Which Green candidate has been best at growing the party vote?

March 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Danyl McL has blogged:

My friend James – last seen on this blog demagoguing it up at the Te Aro Meet the Candidates event – has entered the Green Party leadership contest. I’ll be helping him with his campaign so will possibly not be the most impartial commentator on the race.

The data-based argument for James’ leadership is basically the chart below. He wasn’t an MP when he ran in Wellington Central last year yet more people there voted Green than any other electorate in the country.

A commenter has responded:

With all due respect to James, that’s a very poor starting point for a data-based argument. Wellington Central is choc-full of green votes because the demographics of the seat heavily lean to young urban liberals. If the Greens didn’t make 30% in that seat, then we’d all be calling it a poor result.

I agree that saying Shaw should be leader because his seat gets the most party votes is a poor argument.

What would be a better analysis is how much extra party vote has a candidate got in a seat, when they have stood there.

Let’s look at 2011 and 2014. First of all 2011.

The median increase for the Greens that year was 4.2%. Some selected seats:

  • Akl Ctl (Roche) +7.3%
  • Wgtn Ctl (Shaw) +7.1%
  • Rongotai (Norman) +7.2%
  • Ohariu (Hughes) +5.3%
  • Chch Ctl +5.1%
  • Northcote (Tava) +4.2%
  • Hague (WCT) +3.3%

So Shaw got the largest party vote increase of the four candidates in 2011, and Hague the smallest. However Shaw’s increase was around the same as the neighbouring Rongotai and Auckland Central.

Now for 2014 where the median change in party vote was dropping -0.2%:

  • Rongotai (Norman) +2.2%
  • Wgtn Ctl (Shaw) +1.7%
  • Northcote +0.7%
  • Akl Ctl (Roche) +0.5%
  • Ohariu +0.2%
  • Chch Ctl -0.9%
  • Hague (WCT) -1.2%

Tava and Hughes did not stand in an electorate in 2014. However the party vote in Northcote in 2014 exceeded the median by more than in 2011.

The increase in Wellington Central in 2014 is much more than the similar seat of Auckland Central.

And the drop in West Coast-Tasman is one of the bigger drops for the Greens.

So while the data used by Danyl was flawed, his conclusion was not. The Greens have improved their vote more in seats where Shaw stands.

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Greens economic knowledge

March 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Lisa Owen on The Nation asked the four leadership contenders for the Greens some basic economic data questions. The responses:

  • Kevin Hague said economic growth in the last year was 0.25% when it was 12 times that at 2.9%
  • Gareth Hughes said inflation was 2.0%, more than double the 0.8% it is
  • Vernon Tava said the official cash rate was 7.8%, over double the 3.5% it is
  • James Shaw was the only one close saying unemployment is just over 5.0% when it is 5.7%

And bad news for rich pricks from the wanabee leaders:

Hughes: I would have a discussion with our members, and I think 40 per cent is a good rate for above 100,000, and I think we could look at a higher rate for income over a million dollars.
50 or 60 per cent?
Hughes: Well, I don’t want to put a number on it.

Maybe 70%?

And they want to extend legal personhood to all inhabitants of Gaia:

We’re running out of time, gentlemen. I want to ask you, James — you say that the rights of personhood should extend to all habitants of the Earth. What do you mean by that?
Shaw: Well, we give corporations legal personhood. So humans have legal personhood. Also, corporations have legal personhood. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River and Te Urewera also have legal personhood, and I think that that is a great way of starting to think about protecting our environment.
So does that mean the rimu, the chicken and the snail — they all have personhood along with me — the same?
Shaw: Well, a corporation has the same legal personhood as you do.
I hear what you’re saying there, but I’m asking you about these other things. Does that mean we all have the same rights?
Shaw: No. I’m talking ecological features. So this is sort of playing out differently in different parts of the world. It’s a new area of law called Nature’s Rights Law or Wild Law as it is sometimes referred to.
But in your maiden speech you talked about all inhabitants. So all inhabitants of the planet, should they have personhood?
Tava: I totally agree with this, because what it means is that you grant legal standing to those things, because at the moment we’ve got this really perverse situation where we treat animals, trees, so on, only as property, or even worse, something that’s not owned at all.
So Vernon thinks all the inhabitants…
Shaw: We have to remember, we used to treat black people as property as well. And over the last several hundred years, we’ve gotten a little more enlightened about that. We used to treat women as property as well in our legal system. So this is just talking about expanding our view of what rights extend to.

Black people are people. Female people are people. Snails are not people. Pretty simple.

Hague: It does seem a little bit odd to me, I must say. I’m interested in talking to Vernon and James about that. I think that we do need to have constitutional protection for our natural environment, but I’d go in the opposite direction in relation to legal personhood. I would take it away from corporations, cos I think that’s damaging to our society.

Not sure which candidate is more scary – the ones that want to recognise snails and trees as persons, or the one saying remove legal rights from corporations, which is basically saying do away with most property rights.

I never thought I could feel wistful for Russel Norman, but they are managing to make the former marxist look like the moderate!

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Shaw runs after all

March 12th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance reports:

Wellington-based MP James Shaw will bid to be the Green Party’s co-leader, after earlier saying it was “highly unlikely” he’d run.

It is understood the first-term MP is planning to make the announcement on Monday, after telling caucus colleagues at a meeting earlier this week.

Last month Shaw said it was too early in his parliamentary career. However, he appears to have had a change of heart after being approached by supportive members, including at a recent policy conference in the Hunua ranges, south of Auckland.

Shaw would not confirm his candidacy, saying only: “I’m thinking about it, and considering it and as I have said before I will make up my mind when nominations open.”

A source indicated Shaw will pitch himself as a fresh face, with new ideas, against front-runner and “status quo” candidate Kevin Hague.

On the back of a disappointing general election result, Shaw is set to argue the party needs new strategies if it wants to increase its vote beyond 10 per cent. But the 41-year-old also needs to win over those in the party who are suspicious of his business background. Like Hague, he is known to favour a bi-partisan approach to politics.

The Greens are fortunate that they will get to choose from four candidates – all offering quite different skills, backgrounds and future directions.

Hague is the front-runner and the likely winner. I blogged here on his strengths. He is the safe choice, and would do better than Norman, in my view.

Shaw is a bigger risk to the Greens, but also offer potentially bigger benefits. I think he is the candidate most likely to grow their vote and smash through the ceiling of 10% they seem to have hit.

The current leadership and strategy of the Greens couldn’t exceed 10% despite Labour hitting an 80 year low of 25%. It is hard to see them doing better by staying on the current path.

Shaw has the ability to change the brand of the Greens as extremists and anti-business. He has the potential to allow the Greens to break through 10%.

Even if Labour wins in 2017, the Greens may still be shut out of Government by NZ First. To avoid that fate they need to grow their vote. Shaw offers them that option.

 

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A third Green co-leader contender

March 10th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Vernon Tava, a Green Party co-convenor in Auckland, is reported to be throwing his hat in the ring to be the party’s new male co-leader.

Mr Tava has decided to stand for the leadership.

Dr Norman was not an MP when he first co-led the Greens and it’s always been possible someone from the party who is not in parliament will stand.

Mr Tava retweeted The Nation’s tweet revealing his intention on Saturday.

He is a Waitemata Local Board member and is deputy chair of the board’s finance committee as well as being involved in work on parks and open spaces, and heritage, urban design and planning.

“I dedicate most of my time to the local board but I also work as a lawyer at the Auckland Community Law Centre, formerly the Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office, representing and assisting clients on low incomes,” he says on the board’s website.

His campaign site is here. He seems to think that the Greens should aspire to more than being a prop party for Labour:

Are we a party of the left with environmental credentials (Red-Greens)? Or are we a true party of sustainability – environmental, social, cultural and economic – willing and able to be an independent entity with a decisive influence on government policy? The left-right spectrum is only one aspect of political action and if we limit ourselves to only being able to deal with one end of that spectrum we are far less able to move the focus of politics to genuine sustainability. The urgency of local and global ecological crises demands that we work across political lines. The Greens need to be an independent political axis around which governments turn.

He sounds far too sensible to get elected.

To many younger voters (and potential voters) left and right hold little appeal; we will only win them over with evidence-based, problem-solving approaches rather than coming from a position of ideology.

Evidence-based decision making? he’s doomed!

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Greens still against cell phone towers

March 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands more cellphone antennas and roadside cabinets could be installed without community consultation under a proposed environmental rule change.

Telecommunications firms would be allowed to install 3.5 metre-high cellphone antennas on street lights, power poles, multi-storey buildings and on any rural structure without resource consent, the Government has proposed.

Excellent. The safety issues have been proved 1,000 times over, and just adding them onto existing structures shouldn’t need a resource consent.

Green Party environment spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Government appeared to have little regard for environmental outcomes or community input.

“We support National Environmental Standards but they need to be used to protect the environment, not to override the right of local communities to have a say,” she said.

Do they want their cellphones to work, and to have Internet access?

This is basic essential infrastructure. If a tower is going to block someone’s view etc, then they should have a say. But this is just about adding them to existing structures.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said they would “reduce by thousands” the number of resource consents required to install wi-fi panels, street cabinets, light pole antennas and cabling.

Tens of millions are spent on an entirely wasteful process, as they inevitably gain the consent.

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Hughes standing for co-leader

March 5th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Fifth-ranked Green MP Gareth Hughes has confirmed he’s standing to become the Green’s male co-leader.

The 33-year-old who’s in his third term as an MP says his candidacy is for a generational shift in New Zealand politics .

West Coast based list MP Kevin Hague has already put his hat in the ring and is considered by some to be the front runner.

The party will decide on who the male co-leader is at its conference in late May.

It’s good Green members will get a choice.

I don’t agree with Gareth on most environmental issues, but he has done a lot of good work in the Comms/ICT sector and has built up a lot of respect for his approach to issues in this sector – even by those who disagree with him. If there had been a change of Government, many said he would be a good Comms/ICT Minister.

It is hard to see him beating Hague, but the fact that Hague is seven years older than the retiring Norman may be a factor – hence why Hughes is talking generational shift.

Not sure if James Shaw has totally ruled out standing, but it seems unlikely. Kennedy Graham is talking about it, but I think the real contest is likely to be between Hague and Hughes.

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Following on from zero fare Saturdays

March 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Wellington Greens have proposed zero fare Saturdays on public transport.

Black Heart has responded with an even bolder proposal:

In other global news, the Black Heart Party regional economic transport development spokesfan Ned Davy has called on Greater Wellington Regional Council to introduce “zero-fare September” flights to London as part of a five point plan to get indigent 50-somethings to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. “To be honest,” said Ned, “my liver’s not really up to a full boozy month in Pomgolia, but if that’s the price of getting a freebie to the party, I’ll take one for the team.”

He also highlighted the importance of reducing naval congestion around the Cape of Good Hope as desperate fans paddle their home-made waka towards Twickenham. “It’s going to be bloody chaos off Cape Town in August, and frankly the only reasonable course of action is to get us away from the whales and into an airplane seat.  It doesn’t have to be business class, we’ll settle for premium economy. Or one of those snuggle couches, so long as I don’t have to share with Brother Phil.”

Mr Davy emphasised the regional economic benefits of the new policy. “The Euro zone region’s having a rough time of it, and we’ve all got to make sacrifices to help those poor English publicans scratch a living.  Throw in an Athens stopover, and we promise to put a fair dent in the Greek region as well.”

He mused aloud about the climate change benefits of the policy. “If all four million of us bugger off to Blighty for the full month, New Zealand would reduce it’s annual carbon emissions by 8 percent straight off, right there.”

About as sensible!

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Greens want all GM food banned

February 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party in response to a petition has stated:

The Green Party agrees with the petitioner and seeks a stop to further GM food approval ahead of full safety studies, more comprehensive and enforced labelling, and a reassessment of existing GM food approvals.

It’s been 14 years since a Royal Commission chaired by a former Chief Justice concluded that there was no scientific basis to ban genetically modified organisms. Despite this, the Greens have fought against the science undeterred.

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Greens propose 20% rates hike

February 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Cheaper bus fares and a free service on Saturdays have been proposed for Wellington, but the ideas could hit ratepayers in the pocket to the tune of $20 million.

The Green Party wants to see a three-month trial of “zero-fare Saturday”, as part of a five-point plan to reduce bus fares across the Wellington region.

Why just on Saturdays? Let’s just wave a wand and have free fares every day of the week. Even better, let’s pay people to use the bus!

But bus users were keen on the idea, when asked yesterday.

In stunning news, people who use a service like the idea of other people paying for it on their behalf.

Paul Swain, the regional council’s transport portfolio leader, said some of the Greens’ proposals were already being considered by council staff as part of the long-term plan process.

But the entire package could cost up to $20m, which would be roughly a 20 per cent rates hike, he said. “In my view, that’s unaffordable and the ratepayers would react very negatively.”

So remember that next local body elections – the Greens want a 20%rates hike.

I suspect it would be far more than that. History tells us that you make something “free” and the costs rise almost exponentially.

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The beginning of the dirty deal in Northland!

February 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Greens have announced:

“It is our strategic assessment that we should not run in the by-election and instead focus on our nationwide climate change and inequality campaigns,” said Green Party Co-convenor John Ranta.

What blatant spin. A by-election is the perfect opportunity to get publicity for your issues.

Next look out for whether Labour withdraws!

But I think the left putting all their hopes in Winston are misplaced when Northlanders realise voting for Winston will actually result in them losing an MP in Northland and Invercargill gaining one.

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Green leadership contenders

February 19th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green MP Kevin Hague could have competition for the party’s leadership as two more MPs have tentatively suggested they might enter the contest.

MPs Gareth Hughes and Kennedy Graham would not rule out bids for the male co-leadership position, which will be up for grabs when Russel Norman stands down in May after eight years.

Mr Hughes confirmed yesterday he was consulting with supporters about whether he should enter the race, but said he would not confirm his intentions until closer to the nomination deadline in mid-April.

He is ranked fifth on the party’s list and has gained some profile in lobbying for environmental causes.

Dr Graham, who is one of the party’s senior MPs and speaks for the party on foreign affairs, said he “had not discounted the idea” of entering the leadership race.

Yes a 69 year old leader is a great idea, to compete with Winston!

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Greens want NZ Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels

February 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Greens are calling on the New Zealand Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels, as it accuses its guardians of betting on a climate disaster. 

The fund currently has $676 million in fossil fuel companies – about 2 per cent of the fund’s assets under management.

The role of the Super Fund is to maximise the return on investment to help fund NZ Superannuation. It is not to reflect Green Party ideology. If you want a Green fund, then you can invest in one of the dozens around. But one of the huge risks in the Government having a large investment fund is that politicians will want to use it for their own pet projects. First they start excluding stuff they don’t like, and then they announce say $5 billion will be invested in wind farm companies, and bang the NZ Super Fund becomes a plaything for politicians.

“Getting out of fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do, it makes financial sense too.”

I wonder how many would die if in fact every fossil fuel company in the world had its funding turned off, and was unable to attract capital. I suspect it might be more than Mao managed!

I do agree that renewable energy needs to be a much larger share of the world’s future energy supply. But fossil fuels in countries like China currently provide heating and electricity to hundreds of millions. If you declared a ban on any future fossil fuel extraction, then there would be massive shortages.

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A good Green policy

February 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party is urging Parliament not to be the first in the world to vote on the practice of testing cosmetics on animals and choose to continue it.

Green MP Mojo Mathers has introduced proposed amendments to the Government’s Animal Welfare Amendment Bill,which is likely to come before the house this week. 

It would see the testing of cosmetics on animals completely banned, although animal testing does not occur in New Zealand anyway.

But the amendments would not extend to imported products that have been tested on animals overseas. 

I support this Green Party policy. Testing on animals for cosmetics is nasty. Testing for medical reasons or safety is a “necessary evil” but testing for cosmetics is different.

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Hague announces candidacy

February 12th, 2015 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

In a move that won’t surprise anyone in politics, Green MP Kevin Hague has put his hand up to be the party’s co-leader.

The West Coast-based list MP is first out of the blocks, and rookie MP James Shaw was expected to follow, but this morning Shaw said it was “highly unlikely” because it was too early in his parliamentary career.

Nominations for the role don’t open until next month, ahead of the party’s annual conference in May, but Hague, an MP since 2008, explained: “I am certain to stand, and I thought it could be useful for Green Party members to know that.”

Without discounting who else might stand, it is fair to say that Kevin Hague is a very good potential co-leader, and he could do significantly better than his predecessor, if elected.

The strengths that Hague would bring to the Greens are:

  1. He is not a communist (or former communist)
  2. He has significant political skills, playing a key role in campaigns such as the marriage equality campaign
  3. He is trusted and respected with most MPs from both National and Labour
  4. He will generally put progressing an issue, ahead of point scoring, for example working behind the scenes with National MPs on adoption law reform rather than grand-standing on the issue such as a Labour MP did
  5. Has the ability to work with MPs from other parties, including National. Involved in many cross-party caucuses.
  6. Has been influential in the Greens in reducing the power of the anti-science brigade, and has moved the Greens away from blanket opposition to fluoridation and vaccinations to more balanced positions
  7. Has significant management experience, having been a CEO of a District Health Board

I think Kevin Hague would be an excellent choice by the Greens to replace Russel Norman as the male co-leader.

Hague said he had good relationship with both major parties – but said the Greens made the right decision in aligning with Labour.

“We are not a party that is going to throw away our core principles and our values or actually a very large number of our policies in order to make that political accommodation … it’s hard to see National providing the level of policy gains for the Green party.” 

But Hague found common ground with National over national cycleways and pest control. “I’ve got a track record … of finding ways of working with them. I look forward to doing that more.”

The Greens would never choose National over Labour, but a Hague led Greens would be more likely to be able to have a constructive relationship with National, where they can work together in a few areas. This would be a good thing.

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Greens host GE deniers conference at Parliament

February 11th, 2015 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

Eric Crampton blogs:

This weekend brings GMO-sceptics to Wellington. Presentations include “Pesticides: scilencing the ecosystem and silencing our children” and “Overweight, undernourished, sterile and dying of cancer. Our food is it sealing the fate of humanity?”

And look who is hosting them, at Parliament:

FoodProductionSafetyinvite

Crampton has details of the two speakers, such as how Gilles-Eric Seralini’s paper on GM food and mice was retracted.

89% of scientists think GM food is safe, a slightly higher percentage (88%) who think humans are mostly responsible for climate change. So it is fair to say there is a strong scientific consensus on this issue. Yet the Greens are hosting a conference or seminar of GM deniers and sceptics – at Parliament.

Now they have the right to peddle their pseudo-science. But let’s imagine if this wasn’t the Greens, but ACT. And ACT hosted a conference at Parliament of half a dozen climate change sceptics preaching against the scientific consensus. They would be denounced by a dozen lobby groups as being anti-science and abusing their position as a parliamentary party by allowing parliamentary facilities to be used in such a way. The Greens would be the ones most loudly decrying ACT.

So it is a useful reminder that the Greens devotion to scientific consensus is cherry picked to only apply when it backs their world view.

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Lusk on choosing a party

January 30th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Lusk has published the second chapter of his book on campaigning. It is available on Amazon.

He says he is happy to help candidates for parties he disagrees with, with the exception of the Greens. He labels them as the most unsuccessful minor party in NZ – not in terms of votes, but achievements.

He points to the significant policy wins that NZ First, the Alliance, ACT and the Maori Party have managed, and contrasts that to the Greens who have almost nothing to show for 15 years in Parliament.

The future is not much brighter. They refuse to work with National, and if Labour can win in 2017, they will be dependent on NZ First who will again block the Greens from Government.

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Russel Norman resigns

January 30th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News has just tweeted that the 11 am press conference of the Greens is the resignation of Russel Norman.

UPDATE: Andrea Vance has said he is leaving in May. Staying on as an MP for now, but resigning as co-leader.

He has been male co-leader for eight years and apart from any personal reasons, I guess he realises that his chances of ever becoming a Minister are dim. Even if the left wins in 2017, Winston is likely to block them from becoming Ministers.

Kevin Hague is the obvious choice to replace him as male co-leader. Well respected by MPs in all parties. If the resignation was in 2016 or later, then James Shaw would be a good contender, but might be too early for him as a new MP. Having said that, Norman become male co-leader before he was an MP.

Norman cites wanting to spend more time with his family as a factor. being a (co) leader is very time consuming and hard on family life.  He’s had eight years in the (co) top job, so the decision is quite understandable. By coincidence just last week I was talking to someone about whether Norman and Turei would contest the next election as co-leaders, and who might be their successors.

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Greens predicted petrol would be $10 a litre by 2018

January 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader reminded me of this release by Russel Norman in 2008:

Predictions from prestigious Australian research institute CSIRO that petrol could cost up to AUS$8 – about NZ$10 – per litre within a decade means we need to rapidly change course to avoid serious economic disarray, Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

“Petrol at that price would make the Government’s entire motorway building project a white elephant – modern day Easter Island statues. Our new motorways would be monuments to short sightedness and profligate waste of resources.

“Governments even contemplating building motorways like the billion dollar-plus Transmission Gully project in Wellington or the $2 billion Waterview tunnel project in Auckland are seriously out of touch with reality,” Dr Norman says.

The economic disarray would have come if we had followed Dr Norman’s advice and did our transport planning on an assumption of $10/litre petrol.

If the Greens had intellectual consistency, they would now come out and say that Waterview was justified, as the cost of petrol is now under $2/litre and likely to stay there for years.

“We have no choice but to move to a far less oil-dependent economy, because rising prices will give us no choice.

The Green movement have a history of predicting massive shortages and associated price rises of natural resources, and being basically wrong every time.

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Greens can’t even organise a protest of two people properly!

December 8th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The only two Timaru protesters to stick their heads in the sand against perceived climate change inaction missed each other and ended up protesting at different times and ends of Caroline Bay yesterday.

Green Party Aoraki branch convener Gerrie Ligtenberg and party member Kate Elsen got their wires crossed and protested alone.

Ligtenberg dug her protest hole at the skatepark end of the beach at noon, whereas Elsen had turned up earlier at the Marine Parade end.

“It was all a bit last minute,” Ligtenberg said.

Although a few beach visitors gave her some odd looks, she was not as silly as she looked, she said.

“I put a plastic bag in the hole so I didn’t get sand in my ears.”

I think the Greens should use this photo in their next campaign:

10888354

It seems to sum up the Greens’ stance on genetic engineering very nicely.

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Greens still complaining Key revealed the truth

November 15th, 2014 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

The Greens whine:

New documents released to the Green Party show that Prime Minister John Key used New Zealand’s intelligence services for the National Party’s political ends a few days out from the 2014 election, the Green Party said today.

Documents released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act show that Prime Minister John Key pressured the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) into releasing previously classified documents just days out from the election.

“The Prime Minister has arrogantly used the GCSB in order to assist the National Party’s elections chances,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“John Key knew that investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were going to provide information damaging to his Government.

“In order to counter this damage John Key made certain that the GCSB declassified and released documents in an effort to provide damage control to both himself and the National Party.

“This is a Prime Minister who was using the security services for political purposes.

The Greens have so lost the plot on this.

Are they really saying that when someone makes a false claim based on partial information, the Government should not respond and prove they are wrong?

This just shows how unsuited to Government the Greens are. They seem to be on the side of the foreign journalists and opposed to the Government revealing that they had it wrong.

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Browning loses a portfolio

November 6th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Green Party MP  Steffan Browning has been stripped of his natural health products portfolio following this morning’s party caucus meeting.

It follows Browning signing a petition last week encouraging the World Health Organisation to consider the use of homeopathic remedies to combat the Ebola pandemic.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei said the natural health products portfolio had been rolled into the health portfolio.

This meant Kevin Hague would become the party’s spokesman on all issues relating to health.

“It is a clear signal to the country that the Green Party treats health matters based on evidence,” Turei said.

A smart move by the Greens, as Browning’s actions have reinforced perceptions that they are anti-science.

Of course Browning remains their spokesperson on Agriculture, Fisheries, Organics, GE, Forestry, Biosecurity & Customs, and Security & Intelligence.

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Competition preferable to regulation

November 3rd, 2014 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party is calling for an independent umpire to regulate buy-back prices set by power companies, after a major supplier slashed its rate for new customers generating solar or wind power.

Users of renewable energy – such as solar or wind – use the electricity to power their home or business, and can sell back any excess electricity to their supplier to be used on the national grid.

Contact Energy announced on Friday it was cutting its buy-back rate for new customers by over half, dropping from 17c to 8c.

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said the move showed electricity companies had all the power in setting terms, contract length and buy-back rate for exporting surplus energy.

“It is high time New Zealand established an independent umpire to set fair and non-subsidised rates for surplus energy with greater contract certainty,” he said.

Contact Energy, like most companies, will sell for as high a price as they can get and buy for as low a price as they can get.

In situations with monopolies, regulation can be the most sensible option.

But surely the preferred policy here should be to increase competition so that more companies are competing to buy surplus electricity. Having the Government set the price, will mean fewer companies wanting to buy surplus electricity, which will force consumers with their own generating capacity to lose choice.

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Green foreign leader against other foreign leaders!

November 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

It’s time that we grew up as a nation when it comes to diplomatic courtesy. It’s time the Greens revoked their “unofficial ban” on visiting political leaders addressing the New Zealand Parliament.

Some of the world’s most powerful leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping are headed our way later this month after they’ve been to the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

Having political leaders of such calibre addressing our Parliament while it is sitting is not going to subvert our democracy. But the Greens’ overblown and juvenile stance that only New Zealand politicians should be allowed to address a sitting session makes us look absurdly pretentious in comparison to our transtasman neighbour.

Indeed it does.

In a few weeks, three of the world’s most powerful people will be the latest foreign leaders to address the Australian Parliament in what will be memorable occasions for that country’s politicians.

At least one of those leaders — Chinese President Xi — will come to New Zealand for a similar State visit. But those long-standing objections by the Greens have (so far) robbed New Zealand of the opportunity to honour visiting leaders in a way that (at least in Australia) has seen them rise to the occasion with excellent speeches that canvas the importance of the bilateral relationship and strengthen mutual bonds.

Prime Minister John Key has wanted to invoke that tradition here.

But the only occasion (to date) in which a foreign leader — Australia’s former PM Julia Gillard — has addressed our Parliament it had to be outside formal sitting hours.

This was because Greens co-leader Russel Norman — an Australian himself — reckoned having a foreign leader in the House could undermine the democratic sovereignty of Parliament.

Did having Winston Churchill address the US Congress undermine US sovereignty? It’s a very silly justification by the Greens.

UPDATE: The article (and my comments) overlook the changes made to Standing Orders just before the election, which now provide a mechanism for foreign leaders to address the House. The Greens would have had to agree to the change in standing orders, which suggests they no longer have blanker opposition. However the Business Committee has to agree on the details, which means they can veto individual foreign leaders. My thanks to the Clerk’s Office for pointing out the change in standing orders to me.

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Guest Post: Smart green rhetoric but dumb dirty policies

October 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by a reader:

During the 2014 election campaign both Labour and the Greens told us how they want a ‘smart green’ economy that takes advantage of new technology to produce higher value products and lower carbon emissions. In addition, they want an economy that discourages speculation in housing, reduces inequality and puts more people in work.

These are admirable goals and not new. However, the irony is that the policies put forward by Labour and the Greens (and most of the other parties to be honest) are not smart or particularly green. Rather, their polices are dumb and dirty.

For the most part, both Labour and the Green’s economic policies rely on the assumption that the private sector is dumber than government officials. They assume the private sector is holding off investing in innovative green ventures or productive research until the government assists by giving a grant or tax incentive.

Their economic policies require a bureaucratic money-go-round. Some taxpayers pay more tax in order that other taxpayers pay less tax or receive grants in return for undertaking the deemed beneficial activities. Or it may be the same taxpayer paying less tax on income from favoured activities and more tax on other income! Such schemes are more likely to create a drag on the economy than boost it. That is unless you believe government officials are masterminds! Sam Morgan recently pointed out that if officials really had a superior record in picking winners, he’d hire them.

If one accepts the need for the government to raise more money, substantially raising the top rate of income tax for a small group of higher income taxpayers is not smart. People don’t like paying more tax, particularly a huge 40% of any extra income they earn as the Greens propose, so find ways to lower their taxable income. Raising the top tax rate inevitably raises less revenue than the relatively small amount mathematically possible.

The tax avoidance encouraged by higher rates of income tax also distorts investment. For example, the huge growth in tax loss generating rental properties in the 2000s was driven in part by taxpayers avoiding the fifth Labour government’s increase in the top rate tax to 39% for any income over $60,000.

However, a capital gains tax would do little to discourage the middle class from continuing to invest in rental properties. A capital gains tax is not payable until way into the future, if ever, in their minds so would cause them little immediate concern. Furthermore, with Labour’s version the CGT rate would only be 15%.

A more effective way to make residential property less attractive and raise revenue would be to impose a tax that immediately hits the pocket and is impossible to avoid. A land tax set at a small percentage of the value of land owned, payable annually or maybe quarterly, would do this. A tax free threshold of around $200,000 could exempt the land occupied by the average family home while discouraging the pouring of more money into low yielding property.

A land tax would be better at reducing inequality and do less to discourage productive activity than a CGT or raising income tax. Other taxes on the stock of capital such as inheritance and gift taxes have similar advantages. Such taxes were used in the past to break up big estates and reduce inequality. Any party serious about reducing inequality needs to consider using them.

On the supply side, if we really want innovative businesses and individuals to bring their ‘smart green’ ideas to New Zealand then we should stop trying to tax them on their worldwide earnings. New Zealand has to be more attractive than alternative destinations, and not trying to sweep all residents’ offshore income into New Zealand would be a good start.

The Greens would have us believe that a large increase in public transport spending at the expense of building new roads would also somehow be good for the economy and the environment. The reality is that it would largely be a waste of money and likely increase pollution.

The Greens are keen on ribbons of steel snaking across the land to support massively heavy and expensive rail carriages. Even so called light rail, which they also like, is still heavier, far more expensive and less flexible than buses. Unless there are constant large volumes of freight or passengers, rail never comes anywhere near paying its way.

Even using buses for public transport is efficient only for busy and peak-time routes. Having off-peak buses run around nearly empty (which is very common) is actually worse for the environment than everyone using cars. A bus puts out at least four times the carbon emissions of a car. Given buses follow a less direct route, it is likely that every bus with less than 8 passengers on board is emitting more carbon than if all those passengers were driving one car each! Electrified buses or trains, and all the infrastructure they require to operate, are substantially more expensive so even less viable. Anyway, a material amount of electricity generated in New Zealand comes from the burning of fossil fuels.

Those people who rely on off-peak public transport could easily be transported more efficiently in shuttle vans or cars. There are apps such as Uber that make taxis easier to use and more efficient. Software to efficiently route transport picking up multiple people going to the same location has already been developed. The conditions are therefore ripe for the development of new, innovative, cost effective off-peak public transport solutions that use small vehicles and technology – solutions that really would decrease carbon emissions.

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Challenges for the Greens this term

October 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

In the final pre-election polls the Greens were polling at between 11% and 14.4%. The average was 12.7%. However they got just 10.0% (on provisionals) and actually lost an MP from 2011. It was a hugely disappointing result for a party that hadn’t had any major screw ups (apart from Russel’s mad idea to print more money), and should have got a big boost from left voters who turned off Labour.

They could pick up their lost seat on specials but their 14th seat has a quotient of 7806, a fair way behind Labour on 8240.

They did well in Wellington and Christchurch, getting 17% and 13% of the vote respectively. However in Auckland they managed only 9%. Their vote fell in all regions from 0.4% to 1.8%. They did improve by 0.5% in the Maori seats.

They got over 20% in five seats – Wellington Central 28%, Rongotai 25%, Dunedin North 22%, Auckland Central 21% and Mt Albert 21%. They only got between 15% and 20% in another three seats – Port Hills, Te Tai Tonga and Christchurch Central. In 42 seats they got below 10%, and below 5% in just five seats (all in Auckland).

Their best provincial seat was Nelson on 13%, and best rural seats WCT on 12%.

So why such a poor result. A few factors I’d speculate on:

  • Their voters did not vote as the thought of a Labour-led Government was unappealing, but could not bring themselves to vote National so did not vote
  • Younger supporters did not vote
  • Their campaign was not as good in 2011. The tagline was confusing and did not resonate. The images did not support their tagline.
  • Centrist voters who value the environment voted National, as the did not want to risk Dotcom being part of Government
  • Like Labour they suffered from four of the five weeks of the campaign not being about policy

So what are their challenges going ahead:

Renewal

They only got one new MP in. Last time they got several, so renewal is not an issue this term, but will be next election.

Leadership

Both Norman and Turei are now seasoned politicians, who have avoided the gaffes of their Labour counterparts. Partly that is because of less scrutiny, but still solid performances.

Norman has now been co-leader for eight years, and by 2017 will be 11 years. Turei for five and a half years.

There are two capable successors to Norman – Kevin Hague and in time James Shaw.

It is more difficult on the female side. If they had got Marama Davidson in, she would be a potential future co-leader. Eugenie Sage would probably be the most likely successor, but too early to say.

Perpetual Opposition

How do the Greens break out of opposition? If National gets a fourth term, then that is 21 years in opposition. And because Labour knows they can’t ever not support Labour, Labour might lock them out in future again, if a party like NZ First demands it.

Positioning

The Greens need to find a way to credibly say under some circumstances they could abstain on a National-led Government, so that Labour can’t take them for granted. The challenge is to do it in a way which won’t send their own supporters fleeing.

They could do a Winston and say they will negotiate with the largest party first, but would only agree to abstain or support of they get the right policy commitments on climate change, child poverty etc.

The new Internet Party?

There is a potential opportunity for the Greens to pick up former Internet Party supporters and declare themselves the true Internet Party. Gareth Hughes is widely respected for his work on Internet issues.

Labour

As Labour gets into more turmoil, do they try to supplant it? Is their ambition to be third, second or first?

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