In this interview with Stuff journalist Henry Cooke, Gareth Hughes talks about wanting to spend time with his kids while they’re still young, and his frustration with the slowness of change in the face of the enormity of the climate and other crises we are facing. There’s some solid green analysis here from Hughes and much of the interview is spent talking about Hughes’ concern at our lack of the large scale social, political and economic change necessary to meet the situation we are in,
“Across my 10 years here, things have actually got worse. Emissions have increased, we are still losing a hundred million tons of topsoil every year – our most precious resource – homelessness is growing,” Hughes says.
“I don’t think the Government has been transformational. There’s been pockets of transformation, but you know, I don’t think historians are gonna look back at it and say ‘This was a turning point on the scale of the 1930s or 1980s’. And I think that’s desperately needed.”
Hughes says New Zealand needs a change on the scale of those revolutions – the first Labour Government creating the welfare state and the fourth one tearing it apart.
“As I reflect across 20 years of activism I realise that I’ve spent 20 years winning campaigns, but each one’s kind of like chopping off the head of the hydra. There’s always another equally important campaign right behind it. I’ve spent 20 years fighting the symptoms, not the source.”
“I’ve grown up knowing nothing but the revolution of the early 1980s. This is this operating system which was uploaded in New Zealand and people have tried to install better policies or better programs, but if they don’t work with the system, they are crashing.”
Hughes thinks it is key that the Greens push the country towards a new economic system able to properly fight climate change, and it isn’t yet.
“Our ambitions have to match the scale of the emergency.
Based on a leak, Henry Cooke reported last week that a review by senior Green Party members was recommending that the Greens scrap the Budget Responsibility Rules, which are seen as embedding neoliberalism in legislation and the national accounts,
The review sets out a proposed new fiscal strategy for the party to be inserted into its wider economic policy, which would “incorporate the need to transition to a circular economy which does not rely on unlimited growth” and “recognises the multiple roles of the tax system as set out in the Taxation section of this Policy”.
“The Green Party supports a broader and more balanced approach to fiscal policy in line with both the overall principles of this Policy, and the recognition that unlimited material growth is impossible,” the reviewers write.
Fiscal strategy should “maintain macroeconomic stability, including full employment and controlled inflation” and “uses the full range of tools available to finance government expenditure, and choose the mix between them on the basis of their effects on broader goals”.
The review was commissioned, its writers say, because “we are a party that believes in bold, progressive economic policies that focus on the health of our planet and the well-being of our people”.
This will make many Green members and lefties much happier about the direction of the party (myself included, I’m particularly pleased to see the front footing of the Green Party Principle that unlimited growth is impossible).
There’s an irony in Hughes’ retirement, one that plagues our parliamentary system. We want the people who retire because they want to spend time with their kids before they grow up to be the people running the country. The good MPs tend to leave before they get too damaged by the system and because they recognise the value of what really matters. Maybe we need to change this system too, so that they can stay.
Hughes has been in parliament for ten years, and I’m relieved to hear he will stay involved with the party. His passion, focus, analysis and experience are still very much needed.
All the best for the next phase of your life Gareth.
Front Page image from this 2016 Spinoff piece by Hughes on parenting while in parliament.