Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Green support a bitter saviour for Nats in power

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Don Brash must stop bleating about getting back with his wife, Je Lan. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Don Brash must stop bleating about getting back with his wife, Je Lan. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Do you know how to use macro-prudential measures such as counter-cyclical reserve ratios and loan-to-valuation ratios as permitted by Basel III requirements?

I wouldn't have a clue, but the pointy-heads who wrote the Green Party's plan for 100,000 new jobs see this as one highlight for capital-market reform.

That's an irritating thing about the Greens - they sometimes come across as smug show-offs. But their jobs policy does contain some pleasant surprises. As the Herald editorialised this week, it deserves better than the scorn received from political opponents.

OK, the Greens may be starry-eyed when they predict just how many jobs will be created - sorry, "green jobs". New Zealand, they say, should take advantage of "the global market for renewable-energy technology" which, according to research this year, is forecast to reach an annual worldwide value of $590 billion to $800 billion by 2015.

"If we can secure just 1 per cent of this market, we can build a new $6-8 billion export industry here at home, creating 47,000-65,000 new clean-tech, high-value jobs."

Over-egg the souffle - so what, so long as they're organic and cage-free eggs. Even if the job figures come in at half their predictions, it's still good news for the country.

What is more fascinating, though, is reading between the hyperbolic lines. The Green Party is smartly and subtly saying it can be the support party for a National-led government.

Eight years ago who could have predicted the Greens advocating public-private partnerships? Not me when I was on the transport select committee with the seriously weird ex-Green MP Mike Ward and John Key, who was seriously clued up on public-private partnerships and bursting out of his skin like the energiser bunny.

It was like sitting between a stuffed sheepdog and a bounding puppy, as Ward squashed any discussion of PPPs while Key strained at the leash. But now the Greens want state-owned energy companies partnering with the private sector to develop exportable renewable-energy solutions.

Capital can be raised by issuing "green energy bonds". But just where the hell $1 billion in government expenditure, over three years, is going to come from for research and development is anybody's guess.

The Greens say it will come from taxing the "free" water taken for irrigation, but that's where they're wrong. Farmers pay thousands to renew resource consents for water rights; then there are pumping and storage costs, equipment expenses and numerous extra costs. Tax harder and they'll use less water. It doesn't follow that revenue will rise.

They have other shudder-inducing plans, like appointing a supermarket ombudsman and discriminatory stuff like banning sales of land to non-residents to address our "chronic current account deficit". Sometimes the Greens should just leave financial matters to grown-ups.

But let's face it, National has no credible support partner right now. It can only rely on Peter Dunne. Who knows how many MPs the Maori Party will bring back to Parliament? Key has ruled out working with Hone Harawira and Winston Peters (even if NZ First does make it back).

Then there's Act. Or, should I say, then there was Act. In December last year, when Rodney Hide was leading Act into oblivion, I wrote a column urging a leadership change but said, "It's not, as some suggest, Don Brash. He's the Mr Magoo of politics, bumping into everything and everybody in his car."

Brash told me he was hurt by that, but look now at the car wreck he's driven the party into. How can a government rely on someone who doesn't even think to consult his own party president, or the candidate for Epsom - his ticket to Parliament - before dropping a decriminalisation-of-cannabis bomb on the public?

Then we have to endure Brash's ongoing public bleating about wanting to get back with his wife (I think we get the fact she's from Singapore). We feel your pain, Dr Brash, but don't you think the voters might have concerns about you running the country's finances (you say you want that portfolio) if you can't even run your own life?

So the Greens it may well be, if the centre-right can swallow some dead rats.

- Herald on Sunday

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