Gareth Hughes

We can make history in 2014

by Gareth Hughes

I wanted to share my response to the Prime Ministers opening statement to Parliament.

What I heard from John Key in his Opening Statement was a negative, aggressive speech that focused more on Labour and the Greens than on National or their own policy ideas. I believe New Zealanders want to hear positive solutions and party’s plans for the future. They’re sick and tired of negative, attack politics and dirty electorate deals. After too many years of putting the spies, the casinos, the oil companies, the polluters first, they know it’s time for a change,

After five years of National selling off our assets and selling out to big corporates, it’s time to put people and the planet first. This year we can make history with another first. In eight months’ time we could see our first ever good green government. In 2014 we can make history and we can elect the most progressive government this country has seen in a generation

If the Prime Minister is going negative, we are going to stay positive. That is the Greens message this election. A Green government will invest in our people, will protect our environment and will build an economy which works for everyone.

John Key’s speech was all about sowing fear and saying the economy is at risk. Conditions are improving but Key is simply papering over the serious cracks. We need a government that will put the books in order and address the pressing economic challenges like massive overseas debt and loss of control of our own productive assets. We need an economic plan that is more than cramming more dairy cows on paddocks and hope some foreign oil company finds something without leaving too much of a mess. Coming out of the global recession it is time to invest for a prosperous future, a richer NZ. We need to invest in infrastructure like a second Internet cable, support our smart IT sector and take advantage of the $6 trillion clean energy, green-tech sector.

For thirty years we’ve been told there is no alternative to ‘Rogernomics’ by his red and blue, right wing successors. Neoliberal economics has plainly failed New Zealand on its own terms. We’ve dropped from 5th on the OECD rankings in 1951 to 23rd today. We’re more dependent on dairy than ever; and we work some of the longest hours for some of the smallest wages and have some of the highest costs of living in the OECD. The Neoliberal economic experiment has seriously cost the country but we can make history and embark on a new direction that works for us not just for corporate elites.

Likewise, after thirty years of growing poverty and widening inequality it’s time for a government to focus on real people not just the Tiawai’s, the Chorus’, the Sky Cities, and the Anadarko’s. It used to be said the Prime minister knew all the unemployed in New Zealand and we had no poverty.  That’s far from the case now. In a land that exports food that feeds 20 million people it’s a travesty our kids aren’t eating before school.  Whole families are deprived of work opportunities and 270,000 kiwi kids are growing up in poverty.

It is highly unlikely many young or unemployed Kiwis will get work on Anadarko’s deep sea drilling rigs. We can however see tens of thousands of people in employment earning high wages in IT or building good new houses, installing insulation under the roof and solar panels on the top. Cheaper energy from NZ Power, affordable housing from our Home for life programme and lifting our kids out of poverty puts people first. A fair go for all may sound like an idea from our distant history but this year we can make history by returning it front and centre to politics and tackle inequality, unemployment and poverty

Thirdly we need to protect what we love and is the foundation of our prosperity – our environment. Under National river nitrogen pollution limits higher are than even the Yangtze River and two thirds of our rivers are unsafe to swim in. We can grow jobs cleaning up our rivers and reclaim our birth right to swim safely in a river or stream. We can do our fair share for a stable climate and grow jobs in climate friendly industries like public transport. And we can take advantage of the $20B annual economic opportunity of clean energy if we choose to go 100% renewable like solar, wind, geothermal over risky deep sea oil drilling.

In conclusion, we are offering a positive alternative to the Prime Minister’s negativity. This election every vote will count and there is a real choice facing the country over New Zealand’s direction. In less than a years’ time we can make history with the most progressive government New Zealand has seen in a generation. The choice the Green Party is offering is a cleaner, smarter, fairer and richer NZ.