JAMES SHAW: Economic responsibility and environmental sustainability

24/03/2017
This week, the Greens and Labour announced our shared Budget Responsibility Rules.

This is our commitment to managing the country’s finances responsibly while at the same time delivering the bold changes New Zealand needs. It is another step towards changing the government in September.

When we’re in government, Labour and the Greens are committing to prioritise long-term investments, spend wisely, deliver sustainable surpluses, tackle government debt, and build a fairer tax system.

Building on the Greens’ past work around transparency and economic credibility, the Budget Responsibility Rules include a promise to put the environment and quality of life at the core of the way we measure our success in government.

Our Budget Responsibility Rules commit us to invest wisely in these areas to deliver the best possible outcomes for New Zealand.

In the Green Party we often talk about sustainability as a stool with three legs: an environment leg, an economy leg, and a society leg.

If you take away one leg, the stool falls over.

Environmental sustainability has a lot in common with economic responsibility. Both are about living within our means, leaving the world better than we found it, and not making future generations pay the price of decisions made in the present.

Over the next few months, you will hear much more about our plans to lift children out of poverty, clean up our rivers, rebalance the housing market, and make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We have always stood for increased transparency and accountability for politicians. The Green Party first released our MPs’ expenses to the public in 2009, which forced the rest of Parliament to follow suit.

At the 2014 General Election, our policies were fully costed and independently audited. And just last year, we announced our intention to set up an independent Policy Costing Unit to ensure all political parties’ policy initiatives can be properly costed.

Our Labour-Green budget rules take this idea one step further, committing to establish an independent agency which will assess not just the cost of political parties’ policies, but the finances of the Government itself.

This intendent oversight and transparency will help keep politics honest.

When we’re in government, we’ll develop a new set of official indictors to show how we’re doing.

GDP is commonly used to measure economic success, but it’s a strange measurement. It counts all economic activity as good, so if a window is broken and has to be replaced, that’s counted as good. If the window isn’t broken, it’s not counted.

In other words, measuring GDP doesn’t give good information about actual quality of life for people in New Zealand. That’s why we’re pleased that the budget rules commit a Labour-Green Government to develop a new set of official measurements that show a full picture of how our country and our people are doing.

We know New Zealanders want to know that we can govern responsibly with Labour, even though we may differ over specific policies.

Our Budget Responsibility Rules show how we’ll deliver on our promises after we change the government.

Read more about the Budget Responsibility Rules at https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/smarter-economy/budget-responsibility-rules