Election 2023: ACT, Greens launch attacks over 'ineffectiveness', 'reactionary, race-baiting' politics

The ACT Party and the Greens have begun their pre-election campaign tussles after launching attacks at each other.

On Sunday morning, ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said if the Green Party's done one thing during their five years in Government, it's "proving how ineffective they are".

Van Velden anticipated that during a speech Greens co-leader James Shaw was giving later that morning, he would be hoping to make his supporters "forget how useless the party has been in Government".

"New Zealand's carbon emissions have flatlined under James Shaw as Climate Change Minister. Shaw should be focused on actually achieving results rather than political bickering," van Velden said.

"Most people don't even know co-leader Marama Davidson is Minister for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Housing Minister responsible for homelessness. When ACT MP Karen Chhour asked her in Parliament about tragic reports of sexual assaults within emergency housing she said she hadn't even asked for a briefing and that it should be the Minister for Social Development's remit."

Van Velden continued her attack on the Greens, saying one of Shaw's flagship policies was banning oil and gas exploration. She said it was later revealed there was no cost-benefit analysis and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found it would have increased global emissions by forcing activity offshore.

"Global coal exporters have been the biggest benefactor of the Green Party's climate policies. According to figures from MBIE, coal use for electricity generation was up 29.5 percent in 2022. There is no environmental benefit to this policy if Indonesian coal is imported instead," van Velden said. 

"If New Zealand wants to avoid burning millions of tonnes of foreign coal in future, the Government needs to re-evaluate its oil and gas ban."

In its place, van Velden said ACT's climate change policy matches New Zealand's efforts with trading partners with "minimal bureaucracy".

"The Greens are more concerned about the appearance of environmental progress than actual progress and voters are waking up to that. ACT stands for real change in our climate policy, ensuring it is practical, effective, and not going to make life harder for New Zealanders," she added.

James Shaw and Brooke van Velden.
James Shaw and Brooke van Velden. Photo credit: Newshub / AM

Shaw fired back at the ACT Party during his speech later on Sunday, saying this year's election could produce two completely different Governments. He said New Zealand will either elect "the most progressive climate-focused Government" ever, or "hand the keys to the most reactionary, race-baiting, right-wing Government that we have seen in decades".

"That is because we know one thing for sure - no one party can win a majority on their own this election," Shaw said.

"Just like Labour will need our support, the only way that [National Party leader] Christopher Luxon - or whoever follows him - will become the Prime Minister is with the support of David Seymour and the ACT Party.

"An ACT Party that has pledged to restart oil drilling in Māui dolphin habitats, that has pledged to ditch our climate targets, that has pledged to tear up Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and that has pledged to cut taxes for the wealthiest few.

"An ACT Party that said of climate change, only a few years ago, that the threat of extreme weather events was 'unproven conjectures'."

Shaw said in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, the ACT Party "dares to suggest" the framework on building a zero-emission climate-resilient future for New Zealand should be dismantled.

"The worst possible outcome that I can imagine from this year's election is a National-ACT alliance in Government. It would be an alliance addicted to fossil fuels and to helping the wealthiest and the most powerful," Shaw said.

"Families will be left struggling to make ends meet, schools and hospitals will be run into the ground, our natural world will be further eroded away, the Crown's obligations to Māori under Te Tiriti will be dishonoured, and our communities will be more at risk from supercharged floods and fires and droughts and storms."

Elsewhere in his speech, Shaw said he was "proud" of what the Greens have achieved in the past five years, but urged it wasn't enough and he doesn't want to see another generation have to "bear the burden of slow progress".

He said any political party that wants to work with them will have to bring the "strongest possible climate action".

The stakes are "too high", he added, and the consequences of failure are too great for climate action not to be taken seriously.

"Over the next seven months, the Green Party will set out a plan for Aotearoa to cut climate pollution and improve our communities," Shaw said. 

"Our message will be simple: To get the Government Aotearoa needs, we need more Green MPs in Parliament and Green Ministers sitting around the decision-making table. That is how we can best influence the next Government."