Green party proposes unit to cost all political party promises to voters

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has kicked off the State of the Nations speeches by announcing a policy to have ...
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has kicked off the State of the Nations speeches by announcing a policy to have Treasury cost all political party promises.

An independent unit to calculate the cost of party political promises, outside and during election campaigns, would "cut through the noise" and give voters unbiased information, say the Greens. 

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has announced her party's policy, to establish such a body, during her State of the Nation speech in Wellington. 

The unit would be housed within Treasury, but would be exempt from reporting to the Finance Minister "to maintain confidentiality of party policies". 

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The Greens have predicted it would cost about $1million to $2m per year to establish and run, rising to about $3m in an election year when staffing costs would need to increase. 

Details of any policy analysis carried out by the Policy Costings Unit (PCU) would be released when the party was ready to release its policy. 

Turei said the PCU would be initially open to all parties inside Parliament for use, and expected it to be widened to parties outside parliament later on. 

"New Zealanders deserve more transparency from their politicians so that they can better engage in the political system," she said. 

"This will make elections more about ideas, and less about spin. It's these sorts of small changes that can have big impacts on improving our democracy".

At the last election the Greens had all of their policies independently costed at their own expense, one of the only parties to do so. 

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Opposition parties have often complained that the government position afforded to the ruling party means greater resources from Treasury to deliver more accurate policy. 

While Turei says Labour has already indicated its support, Prime Minister John Key said the policy would not dispel political rhetoric between parties and ironically, questioned its cost. 

"I can see why the Greens are worried about the costing of their own projects and Labour's because they're usually pretty large.

"But I don't personally think it's a terribly good idea. Firstly, I don't think it'll cost $1m-2m, secondly, I don't think it'd actually achieve what they're saying."

Key said the Greens would "just ignore it" if they didn't like the numbers. All they wanted to do was "raise taxes", and discount Treasury advice around productivity. Political parties had their Leaders Budgets to cost policy from, though Key accepted that the Greens' budget was significantly less than Labour's.

Turei used her speech to attack National's record on transparency, while rebutting claims from some the Greens were "too radical".

Speaking to a group of party supporters at the National Library, Turei laid out the case that despite lacking government experience, the party could be trusted around the Cabinet table. 

"Our record is pretty good for a party that's never been in government. We've had agreements with both Labour and National and through these, we've delivered significant wins for New Zealanders."

Those included working with National to deliver cheap home insulation to more than 235,000 homes. 

Turei warned of an "economic and environmental depression" on the horizon, which would be hard to recover from.

Pollution, child poverty, unemployment figures and housing unaffordability were all "way up" under National. 

Notions that the Greens were radical when it came to environmental, social and economic policies were wrong, said Turei. 

"We think that the economic experiment imposed on our country over the last 30 years is radical. 

"We think doubling the number of dairy cows and increasing the pollution killing our rivers and streams is radical. We think a government that wants to mine our national parks is fanatical. 

"We think the steep rise in child poverty and poverty-related child death is radically irresponsible," she said. 

The Greens speech is the first in a series of political leaders' speeches scheduled over the next week, which will layout each ones' views on the state of the country and where they would lead it. 

 - Stuff

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