Welcome back to our panel - Claire Robinson, Rod Oram and Phil O'Reilly. Rod, what did you make of that? It looks like their meeting this week obviously brought some agreement.
ROD ROAM - Business Commentator
Well, Gareth's famous for sort of staking out, making a very bold statement in a conference like that, and then when you talk some more, you get a bit around it. But the two central issues for me - first of all, conservation is very important, but it's only a very small part of a much more integrated, complete picture of how economics and technology and the way we're running ourselves adapts to make sure that seven billion people now, nine and a half billion people coming, can function sustainably on the planet. And Gareth was very wrong to say the Greens hadn't made progress on that. They've made a lot. And the third point is that what we're seeing in international business is a much bolder vision staked out amongst those leaders from, for example, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and very major corporates versus what we're getting in New Zealand, which is still largely a focus on resource efficiency, rather than trying to understand this new concept of the economy and the environment working together.
SHANE Claire, do they still face that problem of being perceived as the loony lefties?
CLAIRE ROBINSON - Political Analyst
No, not really. I think Russel Norman himself has done a great job of actually mainstreaming Green conservation issues. But I think the problem for the Greens is this: that they're the most popular they've ever been, but they are being the most ineffective they've ever been in terms of being able to change policy. I got a flyer in the mail yesterday which still talks about the home insulation scheme. And even Russel just did it. That's like their big policy intervention over the last four years. They've got to be able to do more. But, ironically, if they were going to do more and they were in coalition, they'd be suffering at the polls because no minor party has managed to hold on to their vote. So they're in this kind of no-man zone where they're popular but not able to achieve much, except through Russel. And this Russel himself, personally, is doing a very good job as kind of a quasi-Opposition leader. He's much more out there than David Shearer, for example, when they're opposing the government. So if they're looking at the long term, possibly he may have a great role in government in 2014, should there be a Greens-Labour coalition. But for the next couple of years, there's not a lot that they can actually achieve.
SHANE Is Russel more than just a respectable man, Phil O'Reilly? His economic policy, for example, Gareth Morgan said is not credible.
PHIL O'REILLY - Business New Zealand
Well, he's a nice bloke. I've met him on several occasions. We'll be meeting with him again over the next few weeks to continue the discussion, but, of course, the problem for the Greens is they're not just an environmental party, they're a far left party. So the so-called mainstream stuff that he was just talking about a second ago - look at the examples he used. One, a new tax. Second, a new charge. Whether you agree with him or not, that's where he comes from - taxes, charges, more legislation, more control. So I think in order to get mainstream, he's going to have to be thinking much more about how you get economic growth. And the interesting thing is Rod's wrong about this. New Zealand businesses are up for the debate much more than you might expect because, actually, when I talk to business leaders, they're saying to me this idea of the economy versus the environment is simply wrong-headed. We need to get a better economy and a better environment. We need to have better leadership on both. And increasingly they're getting frustrated that that debate is not being held. Now, the important thing is that you don't have a debate which excludes possibilities; you have a debate which includes possibilities, and that's part of the problem of where Russel and the Greens are at. They're excluding a lot of possibilities. They're not mainstream about taking up the best of the economy and the environment.
SHANE Rod, are you wrong on this?
ROD No. Phil is boxing himself and the rest of New Zealand business bar some into a very narrow track saying we want a better economy and we want a better environment. If you don't think in these new conceptual terms - and the Harvard Business Review calls sustainability the greatest driver of innovation the world has ever seen - unless you start to think in these terms, you're always banging one against the other.
PHIL That's what I said, Rod. I said you need to do both well, remember? I don't think it's boxing me into a corner.
ROD It is. And so, for example, why are you still sitting on the New Zealand version of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Report, the Vision 2050, which actually brilliantly articulates that and applies those issues to New Zealand? But unfortunately although that work was completed a year ago, Business New Zealand's Sustainability Council still hasn't delivered it
PHIL That's quite wrong. We have working very heavily on that report, Rob.
SHANE We have to start wrapping, so, Claire, save us. Tell me, though, the whole notion of this National-Greens coalition. Is it possible? I think we got a very clear sign from Russel Norman it's very unlikely.
CLAIRE Yeah, I think the signals that they got from their voters and from some of the new MPs - this is the Green Party - was that they didn't want to go into coalition with National. I think National probably would need them in 2014.
SHANE So should the Greens be rethinking their position?
CLAIRE Well, possibly. They've never wanted to sell out. They've wanted to be more mainstream, but they've never wanted to sell out to the man. So they haven't quite worked it through in their heads. I think Russel is much more amenable to going into coalition than some of the other MPs. But it depends how much they want to effect. This is what the Maori Party has discovered. You can't effect a lot of change from outside of Cabinet.
SHANE What about business? Do they like them? Would they ever like them?
PHIL They'd have to become a lot more mainstream. There are parts of their policy - I think if you talked to business - this is Gareth's point - the perfect coalition, in a sense, is Greens and National, if you can make that happen, because business people in New Zealand, we're all a bit environmental, we're all a bit green. So that's an important aspect for all of us as New Zealanders. So the question is, really, how do you build both economic credibility and a green future? And, fundamentally, I don't think the Greens are close to that right now.
ROD But the Greens are very mainstream because on a Capital Gains Tax, we are one of I think it's three or four only OECD countries that doesn't have a Capital Gains Tax. So for them to talk about Capital Gains Tax is astonishingly mainstream. It's just that some people in New Zealand aren't so keen on it.
SHANE And there we shall leave it.