Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has made a rare personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, comparing him to former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in a scathing speech which accused the National-led Government of "crony capitalism".
Dr Norman escalated his criticism of Mr Key and the Government at the Green Party annual conference this morning, saying that the Prime Minister had come into office with a message of inclusiveness but had become a "divisive and corrosive figure".
"Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he's not smiling because he likes you, he's smiling because he's giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy," he told an audience of around 120 people at the Canterbury Horticultural Centre in Christchurch.
"But we have seen all this before... Robert Muldoon would recognise this Government as one after his own heart, but with better spin doctors and a smilier disposition."
He added: "Mr Key may not look like Muldoon but he sure as hell is acting like Muldoon."
Dr Norman also gave stark warnings to Skycity that it would be treated differently under a government which included the Green Party.
The Greens co-leader listed what he felt were undemocratic laws or dodgy deals, including legislation to prevent carers for disabled people from being heard in court, and moves to limit anti-mining protest in the deep seas.
"Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand politics," he repeated throughout the speech.
Dr Norman told Christchurch residents that they had been victims of the Government's "attacks on democracy", pointing to the abolition of the regional council.
"Under National's crony capitalism, National's friends get the profits from intensive corporate dairying and the people of Canterbury literally get cow faeces in their water."
His most stinging criticism was reserved for the Government's deal with Skycity for the building of a convention centre in Auckland, in particular the extension of the casino's licence for 35 years and the promise of compensation if future governments interfered with the contract.
"This would be the equivalent of Robert Muldoon in 1978 guaranteeing the profits of tobacco companies for 35 years - we would still have smoking in the workplace."
He sent a highly-charged message to the casino's owners.
"We've got news for SkyCity: unlike other political parties we didn't take your campaign donations and we didn't go to your corporate box at the rugby.
"Your tools of crony capitalism don't work with us ... and if the people of New Zealand tell us to turn off the tap on your blood money, then we bloody well will."
Dr Norman said that if Greens were part of government, it would close the door to lobbyists and special interests.
He argued that clean politics was required to create a fairer society, and to make a transition to a smart, green economy. He felt that Government's economic strategy sent signals to businesses that lobbying Government for deals was more important than innovation, research and development and hard work.
Co-leader Metiria Turei will give her leadership speech tomorrow.