JAMES SHAW: If only our politicians could admit to their flaws

If only our politicians could admit to their flaws

By James Shaw, Co-leader of the Green Party

One of the things I most appreciated about coming home to New Zealand after 13 years overseas was the frank honesty of Kiwis.

You might not always want to hear it, but New Zealanders tend to tell it like it is. People proudly tell you how their hometown’s the best, but they won't shy from telling you about its rough edges either. Like when you’re out buying second-hand furniture and the shop owner points out a broken spring or loose leg at the back of a couch. Perhaps because of that honesty, or in spite of it, you’ll probably buy it anyway, right?

In my experience, by and large, people want to be straight up, they want you to know the good and the bad, because they know you won’t believe one without the other.

Parliament, however, can be a bit of a different story.

A lot of my work in Parliament is focused on tackling the climate crisis. I’m of the view that this is one of the most urgent challenges that our generation faces. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the issues where we see the most PR and spin from the government.

Listening to National's Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett, you could be mistaken for thinking National had already solved the climate crisis.

Bennett describes National’s flagship electric vehicle policy as an “ambitious and wide-ranging package of measures”, but she quietly leaves out that it will only cut 0.2 percent of the pollution New Zealand has committed to eliminating.

National MPs like to talk about their “ambitious” climate targets; these are the same targets that multiple experts have described as “inadequate”.

Late last year, Paula Bennett even wrote an opinion piece titled “We’re on the Right Track on Tackling Climate Change”. This despite advice from her officials only a few months earlier that said “under our current policy settings we are not on-track to reduce emissions”. Nowhere in this article did it mention that National still has no plan to reduce over 85 percent of climate pollution they’ve committed to eliminating in the next 10 - 15 years.

I’m not saying that National isn’t doing a few good things around climate change, but the reality is that after eight years in power climate pollution has risen by almost twenty percent, National is still promoting oil exploration, and we still haven’t seen them switch to invest in cleaner energy, cleaner public transport and more sustainable farming.

New Zealanders expect honesty, and inevitably omissions and misleading statements come back to bite us. National would do well to recognise that spin not only doesn’t help the next generation avoid the climate crisis, but in the short term is unlikely to help them as well.