Clean Greens overlooked in dirty week
It feels like the political week can be divided into two eras, BH and AH. Before Hager and After Hager. The release of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics seemed to change everything and, for a day or two at least, other agendas and stories faded from view.
The Green Party's launch of its Christchurch policy at the new Botanic Gardens visitor centre on Tuesday morning was very much a BH event. But speculation had already started. One News reporter Michael Parkin sped past the routine questions about what the Greens would do for Christchurch and asked co-leader Metiria Turei if she knew what was in the Hager book.
"I know nothing," she said, cheerfully and theatrically, but she was "interested" to see it. As for the stoush between Prime Minister John Key and Internet Party leader Laila Harre over effigies and rallies, Turei stayed well clear of that too.
The Greens are about clean rivers and clean politics. They seem decent, principled and thoughtful, which may explain why, in this weird election campaign, they also seem to be overlooked. All the Green caucus came to town for the launch, at which the party's positive message was reiterated. "We stand with you, Christchurch," Turei said. "We love New Zealand, we love Christchurch."
Green MP Eugenie Sage joined in. "I love Christchurch," she said. She stood in front a big sign pushing for the party vote. Indeed, the party vote is so important that Sage was not even introduced to the room as the party's Port Hills candidate. But her line that "I want my city back" got the strongest applause of the morning and she was the best received of the four speakers. She talked of reintroducing elections for Environment Canterbury, canning the Canterbury Environment Recovery Authority (Cera), letting the Christchurch City Council keep strategic assets and pushing cycling and public transport.
As for the rebuild blueprint: "A new covered stadium is not a priority. I've heard a lot of people like the Addington stadium."
*** From the Botanic Gardens, Turei headed west for a lunchtime debate at the University of Canterbury alongside Labour's Megan Woods, NZ First's Denis O'Rourke, National's Nicky Wagner and former deputy mayor turned Maori Party candidate Ngaire Button. It was a high-powered lineup, as all but Button are current MPs, and it drew a big crowd. As senior politics lecturer Bronwyn Hayward said on Twitter, "I've not seen student interest in politics like this for ages - no wonder New Zealand parties [are] starting to think about [the] youth vote".
Professor Alex Tan chaired the debate and told the students to exercise their "sacred right to vote", otherwise someone else might vote for them. Students liked Turei's lines about a smarter, greener economy and the promise of a "green card" that would get them on the bus for free. Wagner talked about her government's track record, especially in jobs. "There's never been a better time to get a job in New Zealand, if you've got the right attitude," Wagner said. But Woods spoke of having constituents in her Wigram electorate who cannot even afford food. "Inequality and child poverty earn this government a fail grade."
The most dramatic moment came as Turei repeated the Greens' promise to wind up Cera. Wagner appeared horrified. "If you cancelled Cera, would you ask them to take away their money?" she asked.
Their money? Turei interjected: "Actually, it belongs to you."
*** As for Dirty Politics, the subject remained a well-kept secret right up to the minute of the Wednesday launch. One problem with not releasing early copies to media is that journalists were still digesting its revelations two days later - those journalists who could find a copy, that is. Campbell Live gave Christchurch readers a tantalising glimpse of its contents when it aired National-aligned blogger Cameron Slater's notorious description of earthquake victims as "useless pricks" and "scum". Campbell Live screenshots quickly circulated on social media with an obvious defiance. Christchurch: proud scum.
You should not expect Slater to holiday in the South Island any time soon.