The Green Party has done us all a favour by bringing the issue of wealth taxes and improved income support for those not working onto the agenda.
They have also correctly done it as a two-pronged strategy that says we can afford to give non-working New Zealanders more money in the world we are facing if we are willing to impose a very modest wealth tax.
I would have preferred a base rate equivalent to at least the new Covid payment of $490 a week rather than $325 they have proposed but it is still a major improvement for many.
I think the Greens are constricted in what they feel they can offer by the fact that New Zealand has almost no taxation of wealth or capital gains at all so starting with a more modest system at least gets us on the right road. They should be applauded for this.
It seems clear that the Greens and Labour will be part of the next government. This will be true whether or not New Zealand First makes it. With Labour on 50% they could govern alone but are unlikely to do so and ignore their allies from this term of government. Whilst the Greens have been between 5 and 7% in most polls it is still worryingly close to the 5% threshold needed to get into parliament without an electorate seat. But, unless something goes terribly wrong they should make it. My hope is that the Greens make at least 9% in the election as that will bring in four more long-time social and environmental campaigners ranked 8-11 that have been good friends of Unite in our own campaigns over many years – Teanau Tuiono, Dr. Elizabeth Kerekere, Ricardo Menéndez March, and Steve Abel.
National and their Act Allies are at least 15% behind and that seems an impossibly large hurdle to get over before September 19.
With luck, New Zealand First will not make the 5% barrier and be eliminated from parliament. On current polling that would be the result but Winston peters has always been the great escape artist and will no doubt have a few tricks up his sleeve for this campaign. On most issues, they have been a conservative and regressive brake on the coalition government.
Even if they are returned to parliament they will not be in a position to keep the Green party out of their desired place around the Cabinet table as they did last election. I personally don’t think that a party that wants fundamental change should necessarily be in the position of trying to co-manage the system. A party like that would be happy to sit outside of government and use their votes to push for more fundamental changes. But the Green’s seem determined to be in Cabinet.
If NZ First make it over the 5% barrier they will be invited to be part of the Labour-led government again. Strategically, Labour know they have needed NZ first in the past and will probably need them again in the future, and they can use them to balance off against the Green Party.
Ideally, Labour would want to be in a position to have enough votes to govern alone, but even if they do they will invite both the Greens and NZ First to be part of the government again if those parties make it back.
If Labour doesn’t get enough votes to govern alone they will invite both the Greens and NZ First to be part of the government even if they only need one of them to get a majority.
Again the best situation for Labour would be if they only needed one of the two support parties for any particular vote. That way they could lean to the right and use NZ First when they wanted (for example to tighten immigration) and then lean to the left to get a vote through on the environment that NZ First may not like. This is how the last National party-led government used their support parties at the time – Act and the Maori party.
But the system any government is managing today is a system called capitalism. That system is based solely on the pursuit of profit and serves the economically dominant 1% who call the shots in our society. Capitalism inevitably leads to periodic crises of overproduction with attendant mass unemployment, environmental degradation, and uses race and sex discrimination to oppress and exploit us all.
The richest capitalist countries, including New Zealand, are also part of a global system of imperial rule and exploitation of the developing world through military alliances like Nato, spying agencies like the 5-Eyes network and endless wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The problem working people have is that this system is almost impossible to turn from the course it has already established. The production of more and more commodities to sell for a profit on the market is its be all and end all. Humanity’s relationship with the planet we live on has been endangered by this reality.
At the moment, Labour and the Green’s don’t want to challenge this system. They want to tinker with it and try and make it work a bit better for everyone. That is why, for example, they have limited themselves to a system of taxes and price signals called the Emissions Trading System to try and fix the environment crisis but what the signals they have put in place have no hope of doing so in the foreseeable future. What is actually needed is a radical reconstruction of the system away from producing exchange values for sale for profit to meet the manipulated and artificial desires, towards the production of use values based on human needs. We already largely do that in health care and education and we should also do that with finance, transport, energy, and communications.
I know there are many unionists and members of both Labour and the Greens who want these parties and any government they form to do much more to meet the needs of working people and Papatūānuku than is currently on offer. Their efforts inside those parties need support and encouragement.
But we also have a job to to develop our own programme of fundamental change can confront the multiple crises we face today. This programme must appear realistic and necessary for the times we are in. Internationally this programme is being dubbed the Green New Deal and we need ours own version to provide the steps needed now to start the transition to a new society of solidarity not competition, human need not private profit, climate justice and peace for the globe.