Finally, the Greens have decided to contest policy with Labour.
At their annual general meeting in Auckland, their co-leaders, James Shaw and Marama Davidson, made it clear they were less than impressed with Labour’s caution on a number of policy areas.
Their criticisms echoed those of many posts on the pro-Labour blog site, “The Standard”.
It seems a frustration is building up with the centrist “sausage roll” and “boy from the Hutt” image the Prime Minister is trying to project.
But certainly, there is ample evidence of his move to the centre becoming evident.
On Friday, in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech, he described the United States as a “friend and partner”; the very same phraseology a fortnight ago he had refused to use to describe New Zealand’s relationship with China even though it was how President Xi Jinping described the relationship.
Long-time New Lynn Labour activist Greg Presland, writing under the pseudonym “Micky Savage” on “The Standard”, says Hipkins “needs to step up and provide us with hope. As Big Norm said, kiwis want somewhere to live, food to eat, clothing to wear, and something to hope for.
“National is campaigning on despair. Labour really needs to campaign on hope.”
It’s a persistent theme on the blog site.
“Hipkins needs to find and express some actual ideals that resonate with us and make us sit up straight. That’s how Lange, Clark and Ardern did it, and there’s no other way for Labour. No more Hutt boy with a sausage roll bullshit” said “Ad.”
Posts are critical of the Ministerial “mistakes”; the Education Ministry’s decision to purchase synthetic rather than woollen carpet tiles for schools and the underfunding of Dunedin Hospital.
And a particularly damning post from “Corey” attacked Labour’s housing policies.
“This government started showing signs of third termites in 2021; it was then that government became increasingly Welly-centric, unfocused and bogged down,” the post said.
“2021 was the year Labour went from a govt that was open to new ideas to a govt that “categorically” ruled out every new idea put to them, and they started saying “there is no crisis” in housing or poverty and would waffle out statistics like National.
“The Govt has made some, very, very slow progress, but they have very little, if anything, to be proud of in housing; it’s worse than ever, especially for its voters, who are mostly renters, trying to find a rental property, in any city in NZ is now one of the most stressful, dire, grim, depressing and upsetting experience and with rapid immigration it’s only going to get worse.
“This election is basically National have bad ideas, Labour have no ideas.
“Hipkins should have released policy in his honeymoon period, people may have gotten excited, especially young people, but now it’s going to be really hard to get my generation to vote.”
It’s that sentiment which the Greens, with their predominant support from young people, may have picked up and which persuaded them over the weekend to be a lot more bold in their speech and policy proposals.
Shaw was at least able to report a small victory in his speech to the party’s annual meeting on Saturday.
He said Cabinet had agreed that meant that “in the not-too-distant future”, action to restore our native wildernesses would count towards our efforts to stop the climate crisis.
“And that includes recognition for wetlands, peatlands, mangroves, and other non-forest land uses in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme,” he said.
That might also benefit sheep and beef farmers who have complained that they have been unable to receive credits for scattered woodlots on their farms as part of the He Waka Eke Noa proposals.
But beyond that, Shaw was less generous to the Labour Government.
For decades, government after government pursued short-term goals without seeing the bigger picture, he said, when talking about overall performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“I have made no secret of the fact that I wanted it to go further,” he said.
“What stopped that was not an absence of ideas, or ambition, or fight but a majority government that had other priorities.”
And he hinted at tensions within the Government.
“Change can be slow, messy, and endlessly frustrating,” he said.
“Our path can be blocked by other Ministers with different priorities to those we hold dear.”
One area where that would be highly likely to happen if Labour and the Greens are returned to Government after the election is over tax.
In what is likely to be a controversial move, the party is proposing in its Manifesto, launched over the weekend, to impose a 2.5 per cent tax on net wealth over two million dollars million “so that multi-millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.”
The tax would help fund a universal basic income of $385 a week.
“We are saying everyone in Aotearoa will have what they need to have kai on the table, a safe place to call home and live a good life – and that we will tax the mega-rich to pay for it,” said co-leader Marama Davidson at the meeting.
“We must reduce the outrageous and immoral level of income and wealth inequality we have in this country. “
All this positions the Greens well to the left of the Hipkins-led Labour Government, but that may be a position some of Labour’s traditional supporters could be more comfortable with than the current centrism of their party.