Sorry to hear about your trouble, losing the leadership vote must have come as a bit of a shock, which according to you, you needed time to process. I can understand it if you were feeling a little bit isolated and out on a limb at the moment.
Part of the problem is that in your portfolio as Climate Change Minister you have not made a dent in our climbing greenhouse gas emissions, nor achieved anything near the cuts in carbon emissions the science demands.
The other part of the problem with your current unpopularity James, is that you are seen as a bit of one man band, and I don’t think that this perception is going to go away after this crisis has past.
Despite all your best efforts on our behalf, New Zealand’s Green House gas emissions are rising.
More motorways, more coal mining, no meaningful cutbacks in the extraction, importation or combustion of fossil fuels. No restriction of intensive dairying conversions.
This represents a total failure of your portfolio.
But luckily for the government they can blame the failure to curb emissions on you.
It suits the government to have you as their Climate Change Minister to take the blame, instead of one of their own.
James you have said that if you are replaced as co-leader of the Green Party you will stay on as the government’s Climate Change Minister. I think that this would be a mistake.
If you retain your co-leadership position, (which I suspect you will), keeping your position as the Climate Change Minister would still be a mistake.
The Prime Minister has assured you, that if you lost your position as co-leader of the Green Party she would keep you on as her Minister for Climate Change.
James, even if you were expelled from the Green Party, the Prime Minister would want to keep you on as the toothless Minister for Climate Change. locked outside of cabinet where the real decisions are made, and not even allowing you to have an associate Minister to back you up. (The only ministry to not have an Associate Minister).
I have met with you and raised the issue of you of not having an Associate Minister for Climate Change.
I have suggested that Hon. Aupito Sua William Sio would be the perfect Associate Minister for your port folio,
I know the Honourable William Sio well, with his strong knowledge of many of the Pacific nations vulnerable to climate change, William Sio has deep commitment to addressing this issue, and that you have worked with him in the past. I think that you would complement each other’s strengths. (Recall that it was on my suggestion that you both attended the UN climate change meeting in Bon and how well that worked).
Do not forget that the Honourable William Sio is a Minster inside Cabinet. With Sio as your associate, The Climate Change Ministry would have a voice at the Cabinet table, instead of being excluded.
You told me that it is up to the Prime Minister that you are not allowed an Associate Minister of your choice. (or an Associate Minister at all.)
I disagree. I think you should demand the to have an Associate Minister as a right and as an ally for this very important portfolio. And that your Associate Minister be in the Cabinet to carry your decisions and advice into this very important decision making body.
If you want to regain the respect of your members, and strengthen your position in the Party, if the government continue to refuse to allow you to have an Associate Minister of your choice, then the very best you could do is to offer the Prime Minister your resignation as Climate Change Minister, unless she agrees to allow you to have an Associate Minister inside Cabinet.
Only then would your Ministry no longer be toothless ineffectual Ministry outside the decision making body of government.
If the government don’t agree with your demand, you should quit anyway, the government are not allowing you to achieve anything more for the climate than you already have.
I think you would have to admit James that you have achieved as much as you can for the climate under the current restrictions the government has imposed on you, and that you need a circuit breaker to achieve any thing further in this portfolio.
Even if lost your position, surely James, things couldn’t be the worse, I understand that this would represent a sizable drop in income for you, but on the plus side, instead of you and the Green Party being seen as failing the climate, the Prime Minister and the Labour Government will be seen as being responsible for this failure. And also you would be freed up to call them on it.
The Prime Minister, before she was elected, said that climate change was our nuclear free moment.
She probably took a lot of green votes on that promise.
But once in government, palming the responsibility for the climate off to you, and keeping you out side of the Cabinet, (which is the decision making body). The government don’t have to live up to the Prime Minister’s pre-election words.
Looking forward, So what if you were no longer climate change minister? The government would be forced to choose someone within their own ranks to take this role.
Labour need to be made to live up to their words.
The only Labour Party MP credible for the Climate Change Minister’s Portfolio is the Hon. William Sio.
William Sio is a Cabinet Minister, I think you would admit James, that the Honourable William Sio has more influence to make real change than yourself outside of cabinet.
To put it bluntly James, currently when it comes to the climate change portfolio, we have Green icing on a shit cake.
To make any real progress on climate action, what we need to do is to scrape off the icing so that people can see what kind of cake it really is.
Seeing the real nature of the Labour Party’s climate cake, all those people who voted Labour in the vain hope of real climate action will vote Green instead.
Continuing business as usual is not going to cut it. (Pun intended).
Pat O’Dea is a trade unionist and human rights activist.