politics union

Actively changing the world

Andrew Tait

Activism is really important. It is entirely possible to change the world.

Andrew Tait is a Dunedin journalist, he is an active member of the EPMU, and the Mana Party, and was involved in Oil Free Otago, and the Otago Occupy Movement.

Talking Points

Possibilities for positive change.

“One law for all” is dog whistle, it’s code word for racism. Our justice system is inherently, systematically racist from start to finish. Maori are more likely to be apprehended, once apprehended they are more likely to be charged, once charged they’re more likely to go to court, once they go to court they’re more likely to be convicted, once they are convicted they are more likely to receive harsher sentences, custodial sentences.

Law and order, one law for all is absolutely the new rhetoric of racism.

(On meritocracy being an abstract that doesn’t work in context) Anyone that’s interested in real change has to recognise where people are really coming from – you can’t approach things from an abstract point of view, you have to work with from actual communities where they really exist, the concrete realities of their lives.

One of the big problems in western society is the rift between ourselves and the environment. It’s to do with urbanisation, its to do with externalisation of costs and the privatisation of profits, and the exploitation – the idea that the environment is there to be used, and the idea that things are there to be used and then thrown away.

The challenge for us is not to fall backwards, but to maintain the level of civilisation, the level of science, in a conscious way, but to restrengthen the natural collectivism of what it means to be a human.

Fundamentally what it means to be human is to be part of humanity, to be part of a group.

We have to work with those we can work with….don’t waste your time with people who aren’t going to listen.

Working class people have got the power to change the world, we create all the wealth and we’ve got an interest in changing the world. That’s a very different point of view than lobbying the powerful – or at least the people who apparently hold the power in the system.

We need to radically change the system.

Everybody has contradicting conscientiousness.

Somebody might have internalised capitalism too much, they might be living alongside us, but they believe the way to get ahead is to knife somebody in the back.

This is not some Utopian future, we’re talking about standards of human decency that we impose on society in general – the idea of the 40 hour week, the idea of free health care, the idea of education…these things were just ideas, until people worked together to make them a reality.

We do need radical change, but we have already won major victories.

My orientation is always towards what increases the power of working people, because what increases the power of the community, increases the safety of the environment. I don’t think you can separate them.

The best guardians of the environment are the people that are living and working there.

We need a movement of confidence,

Activism: Absolutely. Activism is really important. It is entirely possible to change the world. The world is changing all the time and what we do can make a real difference – so much of what we have has been won by people working in the past.

Challenges: Building an organisation of activists, of people committed to responding. Strengthen the ability, the self confidence of working class people…to fight for rights for the oppressed.

Advice: Study. Our culture is quite instant, it doesn’t encourage thoughtfulness, if you can join a union join it , look after one another but look for big changes as well.

green party politics

Community at the heart of change

Shane Gallagher

Regular co-host Shane Gallagher is standing for election in Dunedin South. Accordingly, to comply with the Electoral Act, he is unable to appear on the show as host until after the regulated period. In this show he appears as a guest. 

Shane Gallagher is a Green Party candidate for Dunedin South and a trade unionist. He works at the University of Otago and formerly owned AliMcD Agency. He was born in England to Irish parents, grew up in Dublin and went to university in Dublin and Edinburgh where he studied Linguistics and English.

Talking points

The idea that you have to sacrifice the environment for the economy is crazy thinking

Science informs our understanding of complex systems but it doesn’t fully explain it.

That technology can fix everything is the Prometheus myth – that technology is going to come along and solve all the problems that we have. But it’s not, it can’t – the problems we have are systemic, they’re massive, they’re to do with our behaviour, they’re to do with our relationships and to do with the quality of our exchanges in this world.

The system we have developed is driving us in a direction that is destructive, and it’s destroying the planet. Technology is not going to fix that problem because the problems aren’t really are of technology. We have solutions already, we can move extremely quickly to total renewable energy, we could go green very quickly, the technology is there or in its infancy but if threw the weight of our amazing intellects, innovation and incredible problem solving at them we could probably solve the last problems we have fairly easily. But the problem isn’t the technology but the systems that we have created: the corporatisation of the world, the drive to constantly grow – we can’t grow infinitely.

We have an elite that don’t want to say “hey, the party’s over, we’re living in the age of consequences”.

Solutions are myriad, and innovative and they’re all about community.

The innovations that we need – for instance insulating homes, solar panels on roofs, switching to 100% renewable energy, switching to a closed loop system for all our products – all these things generate economic activity and create jobs, they save us money, they improve communities as we build community gardens, create local resilience with local food gardens and market where people make genuine connections and communities come together to do positive things together

We need to shift away from a consumerist model of people being isolated in their homes…communities fragmenting, to rebuild community, to rebuild caring and empathy – empathy and compassion are really at the heart of what this is about.

When we look after the earth we look after each other and we look after ourselves. We do all three things simultaneously – it’s about love.

It’s about transforming the economic model. Some companies are starting to understand that if they want to exist in the long term, they have to start thinking about the long term. They’re not amoral agents in society, there to extract profit and nothing else. They have to do good in the world. It’s not enough not to do harm, they have to do good. You can make a profit out of that,

People are starting to understand that they are part of this world. That if they want a good life for themselves and their families their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren then they have to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Business is getting on board.

The old extractive industries making as much money as they can with no care for society or the environment or their workers – they’re there simply to make profit – they’re being superceded by a new generation of business people who actually understand that they’re part of society, they’re part of the world and they need to make an active contribution.

Activist: Yes. I knew I needed to change the world in some way.

Challenges: Bring the message of sustainability out there – firming up what it means for people, and how its different from what is happening now.

Advice: Get out and communicate with people.


Administering governance

Michael Woodhouse

When the city and the cycling advocates and the business community can come together and get a plan for urban cycling in this city, I will make it my personal mission that funding is not a barrier to getting that plan implemented.

Michael Woodhouse is a Dunedin-based list MP for the National Party. He is Minister for Immigration, Minister of Veterans’Affairs, Land Information Minister and Associate Minister of Transport.

Talking points

I would like to be thought of as someone who really beats the drum for Dunedin. Sometimes we suffer a loss or two, but it’s a long game, I’m in it for the long term.

(Are you the unofficial Minister for Dunedin?) Well I guess I’m the official Minister for Dunedin. Because I am the member in government and now around the Cabinet table, the expectation on me to fly the flag for the city have gone up, and rightly so, but we must also be very careful not to fall into the trap of pork-barrel politics because we would be overwhelmed by numbers around the table by people from other centres. There’s obvious positive parochialism about things I advocate for, but we need to be careful not to get into that space because we already punch above our weight.

Every region…has a case that they hang onto for extra funding.

How many kids are in poverty? It doesn’t actually matter. What we can all agree is that there is an unacceptably high number of children growing up in circumstances that we would not consider to be satisfactory.

We have a significant challenge in the social engagement that underpins our community

GDP growth is just measure…there is work to develop a more holistic measure…but for this government perspective, GDP growth, growth in incomes and controlling inflation will remain really important variables in the things that we do.

We can continue to get growth out of a finite planet – the question is virtually answering itself. The argument is about the speed of a transition away from a carbon economy and into a non carbon economy essentially. Politically we won’t always agree about whether we are moving far enough fast enough, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that science is taking us into a place where we’re going to be better off.

I don’t think we’ve maximised our potential for growth in our agricultural sector. The question then, is are we going to do that at an unacceptable cost to our environment. I think we can grow the sector, yes it’s finite, but I don’t think we’ve reached the limits of our potential for food production, for forestry production, for sustainable fishing…

We’ve got no shortage of water, it’s just not always in the right place at the right time when we need it.

We risk looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

We’ve solved point source…now we have a much more thorny issue of non-point source, farming run off. I am open to the view that geologically there are parts of our country that are not well suited to intensive farming – particularly dairy. I worry about the Manuherikia and parts of North Otago – the soils are just too porous for that kind of farming.

I’m really encouraged but by how the farming sector has improved its practice. There was a photo in the paper the other day – its always a file photo – of a cow standing with dirty legs standing in a dirty creek dirtying the water. And thats simply unacceptable, but it’s also very rare relative to what it was

Selling our (National’s) environmental record is problem, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily our Achilles heel. We have a strong blue-green lobby and environmental management is not the preserve of the left.

We have to balance a number of sustainable issues, including economic sustainability. Primary industries remain the backbone of our export sector. A balance has to be made, there’s always a tension around where that balance falls. I think we do extremely well.

By exporting food we’re getting double hit by our environmental record. We don’t blame Saudi Arabia for our fuel consumption.

We are reliant on extractive industries….and always have been…this is business as usual. It’s unfair to portray the National government as different or extreme when it comes to exploiting our natural resources because that’s been going on for a very long time.

(Why are we investing in roads, when we’re faced with Peak Oil and Climate Change?) Oil is finite and is having an environmental impact…in one year new cars are running on a fifth of the fossil fuel, next year it could be a tenth, by 2020 …I think we are much closer to the technological tipping point than people think.

When you factor in technology, yes oil is finite and wee need to remove reliance on it, there’s a rapid uptake of new technologies, and human nature is such that we like our independence – especially kiwis – we will still need roads, that’s what buses go on by the way.

We sell them as new roads, but…with most of them we’re not creating capacity for the future, we’re playing catch-up after years of neglect and years of very rapid population growth.

The more freight we get on the rail the safer our roads will be.

The one that affected me the most has been Invermay, you expect some things in decision making to go against your city, but for me that has been the one that has bounced hardest…I have to defend a crown research institute to make the decision they think is right for the countries science even though it might not be good for Dunedin. I’m more convinced though not completely convinced that they’ve got that right.

Hillside was very problematic politically, the wonder for me was that the decision wasn’t made sooner.

I think everybody in parliament does so for good reason, and we all want the same thing – we all want New Zealand to be the best it can be, and the most sustainable it can be for that matter. We might disagree very vehemently on the path to that destination, but we’ve all got the destination in mind.

(Activist) Yes, but not a publicist. I found (protests while I was at university) rather curious, that doesn’t make me any less active or less passionate about making change. If I was around in the Vietnam era I’d probably by sitting quietly on the side watching not throwing eggs at the police…I was in favour of the Springboks tour…the protestors intrigued me.

You don’t need to be waving a banner to say you’re on the side of the oppressed, it’s all about method.

Advice: Enjoy life, happiness is journey not the destination.