Sad Labour’s not here? Don’t ask, don’t tell

Apart from the dutiful cabinet minister, I am the only NZ member of parliament at Rio de Janeiro.

Should I be here?

Days back, in the ‘80s, it was a rare thing for parliamentarians to front up to a UN conference. But that was when international diplomacy was confined to the diplomats, and the executive branch of government Decided for the People.  The ‘80s was the end of that three-century era.

Now international diplomacy has become global discourse.  The civil society has grown from infancy to adolescence, and it will grow in strength and confidence.  The corporate world hovers around too these days.  Through the ‘90s, with the global conferences that characterised the beginnings of the global community, MPs started to turn out, in numbers and with purpose.

The purpose is to hold our respective governments to account.  An opposition MP can make cabinet ministers answer for their government’s policies with far more accuracy and credibility through having actually been there as well.

So, here I am, as I was at Copenhagen in ’09.  And there is one Green Australian MP – an impressive woman Senator from Queensland with an environmental law background.

Why is NZ Labour not here?  Don’t they care?  I spoke with one very senior Labour colleague before leaving.  He had wanted to go to Rio, but could not get away.

So why not send someone who could?

I believe that Labour is concerned for the environment.  Helen Clark used to use the word ‘sustainability’ as if she knew what it meant.  She will have far better insight on that now, after three years running UNDP.

Shame one of her former colleagues couldn’t tear themselves away – one responsible perhaps for climate change perhaps, or energy perhaps.  Or oceans or even the environment.  Just someone.


9 Comments Posted

  1. Labour are not just missing at Rio+20. As far as it goes with climate change, emissions trading scheme, energy policy, biodiversity, water quality and conservation; Labour are just missing.

  2. To be fair to the Labour Party, they lost a lot of MPs in the last election and don’t have that many to spare. They are needed here to help fight asset sales and other National Party ideology.


  3. National and Labour’s growing detachment from global concerns, that you have identified, is a real concern. New Zealand has often had a huge influence internationally, despite our minimal population because we were prepared to take principled stands on environmental and social justice issues. Michael Savage won respect for standing up to world powers regarding international injustices, Peter Fraser was an influential voice in the development of the UN, Norman Kirk was well regarded internationally as was David Lange.

    We have now become mere hangers on and followers of world trends and McCully’s cuts to MFAT’s budget has increased our reliance on other country’s to promote our views and advance our interests overseas. The value of being a global leader in protecting the environment and advocating for social justice has been badly misjudged.

  4. “I doubt Helen Clark knew what “sustainability” meant.”

    I was once told a story about the Minister for the Environment under Helen Clark commenting that when she was offered the job she protested “but Helen, I don’t know anything about the environment” and got the response “That doesn’t really matter.”

  5. If Labour knew that you were going and that none of their MPs were going, why didn’t they have a chat with you and let you represent their position? After all, if Labour and the Green Party enter into a coalition government, it is likely that Green Party MPs will hold several of the relevant portfolios.


  6. I doubt Helen Clark knew what “sustainability” meant. I seem to recall a speech near the start of her last term where she talked both about New Zealand becoming the first truly sustainable society and also about a renewed focus on growth – may even have mentioned more road building. She had no idea.

  7. Kia Ora Kennedy. Somehow I’m not surprised no one from NZ Labour is there. Perhaps it gives us a good indication of where there priorities lie..

Comments are closed.