Greens flex muscles in minor party debate

Russel Norman.
Russel Norman.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman gave Labour plenty to think about during last night's minor party leaders debate as he pushed hard for a greater say in the make up of a Left-leaning government.

Not only was Dr Norman asserting the Green's right to have the same proportion of cabinet seats as the Greens poll on September 20, he also did not rule out a memorandum of understanding with National to pursue his party's politics.

The Greens had got National to spend $400 million on home insulation.

With National above 50% support in three opinion polls released yesterday, the stance of the eight party leaders would be of interest to both National and Labour supporters but the only leaders who mattered in the debate last night were Dr Norman, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Dr Norman and Mr Harawira, who has been missing from the campaign for two weeks, will side with Labour, Mr Flavell may go either way, as will Mr Peters - all depending on the deals they can cobble together after the election.

United Future leader Peter Dunne will win his seat and return to Parliament supporting National, Conservative leader Colin Craig may get into Parliament through his party reaching 5% and support National, Act New Zealand leader Jamie Whyte has a slim chance of being elected and would support National and Independent Coalition leader Brendan Horan has no chance of remaining an MP.

The One News debate was again hosted by Mike Hoskings, who proved overbearing in talking over the candidates who were desperately trying to prove their relevance to voters.

Near the end of the 90min debate, Mr Peters chided Mr Hoskings and urged him to do his job properly.

Each of the leaders was asked to give their priority policy if they were in a chance to negotiate a deal after the election.

There was an overriding theme of reducing child poverty from the Left, although how much that would cost was either vague or nonexistent.

For Dr Norman it came down to clean rivers, although he could not put a figure on how much it would cost.

Dr Whyte was pressed on why the three strikes for burglary was so important and got into an argument with Mr Hoskings on what constituted burglary.

According to Dr Whyte, burglary was a sense of invasion of a private home and the three-strikes policy would cut the crime rate by a third.

Mr Craig wanted binding referendums but also believed New Zealanders wanted the ability to smack their children.

During the time the anti-smacking legislation had been in place, child abuse rates had risen substantially, he claimed.

Mr Dunne wanted the implementation of flexi-superannuation, allowing people to retire younger with less money or work longer to receive a higher rate of superannuation later.

Mr Flavell believed the Maori Party had helped close the poverty gap for his people through making the policy a high priority with the Government and working with the Greens at a select committee process.

Eliminating child poverty was Mr Harawira's main aim and the cost did not matter if children were regarded as the nation's taonga, or treasure.

Retaining the retirement age at 65 was affordable, according to Mr Peters, who had a running battle most of the debate with Mr Craig about the Conservatives stealing NZ First's policies.

He told Mr Craig he could not buy the election, despite throwing money at it.

And Mr Horan wanted to create a ministry of job creation, something he might find handy after the election.

dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz