A Green challenge: global inconsistencies

If there is a “peace” party in Parliament, it is the Greens, even though Keith Locke has left politics. So it was logical Kennedy Graham questioned John Key last week on killing people with remote-control drones.

Graham asked Key if he would “instruct our intelligence agency to adopt a policy similar to that of its German counterpart, which rules out the possibility of shared information being directly used in a United States drone strike against one’s own citizens”.

Key: “No.” So if the United States makes you a target, some of the lowdown might come from here.

President Barack Obama authorises the killings. Except arguably in Afghanistan, his drone strikes on people in foreign countries are outside international law and the rules of interstate war. Graham, a former foreign affairs official and specialist in international governance, calls them “extrajudicial”.

Peter Dunne was less forceful, opposing “New Zealand-sourced information being used for purposes that are not necessarily in New Zealand’s interests” but backing it for securing those interests or protecting our citizens or military, which most would approve.

David Cunliffe focused on doubts that Key is a trusty overseer of his spies’ part in these dark arts and recommitted to a full review of the security services and their legislation.

Cunliffe can’t get too far distant from the Greens. Without them, he won’t be Prime Minister and the Greens are determined to be in the cabinet if he is Prime Minister. He claims a good working relationship with co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei. They meet monthly for high-level discussions. Their chiefs of staff meet frequently.

The Greens know they won’t be in the cabinet in October if Cunliffe is not Prime Minister. They need Labour to lift its vote above its 30 per cent May poll average — which will be a struggle if the Greens’ vote goes too high (they are aiming for a 15 per cent minimum).

Conversely, Labour wants the Green vote down but not too far or together they won’t have enough. Hence Cunliffe’s reluctance to talk of a joint campaign: Labour does not want middle-ground voters staying with National for fear of Green “extremism” nor does it want to risk too many of their side assuming it is safe to go Green, as in 2011. There is also a potential problem with Winston Peters if the Greens appear too, or much, influential.

So don’t expect more big joint policies like the electricity agency before the election.

Many of their policies are compatible or near-compatible. The Greens’ flagship “inclusive” “smart green economy” fits with Labour’s living wage and renewables accent in its “upgraded” economy. Though Labour will not emulate the Greens’ policy of a state bank to fund green businesses, it could agree to it once in office, as it did with the Alliance’s Kiwibank.

But Labour can’t go as far from the centre as the Greens on environmental and social — and “peace” — policies. The Greens’ “big policy announcement” due at their conference this weekend might add to the distance from Labour.

Also, the Greens are economic nationalists, against free trade agreements. While Labour worries about the property and investor rules the United States wants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it does back free trade. But that is not a coalition breaker because Labour could enlist National on trade as it did when in harness with the Alliance 1999-2002.

But it highlights a Green inconsistency. Any Green will tell you the environment is a global commons, confined by no national borders. But most are less keen to accept the implications of the fact that in the highly interdependent 2010s world economy national economies are not autonomous.

Some Greens get the inconsistency. James Shaw, who has a winnable thirteenth position on the list, up from a just-miss fifteenth in 2011, is one. Shaw is up with the globalising and potentially atomising, but also opportunity-creating, impact on economic activity of the 2010s rapid technological changes.

The Green election message did shift in 2008 from caring for the environment per se to a focus on its critical role in human life and in 2011 acknowledged the human value of (smart-green) material welfare by making the (green) economy its centrepiece.

The Greens’ challenge now is to globalise its smart green economy to one meshed inextricably into the rapidly evolving, more deeply globalised and complex world economy. That is a test of whether they are as modern a party in 2014 as predecessor Values was in 1972.

Drones pose a similar challenge. War, once between states, has internationalised. A self-declared modern “enemy” may be dispersed across many countries and be at odds with other “enemies” and reach into your own place as on September 11 2001 or through cyberspace. There are no international rules yet for that modern sort of “war”.

“Peace” is not so simple as in Locke’s day. Which goes to show it is “not easy being green”, as Kermit the Frog used to sing.