Prime Minister PR plans, if the baby plays ball

The all important PR plans around the birth of Jacinda Ardern’s baby have been announced.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s plans following the birth of her baby

The Prime Minister’s Office has released details of arrangements around the birth of the Prime Minister’s baby.

The baby – the first child for Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford – is due on June 17.

While the couple are happy to share with the public some moments with their new baby they ask that media respect the family’s privacy in the weeks set aside to be together after the birth, and during private family moments.

The following details outline plans for the birth, and the following six weeks:

  • Jacinda Ardern is planning to have the baby at Auckland Hospital.
  • The couple will announce the birth. A formal announcement from the Prime Minister’s office will follow.
  • There are contingency plans in place for the birth in the event the Prime Minister is not in Auckland.
  • They will not be making other announcements or conducting any one-on-one interviews related to the birth prior to the birth.
  • They will not be giving any exclusive media interviews, or offering any exclusive photo opportunities, prior to Jacinda Ardern’s return to work.
  • There will, however, be an opportunity for media to take photos as they leave the hospital and the Prime Minister will answer a small number of questions.
  • Due to the high level of interest, the Prime Minister will also give one round of interviews to major domestic media outlets close to the time she returns to work. This will be the only formal media opportunity in relation to the new baby.

Tacked on to the end of this New Zealand Government Press Release is a minor bit of information:

Transition to Acting Prime Minister

At the point that Jacinda Ardern arrives at hospital to have the baby, Acting Prime Minister responsibilities will begin for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Not sure what will happen if the baby is born in the taxi before getting to the hospital. The probably have a press release prepared for that.

It’s worth nothing that ‘due date’ is not a promise. It could be up to a couple of weeks later than this.

I’m sure the media will be well informed about it when it happens.

Vanguard Military School to become ‘designated character school’

The Vanguard Military School in Albany near Auckland is the first Partnership School to convert to a ‘designated character school’, which is the only survival option under new Government requirements. Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and Labour have always been strongly against charter schools.

Vanguard to become designated character school

“Vanguard Military School was the first of 11 charter schools currently operating to put in an application to become part of the state system under section 156 of the Education Act 1989, and now it’s the first to be approved,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The school will use the ethos and training methodology of the military across the curriculum and in the day-to-day running of the school, to achieve attitudinal and academic excellence. This will form part of its designated character. It will also continue to have a special focus on ‘second chance’ students.”

The application was assessed by the Ministry of Education, and consultation with the boards of schools in the Auckland network whose rolls might be affected has taken place.

“After considering the assessment and the consultation responses, I have decided to approve the school,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The application met the requirements of the Act and demonstrated that students who choose to enrol will get an education of a kind that differs significantly from the education they would get at ·an ordinary state school.”

The new school will initially be located at the site of the current school, while the Ministry works with the Establishment Board of Trustees to locate a permanent site.

“I am pleased with the willingness of Vanguard’s sponsors to work with the Ministry to achieve this outcome, which means that students and the wider school community now have certainty for 2019 and beyond.

“The new school will retain key features of the current charter school, but with the added benefit of the support and protections that are provided within the state education system,” Chris Hipkins said.

So Vanguard will remain similar under a different label.

Another announcement yesterday on the transition from Partnership Schools (Hipkins seems to insist on calling them charter schools):

As the next step in the transition of charter schools into the state school system, the formal process to end charter school contracts is starting today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

As the next step in the transition of charter schools into the state school system, the formal process to end charter school contracts is starting today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

“As I announced last week, all existing charter schools have applied to become part of the state school system, and I will make a decision on these applications by the end of July,” Mr Hipkins said.

“My preference is still to reach mutual agreement with the charter schools on ending the contracts, and the Ministry of Education will continue to discuss this with the schools.  A formal notice would only take effect if they are unable to reach agreement.

“The formal notice I am giving today confirms that I intend their contracts to finish at the end of the 2018 school year. This is a legal process that is required under the contracts.  It is separate from decisions on their applications to become part of the state school system.

“Ending the contracts requires six months’ notice to be given, and can only take effect at the end of a school year.

“Each charter school has 10 business days when they may ask me to review this.  If I then decide to proceed with ending the contract, the school won’t continue to operate as a charter school beyond this year unless this is mutually agreed.

“The priority is to ensure a smooth transition for schools and their students.

“I am considering additional measures to support charter schools to make a successful transition into the state system, and details are currently being worked through.”

“Contracts with the sponsors of three unopened charter schools have already been ended.  This includes Blue Light Ventures, which was due to open in 2018, and City Senior School and Vanguard Military School Christchurch, which were due to open in 2019.”

Levy on traditional vehicles may fund ‘freebate’ for electric vehicles

The Productivity Commission has put out a draft discussion document calling for drastic measures to shift from fossil fuels to clean electricity. One proposal, being promoted by climate change minister James Shaw, is to put a surcharge on new vehicles that rely on fossil fuels and use that to provide a ‘freebate’ to lower the price of electric vehicles.

RNZ: Fuel-car levy could subsidise electric vehicles – govt

In a draft discussion document, the Productivity Commission estimated carbon prices may need to be 12 times higher, up to $250 a tonne, to reach the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

That is a huge change in what is supposed to be a market.

It called for a shift from fossil-fuels to clean electricity and greater use of farmland for forestry and horticulture.

Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw told Morning Report one option being looked at was the prohibitive cost of electric vehicles.

“So what the report is talking about is a freebate system where essentially we charge a price on – we put a levy on – fossil fuel vehicles and you use that revenue to subsidise electric vehicles.”

“What we all know right is that electric vehicles are a lot cheaper to run because they’re roughly about a third of the price per kilometre versus petrol, they’re a lot cheaper to maintain because they’ve got fewer moving parts, but the up-front cost of the vehicle is prohibitive.”

“If we continue to allow greenhouse gas emissions to increase, and we don’t invest in new technologies, and we don’t switch our car fleet and we don’t change how we do electricity, then yes they’re suggesting that there will be a bit of a shock to the economy.”

He said he did not know when such a change might be brought in, and it was just one of many options they were considering.

National is critical:

National’s transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross said the government should follow their lead and continue prioritising electric vehicles for the crown fleet.

Mr Ross said a levy would hit people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum hard.

He said people who can only afford cheap secondhand Japanese imports would effectively be subsidising the cost of electric cars for the wealthier New Zealanders who can afford them.

That same argument applies in part to subsidies for home insulation and for installations of solar panels.

For vehicles this could be resolved by putting a big enough levy on fossil fuel driven vehicles to enable a full ‘freebate’ – giving electric vehicles to poor people for free. That would be popular, especially in the winter for those who are given a free handout to help pay power bills.

A lot to learn about a serious renewable energy strategy

Whatever may happen with the climate a shift to as much renewable energy as possible makes sense (but don’t forget energy conservation as a key part of a more energy sustainable future).

Anna Berka, a research fellow in the University of Auckland’s Energy Centre, suggests that New Zealand has a lot to learn about successfully moving in this direction. She writes What NZ should learn about renewable energy:

Political and social science research on climate change shows some countries have been far more successful than others in orchestrating state-led transition to renewable energy over the past 40 years.

Without exception, it is countries that have fully embraced climate change objectives into industrial policy that have succeeded. They have seen clean technology as the ticket to new domestic technology and service markets, employment, and new export markets, as well as a means of addressing specific domestic issues such as regional development and resilience of electricity supply.

Conversely, very little tends to happen where climate change policy is not crafted around social and economic benefits directly relevant to domestic stakeholder groups. The reason? Tax payers, established industries and the media are consumed by the short term costs of climate change policy, blind to generally more diffuse and long term benefits.

And those who do promote long term benefits are often vague and sound more idealistic evangelistic rather than realistic. The New Zealand public has not been convinced that any urgency is required.

And what has already been announced by the new Government has been poorly thought through.

Announcing a moratorium on oil and gas exploration as the first agenda item in the Government’s climate change policy – without linking it to a broader programme that convinces New Zealanders they can and will benefit from the Government’s climate change objectives – could alienate both industry and the public and set a dangerous precedent.

Delivering winning climate change policies is a careful balancing act that requires a willing-to-learn government with ears on the ground. The Government must serve as a knowledge broker and matchmaker, using grants and public loans to bring existing expertise out of the woodwork, putting in place incentives to invest, regulations and public procurement programmes to guarantee demand that can scale up pilot projects.

This involves working with all stakeholders and independent research institutes to design policy instruments and set technology standards. So while market players ultimately do the heavy lifting, the role of central and local governments is essential. They need to nudge, prod and finance for a period of years, to steer the rate and quality of technological innovation in a desirable direction before market dynamics can take over and drive down costs.

It needs to combine the efforts of a smart Government and smart financial decisions with smart businesses.

A cogent argument is hindered by the zeal of some of those promoting a transition away from fossil fuels, in particular their insistence that ‘capitalism’ be scrapped in order to achieve a sustainable energy future. Linking an energy revolution with rapid  political and social revolution makes it much harder if not impossible to win public trust and support.

Our Government is deciding on the main elements of New Zealand’s climate change strategy. Once the key objectives are confirmed, policy design must be decided at political level, leaving implementing bodies to carry out specific mandates.

Countless examples show climate change policy tends to become ineffective where implementing bodies are left on their own devices to make complex trade-offs between different objectives and different stakeholder interests.

The Government seems poorly prepared for making major changes. This was highlighted with differences in expectations about the future of coal between the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister of Energy and Resources – see Ministers differ on banning coal.

The next challenge for the Government will be to bring ministries, key industry stakeholders and regulators on board and in alignment. This process won’t be helped by the fact that climate and energy policy is not integrated under one ministry.

For example, making the electricity market accessible to small-scale citizen-owned storage or generation assets is likely to require regulated power purchase guarantees, priority dispatch and buy-back rates as well as new channels to bridge the wholesale market with distributed electricity and ancillary services.

This will require full co-operation of MBIE, the market operator NZX, Transpower, distribution line companies and the Electricity Authority, who will need to adapt industry codes.

Win-wins are possible: That is, if our Government is ready to believe in the mission, rally the troops, and empower its people.

Making grand statements about new generation ambitions, bragging in Europe with incorrect claims, and imposing change without consultation as happened with the oil and gas permit announcement (followed by some rapid damage control) looks ad hoc and amateurish, and Ministers seem at odds.

The Government looks nowhere near ready to explain and implement a comprehensive and co-ordinated ‘mission’ on a transition to renewable energy.

And there is a substantial elephant in the energy revolution room – there is no obvious future without any reliance fossil fueled cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships.

Those who say we must change must first explain a lot more details about what we must change to, and how.

We don’t currently have the technology to time travel everyone to a miraculously fossil fuel free 2050, so we need to see a realistic way of getting there.

Labour-Green oil and gas naivety questioned

The Government announcement last that no more off shore oil and gas exploration permits would be granted was celebrated by the Greens and their allies (like Greenpeace), but it hasn’t received wide support. Questions are being asked of the possible negative effects, and the lack of planning or substance on the transition from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy.

Listener: Is the Govt’s ban on new oil and gas exploration brave or naive?

Just transition or heart over head?

The decision to stop issuing offshore oil and gas exploration permits was not pre-election policy. Although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was musing privately months ago about the politics of such a move, it is barely a month since she broke from her formal programme to accept a petition from Greenpeace on the forecourt of Parliament.

Always with an eye to powerful imagery, Greenpeace backed the moment with pictures of history-changing Labour leaders of the past: Savage, Kirk, Lange and Clark. Ardern could enter that pantheon with a huge symbolic gesture designed to make real her claim that climate change is “this generation’s nuclear-free moment”.

She has done so, in a move that is at once measured and justifiable yet also naive and arguably cavalier with a major industry. No other country with a significant oil and gas industry has made such a decision.

…the naivety of the Government’s new policy is that it will not, of itself, reduce global carbon emissions, but could increase New Zealand’s if it leads to more coal use in the meantime.

It is disingenuous to claim that existing permits might sustain a healthy oil and gas sector until the 2040s. The fruitless hunt for major gas fields in the Great South Basin since the 1960s proves the point that exploration is expensive and usually unsuccessful.

But perhaps the biggest risk is the promise of a Government-led “transition” to new industries of the future. Airy ministerial talk of capital being redeployed to new activities is a carbon copy of Rogernomics-era rhetoric. Capital was redeployed, but not necessarily in New Zealand.

The Government is talking a big game on its ability to direct the emergence of such new industries, but its capacity to deliver this upside of transformative change is untested and the value of the industries it is disrupting is all too measurable.

While radical change was necessary then ‘Rogernomics’ was executed hurriedly with more hope or desperation than planning.

Tim Watkin takes the similarity with Rogernomics style reform-and-hope policies, as opposed to David Lange’s ‘anti-nuclear moment’ – Oil be alright. But has Labour learnt the wrong lesson from its past?

Jacinda Ardern has drawn on our national pride in New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance to rally support for her decision to end offshore oil drilling. But her announcement has echoes of Douglas and Prebble as much as Lange and Palmer

When Jacinda Ardern was asked to justify her government’s decision to stop issuing oil drilling permits forthwith she drew on a memory that sits deep in her party’s – and our country’s – soul. Our nuclear-free status. The decision for me, however, recalls another controversial move by that same fourth Labour government.

For Ardern and her team, so long out of government, it is a chance to do the sort of thing they expect Labour government’s to do. The moral thing. Policies that show vision and make the world a better place. What’s more, it shows leadership in the Pacific.

As with our nuclear-free policy, the decision to leave the oil where it is gives New Zealand the moral high ground, a sense of mission and it gets us noticed. It’s also similar in that it will also do next to nothing in the short term to change global behaviour or make the world safer.

Our nuclear-free stance has been largely symbolic, as will this stance be, unless or until the rest of the world follows suit.

Like Rogernomics, last week’s decision was announced with no real consultation and ruthless speed. There was no time for opponents to circle the tankers. Like Rogernomics, it moved Labour away from the safe centre and took it to the edge of mainstream politics. And like Rogernomics, they have shown no sign that they have planned for the consequences – forseeon or unforseen – of this policy.

Talk to members of the fourth Labour government today and few resile from the thrust of the economic reforms, but almost all wish they had done it differently. More slowly, with transition funding and re-training upfront. With more consultation. More commitment to not leaving some people on the scrapheap.

Sadly, there’s no sign this government has heeded that lesson. Not yet anyway. The announcement came with the zeal of the nuclear-free dream, but without the legwork. There was no transition fund announced. No plan to find new purposes for the people and their skills. No three year grace period, for example, in which the country’s fourth largest export-earning industry could start on what Greens co-leader James Shaw has promised will be a “gentle transition”.

One could forgive Shaw and the Greens for being naive, given their lack of experience in power. The same could be applied to Ardern – but as Prime Minister she should be better advised. She seems to have believed her lofty hype over leading a generational change on climate change.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the new Government was woefully unprepared for taking over. They have taken some quick and bold moves – like committing to major spending (handouts) for fee-free tertiary education – and leading the charge against climate change without any sign they know where this will take New Zealand economically.

But by embarking on this in a sudden, even sneaky, way and without a considered and consulted transition plan, it’s undermined the ‘what’ by buggering up the ‘how’. Labour has failed to learn from its own history. Or, at least, the part of its history Ardern says inspired this bold move. The question now is whether the government moves rapidly and with proper thought to live up to its promise of that “gentle transition”.

There is time for getting it right, or at least better and less risky, but there is no sign of this being recognised by the Government.

Another unlikely critic is Brian Fallow: Exploration ban a pointless, self-righteous policy

Resounding cheers greeted Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw when they went to Victoria University last Thursday to explain that morning’s announcement that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits will be granted.

Gratifying to their ears, no doubt — but entirely undeserved.

This policy is self-righteous nimbyism, environmentally pointless, economically costly and politically counter-productive to the Government’s own agenda on climate change.

Tossing a trophy to the Green Party base, perhaps in the hope of reducing the risk that the Green vote gets wasted in 2020, smacks of ad hoc partisan politics as usual.

It is utterly at odds with the careful, consultative, consensus-seeking approach being pursued over the larger climate agenda.

James Shaw has set up a committee (according to National the 75th committee/group of this Government) to consult over climate change transition but as pointed out in Climate Change Committee announced, significant omissions this notably lacks direct representation from the key farmer and oil & gas industries.

Is there anyone in Labour capable of doing the hard work necessary to make such a transformative  policy work successfully without too many risks and adverse effects?

With Shaw in charge of the Climate Change ministry the only Labour MP (apart from Ardern) with related responsibilities is Megan Woods as Minister of Energy and Resources, and Minister of Science and Innovation, things that will be (or should be) a prominent part of the climate change/fossil fuel transition.