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The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews James Shaw

On The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews James Shaw
Green Party leader James Shaw says “the level of policy alignment between The Opportunities Party and the Green Party is extremely high” and he could certainly work with them if they make it to Parliament.
Shaw says he expects the Greens will get 11% or better in the election. He says he won’t need an electoral deal in Wellington Central to get back into parliament., and he hasn’t discussed doing one.
Shaw says this weekend’s campaign relaunch will include new billboards and pamphlets and a new TV ad. There will also be a new face for welfare issues, replacing Metiria Turei.

James Shaw: There have been a lot of stories over the last few weeks that have drowned out what our key messages are, and so we’re taking a look at our campaign materials, our advertising, the leaflets that go out, the billboards, you know, everything to do with the election campaign, and we’re saying, ‘Okay, what do we need to do to get back to basics, strip down the message so that it’s absolutely crystal clear what it is that the Green Party is fighting for at this election, and why people should put us into government after September.’
Patrick Gower: Yeah, okay, and on that, you mentioned there advertising, of course, pamphlets, but that also means billboards. When are the billboards coming down, who’s going to be on the billboards, what’s going to happen there?
Well, Paddy, I don’t want to give away the secret, because we are doing this re-launch over the course of this weekend, and so we’ll show you what those look like. But they are being rolled out this weekend, and you’ll start to see those materials go out during the course of the week.
And will there be a new slogan? ‘Great together’, is that gone now?
You’re just going to have to wait until the weekend’s over.
Well, you sound like Bill English or someone like that. I mean, ‘great together’, is it gone? I mean, it’s pretty easy to say if the slogan’s gone. Jacinda Ardern was pretty straight up as well. What about the Greens? Is it gone?
It’s certainly one of the things that’s up for grabs, and, like I said, you’ll just have to wait until the re-launch to see exactly what we’re doing.
I mean, this is going to be very expensive, isn’t it, because I know that you’ve already filmed a big television ad using one of the country’s best advertising agencies. This decision by Metiria Turei is going to come at a huge cost, obviously, to the Green family that raised the money for you, isn’t it?
Well, the thing is, actually, what we’ve done with the ad is that the agency that did it for us had redone it by the end of the week, so they’ve moved incredibly quickly, they’ve been very professional, they’ve done a fantastic job, and I’m really pleased that I’m going to be able to show people what that ad looks like during the campaign re-launch.
Right, so we’ll see a new television ad with Metiria Turei — I’m sorry to be blunt, but — cut out of it?
You will see the new ad during the course of the weekend along with the new billboards, new leaflets, everything.
Sure. Now, in terms of the wider brand of the Greens — because this is really important — beyond the superficial stuff, the wider brand of the Greens, as we know, Metiria Turei was such a key part of that; is the Greens brand going to change without her there out in front?
No, I think what we need to do is actually just remind people of the core values of our brand, what our principles are, what the future is that we stand for, and that’s, really, what this campaign is all about. And so, you know, a lot of the stuff that we’re doing with refreshing the campaign is really just to remind people what those core priorities are that I mentioned before, as well as what are the things that we stand for, what are the values that we hold? Because I think that that has been crowded out recently, and we really need to just focus on those things and remind people what it is that we stand for.
Yeah, and that’s, obviously, as you said, sort of, social justice, climate change and rivers. Like it or not, Metiria Turei really stood for social justice. We know that. And you, whether you want to, sort of, admit it, stand for, sort of, finance and climate change. Without her there, is there a danger that that social justice aspect of it is going to ebb, or do you actually want that?
Absolutely. I mean, I am committed to ending poverty in this country. It is one of my priorities. It is and always has been one of the key priorities of the Green Party, and our entire caucus and our candidates are all committed to that. So one of the things that we’re going to be doing during our campaign reset is, you know, you’re going to see some new faces leading the various parts of the campaign. This is a real team effort. It is not just all about me. And so we’ve got a huge heritage and some really strong people who are going to be making sure that that message is still out there, that the people that Metiria was fighting for still have a voice, still have a champion, and that we are the party that aims to end poverty. Frankly, everybody else is just interested in tinkering around the edges. We’re the only party that has drawn a line in the sand and said, ‘Look, we know what it’s going to take to lift 212,000 children above the poverty line, and we’re committed to doing those things.’
Okay, a couple of things there. You mentioned some new faces out the front. What do you mean there? Are there MPs being put out the front? What do you mean by new faces?
Patrick, look, I hate dissembling to you, I really do, but you are going to have to wait for the campaign re-launch, because we’re going to show you what the line-up looks like, we’re going to show you what the campaign materials look like. I’m actually really looking forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting day.
Is somebody taking over that welfare area that Metiria Turei had and they’ll be pushed to the front? Is that what you’re saying?
Yes. We’re going to show people those three priorities: climate change, ending poverty, cleaning up our rivers .There is going to be a face for each of those components. We’ve got some great campaign materials coming out. We’ve got the TV ad that’s going up shortly. You’re going to see a lot more material on our online presence, which is around those three key messages. I mean, the whole point here is just to remind people what it is that the Green Party stands for, why it was that people trusted us in Parliament and in entering government.
Well, an important aspect of that is what Metiria Turei’s venture around this benefit fraud was all about, which was empowering the disenfranchised. Now, where do they sit — those people that she tried to reach, or, as you’ve argued, did reach now they’ve seen someone who’s stood up for them slapped down and destroyed, effectively? What message does that send to those people that you were trying to reach that this is what happens when someone speaks up for you?
Yeah, Patrick, I have to say that’s been a huge personal concern for me is — what message does that send? And so it is a really important part of our campaign that the people that have come forward over the course of the last four weeks in response to Metiria’s campaign who said, ‘Finally, I feel like there’s someone in the House of Representatives who actually represents me,’ we are going to be speaking directly to those people and say, ‘The Green Party is here for you. We still stand for you.’ And it is our goal to end poverty. I mean, Metiria herself said that is was always bigger than her.
Yeah, but what do those words mean when what they see is she stood up for them and she was taken down by her own party in some senses? You guys didn’t stand behind her.
Patrick, we absolutely stood behind her. She had the full support of me, the caucus, the party executive. I mean, we had thousands of volunteers all over the country.
I actually don’t want to get into this, but she didn’t have the full support of the caucus, and what we’re talking about is the message that you’re sending to these people. You must be worried that after engaging them, however many of them you did engage, that they won’t turn out, and if they do turn out, it won’t be for the Greens.
That’s why it is a very important part of our campaign, and it has been some of our thinking over the last few days as we steady the ship, as we think about, you know, what does the campaign need to do now. One component of that is making sure that those people know that when Metiria started that campaign, that that campaign will continue, she will continue, and the rest of us will continue to fight that campaign.
Yes, and in terms of steadying the ship, there’s another aspect to that, and it’s called burying the hatchet. Now, with Kennedy Graham, is it time to let him come back in, back on to the list, bury the hatchet and get that ship steady again?
That is a decision for our party executive, and my priority around that is to make sure that we follow good process, and, you know, it is ultimately up to the party executive to decide that.
Yeah, but you’ve said yesterday your caucus doesn’t want him back, so what’s going on? Is he allowed back? You’re the leader. Can Kennedy Graham come back in?
You know, like I said, there’s a lot of strength of feeling in the caucus, but it isn’t caucus’ decision; it is the party executive’s decision. And I think it’s actually really important that we allow that process to work its way through. I don’t want to prejudice it in any way.
Labour have come out this week and created a nationwide debate over water pricing. That must be so frustrating for you. That should’ve been you.
Look, it’s… I’m really pleased that they’re on board, and, you know, frankly, I’ve been trying to persuade the National Party to adopt our policy as well, with some lack of success, you know. I’d be delighted if National were a bit less stubborn and actually dealt with the issue, because they’ve been avoiding it for the entire time that they’ve been in office. Look, it’s a democratic competition, right, an election. And, you know, I think if the Greens weren’t here, if we hadn’t been providing that voice, if we hadn’t been campaigning on water and water quality and the state of our rivers for as long as we have, then other political parties wouldn’t be interested in being in that space, and they are. Even the National Party feels that they need some kind of defensive strategy around it, because, finally, the state of our rivers is an election priority. And I know that there are people who have been switching their vote from National to the Greens because they’ve gotten so frustrated about that.
Okay, well, let’s turn now to Winston Peters. And what do you think of his climate change policy? Could you work with New Zealand First on climate change? Could you work with New Zealand First on climate change?
So, Tracey Martin is the New Zealand First MP who has really been working most closely with the cross-party group on climate change. I’ve been very impressed with her orientation around this, and I think that there is room to move. And the things that I’ve heard Tracey say are aligning that idea that we can get to a low-carbon or a zero-carbon economy as fast as possible, so I think that there is some common territory there.
Okay. So, speaking of common territory with Winston Peters, he has taken your territory as the third biggest party in New Zealand in the latest Newshub Reid-Research poll. Now, would you countenance sitting outside of a Labour-New Zealand First government without cabinet spots if that’s what’s required to change the government?
There are six weeks left of the campaign, and we are going to finish as at least the third largest party in Parliament. So, I know that we’ve taken a bit of a hit recently, but we’ve been in this situation before, Paddy. There have been polls where New Zealand First came below us, but this is only one.
The question’s not about this. The question’s not about where you’re going to end up or not. It’s tell voters whether you’d be prepared to support a government, even if you do come in ahead of them, where Winston Peters is in the cabinet and the Greens aren’t. Are you prepared to do that to change the government?
I’m confident that that scenario isn’t going to happen.
Yeah, but if it does and it comes down to that, it’s really important for voters who are looking to see who the government might change. Would you be prepared to support a Labour-New Zealand First government if you weren’t in the cabinet?
My priority is changing the government and being at the heart of a Labour-Green government after the election. I’m not terribly interested in—
James Shaw, it’s a yes or no question.
Paddy, we don’t even know if Winston wants to change the government. He won’t say. The only two parties that are committed to changing the government are the Labour Party and the Green Party. And we have said that, you know, if New Zealand First wants to change the government and to join that, then they are welcome, but, frankly, the only way to change the government is to give your party vote to either the Green Party or the Labour Party. We’re the only two parties committed to that.
That’s not what the question was about. The Opportunities Party — would you work with them if they get there, if they get to 5%? Would you work with The Opportunities Party and Gareth Morgan on policy to bring about change?
If they make it over the 5% threshold, and, you know, we’ve seen a number of examples of this over the years where people have thrown a lot of money trying to break through that barrier and haven’t managed, but if they were in Parliament and if they wanted to change the government, then, yes, of course.
I mean, frankly, the level of policy alignment between The Opportunities Party and the Green Party is extremely high. I mean, you know, essentially Gareth Morgan started The Opportunities Party because he was frustrated that we wouldn’t work with National. He just wanted to start a party that would work with National. So, you know, when you say, ‘Would we work with him?’ yes, we would. The question is, ‘Would he work with us?’
Now, in terms of polling and the fact that you’re struggling, do you rule out some sort of electorate deal with Labour if it comes down to it, if there’s a scenario where you are in that lower area, do you rule out some sort of electorate deal where they would help the Greens get a seat and hold your place in the Parliament?
Look, again, we’ve been on 8% in the polls before closer to the election. We’re going to finish up, you know, at least where we started, which is about 11% if not better. And that’s my goal.
Well, if that’s your goal and you’re so confident, just rule out an electorate deal. Just say, ‘We won’t take one. We don’t need one.’ Just rule it out.
Well, we don’t need one, and I haven’t had that conversation with anyone in the Labour Party. You know, we had a conversation last year about did we want to do this, and we decided that, no, it’s much better to have an honest, democratic competition. It’s much better for both parties to stand good, strong candidates in every electorate.
So that means, then, James Shaw, no deal at all? No deal at all? You promise the New Zealand voter you will not do an electorate deal with Labour?
Paddy, this is the first time I’ve even heard this possibility, right, so it’s not something I’m entertaining.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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