Political commentator Jane Clifton is an enigma when it comes to her political leanings. She was married to National MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, and she has recently been seen out and about "holding hands"with Trevor Mallard. I am not one who normally spreads gossip but it is interesting to try and understand the influences on a prominent, widely published columnist and, in the case of Clifton, she is apparently comfortable associating with members from either of the two larger parties. What is intriguing in most of her writing for the Listener is the almost total absence of any reference to the Greens.
Over the entire past year of writing about politics in New Zealand I can only remember the Greens being referred to a handful of times by Clifton. While her commentary on National and Labour is obviously informed by her relationships with individuals in both parties, anything written about the Greens appears to lack substance (and she hasn't been noticed fraternizing with any Green MP of either gender). Considering the Greens are now firmly established as the third largest party in our political system and at one point this year achieved 17% in a Roy Mogan Poll it seems bizarre that Act, New Zealand First and the Maori Party receive more attention from Clifton.
In the last two Listeners Clifton discussed who had been the most outstanding politicians for 2012 and reviewed the political year. Tau Henare's bid to become the next speaker gets a mention, so does Richard Prosser's texts describing male MP's neck ties at the beginning of each sitting day and even a throwaway line from Parekura about child poverty gets attention. The performance of any Green MP whether positive or negative is totally absent. In Clifton's overview of the New Zealand economy she managed to mention the Maori Party and Winston Peters' contributions to economic debate and somehow overlooked Russel Norman's.
If the Greens did little and were entirely ineffective I could probably understand Clifton's lack of recognition, however this was certainly not the case and reference could have been made to any of the following:
- Russel Norman was widely referred to as leader of the opposition while Shearer struggled to find his feet. Norman was regarded as very credible when talking about economics and even though much fun was had describing his idea using of quantitative easing to help our manufacturers as just "printing money", it is interesting to note that both the US and Japan are using this to boost their own economies quite successfully. The ICT paper recently launched by Norman is a sensible and practical approach to growing jobs and producing a sustainable revenue stream.
- Metiria Turei has been a strong critic of Paula Bennett's welfare initiatives and as both have similar backgrounds as sole parents, it is Turei who has the greater credibility with those in a similar position. Her reference to "Planet Key" in one debate turned the tables on the Prime Minister who often used the phrase to belittle Labour or the Greens. His bizarre responses to Turei's challenges were quickly ridiculed. "Zip it sweetie", has been supported by many as the quip of the year while others have remarked that Planet Key has been highly effective in emphasizing that Key is out of touch with most New Zealanders.
- Kevin Hague has impressed with his thoughtful and statesman like contributions to mine safety, ACC and marriage equality. He even had Judith Collins agreeing to meet with him regarding his solutions to the ACC debacles.
- Holly Walker needed all her considerable intelligence and communication skills to promote the Lobbying Discloser Bill she inherited from Sue Kedgley and get it passed through it's first reading. It has been widely panned for its construction, but Holly's ability to promote the need for such a bill, her openness in recognising the flaws and her willingness to collaborate over changes increased her credibility as an effective politician.
- Kennedy Graham has tirelessly challenged National's retrogressive behaviour regarding climate change. In a hard hitting and eloquent speech he criticized the Government with "ecocide" because of further weakening of the ETS, drawing complaints from National MPs.
- Gareth Hughes seems to be one of the most despised opposition MPs for most rightwing bloggers, and this in itself must be an indication of his effectiveness. He was the strongest voice holding the Government to account for their response to the Rena disaster and his dogged opposition to fracking saw the Commissioner for the Environment review the practice. While she didn't call for a moratorium as Gareth would have liked she did have concerns regarding the quality of regulation and oversight of the industry. Gareth also has much support from the ICT geeks who generally feel that he is the only MP who actually understands the industry.
- Eugenie Sage has impressed many with her knowledge of local government and her advocacy for clean water. Sage is also the only MP to take a direct interest in the proposed commercial schemes to construct a tunnel and a monorail in Fiordland. She even walked the planned route of the monorail so that she could see for herself what impact it will have on the World Heritage Park.
- Julie Anne Genter has had both Gerry Brownlee and Bill English struggling to justify their Roads of National Significance (RONS) through her determined and informed questioning. She had Gerry Brownlee admit (with support from the Speaker) that the justification for the motorways was largely based on his view that they were a good idea. Bill English found himself struggling to explain how the taxpayer wouldn't be covering the cost of an unnecessary motorway against stiff questioning from the new MP.
- Catherine Delahunty was nicknamed "Catherine with the Passion" by Maori teachers for her strong advocacy of both the Treaty and education. She has also been praised by a prominent blogger on Maori politics as one of the most effective Maori MPs, despite being a Pakeha. She has been described as "a nice, well intentioned, but slightly barmy hippy"by the MSM but Maori and those working in education have greatly appreciated her passionate support.
- Denise Roche was the first MP to speak out against the diabolical treatment by the Port of Auckland against their workers. She has been a strong advocate for unions and low waged New Zealanders. Denise also received recognition for her able support of Te Ururoa Flavell's bill to reduce the harm of Pokie machines in low socioeconomic communities.
- Jan Logie was the recipient of praise from Cameron Slater early in the year for helping a young woman outside of her own electorate who received attention from other politicians for political purposes but Logie was the only one who genuinely offered real support. When the inequality between the incomes of men and women has become steadily worse under this Government it has been Logie who has highlighted this in Parliament. Despite criticism from the caustic Maggie Barry, she has been a strong advocate for the largely ignored transgender community who have had no effective political champion since Georgina Beyer left five years ago.
- David Clendon has not had the same media attention as most other Green MPs but he has been traveling the country talking to those involved in small and medium sized businesses. Clendon's background in managing his own business has provide him with a real insight into the needs of business owners and provided considerable credibility as he promotes sustainable models. The Government's focus on corporates, overseas procurement and lack of regional support has been very challenging for smaller business owners within New Zealand.
- Steffan Browning is effectively explaining the threats of introducing GE crops into our country and his knowledge and understanding of the risks to New Zealand's argicultural sector because of a relaxed attitude in this regard is impressive. A speaking tour of the country was organised by Browning and supported by two Australian farmers with first hand experience of GE and the negative consequences.
- Mojo Mathers made the headlines early in the year as she strived to get Parliamentary support to allow her to fully engage in her role as an MP. She clashed with the Speaker over his lack of accommodation for her need for extra staffing and won widespread sympathy. In Mathers the Greens have an MP who can truly advocate for New Zealanders with disabilities, all 660,000 of them (2006 figures). Mojo has also taken over Sue Kedgley's responsibility of food and has been prominent in advocating for proper labeling.
The Greens have had no leadership controversies, no rogue MPs, or no major public gaffs that have damaged all the other parties over the past year and they have been a disciplined and focussed team. This alone should attract attention and earn praise from political commentators and for Jane Clifton to ignore the Greens entirely in her review of the year points to it being a deliberate act. Perhaps her political leanings are not such an enigma after all.