Attacking Greens on all fronts is unfair

Peter Donne 

Over the years, a media myth of my intractable negativity towards the Greens has developed. While I have been properly critical of the Greens at times, and may regret some of my harsher criticisms in the cooler light of day, I have nonetheless worked constructively with a number of Green MPs during those years.

Keith Locke and I raised more than a few eyebrows when we made a joint submission to a Select Committee calling for the repeal of New Zealand’s antiquated sedition laws, but we succeeded and the laws were repealed.

Kevin Hague and I maintained a very good common-ground dialogue over a long period on drug-related issues, and even though the media liked to pit us against each other, Nandor Tanczos and I worked fairly closely together on law and order and broader justice issues. During this Parliament, I kept in close contact with Eugenie Sage during the debate around the changes to the Resource Management Act, and I work closely with Kennedy Graham on climate change policy through the multi-party GLOBE group.

Young MPs side-lined

Recently, the Greens have attracted criticism from the staider corners of the political spectrum over their selection of some very young candidates on their Party list.

I do not know any of them personally, but I do not share that criticism.

More than that, I welcome their selection as a sign of renewal within the body politic, and I wish them well.

However, it will not be easy for them.

I say so from experience, having been one of the youngest MPs in the House when first elected, and therefore knowing first-hand how difficult it is to break through the glass ceiling.

Young MPs quickly discover that the system is loaded against them. Passion and enthusiasm go only so far, when the opportunities to express them within the Parliamentary system are so limited.

Speaking opportunities in the House are not spontaneous, but predetermined in advance by the Whips and the Business Committee; and the hours spent grinding worthily away in a Select Committee seldom attract much public attention.

Yet, the public expects these new MPs to make their mark quickly, and becomes frustrated and unforgiving (“You have sold out, just like all the rest”) when they do not immediately do so. Few do – it often takes years of hard work for a young MP to overcome some of the prejudice they encounter and to be noticed, and more importantly to be taken seriously, for their achievements, rather than constantly pigeon-holed for their age.

Peter Dunne is Interior Minister of New Zealand and Leader of the UnitedFuture Party. The above is a part of his excellent article. The full text appears in our web edition:

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