants to take an evidence based approach to who the potential vote is and how to reach them. The lost vote is probably more of a priority and growing that vote will put the Greens in a better position to make more gains in 2020 and thus do better for those who’ve been neglected by the political establishment. She thinks that people need to see evidence of change in the key areas of housing, transport, better incomes/welfare, or they won’t believe that politics can help them.
JAG also makes the point that the Greens will be up against Ardern’s media savvy and higher profile, and thus need to prepare for that.
The 2017 Election Campaign
Both women support what Metiria Turei did. JAG acknowledged the need for better communication within caucus and better preparation for risk management. MD named Turei’s story as a politically revolutionary one and that it changed the other parties’ positions on poverty during and after the election, as well as being heard on the street. She also acknowledged the things the Greens had to learn from that time. How do they protect the story going forward?
UBI: both said yes.
New tax rate on high incomes: yes and yes.
Dropping MMP threshold: JAG says to 4%, MD to 3%
Free dental care: yes
Lowering voting age to 16: yes
To 14: no
On working with National
Not going to happen because National are unlikely to change economically, socially or environmentally (go listen if you want the longer version).
The Kermadecs and the Waka Jumping legislation. Worth listening to to get a grasp of GP position on both, and to learn how the Greens deal with compromise. Also bits about the roles of the membership in that, and how that intersects with negotiation with the coalition government.
This is the thorny issue for the party. MD has this covered, JAG talks about her commitment despite being an immigrant to NZ.
My own impressions from having watched the interview is that Davidson would be best for the party because of her commitment and experience with working with Māori, is the best bet for engaging the disenfranchised parts of the electorate and growing the movement that Turei started. Genter is probably a better strategist and engaging with the mainstream for the Greens to do well at the next election in more conventional terms. That’s hard because all of those things are critical. Both women are excellent candidates and it’s worth acknowledging the Greens for having ensured they have such good people coming through.
Green Party female co-leadership election timeline. The new female co-leader will be announced on Sunday April 8th.
Marama Davidson’s candidate website.
Julie Anne Genter’s candidate website.