Jeanette Fitzsimons’ valedictory

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, February 11th, 2010 - 26 comments
Categories: Economy, Environment, greens - Tags:

As I have mentioned before, Jeanette Fitzsimons is one of the very few members of parliament for whom I have the utmost respect. Yesterday she gave her valedictory speech, and showed us yet again what sanity, vision and compassion looks like. The core of the speech was this powerful message:

Yet I have to say, with great sadness, that the big picture has not changed much. This place, on which we pin such hopes as the pinnacle of democracy, has proved itself incapable of responding to the crisis that threatens to overwhelm us. As an institution it is asleep; often in denial; often preoccupied with trivia. When my grandchildren Jasper and Isabella, here in the gallery today, are struggling to bring up their children in thirty years time amid the storms and instability of a changing climate, with little oil left (and that being unaffordable), what will they think of us at the turn of this Millennium? What will they think of a parliament more preoccupied with its own privileges than with the good of humanity? A parliament that spent far more passion and energy on where Bill English parks his car than on where we will get the oil to run it; or on measures to reduce our climate emissions, the pollution of our waterways, the protection of our unique ecosystems and species from extinction? What will they think of governments who had all the information presented to them, who could not claim not to know, but who chose to do nothing?

I have sat here for 13 years weeping at the tragedy of so many people wasting the precious gift of life chasing the mirage of a bigger GDP. What is stopping us, as a species and particularly as a parliament, from seeing the truth that climate change, which has now entered the public consciousness, is only a symptom of a much greater issue? The planet is full its capacity to absorb our wastes and generate our resources is already overstretched and even mining the last national park and Antarctica and damming or draining the last river will not allow us to continue using even more.

There you have it in a nutshell really. Parliament must change. People must change. Probably the best hope for adapting voluntarily begins with redefining what we mean by “success”, both personally and as societies. (A good start would be for society to abandon the flawed GDP measure for something broader such as GPI). But since voluntary change looks increasingly unlikely, my guess is that we will dither and deny until uncontrollable changes are forced on us.

Farewell Jeanette. Thirteen years in parliament turned you into a stateswoman, not a politician.

26 comments on “Jeanette Fitzsimons’ valedictory”

  1. prism 1

    Jeanette Fitzsimons
    A great politician, speaker, leader, and stayer and I put her at the top of all our politicians in recent years. She is a greenie who fits the term that I think embraces the skills and mindset needed by effective, wise and ‘good’ politicians, she is an idealistic pragmatist.

  2. blinded by the right 2

    Hehe, a nut bar in a nutshell.

  3. lukas 3

    “bring up their children in thirty years time amid the storms and instability of a changing climate, with little oil left (and that being unaffordable),”

    Haven’t we only had enough oil supply left for 20 years for about the last 20 years?

  4. Bill 4

    How is GPI an improvement over GDP again?

    Is the measurement really going to change the reality of the thing it measures?

    The market ( for as long as we use it) will dictate the terms of success and progress and as such influence human behaviour….not the measures you apply to it.

    • r0b 4.1

      I disagree Bill, but no time now – tonight I hope (late)…

      • Bill 4.1.1

        Lest I be unable to do the ‘late’ thing…

        Although we don’t measure it, environmental damage ( as an example) isn’t exactly hidden. The problem is that the market insists that such damage is disregarded as ‘the price’ of progress.

        Yeah, yeah, yeah…the river is dead, but hey…whadya expect?

        Okay, maybe you are upset about the death of the river?

        But the activity that led led to the death of the river was and is highly rewarded. Very highly rewarded. That’s the market.

        A GPI measurement might communicate that the market is a bad thing…a damaging thing…or has bad or damaging consequences. Fine.

        So now we know, by referring to tables and indices, that the market rewards the individual or the company or whatever for ‘being bad’. And the power and the wealth accumulates just as before with the only difference being that whereas some people would point at the dead river and say it was a bad thing, the deadness of the river has been abstracted to a factor in an equation.

        An equation that will be roundly ignored by the richly rewarded market players in the same way that they formally ignored the unabstracted reality of the dead river.

        • Uroskin

          The simplest example of GDP being a flawed measure is that the Exxon Valdez disaster (and its consequent years-long cleanup) did wonders for Alaskan GDP.

  5. Ag 5

    I respect Jeanette Fitzsimons, but I wonder if she has learned anything from her time in parliament. She more or less said that our current democracy won’t work to fix long term environmental problems that must be fixed, but she has no solution to offer.

    One would think that the obvious move is to admit that we have to look beyond democratic institutions for a solution. This isn’t anyone’s fault. It is just the limitations of the democratic form of government, which isn’t too bad when it comes to other issues, but sucks at this stuff.

    The alternative is to wait until things get so bad that governments have to impose draconian solutions by force. What’s the point in being so devoted to democracy that you are willing to sit around and watch it destroy itself?

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      The government is about setting limits. It can do this in a democracy as long as everyone has the correct information. Unfortunately, we have people like the CCDs and the RWNJs that do everything they can to cause doubt about the information that goes against their own personal wishes.

      • prism 5.1.1

        Can I sneak in here and ask what a RWNJ is?

        • Graham

          I think it’s “Right-Wing Nut Job”, but not sure. They’re probably fairly evenly balanced by the LWNJ (work it out 🙂 )

          Don’t know about CCD though.

          [lprent: Climate Change Denier. I got tired of typing one day. Also Climate Change Skeptic. ]

    • Bill 5.2

      This parliamentary system is democratic in name only. In reality we don’t really have very democratic institutions in NZ. That we need to look beyond these institutions is uncontroversial.

      So does that mean bowing to authoritarian solutions or embracing democratic solutions?

      I think the latter.

      Anyway, at least we both agree that what we have is inadequate. That’s a start. And if dialogue ensues then my optimism in the latter scenario would seem well placed.

    • prism 5.3

      Well Ag she has done her best with the present system now what?
      Changing to MMP from FPP was hard enough and we only just managed it. We had to get away from the two teams fighting on the field instead of focussing on playing the best game possible. But though there is evidence that its a change for the better, there is still much time and money-wasing posturing.We have seen that they would rather spend time considering if people should have a possible 5 instead of 3 year sentence etcc rather than think about vital national matters.

      What do you suggest now? How can our elected politicians be made more effective?
      I would like many of the minor matters taken out of their hands and put into a planning council’s hands that can be appealed to by the public for change based on evidence etc. Sort of like the Law Commission. The outcomes and the inputs would be stated and scrutinised. Road rules come to mind. Smacking children – less parliament time spent on this one issue. Taser guns for the police – how should they be allocated and used. Changes to the education system. Policies that can be trialled that are within the broad policy vehicle approved by parliament.

      Too much is left in the hands and mind of one minister and his/her favourite advisors. Cabinet probably doesn’t scrutinise policy, how much will it cost is no doubt the main chorus. To appear to be doing something is most important – to have a flagship policy for your ministry on something.

      • gitmo 5.3.1

        “How can our elected politicians be made more effective”

        Convert them to compost and put them on the garden ?

        “I would like many of the minor matters taken out of their hands and put into a planning council’s hands that can be appealed to by the public for change based on evidence etc. ”

        Yes because local councils are so much better than the buffoons in Wellington …… oh wait can we compost them as well ?

      • Bill 5.3.2

        I’m not stupid…not irretrievably anyway.

        So give me the space to work within and with my community; and with the people who constitute my society; and alongside the people in my workplace.We can develop democratic institutions. I neither need nor want anybody else representing me thus killing democratic potentials. Do you?

        Democracy either resides wholly in our hands or is lost to us. It’s our choice to demand it. Or not.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    We’ve known since the 1950s (the beginning of the environmental movement) that we couldn’t keep going the way we were but we did anyway. And we’ve done so out of the deluded belief that we could always have more.

    We will reap what we’ve sown and what we’ve sown is destruction.

    • Gus 6.1

      LOL. What a load of crap. The sun is shining, how about getting your pasty face out from behind the PC and contributing to society 🙂

    • Bill 6.2

      “And we’ve done so out of the deluded belief that we could always have more.”

      People just don’t think of their way of life in such terms. It’s a job to put food on the table. It’s a job to pay off debt or save for old age. We are ridden by that free market whore and if we try to bail we are subjected to severe financial sanction and general disapproval from our peers.

      So we are herded back into the arena of market relations to participate and compete in a world of destructive productive practices and disastrous distribution practices.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1

        Yep, worked so hard that we can’t take the time as individuals to learn the right way to do things.

        It’s my biggest complaint against the free-market. For the free-market to work requires that everyone be either omniscient or that they have access to reliable and accurate information from researchers. The former can’t apply and the latter is actively prevented by the capitalist system as the capitalist system only works if information is restricted. Further to that any information that goes against the capitalist system is the target of massive amounts of misinformation. All of which prevent democracy from working.

        As I’ve said before, capitalism is anathema to democracy.

  7. randal 7

    I missed the speech even though I had the wireless on.
    congrats Jeanette F.
    it is not parlaimanent that must change but the quality of the parliamentarians.
    the institution is ok but it is the agenda that counts.
    the new mp’s must work much harder and innovate the ways to get the message over instead of relying on focus groups and policy wonks.
    that is their task now.
    how about the mass audience.

  8. ieuan 8

    Arguably the biggest achievement of any Green MP has been getting the (so called) anti smacking legislation passed.

    I doubt there has been an issue, in the last 10 years, that was more trivialised or divisive than this bill.

    How does that fit with Jeanette’s comments?

  9. A true-loss for right wing bloggers.

  10. Fitzsimons’ problem was that 99% of politicians give the rest a bad name.

  11. no Donald, no Nandor, no Sue, no Jeanette = no intelligence, no charisma, no balls and no cred…tis sad to see her go. she had definite GILF like qualities 🙂

    so ummm…where the next party at yo ?

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