Nandor speaks on sustainability, cannabis prohibition and political fuckery
By Campbell MacDiarmid
Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos appeared on campus last Thursday on a national speaking tour of tertiary institutions on the topic of sustainability. The Dunedin date coincided with Cannabis Awareness week, offering Tanczos the chance to take part in a debate over the rationality of cannabis prohibition later in the day.
Students, members of the public and Green Party cadres gathered in Archway 4 last Thursday to hear Tanczos deliver a lecture entitled ‘At the Tipping Point: Thinking Beyond Sustainability’ which discussed the impact that the global pursuit of economic growth has inflicted on the environment. Tanczos painted a bleak picture of the state of the environment, focusing on the phenomenon of climate change, peak oil, the depletion of natural resources, population growth and the quest for food security in the face of pressures on food production systems. Tanczos proposed a few scenarios of what the future might look like,
ranging from the demise of western industrial civilisation in a Mad Max-esque dark age, to the not-quite-so-scary prospect of a simplified society, stripped of many of the wasteful excesses of consumerism, and focusing instead on the three tenets of perma-culture: earth-care, people-care, and fair-share.
After a question-and-answer session, Tanczos stopped into the Critic office for a chat, looking back on his time in Parliament and what the future holds for him. Tanczos will not be standing in the next election and plans to retire from Parliament after his Waste Minimisation Bill becomes law later this year. After nine years in Parliament, Tanczos remains firm in his belief that the Parliamentary system is flawed but is more optimistic about the Parliamentary process than when he entered.
“I went in [to Parliament] thinking that all politicians were a bunch of assholes really and came to the realisation that some are, but there are actually some really good people in there. I think most people probably go in there with good intentions, and that’s quite encouraging. The problem is that the system itself co-opts people, which is why I’m leaving actually because I feel it happening to me.”
Tanczos thinks that New Zealand has one of the best democracies in the world. “We’re one of the most open, one of the most accessible,” he says, but despite this maintains that “the process is still monopolised by corporate lobbyists because they’re the only ones who know how the system works.”
Of his achievements in Parliament, Tanczos is most proud of his part in
introducing the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, which wipes old minor criminal offences from people’s records if they do not re-offend. Tanczos says “half a million New Zealanders have had minor criminal convictions wiped, I’m really proud of that.”
“I still get strangers come up to me in the street saying thanks for that, and I hear lots of stories about the benefits that this has had for people, so that’s really cool.”
Tanczos is also proud of changing regulations to allow hemp growing
in New Zealand, but also says that he is just as proud of many other minor achievements. “A lot of the victories and achievements in Parliament are stuff that people never see, [for example] its never named who made an amendment [to a bill at select committee] and people will never know that it got changed but down the line it will make things better for someone.”
Asked whether he has any regrets about his time in Parliament, Tanczos mentions his inability to change the Parliamentary system through constitutional change, but acknowledges that “constitutional change is something that will take a long time; its a slow process and so it should be.” It is the failure to achieve cannabis law reform that stands out as Tanzcos’ “only real regret.” Whilst believing that reform is inevitable, Tanczos believes that an opportunity was lost when the Greens first came to power, saying “I could’ve done more if I’d understood how the system works better then.” He also blames politicians like Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton for blocking the change, saying “it was really just due to political fuckery on behalf of people like [them].”
Tanczos reserves his greatest disdain for New Zealand First politician
Winston Peters, whom he says “deliberately fabricates xenophobia.”
“It’s that dog-whistle stuff, he knows people’s prejudices and he’s very good at pushing populist buttons. That kind of thing I think is disgraceful really.”
In contrast, Tanczos holds the Maori Party in high regard, calling their
election as an important development in New Zealand politics.
“The Maori Party don’t engage in personal abuse, when they give speeches they give substantial speeches, any time they make a contribution it’s worth listening to.”
What does the future hold for Tanczos?
“The Green party is doing really well; [now] we need to pay some attention to building the grassroots [support] and a deeper public debate around environmental and social issues.” Beyond that, he intends to return to study and spend more time with his family.