Barack Obama’s visit

I don’t care about Barack Obama’s visit to New Zealand. I don’t see what the big deal is. He’s a past US president presumably making money from people who like to fork out for speaking tour events.

I don’t care that any media coverage will be banned from any private function he speaks at. It’s not exactly unusual, they try to ban media recording from concerts too.

An end to oil and gas exploration?

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern sent a typically strong but vague signal on government intent on allowing or ending oil and gas exploration in New Zealand – see Government actively considering whether to decide on oil exploration.

Mixed signals continue.

NZH: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the world has moved on in terms of fossil fuels

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given the strongest signal yet that the days of oil and gas exploration in New Zealand are numbered.

Sort of.

In a surprise appearance that stunned observers, Ardern appeared on Parliament’s forecourt on Monday to accept a 45,000-strong Greenpeace petition calling for an end to oil and gas exploration.

Ardern said the world had moved on from fossil fuels.

“I ask now for a bit more time. We’re working hard on this issue and we know it’s something that we can’t afford to spend much time on but we are actively considering it now,” she said.

Opposition leader and former Energy Minister Simon Bridges called Ardern’s surprise appearance a “quickly invented publicity stunt by the Prime Minister to distract from her week from hell”.

It did seem unusual for a Prime Minister to personally receive a petition being delivered to Parliament.

Ardern is on RNZ now. She says it is a complex issue, including the potential impact on regions like Taranaki where most oil and gas recovery is currently centred. And she seems to be mainly considering the exploration ‘block offers’ rather than stopping all current production.

Audrey Young: Banning oil and gas exploration a question of when, not if

The only question, the Prime Minister has now made clear, is not “if” but “when” and “how” the transition will work.

We don’t know yet whether it will be a transition of five, 10 or 20 years.

So will the ‘active consideration’ turn in to decisive action or kicking the petrol can down the road?

But one thing we do know is that she won’t be able to keep both Greenpeace and New Zealand First happy on this one.

Ardern is not relying on Greenpeace as a coalition partner – and no one voted for Greenpeace in last year’s election.

The devil will be in the detail. And the details of what the Government calls a “just transition” to a non-fossil-fuel future looks set to be announced next month at the same time as the future or fate of the 2018 Block Offer is made clear.

Which was under way regardless of the Greenpeace petition.

In all likelihood, even a National-led Government would have ended the Block Offer process because interest in it by oil companies has been waning in recent years.

And yes, looks like it may fizzle out anyway.

Greenpeace and the Greens want the accelerator planted (on the EV) to get decisions made and the framework in place to achieve that goal.

New Zealand First’s loyalty lies more with the regions which it thinks should be getting greater advantage from the exploration in its area and as the driver of the billion trees, is more into mitigation.

We will have to wait and see what Ardern and her government decides to do.

Should New Zealand ban internal combustion engines?

It is difficult to imagine the degree of disruption and change that we would have in New Zealand if internal combustion engines were banned. But this is what some people want.

Dominion Post: Why New Zealand should ban internal combustion engines


Bold and decisive actions are necessary if New Zealand is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions substantially.

The new Labour-led Government has committed to introducing a zero carbon bill later this year. But how should the aims of such legislation be achieved?

Of such measures, perhaps the most effective would be a ban on the sale of all new or imported used vehicles with internal combustion engines. Such a ban could take effect, say, from 2030.

At least that would be twelve years to prepare.

Many developed and developing countries have already introduced or are seriously contemplating such bans.

Britain, France, Ireland, Germany, India and China are listed – if car manufacturing countries ban internal combustion engines that would have a flow on effect here anyway.

New Zealand should follow suit.

As it stands, our transport sector accounts for around 18 per cent of annual gross greenhouse gas emissions and over a third of carbon-dioxide emissions. Emissions from road vehicles make up over 90 per cent of our total transport emissions. Hence, a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles would, in due course, considerably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

It could also considerably change how people travel. It would presumably also affect freight – and at the moment I don’t think there is EV technology that would handle long haul trucking. And if it also applies to rail that would require electrification of all existing rail lines, a huge and costly exercise.

About 85 per cent of our stationary energy comes from renewable sources and this percentage continues to increase. Accordingly, EVs can be recharged in New Zealand with a very low carbon footprint.

18% isn’t that much different to the 15% of non-renewable stationary energy.

And from RNZ yesterday: Electric vehicles could put strain on power network

There are fears that an increase in the uptake of electric vehicles could end up overloading the electricity network.

Electric vehicles make up less than one percent of the entire fleet, but it has been predicted they could make up 70 percent of it by 2050.

Consultant Simon Coates told Nine To Noon that if this happened they would account for 40 percent of domestic electricity usage and would place a strain on the network.

The above proposal is for a 100% electric fleet by 2030, but back to the ban proposal…

Of course, even with such a ban it will take decades to decarbonise New Zealand’s transport fleet. In 2016 close to 40 per cent of light vehicles were at least 15 years old. If the current age structure is maintained over the coming decades, it will be mid-century, even with a ban, before most petrol and diesel vehicles are phased out.

It  may make sense to move away from internal combustion as quickly as possible, but it will be complex, difficult and costly.

A ban of the kind suggested would serve multiple purposes. It would underscore New Zealand’s global commitment to substantial emissions reductions. It would help give substance to our claim to be ‘clean and green’. It would send a powerful signal to the automotive industry and consumers, thereby altering expectations and decision-making.

Moreover, it would help improve planning in the transport sector by providing greater certainty. In so doing, it would speed up the required investment in a comprehensive charging infrastructure and hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The planning required would be huge.

It might be argued that the proposed ban is unnecessary. After all, by 2030 most automobile manufacturers will probably have ceased producing internal combustion engines. But a high proportion of vehicles sold in New Zealand are used imports rather than new vehicles. New Zealand must not continue to be a dumping ground for cheap, out-of- date, high-carbon technologies. We must aspire to a better, cleaner future and act accordingly.

This is fine as an aspirational ideal, but there is no attempt to detail what this would actually require and mean for New Zealand.

There is also no costings – how much would be required to convert? And what would the resulting transport costs be like?

Who has proposed this?Not a couple of young Green idealists.

Thomas Anderson is a Research Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington. Jonathan Boston is Professor of Public Policy at VUW.

Shadbolt, Southland Times no guilty of defamation

Invercargill mayor says that a defamation case in which he was found not guilty the local government equivalent of the David Lange defamation case.

The case pitted a city councillor against her mayor (and the local newspaper).

RNZ – Defamation trial: Not guilty verdict good for councils – Shadbolt

A jury on Friday found Mr Shadbolt and the Southland Times newspaper not guilty of defaming Karen Arnold in a series of columns in 2014 and 2015.

Ms Arnold had argued she was portrayed by the mayor in the columns as unprofessional and a leaker of confidential documents.

Mr Shadbolt said the verdict was highly significant for freedom of speech.

“If we really want to criticise our mayors or if our mayors want to cristicise their councillors, it certainly gives a lot more room for them to do that and I think as a result it will lead to much healthier debate around the council table.”

Mr Shadbolt said his case was the local government equivalent of the David Lange defamation case 20 years ago.

Stuff (which includes the Southland Times): Defamation proceedings against Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Stuff fail

Invercargill City councillor Karen Arnold had sued Shadbolt and Stuff, formerly Fairfax Media, for defamation over comments made by Shadbolt in four columns published in The Southland Times in 2014 and 2015.

She claimed a number of defamatory meanings could be drawn from the columns, which discussed her position on council matters, including the council’s trading company Holdco and a proposed kākāpō display.

The meanings alleged by Arnold included that she was dishonest, had leaked confidential documents, had colluded with a defunct ratepayers group and had acted inappropriately by engaging in debate about the “kākāpōrium” after declaring a conflict of interest.

The jury found Arnold had proved some of the alleged meanings, but did not find any of these to be defamatory. However, after the verdict, the judge granted her lawyers’ request to make a court application to determine whether the verdicts for the first three columns were legally sound.

Arnold is considering whether to appeal.

Stuff editorial director Mark Stevens said he was pleased with the jury’s decision.

“We always felt that at the heart of this case was the very important editorial principle of freedom of expression and it’s great for the industry and the craft of journalism to have this outcome”.

Speaking outside the courthouse Shadbolt said he was “absolutely relieved” by the decision, which came three years after the statements in question.

During the trial his lawyer had warned a decision against his client could have a chilling effect on political speech, however Shadbolt said the jury had sided with “freedom of speech and freedom of expression”.

“It’s a landmark case and it’s also a defence not just of sincere conversation, but of satire, humour, being able to enjoy politics, which I’ve always tried to do.”

Shadbolt said the decision had confirmed those in local government could “express ourselves”, but rejected the working relationship between him and Arnold would be strained as a result: “I think both parties will be very keen to get back … to work”

That working relationship must have changed after this.

In his closing address, Stuff’s lawyer Robert Stewart asked the jury if the meanings alleged would be evident to a reasonable reader or to someone “who sees conspiracies that don’t exist”.

Arnold’s lawyer Peter McKnight said the meanings were clear. He told the court Shadbolt “loathed” his client, that there was no factual basis for his statements and he was simply “out to give Karen Arnold some decent swipes”.

The sentiment was denied by the Shadbolt camp. His lawyer Felix Geiringer said that while it was true the pair did not “get on”, he was within his rights to criticise her and otherwise he was giving his opinion on local political matters.

Some big name out of town lawyers there. It won’t have been a cheap trial for any of the parties.

Arnold alleged Stuff was irresponsible and reckless in the way it published the columns, in part because only one staff member – long-term Southland Times features editor Mike Fallow – checked them without referral to editor Natasha Holland or a lawyer.

This, in McKnight’s reckoning, was “totally irresponsible”. However, Stuff’s chief executive Sinead Boucher said she would have personally published the columns and the checking process they went through was appropriate for a modern news organisation.

Geiringer told the jury freedom of speech was particularly important in this case. He argued there would be a chilling effect on political speech and publishers’ willingness to provide a platform if the jury found against his client.

Their decision would have, he said, a “substantial impact on the society we live in”, whereas McKnight contended it was “very important that we as a society protect the reputations of politicians from unwarranted attack”.

There is a well known precedent that specifically applies to criticism of politicians.

The case provided a basis for the Lange defence – a legal precedent that allowed news organisations to report harsh criticism of politicians, provided they were not reckless or motivated by malice – to apply not just to parliamentarians, but local body politicians.

TEARA: David Lange, defamation and media freedom

In the October 1995 issue of North and South magazine, political scientist Joe Atkinson suggested that former Prime Minister David Lange had been too lazy to take on the difficult aspects of that job. The accompanying cartoon played with the article’s suggestion that Lange suffered from ‘false-memory syndrome’ in his portrayal of himself as prime minister – as well as his comments about hotel breakfasts in New Zealand.

David Lange, defamation and media freedom

Lange considered the article (and cartoon) to be defamatory and took Atkinson to court in 1996.

After the case went through a series of courts, the Court of Appeal eventually decided that journalists had a defence of ‘qualified privilege’ – meaning that they could criticise politicians on the basis of their ‘honest belief’. The findings in the case have given New Zealand media greater freedom to comment on the performance of politicians.

The Southland case is different in that it was a councillor versus the mayor.


US poll: 74% believe in ‘deep state’

What is ‘deep state’? In the US, according to Wikipedia:

In the United States, the term “deep state“, describes a form of cabal that coordinates efforts by government employees to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership.

Deep state was defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”

In The Concealment of the State, professor Jason Royce Lindsey argues that even without a conspiratorial agenda, the term deep state is useful for understanding aspects of the national security establishment in developed countries, with emphasis on the United States. Lindsey writes that the deep state draws power from the national security and intelligence communities, a realm where secrecy is a source of power.

Alfred W. McCoy states that the increase in the power of the U.S. intelligence community since the September 11 attacks “has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government” that is “in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so.”

Probably a better question would be what degree of ‘deep state’ exists in the US (and in New Zealand).

Monmouth University Polling Institute: Public Troubled by ‘Deep State’

A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the U.S. government could be invading their own privacy. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on the center and left and NRA members on the right are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives.

As it stands right now, do you think that unelected or appointed officials in the federal government have too much influence in determining federal policy or is there the right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials?

  • Unelected or appointed officials have too much influence 60%
  • Right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials 26%
  • Don’t know 14%

Are you very familiar, somewhat familiar, or not familiar with the term Deep State as it applies to the federal government?

  • Very familiar 13%
  • Somewhat familiar 24%
  • Not familiar 63%

The term Deep State refers to the possible existence of a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy. Do you think this type of Deep State in the federal government definitely exists, probably exists, probably does not exist, or definitely does not exist?

  • Definitely exists 27%
  • Probably exists 47%
  • Total definitely/probably exists 74%
  • Probably does not exist 16%
  • Definitely does not exist 5%
  • Don’t know 5%

I would question whether there is ‘a cabal’ rather than different groups of people within government or the military who try to influence policy.

There are also many groups outside of US government trying to influence policy (like lobbying groups and companies), as well as all the politicians of course. So it’s a complex of competing interests.

I very much doubt that any group within the New Zealand military has any influence or attempt at influence beyond promoting their own military interests (which is what they should do).

I also doubt that there is a cabal inside our public service.

Definitions of cabal:

  • a secret political clique or faction
  • a small group of people who plan secretly to take action, especially political action
  • the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also : a group engaged in such schemes

I’m sure there are some public servants, and possibly groups of public servants, who try to influence policies, effectively in secret. But I doubt there is a secret group plotting to overturn the government.

To an extent it is the job of government advisers to advise the Government what to do, that is, influence policies.

The biggest problem here is secrecy – that withholding of information provided to our elected representatives from the public. This is more a problem with government MPs trying to keep advice to them secret, but they may be advised to do that by unelected officials.

Here in New Zealand the obvious antidote to secret manipulation or advice is transparency. So making the Official Information Act work as intended is important.

And this is a topical problem here, and not just with national government. From RNZ yesterday: Questions over tardy release of Auckland Council report:

Auckland Council senior executives stalled the release of a major report, for political convenience in a possible breach of official information law.

The study on the impact of moving the imported car trade away from Auckland was withheld from RNZ by the council for five months, and released only after intervention by the Ombudsman’s office.

The problem here isn’t a cabal trying to secretly run or take over the Government, but we do have problems with public servants generally in collusion with elected representatives try to manipulate public opinion and hide information from the public.

This isn’t ‘deep state’, but it is a significant concern.


General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Labour sexual assault review – terms of reference

Labour has released the terms of reference for the review into the sexual assault issues at the Young Labour summer camp. It will take 2-3 months, and all Labour Party members will be contacted.

Maria Berryman Review: Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference for the Berryman review have been finalised.

  1. Ms. Berryman will inquire and report on:
    1. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to Young Labour events, that existed as of February 2018, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    2. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 Young Labour summer camp;
    3. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, adequately support the Labour Party’s objective of providing a safe environment for members and participants;
    4. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to the planning and management of events and the handling of complaints, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    5. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 allegations;
    6. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, reflect best practice.
  2. The Reviewer will not investigate or make findings about the specific allegations of sexual assault, except to the extent of how the policies and processes were applied in relation to the events prior to, and after, the alleged assaults.
  3. The Reviewer will make any recommendations for change that she thinks appropriate.
  4. In addition, because the possibility of at least one other incident of a similar nature has been raised in the media, the Reviewer will also be available to, and will establish processes to:
    1. receive any other concerns of issues that any person may wish to raise in relation to previous events (either relating to Young Labour or the Labour Party more generally); and
    2. take such steps as she considers appropriate in relation to those other issues, having regard to the wishes of those who raise them with her. Those steps may include recommendations to the Labour Party Council.

“Ms Berryman is commencing immediately with the initial focus of her investigation on the Young Labour camp in February. The review is expected to take between two and three months,” said Nigel Haworth, Labour Party President.

“A statement will be issued when the review has been completed, outlining any recommendations as well as the steps the Labour Party will be taking to implement them.

“All members of the Party will be contacted in relation to the review.

“Historical cases may be brought to Ms Berryman’s attention by sending details of the case to:

“This address will be confidential to Ms Berryman and will be available on our website at

“The Labour Party will fully cooperate with Ms Berryman’s requirements in the completion of her review.

“Labour will not be commenting further while this investigation is underway,” said Haworth.

Government actively considering whether to decide on oil exploration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally received a Greenpeace petition calling foe an end to oil exploration at Parliament today, and said that the Government was actively considering what to do, but didn’t give any more specifics.

Stuff:  Ardern says Government ‘actively considering’ call to end oil exploration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed attending a state visit to personally receive a Greenpeace petition calling for the end of oil exploration.

Greenpeace said the petition was signed by 45,000 people, including Dame Jane Campion, Taika Waititi and actor Lucy Lawless.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Kate Simcock said Ardern had won praise for describing climate change as New Zealand’s “nuclear free moment” but now had to put the words into action.

Standing in front of a series of posters of Labour leaders which had made high profile environmental decisions, Ardern said her Government was “actively considering” the issue.

Although her statement was light on details and Ardern has previously refused to rule out ending offering new exploration blocks, the decision to walk to the front of Parliament was highly symbolic.

“We’re working hard on this issue and we know that it’s one that we can’t afford to spend much time on,” Ardern said at the Greenpeace rally.

“But we are actively considering it now and we are considering all of these issues in mind and with this government’s pledge that we will be carbon neutral by 2050, that’s not in question.

“But these are the intermediate decisions that we have to make in between. So while I ask for time, I’m not asking for much. But just enough that we can make sure that we factor in everything that you would ask us to factor in,” Ardern said, including “grave environmental concerns”.

Which didn’t really say a lot, but Ardern has already walked back on this.

By 4pm Ardern appeared to walk back the comments, saying consideration of what to do with the process under which areas are offered for oil exploration was something that “every government does around this time of year”.

So they are “actively considering” something that “every government does around this time of year”

Ardern is going to have to start delivering on some of her implied support or she will disillusion people and groups.


National harvested email addresses via petitions

The National Party has apologised for using ‘issue’ petitions to harvest email addresses, then putting the respondents in their database and soliciting for donations.

This is not the first time a party has used petitions to build a contact database. Both Labour and Greens often used petitions and campaigns to gather contact information. They generally committed to just contacting people on the issue they had signed up for – I don’t know whether it went any further than that, or how long the contact data was retained.

This time it is National exposed for using bogus campaigns (petitions are usually of little ort no influence) to harvest contact data.

RNZ:  National apologises for mass database sign-up

The National Party has been forced to apologise to potentially thousands of people after accidentally signing them up to the party database.

Accidentally? Yeah, right.

People who signed up to join two petitions – against scrapping flights to Kāpiti Airport and one to save the Lumsden Maternity Centre in Southland – started also receiving emails from National asking for money to fight the government.

National would not say how many people were added to their database, but thousands signed signed the two petitions started by National MPs.

Neither petition stated that an email address would be added to the party’s mailing list.

Ms Dacombe is now hesitant to sign any more National sponsored petitions in the future.

“Not impressed. I signed the petition to support a local project, not for my email address to be used for another political purpose,” one person wrote.

Another woman said she “was seriously disgusted, & felt seriously insulted, when I received the begging letter from Simon Bridges”.

Another person said the petition was “just a way to collect data to bombard your inbox with National Party propaganda”.

This may be a big backfire for National – people generally don’t like being sucked in and then targeted by politicians.

I don’t think National’s excuses are credible. They tried an old trick and got found out. They deserve the bad publicity for their dishonesty.

Online petitions organised by political parties should be viewed with suspicion.

Two years ago, Labour had to defend its use of a “baby number” widget which offered people the chance to find out what number baby they are, in exchange for giving the party their email address.

That’s just one other example.

And it’s not just petitions obviously linked to an organisation – it is simple and I think probably common for proxy people or groups to be used to run petitions and online campaigns.

Dishonest political parties should be despised and avoided, but it’s hard to know who is the least dishonest when it comes to data gathering and campaigning.

Was New Zealand’s election rigged by foreign powers?

There are big and concerning questions about the use of Facebook to gather hundreds of millions of personality profiles, and then to target those people with “rumour, disinformation and fake news” to influence elections – with Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in the US, the UK’s Brexit vote, and others. What about the UK general election? France? Germany? Canada?

See Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the data war.

What about New Zealand? Our election last year was probably mostly influenced by a chain of events, locally derived.

It was always going to be difficult for National to hold on for a fourth term in power, especially given the lack of support parties – a situation that had been evolving for many years.

It would be far fetched to think that Metiria Turei was brainwashed to self destruct and nearly drag the greens down with her.

It would be far fetched to think that Andrew Little was brainwashed to step down as Labour leader less than two months before the election..

It would be far fetched to think that Jacinda Ardern and her sudden rise were influenced by foreign powers – she and her media managers have been working on being ready for an opportunity for some time.

It wouldn’t be so far fetched to think that New Zealand journalists have been targeted and influenced, given their embrace of social media like Twitter and Facebook.

It wouldn’t be so far fetched that Winston Peters has been influenced to suddenly promote a trade agreement with Russia when has been generally strongly opposed to trade agreements.

The personality profile targeting of mass voters seems feasible, and worrying.

It would be far simpler to personality profile individual politicians and to target them.

Of course I don’t think I have been influenced by profilers and manipulators at all [- that’s just something that everyone else could be susceptible to.