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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Which side are the Greens on?

After the Green Party conference last weekend, workers are entitled to ask: Which side are the Greens on?
The Green conference decided not to decide until later which of the two main parties, Labour and National, they would support in a coalition government after this year’s general election. In other words, they have not ruled-out that they may support National instead of Labour.
Union members, and workers in general, would not agree that this is an issue you can be neutral or undecided about. They want to know which side the Greens are on: the side of the workers and their party, Labour; or the side of the bosses and their party, National.

Labour “disgusting”, says Norman
Russell Norman, the Green Party co-leader, lumped both Labour and National into the same basket and said they were both “disgusting” and working together in a Grand Coalition, at least on the issue of climate change.
Norman told the Green conference that Labour had backed-down on measures to stop global warming “merely to save their skin come election time.” He was referring to the Government’s decision to delay introducing the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) for transport and not increase petrol tax at this point in time.
When she announced this, Helen Clark made it clear that the delay in including petrol in the ETS was due to the financial pressures on households and businesses and that rising oil prices were reducing petrol use without the need for further petrol-tax increases.
She said the Government had always said it would do something to assist "vulnerable consumers" when they were hit with higher energy bills due to the ETS.
Russell Norman said that he was “particularly disgusted at Labour, the party that was courageous last century in creating the welfare state, in opposing playing sport with whites-only teams and in standing up to the United States to make New Zealand nuclear free. … Now, with the biggest moral issue of our time, Labour has lost its guts. Principle has surrendered to politics.”
Workers might say that rather than losing “its guts”, Labour has done the right thing by them in not increasing petrol prices any further than they already are. I know of people who are being forced to walk many kilometres to work because they cannot afford petrol for their cars. Their bosses, of course, can still afford to drive.

Oil company profits
A recent article on the internet by Greg Palast, the author of a book on war and oil, showed how the big oil companies have deliberately restricted the flow of oil from Iraq since 1928 in order to keep the world price of oil as high as possible. The American war on Iraq is just another rung in the ladder of this on-going policy.
Oil companies have reaped huge windfall profits from the recent price-hikes. Chevron, America’s second biggest oil company, announced a $US18.7 billion profit for 2007 while Exxon Mobil scored the biggest corporate profit in US history, $US40.6 billion.
In New Zealand, the Automobile Association says the profits made by oil companies BP and Shell are “almost obscene”. BP posted a 48 percent increase in the first quarter of 2008, with a profit of $8.5 billion, while Shell's profit jumped 12 percent to $10.1 billion dollars.
AA spokesman Mike Noon said it does not sit well with motorists to see profits that are bigger than telephone numbers, particularly when motorists in New Zealand are hurting so much.
Are the Greens “disgusted” at this sort of profit-gouging by oil companies? They should be!

Need to see policies before deciding?
Norman said the Greens had decided to assess other parties polices and programmes before determining which parties they will work with after the election to form a government. The Greens say they have not seen all the parties’ policies, so they cannot decide yet.
But this is a cop out!
Labour bought back the railways. Do the Greens support that? Of course they do. Would National have done it? No they would not have: they support private ownership of key economic assets.
Under Labour’s leadership, the government brought in a 4th week of annual leave, time-and-a-half pay and a day-in-lieu for working public holidays, cheaper doctors visits and prescription charges, 14-weeks paid parental leave, zero-interest on student loans, 20-hours free child care for 3 and 4 year-olds, extra sick leave, Kiwi Bank, and Kiwi Saver.
They have also legislated for compulsory meal breaks, protected vulnerable workers when there is a change of employer, and before the recent budget tax-cuts had already given tax-cuts for families with children through the “Working for families” package.
And without Labour in government, would SFWU hospital workers have won their big pay increase? No they would not.
Under Labour, the minimum wage has increased every year and is now $12 an hour. This is a 70% increase in eight years.
Crucial for those of us in the trade union movement, Labour repealed the Employment Contracts Act and gave unions the right to organise and bargain collectively.
Would National have done any of these things? The answer is; “No”.
Are these gains safe under a future National government? The answer is again: “No”.
The Greens have supported most, if not all of the good things Labour-led governments have done for workers over the last nine years. Why would they not continue to support Labour? Why don’t they say they will?

Stand together to defeat National
It is clear that for workers (the poor, and the low-paid especially) there is a big difference between Labour and National.
The Greens say they stand for social justice; if that is true then they cannot support National.
On the environment, it is Labour, not National, that has taken up the global warming issue and done something about reducing carbon emissions; in the face of vehement opposition from National.
The Greens should stop posturing and give Labour the support it deserves and needs. The Greens should take a strong stand against National and its big-business, anti-worker, anti-environment agenda.
We have to stand together to defeat National.

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