CRACKS OPEN IN GREEN LEADERSHIP CONTEST
By Richard Harman (author)
The Greens roadshow to elect a new male co-leader to replace Russel Norman has begun and already there are clear differences between the four candidates.
At the Auckland meeting on Sunday Green supporters heard from one candidate who was happy to go into Government with National while another aimed to lead the largest ever march up Queen Street to protest climate change.
But what was absent from the campaign speeches and a question and answer session was any mention of child poverty, the Trans Pacific Partnership or “dirty politics” and the GCSB.
Instead candidates talked about wanting to grow the Green Vote.
The candidate picked by most observers to win, the number three candidate on the Greens list at the last election, Kevin Hague, said the party most have its goal to enter Government “with the strength, purpose and momentum necessary to deliver transformational change.”
He said that change needed to restore hope and justice to communities.
“Change that will pull us back from suicidal exploitation of the natural environment,” he said.
“And change that will make the economy deliver on our environmental and social goals.”
The new Greens MP, James Shaw, who has a background in international business consultancy, had a subtly different message.
He cited the Green party vote in Wellington Central (where he stood) and which increased to 30% at the last election.
“We did that by campaigning to the entire electorate as if everybody was available to us,” he said.
“By appealing to former Labour and National voters and by showing them that we were a credible, capable competent party that shared their values they trusted us with their votes.”
He paid tribute to the work Mr Norman had done in gaining the Greens economic credibility but said that polling showed 28% of voters at the last election considered voting Green but did not because they felt the party lacked economic credibility.
“We need to continue our transformation into a broad based political party.
“We need a co-leader who is credible with the voter son economic issues.
"The Green Party must grow - otherwise the next Government will be decided by Winston Peters.
"That would not be good for the environment and it would be no good for our country."
Mr Hague said that the Greens needed to also address the structural inequalities that existed in society because they wasted an enormous amount of human potential that we needed if we were to become a successful country.
The other MP standing, Gareth Hughes, focussed his pitch on environmental issues and drew on his own experience as an environmental activist.
“My passion is achieving action on climate change,” he said.
“Six years ago my proudest achievement is organising the country’s biggest ever climate change march up Queen Street.
“Six years on I want to lead an even bigger march and an even more powerful climate movement.
“I believe that my background as a climate champion would complement (co-leader) Metiria Turei, our social champion.”
The only non-MP standing, the party’s northern co-convenor, Vernon Tava, talked about the primacy of environmental values in the party but said that the Greens should re-focus on its core Green values as set out in the party charter which was read out at the start of the meeting.
He said the charter’s values of ecological wisdom and social responsibility were neither left nor right.
And he went on to suggest he would be happy in Government with National.
“Currently we say it is not enough that you care about the environment and that have a concern for ecological wisdom and social responsibility but you must also identify as left.
“And in doing that we alienate all the people who might share those values.
“Conservation after all can be inherently conservative.
“We leave these people out.”
He said the party needed support from across the spectrum because the problems facing the country were too urgent and too pressing.
“The Green Party should be the sustainable axis around which every government turns, he said.