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Q+A interview with Russel Norman

Press Release – TVNZ

Sunday 6th November, 2011 Q+A interview with Russel Norman. The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on at, Q+A …

Sunday 6th November, 2011

Q+A interview with Russel Norman.

The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on at,

Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE. Repeats at 9.10pm Sundays, 9:05am and 1:05pm Mondays on TVNZ 7

Q+A is on Facebook,!/NZQandA and on Twitter,!/NZQandA


PAUL In two hours, the Greens officially launch their campaign in Wellington, but already they look as though they’re riding the green wave. In the latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll, the Greens are on 9%, which equates to about 11 MPs, two more than they currently have. If the poll were to translate into votes on election day, what will the Greens be looking for? Well, the Greens co-leader Russel Norman is with us live in Wellington. Russel Norman, good morning.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN – Greens Co-leader
Good morning, Paul.

PAUL You were 10% at the same time in the last election. How are you going to stop the slide you experienced last time?

RUSSEL Well, sometimes there’s a slide, but not every election. I think the Greens are on a bit of a roll in this election, actually, so we’ll see how it goes, but it’s looking good.

PAUL Is that because—? Is that because you’ve deliberately pitched yourself as more acceptable to the middle, in other words, dropping the tree-hugging image a bit?

RUSSEL (laughs) Well, I still think trees are great things, Paul, but certainly, I mean, you know, we’ve been pretty focused on cleaning up rivers, getting kids out of poverty, green jobs. And, you know, we’ve had a pretty disciplined campaign.

PAUL There was a number this week – it must frustrate you, Mr Norman, 65% of people think it’s good to have the Greens around, but they probably won’t vote for you. What do you do about that?

RUSSEL Well, we’ve been slowly trying to translate that into a more of a solid base by increasing the Green vote. I think we’re making some progress on it, but it takes time to build a third political force in politics, and, you know, we’ve been at it for a few years, but we are making progress.

PAUL You’re concentrating this morning in your policy announcements on three policy areas. First, 100,000 green jobs – now, where are they going to come from over three years, please?

RUSSEL So, yeah, they’re focused on direct government investment, which is the easy stuff to measure, if you like, so the home-insulation scheme, we extend that.

PAUL That’s 4000 to 6000 jobs, isn’t it?

RUSSEL That’s right. And then we’re looking at the riparian fencing and planting, which we fund from the irrigation fund, which is easy to measure as well, but a really good project. The big bulk of it is about the clean-energy opportunities, and that’s where we focused our efforts, because if you look at it internationally, that’s where the big growth is.

PAUL You also want to encourage SOEs to partner with clean-tech entrepreneurs, and you say that if you can develop the right incentives and if you can capture 1% of the global market for renewable energy – it’s all very vague, isn’t it?

RUSSEL Well, if you want to have a job-creation programme which is just spending taxes, then I could give you— I could dot every I and cross every T, because you can work it out precisely. But if you want the jobs to come out of the private sector, which is where they have to come from, then you can’t do that. You have to project, which is what you do in the private sector. We’re saying there is a great opportunity for New Zealand in the clean-energy market. It’s growing rapidly. It’s going towards $800 billion by 2015. We should aim to get a chunk of that market because we have great natural advantages in there, because of our SOEs and the way they are at the moment.

PAUL Are you consciously trying to project a more business-friendly image?

RUSSEL We certainly are, but it’s also true that the business sector’s coming our way, so there’s a bit of both going on, if you like. So the Greens are making sure that we are well oriented to the concerns of the business sector, but it’s also true that there’s been a really strong growth in what you might call green business or sustainable business. And that’s not just happening in New Zealand, that’s happening internationally, and we’re saying, ‘Look, we’re in a great position to take advantage of that as a country. Let’s grab that opportunity.’

PAUL Well, are we? Sir Paul Callaghan, our New Zealander of the Year, he says focusing on this green jobs idea is a mistake. He said what we’re good at is not what the Greens want us to be good at. We’re not good at green business. What we’re actually good at is the weird stuff – the electronics, engineering, pharmaceuticals, as well as the dairy. But that’s what we’re good at.

RUSSEL Yeah, so Paul’s strategy is, if you like, to focus on the knowledge-intensive part of the economy. I mean, that’s his winner, if you like, if you’re saying you want to pick a winner. And we agree with him about that, which is why we want to increase investment in R & D over three years – a billion dollars – because New Zealand has only 1.31% of GDP in R & D, which is very low by OECD standards. So we do need to get into the knowledge-intensive sector like Paul’s doing, but we also need to get into the green sector because not only is it a great opportunity, it’s also about ensuring our future, because we don’t want to hand on a world that’s, you know, destroyed its biodiversity and has out-of-control climate change and neither does the rest of the world, so let’s grab that opportunity.

PAUL Now to after the election if we could for a moment. If you wanted to get some of that 65% who like having you around but are probably not going to vote for you, where are you going to take their vote if they go with you on the party vote?

RUSSEL What we do is we try to use the votes we have to get good green change as we see it, so that’s, you know, when we put out our priorities, we’ve got the top three, and then we’ve got this other group of about five or six or seven. And so in post-election negotiations, we’ll try to get progress on that. We’re working with National at the moment on the memorandum of understanding, we’ve done 120,000 homes retrofitted with insulation – I think that’s a good project – the cycle path, but what we need to do then is these priorities we’re identifying now, we need to take them into the post-election negotiations.

PAUL So you’ve said before – you’ve gone on the record that it’s highly unlikely you’d coalesce with the Nats, but could you continue with the National Party should they win the government, to entertain a memorandum of understanding across a range of issues?

RUSSEL Yeah, I think we would. I mean, look at the irrigation. The irrigation levy – we’ve asked National, ‘Would you rule it out?’ Time and again, they’ve said no because they know that putting a price on commercial water use makes good financial sense, it makes good environmental sense, and you can use that.

PAUL Right, so we’re not opposed to that. Okay.

RUSSEL Yeah, and you can use that money then to recycle it back into improving water quality, which is all about brand protection – clean, green New Zealand. We’ve got to protect that brand.

PAUL Just a quick word – the Nats yesterday – the National Party yesterday said they were going to insulate every state house in the country. Do you see that as they’re reaching out to you?

RUSSEL Possibly. It’s pretty small numbers. It’s only a few thousand, whereas what we’re talking about is the private housing sector. So the current scheme is into the private sector – 120,000 private homes – and we want to extend that to a further 200,000. National are talking about the state sector, and there’s a few thousand there, but the really big gains, because we’re talking for every dollar we spend—

PAUL There’s 70,000 state houses.

RUSSEL Yeah, but they’re only talking about I think it was 5000. I think they said an extra 5000—

PAUL All right, just finally – if you could help the Nats form a government, would you?

RUSSEL If it comes to voting for confidence and supply, what we’ve said all along is it’s highly unlikely, but we look for policy common ground to work together to make good green progress where we can.

PAUL If the National Government or National Party were to offer you a ministerial post, Russel Norman, would or could you accept it?

RUSSEL Well, again that would have to be part of a confidence and supply agreement, and again we’ve said that’s highly unlikely, so, yeah.

PAUL All right, good luck with your announcements this morning, and thank you very much for your appearance.

RUSSEL A pleasure.

PAUL That’s Russel Norman.

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