Greens expect more power this time

By Claire Trevett, NZPA

The Green Party is confident it will not suffer the same fate after the election as it did last time when Labour left it on the sidelines after coalition talks.

The Greens announced today they would work with Labour and not National after the election, just as it did before the 2005 election.

But Labour ended up putting together deals with New Zealand First and United Future - both of which ruled out working with the Greens.

Green Party co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman were today confident that would not happen again, as neither NZ First nor United Future were doing so well in the polls.

"It's about the numbers," Greens co-leader Ms Fitzsimons said. "We think this time it's looking as though we are much more likely to have the numbers that we need to negotiate the sort of outcome that we want."

Prime Minister Helen Clark this month said she would like to be able to involve the Greens in Government this time.

After analysing policy in 12 key areas canvassing everything from the environment to social policy the Greens decided they could not form a government with National, give it confidence and supply, nor abstain in order to let it govern.

The party released its preference for a post-election partner at a press conference in Wellington today.

Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said "on the whole" National's policies would take New Zealand in the wrong direction.

"This means that we can not form a government with National, or support them on confidence and supply, although we could work with them in areas where we have common ground."

She gave Labour a mixed report card, but said support for a Labour-led government was possible if it progressed the right policies.

"Whether we could form a government with them would depend on reaching a policy agreement that advanced green policies on a number of fronts."

"Whether we could form a government with them would depend on reaching a policy agreement that advanced green policies on a number of fronts."

The Greens other co-leader Russel Norman said the two major parties had more in common with each other than with the Greens.

"Neither of them aligns closely with our own ideals for a fairer and more sustainable New Zealand."

National leader John Key said this afternoon that the Greens in government meant environmental policies over economic.

He said: "The Greens are making it clear they will enter Government on their terms. Helen Clark needs the Greens and she will do whatever it takes to get a fourth term.

"I would say to New Zealanders to be very cautious of that arrangement because that means Helen Clark is going to be prepared to sell your jobs down the river and economic growth is going to go on the backburner."

Should National form a government the Greens would work to make its policies greener, the Greens said.

They criticised Labour for its "terrible" record on waterways and said both major parties scored poorly on genetic engineering and food safety issues.

National did worse than Labour on climate change, energy efficiency and road building.

"The final straw really was last week when they said that they would change the legislation in order to make sure NZ homes stay cold and damp."

Ms Fitzsimons was referring to a $1 billion insulation fund the Greens obtained through Labour which National has said would not keep going.

Ms Fitzsimons said National was unlikely to support a Green agenda and then the Greens would feel responsible for things National did.

"Are you suggesting to us that we should be prepared to make National the government just in order to get the baubles of office as ministers when that would take New Zealand clearly away from the goals we are working for?

"The Green Party is too honest to do that. We owe it to Green supporters and to the country as a whole to put our votes with a positive programme for change."

Dr Norman said it was possible Green support would be hurt if it left the possibility of working with National.

"I think that people will vote for the Greens because they are transparent and honest. That will give us more numbers in Parliament and more ability to influence the next government. That's where our power will come from."

Ms Fitzsimons said the party had a lot in common with the Maori Party and would consider negotiating as a bloc if that was something the other party wanted.

"Its perhaps been a mistake in the past that Labour has been able to play support parties off against each other because they haven't talked to each other."

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