For almost 20 years Chris Trotter has been tying to put me in an ideological box. It started at Otago University when he christened me a “reluctant radical” because as OUSA President I didn’t, according to Chris, seize what he considered was the moment for students in Dunedin to rise up against the police in the wake of a stoush following a protest against massive fee increases. I didn’t see the moment the same way and I preferred to focus on the issue of the need for more equitable access to education. I could debate with Chris the level of radicalism I did bring to student politics (leading dozens of street protests, occupying all bar one of the university registry buildings, aligning with other protest groups etc) but that’s in the past.
Fast forward nearly twenty years, and Chris is at it again in a column published today. Fair enough, he is a commentator. But his out of context characterization of my recent environment speech needs a response.
He chooses to lift out a phrase from the speech about my view that we need to avoid “uncompromising dogma” in some aspects of environmental policies to somehow be my political catch-cry and extrapolates this in a several paragraph bound to a belief that “business as usual” is the way forward in my political universe. I reject that.
In the speech the statement about ‘uncompromising dogma’ relates to the importance of using evidence and science to back up our environmental policies. I use a particular example of the issue for some green businesses that there is some inside the lab genetic modification that is being unnecessarily limited by our current laws. (Current laws I played a part in creating I might add). Sticking to these rules without evidence and standing in the way of safe science that will promote green growth is to me, uncompromising dogma.
Chris then makes a quantum leap that would make Roger Douglas proud, and says this serves as a ‘brutal warning’ to the Greens about what is required if they want a “spot at the Cabinet table”. What absolute nonsense. What it is, is my opinion. It might challenge some people in the Greens, but I am not in the business of issuing warnings or threats to my friends in the Greens.
Leaping onward, and having blithely ignored the several paragraphs in the speech devoted to National’s appalling stewardship of our environment, Chris comes to the view that I accept a “business as usual” approach to the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact a whole section of the speech is devoted to why the way we have treated the planet for so many generations can not go on, and the importance of a global response. The whole point of the event that David Cunliffe and I organised was to discuss the importance of taking a different approach that draws together the environment and economic development.
I have had a fair bit of feedback about the speech, and I welcome more. A few negative or questioning comments, but far and away many more people appreciating that Labour is taking environmental issues seriously, agreement that as a country and world we do need to do things differently, and excitement that we are going to use evidence and science and that we will make the economy and environment work together. That’s where I am focused, whatever box Chris wants to try to put me in.