Green policies speak Pacific language
If you’re a Pacific islander, then there’s a lot to like about what the Green Party is offering if they become the next government.
Their policies framework includes the current hardships faced by Pacific island families, acknowledge their aspirations for a better future and provide in simple terms, the practical answers to fix them.
Secondly, the policies recognise the deep connections and intimate relationship Pasifika heritage, identity, language and cultures have with the environment. It means the Greens focus on conservation and preservation of the environment, by default, also protects the intangible environmental elements inherent in the unique collection of Pacific cultures expressed today.
It is a way, whether by design or not, that naturally safeguards Pasifika traditional values and protocols and keeps them alive for future generations. An acknowledgement of the Pacific, which apart from New Zealand First, is not quite as apparent in the ‘state of the nation’ speeches by other political parties.
Mr Norman’s speech, titled ‘Standing on the Threshold’ was also implicit in acknowledging that even though the Green Party has yet to be part of a governing coalition – it is not a weakness. In fact, it was a battle cry to say the Greens are ready to govern.
So why should the Pacific community believe him? Mr Norman answered by pointing to his Party’s ‘Heat Smart’ home insulation initiative as proof of their leadership mettle.
Home Insulation is a policy they successfully put forward that was too good for the government not to support. A major victory for a party in opposition. But the result is what’s important, and ‘home insulation’ delivered an outcome that was well above expectations – 230,000 New Zealand homes that are now warmer, drier and healthier.
It is that success template that Mr Norman used to showcase his party’s blueprint for a governance system if they become the next government. It gave him the chance to explain why certain policies are given priority, together with the short and long-term economics for the ‘how’ they would fund their promises.
A governance system with the ultimate aim of a future New Zealand that would have regained control of its natural and financial resources. A strategy to bring back New Zealand to live within its means by ensuring everyone contributes their fair share, and a commitment to look after the most vulnerable and elderly.
Some of the big ticket items include:
- to break New Zealand’s reliance on overseas debt and selling of state assets,
- develop a number of ways to take back ownership of its financial sector that includes boosting KiwiBank to keep more profits currently going to Australia owned banks.
- taking head-on the challenge to align New Zealand’s economy to the global trend of moving towards a green economy. In doing so (a) reduce reliance on fossil fuel that currently costs $8billion a year, (b) regulate the electricity and power sector to provide cheaper power, and (c) support clean renewable energy initiatives that will create business opportunities, jobs and protect the environment. Harnessing the power of the sun and wind, frees the need to mine and damage the environment through methods such as fracking and drilling.
- a commitment to reduce inequality through a fairer tax system, better employment laws, and a living wage.
- to make possible the Kiwi dream of home ownership by sharpening its ‘home for life’ policy.
- Invest in education as the way out of poverty. Establish school hubs to even the playing field for poor families and address child poverty. Education will empower future generation with skill sets to compete on the global stage. A better education system will grow a future generation of New Zealanders, from all levels of society, who will be able to manage its green economy and secure economic freedom.
Whatever the above mix may sound like to other New Zealanders, for Pacific islanders, it makes sense. And there is trust in the content of Mr Norman’s speech. It comes from the fact that their list of policies stay true to the idea on which the Green Party was founded some 40 years ago. “That we live on a finite planet with finite natural resources” and therefore it makes sense to take care of the environment. And secondly, “that growing inequality leaves everyone worse off” so there is a need to look out for the most vulnerable members of society.
The two ideas, according to Mr Norman, provide guidelines to develop policies “that will allow people to live good quality lives where they are good to each other and good to the planet”.
These concepts are things Pacific islanders recognize straight away because they are the same guidelines their forefathers, their grandparents and families use to live their lives back in the islands.
But there is also another reason why Pacific islanders will find Mr Norman’s speech trustworthy as a doable vision of the future.
They are hearing the song he’s singing as the same one the two most powerful nations in the world are also singing. Leaders of China and the United States are finally admitting the earth will die soon if humans don’t look after it better – now.
And together with wild weather hitting some of the most developed parts of the world in the past few months, politicians in rich nations are once again under pressure to put the climate change issue back on the political agenda. So far, almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a deal at a summit in Paris in December 2015.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have made it clear they want an “ambitious” climate deal to be struck in Paris 2015, which would come into force from 2020.
U.N. climate change chief Christiana Figueres confirmed this to Reuters earlier this week, “Attention has been increasing … sadly because of the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural events and disasters.
“The scale and speed of action needs to improve,” she said.
Ms Figueres statement together with comments by world leaders point to a global change. That the world is undergoing the billion-dollar shifts from a fossil fuel economy to a green economy.
In the same weekend of Mr Norman’s speech, the US and China announced they have signed an agreement to work closer together to combat climate change.
A day later, US Secretary of State, John Kerry flew to Indonesia and told an audience there that climate change is the “world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction…”
In his speech, Mr Kerry singled out major oil and coal concerns as the primary offenders.
“We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts,” he told an audience at a U.S. Embassy-run American Center in Indonesia.
“Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”
The cost of inaction he added will far outweigh the significant expense of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And the solution Mr Kerry put forward is a new global energy policy that shifts reliance from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies.
If we take a breath for a moment, we would find this is what the Green Party is advocating with the announcement of its ‘Solar Home’ policy.
It makes sense when considering the abundant amount of sunshine in the Pacific region that harnessing solar power will help reduce household living costs and cost to the planet.
Already the world is moving in this direction. For the Pacific region, in January this year, Samoa was one of six developing countries that was approved $41million financing for renewable energy projects.
In October 2013, Tokelau became the first nation in the world to have 100 per cent of its electricity fully supplied by the sun. New Zealand played a major part in this world’s first milestone. The project was funded by the New Zealand government and the lead contractor was privately owned New Zealand company Powersmart Solar. So the expertise is already in New Zealand hands.
And just last week, Niue announced a $4.83million solar photovoltaic system project to supply electricity throughout the island. A project that will also save the cash strapped government $137,000 annually.
Mr Norman believes New Zealand is on the fringe of a new political journey, “led by compassionate values and smart leadership.
“We’re about to make history, but we can’t do this alone. We need to bring the country with us; share our vision for a smarter, greener, and fairer Aotearoa New Zealand. This year, we will show New Zealand what a green government will look like.
“A country where rivers run clear, our kids are happy, and there are good-paying jobs in a smarter, greener economy.”
The Greens are already talking the right language but to get its foot in the Pacific door, Mr Norman’s party need to answer some questions in as simple a language as possible. It will determine their competitiveness for the Pacific’s party vote nationally, and bringing Pacific people out from their homes to the ballot boxes.
Questions such as, how much do you know about the Pacific sector? How much value do you place on the Pacific sector and their needs? Will you be able to deliver in full, the pre-election promises you’ll be making?
And how will the Pacific know the Greens are genuine? And that they will prioritise the interests of the Pacific seriously?
Answer for the Greens, take the promises and meet the Pacific communities in person at their venues. Field a Pacific candidate(s) with integrity and credibility. Give them a good ranking on the list so they will make it to parliament. And make sure to deliver pre-election promises from day-1 if they win.
Honour the above and the language spoken will be universally Pacific.