In a speech to party faithful, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson slammed “lazy and dangerous politics” from the National Party and highlighted her own work in Government, Marc Daalder reports
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has accused the National Party of “putting politics ahead of peoples’ lives” in stigmatising Māori communities and voting against the Government’s legislation which would ban LGBT conversion “therapy”.
Her remarks to party faithful at the Greens’ annual AGM set the stage for the next year. While Davidson highlighted her own work in Government as the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness), it was her biting criticism of the Opposition that received the loudest applause.
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Davidson spoke ahead of a closed-door session in which co-leader James Shaw headed off a leadership challenge from Dunedin-based activist and software developer James Cockle. Party members voted 116 to 4 to keep Shaw in his role.
“I have not cleaned out my Parliamentary office, although I try to make sure it’s clean at all times,” he joked in comments to reporters ahead of the session. Shaw said he had already written his own speech to address the AGM on Sunday.
The two speeches are the only parts of the two-day event that are open to media. As with the debate over the male co-leader role, discussion of a proposal from members to reform the co-leadership model to allow for a non-binary role or require that one of the leaders be Māori will happen behind closed doors.
Neither the co-leaders nor the party’s co-conveners – the equivalent of a party president – would be drawn on their thoughts on the proposed reforms.
When speaking to Newsroom in April, the co-leaders were more willing to discuss the issue.
Shaw had said this term was the ideal time for conversations around the model and that any change would have to happen this year or next, because the Greens don’t make constitutional changes in election years.
“I think there’s an overwhelming interrogation of the gender-stringent part of the leadership,” Davidson had said, while stressing that she didn’t want her comments to be seen as an attempt to persuade party members in any way.
“They’re the conversations taking place and I think it’s time to review that and look at a modern 21st Century approach to that model. Probably, we’re moving past that male/female binary.”
In her speech on Saturday, Davidson didn’t touch on internal party politics. The bulk of her address dealt with her ministerial work, allowing the co-leader a rare opportunity to tout funding received in recent Budgets for Māori housing and community programmes to support victims of family violence.
Davidson had copped criticism earlier in the year after National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis revealed she hadn’t taken a paper to Cabinet or issued a press release in her capacity as the associate minister responsible for homelessness. That clash, too, had sparked a clash in which Davidson denounced Willis’ comments as having “racist and classist undertones”.
The Greens co-leader didn’t let that skirmish lie on Saturday.
“Women all want healthy, violence-free lives for their whole families and their children and it is my job to meet with them about how we can achieve that vision. And that includes meeting with women associated with gangs and I will never ever apologise for going to where the solutions are,” she said.
“I am proud that as a Green Minister I can do what is right and not just what is popular. It is in working with people, not stomping on people, that the solutions lie. It is also my job, as a Green Minister, to call out dangerous, racist and classist political narratives from other political parties.”
Davidson then launched into a series of attacks on National, saying the party’s “dehumanising narratives have no place in Aotearoa.
“The ghost of Don Brash is haunting the National Party. It is lazy and dangerous politics we are seeing from the Opposition. They do not have answers or solutions to the big issues in Aotearoa, and so they are seeking to divide our communities,” she said.
“Just this week, National voted against banning conversion therapy, even though they say they don’t support conversion therapy. They used lazy and dangerous politics to get some attention, putting politics ahead of peoples’ lives.
“It is abhorrent. We will not let it stand. We are here to push back against that type rubbish that threatens our communities who have been smeared for generations by people who hold power selfishly.”
Davidson’s speech was well-received and, other than the challenge against Shaw, there have been few issues raised publicly around the AGM. That’s in contrast to the other political event this weekend, the National Party’s AGM. While National is seeking to present a united front after 18 months of internal division, Shaw said the Green party was broadly unified after its best election result in a decade last year.
“I’m very grateful to have such strong support from the Party,” he said after the co-leader election results were made public.
“It means we can continue to deliver the comprehensive policy platform that the Green Party brought into government, with urgency and unity.”