Greens ready to show their horns

The Greens are expecting about 40 people to attend a special briefing for business in Wellington tonight aimed at allaying fears about the party's influence in Government.

Co-leader Rod Donald said yesterday that he did not expect business to be persuaded that the Greens did not have horns.

But he wanted "to show them where our horns really are".

"It's not that we're devils; we're unicorns."

But the briefing may be as much for Mr Donald and co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons as by them.

Among the business groups attending will be at least five representative bodies: the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Kyoto Forestry Association, the Retailers' Association and the group that is as demonised as much as the Greens, the Business Roundtable.

If the Greens survive the counting of special votes this week, they are expected to have more influence over the next Government than they had over the previous two Helen Clark-led Governments.

Mr Donald initiated the meeting "out of frustration" at how Green policy was being portrayed by some business people.

He said he would spell out where the party stood on energy, transport, trade and the economy.

"I fully accept that a number of the people who are coming will still say the Greens have got horns but at least they will hear from the horse's mouth exactly where those horns are.

"No doubt we will have some differences but we would prefer a rational debate."

There was no way the Greens would support "the blunt instrument of a corporate tax cut" because it did not steer the economy towards sustainability and self-reliance.

"That is what our agenda is. We're quite transparent about that."

The party preferred accelerated depreciation for investment in energy efficiency, pollution control and waste reduction but was open to other ideas as well.

Mr Donald believed the Greens had some credibility at the moment because the party had long expressed concern about the current account deficit and trade deficit.

"No one has taken us seriously and I'm going to be very interested to hear what people who knock our trade policies have got to say about how well free trade is working."

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said he accepted the Greens' invitation to keep them informed about Auckland business concerns and about "the lack of co-operation" by them previously in appreciating chamber issues.

"If they say that they are going to be a part of Government and they want to talk to business, I think it would be prissy for us not to participate."

But Mr Barnett believed the chamber movement would be concerned "if they have influence over some of the policies surrounding infrastructure".

Kyoto Forestry Association spokesman Roger Dickie welcomed the Green Party's initiative and said he would use tonight's briefing to advocate the use of market mechanisms in implementing the Kyoto Protocol - which would benefit those who planted forests.

"The Green Party is uniquely placed to take the lead on addressing these issues with a fresh, open mind, and we look forward to sharing our ideas with the party."

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