Greens Co-Leader James Shaw has repeated his party’s pledge not to support a National Government.
This comes in the wake of the Greens vote last week to break with Labour and support the tax threshold and Working for Families changes in the Budget.
In a major speech to the Institute of International Affairs last night he repeatedly stressed that the Greens’ goal was to change the Government.
And he told POLITIK that meant that the party maintained its pledge not to support a National led Government.
Shaw suggested that the party has taken some heat from Labour over the vote and said there were some noses out of joint.
But he said the party’s Memorandum of Understanding with Labour (which is a year old today) provided a framework through which both parties could deal with disagreements.
“If we agreed on everything then we’d just merge the two parties,” he said.
But last week’s vote seems to be part of a number of moves the Greens have made in recent days to more sharply define themselves as a political party.
They released their party list yesterday and that was notable for the promotion of two candidates who are currently not MPs, Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman, who are ranked at nine and ten, above sitting MPs, Mojo Mathers, Barry Coates, Denise Roche and David Clendon.
Swarbrick is an unashamed bid for the youth vote following on her social media driven success during last year’s Auckland Mayoral election and Ghahraman would be the country’s first MP who arrived here as a refugee. She is from Iran, is a lawyer and has worked as a war crimes prosecutor in the Hague.
Roche and Clendon at 15 and 16 are right on the edge of the Greens current polling of around 13%.
Any reduction in that percentage and they would not make it back.
”It must be a bit disappointing for them not to be higher on the list,” he said.
“But it always is for someone.”
Shaw says that the list looks more like modern New Zealand.
“It is diverse, in terms of age geography, ethnic background and professional background and I’m delighted with it.”
Shaw’s speech to the Institute focussed on three broad themes in the Greens foreign policy; support for measures to combat climate change, support for a rules based international order with a particular emphasis on nuclear disarmament and reform of the UN Security Council and a response to political upheaval in the United States and Europe.
“We have the opportunity to speak loudly and clearly about our values and what we will do to protect and promote them; to reject demagoguery outright instead of instead of saying – quote – it’s not what we would do.”
(That was a reference to Prime Minister Bill English’s account of his conversation in February with President Trump where he described Trump’s travel ban on Muslims as “not something we would put in place.”)
“We are hopeful that in the upcoming election New Zealand will reject any appeals to an imaginary past world,” he said.
Shaw said he wanted to see facts based debate on immigration policy that upheld New Zealand’s image of itself as an open and inclusive society rather than a closed and intolerant one.
So was that a reference to Winston Peters?
“Ultimately I believe that New Zealand first has communicated about its own immigration policy has stoked up people’s worst fears and nightmares rather than speaking to our best selves.
“It does make it extremely difficult to have proper facts-based conversation about how to manage immigration policy in New Zealand.”
The Greens have to tread delicately in this debate because they are obviously not comfortable with high levels of migration yet at the same time they want to see the refugee quota at least doubled.
Add to that Labour Leader Andrew Little’s promise to cut immigration by “thousands”, and the Greens would be under pressure in any Labour-Green Government to agree to cuts.
“I think if you listen to the Labour party they come from a very similar values based approach to us, in that immigration should be humanitarian led.” he said.
Shaw quotes a recent Jacinda Ardern speech which in turn quoted Norman Kirk saying that what people wanted was “Someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.”
“At the moment because of circumstances that we have created here in New Zealand, largely through Government policy we are actually unable to offer people who are coming those things.”
Which is an oblique way of saying immigration is too high.
Shaw stresses the need or immigration to be humanitarian based and not one based on immigrants as sources of revenue or economic units to change our GDP numbers.
The Greens obviously see a space for themselves as a sort of political conscience, and along with their new list candidates, the whole approach brings a clearer voice to their end of the political spectrum.