Grading one year of government

After a year in charge here are some gradings of the parties in Government.

Labour: B-

There have been some wins, let’s be clear about that.but at some point the pain of those on the bottom must shame this Party into actually doing something, not just pretty words and symbolism.

Jacinda continues to be their strongest performer with Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, David Parker, Willie Jackson, Kiritapu Allan, Deborah Russell, Marja Lubeck, Tamiti Coffey, Damien O’Connor, Greg O’Connor and Michael Wood being star performers to date.

Lot’s of talking, very little walking at this stage.

NZ First: B+

…they’ve done enough to keep their voters happy. The weird thing about the NZ values was just laughable. If Jones can get the forestry side working from planting, to cutting to working the wood here to building with it, he will be one of the greatest economic architects NZ has ever produced.

Greens: C-

After the meltdown of the 2017 election, there have been some wins, of that there can be no doubt, while Chloe, Jan Logie and Julie Anne Genter continue to be their best performers…but unfortunately it’s the fuck ups that gain media attention.

The Greens have become a middle class vehicle for alienating woke identity politics…

The Greens have gone backwards every election for the last 3 elections, tone policing on Twitter (I’m not making that up, there really is a ‘tone policing’ call out) doesn’t seem the way forward.

That’s from Martyn Bradbury in One year of the new Government: The faded hope of a hollow promise – grading Labour, NZ First & Greens

Conclusion:

There have been small victories but essentially the neoliberal bureaucracy and Ministries rule this Government, not the other way around and unless Labour, NZ First and the Greens find a way to shame the Ministries into reform, the Wellington Elites will continue to run the agenda, not the representatives of the people.

So the revolution driven by the Auckland Left has not transpired, yet at least.

Another left wing view (David Cormack): The politics of doing jack-all

Government, it’s time to start dominating the story. This last quarter you did jack-all and went up in the polls anyway.

When you started you were a shambles. You were disorganised, you didn’t know what you were doing, you clearly hadn’t expected to be in government and you out-sourced all your actual governing to others.

Oh sure you have done some things, and you’re running a lot better now, but if the government was a movie, this last year felt less like an action packed resolution scene, and more like a long establishing shot. An establishing shot full of working groups.

So while the past 12 months has been marked by the Government slowly getting its act together …the next 12 months promise more. But with that promise comes risk, because there’s a lot of hype about this politics of kindness. And if people start to feel like they’re not getting what they voted for then you’ll burn through a lot of capital. And it’s debatable whether you’ve earned much capital to burn.

More from Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Verdicts on the Government’s first year

And an editorial from ODT: Labour’s satisfactory first year

The passing of the one-year mark by the coalition Government has provided opportunities to assess its performance. Generally, these reviews have been positive, and we agree with these opinions.

But, when all is said and done, the Government will flourish or flounder on economic conditions. If the lack of business confidence is reflected in employment and growth, if changed industrial laws affect competitiveness, if New Zealand becomes too expensive and less efficient as it is in danger of becoming then Labour will suffer.

Just as the strong United States economy has helped add a layer to President Donald Trump’s support, so Labour’s success will depend on the economy and on-going effects of Labour’s policies on people’s monetary wellbeing. So far so good. Labour and its coalition have navigated the first year satisfactorily.

And they are still in, which has exceeded some expectations. They have the opportunity to do a lot more over the next two years and live up to some of their promise and promises.

 

After a year how transformative has the Labour-led Government been?

Not much, yet.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government is now a year old. Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom asks whether the current Government is truly a government of change – One year on: Change worthy of its name?

Transformation is a word we hear a lot to describe this Government.

The Government’s speech from the throne promised a “government of transformation”, and followed that up in May with a Budget that Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was “the first steps in a plan for transformation”.

The second word we hear a lot is “transition”.

What they mean to say is “government of change”, which was Ardern’s wording in what became known as her reset speech, which she made in September.

All governments change things, and the world changes. The pertinent question here is whether Ardern and her government are living up to her hype.

The Government has finished just 18 KiwiBuild homes (although it has started construction on more), the waitlist for social housing has grown, and the $2.8 billion investment in fees-free tertiary education hasn’t changed enrolment numbers, although the University of Auckland has tumbled down global league tables.

As for climate change, apparently our “nuclear-free moment”, under the current Government, big dairy can still dial up a a $600 million M. Bovis bailout for a self-inflicted crisis, while the much-lauded Green Investment Fund gets just $100 million.

Nuclear-free moment? Pardon me, but I think I can smell the methane on your breath …

The problem for this Government is that it knows what change looks like and it’s afraid.

It knows that true change is ugly and real people get hurt.

People living under the big-change governments of the 1980s knew they were living in a time of massive change.

So, can Ardern be kind and transformative at the same time?

One year on, we’ve seen this Government’s definition of change.

With the exception of KiwiBuild, its flagship change policies signal change in direction without enacting specific policy.

Supporters say this means the change will be more lasting – and they’re probably right. Both the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the Zero Carbon Bill have bipartisan support, meaning they will likely survive into the future. Likewise, the Wellbeing Framework has the potential to change how we look at the economy, although proof of that is many years away.

But, especially on the issue of climate change, its slowly-softly policy platform absolves the current Government from making any of the tough decisions necessary when implementing change.

It’s an unpalatable truth that change means picking losers as much as picking winners.

The question hanging over the Government now is whether there is time to implement what it calls a “just transition”, to a halcyon economy of low unemployment, high productivity, and fair incomes.

“Just transition” is essentially the oil and gas exploration ban writ large — big change, but slowly. But a just transition doesn’t need to be slow and there’s nothing just about waiting 30 years for house prices to stabilise.

Just transitions could mean using the power of the welfare state to cushion the pain of change, like the governments of the 1980s should have done.

There’s little room to be complacent. The window of opportunity is closing.

Change is the sword of Damocles hanging over all our governments. And while this Government thinks the lesson from the 1980s is that slow change is best, it would be wise to pay attention to the other lesson from that decade: governments are not the only agents of change and those who fail to act in time will often find their hand forced by events.

Governments are always forced by events to act. They need to manage forced change along with reforming or transformative change, if they can.

In their first year the Government has changed some things, but they have only talked about most changes they propose, and it’s still not clear what they are going to change this term as they await the outcome of their many working groups/inquiries etc.

Also from Newsroom – One year in: the fault lines ahead

The first anniversary has provided a chance for Ardern and her team to look back on their successes and failures so far – but what challenges lay in wait for them before the next election?

Here are some of the fault lines the Government may need to navigate if it is to hold onto power in 2020:

Waterfall of working groups

National’s gleeful mockery of the coalition’s working group fixation seemed a little insincere at the start, given the party was not averse to the odd policy review and panel during its first term.

However, there is a kernel of truth in that the Government is now waiting on the results of numerous inquiries into some critical policy areas, some of which will not report back until just before the next election, until it takes action.

As the reports and recommendations trickle in, the potential bill for implementing all that is asked for will slowly mount up.

Justice reform:

The Government’s plans to shake up the criminal justice system loom as perhaps its highest-risk, highest-reward reforms.

If Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis succeed, the prison population will be reduced by 30 percent within a decade, addressing what Bill English once called the “moral and fiscal failure” of prisons.

However, National’s cries of the coalition being “soft on crime” provide a taste of its likely campaign against any firm proposals for reform, as well as the outcry which may result from any crimes following law changes (no matter their merit on balance).

Tax reform:

Part of that proliferation of working groups, but worthy of mention in its own right, is the Government’s Tax Working Group – a political slow-burner that could divide the coalition right up to the next election.

Chaired by former finance minister Michael Cullen, it will present its final report on the future of New Zealand’s tax system next February.

However, the Government has committed to putting any recommendations from the group to the electorate in 2020, meaning any changes would not be implemented until at least April 2021.

The sticking point is the issue of a capital gains tax.

So at best this will be a plan for transformation put to voters at the next election.

Climate change

It’s one thing to call climate change the nuclear moment of our generation, it’s another to do something about it.

Climate Change Minister, and Green co-leader, James Shaw said the IPCC report was broadly in line with the Government’s direction on climate change. But talk, as they say, is cheap.

There have been some climate-related policy changes, including a ban on new oil and gas permits and the establishment of a $100 million green investment fund. Also in the wings are a Zero Carbon Bill, emissions trading scheme changes and the creation of a Climate Change Commission.

The biggest pressure on the Government is its own rhetoric. Those disappointed by the environmental record of Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition will be looking to the Green Party to push the Government into taking stronger, tangible steps.

Ardern has talked big on climate change, but we are yet to see how her Government will transform things.

Also, not mentioned in the Newsroom article, is another issue that Ardern has staked her reputation on, child poverty. Her Government quickly increased some benefits, but there has not been much sign of a revolution on poverty yet.

The Government has another two years to prove to voters that they are capable of walking the walk and delivering meaningful transformation at the same time as they competently manage normal management and also dealing with things that are thrown at them.

Greens also have a lot at stake – they have talked about a green revolution for long enough. They have to deliver something significant to justify voters’ trust in them.

NZ First probably just need to deliver Winston Peters to the voting papers for the party to survive.

As a whole the Government has been far more talk (and working group) than walk.  They may end up sprinting to the next election hoping voters will pass them the baton for another term.

Marama Davidson claims to have ‘outed’ anonymous donations

Green co-leader Marama Davidson has received support (and some criticism) after she claimed to have outed anonymous donations made to the National Party. These are donations that were disclosed by National by April in accordance with electoral law.

Davidson:

I’ve called for ALL parties to bring public confidence back to our system and step up to tighter rules. The vast majority of our donations were less than $100 (over 85%) and the ave amount was 48 bucks.

I don’t know that the public cares much about party donations.

Greens get a lot of small donations – they regularly ask for small donations from supporters. But I’m not sure why they feel that larger donations should be more strictly controlled.

There is a chance that large donors expect something in return from the parties they donate to. I’m sure that unions who make large donations to Labour hope for union friendly legislation from a Labour led government.

Greens focus on small donations – but they also use their donor and support base to lobby, via petitions, via bulk submissions. What is the difference apart from their method? Greens may in fact be using donors directly in their lobbying more than some big business donors.

Yesterday Davidson followed up, claiming to have ‘outed’ National:

Davidson has claimed to have ‘outed’ donation information that was filed by April this year with the Electoral Commission, and is easy to see here:

https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/national_party_-_annual_return_2017.pdf

A Green Party media release from Davidson: $3.5 million in anonymous donations to National in 2017, it needs to be fixed

Over $3.5 million in anonymous donations to the National Party in 2017 shows why we urgently need donations reform in Aotearoa New Zealand, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“$3.5 million in anonymous donations is a huge sum of money, it is unlikely this is made up of coins or small notes dropped in a bucket of given at a bake sale.

“This spells out powerful vested interests tipping huge amounts of money into the coffers of the National Party, hiding behind anonymity.

“With this scale of funding comes influence, and at the moment we don’t truly know who these powerful vested interests are that are influencing our politicians. Our Parliament is ripe for influence by big corporations, and potentially corruption.

“It needs to end. After this past few weeks it is clearer than ever that New Zealanders want big money out of politics. It is time for our Parliament to be returned to the community.

“The Green Party are calling for anonymity to only be maintained for donations under $1000. This means that small donations at local fundraisers aren’t mired with red tape, but also means politicians will find it much harder to hide donations from powerful vested interests”.

In other words, she wants to protect the Green way of fundraising but wants to restrict the way other parties fundraise. Given that this would impact on Labour and NZ First as well as National I doubt that she will get much support.

It seems to be more ‘Green way or the highway’ anti-big business rhetoric.

‘Cash-for-candidates’ claims and party funding

The Jami-Lee Ross saga has raised to issue of whether candidates can influence candidate selections with donations.

I think that Colin Craig’s and Gareth Morgan’s money may have influenced their candidacy, but they are extreme examples.

It is difficult separating financial interests from political interests these days. Prospective candidates wanting to stand especially for National or Labour and especially for an electorate need to be in a position job-wise and financially to spend months campaigning, likely for more than one election.

It seems common for both the large parties to give first time candidates a go at a hopeless (for the party) electorate before earning their right to stand in a winnable electorate .

NZ Herald: National Party denies cash-for-candidates policy

The taped conversation between Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross is opening the National Party to accusations of a cash-for-candidates policy, prompting the Green Party to call for sweeping changes to political donations.

Despite Ross’ comments on the recording, Bridges said this morning that he did not believe they discussed candidacy at the dinner.

“This was a very convivial dinner and we did not discuss that.”

He denied National Party list places were for sale.

“We have incredibly robust processes to become a Member of Parliament. It involves selection processes and competition … and what that’s about is the best man or woman winning the job on their merits.”

They do have contested selections, but that doesn’t rule out influence for a variety of reasons. And it doesn’t rule money (costs) being involved. Some National MPs have paid Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater to enhance their selection prospects, or probably more accurately, paid to fuck over opponents.

His comments were supported by National MP Melissa Lee, who said: “I did not pay to actually get here, and I don’t think anyone else has either.”

But it will have cost them money and probably also lost earnings opportunities, that’s the reality of modern democracy.

I think the Greens have always been opposed to big business donations.

But Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the recording suggested that National list positions could be bought.

She said the current law allowed too much room for anonymous donations, and New Zealanders deserved to know who was trying to buy influence.

“It could be oil and gas. It could be tobacco lobbying. The Greens have an ethics committee to approve all donations over $5000. We will not accept – and have refused in the past – any donations that don’t sit with our charter.

I don’t think any party will want to be seen to have accepted unethical donations.

“It’s very clear that at the moment we are a bit ripe for corruption, and this is why the Greens are calling for powerful vested interests and big money to get out of influencing political parties.”

Large donations for The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand include:

  • Philip Mills $65,000 (November 2016)
  • James Jenkins $30,080 (April 2015)
  • Spoon Limited $48,295.40 (August 2014)

Should it be assumed that they are not trying to buy influence? If so, should it be assumed that any large donation is not designed to buy interest unless proven otherwise?

Another donation to the Greens:

  • Estate of Elizabeth Beresford Riddoch $283,835.99 (August 2016)

It would be safe to assume that a dead person couldn’t demand influence, wouldn’t it?

NZH:  Greens say big donation a mystery

The Green Party has received its largest ever donation, and says it knows nothing about the donor.

The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

Did they do a full ethics check first?

Helm said most of the Green Party’s fundraising was based on small, regular payments.

“We do have a quite comprehensive fundraising programme but a large bequest like this is extremely unusual for us.

“We tend to get a lot of small and medium-sized donations from people who perhaps have some disposable income but aren’t the very wealthy in society.”

So there could be some self interest involved trying to curb large donations when their own donations are mostly small and medium sized. As all the Green economy companies grow and thrive what if they offer to donate to the Green Party? Would that be seen as unethical?

Davidson called for sweeping changes, including removing anonymity for donations over $1000, capping individual donations at $35,000, banning overseas donations and increasing public money for campaigning.

They want state funded political parties. There’s a real danger that would favour parties already in Parliament, like the advertising funds dished out for election campaigns.

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters disagreed.

“I don’t believe the taxpayer should be funding political parties to the degree that the Green Party says. The reality is, if you’ve got a consumer demand politically, people out there will back you.”

He said New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence, but the recording told a different story for National.

“It’s clear from those tapes that the National Party has a cash-for-candidates policy.”

It wasn’t clear.

What is clear is how brazen Peters is claiming “New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence”. It is unlikely to be a pure coincidence that fishing and racing donors to NZF happen to be pleased about the policies that Peters coincidentally gets pushed through as a priority in their coalition arrangements.

Party donations will always be contentious. And cast aspersions of influence will always be a weapon used by opponent parties.

Q+A: Should NZ legalise recreational cannabis?

Last night Q+A had a debate between Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick and head of Family First Bob McCroskie on whether New Zealand should legalise the recreational use of cannabis (separate to allowing the use of medicinal cannabis).

To Swarbrick: What is it you want here, are you after legalisation, which would effectively allow people to grow marijuana, for it to be sold, to be regulated, the Canadian model, is that what you’re pushing for?

Chlöe Swarbrick: Yeah, so I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there. We currently have a state of play whereby illegal drugs are unregulated drugs. people don’t necessarily know the compounds that they are purchasing or consuming.

So in the Green-Labour confidence and supply line 19 of that says that we want to see drugs treated as a health issue.

From the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

19. Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a
health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the
2020 general election.

Q+A:

Chlöe Swarbrick: Part of that is the referendum on the recreational personal use…

Corin Dann: So Kiwis would be able to go to some sort of a store and buy cannabis for personal use?

Chlöe Swarbrick: Yeah. So we have the option of looking around the world. Obviously Canada is going to be doing this on Wednesday this coming week. I think they have a really robust set of regulations that they’re looking at.

They’re focussed on harm reduction. They’re focussed on education. They’re focussed on taking it out of the hands of kids.

I think that’s quite different to the rules we’ve seen perhaps in the likes of Colorado which are more free market type models, where advertising is abundant and you have door to door delivery services.

But what we’re proposing, as we’ve been quite strong on for a while now, is…providing the legislation first so it is black and white what we are going to be voting on at that referendum come 2019 or 2020. So we remove all grey from the debate.

So make it clear in proposed legislation what would happen, and leave it to us the people to decide.

Corin Dann: Alright Bob you have been in Colorado I understand, it’s been in place for five years there, very liberal cannabis law. What did you make of it there. It seems to be going all right doesn’t it?

Bob McCoskrie: No it doesn’t, it’s ah the statistics are quite concerning, I mean for example a hundred and fifty percent increase in hospitalisations for marijuana, increase in road deaths with marijuana related to them, they’ve also got the highest teenage use across all states, eighty five percent above the national average for the United States.

Chlöe Swarbrick: Where are those figures from?

Bob McCoskrie: From the Rocky mountain High report…

Chlöe Swarbrick: I don’t think in any way shape or form that is they way we should be doing things.

McCoskrie argued that we shouldn’t be liberalising smoking cannabis while trying to become smoke free with tobacco. He also seems to be against a referendum.

Arguing the Colorado model seems pointless if that’s not the model proposed here.

McCoskrie says there is no war on drugs.

He says that regulation isn’t possible.

Lack of regulation isn’t working here.

McCoskrie claims that the aim is the legalisation of all drugs.

“If we want to be smoke free, lets be drug free”. On what planet?

He argues against what has happened with the Portugal approach, arguing against success there.

McCoskrie says we need to reduce supply and reduce demand, as per tobacco, which is highly regulated. Swarbrick is arguing for regulation.

I’ll transcribe more later if I have time.

On Twitter afterwards:

 

 

The most damaging effects of the waka jumping law will be invisible and immeasurable

It is difficult to know what the effect of the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that passed it’s final vote in Parliament this week. We may never know for sure.

We do know that it has made Labour look like Winston’s patsies, especially Andrew Little who had to front the bill as it went through Parliament. And it showed the Greens as far less principled than they had made out for so long while out of government – this could be damaging to them in the next election.

However Audrey Young says that the most damaging effects will be “invisible and immeasurable” in Winston Peters wastes hard-won power on wretched law.

…the party-hopping bill passed in Parliament ahead of the party’s convention can barely be called an achievement, let alone qualify as a proud one.

It has been Parliament at its worst – indulging a powerful politician with an obsession with defectors.

The law is a fetter on dissent, and Peters’ decision to demand its passage as the price of power stands in contradiction to his own history as a dissenter and maverick.

The law will enable a caucus to fire a duly elected MP not just from the caucus but from Parliament if they decide that MP no longer properly represents the party.

The hypocrisy is galling. Peters built New Zealand First on party-hoppers such as Michael Laws, Peter McCardle and Jack Elder.

In those days, Peters was upholding the freedom of any MP to leave a party without having to leave Parliament if their conscience demanded it.

Self-interested hypocrisy is nothing new for Peters.

It was only when party-hoppers left New Zealand First rather than joined it that the notion became objectionable, to Peters. It was only after MMP that what the voters decided on election day suddenly became sacred to Peters.

Essentially, the new party-hopping law is based on self-interest disguised as principle.

It is a draconian solution to a problem of defection that has not existed since those formative days of MMP.

And Labour and the Greens went along with this and enabled it.

New Zealand First did not campaign on party-hopping at all last election but then put it up as a bottom line in coalition talks, while the vast number of bottom lines actually enunciated by Peters in the campaign were surrendered in the horse-trading of coalition talks.

The law does not have the true support of the majority of the House but the Greens have been blackmailed into supporting it against the alternative – a toxic relationship with Peters.

Electoral law changes should have wide support of any Parliament but the law was railroaded through by a party with 7 per cent of the vote because it held the balance of power at the election.

Will Greens learn from being backed into a corner by Peters and then painting themselves in? They could perhaps gain back some of their credibility on being principled it they  don’t campaign next election on a status quo governing arrangement leaving Peters in a dog wagging position.

The most pernicious effect of the new law is not the actual expulsion of an MP from Parliament. Rather, it is the chilling effect it will have on strong, independent thought and voice of MPs within parties and within Parliament. In turn that will have an impact on the selection of MPs.

The most damaging effects of the law will be invisible and immeasurable.

It was the impact on dissent that drew the harshest criticism from Green luminaries Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke.

Did Green support of this bill go to party membership for a decision? They used to claim that their membership played a part in any important decisions. Surely they must have done that, especially given that it was a change to electoral law, and it had an obvious impact on the party ethos and integrity.

It has been sad to see a raft of new Labour MPs kowtowing to Peters to convince themselves that the law will enhance democracy when it is really a management tool for Peters to keep potentially difficult MPs in check.

One could wonder what threats or promises were made between Peters and Labour and Green leaderships to make both parties roll over on this for Peters.

Dissent has been a strong theme throughout Peters’ career.

He talked about in his maiden speech in 1979 when he lambasted people whom he saw as destructive critics who criticised for the sake of it: “Opposition, criticism and dissent are worthy pursuits when combined with a sense of responsibility. They have a purifying effect on society. Areas in need of urgent attention can be identified and courses of action may be initiated. However embarrassing to community or national leaders, the results are enormously beneficial to the total well-being of the community. The critic I am [condemning] has no such goals. He sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy or race relations, seeking to use every such event as a vehicle to project his own public personality.”

An unkind person might say that Peters has gained power in New Zealand politics by becoming the sort of critic he so despised in his maiden speech.

It is a remarkable achievement to have built a party, and sustained it, and to be at the peak of his political power when most people his age are checking out retirement villages.

It is also remarkable that Peters should be wasting that power on such a wretched law.

And that Labour and especially the Greens have wasted their integrity by enabling the wretched law to pass with barely a whimper.

 

 

 

 

Waka jumping bill passes third reading

All Green MPs have voted with Labour and NZ First to pass the  Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill (commonly referred to as the waka jumping bill), so it will now become law.

Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill passes third reading

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament and will become law, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

“The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is about enhancing public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.

“The Bill ensures that it is the voters, not politicians or party leaders, who decide the proportionality of parties in Parliament,” Andrew Little said.

The Bill’s passing fulfils the Government’s coalition commitment to introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill in this term of Parliament.

It has been challenged by some as ‘an attack on democracy’. It is unlikely to actually have much effect, but it will be difficult to know if it has a chilling effect on any MPs who oppose what their party does.

The most notable aspect of the bill is the Greens voting in support of it while strongly opposing it. This has somewhat dented the party’s integrity.

It has also raised questions about Andrew Little’s integrity in promoting the bill on NZ First’s behalf.

The bill is unlikely to make much if any difference to Winston Peters’ control over the NZ First caucus and MPs, but supporting it has been damaging to both Labour and the Greens.  Perhaps that is success for Peters – before Jacinda Ardern took over the Labour leadership last year Peters fancied NZ First’s chances of taking over from Labour as the second largest party in Parliament.

 

 

‘A bit of a backdown’ on oil and gas exploration annoys Greens

It appears that the government has backed off a bit on it’s contentious ban on new oil and gas exploration, which was applauded by environmentalists and slammed by Taranaki business interests in particular. Is has been pointed out that it could lead to higher carbon emissions as more alternatives were sourced from overseas.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Symbolic backdown undermines Government’s untidy oil move

After all the hype, the Government’s troubled path to ending new oil exploration has a bizarre sting in the tail: a bit of a backdown.

In the hours before she announced a law change to give effect to decisions announced in April, which mean no new offshore permits, Energy Minister Megan Woods met with the industry to deliver a piece of good news.

Oil explorers facing deadlines on their permits to either commit to exploration wells or relinquish the permits – referred to as “drill or drop” – are likely to be given more breathing space.

It seems the deadline to drill could be pushed back for years, although Woods has not given details other than that she will consider giving more time on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of concessions, it looks like no big deal, given the Government is changing the legislation that frames the sector. No-one in the industry will celebrate this as a victory, given the overall impact of the moves by the Government.

But it seems like Woods is trying to head off a potentially major “what if?” headache.

As it stands, the Barque prospect off the coast of Oamaru will be lost forever if New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) does not find partners willing to commit to the major cost of drilling, by early 2019.

Although the odds of success are put at only one in five, NZOG has claimed that, if successful, Barque could transform New Zealand’s energy outlook, with thousands of jobs and tens of billions of revenue.

Seen this way, Woods’ gesture to the industry looks like a major contradiction of the Government’s plan, to set New Zealand on a renewable future.

Reality wins over idealism?

Greens are not happy.

Both Greenpeace and the Green Party are furious, with the Government’s partners warning it waters down the moves made so far.

Given where we have come from, the latest move should be no surprise.

On a sunny day in March, Ardern walked down the steps of Parliament to greet Greenpeace activists, delivering a major shock that the Government was “actively considering” their call to end oil exploration. Although her speech was more symbol than substance, it was clear major plans were afoot.

As it turned out, the Government was not really considering anything, and it certainly did not want much in the way of advice.

Less than a month later, Ardern would lead a group of ministers into the Beehive theatrette to announce the decision, giving the impression that ministers had considered the matter.

In fact, all that had happened was that the leaders of Labour, NZ First and the Greens had reached a deal. Cabinet had no input in the decision.

Officials were so furious at being sidelined from the decision that it was leaked, spoiling Ardern’s plan for a dramatic announcement at Victoria University.

Greenpeace and the Green Party furious. Officials furious. Officials furious. It looks like this was rushed and bungled.

It should be remembered that this advice comes from bureaucrats who have not only been ignored in the actual decision-making, they are giving advice on a decision that could kill the sector they work in.

Seizing on the fact that – as in all long-term forecasting – the report on the oil exploration decision outlines a vast range of possibilities of the cost (from a few hundred million to more than $50 billion), Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters dismissed it as a “very, very bad piece of analytical work”.

It is fair to say that the official advice offers no accurate guide as to what the fiscal cost of the decision would be.

Given that we do not know the future for carbon prices, oil prices or interest rates, there is no way we could possibly know what that cost would be, a fact which seems lost on Peters.

What we do know is that there will be a cost, and it will likely be significant.

We also know that the way it was handled has had a significant impact on investor confidence in New Zealand, which seems to have dawned on the Government only months later.

It is also likely to have an impact on energy prices, both from the cost of gas to households and its impact on future electricity prices.

Woods said on Monday that, even with the benefit of hindsight and advice, she would still push for exactly the same decision.

Of course, she would say that. But it seems the Government has decided to breathe a little more life into oil exploration, just in case.

Green Party: Minister must not water down oil and gas decision

Green Party: Minister Woods must not water down decision to ban offshore oil and gas exploration

The Green Party does not support Labour Party Minister Woods allowing mining companies with existing offshore oil and gas exploration permits more time to consider if they will drill.

“Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

They shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit.

“I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

“New Zealand took an incredibly exciting and brave step for people and planet when we decided to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration.

“It has been congratulated world-wide and New Zealanders are proud of the decision, let’s not water it down.

“I am urging her to reconsider this proposal”.

Remember Gareth Hughes? I’m not sure how much clout he has. He is till an MP but is far from prominent.

 

Labour lacking in gender balance – and female capability?

Labour is going backwards with their ideal, gender balance, especially in their senior ranks.

In October 2017 (just after she became Prime Minister) Ardern vows to improve Cabinet gender balance

Women would hold just six of Labour’s 16-strong Cabinet posts, and just one of its five ministerial roles outside of Cabinet.

Ms Ardern said that was not good enough and she was vowing to bring more women up to the top level.

“I’m going to make sure that we continue to work on bringing through more of our team”.

“We set ourselves a goal as a Labour Party that we would bring more women into our caucus. When we set that goal we set it at 50 percent, and we came very close to achieving that this election and I’m proud of that”.

“We’ll continue to make sure that we try to see that reflected in our membership as they come up through roles and responsibilities through both our caucus and through our Cabinet.”

That’s not happening yet – in fact it’s deteriorating.

With the resignation of now ex-Ministers Clare Curran and the sacking of Meka Whaitiri there are now:

  • 8 female of 26 ministers
  • 6 female ministers of 19 in Cabinet
  • 3 female ministers on the front bench (top 10)
  • 5 female Labour ministers

As a comparison, the last National-led line-up (April 2017):

  • 9 female of 27 ministers
  • 7 female of 22 in Cabinet
  • 2 female ministers on the front bench
  • 9 female National ministers

In the Labour-led government, NZ First and Greens balance each other out. NZ First has 1 female of 3 ministers, while Greens have 2 female of 3 ministers.

Labour now has just Jacinda Ardern (1), Megan Woods (6), Carmel Sepuloni (9), Nanaia Mahuta (12) and Jenny Salesa (15) – five out of fifteen.

And there’s not many stand outs there, yet at least.

Gender balance in Parliament and in Cabinet are great ideals, but to achieve that requires enough quality female candidates standing for Parliament, and enough of them capable of handling roles as ministers and in Cabinet.

Both failures as ministers have been Labour MPs.

While I think that most people would like to see approximate gender balances in Parliament, I think that most voters – male and female – would choose competence over tokenism and making up the numbers with MPs not up to the job.

Greens confirm they will vote for ‘waka jumping’ bill

The Green caucus decision to vote for Winston Peters’ ‘waka jumping’ bill has been a contentious issue in the party, as they have had a history of strongly opposing similar legislation.

They affirmed their decision to vote for the bill at their conference in the weekend.

RNZ: Green leadership stands firm on Waka Jumping Bill at AGM

The Green Party leadership have dug in their heels and will not be reversing any of the decisions they have made in government.

Party stalwarts Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford had hoped the caucus might be persuaded this weekend to pull its support from the Waka Jumping Bill.

Co-leader James Shaw was pushing the party’s biggest wins, ending oil and gas exploration and committing the country to a zero carbon future.

But the concessions they have made got a brief mention in his speech too.

“We haven’t won every debate, and the menu does feature the occasional dead rodent,” he told the party faithful gathered in Palmerston North.

He was referring to the Waka Jumping Bill, described by their own MP Eugenie Sage as a dead rat they had to swallow as part of a coalition government.

One of the party’s founding members, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said it went against everything the Greens stood for, making it clear there were parts of the core base that were still hugely unhappy with that decision.

“I simply don’t buy the line that the government would have fallen,” she said.

“Simply don’t buy the line that Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters were going to say ‘ah well we don’t want to be in government anymore’ and let it all collapse, because they didn’t get this bill through? I mean, really.”

Ms Fitzsimons said they had tried everything to change the caucus’ mind, but described the eight MPs as a “brick wall.”

That’s not a good sign. The Greens used to promote their practice of the party making important decisions rather than the political leadership.

“This is a compromise that we had to make. I understand the different perspectives on that, but the decisions that we came to as a caucus and a party arrived to this,” Ms Davidson said.

“Because we think that providing New Zealand with stable government, is more important than that one issue,” Mr Shaw said.

That’s bullshit. It’s very difficult to see how Greens making a decision based on important party principles should destabilise the Government. The governing arrangement should not force such a contradictory stance on a party.

Unless perhaps Shaw is not being up front about threats made to him (by Peters and/or Labour) if the Greens don’t vote for the bill.

This is a prominent stain on the green stint in Government that they are going to have difficulty washing off.

I think it’s also fair to ask why Jacinda Ardern has allowed this situation to be forced on the Greens.