The escalating and unbearable waves of misogyny and racism permeating society are a poignant concern for James Shaw, the Co-leader of the Green Party of New Zealand. Despite being a middle-class white man largely shielded from the worst of these experiences, his position has granted him a unique vantage point, especially given the violent and repugnant verbal abuses directed particularly at brown female MPs.
As he expounded during his interview on Te Ao with Moana, Shaw revealed that his encounter with this venomous language far surpasses anything he had personally faced. Nearly four years ago, Shaw was a victim of a disturbing physical attack, an experience that has made him reticent to walk home at night. However, the intrinsic worry he carries today focuses more on the haemorrhage of hateful rhetoric influencing political discourse.
Shaw, a former management consultant, made his parliamentary debut in 2014 and has since weathered the storm of two leadership challenges, including a chaotic attempt in 2022. The turbulence marked a tense dynamic between the activist and parliamentary leadership facets of the party. Through it all, after almost a decade inside Parliament, Shaw is persistently assured that his contribution to decisions, laws, and directing resources is crucial for tackling long-term issues.
The Green Party, under a confidence and supply agreement with Labour, boasts nine MPs and two ministerial portfolios within the House. Shaw holds the position of Minister for Climate Change, while Co-leader Marama Davidson serves as the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence. While remaining sceptical about joining forces with National, Act, and NZ First, should they form a majority government, Shaw believes the Greens would not be welcomed nor want to be part of such a coalition.
A key component of Green Party policy revolves around the “promise and potential” that the te Tiriti o Waitangi treaty offers. Every policy is scrutinised through a ‘Tiriti lens’ and Shaw expresses visible frustration with the fear-based narratives other parties promote around the treaty.
In his eyes, the notion of shared power and space doesn’t entail surrendering everything, a perspective he passionately argues against. Moreover, Shaw believes that honouring te Tiriti could bring significant economic benefits in the long run by lifting people out of poverty, thus reducing health and education costs over time.
The 2022 Hoki Whenua Mai policy paper shed light on several fundamental injustices, including perpetual leases on Maori land, the reclamation of land seized under the Public Works Act, and the prevention of further land seizures. For Shaw, addressing these injustices isn’t merely an electoral ploy, but a moral imperative.
Confronted with the question of whether the Greens have failed to convince the sceptics of the climate crisis, Shaw remains steadfast and hopeful. Despite acknowledging the stark reality of the data, he firmly believes in the progress being made. To Shaw, hope is an active endeavour requiring persistent effort and collective will. Fundamentally, he contends, despite the challenges that lie ahead, there is always room for hope.