Speech to 2015 Green Party AGM – Metiria Turei

Speech – Green Party

Speech to 2015 Green Party AGM – Metiria Turei


Introduction

Kia ora

I have to say I feel a little bit like the Bachelorette.

It’s certainly been a while since I’ve had four men chasing after me to become my partner.

And while they may not have the rippling abs and paleo diet toned bodies of the TV version, our bachelors are all political Adonis’s.

Their political smarts, campaigning skills and genuine passion for our environment and people make them all worthy suitors.

It’s been said that a week is a long time in politics. I’m sure for our four leadership candidates; the last week has been the longest one ever.

But the election of the new male Co-leader today isn’t the only cause for celebration this weekend.

Today we find ourselves celebrating both the future and the past.

This weekend we celebrate both our 25th anniversary as a party and cap off our most successful political year to date.

The theme of this AGM is forward, and I can’t think of a more appropriate word to encapsulate where our movement is right at this moment.

We will be moving forward with new leadership.

Moving forward on the key issues of our time, climate change and inequality.

Growing and moving forward in membership numbers, volunteers and fundraising.

And every day across the country, our central mission of a fairer and more sustainable world is moving forward and taking hold in the day-to-day lives of ordinary New Zealanders.

The Greens are the movement of the moment.

So I encourage you to think of this AGM not as a meeting, but more like a party!

25 years

Today, we’re looking back on the past 25 years, to celebrate all we’ve achieved.

And it has been a lot.

Twenty five years ago, 1300 short weeks, the Green Party was formed.

In 1990 we stood for the first time under the Green Party banner at a general election.

Ours was one of several small parties to stand that year – and aside from Jim Anderton in New Labour, all the rest of us failed to gain a seat due to the unfairness of the old ‘first Past the Post electoral system.

But there was to be a major difference between those other small parties that stood in 1990 and us.

We are still here.

Not one single party other than National and Labour that stood in the 1990 election is still around, let alone doing better than ever.

A quarter of a century after that first attempt at parliamentary representation, we are firmly established as the third party in New Zealand politics and one of the most successful Green parties in the world.

That is a truly amazing achievement.

And we owe it to all hard working, volunteering party activists who have travelled the Green party safe walking and cycle track:

Stand up if you’ve been with us since Value Party days – that’s the 1970s for you young’uns

Who joined in the 80’s – and do you still have your suits with the power shoulders?

Who joined in the 1990s – anyone still have a Kurt Cobain haircut?

You can sit down now, I can hear your knees creaking.

You all, our oldest members and our youngest, along with Caucus members like Nandor Tanczos, Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley, Keith Locke and Mike Ward have built this party, so that not only it is still standing but still achieving 25 years on.

From the campaigns for a GE Free Aotearoa, ecological economics, energy efficiency, social justice, food, human rights, buy local and so much more, to tackling inequality and climate change we have built this party together.

Let me share some truly amazing results of just the last year with you, and I think each deserves an applause.

• The largest Green vote ever at last year’s election!

• Fourteen Green MPs for the second election in a row!

• The only party, other than National and Labour, to win more than ten percent of the party vote in two consecutive elections!

• Record numbers of signed-up Green Party members!

• Thousands and thousands of non-members signed up and actively volunteering on our campaigns!

• Fundraising more money for our election campaign than Labour!

The Green Party’s success is down to all of you.

It’s down to the fact that our party gets that building long term success is about more than the personality of our leaders, or chasing the issue de jour.

It’s about building succession, and stable change in leadership.

It’s about putting energy into building membership and branches.

And it is about taking leadership on the issues that matter, not just the issues that grab headlines.

We have succeeded because we stand up for what we believe in.

We stand for the environment; for kids; for the future. And people get that.

I want to especially acknowledge some special people here today who have played a crucial role in leading our party.

First off I want to acknowledge and thank Jeanette Fitzsimons. You would be hard pressed to identify anyone who has campaigned harder to love and protect our environment.

I confess I was pretty intimidated by Jeanette when I first joined the party, such a steely intellect wrapped in her warm grey haired smile. Not only did she provide me such a great example of leadership, when she told me she was an anarchist, I knew I’d love her forever.

I also want to acknowledge Rod Donald, represented here today by his widow Nicola and daughter Holly.

Rod’s tragic and all too soon passing was one of the greatest blows this party has suffered. But it was testament to his leadership and the party he helped to build that we recovered stronger, not weaker.

And I also want to acknowledge my partner in crime of the last six years, Russel Norman.

Your intelligence and tenacity has been a force to reckon with.

It is a testament to your skills that even Bill English was singing your praises on economics in Parliament recently.

You have driven us forward, built on our economic credibility and held the Government to account on all manner of issues, from climate change to spying, Reserve Bank governance to cleaning up our waterways.

Your voice has been at the forefront of building a better New Zealand in your nine years as co-leader of our party. For that we owe you an enormous debt of gratitude.

Of course there are many other people I could name, who have played critical roles in our success as a party over the past 25 years.

I hope over the course of this weekend you share your stories, your party histories because it is on the shoulders of those who built this waka that we stand as we steer our course forward.

Leading on the issues of our time

Our party’s history is of being ahead of the curve.

In the past, this saw us written off as fringe.

What would a bunch of hippies and treaty activists know about the economy?

But today we see our ideas, things we’ve been talking about for years, forming part of the majority consensus.

If orange is the new black, then green must be the new mainstream.

Take climate change. Once written off as a conspiracy theory, it is now basically 100% accepted by the scientific community, and is one of the four political priorities for the US State Department this year.

Child poverty, for 30 years a huge stain on our nation and tolerated by successive Governments, now regularly sits as the top concern of New Zealanders in public polling.

Who would have thought, 25 years ago, or even 6 years ago, that a National Government would actually increase benefits? Who would have dreamed?

After six years of denying that raising the income of our poorest families mattered, National was forced to move on child poverty in the budget.

Give yourselves a pat on the back. Because we, and others who’ve worked alongside us, have generated such a groundswell of concern for our nation’s children that the Government was left with no option but to act.

That is called being an effective opposition.

And while National’s move is a long way from our plan to reduce poverty, it is important in one critical way.

For 40 years we have been told that raising benefits is the political bogeyman.

And yet, it’s been done, by National no less, and with barely a whimper of opposition from the public. That bogeyman just got slayed.

So my expectation is that when we are in Government, and when we ensure that all our children are raised in families with enough income to offer them a good life, and a shot at a great future, National will support those efforts too.

The Greens have been having a good run with National adopting our policies lately.

After six years of rejecting the Green’s calls for a capital gains tax to cool the Auckland housing market, surprise surprise, National whipped a capital gains tax out of its hat, in the days before the budget.

Again it’s not the capital gains tax we would introduce, and John Key’s refusal to even call it a capital gains tax doesn’t help matters, but it is a start.
And it is an acknowledgment that we were right.

These are small victories, but they pave the way for larger ones.

Victories that help to shift the consensus.

It’s quite gratifying to watch the ideas we have been promoting being adopted by National.

We still however have a little way to go with climate change.

Climate change is a top priority for us, and for the world.

As a movement we have succeeded in putting climate change on political and public agenda.

Tomorrow we will publically launch our climate change campaign at this conference.

I have my fingers crossed that the strength of our campaign will force a capital gains tax slash child poverty-style back-down from National also.

Imagine if before the Paris conference later this year National is forced to commit to an ambitious emissions reduction target because we have built the movement and momentum for real change.

The ball is in our court and I know all of you here will be doing all you can to make sure we win on climate change soon.

It is a hallmark of us as a party. The perpetual push for change, often against the odds.

We are the only party with courage and solutions to do what is needed, rather than what is convenient, and we are buoyed by the overwhelming public response and call for action.

That success comes from persistence. From the passing of the Greens EECA Act in 2000, we have produced extensive policy solution work: Turn Down the Heat, Kicking the Carbon Habit, Getting There, the Six Pack of Climate Bills and just last year, the Climate Protection Plan.

We haven’t moved National yet but with your help we can.

It seems hard but if we can move them on child poverty, we can move them on anything.

The Greens will do everything we can to look after our children’s and the younger generation’s future – a smart, sustainable future that is not ravaged by the avoidable impacts of climate change.

Out of touch Government

I am well aware that the Government is getting stale and tired, you see it every day in Parliament.

Maurice Williamson wants to jump ship to ACT, and Judith Collins is stirring ferment in the backbenches.

But more important than their internal issues, this is a Government that has lost touch with the everyday lives of New Zealanders.

Take transport. Rail patronage in Auckland is through the roof, but the Government persists on spending more money on new motorways rather than investing in the city rail link that Aucklanders want and deserve.

Take housing. The Government sat on their hands as homeownership rates plummeted, especially amongst the young and the poor, and their inaction has denied many the hope of owning their own home.

Take energy. Power prices continue to rise, while the privatised power companies post record profits.

The longer John Key and his National Party sit in the beehive, the more out of touch with the lived lives of New Zealanders they become.

Maybe they don’t care about public transport because they don’t catch the train.

Maybe they don’t care about the cost of housing because they already own a home, or two.

Maybe they don’t care about the price of power, because they have never had to sit at the kitchen table with the bills piled up working out how to pay for the power bill and the school trip coming up.

National is out of touch with the lives lived by so many New Zealanders.

They are also out of touch with our aspirations.

I was heartened by recent research from Motu that showed over 80% of New Zealanders want to see the Government take strong action on climate change.

I am heartened when I see child poverty coming out as the number one concern facing the country.

The reality is that New Zealanders want good green change, and National is incapable of delivering that.

So what does a visionless Government do when confronted with this reality? They pinch ideas from us.

Where better to look for new and fresh ideas than the Green Party policy box, full to overbrimming as it is.

But as much as I love being a political catalyst, I would much rather be in Government, enacting our ideas properly, in full and in our own right.

And that, I’m sure is in our very near future.

Conclusion

I don’t doubt for a moment that our new Co-leader, whoever you choose, will lead us into Government.

After 25 years of building, that is our next greatest challenge. We know how to win on ideas; to win votes and to win hearts.

We now need to win Government and to make real for New Zealanders, our vision of a smart, sustainable and fair country.

We are the only party, still, with real solutions to end child poverty.

We are the only party, still, with real solutions to climate change.

This weekend we celebrate 25 years of hard work, passion, and achievement for our people and our planet.

Bring on the next 25!

ENDS

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