COMMENT:

Awkward questions. They'll bite you in the bum. Especially when they're on contentious issues. When it was being debated whether or not to implement a capital gains tax, Green Party co-leader James Shaw asked "do we deserve to be re-elected if we don't [implement one]?'"

Now that a capital gains tax is definitely not being implemented, does the Green Party deserve to be re-elected?

Perversely this decision has put the Greens in as strong a position as they've been since Metiria Turei stood down as co-leader. If they've got the political nous to cash in.

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Right from day one the Greens said they would hold the Government to account. They'd criticise it from the outside - this was the big advantage of the confidence and supply agreement, and not being in coalition.

Holding Labour and NZ First to account was a major platform of Marama Davidson's co-leadership bid. She said that because she was not a Minister like Julie-Anne Genter, she would more easily be able to criticise Labour and NZ First. Except that since becoming co-leader there hasn't been a huge amount of her publicly holding the Government to account. There hasn't been a whole lot of visibility of either co-leader to be honest. But now James and Marama must emerge from their chrysalis as fully formed butterflies.

Disenchanted lefties could be looking for a home and the Greens should welcome them with open arms.

But in order for those lefties to go to the Greens, there's going to have to be some stepping up by our least visible party in Government.

NZ First has done a good job at swinging its very large Winston around and creating separation between it and Labour. Despite voting for the TPP-by-any-other-name, and signing up to the UN migration compact which its members did not want, it's managed to halt a number of reforms that Labour seemed keen on progressing - the repeal of the three strikes legislation and the capital gains tax the two most obvious ones - while the Greens who can also halt legislation have largely rolled over and acquiesced.

The Greens had a win last year when the government announced it is ending all future offshore oil and gas exploration. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Greens had a win last year when the government announced it is ending all future offshore oil and gas exploration. Photo / Mark Mitchell

While NZ First has worked out that Labour plus Greens isn't more than 50 per cent, the Greens don't seem to have made the same realisation that Labour plus NZ First is also not a majority. And because the Greens are only in a confidence and supply agreement, they have even more freedom to screw around with the legislative programme. They need to get harder. They need to be political.

Senior Green MPs tell me that barring the waka jumping legislation, there has been nothing they really want to put a handbrake on, and in fact they'd want change to happen faster, harder. Except it's a symbolic move to get your Winston out to demonstrate that it's there.

So start banging on how about Labour seems to be just a slightly friendlier neolib face than John Key's National was, the same face we've had staring at us for decades now. Show us that if New Zealanders want transformation they need to give their votes to a party that wants to make real change. Where's the welfare reform report? Rumour has it that the Government is sitting on it waiting to make a decision so it doesn't repeat the same mistakes it did with the Tax Working Group's Report. Start pressuring them to make real change.

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And I mean for goodness sake Greens, climate change has never had so much attention. High school kids are striking from school! Teenagers are speaking to foreign leaders about actually wanting to have a planet to grow up on. You were the first party to talk about climate change. You should be the ones shouting loudest now. Where's the Carbon Zero bill? Get that through then tell everyone how awesome you are.

Be the party of a fairer tax system. Be the party of truths. The ones who do not shy away from the hard questions but also the party that has the hard solutions. Your capital gains tax policy excludes the family home. Stuff the exclusion. Put a capital gains tax on everything and tell us what that means and how it will change our lives. Then at coalition negotiations next time, you could possibly dial it back.

Make it explicit that post 2020, you do not want any part of the budget responsibility rules. That you want a big spending government that pours money into huge infrastructure projects. Let's get cool public transport in every major centre around the country. Get real and get angry about making real change to protect this planet from the climate upheaval that's coming our way. Don't tinker with the Emissions Trading Scheme. Show us a carbon tax that hits emitters hard. Go after the 100 odd companies who are responsible for more than 70 per cent of harmful emissions. Embrace your leftiness. There's no competition for that part of the electorate. And there's enough out there to boost you from your 6 per cent dangerzone to an 8 per cent safety net.

You are not a party of 50 per cent. You do not have to appeal to one out of two people. You are at best a party of 12 per cent. That means that only having to convince about one in eight. But you've still got to convince those people that you're worth siding with. You've got the chance to be the only real leftist party. Do you have the courage to take it? Will you be the beautiful butterflyI know you can be?

David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying.