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February 21, 2016 | by  | in News |
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Dope yarns with James Shaw, Green Party Co-Leader



You’ve been co-leader of the Green Party for the best part of a year now, how’s it going?

It’s going great. Last year was a year of change for us, so we’re framing 2016 as the ‘year of ideas’, and getting some big policy stuff sorted going into next year’s election.


What gave you the desire to be a politician?

My work revolved around sustainability in businesses around the world. I was working with some of the world’s biggest, most powerful institutions. Some were committed to the sustainability agenda, but weren’t making the kinds of investments they wanted to because they were competing with companies that didn’t give a shit. If the world’s most powerful institutions are feeling constrained from doing more about sustainability then we have a bigger problem. It’s about changing the whole system.


Do you find it hard being outside the two dominant parties? Especially with National in government—is it ever a bit demoralising?

I know there are people who find it demoralising, but I don’t. All politicians probably feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle. You have to be okay with the reality you’re in, as well as being committed to changing it. If you say “everything’s screwed” and let that get the better of you, then you lose hope and become very angry, which diminishes your ability to function effectively. You’ve got to hold two things which are mutually exclusive in your mind at the same time which are, things are the way they are and it’s the world I live in and things can be a whole lot better and something can be done about it.


Is the environmental movement gaining traction now?Are people latching on that shit’s about to go down?

Definitely, shit’s getting real. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling the country, meeting with the business community at the top of the scale. What struck me is that in many ways, a lot of our top executives completely get it and are looking to the government to provide more leadership than they are. They’re stuck in the same kind of system that the rest of us are stuck in. Within the constraints of their role they are finding it hard to make green investments, because there isn’t an operating environment that’s driven by sustainability.


Is there one particular policy that you’re really passionate about?

Not just one, but a whole lot of policies surrounding climate change. Businesses are making decisions, some that have 30 or 40 year time horizons, based on current policy settings or policy predictions. It’s no surprise that based on current policy settings, the Ministry for the Environment expects our emissions to increase 80-90% by 2030. A significant proportion of the business community really want to take action on this. That’s where I’d start on day one of the Green government—fix the Emissions Trading Scheme, replace it with a carbon tax, and reduce company and income taxes using the revenue. That gives people a stake and sends a clear message to businesses.


Do the Greens support Labour’s free tertiary education policy announcement?

Yes. Moving towards relieving pressure on fees and living costs has been a longstanding position of ours. We were sort of a lone voice in the wilderness on it, so we’re pleased that Labour have come to the party and that they’ve thought it through carefully. I also like the emphasis they’ve placed on retraining, both for new students and people who are displaced by technological changes. I think it’s a really good policy.


Recently, VUWSA made a submission to the Social Services Select Committee calling for higher rental standards, do you guys give that a thumbs up too?

Absolutely. A few years ago Gareth Hughes ran a nation-wide ‘coldest flat’ competition. The winner was a ghastly hovel in Dunedin, where the assessors found that the temperature in the fridge was warmer than the flat. Increasingly, we’re seeing respiratory problems in students which keeps them away from work and cuts into the money they need to live on. The way our laws are set up really tilt towards the property investor as opposed to the tenant. We want to balance that out a little bit.


Moving away from policy, what was the craziest most wild thing you did while you were studying?

I was a member of AIESEC at a conference in Poland, in a hotel with an indoor waterpark. I ended up getting drunk one night and falling asleep inside the waterpark’s ball pit. I had this experience of waking up and feeling like I was suspended in space. I remember opening my eyes and seeing this psychedelic coloured sea in front of me and having no idea where I was. I spent a solid ten or twenty seconds thinking I had genuinely been abducted by aliens.


*Kate LOLS*, finally, have you listened to the new Kanye West album yet?

No I have not. I’m fairly happy to see what Twitter’s got to say about it, but if I’ve got some free time at the office I’ll definitely give it a listen.

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