Little Green Men: Coming Or Going? Green Co-Leader, Metira Turei's State of the Nation speech made it very clear that her party has grown very weary of living on Planet Impotence - and may even be contemplating a departure for Planet Key. Her plans for Treasury to audit political parties' manifestos would certainly make the Greens' stay on Planet Key more comfortable.
I’M WORRIED that the oft-repeated claim that the Greens come from another planet, might, in fact, be true. Because only someone recently arrived from an altogether more benign solar system could possibly argue that the NZ Treasury casting its cold forensic eye over left-wing parties’ policies is a good idea. The astonishing naivety of the suggestion confirms every old socialist’s slur that when you’re dealing with the Greens, you’re dealing with the children of a very different tribe. And, honestly, after Metira Turei’s “State of the Nation” speech, I’m minded to amend the end of that sentence to read: “a very different and a very stupid tribe.”
According to Ms Turei: “New Zealanders deserve more transparency from their politicians so that they can better engage in the political system. That’s why the Green Party is proposing the establishment of [a Policy Costing Unit] to provide independent costings for the policies proposed by political parties. The PCU would be an independent unit within the Treasury and available to all parliamentary parties. It would help cut through the noise of political party promises and deliver New Zealanders unbiased information.”
Unbiased information! Clearly, the inhabitants of the planet Ms Turei has been visiting for the past 32 years are entirely ignorant of the 1984 neoliberal coup-d’état spearheaded by the leaders of the New Zealand Treasury. How else are we to explain her child-like faith in the Treasury’s lack of bias? Any other politically aware individual from this benighted chunk of our planet would have not the slightest difficulty in identifying No. 1 the Terrace, Wellington, as New Zealand’s Barad-dûr – dwelling place of the Dark Lord and source of all the woes of Middle Earth.
Can it really be true that Ms Turei has never heard of “Economics II”, the special Treasury division headed by the late Roger Kerr (of Business Roundtable fame) which, working alongside Dr Bryce Wilkinson and Dr Graham Scott of “Economics I”, was responsible for bringing together “Economic Management” – the policy bible for what came to be known as “Rogernomics”? Does she really not know that the current institutional “culture” of Treasury descends directly from these implacable ideologues?
Obviously not. Otherwise she wouldn’t dream of advocating that her party entrust its policies to Treasury’s tender mercies. Any more than she’d happily dispatch her youngest child for a sleepover at Michael Jackson’s Neverland!
And yet, Ms Turei was here, in New Zealand, for the entire time Treasury’s neoliberal evangelists were transforming the country. She knows full well that before 1984 the number of children living below the poverty line was 15 percent, and that after 20 years of Treasury-guided economic “reforms”, that figure had nearly doubled.
So, if eradicating child poverty is one of the Greens’ most important “twenty-first century policies” (as she told us, on the radio, only this week) then how is she going to feel when Treasury solemnly vouchsafes to the electorate that the measures her party proposes are not only unlikely to reduce child poverty but may even make it worse. And if she refuses to believe that Treasury would stoop to such blatantly political tactics, then all I can recommend is that she spend an hour or two with Sir Michael Cullen. As Labour’s finance minister from 1999 until 2008, he became something of an aficionado of Treasury’s “ideological burps”.
There is, of course, another explanation for Ms Turei’s extraordinary suggestion. It involves the Greens not arriving from, but departing for, another planet. Planet Key.
After all, the planet they’re currently living on – Planet Impotence – is a very dreary place. Nothing ever happens on this dismal chunk of rock, and what makes their lives even more frustrating is that Planet Key looks like a place where the right sort of Green could have such a lot of fun! It’s so bright, so blue, and everyone living there looks so happy. A material girl soon grows tired of hanging out with the poor and needy. Surely, it must be someone else’s turn to nursemaid the Labour Party! Especially when, every time Labour manages to construct a spaceship capable of lifting them off Planet Impotence, they always leave the Greens behind!
And that’s the beauty of establishing a PCU! It more-or-less guarantees that the Green Party’s Treasury-vetted policies will be ideologically indistinguishable from those of a National Government.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times, The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 January 2016.