Monday, October 17, 2005

Labour Green Agreement

The Labour-Green Agreement is online as a pdf. It runs to ten pages of which the points are:

* The government consults with the Greens on its legislative program, key legislative measures, major policy issues and broad budget parameters.

Since the government does this sort of thing to the opposition anyway in the guise of select committees and the like, it's a mystery to me why the Greens should consider this a must-have.

* Designated Green MPs have access to relevant Ministers.

Again something of the sort is in place with Ministers and opposition spokespeople and has been for a long time.

* Regular meetings between Prime Minister and Green Co-leaders.

Regular is left undefined so a meeting once a year would satisfy this agreement. What the Greens should have asked for was "frequent".

* No surprises between the Government and the Greens.

A concession that costs the Greens more than it costs the Government.

* Briefings by the Government before any significant policy announcement.

There's bound to be problems of privilege if Parliament is required to be informed first.

* Input into the Budget and inclusion of Green Budget initiatives.

The cost of these initiatives is not given. The Government could satisfy the agreement by giving the Greens 50 cents to spend every year.

The next part of the agreement establishes levels of policy agreements.

* Level 3 agreements require the two parties to consult with the aim of achieving support for legislative measures and/or policy proposals. Although it is the lowest level of policy agreement, No example of a level 3 agreement is given.

* Level 2 agreements expects that there be good faith between the two parties in working towards an agreed outcome that advances the goals of both parties. The Greens require access to relevant papers, public acknowledgement of the Greens contribution, agreement on the time table for implementing the agreement, support in the house from the Greens and full confidentiality. There are other provisions but they are rehashes of the first part of the agreement. Examples of Level 2 agreements are: Environmental Education, Initiatives to improve Nutrition and "Community and voluntary sector".

The inclusion of a good faith provision here implies that good faith is not required for the level 3 agreement or general business covered by the first part of the agreement.

* Level 1 agreements require the conditions of level 2 agreements as well as a written agreement by the relevant Minister, Greens having direct access to officials, budgetary documentation, Green reports to the Minister, Minister shows the Greens Cabinet Committee Papers and the Greens make submissions to the Cabinet Committee. Examples of Level 1 agreements are: an enhanced energy efficiency programme including solar energy promotion and a buy kiwi made programme.

From the explicit mention of cabinet committee papers in the level 1 agreement, it appears that the "relevant papers" mentioned in the level 2 agreement do not include Cabinet Committee papers! Likewise the stipulation of a written agreement signed by the Minister here implies that any agreement required by level 2 is oral presumably so that it can be fudged at a later date.

* The next part of the agreement covers specific issues that the Greens see the priority to address in the current parliamentary term. The government commits itself to seeing these issues are addressed.

The meaning of address is left undefined. If the Greens want the issue resolved to their satisfaction then they should have included words to that effect in the agreement.

* The government commits itself to addressing Budget initiatives to increase public transport capacity, increasing the number of students receiving student allowances, reducing child poverty, increasing ODA (?), increasing nutritional enviroment especially for children and enhancing Organic advisory services. Environmental education and conservation are also mentioned here.

I dunno what is meant by ODA. The stipulations on increasing this and that do not include any criteria on whether the increase should be significant or not. The mention of already agreed level 2 agreements make me wonder if the government is not obliged to addressing budgetary initiatives for the other levels 1 and 2 agreements that have not been mentioned in this list.

* The Government will continue to increase the minimum wage to $12.00 by the end of 2008, if the economic conditions permit [My emphasis - PHM].

Since the government will increase the wage in line with inflation, the only way economic conditions permitted a $12.00/hr minium wage would be if the government allowed a 15% inflation rate for the next three years.

* Work must be undertaken to ensure that non-GM producers can maintain GE-free production and to be able to identify their produce as such.

Who shall undertake the work is not stated. The Greens may think the Government should do it but the Government can just as easily interpret the agreement to it was the Green's responsibility.

* The Greens shall talk to the government about its peacemaking endeavours at the leadership level.

Keith Locke is forbidden from talking to the government about his foreign policy outside the role allowed to him as a member of parliament.

* The government agrees to retain Maori Seats until the Maoris decide they no longer need them.

Despite the Green belief they should be entrenched, the government isn't committing itself to doing anything.

* The government is committed to delivering programmes which are consistent with broad Green policies that are described in Appendix 3. These policies happen to be already agreed levels 1 and 2 agreements.

The point of this little paragraph escapes me.

* The Greens commit to supporting in the House certain Government commitments (interest-free loans, kiwisaver, working for families, rates rebates) but reserve their position on treaty deadline legislation.

But what about other specific Labour commitments such as more operations, more apprentices, more community constables, nuclear free status and four weeks minimum leave? The only reason they aren't listed is that the government does not require the Greens help in implementing them which suggests they might be in trouble from either NZ First or United Future.

* The Greens co-operates in the house and supports government procedural motions.

Another item that has already been said.

* The Greens are committed to keeping quiet about any papers they have seen.

A good way to keep the Greens quiet: show them something and then refuse to release it publicly.

* Greens not bound by collective responsibility but they are bound by something they have agreed to.

Why didn't they get a Cabinet post or Ministerial Portfolio on the terms of United and NZ First? Did Helen mislead them into thinking this wasn't an option?

* The Government commits itself into entering other agreements inconsistent with this one and the Greens agree they will allow all agreements to be complied with.

So if the government commits itself to a policy platform opposed to the Greens that isn't specifically mentioned in this agreement, the Greens are obliged to allow them to comply with that agreement.

Then in an appendix comes the specific details of the level 1 and 2 agreements in the appendix, which I shall address in a seperate post.