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Lisa Owen interviews Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Lisa Owen interviews Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Shaw says the Greens haven’t spoken to Labour yet about a joined-up policy presentation, but will “float” it because it’s important for voters to see what an alternative government will look like

Owen: So it is something you’d like to achieve?
Shaw: I would imagine that it would be useful to have, if you’re going to have a credible alternative government, to have some kind of, you know, set out your stable [sic] in advance.

Describes the Green’s relationship with Labour as “significantly improved”

“Labour under Andrew Little has, I think, really turned a corner. They’re doing the hard yards that perhaps they ought to have been doing over the course of the last six years”

Describes the party’s recent climate change plan that exempted farmers from proposed levies for five years as a “pragmatic move”

Says his pledge to double the Green Party’s membership this year is going “pretty well” and it recently got 400 new members in one week

When asked about Labour and NZ First’s attempts to marginalise the Greens, he says it’s “jockeying for position” and “part of the pre-election game”; says the idea of Winston Peters as Prime Minister is “just not going to happen”.

Lisa Owen: Good morning.
James Shaw: Good morning.
What’s the inflation rate, Mr Shaw?
This quarter it’s 0.3%.
I was just kidding, but, yes, 0.4%.
0.4%, yeah. 3% annually.
You have heard just then from Winston Peters, refusing to rule out being prime minister in a coalition. Where would that leave the Greens if he was?
I think that’s a fantastic idea, but it’s just not going to happen. I can’t imagine a world in which Winston Peters becomes prime minister.
OK, well, could you be part of a coalition that had Winston Peters as prime minister?
Well, again, it’s such an inconceivable hypothetical question, I—
He didn’t rule it out, though. He didn’t rule it out, you know.
But if you look at New Zealand First’s polling, generally what happens in governments is the leader of the largest party in the coalition becomes the prime minister, and so they would have to go from somewhere between 5% and 8% in the polls to something like 40% in the polls for that to be a realistic proposition. So I just think it’s a silly question, to tell you the truth.
OK, well, how awkward is it for the Greens that your potential partners in Parliament – Labour and New Zealand First – it seems to suit them to marginalise you?
That’s just part of the pre-election game, right. We want to be a strong and significant part of the next progressive government, and we’re working hell for leather on exactly that proposition. So we’ve got to wait until the election and see what the voters have to say in terms of the numbers that we get, and then we’ll work out the seats around the table.
But it’s got to be especially awkward for the Greens. Those are the people that are your potential partners, and they love to push back from you.
Look, every party is a potential partner to every other party in Parliament, and so everybody’s jockeying for position over the course of the three years. So, you know, I just think that’s just part of the political landscape. You just have to deal with it.
But I thought ACT and National weren’t possible partners for you, so there’s only those two.
Yeah, no, but what I’m saying is that in terms of potential coalitions, right, you’ve got, you know, one that’s broadly centre-right, you’ve got one that broadly centre-left – there’s a whole lot of positioning that goes on between all of those parties before the election. Voters expect us to compete like crazy for their vote during the course of the election and then to sort it out and say, ‘Well, you know, who are you going to work with for the sake of the country afterwards?’
But National, I suppose, fosters relationships and is nice to the ones on their side; it doesn’t seem to be the case with you and the Greens and NZ First.
Well, I would say that our relationship with Labour is significantly improved at the moment. Labour under Andrew Little has, I think, really turned a corner. They’re doing the hard yards that perhaps they ought to have been doing over the course of the last six years. The mood in Labour has significantly changed. The Future of Work Commission that they’re leading has got, from what I can see, some really creative and interesting policy ideas. We’ve got a constructive working relationship, and we’ve been working together on things like the Saudi sheep deal and, you know, a few other things as well, so starting to collaborate in the house.
Do you think you’ll achieve a joined-up policy presentation with Labour?
Well, we haven’t had that conversation with them yet, but I think going into 2017, voters are looking for a credible alternative government.
So is it something you want, even if you haven’t had a conversation with them yet? Is it something you want?
I think that in general, voters are looking for a credible alternative government, and so what I would like to do is to be able to provide people with what they need in order to be able to vote for us. So that is one of the conversations that, you know, we’ll be floating at some point down the line.
So it is something you’d like to achieve?
I would imagine that it would be useful to have, if you’re going to have a credible alternative government, to have some kind of, you know, set out your stable in advance.
Okay. Well, your recent climate change plan exempted farmers from the proposed levies for the first five years. Is that part of the Greens trying to broaden their appeal?
Yeah, so one of the things about that is, in New Zealand, we keep saying, or you keep hearing the myth that you can’t do anything about climate change because, you know, farming, you know, has such a high rate of emissions. And what we were trying to show with that paper is actually, agriculture does not have to be the big block that the government keeps saying it is, that actually, you can achieve really ambitious and significant emissions reductions targets by the year 2030, even by, you know, giving agriculture a five-year window and a low target themselves. It does make everything else work harder, and we have to have a conversation about that, but you can actually say, ‘Look, it doesn’t need to be the block that everybody says it is.’
Because just last year, Russel Norman said, ‘I would argue that it’s essential to put a price on agricultural emissions,’ so have you shifted from that? Have you moved for the sake of pragmatism?
No, actually, we are saying that there will be a price on agricultural emissions, along with every other sector, just not immediately, that’s right.
But was that a pragmatic move, though?
Yes, absolutely, it was a pragmatic move. I mean, agriculture is used as a sort of a football, a political football to say, ‘Well, we can’t do anything about, you know, emissions across the whole economy because of agriculture,’ and what we’re saying is, actually, that doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually do better than that, even if you give a concession to agriculture in the first five years.
When we had you on, you pledged to double the Greens’ membership this year. Are you on track to do that? I think you were around 6000 at the time you said that. How are you going?
We’re actually doing pretty well. We had a membership drive recently, and we got something like 400 new members in the space of a week. Now, we’re not going to do that every week, but it does mean that I think that we’ll be about to hit that.
All right. Thank you very much, James Shaw, Greens co-leader, for joining us this morning.
You’re welcome. Thanks.
Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz


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