A few weeks ago, PolSoc Exec Officer Jack Donovan, got an awesome opportunity to interview both Metiria Turei and James Shaw. It was in the wake of another PolSoc event with its sub-committee, Political Arena Victoria (PAV) and Greens@Vic, where the Green co-leaders were the special guests.
In addition to this interview, there were some really excellent questions by students during the event, which you can see in full here.
Being able to interview each co-leader separately meant that we got an interesting look at how the two at the top of the Green List respond to similar questions about international relations, NZ First, GST on sanitary products and more!
Jack: So first question is around the Green party list being out recently, are you happy with the diversity of the candidates that you have?
James: Look I'm delighted with it. So is Bryce Edwards, who is a commentator in the Herald, said that it was a triumph of diversity and renewal and that's exactly what I was looking for. Now for it's journey. There's more diversity and renewal, but for the year, and this election, it was a very good start.
Metiria: Now I'm really impressed with my party. You know there are some days where I love my party to bits, and that was definitely one. This is because the party chooses the list, and so this is as the members have floated it. They chose women, amazing leadership of women, and an increasing diversity. You know we kind of struggled last time, and the party totally nailed it.
Jack: With the big protest, outside of Parliament with the US Secretary of state visiting today, if elected how do you manage the Trump factor and US relations?
James: Well I think that, the Green's believe in diplomacy, right? We believe in the UN system, we believe in collective action, we believe in dialogue over conflict.
Yet I think that we could be making some stronger moves, in terms of voicing our opposition to the moves that Trump has been making, and I think that there is a number of things that we can do. One of which is that we can boldly do things here that stand in contrast. We can open our doors to more refugees, and like Justin Trudeau did, meet them off the boat and airplane and shame the US by that example. Second thing that I think we can do is, we can reach out to the other liberal democracies in the world which remain liberal, like Canada, like France.
James: Like Scandinavia yep, and so on. How can we work together, to keep that flame of liberalism, and humanitarianism alive.
Metiria: I think in a situation like that, the only responsible thing to do is to represent the country and to be extremely clear and straight with the U.S. about what New Zealanders consider unacceptable.
There are lots of diplomatic niceties that we are supposed to follow, but we owe the first duty to our constituency and to Zealander's, and if they need us to say things straight and openly and publicly then that's what we need to do.
Jack: It seems more and more likely with recent polls that New Zealand First will be a part of parliament. What overlaps do you see with New Zealand First?
James: Well, there are some. Interestingly enough there are some things, like we really strongly believe that the openness of the New Zealand property market to international sales is one of, not the only, but one of the contributing factors to our house price inflation right, because it's a sort of a global commodity. And so, that is something that they have also said. The farming community, I know a lot of family farmers in New Zealand are really worried about the takeover of farming and the corporatization of farming by big international interests and so on, so I think on those things there is some common ground.
Metiria: Well first they frustrate me enormously, that’s kind of obvious, like where we do have some common ground that is around things like increasing economic opportunities in the regions taking a more careful approach around public services. We work with New Zealand First and Labour and the unions and Grey power on the Keep Our Assets and that was really important in terms of protecting New Zealand assets in New Zealand hands. So there was some of that we have a strong agreement with them on. Their immigration approach is disgusting. But I guess one of the things that you learn in politics is that politics is the art of the possible. And there are some things about them that I can't change.
Jack: If you could give us a brief overview on your Tertiary policies?
James: Well we were going to be saying more about this later on. But basically, we agree in principle with Labour’s three years of free Tertiary education. And ultimately that's the kind of goal we aspire to. But in the near term, we think it's clear that there's a real crisis in living costs when it comes to students, which is exerting a huge pressure on the student’s ability to make ends meet in the day to day. And so that's where we would focus, is to say well there's a real crisis there which partially is driven by the housing crisis as well.
Jack: To do with the flat 175 living costs
James: Precisely, so that I think is where we would want to make some immediate interventions.
Metiria: Basically, our Tertiary policies is all about improving both the quality of Tertiary education and we need to reduce fees. We’ve always had a position of getting rid of the fees system and think it's hard to do as it's more embedded but there will be ways that we can do that over time. Improving student support is critical and removing some of the stupid barriers around age, for example, that are irrational but also removing the barriers to existing student loans and other support so that students can study for as long as they need to get the kind of education they want. We want a highly educated society and people should be able to engage in lifelong learning and not be punished because they chose the wrong degree for the first three years. And so we find that kind of restrictions on education a complete anathema to a thriving democracy.
Jack: Recently on social media there’s been a big petition around kind of removing the GST off woman’s sanitary products, what is the Green’s position?
James: This is a bit like, a few years ago there was an argument people were saying you should take GST off offruit and veggies. We don't believe in taking GST off anything because it creates a bureaucracy too you know?
Jack: where do you draw the line?
James: Precisely, but there is an argument to be made. This is not my mastermind special subject sorry. But there is an argument to be made that it should be subsidized and or funded through a mechanism like an ACC say. I mean it's not it's not an accident. But essentially saying that it's kind of a health care cost. Yes which you know half the population should have better access to. And so you know you know, we've said that we'd be up for examining that kind of mechanism to deal with it because it's just appalling you know. There was that story about people using socks and whatever have you. So that is unacceptable and this is in the grand scheme of things. This is not a major cost. And it would be pretty easy for us to do something about that.
Metiria: The problem with doing that is you can't guarantee the savings will be passed on. So both retailers and the producers will soak up that fifteen percent. So we have to find ways of actually making them practically cheaper. The best way to do that is to have them provided through Pharmac and therefore through pharmacies and through health services like you can do with condoms you can just rock up with a prescription and just get them over the counter. And they are just as good products as any others. But that's the easiest way to make sure that people actually get cheap or free sanitary products.
Jack: Nuclear power in the US typically has this kind of reputation of being the cleanest greenest sources of energy. What are your thoughts on this in a New Zealand context?
James: Well no, I don't think it's necessary in New Zealand because you've got a low population country with a small industrial base, and actually it is entirely feasible for us to have 100 percent renewable electricity here in New Zealand without nuclear and by 2030, which is only 12, 13 years away. We can do that. And that is simply through wind and solar, geothermal. And you know potentially wave power and so on. So no, I just don't think it's necessary. I think when it comes to overseas, I can see the attraction because there is zero emissions from nuclear. The problem is that it's got a 40000 year waste disposal problem and it's actually an incredibly expensive technology. The reason why it's considered cheap, is because government subsidizes both the construction and the waste disposal at the tune of like tens of millions per reactor. And so the economics of it are actually skewed. If you look at concentrating solar power, which is you know fields of mirrors pointing sunlight onto a central turbine steam going through it, that produces as much power as nuclear and it's completely clean and if you covered 1 percent of the world's deserts and concentrating solar power, you would generate enough electricity for the entire world's total energy needs including ground vehicle transport if it was all electric. So I know the arguments that people make in the favour of nuclear. I don't think it's necessary. I think it's messy and I actually think it's uneconomic.
Jack: a short term solution to a long-term problem.
James: Yeah and it also produces a long, really long term problem in and of itself.
Metiria: We wouldn’t consider it for a number of reasons, one of which is that we are an island nation. And one of the big risk with nuclear power is if there is a disaster in or near water. You massively increase the risk to the rest of the population. But you know there's a whole lot of other reasons including the fact we have cheaper, safer, effective renewable technologies here in solar or in wind and those are much wiser investment.
Jack (Only to Metiria): If the Green Party miraculously came through and won all the votes ever, would it be co-prime ministers, or how would that work?
Metiria: Well if we had complete control of the parliament we would consider that. In an environment where we don't, we've agreed that it would be probably the first on the list. But you know we want to change not just the government but how government is done. We want it to be more open, more transparent, more representation and more proportional. We want to be strong leadership that recognises women in particular who have been outside of the leadership roles in politics for a long time. And we can find creative ways of doing that.
Jack: And a final question, if you could sum up the Green Party in three words?
James: I would say...
Jack: is that your answer??
James: (Laughs) Ecology. Economy. Community.
Metiria: Compassion, sustainable and just.