2 Jun 2015

No favours for Greens' new leader

6:08 pm on 2 June 2015

Just days after being elected Green Party co-leader, James Shaw strode into Parliament to ask his first question as Metiria Turei's sidekick.

New Green Party co-leadership team James Shaw and Metiria Turei on 31 May 2015.

New Green Party co-leadership team James Shaw and Metiria Turei on 31 May 2015. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Accompanied by Mrs Turei to the debating chamber, Mr Shaw told reporters before Question Time he was excited about his new role.

He started with a perennial question the Greens ask the Prime Minister John Key nearly every week.

"Does he stand by all his statements?"

Today was not the day that Mr Key was going to break and admit he did not stand by all his statements. But before he answered, the Prime Minister congratulated Mr Shaw on his election as co-leader.

During the afternoon, other National Party MPs followed suit by passing on their best wishes.

Conspicuous in their absence were the two Green MPs, Kevin Hague and Gareth Hughes, that Mr Shaw defeated over the weekend in the contest to become the party's new male co-leader.

Mr Shaw's question hid an ulterior motive: what he really wanted to know was whether Mr Key stood by his statement that he would not reach an accord with the Greens and other parties on how to respond to climate change.

Mr Key made it clear he did, and that there was no room for a deal, prompting this question from the new Green Party co-leader:

"Which of the following options creates a better framework for New Zealand businesses to thrive?

"Option A: a stable, predictable and sensible price signal on carbon that is backed by all major political parties, or option B: policy settings that change with every change of government?" Mr Shaw said.

Mr Key's response was short and to the point.

"Option C: don't vote for a change of government. You'll get continuity."

Mr Shaw then cited the example of the United Kingdom.

"Is he aware of the cross-party accord in the United Kingdom on climate change signed by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband?

"Given the success of that accord there, why is he not open to negotiating a similar agreement?"

Mr Shaw's question was drowned out by laughter and shouting, prompting the Speaker, David Carter, to have him ask it again.

This time, the Green co-leader made no mention of the three political leaders but that did not stop Mr Key from making this observation:

"If the member's going to model himself on Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, I suggest while he's having his welcoming and congratulatory drinks he also has his farewell drinks," Mr Key said.

Mr Shaw had one final attempt at getting Mr Key to agree to a cross-party accord on climate change.

"Why won't he put politics aside and seek to work with other parties to reach a lasting and durable cross-party agreement on the climate that puts in place an emissions reduction target that New Zealanders can be proud of?" he said.

Mr Key was not prepared to give any ground.

"It's pretty clear that the Greens want to have a reduction target which is significantly greater than what either the economy can afford, consumers can afford or what would be fair.

"When the member says he wants to have a discussion with the government and consultation, what he really means is he wants the Government to see it the Greens' way, and in my view, Mr Speaker, that would be disastrous for the economy," Mr Key said.

Mr Shaw might be seen as the more business-friendly face of the Green Party but the Prime Minister is not about to do him any favours.