|Green co-leader Marama Davidson at the Labour party conference this year.|
Despite a lot of huffin' and puffin', the Green Party's opposition to the Labour-led Government's new benefit hasn't extended to Parliament. But even its restrained 'resistance' looks less like a principled stand and more like an attempt to convince folk that the Green's aren't just the Government's loyal servant. But after three years of dutiful service and with Green MP's comfortably ensconced in ministerial offices, it might just be too late for the Green's to convince its disillusioned former supporters to return to the fold.
YESTERDAY IN Parliament Labour list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan spoon fed the Minister of Social Development a series of questions on its Covid-19 Income Relief Payment. It will see folk who have lost their full time jobs after March 1 receiving $490 a week for the next three months. Carmel Sepuloni proceeded to talk up the new benefit which has been roundly condemned by many as discriminatory and entrenching a two-tier welfare system of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor. Its Tory ideology in action only the government is different.
The pasty questions didn't impress Ricardo Menendez of Auckland Action Against Poverty. He tweeted:
'Watching patsy questions from a Labour MP to a Labour Minister about the Income Relief Package like : “Why is this govt the sexiest govt ever & can the member tell us why is this Income relief package is so good despite benefit levels still being below the poverty line?” #nzqt'
I like a lot of what Menendez says and his views are generally to the left of the Green Party's current turgidly centrist direction. For reasons of his own though, he remains loyal to the Green Party and he has been listed at tenth on the Green's slate of election candidates this year. He was also a Green Party candidate in 2017. So while he highlighted Labour's pasty questions to Sepuloni what he didn't say is that the Green Party itself failed to ask Sepuloni anything of the Minister of Social Development. It was left to National's Louise Upson, hardly a friend of beneficiaries, to ask anything approaching a critical question.
Where was the Green Party's spokesperson on welfare, co-leader Marama Davidson? While she has condemned the new benefit outside Parliament, neither she or the Green Party are willing to confront Sepuloni and the Labour led Government inside Parliament in front of the television cameras.
The Green Party's loyalty to Labour and its determination not to do anything that risks embarrassing the Government always trumps the desire, however remote, to actually publicly oppose the policies of a neoliberal economic agenda it fundamentally agrees with. Its been like this for the past three years and, indeed, it wasn't so long ago that Marama Davidson was standing alongside Carmel Sepuloni at a media conference when she announced that the government would not be implementing the majority of the recommendations of its own welfare working group. One of those recommendations, was, of course, to substantially raise core benefit levels.
When the going gets tough the Green Party are..nowhere to be seen. The failure of the parliamentary Green Party to be anything other than the Labour-led Government's dutiful and loyal servant for the past three years means that its restrained opposition to the new benefit looks less like a principled stand and more like an attempt to curry favour with folk who have become disillusioned with the Green Party's rightward political direction under co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Many will probably be asking where the Green's have been for the past three years....