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Thursday, 21 February 2019 11:41 am

Green MP says being the newbie is like jumping on a moving train


NEW MP: James Shaw. IMAGE: Supplied.

JAMES SHAW says being the only new Greens MP in Parliament is like jumping on a moving train.

Mr Shaw became a list MP several days after this year’s election, when his place was confirmed thanks to special votes taking the final Green Party tally to 10.7%.

Since then he has been learning how and why Parliament works.

“Because I come from a business background, it doesn’t operate anything like the way this place operates. The way that I am used to doing things from my previous career, I go ‘oh why wouldn’t you just do it this way?’,” he says.

“I have to take some time not just to learn the mechanics of how it’s working but why we have those mechanics, what’s the intention behind the rules and processes,” he says.

Even though, Mr Shaw only became an MP officially this year, he has been involved with the Green Party behind the scenes for many years.

Mr Shaw first joined the party in 1990 during his last year at Wellington High School, after a debate at the school between the Labour, National and Greens candidate.

He was so inspired by what the Green Party candidate said that after the debate he asked how he could help.

Mr Shaw’s journey from helper to MP was via world travel to 50 countries.

The born and breed Wellingtonian has also lived in two other countries overseas, England and Belgium. He lived in London for 12 years, working as a business consultant, and Brussels was his home for a year.

While he was living in England, Mr Shaw began the London branch of the New Zealand Green Party.

James says one of his biggest accomplishments was helping to start the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainable Business Services practice and getting the global accounting firm involved in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

FRIENDLY FACE: Gareth Hughes. IMAGE: Supplied.

FRIENDLY FACE: Gareth Hughes. IMAGE: Supplied.

When he’s not busy with politics Mr Shaw likes to ski and snowboard, read fiction, go to the movies, and cook food with his wife, Annabel.

Fellow Green Party list MP, Gareth Hughes (left) describes Mr Shaw as “a smart operator”.

“He is effective and brings his business professionalism to the job,” Mr Hughes says.

When Mr Hughes entered Parliament in 2010, he was the only new Green MP, which is the same situation Mr Shaw finds himself in now.

“It all just goes by in a blur, there is so much to learn in such a short time,” Mr Hughes says.

Mr Hughes says that there are many things you have to get used to quickly when you become a MP, one of which is that your life changes completely.

“Some of the hardest things to get used to are that it isn’t a nine to five work day, the hours are long and the burden on your family is extreme,” he says.

Mr Hughes says that when choosing new MP’s the Green Party looks for a mix of skills, background and expertise.

“They aim to make sure it’s balanced, with age and gender included,” he says.

As a small child he wanted to be an architect and had never thought of politics as a possible career at that age.

It wasn’t until 2005, after he had worked in business for 10 years and as a result of the Master’s degree at the University of Bath, that he realised political change can bring actual change.

He decided to stand for Parliament in New Zealand.

He has been labelled as part of a new Green generation by media, although Mr Shaw feels this is a slight mis-characterisation, given that he first joined the Green Party in 1990.

He has a few things he wants to achieve as an MP.

“I want to achieve some form of ecocide law and some form of democratic reform that means we are more focused on good quality decisions,” he says.

Mr Shaw spoke about ecocide in his maiden speech to Parliament.

“Mr Speaker, I am 41 years old. In just those 41 years, fully half of all the planet’s wildlife has been extinguished. Thousands of species have become extinct.

“This is ecocide. The destruction not just of species, but of the habitats and life-support systems they need to survive. We know that the cause of this carnage is economic but that the solution is political.”

Despite having been involved in an election dominated by investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s book, Mr Shaw says politics is not all about dirty politics and is very relevant.

“A lot of people are cynical and feel politics is irrelevant, but it really is a chance to help people live better lives,” he says.

Mr Shaw says those wishing to get into politics should follow three rules.

“Rule one: know why you want to get into politics, is it for your values as a person or your own personal ambition.

Mr Shaw says his values fall into the social liberal scale, with two of his key values being the preservation restoration of nature and scientific rationalism.

“Rule two: you must have great patience, this job is very people centred with the sitting of parliament, the caucus and all of the other types of people you will meet.

Mr Shaw says politics is a very long game and if you’re committed to it, you need to jump in as soon as possible because it may take a very long time to work out.

“It’s never too early,” he says.

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