Lisa Owen: Well, they're the on again, off again pairing of New Zealand politics, and now Labour and the Greens are on again until the election at least. This week they signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to work together to change the government. And in a public show of strength, Labour leader Andrew Little is speaking at the Green Party conference in Christchurch. He's with us now, along with Green co-leader Metiria Turei. Metiria Turei, if I can come to you first. Winston was on the show a little earlier saying that your deal is only going to last until election night, once the votes are in, and then it's all bets off after that. He's right, isn't he?
Metiria Turei: Look, we have opened a conversation with the country about our collective agreement to work together to change the government, and I'm really proud of that. That's a good first step towards changing the government. We know that New Zealand cannot tolerate another term of National. Homelessness is up, child poverty is up, climate emissions are up under this government. They're bad for the country. We are going to present as a credible and progressive alternative in 2017, and that's great.
Mr Little, after the last election, Mr Peters said this, I'm quoting him here, 'The prospects of the Greens going into government put the fear of God up so many people. Labour I thought would've realised it a long time ago.' Mr Little, hasn't history taught you that Winston Peters will not play third wheel?
Andrew Little: In the end, this is about accepting that where New Zealand is right now is actually getting more and more hopeless. The idea that we now have over 40,000 people homeless and a government that has no idea, no longer cares and doesn't want to do anything about it, that's just totally acceptable.
But that's not my question.
Little: The idea that we have a—
My question, Mr Little, is—
Little: No, no, but just listen.
No, no, that's not my question.
Little: If we have a budget that now says we have four years of declining wages. So here's the issue. The issue is about the future, Lisa. That issue is about the future, and Labour and the Greens are agreed—
The issue, Mr Little, is that you will not be able to do it on your own.
Little: …if we want to change the current situation in New Zealand—
The Greens and Labour—
Little: …we have to change the government, and we have enough common ground between us that we are committed to changing the government, because that's what's needed for the better of New Zealand.
The issue, though, Mr Little, is that the Greens and Labour don't have the numbers to do it on their own, so they need Winston Peters, and he's made it clear in the past he doesn't want to be third wheel, so how are you going to deal with that?
Little: Well, the answer's in your question – in the past. Lisa, we're not talking about the past. We're talking about New Zealand today, and we're talking about what's needed for the future of New Zealand, to give every New Zealander a chance, because people are sick and tired of a government that is increasingly focused on the few at the top, has lost touch, doesn't care and has got no answers to today's problems. We have. That's why we're joining forces. We will be campaigning together on the common issues that we have and joining our forces to change the government next year. That's what this is all about.
So let's talk about the future.
Little: That's what we're doing. It is about the future.
Let's talk about that future. Are you guaranteeing that the Greens will have a place in a Labour-led government. Are you guaranteeing that?
Little: We are working together for the next 18 months. The voters will decide who makes up Parliament, but we have a lot of common ground…
So no guarantee there?
Little: …and we are both determined to change the government. But I'm not going to be so arrogant as to say, 'That's it. Now here's what the future government looks like,' and all that sort of thing. We are working together to change the government. That's what we have in common, and people will see that, and this is about giving confidence to New Zealanders that there is a viable alternative.
Little: The voters will have their say.
So, Mr Little—
Little: They'll decide the make-up of Parliament, and then we'll work out the formation of a government from there.
So no guarantee there, Ms Turei, so why does Grant Robertson have to be Finance Minister, Metiria? Is that acknowledging people have seen you guys as financially kooky?
Turei: So, we've been really clear that it'll be the voters that decide what the make-up of the next government is, and what they need to know right now is that Labour and the Greens have jointly committed to changing the government and to working together to achieve that aim. And our supporters and voters have been asking for that commitment, for that really clear statement, and we've made it, and I'm really pleased about that.
Turei: We were quite happy to take the finance portfolio off the table. What the actual government looks like depends on how the voters vote on the day, and we can't assume that at this stage. What is most important, though, now for New Zealanders, to give hope for a genuine change in our country where we have families living in warm, dry and decent homes, we have a reduction in pollution to make our rivers safe for kids to swim in again, we have an end to child poverty that's been terrible for this country…
Okay, I think it's clear—
Turei: …is that Labour and Greens and possibly other parties will come together to provide a credible and progressive alternative government in 2017.
No, I think it's clear that people have got your message about wanting to change the government, because you've reminded us of that a few times, but I want to know, Mr Little, are you now going to invite the Greens back into the Security Intelligence Committee?
Turei: We have not asked for that, and I'm not interested in that. So it's really important now that we are focused on the 2017 election. We – the Greens – we know that New Zealanders want to see a change, and they want real hope that a change is possible, and we are providing that with this MOU. And we're open to other parties to work with us where they want to change the government as well. That's what New Zealanders want to know about right now.
Okay. Mr Little, you rejected the Greens for that committee, and you rejected Ms Turei, because you said you wanted someone with 'skills, understanding and experience'. So if she doesn't have those skills to be on the committee, does she have those skills to be in your cabinet?
Little: What we're actually arguing for on that issue, now that the government's finished its review, or at least got its report – the government knows our position very clearly – we want to increase the size of that committee so it is truly representative of the New Zealand parliament. Other parties need to be represented on that committee. Let's put that issue aside. The formation of government after the next election will depend on, you know, who is there and what the voters have decided, in terms of the size of each party. But we are working together, because we share that common objective that government must change. If New Zealand wants to do better and we want to look after every New Zealander—
Okay. Ms Turei—
Little: …make sure every New Zealander has a chance, we have to change the government. That's what we're working on.
Ms Turei, you've said at the start of this term— Sorry, we've understood the message that you want change. Ms Turei, you said at the start of this term, 'We want to be the lead opposition, like we were last term.' Are you the lead opposition?
Turei: I think things have changed over time. We are certainly a strong opposition, and we are— in entering into an MOU, I think what we are doing is strengthening both the opposition to this government – because they have been so poor for this country; they've done so much damage – and presenting at the same time the credible alternative for 2017. So I'm comfortable with the work that we've been doing till now, and the Green Party will continue to advocate very strongly for issues around—
So you're not the leader that you were last term? You're not leading the opposition, like you were last term?
Turei: Sorry. Sorry, Lisa. Just a minute. Sorry, Lisa. My ear piece has come out, so I can't hear you.
Turei: So we are— the Green Party will continue to work hard on those issues around pollution and child poverty, for example.
No, my question was, 'Are you not the lead opposition you were last term?'
Turei: That was last term. That was last term. This term we want to work with other parties to change the government in 2017. And that is what New Zealanders want. That is what people are asking us to do. And I'm responding to that need, because I agree that National has been terrible for this country, and we can do so much better, and I want to be part of those solutions. And I'll work with other parties to achieve that.
Mr Little, does Labour still support deep-sea drilling?
Little: Yeah, we support good economic development that is about the future, so our economic development strategy will be a 21st-century strategy that we will negotiate, you know, with whatever parties are in a future government. Lisa, here's the challenge—
No, no, just— Sorry, Mr Little—
Little: You can go on talking about as many sort of things in the past as you like, but, actually, we are focused on the future, and that future includes an economy that actually delivers for everybody and delivers an ongoing, reasonable wage increases and wage improvement for everybody too. You can go on about any issue you like and try and pull things apart. One thing is absolutely clear – New Zealand is getting worse. More and more New Zealanders are being left out and left behind. We have to change. And we are two parties committed to it, and that's what we're working on.
Excuse me, Mr Little. I just need to ask a final question of Ms Turei. Metiria, this is a question looking into the future. Could you go into a government that has a policy supporting deep-sea drilling? Could the Greens do that?
Turei: We will have to talk with Labour about the policies that we agree with and that we disagree with. There is no coalition government that has been formed in this country where there hasn't been differences in policies between the coalition partners. Now, I know that—
It's possible the Greens could go into a government that supports deep-sea drilling?
Turei: I know that New Zealanders want to see a change of government so that we can clean up the climate pollution, that we can reduce homelessness, so we can end child poverty, and that's what I'm committed to achieving for this country, and that is the most important thing.
Asking you specifically about deep-sea drilling – can you rule out—?
Turei: There will be areas where we have policy disagreement. Of course there will be. And we have an 'agree to disagree' clause in our MOU precisely for that purpose. I'm working and focusing on both the common ground—
So you can't rule out the prospect that you will be in a government with a party that supports deep-sea drilling?
Turei: I will focus on the common ground between us and on those most important issues to New Zealanders that they're facing now and the solutions that a credible and progressive alternative government can provide.
Okay, so not ruling out going into government with the party that supports deep-sea drilling. Thank you both for joining us this morning.
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