On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews James Shaw
Green Party leader James Shaw says it’s his aim to be in government with the Labour party, rather than supporting a
Labour-New Zealand First government on confidence and supply.
Shaw says he expects to speak to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern today about how they could form a government, particularly
how they include New Zealand First.
Shaw says he can’t rule out the Green Party working with National in the future, but says right now he has spent 18
months campaigning to change the government and the Greens’ priorities are “completely contrary to National’s way”.
Lisa Owen: Green Party leader James Shaw joins me now in the studio. You haven’t spoken to Jacinda Ardern yet, have you?
James Shaw: No, we’re speaking sometime today.
Did you expect a call last night?
Because we agreed that we would speak today.
All right. So what do you think will happen today with that conversation?
I think we’ll have to look at the numbers and say, ‘Well, what are the pathways towards creating a government? What sort
of process do we need? How do we include New Zealand First?’ I would imagine it’s just simply, ‘What is the process for
going through those negotiations?’
So when you say, ‘How do we include New Zealand First?’ Winston Peters actually got two more seats than your party did,
After the specials it will be one.
OK, so even if it is just one, that makes them bigger than you, so how much more sway do you think he’s got as a
I don’t think it’s actually about the numbers of MPs necessarily. I’ve always been pretty relaxed about our relative
size. It’s about the policy programme, can we work together, the personalities and can we form a stable and responsible
government in the national interest? And I think that there’s enough there to be able to do that.
There’s also the potential to have a disproportionate amount of power when everybody needs you, so do you have concerns
about that? Because members of the public, voters, they do have concerns about that.
Yeah, but I think over the course—and I think that there have been periods of time since we introduced MMP where smaller
parties have tried to wield disproportionate influence, and they tend to actually have been punished for that by the
electorate in the subsequent election. So my sense is that—
But you have to suck it up for a whole term before that punishment comes down, don’t you?
No, but I think the thing is Winston Peters knows that better than most people, because actually it’s been his party and
his governments that he’s been a part of where that’s been the situation. And my sense is that actually he’s learned the
lessons of the last 20 years and actually wants to put together a good government for New Zealand.
In your speech you said it was time to put differences aside to form a government. So how flexible are you going to be?
How much are you prepared to give?
I mean, I’m getting this question a lot, ‘What are your bottom lines and what are you prepared to give up and will you
support a minority government?’ and all of those kind of things. I have said that my commitment, going back 18 months
ago, to when we signed that memorandum with the Labour Party was to work together to change the government and to form a
new coalition government with the Labour Party afterwards. That’s what I’m working on.
Yes, so that means that there’s any number of scenarios with that. Because what you’re saying there, you outside of
government on confidence and supply would deliver a change of government, so clearly, that’s still in your arsenal.
You’re prepared to go there.
Well, as you say, it’s in the arsenal, right? There are a lot of different options available. The things that we’re
looking for are the things that we campaigned on, right? The commitment to a carbon-neutral economy. The commitment to
ending poverty in New Zealand. The commitment to cleaning up all of our rivers. Those are the things that we’re looking
And I get that, but would you prefer to be inside government with some of those significant portfolios. Would that be
I can see where you’re going with this. Yes, it would. Obviously it would. And in fact, one of the lessons that we’ve
learned from the last 18 years that we’ve been in Parliament but not in government is that even when other parties have
agreed to take up some of our programme, it’s never executed the way that we would execute it, right? So actually we
believe that we do need to be in government in order to deliver on those things that we have been promising to the
So that’s preferable to you than a scenario where you’re outside of government on confidence and supply. You’ll give us
OK. So this campaign arguably really put you through the ringer. How do you get your party back up after this because
you did look really despondent in these last few weeks.
There was a period of time when things were pretty rough, but actually, I’ve had a ball the last few weeks.
Wasn’t the whole campaign rough for you?
No. No, not at all. Actually, I think the last five weeks – I actually got a lot of energy out of it. I had a great time
on the campaign trail. And I know there was a period of time when the polls were looking really, really thin for us, but
actually, I knew that was a lagging indicator.
So you were always confident you were always going to get there?
Yes, I was, but…
Yes, I was, but obviously it’s pretty bad news when you get some of those sub-five polls, right, particularly because
the timing of those polls was lagging when we knew we’d come through the dip. I have had a fantastic campaign. I’m
really happy with the way I’ve led the campaign. I’m delighted with our candidates and our MPs and our volunteers around
the country, because they’ve done an incredible job.
Sorry to interrupt you, but I really want to get to this, which is Gareth Morgan – you will be fully aware of this – put
out a challenge to you last night, who said, ‘Come on, mate, work with National. Don’t rule yourself out of the game.’
Is there any way you would consider that?
Oh, look, I mean, Lisa, I have spent the last 18 months saying that I’m campaigning for a change in government. I’ve
also said that if Bill English-- As you said on Fridaynight, he said he’d make a phone call, or he might make a phone
call, I don’t know. He hasn’t made a phone call, but if he did, that we would be duty-bound to listen to what he’s got
to say, right.
Is that an invitation for him to give you a call?
No, it’s not. No. He said he was going to do a call on Friday night. But my point is that I have spent –and this is what
my message to him is, right – I have spent the last 18 months saying that we are campaigning for a change of government.
We’ve got three very big priorities that are completely contrary to National’s way that they’ve been running the
That’s this time, and when you see how the numbers fall now, do you think in the future that you will be more open to
working with the National Party?
A lot of things would have to change for that to ever happen.
But you can’t rule it out?
This Green party – we’ve changed; this National Party is not Jim Bolger’s National Party; it’s not Rob Muldoon’s
National Party. Things do change. And there are some Blue-Greens coming up through the ranks of the National Party. But
my point is, in this election, if somebody said to me now, why don’t you switch, after spending 18 months telling voters
that a vote for the Green Party is a vote for a change in government…
So I accept that, but I’m asking you pushing forward because TOP got 2%, just over 2% - those could have been your
My understanding is that those votes came from a number of different places, and I don’t own votes, right. So it’s a
competitive environment, politics.
OK. All right, well, good place to leave it. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, James Shaw.
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