Monday, March 20, 2023

The Greens, Labour, and coalition enforcement

James Shaw gave the Green party's annual "state of the planet" address over the weekend, in which he expressed frustration with Labour for not doing enough on climate change. His solution is to elect more Green MPs, so they have more power within any government arrangement, and can hold Labour to account. Which is obvious, and yet at the same time also wrong. Because insofar as Cabinet (or in the end, Parliament) operates by majoritarianism, then the Greens can simply be rolled and ignored by their larger coalition partner, and shit decisions like this and this and this made.

The core problem here isn't lack of numbers within a coalition, but a lack of enforcement for the coalition agreement itself. Because Labour is fundamentally an anti-environment, status quo party, unwilling to make the necessary changes required for us to survive the 21st century. Whether you think they're marginally better than National, or worse because they're deceitful rather than honest about their anti-environmentalism is immaterial. The fact remains that they have demonstrated their hostility through their policies, promising one thing, then doing another the moment it gets hard or a fossil lobbyist whines at them, despite a coalition agreement which committed them to "achieving the purpose and goals of the Zero Carbon Act".

When working with Labour, the Greens need to treat them as hostile, rather than as good-faith partners, and they need to design any future governing arrangement to suit. And this means milestones and audits by an independent party (not the Minister, who obviously has a conflict of interest), with failure to meet them resulting in automatically pulling the plug and toppling the government unless the party membership decides to continue. Because if you want Labour to do something, you need to focus their minds on what matters to them: their big salaries, their jobs, their prestige.

(The people of Aotearoa generally expect governments to go full term, and hate "instability". But any failure to meet milestones will be Labour's fault, and as a small party, the Greens don't need to care about the wider public, just their own voters. Obviously, the ideal outcome here is that Labour keeps its commitments for once, and the threat is not needed).

In his speech, Shaw said "We cannot compromise any longer on the future of our planet". Its time he fucking started acting like it.