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AGM 2018 speech by Green Party Co-leader James Shaw

Kia tau te rangimārie o te Rangi e tū nei

o Papatūānuku e takoto nei

o te Taiao e awhi nei

ki runga i a tātou.

Tīhei mauri ora!

Tēnā koutou katoa.

My first campaign was the 1990 General Election. I was sixteen and in my last year at Wellington High School. I did a bit of volunteering for the Greens’ Wellington Central Candidate, Stephen Rainbow.

The centrepiece of his campaign was – get this – a plan to put light rail from the Railway Station out to the Airport.

So earlier this year, when Julie Anne Genter – sorry, that’s Minister Genter – and Phil Twyford announced a $14 billion funding package for walkway infrastructure, cycle-ways, buses and, yes, light rail, that was a pretty special moment for me.

And for all of us Greens who have fought for cleaner, greener, healthier, less congested ways to get around – for the better part of three decades now.

Longer if you count the Values Party before it morphed into the Green Party.

It’s like the old guy at the gate in those cheese ads used to say, “Good things take time.”

***

And so here we are – thanks to you and to the rest of our Green Party whanau – at our approximately twenty-eighth Annual General Meeting, but our first as a party of Government.

So this is a momentous occasion.  

As I was preparing for this speech I was thinking back on the days leading up to the formation of Government. 

In and out of the lifts at Bowen House – with doors opening and closing on a wall of cameras and microphones and journalists waiting to see who would get the Bachelor’s – sorry, Winston’s – last rose.

And then there was the conference call to beat all Green Party conference calls. A hundred a fifty or so delegates – including a lot of you all here today.

Many of you I haven’t had a chance to catch up with, in fact, since that conference call, that formed the Government.

It’s nice to see you. And thank you again.

Because you gave us the chance – in government – to realise the dream of a country where our natural heritage and our communities are at the heart of decision-making.

You gave us a shot at a country where every person has a place, a community, a sense of belonging.

A country where every person is treated with dignity and fairness.

These are the values we bring to the new government and will continue to fight for.

***

I remember, actually, that one of the big concerns that was raised on that conference call about going into Government was that we hadn’t managed to negotiate a commitment to ending new exploration for offshore oil and gas.

That’s right. Being in Government means we can deliver on our Confidence and Supply Agreement – but also so much more.

We haven’t won every debate and the menu does feature the occasional deceased rodent. But it just goes to show, you made the right choice to go into Government.

***

Who here worked on the 2011 or 2014 Election Campaigns?

You remember Russel Norman’s campaign promise in 2011 and 2014, for a Green Investment Fund?

Well, that’s happening. We got $125 million dollars in Budget 2018 to set it up.

We’re literally investing in a better future. In green jobs. In the high-value, clean-tech, zero-emission economy of the future.

That’s down to you.

You can also take credit for being part of real progress on the work happening with the Zero Carbon Bill.

Right now the Ministry for the Environment is sorting through fifteen thousand and four public submissions on the Bill.

Even before the Zero Carbon Bill becomes the Zero Carbon Act, the country is getting in on it.  

You’ll have seen the Climate Leaders Coalition – sixty companies which have joined forces and committed to cutting their emissions.

Together with their suppliers, these companies make up nearly half of our country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly half!

You might have seen a group of New Zealand’s Farming Leaders write a join op-ed with the Prime Minister, committing the agri-food sector to its part in the net-zero emissions economy.

Synlait, a diary processing company, has committed to getting reducing greenhouse gas emissions on its farms by a third, within ten years – just using existing technology and best practice.

Everyone is getting in on the Zero Carbon Act.

And that’s down to you, too.

***

Also down to you is that the country has, for the first time, a member of the Executive leading the campaign to end domestic and sexual violence.

That’s right. Your very own Jan Logie.

And just the other week, Jan guided into law the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Bill.

Jan – congratulations again.

It’s taken Jan and other seven years of hard work and persistence. But you got there in the end. Good things take time, sometimes.

Finally New Zealand has a law that says if you need time off work to stay safe from an abuser, or you need time off work to keep your children safe from an abuser, you have the legal right to do so.

Let me quote from Jan’s closing remarks in the final debate on the bill where she thanked all those who supported it and said:

“All of these groups, businesses, and people get that we are in this together, that domestic violence is something that we all have a stake in reducing

“Today, we will become the first country in the world to provide these protections as universal entitlements.

“Today, we stand for a future free of domestic violence.”

***

Mental health was a big topic in last year’s election campaign. We’ve got over $10 million dollars to pilot a programme to ensure young people have access to timely, quality, mental health services.

And we’re supporting David Clark’s upcoming Mental Health Inquiry, looking at how to get a more comprehensive approach to mental health issues in this country.

And, of course, we continue to be the driving force to mend the safety net. The overhaul of the welfare system is the centrepiece of our Fair Society commitment in our Confidence and Supply Agreement.

When everyone is doing well, everyone benefits.

It’s been a year and nine days since Metiria stepped aside as Co-leader. But what she fought for – a welfare system that treats people with dignity and respect, which offers people a decent life, at every stage of life – we now have a shot at delivering on as part of this Government.

And that is also down to you.

***

Metiria’s predecessor and a personal here to many of us, me included, Jeanette Fitzsimons, is here today – with Harry. Welcome to you both.

When she left Parliament, Jeanette said in her valedictory speech, “… we need to find better ways of measuring our economic success, and that the aim should be a better economy, not just a bigger one.  The aim should be an economy based on respect for people and for nature, not on dog-eat-dog competitiveness.”

It’s actually kinda hard to believe, but now the New Zealand Treasury and Stats NZ are working to set up a comprehensive framework for measuring – not just economic success – but social, and environmental, and cultural wellbeing too.

And we’ll be able to use it to measure our progress against the Sustainable Development Goals. Or to see how we’re doing against the Planetary Boundaries framework. Or, to see what we need to do next to bring us closer to the Circular Economy.

And next year’s Budget will, for the first time, require the Minister of Finance to report on our wellbeing, not just our economic through-put.

It’s going to take a few years to develop fully, but Jeanette’s vision of finding better ways to measure our economic success is starting to become a reality.

And that… Is down… To you.

***

Back in 2009, the Green Party led the move to make MPs’ expenses public, so you can see how much we’re spending on, for example, travel…

Now, we’ve got Ministers, we’re pro-actively releasing our Ministerial diaries so people can see who we’re meeting and why we’re meeting them.

We’re leading the way, still, on more open and transparent government.

And also more accessible government. Chloe is on the verge of securing accessibility support for people with disabilities to be able to participate more easily in our democracy.

Gareth is making headway on country-of-origin food labelling and won a big increase of $15 million into the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Golriz is helping to shape the terms of reference for future trade agreements, so that they actually support and enhance our social and environmental goals, not undermine them.

And Marama – well, you’ll hear from Marama after lunch – but Marama is negotiating with Government Ministers on issue after issue. Taking every opportunity to make this the Greenest Government ever.

And all of this is down to you.

***

I know I’ve been using that phrase a lot, haven’t I? That this is down to you.

Because after nearly three decades as the Green Party, after twenty-two years as a Parliamentary party, here we are at our first annual conference as a party of Government.

With Ministers for Climate Change, Conservation, Women.

With Associate Ministers for Health, Transport, Environment, Finance.

With an Under-Secretary for Domestic and Sexual Violence.

With MPs who are, every day, winning large, winning small.

We have these responsibilities in Government today for one reason, and one reason only.

You.

Over 6,000 of you volunteered your time and enthusiasm to the Green Party’s 2017 election campaign.

You attended hundreds of community events. You knocked on 63,500 doors. You delivered 1.1 million leaflets. You put up 7,282 billboards – twice.

Back in 2011 we made 3,000 phone calls during the campaign. In last year’s campaign, you made 104,000 calls.

In 2011 around 6,000 people donated money to the Green Party campaign. Last year there were nearly 15,000 of you. We were signing up an average of 650-plus donors a month for most of the campaign.

In total, face-to-face, on the phone, or on social media, you had about 160,000 conversations with New Zealanders – talking about Green politics, the campaign, and about what was important to Kiwis.

It was a hell of a ride through a campaign that took its toll.

But what got us through and delivered us back into Parliament, and into Government for the first time ever, was you.

I am in awe of you.

***

The other day one of our staffers, Damon, asked me if he thought being in Government meant we were losing our values.

I think, actually, we’re even stronger in our values now that we’re in Government. Not just because we actually get to deliver on them, but because they’re being tested. Every day.

Every day we have to think about the decisions we make, how to act with respect for our planet and each other, to challenge oppression and unjust power imbalances, to think long term and holistically, to work for a future which is brighter not just so I and my whānau can do okay but so everyone can do better.

Our values, our Green kaupapa, are being tested in ways we didn’t face when we were in Opposition.

So we will continue to be the strongest voice in Parliament for progressive politics.

We have always led the way on renewable energy, climate change, sustainable agriculture, conservation, better buses and trains, human rights, Te Tiriti rights, open government, drug law reform, a fairer society.

And in 2020, people will vote for us because they see us fighting for something better.

They will see us delivering in government and holding our partners to account.

They will know that we give a damn about protecting nature and every single person, and every community.

The wins we’re celebrating this weekend are momentous and should not be underestimated.

They are not just caucus’s wins. They are your wins. The work that we’ve done, and will continue to do, is your work.

It’s only because of you, our Green Party members and supporters, that any of this is possible.

On Election Night last year I said that I believed we could form a Government with Labour and New Zealand First because a majority of New Zealanders had voted for change.

Well, you help drive that change and you keep us committed to that change.

There is so much more to be done.  But we are just getting warmed up.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.