Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Norman's climate change lecture strikes the wrong note

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Labour's David Cunliffe with Green's Russell Norman. Photo / NZPA
Labour's David Cunliffe with Green's Russell Norman. Photo / NZPA

Misery united Parliament yesterday - until politics intervened.

Labour leader David Cunliffe stood with the Government after the Prime Minister expressed the country's sympathy and solidarity with the Philippines.

Key had called President Benigno Aquino the night before to express the country's sorrow at the thousands of deaths, to offer New Zealand's help, and to offer to cancel his planned visit to Manila next week.

The hosts are reserving a final call on that for the time being - it may be that they want to show that Manila is still functioning even if parts of the country are in deep distress and shock.

Cunliffe put it well in his brief speech: "We have seen the vacant shock on the faces of those who still cannot possibly take in all that they have lost ... please know that you have the aroha of all members of Parliament and all of our nation."

Then it was the turn of Greens co-leader Russel Norman, who clearly decided he was not going to let this crisis go to waste, as the saying goes.

Instead of his own speech, he quoted extensively from Yeb Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation at UN climate change talks in Warsaw.

"To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of their armchair."

He invited us all to the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Himalayas, the Andes, the Arctic, the Mekong Delta, the Ganges, the Amazon, the Nile, the savannahs of Africa, and the Gulf of Mexico to see the effects of climate change which had become a matter of life and death.

"And if that is not enough you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now," he said before launching into the science of climate change, the IPCC report, the 19th Conference of Parties in Warsaw and the climate change convention.

It was like getting a long lecture on cigarette-smoking instead of a eulogy at the funeral of someone who had died of lung cancer.

By now heckling National MPs and Labour's Shane Jones had reached their level of tolerance. They saw it as an abuse of the convention of keeping politics out of condolences and disaster and going well over the norm of three or four minutes.

Norman stressed every so often that is was not his but Yeb Sano's speech, as though that would somehow quell the rumble in the chamber, and soldiered for almost nine minutes.

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- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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