Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green): The strongest message about this 2017 Budget is that the Government has no vision, no ambition, and no idea of how to address the challenges facing our country. It believes it has shown some positive vision by offering some tax relief to struggling families. In this, it is half-right. That bill has already gone through. It goes some way to alleviating child poverty, which is why we voted for it. But the vision stops there.
With the goal of addressing our other national challenges—rivers, housing, transport, conservation—those members are failing because they lack the vision. With the goal of helping to address the global challenge we all face—climate change—they are failing because they lack the perception. They simply do not recognise the problem for what it is—the magnitude of the problem of dangerous climate change and the urgency of addressing it.
James Shaw noted during question time yesterday that the Budget omitted the phrase "climate change". The UN Secretary-General has warned that humanity has never faced a greater challenge than climate change, and the New Zealand Minister of Finance fails to mention it—fails to mention the greatest challenge facing humanity. Mr Joyce toyed with the question as if it were a passing amusement. There were, he said, many important initiatives that did not get mentioned because he had only 45 minutes. The greatest challenge ever to face humanity, and the New Zealand Minister of Finance could not refer to it in a 45-minute speech.
New Zealand voters might assume that the Minister of Finance does not think climate policy has a financial dimension and, therefore, it does not need to be in the Budget. But no, he did know that. James Shaw asked how much New Zealand might need to spend during the decade of Paris—2021 to 2030—through paying other countries to reduce domestic emissions to offset for our national failure. "That," said the Minister, "was difficult to say. It depends on a range of scenarios. Best to speak with the climate Minister. She'll have an answer."
There is probably no greater abrogation of a ministerial duty—a ministerial duty of care—than to wilfully refuse to take responsibility for climate change, but the Minister of Finance of New Zealand did that. "Too difficult to say," he said. "Talk to someone else."
Mr Shaw sought to table the document that would assist the Minister. The answer was in the document. Government MPs refused leave—refused to have the information tabled. Such a wilful refusal to face facts in respect of the magnitude and urgency of the climate threat is a dereliction of duty.
This Government does politics as if we are still in the 1990s. It sees economic growth as relying completely on the free market, loaded with false loans and long-term derivatives. It sees the threat of climate change as just another problem to be solved through greater effort on the basis of existing economic orthodoxy. That is where it lacks vision. But perhaps it lacks the courage to have a 21st century vision.
Let us assist with the Green vision of 21st century fiscal management. A Green Budget would place all Government policy within the framework of a planned transformation to a net zero emissions economy—net zero by 2050 for domestic emissions, without reliance on international offsets. Anything done internationally to assist others would be additional. The transformation will be both rapid and just. It will begin with amending the Climate Change Response Act to fundamentally reshape national climate policy, starting with an independent climate commission and focusing on an effective price signal across all sectors. We shall achieve net zero domestic emissions by 2050, or very close to it. One of the greatest challenges will be whether we can get agreement on how the Budget should tackle the greatest challenge ever to face humanity.