The Greens have had plenty of time in opposition to think about how they could "do Government better", as their co-leader James Shaw puts it. To that end they have decided to make their ministers' daily appointments diaries public every three months and accept no hospitality. Now they have given their allocation of questions in Parliament to the National Party, ostensibly to help the Opposition hold the Government to account.

The last gesture might not be wholly altruistic, though. After being largely shut out of government for more than 20 years, the Greens are obviously anxious to be seen to be inside this Government. Last year Shaw made no secret of their wish to be in a formal coalition with seats in the Cabinet like New Zealand First but Winston Peters would not have it. So the Greens have an agreement with Labour to advance certain policies with three ministers outside the Cabinet and the party remains free to oppose anything the Cabinet decides outside their portfolios.

That would give them with plenty of issues on which they could grill the Government at the daily question time in the House if they were of a mind too. Clearly they are not of a mind, though their caucus was probably not unanimous. At least one or two Green MPs would probably prefer to maintain pressure on the executive from their side of politics.

Opinion among the party's members and voters is likely to be divided too. Many will have no confidence the National Party will ask the sort of questions they think the Government needs to be asked. National and the Greens come at most issues from opposite ends of the spectrum and a lack of criticism from the Greens' side will make the Government more sensitive to National's attacks.


Quite apart from that calculation, many Green members and supporters will be simply uncomfortable to see their party helping National in any way.

They should take comfort that it is not helping National, much as it suits National to pretend otherwise. The Greens' leadership has taken this decision in their assessment of the Green's interest. They want the party to be seen to be inside a government, not taking a critical attitude to the Government in Parliament every sitting day.

Shaw and fellow ministers Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage obviously believe they can achieve things by working within the coalition. That calculation could change, of course, if they find their projects knocked back by the Cabinet too often. The party has not completely relinquished its question time allocation, it reserves the right for its MPs to ask questions of special concern to them.

And they will not have to ask the "patsy" questions that ministers give backbenchers to fill a governing party's allocation at question time. Those, as Shaw says, "do nothing to advance principles of democracy and accountability".

Meantime, they will not mind their gesture being welcomed by National. That may give them a little more leverage with Labour. On all counts, this ploy looks good for the Greens.