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Judith Collins' little green lies

New Zealand is not the United States, thank goodness. We don't have the same level of political partisanship nor public media outlets that blatantly display political bias. However, during the closing weeks of this campaign I do feel an infection of trumpism is evident. Judith Collins and her National Party are clearly struggling in the polls, there have been a number of campaign clangers and she has resorted to personal attacks. Attacking a popular Prime Minister who is globally revered has been problematic so she has resorted to venting her spleen at the Green Party instead. 

According to Collins the Green's dreaded wealth tax is the biggest threat to the world as we know it, most of the Greens are unemployable and god help our country if James Shaw or Marama Davidson became Deputy Prime Minister. Her ludicrous assertions reminded me of when Bill English, several elections ago, asked an audience to imagine a Green Minister of anything, clearly implying that it would be a national catastrophe.

For the past three years the country has experienced Green ministers and the world hasn't ended, in fact the opposite has happened.The Green Party Ministers have proved to be amongst the stronger performers in this government:

James Shaw achieved what would have been thought impossible a few years ago by getting cross-party support for the Zero Carbon Bill, even getting Federated Farmers on board. Convincing our major parties and industries that the climate crisis is real and that urgent action is needed was an essential beginning point. Thanks to James, we have shifted from being a country globally slated for dragging our heels on emission targets to one that is now regarded as leading the charge

Eugenie Sage has managed to reverse the decade of underfunding and misdirection of the Department of Conservation under a National Government. Eugenie is well regarded as an informed, hard working Minister who fully understands her portfolio. When attending a Federated Farmers initiated candidate meeting in the heart of Southland recently, one farmer felt compelled to announce to all that after working directly with Eugenie on an issue important to him, he came away very impressed with her knowledge and capability. 

Waste management has become a huge issue in New Zealand since we can no longer send our waste offshore to be supposedly processed. Eugenie Sage has been leading a strategy that will see better regulated product stewardship where the end of life for priority products will involve recovery, recycling and reuse (and new industries and jobs). 

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has used her knowledge and experience as an Australasian transport consultant to shift our previous transport focus on building motorways (that didn't pass benefit cost analysis) to an investment in road safety and more public transport. In its last term National's Roads of National Significance were an ideological, rather than fiscally sound policy that pulled money away from regional road maintenance. It appears they still want to stick to their fossil fuelled ideology rather than follow evidence and address our growing transport emissions.

Julie Anne, as Minister for Women, has also overseen a reduction in the gender pay gap. In the public sector that gap has been halved from what it was under National. 

As a Parliamentary Undersecretary for Justice, Jan Logie battled to provide support for those experiencing domestic violence. New Zealand leads the world for having amongst the highest levels of family violence. Jan's legislation to provide paid domestic violence leave provided world-wide recognition for a ground breaking approach to the problem. 

The Green Party has only eight MPs in parliament and yet our three ministers and undersecretary have been responsible for a good many of this government's achievements. It has also been the Greens who have introduced greater transparency of ministerial activity by opening their diaries to public scrutiny. Sadly an earlier attempt to set up part of treasury to independently cost parties' campaign policies each election was not supported by the National Party. However, the Green Party continues to have its policies independently scrutinised and it is interesting to note that the party that claims to be the most fiscally responsible struggles with its costings credibility

So let's return to Judith Collins' last desperate bid to frighten voters away from the Greens:

Is the wealth tax really that bad? 

New Zealand has experienced the fastest growing inequity in the developed world and we now have a situation where the top 10% now control 59% of our nation's wealth and 50% of our population have to share 2% between them. The fact that New Zealanders over-invest in property to make capital gain has helped create the most unaffordable housing in the world and fuelling even greater inequity and housing poverty. 

A wealth tax isn't easy to apply and has its issues, but given that Labour has refused to consider a capital gains tax there is little left to gain some revenue from capital gains and take the heat out of non productive investments. The Green Party is the only party that fully recognises that we tax our poor more heavily than most other developed nations and our wealthiest manage to largely avoid paying their share. Only the richest 6% would have to pay any wealth taxes under the Greens plan and at 1% of net wealth over $1m (or $2m for a couple) most will pay less than under a capital gains tax anyway. 

Judith's claim that Labour will cave in to the Greens wealth tax policy is also not a certainty (although something similar is needed), given Jacinda's strong commitment not to introduce a CGT. 

The Green Party Co-leaders wouldn't have paid tax before entering parliament and "most of them are unemployable I would have thought."

This statement is just silly. As a successful business owner and past PwC consultant 
James would have paid tax and Marama would have been taxed on the salary she received when working for the Human Rights Commission. 

As for the employability of the rest of our Green MPs and candidates, practically all are well qualified and have strong employment records. Chloe Swarbrick ran numerous successful businesses from the age of eighteen, Golriz Gharaman was a barrister before entering parliament and I would have thought the occupations of others in the top 20 of the Green's list easily contradicts the claim of unemployability: teacher, mental health researcher, NGO co-ordinator, senior solicitor, general manager of an energy company, registered psychotherapist, IT professional, university lecturer, small business owner...

The prospect of James Shaw or Marama Davidson being Deputy Prime Minister.

To begin with the Green Party has never stated that the deputy role would be part of future negotiations and policy gains rather than specific roles tend to be the priority. However, James Shaw is widely recognised for his calm and steady demeanour when under pressure and his ability to build consensus across party divides. John Campbell called him the most polite man in parliament. He does appear to have many attributes that would make a useful deputy.

Marama Davidson isn't number one on the Green List for nothing. Marama's personal warmth and empathy, especially for the many struggling families in Aotearoa, would be an asset. When those on the right demonise taxation and even refer to it is theft, Marama's "tax is love" statement was designed to change the tone of the tax discourse. In reality tax helps build a civilised society and provides the wrap around supports for those in need. Taxation provides our schools and teachers, doctors and nurses and our police. It also provides the infrastructure like roads and power supply that helps our economy function. Cutting tax as National wishes to do would necessarily mean cuts to essential services that support vulnerable people as they have done before.

It is concerning when the heartless dismissal of those who struggle with poverty or obesity can be seen as political strength and expressions of love and compassion are seen as weakness. It has been recognised that most of the countries that have managed the Covid-19 epidemic best have had female leaders and other research supports the fact that traditional male leadership styles are ineffective. I guess it all depends on what sort of society we want to live in, one driven by GDP or one that wants our economy to support our collective wellbeing. The realisation of these two approaches can be clearly seen by comparing the United States approach to Covid-19 to our own. 

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.



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