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Greens go red, Labour goes green

Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, November 7th, 2011 - 67 comments
Categories: election 2011, Environment, greens, kiwisaver, labour, Mining - Tags:

We live in a time of inter-related crises of the environment and the capitalist economic system. So, I guess it’s not surprising to see Labour becoming more environmentally aware at the same time as the Greens propose economic policies that would normally be out of Labour’s playbook. Don’t worry about them becoming too alike, welcome the solid platform for a new government.

Yesterday, the Greens announced their Kiwisaver policy. They didn’t deal with whether there should be compulsion or auto-enrolment but, instead, focused on one of the problems that keeps low-income people out of the system. High fees from the private providers mean that all your returns can be sliced off by them before they get to your account if you are on a low income and your contributions are small. So, the Greens want a publicly-run provider with a Kiwibank-style mandate of keeping the other buggers honest by running a low-fee, low-profit model. In fact, it would probably be run through Kiwibank.

It’s a great idea. And, it wouldn’t be too hard for this publicly-run to offer Kiwisavers the option of a fund that invests specifically in New Zealand companies to help buy back our country.

Meanwhile, Labour announced that it would keep Southland’s lignite in the ground, rather than going ahead with Solid Energy’s plan to make it into a dirty source of diesel and fertiliser. Good. We can’t say we’re serious about climate change and at the same time keep on digging up ever more dirty and inefficient fossil fuels. (as a side note, Solid Energy is the company that Aussie investors are really interested in if asset sales go ahead. It doesn’t produce much in the way of a dividend stream now, but they see its lignite to liquids as the fossil fuel of the future).

Labour also confirmed its position against deepsea oil drilling unless and until it can be done safely, and reaffirmed that Labour will not let mining happen on schedule 4 protected land.

Two parties presenting solid and forward-looking policies that are outside their traditional areas of interest. Great to see. And some contrast to National, whose only idea is to resurrect the failed asset sales policies of 25 years ago.

67 comments on “Greens go red, Labour goes green ”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    “Run through Kiwibank…” Hmm – bankers playing with investment funds…this one might need some clever packaging…

    No lignite mining – well done Labour! (Yes I know they nicked it off the Greens)

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      “No lignite mining – well done Labour! (Yes I know they nicked it off the Greens)”

      IMO the lignite mining is National’s response to peak oil kept on the hush-hush not to scare the masses. I think it’s inevitable that this stuff will be dug up and turned into diesel, regardless of the CO2 emissions. Better to get started on such a scheme now while it’s pain-free to do the planning and building of the plants, than in a resource-constrained future where it’s much more difficult.

    • alex 1.2

      Labour has been nicking Green economic policies for a while, so perhaps the headline should read, Labour goes Green, Greens stay Green.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    “They didn’t deal with whether there should be compulsion or auto-enrolment”

    This morning on the radio Russell Norman said the Greens were in favour of soft-compulsion as per National, where people can choose to opt-out.

    The policy is a reponse to both National and Labour’s: given there will be some sort of compulsion, and the government can’t afford to increase contributions back to dollar for dollar, what can the government do to improve investment returns for people in the scheme. The answer to that is to cut fees.

    “In fact, it would probably be run through Kiwibank.”

    Kiwibank might be the front-end, but the investment would be lumped in with the existing “Cullen” superannuation fund to achieve economies of scale.

    Personally I think I’ll stick with Gareth Morgan Kiwisaver, which has a simple single fee that is already on the low end of the scale. They philosophy is asset protection ahead of growth, which will certainly be very useful in the coming economic turmoils. Meanwhile the superannuation fund has lost 7.7% so far this year, and lost about 22% during 2008 so they’re very vulnerable to market movement. Also I think it’s a bit unwise to lump your own savings in with the governments, which is going to be paying out in the future – if they both fail you’re screwed.

    • Ari 2.1

      Calling auto-enrollment “soft compulsion” is a bit silly. There is no compulsion to an opt-out scheme, even if it will ensure most people stay enrolled.

      • Lanthanide 2.1.1

        For the record, I’m merely quoting Russell there. He said Labour was “hard” compulsion while National was “soft” and what the Greens were in favour of.

        • Ari

          Fair enough. 🙂 But yeah, there’s absolutely no compulsion to auto-enrolling people, it just turns around the decision-making process giving opting in the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Tombstone 3

    Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    I see even the Greens think Labour’s plan to borrow and save is loopy.

    So, perhaps, Eddie, you could extend the premise of your article a little along the lines that the Greens are taking on Labour’s mantel of comparative fiscal responsibility while Labour are taking on the Green’s image of financial lunacy.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      I’m really not in favour of Labour borrowing to fund the super scheme, either.

      National cutting the contributions in 2008 was a mistake (getting out of the market too soon). But I think cutting the contributions in 2012 in light of the new global economic mess makes sense. Labour is proposing the opposite.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1

        It all comes down to the numbers in the end. If the returns from the fund are greater than the interest on the loan…
        I don’t suppose it’s too much to ask that the Greens produce their own spreadsheet before ripping into anyone else’s.

        • J Mex

          If getting returns about the cost of borrowing is a sure thing, why not borrow 10x more and put it in the international markets?

          If Key was the one suggesting that we borrow money to put into the international sharemarket, I am certain that The Standard authors would be all over his financial irresponsibility and decrying how he was “gambling with our future”.

    • mik e 4.2

      Labour is not borrowing to save according to treasury and National the books are going to be balanced in 2014 when labour increases savings
      get your facts right tsm otherwise people will think you are the loopy one as key is already borrowing for savings and everything else

  5. queenstfarmer 5

    at the same time as the Greens propose economic policies that would normally be out of Labour’s playbook

    In some areas, perhaps. But it is notable that Greens have just heavily criticised Labour’s borrow-to-save plans as “economically irrational”:

    The Green Party is also critical of Labour’s plans to borrow to feed the Super Fund, also known as the Cullen Fund. Co-leader Russel Norman believes such a move is economically irrational.

    Coming from the Greens, this is a fairly damning indictment.

    • Ari 5.1

      And yet another silly implication that the Greens are economically illiterate just because they understand externalities. Grow up.

      • queenstfarmer 5.1.1

        That’s a bit harsh – I certainly wouldn’t consider the Greens economically illiterate because they make a perfectly valid assessment – one that I suspect virtually every household would consider as common sense when it comes to their own finances.

        • Ari

          Holding the issue of whether you want to borrow to fund the super fund off for a second, the budget for a nation isn’t like the budget for a household in several ways.

          For one, nations can have quite healthy budgets while being in debt almost every term.

          For another, trying to pay off debts often causes depressions when nations do it, while it’s usually a good financial move for households.

          And probably most importantly, households don’t issue their own currencies or stimulate their economies.

    • Norman’s comments are rhetoric presumably aimed at occupying the ‘economically respectable’ region in media consciousness.

      Unfortunately for Norman – and for Brash who made that embarrassing comparison to ‘households’ taking out mortgages to “gamble” (oddly, not ‘invest’ in this context) on the sharemarket – rationality is purely a method and not a determinant of the content of decisions.

      ‘Irrationality’ only occurs when someone believes that doing ‘A’ will result in ‘B’ (and not, for example, ‘C’); wants at all costs to avoid ‘B’; persists in doing ‘A’ (with no other mitigation in sight).

      Obviously, Labour (and others) don’t share the assumptions that Norman and Brash seem to share. That’s all.

      Nothing irrational about that – and the ‘irrational’ comment is, as I said, merely a rhetorical flourish that avoids arguing over the difference in assumptions (which is what would be appropriate). 

      Oddly enough, calling ‘borrowing to save’ ‘irrational’ presumably commits all start up businesses that use the finance from a mortgage to similar levels of ‘irrationality’ (after all, their gambling that their ‘investment’ will return more than the cost of borrowing – how irrational can you be?). 

  6. Jimmy 6

    “the solid platform for a new government”

    In 2014

  7. Jenny 7

    The loud of alarms of planetary environmental collapse are now so frightening that even the voices of the powerful fossil fuel lobby is being drowned out.

    Even main stream parties are having to bite the bullet and to stand up to companies like Solid Energy and say that this madness must end. Long may this trend continue and strengthen and broaden.

    “Labour does not support the mining of lignite, and its conversion to liquid fuels using current technologies, because of the high volume of greenhouse gases produced,”

    Phil Goff

    Labour will stop Lignite mining

    The Labour Party’s environmental policy
    > Urgently review New Zealand’s preparedness for marine oil spills

    > Bring agriculture into the emissions trading scheme in 2013 to ease the burden on taxpayers

    > Fund half of Auckland’s inner-city rail link

    > Introduce measures to charge major water users for what they use

    > Reduce transport pollution by half by 2040

    > Have 90 percent of electricity generated by renewable sources by 2025.

    • Afewknowthetruth 7.1


      Labour can say whatever it wants. Gaia will decide what actually happens.

      > Reduce transport pollution by half by 2040

      Transport pollution will be well below half of present levels by 2040 because we will have fallen off Hubbert’s curve by 2020 and probably won’t have any liquid fuel transport system by 2040 (other than people walking or paddling canoes etc). Indeed, if the International Energy Agency are correct about the rise in temperature (3.5oC by 2035) there will very few people alive in 2040.

      > Have 90 percent of electricity generated by renewable sources by 2025

      Possible. Net electricty generation will probably have fallen to below 50% of present generation by 2025. It could be zero, depending on the rate at which everything (finances, industrialism, the environment) melts down.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Transport pollution will be well below half of present levels by 2040 because we will have fallen off Hubbert’s curve by 2020 and probably won’t have any liquid fuel transport system by 2040

        Yeah this is what I reckon too. Massive reduction in transport emissions are not going to be by choice or by policy, but by enforced reality.

        Whoever wrote that goal has not quite thought it through.

        Disagree with you on our power production. With a bit of additional investment over the next 15 years ($2B or $3B pa), NZ can still have high levels of generation and grid reliability in 2026.

      • Jenny 7.1.2

        Baby steps….

        Baby steps…

        Afew, This is significant, because this is the first real step that the Labour Party has ever taken to limit “technologies, because of the high volume of greenhouse gases produced”, Labour is one of very few mainstream parties in the world to ever make this step. Once set on this path it will be hard for them to turn back.

        People are demanding change, as this pressure grows all political parties will be affected. With this unprecedented move by Labour, – (Except for lignite), all that was previously solid will become fluid.

        • Colonial Viper

          People are demanding change

          Don’t be so confident – public opinion is fickle.

          Guess what change people will be demanding when diesel hits $3/L and petrol is $4/L? And then only on the days that overseas suppliers can actually provide supply?

          Its not going to be “no to lignite!” is it.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      > Have 90 percent of electricity generated by renewable sources by 2025.

      We could do 100% today – all we’d have to do is turn off the coal, oil and gas fired generators and then live within our means. I suspect this would push development of renewable generation.

      • Jenny 7.2.1

        We could do 100% today – all we’d have to do is turn off the coal, oil and gas fired generators and then live within our means. I suspect this would push development of renewable generation.

        Draco T Bastard

        Draco of course we could.

        The apologists and deniers for global warming, argue against this by saying that whatever New Zealand does to minimize or eliminate CO2 emissions would hardly remove a drop in the ocean of global anthropomorphic CO2 pollution.

        This is true and untrue at the same time.

        Similar to the Nuclear Free Legislation, New Zealand’s real contribution halting global Green house gas emissions will be an iconic stand against CO2 pollution that would make the people’s of the world sit up and take note.

        Banning all coal exports and imports…..

        A black out of all public lighting that could be seen from space….

        100% electricity from renewables….

        The world’s first ever pilot solar milk treatment plant….

        All of these things (and more) are possible and achievable, and inexpensive. (except for the hi-tech solar dairy factory)

        Will they make any difference to Global emissions?


        But will they stir the whole world’s imagination into what is possible. Soon people around the world will be demanding the same out of the box solutions for their own countries.


        By accepting that change is indeed possible means a struggle to the death with those powerful interests who like things just-the-way-they-are. With those who have a vested interest in polluting our world there must be a showdown.

        At some level everyone realises this.

        This is the real reason our world is being destroyed.

        In this coming clash between the people’s of the world and those with an interest in destroying the world. those with an interest in destruction will be backed by powerful media and state forces – trained and prepared and ready to fight even their own people to prevent change.

        Human imagination is limitless.

        The solutions are out there.

        We are are being told that change is not allowed. (No matter how desperately it is needed)

        To get change we will have to do what not is allowed. This is the real message of the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street.

  8. Afewknowthetruth 8

    ‘Yesterday, the Greens announced their Kiwisaver policy. They didn’t deal with whether there should be compulsion or auto-enrolment but, instead, focused on one of the problems that keeps low-income people out of the system.’

    Kiwisaver is simply yet another of many financial scams, predicated on Fractional Reserve Banking, creation of money out of thin air and compound interest.

    Kiwisaver is predicated on prepetual economic growth on a finite planet, which is clearly absurd from the environmental perspective, and is mathematically impossibile anyway, since growth is dependent on cheap and abundant resources which we no longer have.

    It is extremely unlikely anyone investing in the scheme will get back anything more than a tiny fraction of what they put in. partcularly now that we are past peak oil and the entire industrial system is flagged to collapse.

    For the Green Party to promote this scam is an indication of either their finanacial and energetic illiteracy or their immorality.

    (That is not an endorsement of National, which has only one policy: loot and pollute as fast as possible).

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      It is extremely unlikely anyone investing in the scheme will get back anything more than a tiny fraction of what they put in.

      This. When the delusional financial system that we slave under collapses the retirement fund will go with it.

      Money is not a resource and no matter how much of it you have you won’t be able to do anything if you don’t have the resources. Time to start to concentrate on saving the resources (the environment).

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        Not just the environment, the people too. Because people are a very highly resilient resource, if you look after them properly.

        And the other small detail – there will be no more ‘retirement’ in the future, regardless of how big or how small the Cullen fund is.

  9. Ianupnorth 9

    Proud of my soon to be 18 year old daughter who announced yesterday, voting for the local Labour candidate, party vote going to Greens, but not if they say they will enter a coalition with the right. I know many other teenagers are holding similar viewpoints.

  10. John D 10

    Watermelons – what a frikken crazed, irrational world we live in.

    I feel sorry for our kids being fed this BS

  11. Kevin 11

    Kiwibank is already actively engaged in the Kiwisaver market:

    For Kiwibank to adopt the program envisioned by the Greens , Kiwibank would have to revisit and recalculate their already existing business model to harmonise it with low income earners as proposed by the Greens.
    In other words they would have to reinvent the wheel.

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      See my comment at #2 above.

      The Green’s proposal is for the “Cullen” superannuation fund to be opened up as a kiwisaver option, presumably with the customer-facing element managed by Kiwibank.

      • Afewknowthetruth 11.1.1


        The Greens proposal is also for perpetual growth on a finite planet, plus increased levels of atmospheric and oceanic pollution.

        It does make me wonder which planet they living are on, since it’s obviously not the same one I’m living on.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          It makes me wonder which Green Party’s policy you’ve been reading.

          “Growth in GDP is not an adequate measure of the success of our economy. It counts as a positive growth in “bads” like crime, pollution and waste, but does not measure at all the depletion of our resources, or the sustainability of our economy. We will draw on various international models, such as the Genuine Progress Index, to measure our economic success better.
          The Greens will … ensure that economic management achieves a decrease in the overall rate at which resources are turned into waste.”

          So clearly there is acknowledgement of the issues, and equally clearly the Greens favour gradual change over the no room for doubt “gone by lunchtime” that I imagine would be your approach.

  12. Tom Gould 12

    And it looks like ACT is turning blue, and the Tories turning yellow? Some ACT big shot has blown the cover on a smelly little secret deal between them and the Tories involving pulling their candidates in marginal seats in exchange for Epsom? A plot straight out of the Hollow Men, the 2011 edition?

  13. gingercrush 13

    A low fee based kiwisaver provider is fine and all but only if along with low fees and low profit margins they actually deliver returns. Which means a national kiwisaver scheme would also have to deliver a guaranteed return on money paid in. Because its not like other kiwisaver providers don’t offer low fees.

  14. Afewknowthetruth 14

    It will be interesting to see how Kiwisaver stands up to the onslaught Graham Summers predicts (along with many others):

    ‘The Great debt Implosion will hit Europe within the next 14 months and likely much much sooner. ‘

    Europe. Is. Finished.

    Thus far, my analysis of Europe has focused on the super-leveraged banking system (26 to 1). At these levels, even a 4% drop in asset prices wipes out equity. That alone warrants concerns of systemic risk.

    The situation is not much better at non-Financial European corporations. Indeed, the debt situation is so endemic to Europe as a whole that corporate Debt to Equity ratios for ALL of the PIIGS as well as the supposedly fiscally conservative countries of France and Germany are TERRIBLE.

    What I’m trying to point out here is that Europe’s debt problems extend well beyond Greece’s debt. Indeed, the entire European banking and corporate system is over-burdened with debt.

    The situation is no better for European Sovereign states themselves, which are facing their own debt roll over issues at a time when investors are rapidly losing their appetite for sovereign debt.

    To wit, Spain, Portugal, and Italy have all relied heavily on the ECB to buy their debt at recent auctions. Germany actually just had a failed debt auction this morning. And in this environment , these nations need to meet the following debt roll over obligations:

    And this is just maturing debt that’s due in the near future: it doesn’t include unfunded liabilities.

    Jagadeesh Gokhale of the Cato Institute puts the situation as the following, “The average EU country would need to have more than four times (434 percent) its current annual gross domestic product (GDP) in the bank today, earning interest at the government’s borrowing rate, in order to fund current policies indefinitely.”

    As I said before, Europe is finished. The region’s entire banking system is insolvent (with few exceptions). European non-financial corporations are running massive debt to equity ratios. And even EU sovereign states require intervention from the ECB just to meet current debt issuance, to say nothing of the huge amount of sovereign debt roll over that is due over the next 14 months.

    Again… Europe. Is. Finished.

    The Great debt Implosion will hit Europe within the next 14 months and likely much much sooner. When it dues, we will see numerous debt defaults and restructuring on both the corporate and sovereign levels. We’re also very likely going to see significant portions of the European banking system collapse “Lehman-style” along with subsequent HUGE losses of capital.

    The impact of this will be global in nature. The EU, taken as a whole, is:

    1) The single largest economy in the world ($16.28 trillion)

    2) Is China’s largest trade partner

    3) Accounts for 21% of US exports

    4) Accounts for $121 billion worth of exports for South America

    So if the EU banking system/ economy collapses, the global economy could enter a recession just based on that one issue alone (ignoring the other issues in China, Japan, and the US).

    • Lanthanide 14.1

      And what exactly does “Europe. Is. Finished.” mean?

      Are all the Europeans suddenly going to fall over an die from heart attacks? Are all of the farms suddenly going to become unproductive dustbowls and everyone starve to death from famine?


    • AAMC 14.2

      As Prof. Steve Keen and Dr. David Graeber are busy pointing out, there will need to be a debt jubilee!

  15. Tom Gould 15

    It only seems like yesterday when Dr. Cullen paid off all the debt. Who would have thought back then that only a couple of years of reckless Tory rule would rack up $100b and more to come? Must be some kind of Kiwi record, surely? Muldoon racked up $20b but it took him 9 years. Tax and spend. Borrow and hope.

  16. BLiP 16

    The Labour Party? Cares about the environment? Puhleeeze!

    • Ari 16.1

      Yeah, I don’t really buy that. They’ve picked up a couple feel-good environmental policies but still seem to care more about systematic pollution to create jobs now than they do about our country’s and our world’s future.

      • Colonial Viper 16.1.1

        There are plenty of people in Labour who care very much about the environment and push their point of view hard in the party.

        This is the party which created the Department of Conservation, don’t forget.

        but still seem to care more about systematic pollution to create jobs now than they do about our country’s and our world’s future.

        Meh who needs 157,000 new jobs.

        • BLiP

          There are plenty of people in Labour who care very much about the environment and push their point of view hard in the party.

          Many thousands of them marched in opposition to the introduction of genetically engineered foodstuffs. Fat lot of good that did, eh?

        • Ari

          I’d rather have jobs that are still going to be there for the next generation. If we get 50,000 new jobs selling cars or mining coal or something ridiculous like that, those jobs are going to be gone in twenty years, if not sooner.

  17. Afewknowthetruth 17


    You could always ask the author what ‘Europe is finished’ means:


    However, colloquially it means Europe is incapable of extracting itself from the mess it is in and is in terminal decline.

  18. randal 18

    what about kweewee who says that the government wont back kiwisaver in case people think they have a guarantee. Hmm does that mean kweewee is as untrustworthy as his government?

  19. Liarbour,green utopian dropkicks,Nutional,The Don or Winny the pooh.

    What a bunch of freaks! 

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