James Shaw's Speech at the Green Party 2023 Campaign Launch

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa. Ngā mihi o te ata.

Thank you for being here, this Sunday morning. 

I want to begin by expressing my condolences for the families who lost loved ones in Thursday’s shooting. 

Our thoughts are with you, and with those who have been injured and are in hospital. 

I also want to acknowledge the first responders, police and medical staff.

They acted with bravery and professionalism in the most difficult of circumstances. 

In particular, I acknowledge the officer who was shot while trying to protect others. 

When our emergency services answer a call, they never do it alone. 

Their family and friends answer, too. 

They share in the risk their loved ones take every day to keep New Zealand safe for the rest of us. 

Finally, I want to commend the Prime Minister for his leadership on what was an incredibly difficult day for Aotearoa. 


Attention will, of course, soon turn to the steps we must take to ensure something like that never happens again.

When that happens, I think I speak on behalf of most New Zealanders, when I say that our political leaders owe us a conversation based on evidence.

I say that, because the fear and anxiety National and ACT have filled our headlines and social media feeds with, over the last 12 months, appalls me.

They are using fear as a motivator because they have nothing else. 

No vision. 

No courage. 

No moral compass. 

They know that the knee-jerk, back of an envelope ideas they are putting forward work for nothing other than getting a “tough” looking headline. 

But that’s exactly the point. 

It is a political tactic to win an election, not a meaningful response.

And the more they do it, the more an important question keeps getting obscured: 

What exactly are we actually trying to achieve? 

Harsher punishments, in the absence of any meaningful efforts to combat poverty and inequality, won’t make our communities safer.

People are sick and tired of the status quo. 

They want a government that will finally make some fundamental changes to our economic and political system.

And, so, today… 

I want to welcome you to the Green Party’s campaign to transform Aotearoa.


I want to welcome you to a campaign that refuses to stand by while tens of thousands of children go to bed hungry.

In homes that are so damp and so cold they are making them sick. 

That will not accept a tax system that has been designed to favour the wealthiest few.

So much so, that the richest few families pay less than half the effective tax of the average New Zealander. 

Today, I want to welcome you to a campaign that will take on the vested interests that have turbo-charged the climate crisis.

A campaign that says, loudly and clearly, that the housing, climate, biodiversity and inequality crises are not natural phenomena. 

But the consequences of political decisions that can - and must - be made differently. 

Today, I want to welcome you to a campaign that has come together in communities up and down Aotearoa, not in boardrooms or focus groups.

A campaign that will bring thousands of people together to stand up and fight for a better, fairer Aotearoa. 

A campaign that will reach into towns and cities and communities all over the country.

At town hall meetings, in door to door conversations, on street corners, and over the phone. 

A campaign that I am delighted to tell you has had the biggest start of any campaign that we have ever run. 

Hundreds of volunteers, up and down the country, have already picked up a phone or knocked on the doors of more than 30,000 people.

To talk with them about the Green Party’s vision for a fairer, cleaner Aotearoa.

To every one of you: thank you. 

Thank you for showing up for your community. 

Thank you for making your voice heard. 

Thank you for being part of a campaign that is not only going to be our biggest ever;

That is not only going to elect more Green MPs… 

But, with your help, is going to transform Aotearoa.

We will win - we can only win - because of you. 


Over the next few months, you are going to hear a lot about who is up and who is down in the polls. 

Who is winning the race to be the preferred Prime Minister.

There will be TV debates, attempts at political point-scoring, big announcements.

Probably a mistake, or two.

And hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on advertising. 

The campaign will probably feel trivial at times.

More focused on personalities than the issues that matter to your day-to-day lives.  

But, at the grassroots level, an election campaign is actually pretty simple: it is about you. 

It is about people like you talking to other people like you. 

That’s it. 

That is how we make the difference. 

And that is how we are going to win. 

Door by door, conversation by conversation, community by community. 

There is not a multi-million dollar campaign budget out there that can match the power of our people.

And so, whether you’re one of the thousands of young people, who took to the streets over the last three years to demand action on climate change and, this year, are voting for the first time. 

Whether you are a nurse or teacher or midwife, who took the difficult decision to strike this year for the pay and conditions you deserve.

Whether you are someone who spends time talking to friends and family about the issues that matter most to you, sharing your views on social media, or volunteering in your local community.

No matter what it is, no matter who you are, or where you’re from, this election is about you. 

And only you have the power to make a difference. 

So use it.

We will win this election not because we’ve got millions in the bank, but because we have the most powerful tool any campaign has ever had: 


When National and ACT are more interested in cutting taxes for the wealthiest few, than they are in guaranteeing everyone enough to live on and put food on the table, I can tell you, that they are not thinking about you.

Or your family. 

When they are more interested in putting kids into prison cells than homes, I know for sure, they are not thinking about what’s best for your community. 

When they are more interested in tearing up the legislation that is driving down carbon emissions across Aotearoa, I promise you, they have not given a second thought to the world your kids will grow up in. 

This is what’s at stake this October. 

This is not just an election.

This is a make-or-break moment for Aotearoa. 


Who is in government this year, making the decisions that will affect your life and the lives of the people you love, could be decided by just one seat in parliament. 

It is that close. 

One seat, either way, could determine the future direction of our country. 

And that seat could be decided by just a few thousand votes. 

A few thousand votes could be all it takes to put the Green Party in the balance of power.

Where we will be able to demand action to lift every family out of poverty.  

To make sure everyone who rents, always has a safe, healthy, accessible and affordable place to call home.

And to confront climate change with the urgency and the scale that it demands. 

So, when we say that this will be one of the most consequential elections we have ever had, we mean it. 

Every billboard matters. 

Every phone call.

Every conversation.

Every dollar donated.

Every door knocked.


We are in the fight of our lives. 

So, make a plan, right now, for how you’re going to get involved. 

Don’t leave it to chance. 



It is easy to forget how far we’ve come since we first entered government six years ago. 

I am proud that we have taken more action on climate change than the past 30 years of Governments combined.

That we have delivered the biggest ever boost in funding to protect our remaining wildernesses and wildlife.

Provided more support for low-income families to make their homes warm and dry.

And helped tens of thousands of people to buy zero-emission vehicles, paid for by fees on the most polluting vehicles.

I am proud that we are changing the way the government works to keep children, families and whānau safe at home.

Are we satisfied? 


Of course not.

We are just getting started! 

There is still a long way to go before the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the crisis of deepening poverty in Aotearoa, are resolved.

The problem isn’t that we don’t know what the solutions are.

Or that we lack the technology.

Or even that there isn’t enough money in the country to solve these problems.

The problem is successive governments that have lacked the ambition, the courage, the moral clarity to face those challenges at the scale and urgency they demand. 


Take a recent example… 

The leader of the Labour Party ruling out any meaningful change to the tax system. 

“With many Kiwi households struggling, now is simply not the time for a big shake-up of our tax system,” he said.

We disagree. 

Food, rent, mortgage repayments, power bills; they’re all going up. 

Thousands of families are struggling to cover the basic essentials. 

One in 10 children are growing up in poverty. 

For Māori, it is one in five.

How is it possible that in a wealthy country like ours there are tens of thousands of children without enough to eat or a warm home?

The government’s own research shows that just 311 families own more wealth than the bottom two and half million New Zealanders. 

And yet they pay less than half the effective tax of the average New Zealander. 



Social workers. 

Checkout operators. 

They all pay a higher percentage of their income in tax than the wealthiest 311 families. 

New Zealand’s tax rules rank near the bottom of the world for their contribution towards reducing inequality. 

135 countries have a fairer tax system than ours. 

One hundred and thirty five.

Let’s be clear: there has *never* been a better time to shake-up our tax system. 

Inequality is not an inevitability. 

It is a political decision - and different decisions can be made. 

Ruling out tax changes that would benefit millions is essentially saying to thousands of people who cannot afford to put food on the table, that’s it. 

That’s your lot. 

Well, we say, the time for half measures is over.

The time for political courage is now. 

End of story. 


In recent weeks, I have been asked - as I often am - whether the Green Party would go into government with Labour if it meant keeping the tax system as it is. 

There is never an easy answer to that question.

The Green Party is a proudly democratic party.

The decision to go into government, or not, is made by our members.

We were founded on the belief that the power of the people is always greater than the power of the people in power.

And we carry that through everything we do. 

I believe, with every fibre of my being, that we will only achieve the urgent change that our communities need right now, when there are more Green Ministers, sitting around the Cabinet table. 

But even more than that, I know that we cannot afford another term of little steps and half-measures.

The way I see it, if political leaders are not willing to take difficult decisions on behalf of the people of the country they purport to lead, why be in politics at all?

Their personal successes will always shine a little less brightly if they fail to use their position to better the lives of others.

The Green Party has never been interested in power for its own sake. We are - and have always been - focused on what you do with it. 

Which is why no party who wants to work with us after 14th October should ever take our support for granted. 

Whatever hand we are dealt after this election, New Zealanders should be in no doubt that we will make use of every inch of it. 

If that means more Green Ministers in Cabinet, or sitting on the cross benches and fighting on every piece of legislation, we will use our power in the most effective way we can to get the change we so desperately need.  


What we do to prioritise the lives and livelihoods of those who need our support the most should be a measure of every political party. 

Over the last six years, and for the three decades before that, the Green Party has consistently stood up for what is right. 

We have stayed true to our values in Parliament and in Government.

We have led the fight to eliminate poverty.

To honour Te Tiriti.

To protect and restore our native wildernesses and wildlife. 

To build a future that is free of the threat of a catastrophic climate crisis.

And that is not going to change. 

Political leaders do not get to decide what will and won’t happen after the election. 

That is your job. 

You create the mandate for bold political action.

So, our message today is simple: 

If people want a government that will be bold in the face of the challenges we face, then the only option is a vote for the Green Party.

More Green MPs means more Green Ministers in Cabinet. 

More Green Ministers means we will be at the table to influence the direction of the next government.

Today, we say that with a strong Green voice in the next government, we will take action to ensure everyone has a safe, healthy, and affordable place to make their own.

Today, we say that with a strong Green voice in the next government, that government will have the political courage necessary to confront the climate crisis with the urgency that it demands.

Today, we say that we will bring our people together in an unprecedented grassroots effort to elect a government that works for everyone. 

And today, we say that with a strong Green voice in the next government, we will introduce an Income Guarantee and a fairer tax system to pay for it. 

So that 95 percent of New Zealanders will pay less income tax and no one will pay any tax at all on the first $10,000 they earn.

So that they can always afford the weekly shop.

Or pay the rent.

Or cover unexpected costs.

So that everyone can have peace of mind.

Even when times are tough.


This country has confronted poverty before. 

We built thousands of affordable homes. 

We created universal superannuation. 

We introduced free medical care and education.

Established national libraries and legislated the 40-hour, five-day work week.

Along with our first public holidays.

These changes only happened when people like you got involved and came together to demand them. 

So, to anyone that is ready to fight for a better Aotearoa, there is only one question: if not now, then when?

Get involved. 

Sign up. 

The time is now. 



Aotearoa is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. 

There is no problem, no challenge, no crisis that cannot be solved. 

Tell the thousands of people displaced by the Auckland floods or by Cyclone Gabrielle that the climate crisis can still be dealt with in the future.

The time is now.

Tell those thousands of volunteers who are working to save our native species that are at risk of extinction that there’s plenty of time.

The time is now. 

Tell the parents of those thousands of children still living in material poverty that they can wait. 

The time is now.

The time is now, to make sure everyone has enough to live on.

To pay the bills.

To put food on the table.

To build the homes that we need.

The time is now, to properly fund our public services.

So that everyone gets the care and support they need. 

The time is now, to power our buses and trains and cars and bikes and homes with 100% clean, renewable energy. 

The time is now, to save our forests and our rivers and our oceans. 

The time for half measures is over.

There is no other time. 

The time for political courage is now.

The time for the Greens is now.

But any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election. 

Thank you.

Welcome to our campaign. 

The time is now. 

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.