Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Naive Green leaders run party into ground

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Rod Donald's dignified protest on the steps of Parliament was admirable. Photo / Getty Images
Rod Donald's dignified protest on the steps of Parliament was admirable. Photo / Getty Images

I can't work out if the Green Party co-leaders, Metiria Turei and Russel Norman, are wilfully naive or just plain stupid.

I respected the Greens' old members - Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos. Some of their policies made me shudder. Others, as an Act member, I voted with.

One night, Heather Roy and I made Rodney Hide stop bullying Kedgley with his incessant and frivolous points of order. And many of us loathed Winston Peters' nit-picking of Locke, a thoroughly decent man. But Turei and Norman are the future, and that's another country.

Remember the late Donald's dignified, lonely and silent protest on the steps of Parliament when he held the Tibetan flag in view of National People's Congress of China chairman Wu Bangguo? Compare that with the publicity stunt Norman staged last year when the Chinese vice-president visited Parliament.

Donald's stand, as a senior MP, was incredibly courageous, and one for which he was admired. But Norman will be remembered for his prattish chant: "Gimme my flag back."

The Green Party was robbed by Donald's cruel and early death, and now that the senior (and truly "green") members are leaving the cracks are showing.

Take Turei's reaction to the Crimes Amendment Bill (No2), a long overdue move to protect children from abuse, for which Simon Power (whom I don't always stroke) should be congratulated. This bill ups penalties to a maximum of 10 years' jail to better reflect the gravity of offending. It also requires parents or guardians to take reasonable steps to protect a child from injury, a further step from the duty to protect children from illegal violence.

More importantly, the bill creates a new offence based on overseas law. Household members who witness abuse or are aware a child or vulnerable adult may suffer serious injury must protect that person and prevent the abuse from happening, or they too will be liable for criminal prosecution and face up to 10 years' jail.

Obviously this does not extend to those who have no responsibility for the welfare of the child but the intent is to encourage those with regular contact with vulnerable children to protect them or tell someone.

As Acting Justice Minister Chris Finlayson said in the bill's first reading: "The price of silence may be the continuance of abuse and neglect over someone's entire childhood or, in some cases, the savage snuffing out of a young life."

But how did Turei react? It goes too far.

She supports requiring parents and caregivers to protect children in their care but extending that duty to other family members, who might be subjected to abuse themselves, and others who do not live in the household, concerns her.

Turei reckons it would be better to support such families, "not threaten them with criminal liability".

Te Rangi Whakaruru received acres of support but that didn't save her 4-year-old son, James, from death at the hands of her boyfriend, Benny Haerewa.

This week, the Greens danced around the maypole over Labour's capital gains tax. Norman wishes we had this punitive tax nine years ago, because it would have prevented "New Zealand's big problem" of the "housing asset bubble".

There were complex reasons for the property boom, which wasn't exclusive to New Zealand, the least of which was the lack of a capital gains tax. Norman might like to read up about the 2008 financial crisis, in particular sub-prime lending, predatory mortgages, financial regulators, conflicts of interest involving academics and economic advisers, how that filtered down to little old Godzone and is being played out right now in our high courts.

But Norman persists with his ignorance, telling television that if properties are taxed, investment will rightly go into productivity.

Does he not know of the huge and ongoing maintenance required to upkeep a building and its gardens?

Repairing roofs, renovating bathrooms, adding bedrooms, repainting walls, building decks, mowing lawns, planting trees - are the labourers who carry out this work not part of productivity?

There's a word for Norman and Turei's attitude - snobbery.

- Herald on Sunday

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