The Only Thing Green About ACT Is Envy – David Seymour’s “Green” Doesn’t Fly

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At his Party Convention yesterday – newly rehoused from the phone-box customarily used in previous years – David Seymour took aim at the Greens.

There’s nothing especially new about this … except for the angle of the attack.

For you see, in Seymour’s world, being part of a Yellow party that’s frequently overlain by Blue, makes one apparently a rather deep shade of green. That was certainly how I felt reading some of his speech.

The substance of Seymour’s claim to be “more Green than the Green Party” appears to be based around the fact he spent $550 less in air-fares than the average Green MP in the last quarter of 2015.

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That’s um … not a lot of air-travel, to be frank. Particularly if the fares in question are business-class.

There’s also a reasonably obvious reason why a Green MP might rack up more in air-fares than the Member for Epsom.

Epsom, with its twenty square kilometer geographic footprint, is New Zealand’s smallest electorate. You can quite literally walk from one side of it to the other in under two hours. To get back in at the next Election, all David Seymour has to do is continue to keep a majority of the fifty thousand or so voters in his own back yard happy. There may be some air-travel involved in his portfolio responsibilities, or as part of flagging efforts at attempting to get ACT electorate branches in other centers off the ground … but fundamentally, his constituency is strongly geographically concentrated. And that means that his connection and outreach efforts – as well as his speeches and thinking – are pedestrian.

The Greens, by contrast, are quite different. They don’t really “do” electorate-outreach in the traditional sense. In fact, I’m given to understand that the way they ran things during their last Party term, was by pouring their Parliamentary Services resourcing into ‘campaign offices’ rather than the shadow-electorate outreach more common for Opposition parties. Even to the point of reportedly suggesting that people with local issues approach local MPs from other parties instead for help.

Instead, they have a nation-wide constituency covering an area more than ten thousand times larger.

It ought not take more than a moment’s consideration to realize why Green MPs might use at least slightly more air travel than ACT’s lone gunman.

They have to. It’s just simply part and parcel of how they run as a party with a country-spanning support-base that they must connect with. (Interestingly, my own New Zealand First MPs averaged just a hair under $6,000 apiece over the same period. I’d be tempted to put that down to the fact they all seem to drive everywhere – covering occasionally quite incredible distances in so doing)

So by that rubric alone, it’s fairly difficult to countenance – let alone take seriously – ACT’s claim to being more green than the Green Party.

But it gets worse. (A common refrain with ACT, to be sure)

Other elements in Seymour’s quixotic drive to be seen as “environmentally friendly” include the complete privatization of LandCorp, and using the funds thus raised to dole out grants to private operators to run wildlife charities.

The alleged logic here was that it made sense for the Crown to get rid of an “asset that is environmentally damaging“. But this doesn’t make sense. Privatizing LandCorp’s farm holdings doesn’t suddenly and magically make them no longer farms. Instead, it puts these farms in private (and most likely foreign) hands. Who’s to say that intensification – leading to a consequent increase in pollution – is less likely to take place under private rather than state ownership.

All in all, I fail utterly to see how selling off and parceling off NZ’s state-owned farm assets is supposed to represent the more environmentally friendly option. Indeed, the likely outcome will be exactly the opposite.

Further, when it comes to the proposed usages for the funds raised … what ACT’s proposing is quite literally corporate welfare on an epically massive scale.

Their idea is to take a revenue-generating asset, sell it, then hand the proceeds on to private operators in order to fund what will assumedly be ring-fenced privately owned and jealously guarded if not outright for-profit wildlife sanctuaries.

Because when have commercial conservation efforts ever gone awry…

It’s also rather telling that ACT is branding this explicitly as the ‘charter school’ model coming to the conservation estate.

Of course, what it tells us, exactly, is that ACT has very little ability to learn from previous mistakes, and that the whole thing is likely to be an utter shambles with the taxpayer forced to pick up the ultimate bill.

About the only nice thing I can say about this is that it quite clearly and eloquently illustrates the core component of neoliberal economic thought: that it’s not about creating new wealth so much as it is taking public wealth and handing it directly over to their mates in the private sector.

If ACT were genuinely interested in embracing the principles of conservation and environmental stewardship, this would be something to be welcomed with open arms.

Unfortunately, that is not what they’re doing here. For them, a veneer of environmentalism is merely a cover for vigorously renewed petty point-scoring and internecine party partisan politics. Meanwhile, the closest they get to an interest in conservation is their desperate quest to protect that most endangered of species – the unreconstructed hard-neoliberal voter.

This weekend’s political barbs and policy announcements have resolutely revealed that the only thing “Green” about the ACT Party is the state of envy Seymour evidently has for the real Greens’ ability to convert their own – authentic – environmental principles into a genuine future existence as a party with a thriving nation-wide constituency.

26 COMMENTS

  1. The thing with Seymour and the Greens and air travel is classic. They have (what they want to be) their fancy conference with implications that what they are about and what they are going to come up with carries and has some sort gravitas.

    Then they come up with stuff like Green air travel which is so vacuous it can only be taken seriously by buffoons and simpletons.

    The so called “veneer of environmentalism” matches the veneer of intelligence it has tried to create layered with its veneer of being principled.

    At least they have the wit to concentrate on the environment knowing that would attract attention. Not doing that might make them have to talk about their half-baked but firm convictions about things economic and to do with people having choices. Unfortunately they know that sticking to those and showing any semblance of pursuing those strongly and articulating those vociferously would attract a few nutbars and ensure they remain in political oblivion.

    Two oversights discovered on checking: 1) “firm” convictions should have in there “until there’s a vote to be gained or lost, and 2) What about the knighthood for David because a few people got to watch some World cup Rugby in a bar at 5a.m. ?

  2. I shake my head in wonderment that dinosaurs like Act and Seymour still exist… in fact… all over the world neo liberalism has been discredited… and yet we STILL have these die hard’s trying to sneak in through the back door…

    Its as if they haven’t been listening to what people are saying…don’t they realize privatization is now a dirty word to use in political circles?…Even National said they would but when they were voted in there was huge public backlash from their own voters about selling any SOE’s.

    Seymour – THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN .

    THERE IS TO BE NO MORE SELLING OFF OF OUR PUBLIC ASSETS.

    OPEN YOUR EYES AND EARS , SON.

    AND ITS NOT OUR FAULT YOU WERE BORN TOO LATE TO BE ABLE TO CASH IN ON THE LANGE, DOUGLAS, BOLGER, SHIPLEY , RICHARDSON , BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE AND CLARK RORTiING OF THE PUBLIC WEALTH.

    Sorry son, – you dipped out.

    And don’t think Keys gonna save you when he slips out the back door soon to Hawaii and your political career is left tarred with what you made public recently.

    You’ll be the last person he will be thinking about.

  3. The laughable thing for me is the claim that the Greens social policies detract from their environmental credentials to the point of being hypocrites.
    So then what does releasing environmentally focused policies do for a party of right wing libertarians?
    Hardly core business I would have thought!
    The hystrionic Seymour swingball serve predictably circumnavigates the pole to strike a self inflicted blow between the eyes to remind him of the definition of hypocrisy!

  4. “About the only nice thing I can say about this is that it quite clearly and eloquently illustrates the core component of neoliberal economic thought: that it’s not about creating new wealth so much as it is taking public wealth and handing it directly over to their mates in the private sector.”

    Which, when one thinks about it, is the sum-total of all privatisation.

    Private enterprise did not set up a rival to the Post Office telecommunications arm – they simply waited for it to be corporatised and privatised (at a cheap rate). Same with railways.

    Of course, private enterprise did but up Postbank – then closed it down, trransferring customers to it’s new owner, ANZ.

    And of course, we know how well private enterprise ran Air New Zealand. They ran it into the ground.

    As for ACT’s privatisation call for Landcorp – it’s a joke.

    • Ummm…. yes they did. The Post Office 2 as 8 three main areas. Telecommunications, Banking and deliveries of mail. Private businesses have been set up in all of these areas once the Post Office government monopoly was repealed.

      • Ummm…. yes they did. The Post Office 2 as 8 three main areas. Telecommunications, Banking and deliveries of mail. Private businesses have been set up in all of these areas once the Post Office government monopoly was repealed.

        Um, no, not quite.

        The banking arm (Postbank) was sold to the ANZ; stripped of customers; and absorbed into the new parent-body.

        The telecommunications arm (the only profitable part of NZPO) was split away and corporatised as Telecom. That was then privatised.

        No competing service was set up until the late 1990s (Vodaphone, if I recall correctly). Which means private enterprise had to act in a parasitic way by purchasing an existing asset (Telecom), rather than set up brand new competing businesses.

        The mail section was kept intact.

        On that point, I recall a later competitor (Universal Mail), being set up and then cheekily demanding “inter-connection” with NZPO – in effect, they want to bludge of the State mail deliverer, to deliver UM’s customer’s mail!!

        NZPO told them where to go, in no uncertain terms.

        Repealing a monopoly law is one thing. Relying on privatising existing state businesses to generate income is another.

        You may be too young to remember these events, Gosman. I lived through them.

  5. I know some very smart and principled people who still support and work with ACT. It beggers belief. But no more so than the smart and principled labour movement people who kept voting Labour right through the last 30 years. If the Greens followed the same arc, completely selling out any genuine environmental and social principles, but still spouting the same flavoured rhetoric regardless, no doubt some smart and principled people would keep orbiting around them too.

    It all just goes to show that politics is often more about symbolism and tribal affiliation than substance, even among smart and principled people.

  6. I wonder whether Epsom voters will take ACT and Seymour seriously next Election, I guess they will still continue to follow instructions from our Dear Leader?

  7. Somewhere in the world a bald-headed nutbar is finishing his PhD at Evil University and preparing the next ACT manifesto – Necrophilia! With tax cuts! Not realising the public response will be “Over my dead body”.

  8. I would be embarrassed if one of my best accomplishments was not going as many places as the average green party mp.

  9. i think seymour..stupid tho’ his ‘green’ privatisation-policies may be..will do ok with this angle..

    ..environmentalism has a long association with the right..(the nazis..in their domestic-policies..were very ‘green’..read not knowing the source/history/baggage..and they can make ‘green’ sense..)

    ..and not all national party voters want to lay waste to the planet..

    ..so act could harvest there..as a safe alternative for them to express their ‘greeness’..

    ..this could also help act/seymour be a safe protest-vote for those sick of key/national..

    ..the deal with key/national to prop them up will be done again..

    ..and the combination of the above factors mean i will be surprised if seymour is still on his own after the next election..

    ..and anyway..i think there is room for a green party on the right..(however flawed/comprimised right politics make right-‘green’ to fail the logic-test..)

    ..and i don’t think seymour/act is it..but they will reap benefits for pretending to fufill that role..

    • He’s right strategically – an innovative far-right needs conspicuous virtues – and eco-virtues are presently popular. ACT is too small and too lazy to do actually green policy though – so we get cheap shots.

      As a campaign strategy it’s a bit like Winston’s though – he used to attack journalists every time he got a chance, then he went on to attack the Greens. It’s a way of being high visibility without formulating policy that might not be effective or popular and might be costly to abandon.

      Has ACT learnt anything? Given that their major policy remains the stealing of Landcorp I’d say they haven’t learned a thing. Using state power to steal things is essentially Stalinist – there is no entrepreneurial developmentalism in ACT, so as a party they do not deserve to survive.

  10. The connection between airfare travel cost and being more ‘green’ is a complete fallacy. Doesn’t provide any indication of who has burned more fossil fuels.

  11. “e. In fact, I’m given to understand that the way they ran things during their last Party term, was by pouring their Parliamentary Services resourcing into ‘campaign offices’ rather than the shadow-electorate outreach more common for Opposition parties”

    You do know that the Greens didn’t win a single electorate right?

    Which seems kind of strange that they would need more air travel to and from non-existent electorates than MP’s who actually have constituents they have to be there for.

  12. “e. In fact, I’m given to understand that the way they ran things during their last Party term, was by pouring their Parliamentary Services resourcing into ‘campaign offices’ rather than the shadow-electorate outreach more common for Opposition parties”

    You do know that the Greens didn’t win a single electorate right?

    Which seems kind of strange that they would need more air travel to and from non-existent electorates than MP’s who actually have constituents they have to be there for.

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