Green Party co-leaders worried about disinformation

Source: 1News

Greens co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw sit down with 1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay to reflect on 2021 and their plans for 2022.

Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw say they’re concerned about the impact of misinformation and disinformation on communities around the country.

Shaw said he acknowledged there was some sentiment against the Government in 2021.

“It doesn’t surprise me. Every Government has periods of time where people are opposed to the agenda.”

But, things had changed, he added.

“The element that I think is new that worries me is the influence, particularly, of offshore-driven, social media-driven misinformation and disinformation.”

Shaw said New Zealand didn’t want to get to a point where New Zealand’s social fabric deteriorated so much it would struggle to respond effectively to crises, such as pandemics.

He said New Zealand had to deal with the issue as a country.

Davidson said anti-Government sentiment was “quite prominent” in discussions among the Green caucus and party, especially for its Māori and Pacific MPs.

“What is happening in communities is really concerning in terms of the strength of the disinformation and misinformation campaigns. [It] has absolutely impacted us in our personal lives and our personal connections,” she said.

She said she’d seen the impact of disinformation in her family too.

In October, Davidson encouraged her nieces to choose to get the Covid-19 vaccine by helping them work through the misinformation-fuelled fears they had.

It was important to maintain connections with people and communities while emphasising health advice, Davidson said.

She said the Greens’ focus on addressing inequality was also important so people could have dignified lives.

“[That is] really important so that we’ve got more trust in working with communities.

“People on the outskirts — that’s not everyone, that’s not the whole makeup of the drive of the frustration towards Government — but certainly, people on the outskirts and marginalised are certainly vulnerable.”

A report released last week by Auckland University think tank Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures found there were “warning signs” of “division”. However, it said a “relatively high” level of trust in the Government remained.

The report identified several potential threats to social cohesion in New Zealand. This included Covid-19 amplifying existing inequalities, “frustration over the consequences of Government-imposed controls”, the role of disinformation, and the increasingly siloed way people were accessing information.

Other aspects included climate change, growing inequality, and the failure to resolve long-standing social issues like housing costs and inter-generational poverty.

The co-leaders said the Greens would continue to focus on tackling inequality and climate change in 2022.

Davidson, an Associate Housing Minister, said she wanted to see more changes for renters, whether that be rent freezes or controls.

Climate Change Minister Shaw said 2022 was especially busy in the climate change space, with three big pieces of work: the emissions reduction plan, the National Adaptation Plan, and He Waka Eke Noa’s focus on reducing primary sector emissions.

“We prefer to do the work rather than talk about it.”

Watch the rest of the interviews in this series: Jacinda Ardern, Christopher Luxon, David Seymour, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer