Grey Greens might be better than red Greens


Chris Trotter’s column in The Independent (which I’ve been unable to find on-line) addresses the greying of the Greens.


Nine years ago, when Rod Donald and his “Magnificent Seven” cantered up the steps of Parliament like a herd of eager, old-order destroying centaurs, their public image was one of youthful exuberance, reckless idealism and what might almost be called political gaiety. It was a mirage. Even then, most of the Green Party caucus were well into their 40s and 50s. Their most youthful member, Nandor Tanczos, was 33.


Nine years on, the youngest member of the Green caucus (and likely to remain so) is the 38 year-old Metiria Turei. Robbed of the ever-youthful personality of the late rod Donald the Greens have taken on a distinctly middle-aged appearance. … The average of the top 12 placeholders on the party list is a bracing (and very baby-boomerish) 52 years.


…I had foolishly assumed the Greens would be offering the electorate a party list chock full of candidates under 40: people whose best years were still in front of them and whose political lives would be dominated by climate change and peak oil, not Vietnam and the Springbok tour.


Setting aside the ageist comment that at an average 52 their best years are behind them, it is interesting Trotter should define the Green MPs and candidates, not by environmental issues by social ones.  And that is water-melon factor (green on the outside, red in the middle) which explains why the Greens have failed to gain much traction.


Had they been moderate on social and economic issues they would be the one party in the middle of the political spectrum which actually stood for something; and their ability to coalesce with either Labour or National would have ensured they achieved at least some of it.


Instead they are in the perpetual wilderness to the left of Labour so in spite of the cosy photo-ops of Helen Clark and Jeanette Fitzsimmons before the 2005 elections the Greens were left out of coalition talks at the behest of NZ First and United. The few achievements they are remembered for are not environmental but social – like the smacking ban, or socialist – buy NZ made. And while achieving little or nothing of note environmentally they have continued to support, or at least abstain on confidence and supply, a Labour-led Government which has overseen the worst deforestation in decades and an alarming increase in carbon emissions.


…Another 7% result would, however, be enough to bring ninth-ranked Kennedy Graham into parliament. A highly experienced and successful diplomat, lawyer and academic, Graham will bring an aura of upper-middle-class respectability to the Greens.


“It’s fair to say that, at 62, Graham (who is Sir Douglas Graham’s younger brother) is unlikely to attract a very big chunk of the youth vote.


But he might attract some of the middle-aged and older people who have the time and money to worry about saving the world.


Respectability would appear to be the watchword these days in the Green party…Departing from the parliamentary scene is of course …Nandor Tanczos.


He takes with him much of the party’s heart and spirit: that indefinable quality that distinguishes the Green ideology from mere environmentalism…What he was prepared to do was lead the fight to end the Green’s unhealthy passive-aggressive relationship with the Labour Party.


It was time he told me to reinvent the old Green slogan: “Not of the Left, not of the right but in front” with renewed meaning.


Fearing this could lead the party to enter into a coalition with the National party, the econ-socialist wing of the Greens organised hard and successfully to ensure the ex-pat Australian political scientist (Russell) Norman defeated Tanczos in the race for the party’s co-leadership.


…In 2008 however, it is the words of Virginia Horrock, No 19 on the Green Party list, that resonate most disturbingly. “I want to persuade my generation to face up to what has happened to the earth under our watch, I am keen to encourage grandparents/baby boomers to make the earth their final gift to the next generations. Green voters are predominantly over 55, like me, so I feel I can appeal to them as people with the same concerns.”


Noble sentiments, Virginia, but revolutions are not made by people who are “predominantly over 55”.


No, but they are more likely to vote and appealing to them with sound environmental policy without scaring them with a radical social and economic agenda would give them a powerful position in the centre, where the power of MMP politics lies.

Tremain on Cullen’s budget prayer


Budget medicine


The first Budget I remember listening to (yes, listening on the radio in the evening because – as Poneke reminded me – that was how you first received the news and when Budgets were delivered) was in 1975, my first year at university.


I was hoping for increased help for students. That we already got our fees paid; a living away from home allowance if our course necessitated moving from home to study; A or B Bursaries of $150 and $100 respectively (when weekly rents were about $7); anyone who had a vague notion that they might one day entertain the possible thought of teaching applied for and almost always received a studentship; and that people on pretty modest incomes were paying 60% taxes in part to fund all this largesse, was irrelevant.


I’ve forgotten what, if anything students received which supports the contention that we don’t appreciate what Government’s give us; and I don’t recall anything about subsequent Budgets until Roger Douglas’s first in 1984. That was the one was brought farmers kicking and screaming in to the real world by removing subsidies.


The sudden removal would have been difficult enough but the impact was worsened by raging inflation, high interest rates, a relatively high dollar and low commodity prices. While we had to face the real world, the labour market was still strictly regulated and there were tariffs on imports so while our incomes went down costs did not. The damage was compounded in North Otago where we were also facing another of the recurring droughts which dogged the district.


The economic and social deterioration of the ag-sag compounded as inflation and interest rates climbed, buoyed mostly by city property prices and the share market. Meanwhile farm prices plummeted and many of us found we’d gone from having reasonable equity to theoretical bankruptcy as our debts became greater than the value of what we owned.


Perhaps we were fortunate there was safety in numbers. Stock and station firms and banks to whom we owed so much knew that if they pushed a few they might start a landslide which would only aggravate the situation. By the end of 1987 the share market crash meant it was no longer just farmers and rural communities which were in financial disarray.


It took years to recover but the changes Douglas, and subsequently Ruth Richardson, made helped contribute to that recovery. So while we didn’t like Douglas’s medicine at the time and could argue about the method and timing of its delivery, few would disagree that farming and New Zealand are economically healthier because of it.




Cowley wins chidlren’s book awards


There is no such thing as a good children’s book, a good book is a good book.


I may not have the quote word for word and I’m not sure to whom I should attribute it (possibly Tolkien?). But regardless of the exact wording and who said it first, it is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.


The only bit of advice I proffer uninvited to new parents is to read any book given to their baby and put it away until the child is able to read it for her/himself if they don’t like it. This comes from experience because when children take a shine to a book they want it read umpteen times; and if I didn’t like it the first time I liked it even less on the umpteenth reading.


That never happend with books by Joy Cowley whose books were relished no matter how many times they were requested. This has been recognised by many literary prizes and she picked up two more last night. Snake and Lizard, illustrated by Gavin Bishop won the Junior Fiction category and Book of the Year at the NZ Post Book Awards  .

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