The Green Party has moved a no-confidence motion in the Labour-Progressive Government, based on the failure of the Prime Ministerís Statement to Parliament to address fundamental concerns about the direction of social, environmental, foreign and economic policy.
"I Move that the amendment be amended by omitting all the words after "this House has no confidence" and substituting the following words:
"in the Labour-led minority government, because of its determination to allow the release of genetically engineered organisms, exposing our health, our environment and our economy to significant risks; because, despite there being some positive elements in the Government's programme, its economic policies fail to address poverty and inequality; because it has failed to demonstrate any significant leadership in its programme of action on sustainable development; fails to invest in our young people with a tax funded tertiary education system, continues to perpetuate Treaty grievances in areas such as Ngawha; and continues to erode New Zealand's sovereignty by using New Zealand forces to support US led operations in the Gulf, by trading away New Zealand's rights through secret GATS negotiations and by supporting corporate globalisation policies which endanger our unique identity."[Mrs Fitzsimons continues with a highly interesting speech on the relationships between growth, well-being and peace:]
As we sit here in the safety and comfort of this House all our debates and deliberations are overshadowed by the horror of an imminent attack by the world's mightiest military power on what has become an oppressed, poor and suffering third world country. Yet while New Zealand - and the world - talks of war, the Prime Minister remains fixated with abstract concepts of "growth."
What is not recognised is that this Government's No. 1 goal of 4% cumulative annual growth in the size of the economy - a goal shared by all western nations and many others as well - leads inevitably to resource wars, of which this war to grab more oil is just one example.
What is missing from the Government's agenda today is a recipe for growth in human and ecological wellbeing. Surely that is the task of government? But instead it is replaced with an abstraction - growth in GDP. A number has been placed on this abstraction - 4% a year. That number has over the last three years become the overriding goal of this government. Improvements in human and ecological wellbeing, reduction of poverty, sustaining the planet, are now only to be allowed if they contribute to meeting that 4%.
The transition has been very subtle. The incoming government in 1999 seemed to have a genuine desire to work for real social and ecological goals. Economic growth was a means, not an end. That is why the Greens supported them on confidence and supply Now that has subtly changed so that 4% annual cumulative growth in GDP is THE end, and everything else must serve it.
GDP is both too narrow and too generalised to measure anything useful. It does not tell us if the poor are getting poorer and most of society's wealth is held by a few. It does not tell us if we are paying more and more to control pollution and crime rather than real goods and services. It does not tell us if we are plundering the environment to produce short term monetary returns.
This message, on which Green parties around the world were founded and on which many eminent economists have written, has been distorted by those who wish to ridicule it, including I'm sad to say, by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. They claim that the Greens are anti-growth. We are, of course, anti growth in poverty, pollution, war, working hours, child abuse, diabetes, heart disease….But these all contribute to the growth you measure with the simplistic GDP ruler. The sort of growth all other parties are striving for is increased by oil spills, smoking, car crashes, murders, dog attacks, toxic wastes.
Let me tell the House, then, about a Green recipe for growth.
We need growth in education and training for our young people. We need growth in preventative health care, low cost affordable housing, public transport, the minimum wage, the use of rail and coastal shipping for freight, solar wind and wood energy systems, a huge range of organic growing technologies to reduce the use of pesticides and add export value to our food products; cleaner production technologies in industry; waste recycling and reuse; plantations of a much more diverse range of species, including natives, for timber production; clean and employment rich ways of processing the wall of wood.
These things will not happen as a result of a generalised goal to grow GDP. They will only happen if they are targeted directly. Alongside this growth we must accept there needs to be shrinkage in some industries. Fossil fuels. Pesticides. Long distance trucking. Armaments. Tobacco. One-trip containers. Products designed for obsolescence. There have been many attempts to quantify the effects of continued growth in resource consumption and pollution. They all show we are near the end of the line. The recent WWF report calculates that at present growth rates humanity will be using twice the biological capacity of the planet by 2050.
A 4% compound growth rate gives a doubling time of less than 18 years. So unless we are very careful about what we allow to grow and what must shrink, we are talking about twice our present demand for energy by 2020 and four times by 2038. Can we double our roading and sewage and water systems in 18 years? And then quadruple it in another 18? Where will we put them? Can we double our use of pesticides? Plastics? Steel?
What will our cities look like in 2020 with double the area of asphalt and what will they look like in 2038 with quadruple the present paved area?
What do we do with the mountains of obsolete products and the myriad of useless plastic junk that plagues our lives?
Do we seriously not care whether our garden grows weeds or vegetables - so long as it grows fast?
When you look at it like that it is patently absurd to focus solely on growing the physical economy - and even services use "stuff" - twice as many lattes is twice as much water and detergent to clean cups.
Quality of life is what matters - and on some level we all know that no amount of televisions, fast food or even good coffee can substitute for clean air, clean water, and safe food or for the sense that how we earn our livelihood is also helping create a better world. Our system at present is eroding our life support systems and people's basic sense of dignity that comes from meaningful work.
If we target all the social and ecological improvements we need, and ensure that all of them can occur within the limits of the biosphere to produce resources and absorb wastes, we will have a sustainable development strategy. This Government cannot have a Sustainable Development Strategy because it has specifically made it subservient to that abstract goal of 4%. Instead the Prime Minister talks about sustainable growth, which means growth that never stops, rather than growth that sustains human society and ecological systems.
So I was deeply disappointed but not at all surprised to read the document that purports to be an action plan for Sustainable Development, released at the end of January. It is basically a rewrite of existing documents like the Growth and Innovation Strategy. It has no timeframes, no targets, no practical steps and no plans to change the culture of the public service to understand and practise sustainability. It is light years behind other nations. And it is not even mentioned in the Prime Minister's speech, which shows how important it is as a guide to this year's programme.
The Minister says SD is about growth. It is not. Nowhere in the world is that accepted. It is about meeting human needs while living within the limits of the planet.
We are pleased to see some targeting of good growth in the Prime Minister's statement. We welcome statements about making more students eligible for the living allowance; help for low income families; more information and opportunities for education about the Treaty; more funding for mental health. But they are broad statements with no specifics and we will have to wait to see if they mean anything real.
There are so many aspects of our wellbeing that will be denied the growth they need while the dominant goal is just to make the economy 4% bigger every year.
The list is long. Of particular concern are the rights, protections and opportunities that New Zealanders are being denied and will be further denied as this government continues selling out this country's right to control its own destiny to the transnational corporations that pull the strings behind the scenes at the WTO.
The PM makes much of the success of the Film Fund in making triumphs like 'The Whale Rider' possible. Yet her government, secretly negotiating further give-aways in the latest GATS round, may be about to give foreign film companies the same access to state assistance for film making as New Zealanders. That's what the National government in the 90s did when it refused to make a GATS reservation on radio and television services. This means that the current Labour government is not able to implement the Labour Party's policy on local content quotas for broadcasting because it would breach our GATS obligations.
The current round of GATS requests made of New Zealand includes the whole category of Environmental Services, and this includes ''Nature, biodiversity and landscape protection services''. In other words, foreign corporations are seeking the right to replace our Department of Conservation, and gain control of and profit from the care of our natural heritage. This would be truly selling New Zealand's birthright - and for what?
Every time we give a foreign corporation the right to provide, and to profit from providing, public good services (like water supply, education, conservation, research and development, health, broadcasting, etc.) on an equal footing with New Zealand public providers, we effectively de-skill and disempower ourselves. We also worsen our economic situation, as these corporations repatriate surpluses that were once available for re-investment in New Zealand. We further narrow an economic skill base that has already been shrunk by our obsession with exporting agricultural commodities (because we can batter open markets for them via the WTO) rather than diversifying into knowledge-based primary and secondary production and producing quality rather than quantity, high value rather than high volume exports.
Those crude commodity exports also come at too high an environmental and social cost. The US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, is not happy about New Zealand moving to full food labelling, including GE content, as it may constitute a non-tariff trade barrier. This is another example of how the government's obsession with trade liberalisation at any cost is in danger of depriving New Zealand of its sovereign rights, and New Zealanders of important rights to know what they are eating and to make wise food choices.
The Green Party will continue its efforts this year to prevent the release of genetically engineered crops and animals into our environment, our farms and our food supply. We will also continue to explain to the people of New Zealand why it is that this Government cannot see the obvious economic truth that NZ's future prosperity lies in supplying what the world market wants, and that is GE free clean and natural food. As the Prime Minister has just said, repositioning up the value chain as a supplier of highly desired and high value goods and services. Except they are about to close the door to that opportunity in October by lifting the moratorium on the release of GMOs.
It cannot see it because in its pursuit of perpetual growth it has set its sights on a free trade agreement with the US and it knows that a precondition of that is free entry for US GE crops and products and no labelling of GE foods.
The NZ public has made it clear in survey after survey that it does not want our farming, our exports, our food or our environment compromised in this way but it is non-negotiable for this government because of their prior commitment to pleasing a foreign power.
It was this desire to please President Bush that committed us to joining a war against the people of Afghanistan - a fruitless war in terms of its supposed objective, catching Osama Bin Laden. Now the focus has shifted from Afghanistan and the promised reconstruction is not happening - a destroyed country is largely being left to rot while US adventurism turns elsewhere.
The obsession not just of NZ but of other countries and particularly the US with growth is about to plunge us into yet another, and worse, war against an already impoverished and suffering people. There are two reasons for that.
First, there is nothing like war to boost the economy. There is no activity that wastes stuff as fast as war does. It wipes out buildings, water supplies, farms, communications systems, ships and aircraft and uses up weapons that are nearing their use by date. That stuff has to be replaced and replacing it will grow the economy. It is no surprise that some economists have concluded that the US economy cannot keep growing without war.
Secondly, I want to refer to a very insightful comment by US energy guru Amory Lovins. He said "If we had put our kids in energy efficient cars in the seventies we would not be putting them in tanks today". He said it in 1991 about the Gulf war but it is just as true now. The US economy, serving 4% of the world's people uses a quarter of the world's oil. That is not just because they are rich, but because they are wasteful. If US vehicles had used state of the art energy efficiency the US would still have been self-sufficient in oil and would have had no need to try to control Middle East politics.
The so-called leader of the free world is a man who would rather accept hundreds of thousands of dead children than drive a smaller car. Put as starkly as that our moral compass ought to be clear.
We should make no mistake - this proposed invasion (I refuse to call it a war, which takes two to fight) is about control of oil. It is about a refusal to adopt a sane energy policy to use it more frugally and develop renewables. Why else should the US treat Iraq so differently from North Korea?
Even by the Bush administration's own surreal standards, this sends a bizarre message to "rogue" states - disarm, allow inspection, and be invaded, acquire weapons of mass destruction and you'll be treated with kid gloves.
The brutality of Saddam against his own people and his possession of horrendous weapons was simply not an issue when the US was funding and arming him against Iran. What has changed? The weapons search and the demand for evidence has become a charade. It must be intensely frustrating for the US not to be able to say publicly to Saddam "we know you have the weapons because we have the receipts". John Pilger points out that the reason the US wanted to "edit" Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN is that it contains the names of 150 US, British and other western companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical and biological and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions.
So where should New Zealand stand?
Let us remember what is really going on here. A few men in a room on the other side of the world have decided to drop 800 cruise missiles on Baghdad in 48 hours. There are not 800 military targets in Baghdad - it is blanket bombing, carpet bombing they are planning. The WHO has estimated that will produce half a million injured, needing hospital treatment that will not be available. And that's not counting the dead. More than half the Iraqi population are under the age of 14. So that's a quarter of a million primary school children and babies burnt, mangled and shattered. Those men making the decision, and the pilots of the planes, will not have to look at them and neither will our TV screens dare to show them. Instead people will talk of collateral damage; unfortunate civilian casualties.
Those in this House who do not want to think graphically about what that will mean should leave now as I intend to read you a sentence from John Pilger's personal experience of a village bombed-out by B52s.
"The children's skin had folded back, like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. A small leg had been so contorted by the blast that the foot seemed to be growing from a shoulder. I vomited."
Those were not Arab children, they were Vietnamese. They were the reason our Prime Minister and many of the present Labour Government marched in the street against another US attack on a third world country. Where will they stand now?
I have been puzzled at the Prime Minister's stance so far. We can be relieved she has not supported Howard's rush to war alongside Bush and Blair but neither will she condemn it. We have not even seen a condemnation of President Bush's stated intention to use first strike nuclear weapons. She has behaved more as a media commentator, assessing the likelihood of war, than as an actor in the drama, capable of influencing it.
It is not enough to say we will go with the UN. Even if the US can arm twist another eight nations, four of whom themselves possess weapons of mass destruction and four of whom may be dependent on the US for aid or trade, that is not international endorsement, it is a breach of the Un Charter and it does not make an immoral war moral.
There is still no concrete evidence the weapons exist. The sole grounds for attack seems to be breach of the UN resolution in terms of co-operation with the weapons inspectors. But Israel has been in serious breach of a UN resolution for a very long time, and the five permanent members are themselves in breach of UN disarmament resolutions but no one is suggesting invading any of them.
This afternoon Helen Clark has called on Iraq to move rapidly to co-operate with the weapons inspectors to prevent war. That is fine. But why does she not also call on the US to follow the spirit of the UN Charter? Why does she not call on Israel to comply with UN resolutions? Why does she not call on the nuclear states to comply with UN disarmament resolutions and the Non-Proliferation Treaty? What sort of one-sided message is NZ sending?
Germany and France are using some imagination and trying alternatives. A greatly stepped-up inspection backed up with UN peace-keeping troops has the potential to disarm Saddam without killing the Iraqi people. We should support their initiative.
What the US wants is our moral support for invasion. Whether the people we send are military or medical it doesn't matter. Only strong and public diplomatic efforts to prevent an attack and complete condemnation of it if we fail will uphold the values on which Helen Clark and the Labour Party campaigned in the Vietnam days. It would be great to see the Prime Minister join us in the streets of most NZ cities and many countries of the world on Saturday, when massive public protest about a brutal and unnecessary war will erupt worldwide.
Let's hear it now from our Government: an unequivocal condemnation of this proposed butchery, a refusal to have any part in it; a refusal to see it as inevitable; a commitment to peace and justice, and a recognition that unless we develop our economy in a sustainable way war will always be inevitable.Jeanette Fitzsimons, co-leader of the New Zealand Aotearoa Green Party
Green Party Parliamentary Office
ph.04-470-6685, fax 472-6003
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