Election 2011: Q&A with Russel Norman

We’ve heard from Labour Party leader Phil Goff, now it’s time for Green Party leader Russel Norman to offer his stance on the big issues, including IP, addressing New Zealand’s skill shortage, and an issue close to the Green Party’s heart, climate change.   

1. What are you doing to move New Zealand from being a commodity-driven economy to a high-tech, IP and knowledge-based economy?

The Green Party would increase government research and development funding by $1 billion over three years and match it with private sector R&D funding with a focus on clean technology. We’d provide venture capital fund of $100 million over three years to support small, smart start up companies. We’d identify the clean energy sector as a strategic advantage and get the Government controlled energy companies to focus on the huge and rapidly growing clean energy global market (heading for $800 billion a year by 2015). We would pay for it by reducing subsidies to greenhouse polluters.

2. We have a serious skill shortage in this country and rather than stopping talent and investment from abroad, we should be encouraging it. How do we find shithot people from overseas and recruit them to New Zealand?

The Green Party supports a well managed skilled migrant scheme. We would give priority to migrants with the skills needed for a sustainable society and economy such as scientists, engineers and other trades with specialised skills applicable to fields such as organic farming, biodegradable materials, recycling, and renewable energy and fuels. But as well as finding skilled people from overseas, we want to encourage expatriate New Zealanders to come back and participate in the development of a compassionate, sustainable, low-carbon economy. We believe that a Green Government that is protecting and restoring our natural environment, creating thousands of green jobs, reducing inequality and making it more affordable for Kiwis to buy their own home, will be attractive to many expatriates. 

When it comes to overseas investment, we take a cautious approach. Foreign investment in New Zealand has increased dramatically in the last decade. Despite controlling nearly 50 percent of the share market, foreign investors employ less than one quarter of the labour force, and reinvest in New Zealand less than one quarter of the profits made here. We would put in place more stringent rules to protect our environment, our workers, and the profits made from our asset base. We think that selling off our state owned assets for a quick profit makes no economic sense. Inevitably ownership will end up on foreign hands with profits flowing overseas, leaving New Zealand in a worse fiscal situation. New Zealand land also needs to remain in New Zealand ownership, for the same reasons. 

3. In an ideal world, what would the perfect tax system be? 

In a perfect world, everyone would pay less income tax, clean businesses would be rewarded and wasters and polluters would pay more. All sources of income will be taxed in the same way, so that speculation is not rewarded compared with genuine wealth creation. As such, there would be a comprehensive tax on capital gains (excluding the family home). 

4. Rate climate change on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 the highest!) in terms of urgency as an issue, and explain why. 

We’d rank climate change as a 10 for urgency. Many scientists are saying that climate change represents the greatest threat to environmental, social and economic wellbeing that humans have ever faced. 

New Zealand is not immune to the effects of climate change and already has to deal with increased severe weather events such as extreme floods and storms and more frequent droughts. These trends will get worse. Sea level rise threatens our largely coastal settlements and infrastructure, and new pests and diseases will become established.

As well as the huge social and environmental costs of climate change, the economic cost of inaction are extremely high. The Stern report (2006) showed that an investment of 1-2  percent of global GDP is required to mitigate the effects of climate change, while failure to do so risks costs of up to 20 percent Global GDP by 2100.

All of this means that we must drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as we can. We must act for the sake of our children and our grandchildren. We take our lead from the latest science, which suggests that this will require a 90 percent reduction from 1990 levels in developed countries' GHG emissions by 2050. 

The Greens have released credible, costed plans on how we can reduce our emissions quickly, while creating jobs at the same time. See and for more information. We can have a low carbon economy that works for all New Zealanders, for generations to come. The sooner we act to reduce emissions, the better off we will be.

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