Metiria Turei chose a perfect issue to kick off the political year.

In her scene-setting State of the Nation speech today, the Green Party co-leader focused on the need for political parties to be economically credible.

The party specifically invited business leaders, bankers and PR representatives to hear her address, reinforcing the Greens' attempts to appear more orthodox.

National the radical party not the Green Party, says Metiria Turei


It was an eclectic audience at Wellington's National Library, with the incoming head of Business New Zealand Kirk Hope rubbing shoulders with the party's activists.

Turei told them that the Greens want the Treasury to set up a special unit which is dedicated to costing all political parties' policies.

The proposal gives the Green Party an opportunity to preach to other parties about their lack of standards and the need for responsibility in making election promises. It also shows that they want to be constructive and credible about their own policies.

The Greens still have a perception issue. Russel Norman improved the party's economic credibility in his time as co-leader, but also did a lot of damage by suggesting that the Government should print money.

A relatively large proportion of New Zealanders seriously contemplate voting Green, but decide against it on election day because of concerns about the party's economic competence. As signalled in Turei's speech and new policy, the Greens will intensify efforts this year to combat that perception.

Turei also invoked former Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage in her speech. Her strategy was partly to draw parallels between New Zealanders' initial reluctance to vote for Savage's Labour because they had never been in government.

She recalled the story of a farmer who told Savage "you never let a man watch your stock unless they've done it before". Once the Great Depression hit, that same farmer told the then-Leader of the Opposition "I don't have any stock anymore and that's why you have my vote".

Like 1920s Labour, the Greens are outsiders who have spent a long period in opposition and are considered unusual by many voters. But the Savage government is broadly accepted as one that shaped New Zealand's attitudes to social welfare, and that is the tradition that the Greens see themselves in.


In invoking Savage, Turei was also stealing one of the Labour Party's poster children. She was making it clear that the Greens still see a strong role for themselves on welfare and poverty, and will not simply focus on the environment as Labour wants them to.

Debate on this article is now closed.