Green response to PM’s statement

Green co-leader James Shaw’s response to the Prime Minister’s statement.


JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green): E Te Māngai o Te Whare, tēnā koe.

I would actually like to start by congratulating the Prime Minister on his speech, which successfully disguised how dull the statement was that got distributed this morning. It contained a whole bunch more half measures and a sort of pointless tinkering around the edges that will not—will not—fix any of the long-term challenges that this country is facing, whether it is housing affordability, or whether it is homelessness, climate change, child poverty, and so on. He did say that he will encourage more oil exploration, but has he not noticed that all of the big oil companies are actually abandoning their explorations here in New Zealand? It is like he is a salesman of fax machines. Nobody is buying them any more. He says he is going to crack down on multinational tax evasion. Well, what has he been doing for the last 8 years? Tell me that. He is going to continue to flog his hyper-targeted vulnerable children’s strategy, ignoring all evidence that no dent is going to be made in child poverty until incomes start to rise.

Today’s statement to Parliament showed, if anything—like last week’s state of the nation speeches—one thing: we have got the vibe and they have got the shivers. The Greens’ and Labour Party’s state of the nation—[Interruption] I am just getting warmed up, Todd. I am just getting warmed up. The Greens’ and Labour Party’s state of the nation speeches last week showed that New Zealand has a well-organised, a stable, a ready, and an energised Government-in-waiting, a Government that has values and a vision—a vision of a country that is prosperous, that is inclusive, that is compassionate, that is innovative, and that is productive.

In his state of the nation speech, Mr English announced that if re-elected, this Government will make a commitment to having more police in New Zealand, thus matching other parties’ commitments to restoring vital public services that have been run down by his Government—that was it. Providing his assessment of the state of the nation and his vision for the country, the best that he could say was: “Me too.”

A day before that, he announced that on 23 September, the Government will change, and I would like to thank him for continuing his predecessor’s convention of announcing the election date early in the year. When the county does finally get a proper written constitution, I do hope that it will include a fixed election date. Christmas has a fixed date, and the turkeys did not have any say in it.

When he announced the election, the Prime Minister said that this election would be all about growth. He said it was going to be all about growth. Well, let me tell you what is growing. You have got growing greenhouse gas emissions. You have got growing water pollution. You have got growing endangered species lists. You have got a growing house price bubble. You have got a growing cost of living. You have got a growing dairy farm debt. You have got growing unemployment. You have got the kind of growth that, if it was growing on your body, your doctor would pack you off to a specialist pretty darn quick.

Under this National Government—

Hon Member: Probably that homeopathic stuff though.

JAMES SHAW: How’s it going?

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

JAMES SHAW: Are you having fun? Under this Government—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection coming from my far right is now excessive. It will cease.

JAMES SHAW: Under this Government, we have growth without prosperity. I get irritable whenever anybody says in passing that National is somehow the “party of business”. A long time ago, I worked for one of the world’s largest accounting firms. I co-founded a small business, which is still growing strong today, and I have worked with people and with projects in about 30 different countries around the world. Can I tell you that nowhere before have I seen contracts that are as badly written as the ones that these guys write.

Last week we found out that they put $9 million into a fund and got bought out for $10.2 million, which sounds pretty good, because it means that they made a cool $1.2 million profit. Meanwhile, their business partner, US tech billionaire Peter Thiel, invested $7 million, which is $2 million less than the Government invested, and he made $23 million profit—minus a $1 million donation to charity—and Peter Thiel’s citizenship papers came with a $22 million upside. It is a bit of a surprise that Peter Thiel does not believe in Government, given how well he has done out of this one. He has actually done twice as well as that Saudi sheep farmer, who only got $11 million out of this Government, in return for, um, uh—oh, no, nothing at all. It was in return for nothing at all. Maybe we should have thrown citizenship papers in to sweeten the deal. That way, he and Peter Thiel could have cleared customs quickly together, and then caught a cab to SkyCity. Give me a break, “party of business”.

I do want to talk about some businesses that are doing some good in the world—businesses like Taupō Beef & Lamb, founded by Mike and Sharon Barton. It is one of the leading environmentally-friendly farms in the country. It is not only not polluting the water, it is actually cleaning up Lake Taupō while it does business. It is making a heck of a profit and it is struggling to meet demand. It is doing well by doing good.

Samantha Jones and Hannah Duder of Little Yellow Bird make organic-cotton fair-trade uniforms in India for clients here in New Zealand, but their business model actually supports girls from the Indian communities in which they work to stay in school, supports women to get trained for the workforce, and they extend microcredit loans for women to start businesses. Sam and Hannah are building a sustainable, ethical clothing brand that their customers here in New Zealand want to be a part of. They are doing well by doing good.

Eat My Lunch—set up by Lisa Wong and Michael Meredith—operates a “buy one, give one” business model, where the lunch that you buy yourself pays for another one for a hungry kid at school. It is supporting 40 schools with over 1,300 lunches every day. It is doing well by doing good.

Zealong Tea Estate, which converted a Waikato dairy farm into New Zealand’s organic tea producer, is selling tea to China at a huge premium—a premium that it can charge only as long as it can demonstrate that the tea is “100% Pure New Zealand”, organic, pesticide-free, and grown with pure water, clean air, and rich soil. It is doing well by doing good.

It is not just start-ups and entrepreneurs that are doing well by doing good. Airways Corporation has helped reduce carbon emissions from airlines by 37,000 tons every year. It estimates that that saves its customers $16,000 in fuel costs. It is doing well by doing good. Z Energy—currently the No. 1 retailer of concentrated dinosaur juice—has invested $21 million building the country’s largest biodiesel plant, turning the agriculture industry’s waste fat into low-carbon fuel. It is doing well by doing good. Interface is one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers, making nylon carpet from discarded fishing nets that are clogging up the reefs and the ocean floors of the Philippines. It has actually doubled its revenues in the past 20 years through its mission of becoming the world’s first fully sustainable enterprise anywhere in the world and showing the world how it is done. They are doing by doing good. These are the innovators and the social entrepreneurs and the pioneers who are showing the way.

And, I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle saying in response to all of this: “Seeing as the private sector and the communities and the charities are doing so well all by themselves, why does the Government need to act? The invisible hand of the market seems to be doing just fine.” And if that were true—if the invisible hand of the market was resolving all of our challenges for it—why is it that New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased 19 percent since 2008, which is when this Government came to office? Why is it that you still cannot swim in 62 percent of our rivers without the risk of catching some horrible disease? Why are people all over the country now worried that the 5,000 people who were poisoned in Havelock North represent some kind of canary in the mine, and maybe we cannot even trust the water that comes out of our taps anymore? Why is it that around a third of all plant and animal species in this country are at risk of extinction? Why is it that Auckland is the fourth most unaffordable city in the entire world to live in? Why is it, in a time of record low inflation, that living costs for families are higher than their ability to meet them? Why is it that kids are still hungry or living in cars?

Well, it is because those people—the innovators and the social entrepreneurs—do not have a Government that backs them or the future that they represent. The Prime Minister’s statement today once again shows that we have a Government that looks to the past. It looks to flog enough dead horses to fill an entire animal graveyard: more offshore oil exploration; new coalmines; high intensity, high pollution, low-value commodity agriculture—a Government that by its own admission has reached the limit of what it thinks that it can do to lift its own people out of poverty and into greater opportunity.

Just as there are businesses that are showing what leadership looks like, so too are other Governments around the world showing us what leadership can look like. Ireland will be the first country in the world to divest all public money from fossil fuels; National will not go there. Dutch trains will now be 100 percent powered by renewable wind energy. In New Zealand we are actually ditching electric and aiming for 100 percent diesel freight trains. Canada has put a $53 per tonne price on carbon emissions; National is too timid to go there and to put a proper price on pollution. The UK introduced a mere 5p charge on plastic bags and within 6 months there was an 85 percent drop in plastic bag use in the United Kingdom. The Japanese passed a recycling Act in 2001—16 years ago—that means that they now send only 5 percent of all waste to landfill. They actually recycle 98 percent of all their metals—metals that are valuable commodities in industry. New Zealand? Tumbleweed thing.

In Germany—the fourth largest manufacturer of motor vehicles in the world—you will not even be able to buy a fossil fuel powered car there after 2030. In the Netherlands and in Norway you will not be able to buy a fossil fuel powered car after 2025, which is only 8 years from now. And in New Zealand? In New Zealand, the National Government’s goal is to get nearly 2 percent of all vehicles to be electric by 2021—nearly 2 percent. Wow! Such vision. Many ambition. Very leadership.

As the former Saudi oil Minister once said, the Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end before the world runs out of oil. But we have a Government that is stuck in the Stone Age: too timid, too ignorant, or too scared of the vested interests that it represents to put in place policies that have been proven to work in other countries—and, I might add, policies that were often put in place by conservative parties that are the brother and sister parties of this National Government and they are too scared to follow. The Prime Minister’s predecessor famously once said that at least when it came to climate change, New Zealand should not be a leader but a fast follower. This Government is not even following, let alone fast. Because it does not want New Zealanders to be leaders, other countries are taking advantage of what could be the greatest economic opportunity of a generation—the opportunity of a sustainable, smart, green economy that works for and includes everyone.

Kiwis want to be leaders. I am inspired by the huge crowd of people who came together to fund the purchase of Awaroa Beach and add it to our national parks. While we are on national parks, I am inspired by those who forced the Government to abandon its plans for mining in the most precious parks a few years back. As Ricky Baker’s buddy Hec said, New Zealand is majestical and New Zealanders want to keep it that way.

I am inspired by the people who forced the Government to accept even a handful more of those displaced shell-shocked refugees from Syria last year in the midst of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. I am inspired by those innovators and social entrepreneurs who are building a better world from the ground up. That is why we need to change the Government. New Zealanders deserve a government that backs them to be leaders. Today’s statement by the Prime Minister just shows how stuck in the past this Government is. It is time to change the Government, and change is coming.

11 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  February 7, 2017

    I take it that English was not James Shaw’s best subject at school-it’s painful to read this.

    • Anonymous Coward

       /  February 7, 2017

      Lou Reed once said (to a heckler) “If you write like you speak, then nobody reads you”

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 7, 2017

        English wasn’t his best subject, either. Nor was logic.

        • Anonymous Coward

           /  February 7, 2017

          Do go on…

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 7, 2017

            He can’t have gone to many plays. Or read people like Clive James and Alastair Cook.

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  February 7, 2017

              You’ve completely overthought it.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 7, 2017

              I’ll try not to think about such misuse of the language….

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  February 7, 2017

              Snob.

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  February 7, 2017

              explain why the logic is faulty.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 8, 2017

              Plays usually use the kind of language that people speak. And there have been many collections of talks by famous people that have been very popular.

  2. PDB

     /  February 7, 2017

    I think this is easily the weakest speech of the four main ones. Highlighting successful ‘green’ businesses that are doing well under the current govt whilst not mentioning anything about child poverty, housing, homelessness, Maori, income equality etc which supposedly are the key issues the Greens are meant to be tackling doesn’t seem to be a good strategy.