Eighteen months out from the 2014 election and National still leads Labour comfortably in the polls. But add in the Greens and the race is much tighter.

This is not to suggest that there will be a change of government next year, only that there might be and that – if there is – the Green Party will have seats at the Cabinet table.

We speculate on what a Labour-Green Government might look like and what that might mean for business.

The Greens in Cabinet

If David Shearer is in a position to form a government, David Parker will be Finance Minister. Labour will insist upon that. The rest of the portfolio allocation will depend upon the strength of the Greens vote relative to Labour’s and whether the coalition includes a third or even a fourth party.

But, under any scenario, Green co-leader Russel Norman is likely to get Economic Development and possibly Energy. Metiria Turei will get a social policy role. Kevin Hague may get health.

Inclusion in Cabinet will be a first for the Greens. Although they have worked with both Labour and National governments to advance Green objectives (such as home insulation), they have never been part of the cabinet.

Under the pragmatic leadership of Norman and Turei, they are taking a much more hard-nosed approach. We expect them to confirm this at their annual conference this weekend.

Green policies

The Greens have identified three policy priorities:

  • dealing to the external and internal imbalances affecting the New Zealand economy
  • sustainability, and
  • inequality.

They will be releasing a number of “Green Papers” in advance of the 2014 election campaign, with the opportunity for the public to provide feedback.

So far they have released a paper on how to grow New Zealand’s ICT sector and – most famously – a paper outlining their NZ Power plan. The closing date for responses to the NZ Power proposal is 1 June 2013.

A Labour-Green policy programme

A Labour-Green government can be expected to implement significant policy change in a range of areas, including:

  • energy (notably reform of the electricity market)
  • housing (direct investment to expand the supply of low income housing)
  • Resource Management Act (to restore the primacy of environmental over economic values)
  • employment law (to unwind many of the changes National has made)
  • monetary policy
  • taxation (introduction of a capital gains tax)
  • ETS (potentially a shift toward a carbon tax), and
  • mining.

There are differences in policy detail between Labour and the Greens and sometimes – as in monetary policy – these can be quite significant. But there is broad agreement on the general direction of change.

What now?

It is worth noting that a recent poll by Reid Research for TV3 News showed that the Labour-Green single wholesale electricity buyer idea has 54% support among the general public. This is in spite of the fact that it was roundly attacked by the Government, the business lobbies and most economic commentators.

The Greens are a serious political force. They have strong grassroots support, especially among younger voters, and highly effective organisers working full time on their behalf. They are here to stay. For business, that means building a relationship which allows for constructive engagement and the frank exchange of ideas.