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If I were the Greens’ campaign strategist

Written By: - Date published: 11:21 am, March 27th, 2008 - 28 comments
Categories: election 2008, greens - Tags: ,

This should be the Greens’ time in the sun. For decades, the Green movement has been concerned about the future impacts of climate change, peak oil, and resource depletion. The future is now. These once far-off concerns are having impacts today and people are finally becoming aware of the importance of sustainability and demanding government policy to match.  The Greens have done a good job pointing out the danger ahead with change and individual Greens often have well-developed ideas for what needs to change but they have done a much worse job communicating a positive policy alternative.

Add to that, voters are looking for a change from Labour, and many are looking to National only by default. Despite perfect conditions the Greens have failed to seize their opportunity, thus far.

The Greens need a positive, visionary, and practical policy platform worthy of a major party that will seize the public imagination. They need to present themselves as the other alternative to Labour. Forget the negativism, forget punishing polluters, and, for god’s sake, forget the snails; the Greens’ policy must reward positive action, relate to big issues people are fimilar with, and be big spending.

One element should be an energy independence strategy for New Zealand. This would rationalise and, possibly, renationalise the energy sector so that we can protect our energy reserves in the face of peak oil. It would involve investing massively in renewable electricity generation, public transport, rail, and coastal shipping, and providing incentives for businesses and individuals to become more energy efficient above and beyond good measures such as removing daily charges on electricity connections and raising unit costs. As part of this programme, money should be invested in making New Zealand a world leader in renewables research, which will generate intellectual capital we can share (and sell) to the rest of the world.

Another pillar of the Greens’ campaign should be slashing income and corporate taxes, and replacing the lost income with the proceeds from auctions for permits to extract resources and pollute, and capital gains tax on property. If the Greens provide a simple, implementable eco-taxation policy that puts the income taxes up front, the public will be receptive.

The third pillar for the Greens should be ensuring New Zealand’s economic independence by protecting and renationalising, where appropriate, strategic assets, so that profits from these businesses no longer flow overseas.

The Greens can’t seriously pretend they would govern with National. Nor should they, it only risks driving away their base. What they can offer is a more courageous policy platform than Labour would provide on its own, a platform that doesn’t flinch in the face of the problems ahead of us but tackles them head on.

28 comments on “If I were the Greens’ campaign strategist ”

  1. higherstandard 1

    SP

    Your suggestion would certainly differentiate the Greens hugely from all other parties which might lead to an increased vote from certain sectors of the population but would certainly scare the bejessus out of the vast majority, I’m not sure that it’s all together practical as you claim but I’m certain it will create debate.

    You could always go the whole Hog and nationalise the banking sector as well !

  2. Tane 2

    Renationalising the energy sector isn’t a particularly radical idea. The Bradford reforms are widely seen as a bit of a disaster and I think the Greens would get a lot of support for reversing them. It’s something Labour should have done years ago but lacked the political courage or will to go through with.

  3. higherstandard 3

    Tane

    which part of the energy sector would you nationalise, in the electricity area I thought apart from Contact everything was pretty much SOE’d or State controlled.

  4. Phil 4

    “The Greens can’t seriously pretend they would govern with National. Nor should they, it only risks driving away their base. ”

    I take isssue with this. A lot of the Greens voting base are young, urban, and academically well-educated. Prior to the emergence of the Green Party (post-alliance implosion) this group traditionally stood as a core component of National.

  5. Steve Pierson 5

    Well, the central point is that the Greens should go big on the energy sector – its where the greatest danger economically and environmentally is found, and there are good, popular Green solutions.

    Contact is private the rest of the generators (who are also the retailers) are SOEs, Transpower that does the main grid is and SOE, and the local lines companies are owned by local councils (i think some might have private ownership).

    So, we’re only talking buying back one company and reforming the others from a stupid hodge-podge (which was only ever created as a first step towards privatisation), into a streamlined system, that will be cheaper and allow easier policy direction for cliamte change policy etc.

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    Phil. I do not know a single core supporter of the Greens who has ever been a National supporter. That urban edcuated demographic that is the core of the Green vote is known in other countries as the intelligentsia, and the intelligentsia has been at the forefront of social, economic, and political reform (ie the Left) since the year dot.

    They were never National voters because their values are progressive, not conservative – they have always supported left parties, many now support Greens, while others support Labour, before the Greens they also supported Values.

    And who knows what you’re talking about when you say ‘prior to the green party, post-alliance implosion’ the Greens existed before the Alliance and left in its heyday.

  7. Ari 7

    Steve- the Greens actually already have many similar policies to what you’re suggesting in place. The trouble is not a lack of policy- the Green Party has tons of policy. The trouble is getting the media to cover it and getting people to listen about environmental concerns. Part of that is that not everyone “speaks Green”- there’s a lot of ideology and science you have to understand to get the full meaning of some of these policies and the Green Party could do a better job of selling that to the public.

    HS- The Green Party isn’t pretending- they’re a very realistic/pragmatic party. If they had to, they would try to work with National to get some Green policy in. If they can live with some of Labour’s free market policies, they can certainly weather National. The issue is really whether National could stomach the idea.

    Tane- 100% agreed.

  8. higherstandard 8

    SP

    ……reforming the others from a stupid hodge-podge (which was only ever created as a first step towards privatisation), into a streamlined system, that will be cheaper.

    Sounds fair the added benefit that we could eliminate the duplication of costs, services and personnel as well.

    If pricing was better at the SOE’s one would expect many customers to move from Contact to alternative suppliers negating going into the Public purse to buy back Contact.

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    Ari. Yes these are largely exisitng Green polices. What I’m suggsting is they wrap them up in two or thee big policy platforms, and present them as big ideas. An unshaped deluge of policy will not have the same effect. perhasp that should have been clearer in my post.

    I guess what I’m saying to the Greens is what I said to ACT, to get more votes you need to say what you already stand for but do it in a better way. Look visionary with your feet on the ground.

  10. Phil 10

    I wasn’t saying the Green party didn’t exist prior to the Alliance meltdown. What I was pointing out was that they were not an individual political power until that point in time. In fact, you could argue that the biggest single factor leading to the greens entering parliament was an aggressive Jenny Shipley speech prior to the 1999 election, bit I digress…

    Nationals own analysis after the 1999 loss, and the 2002 bloodbath, was that they’d lost a lot of young voters that were usually within its catchment. Those voters had moved to the Greens – focus groups and demographic breakdowns of polling show this to be true.

  11. insider 11

    Energy independence is a George Bush policy and as stupid there as it is here. Muldoon tried it and almost bankrupted NZ.

    You get more security from having diverse sources of energy not by restricting it.

    There seems little value in renationalising a sector that is majority owned by the govt. What significant difference will it make? Will it improve decision making? Will it reduce costs? Will it make it more efficient or more effective? Some evidence or even half baked arguments on benefits would be helpful rather than chanting “nationalise”.

    Your ideas would mostly just postion the greens as paranoid, xenophobic extremists. What they really need to do is back off the catastrophism, kneejerk regulation to anything they don’t like and pursuit of their personal idealism no matter how unreal and what the cost.

  12. Hillary 12

    What the Greens need to do is to stop blathering on about every single thing that upsets their delicate sensibilities eg visas for travellers transitting through NZ (today), Trevor Mallard thumping an absolute tosser, smacking kids, minimum youth wage, etc etc and start focussing on the bloody environment.

    The environment needs a strong advocate in parliament, and at the moment it aint got one.

  13. outofbed 13

    The Greens charter is based on 4 fundamentals
    Ecological Wisdom,
    Social Responsibility,
    Appropriate Decision-making
    and Non-Violence

    So you can’t have Ecological Wisdom, without Social Responsibility

  14. Hillary 14

    And therein lies the problem. They can not solve the problems of the world, so they should stick to their knitting. The social responsibility agenda is drowning out the environmental agenda and turning off alot of voters who are concerned about the environment.

  15. outofbed 15

    But as the worlds resources are finite we have to have a mechanism to share those resources.
    The environmental problems we face can not be addressed in isolation.

    Why do you think that they are knitting ?
    The Greens support base is mostly made up from highly educated white collar workers, whilst some of those may indeed knit I don’t think its an accurate way to define the party.

  16. K1 16

    outofbed, the social responsibility principle is sound, but the message is alienating for many on the centre fringe. Maybe we in NZ collectively don’t have the political maturity yet to fully understand the whole Green message, and sticking to hard enviro stuff is a good way to repair much needed cred. I’d rather have the party elected on a subset of it’s issues, carefully presented, than not in parliament at all.

    Bad presentation also ruins good content, and the generally good Green policy base is lost on Joe and Jane Public as a result. More aggressive PR management is definitely called for prior to the election, depicting the Greens as a realistic, pragmatic party of solutions, not as kooks and weirdos without a shred of practicality. Proposing to nationalise everything but the kitchen sink won’t help this, IMO, any more than the anti-smacking issue did – irrespective of whether it’s good policy or not. The most common perception of the Greens that I encounter is “meddlesome nanny-state ban-everything sandal-and-kaftan-wearers anti-progress Labour’s lapdogs blardy Sue Bradford none-of-her-business-whether-I-smack-my-kids-or-not…” This must be eradicated and replaced with what the Greens really are (or should be): upbeat, positive, economically alternative (but realistic), non-luddite eco-techs, brave, honest, fair, visionary…

    A fundamental problem though is that the Greens do have the fortitude to face up to the big issues like Peak Oil and Global Weirding, which don’t have much in the way of public relations upside… history shows we don’t tend to elect politicians that tell us difficult truths. The environmental message generally is one of profound change, so it’s profoundly uncomfortable. Countering this is hard work, and not for the faint of heart. My biggest fear is that the Greens don’t yet understand the magnitude of this.

  17. r0b 17

    K1, at first you chide the Greens to not startle the horses, and stick to core environmental stuff to get elected. Then you say that we don’t tend to elect pollies that tell difficult truths (which the core environmental stuff surely is!). What’s a poor Green to do? Serious question, I’m interested in your suggestions.

    My biggest fear is that the Greens don’t yet understand the magnitude of this

    I think arguably the Greens (and only the Greens) have understood it for a very long time.

  18. K1 18

    Sorry r0b, it was late-ish and my coherence module was shutting down. I suppose I meant something like “Getting elected on a increasingly difficult environmental message is hard enough, why make it harder?”

    I’m an ex-card-carrying Greens member, yet a firm greenie at heart. I’m not mortally offended by the party or anything, just have some doubts about whether they have lost their way a bit lately, and deciding how much I want to be back in the fold. I’m also firmly on the side of the social responsibility message, but politics is the art of the possible, and I’d rather have the party back in parliament than unelected owing to excessive idealism.

  19. Pablo 19

    Phil, perhaps you could refrain from commenting when you don’t know shit?

    The Greens were established in 1990, and gained nearly 7% of the vote at that year’s election.

    The Alliance (there’s a clue in the name), was formed in 1991 out of New Labour, Green, Democrats, Mana Motuhake and some other bunch. The Greens had three MPs in the Alliance caucus in the 1996-99 parliament. The decision to leave the Alliance was made in 1997, after Shipley had rolled Bolger but before she became PM, hardly prior to the 1999 election. (Though I assume your point is that the Greens were well served by the attacks made on them by the Nats under Shipley in 1999 when Fitzsimons won in Coromandel)

    http://greens.org.nz/about/history.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Party_of_New_Zealand

    FWIW, I will be voting Green and I don’t expect the party to go into coalition with the Tories. I’d like to see some big ideas, certainly around corporate tax and carbon taxes

  20. Stephen 20

    Don’t think the carbon taxes are considered a viable option with the government’s commitment to the emissions trading program.

  21. outofbed 21

    I think that the Greens will present themselves more pragmatically at this years Election. There seems to be a positive feeling that the Party has come of age.
    Watch for the Party list to come out in a few weeks

  22. Steve Pierson 22

    outofbed. I think it is important that the Greens view themselves as one of the big boys – come out with a policy platform on the scale of what a big party would present. No more small beer.

  23. Stephen 24

    How up to date is that though?? Also, where’s defence?

  24. r0b 25

    Sorry r0b, it was late-ish and my coherence module was shutting down.

    Hmmm – I get that too.

    I’d rather have the party back in parliament than unelected owing to excessive idealism.

    The whole pragmatism vs idealism thing is such a messy debate (Ralph Nader anyone?), but the older I get the more I opt for pragmatism, so, agreed…

  25. Steve Pierson 26

    oob. I know the Greens have policy, in fact it’s very comphrensive stuff, but we’re talking about the package you present at the election. It has to be a package that will make people sit up and take notice, and its got to be above the ‘solar water heaters’ ‘buy nz made’ level (not saying those aren’t good, they’re just small beer)to get votes.

    A billion dollar energy independence programme promising assistance for energy efficency and more renewable generation, and a world leading renewable research programme -that’s the stuff.

  26. Steve Pierson 27

    oob. this stuff http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0803/S00483.htm has to go. It’s too cutsie, that means political reporters treat the Greens as a bit of a joke, and people do not vote for a party that is consistently portrayed as a joke.

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