Thoughts on the Chauvel story

March 17th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar
  1. The story would not have made both TV channels if the MP didn’t respond by accusing two of his own (wannabee) constituents of being bad parents. A response to the blog post of “I don’t recall it quite like that but I regret if any offence was taken” would have killed the matter. A Helen Clark apology where you say you regret any offence is often the best way to kill a story.
  2. It is hard to take the moral high ground about MPs should not have such relatively trivial stories blogged about them, when Labour MPs on their own parliamentary blog are running a story about a National MP text messaging during some road opening.
  3. It is a fact of life that as an MP you should be polite in all your encounters with the public – the example I always give to candidates is that being an MP means you can no longer give someone the fingers if they steal a carpark from you or cut in front of you in traffic.
  4. With a story like this, it is not about “winning” the story, but not having it as a story at all. Even if 60% of people back you, and 40% do not, none of the 60% who back you are going to then vote for you because of it, while it is quite possible a fair segment of the 40% minority may be put off supporting you.
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Winning over the voters one at a time

March 16th, 2010 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

BoomTownPrat blogs:

I had a great weekend in Auckland. The most wonderful Pixies on Friday with exceptional friends and then a couple of days with family et al.

Now I have a beautiful and very patient wife and three children, the children are 4, 3 and 2! Travelling is not easy, but I am of the firm belief that practice makes perfect. We travel often and prefer to fly as it is quick. With my work I also fly frequently, as does my wife. We therefore use Koru and Gold Elite to our advantage and when we fly we are seated up the front of the plane. That’s the way it works. I have been loyal to Air NZ and as a result,a 1 or 2 row seat, on a domestic flight is a benefit. With my family my flights are paid with post tax income.

I am also a row 1 or 2 person.

Tonight the 1900 flight to Wellington (Home) was busy. I sat down in row 2 EF with my daughter and my wife, daughter (1D), and son (1F) sat in front of us. Behind me in 3F (Chauvel) and friend in 3 E. Pause to get the picture. So most of my family are in front and Mr Chauvel is to my right and behind in Row 3. I can hear most of what he says though the middle seat gap as can my 3 year old in 2 F

The flight takes off, my kids make a bit of noise. The usual kid stuff, no one blinks( except a muffled rumbling behind …..seat 3F) My kids can perform, you may have heard them! But tonight they were fine. The odd squawk a few yells and disagreements but nothing that your average person on a short domestic flight could dismiss undercover of an insipid tea, a packet of crisps and a magazine.

Not 3F (MR CHARLES CHAUVEL LABOUR LIST MP). 20 minutes into the flight I hear the first, hissed,,,,,”Will you just shut up!” This I think was directed at my 2 year old in row 1. I hear it well given my position. I think he doesn’t realise that that object of his ire has a father directly in front.

I’ve once or twice asked a child to be quiet, and always ask politely. Yelling shut up at someone else’s kids is unwise for anyone – let alone an MP.

40 minutes a more vocal…..”Will you just shut up!”

At this point I got angry and sarcastically told my kids to be quiet as there were very important men behind us who needed their peace.

We start to land when my 2 year old gets some ear pain and cries. A bit like a baby, not to intense. At this point 3F lets out his true feelings and prejudices as he turns to his friend in 3E and says……..” I DONT KNOW WHY THEY LET THEM UP THERE”

God forbid parents with kids are now allowed at the front of the bus plane.

Anyway, here is the irony:

Some Points to Mr Chauvel in 3 F.

The “them” you refer to, is me, the voter.

I vote in Ohariu.

I paid for my seat….did you?

Those children you despise, will probably pay for your superannuation.

And Lastly Mr Chauvel in 3 F, I pay your salary, I would prefer it if you and your friend did not verbally abuse my 2 year old in front of my 3 year old.

I have no reason to construct this. This is what happened. This is how a Labour front bencher acted in public, when his party is on 30% in the polls, when the accusations of “out of touch” are still ripe and the electorate is still trying to digest the “many but the few” mantra.

I suspect the numbers of voters in Ohariu that Charles has alienated is far more than the father and mother. Imagine how many of their friends and neighbours will be told the story over the next two years.

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Labour selections

February 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Labour has announced four selections, reports the Herald:

Labour has already chosen its 2011 election candidates for Auckland Central, West Coast-Tasman, Ohariu and Maungakiekie.

First-term list MP Jacinda Ardhern will contest Auckland Central and Carol Beaumont, also a list MP, will contest Maungakiekie. Both are held by National.

List MP Damien O’Connor will try to take back West Coast-Tasman, the seat he lost to National in the last election.

Senior MP Charles Chauvel, another list MP, will contest Ohariu, which is held by United Future leader Peter Dunne.

I wonder why Labour did not open nominations for NZ’s most marginal seat of New Plymouth? Is it because Andrew Little plans to parachute in there later, as that is his home town?

There were four nominations for Waitakere, the seat held by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, and a selection meeting will be held on March 20. The nominations were Ann Pala, Carmel Sepuloni, Hamish McCracken and Phil Twyford.

It will be pretty devastating to Twyford’s career if he fails to win the nomination, after having been scared out of both Mt Albert and Auckland Central.

He is a more polished politician than Sepuloni, but Labourites may not be keen to put up a “white middle aged male” against the young at heart fiesty Paula Bennett.

McCracken is a perennial candidate – his list ratings have been in 1999 he was no 60, in 2002 no 52, in 2005 no 49 and in 2005 no 50. I can’t see him beating one, let alone two, MPs to the nominaton.

Ann Pala is a Fijian immigrant who was President of the Waitakere Ethnic Board, a director of Winmac Computer Solutions, member of the Islamic Women’s Council. To her great credit she has criticised her party’s association with Winston Peters.

Less agreeably, Pala called for an “ethnic ward” for the Auckland Council, which would elect two or three Councillors. Pala seems to be the only actual West Auckland standing for the Waitakere nomination.

Meanwhile the Dominion Post reports:

United Future leader Peter Dunne faces a tough battle for his Ohariu seat after Labour kicked off its campaign and National vowed it would not stand aside to give him a free ride.

List MP Charles Chauvel will begin door knocking and leaflet drops within weeks after he was the only nomination as Labour’s candidate.

The seat is the eighth most marginal in the country. It was held by Mr Dunne by just 1006 votes at the last election – well down on his 7702 majority in 2005 and the 12,000-plus margin he racked up in 2002. …

Mr Dunne won 12,303 votes in 2008, compared to 11,297 for Mr Chauvel and 10,009 for Ms Shanks.

I expect National will vigorously contest the seat. The reality is that if both National and Dunne stand, then it is possible Chauvel could win the seat due to vote splitting. However if Peter retires from Parliament, then it would be a safe seat for National. Take a look at recent election results.

In 2008 National’s party vote was 17,670 to 12,728 for Labour. In a clear two way contest National should win the seat by 3,000 to 5,000 votes (depending on if many Greens tactically vote).

The split voting statistics tell a story in Ohariu. This is where Dunne has picked up votes in the last three elections:

  • 2002 – Dunne got 47% of Labour voters and 57% of National voters
  • 2005 – Dunne got 34% of Labour voters and 52% of National voters
  • 2008 – Dunne got 16% of Labour voters and 44% of National voters

Peter used to pick up strong support from Labour and National voters. However from 2002 to 2008, he support from Labour voters declined by two thirds. Ironically it was during this period he supported them with confidence and supply, so there is no gratitude in politics!

Now that Dunne can’t attract large number of Labour voters, the main impact is to split the electorate vote of centre-right voters between him and the National candidate. Hence why Chauvel would have a reasonable chance of winning, if Dunne stands in 2011.

But if Dunne retires, then Ohariu should become the only National held seat in Wellington.

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The weird stance of Charles Chauvel

December 18th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

As the Copenhagen summit looks like ending with no agreement, around the only substantial achievement (to date) was the launch of the Global Research Alliance on agriculture greenhouse gases.

This is hugely important both for NZ and internationally.

The importance for NZ is it could help find a way to reduce methane emissions from livestock, which would save the country billions in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

The importance for the world is to avoid what happened with biofuels – that food producing land is converted into other uses, leading to global food shortages.

So it is one of those rare initiatives that almost everyone from business lobby groups to the most hardened Greenie supports. And kudos to Tim Groser and others for getting 20 countries to all pledge funding to it – from Australia to Vietnam to the US. Much better than NZ funding all the research,

Back in NZ, it won support from the Wgtn Chamber of Commerce (no fan of an ETS):

“The reality is that rather than the current proliferation of poorly designed cap and trade systems, science and technology are the real keys to solving the greenhouse gas emissions challenge, and this initiative plays to New Zealand’s research strengths,” said Chamber CEO Charles Finny. …

“This is a good example of trans-national cooperation with a number of countries pooling their expertise to solve a global problem. New Zealand going it alone would be less likely to produce results and it runs against the grain of what this global issue is all about.

“It is increasingly likely that this will be one of the few concrete initiatives to come from Copenhagen and so John Key and Tim Groser deserve full congratulations for the leadership they have shown in delivering this outcome,” Mr Finny concluded.

So business likes it. And what about the Greens. Well this is Kennedy Graham:

Minister Tim Groser advised that, on Day 1, some US$150 m. had been pledged, and it was hoped that this would leverage private funding as well.  But he stressed that it was not just a question of finance – the essence was coordination, of research already underway and new research yet to be funded.  France, for example, already has some 500 researchers in agriculture and climate change who would form part of the Alliance.  India’s contribution would be immense as well.  Once the political momentum was underway, it was important to turn it over to the scientists.

Denmark gave the most impressive example of the potential of the Alliance. Since 1990 it had increased agricultural production by 16% yet agricultural emissions had dropped by 23%.   This had been achieved through optimisation of the nutrient chain and improving water management. …

We should take a positive view of this initiative.

And Jeanette Fitzsimons said:

The Green Party today welcomed the announcement that New Zealand will lead a Global Research Alliance for reducing climate change emissions from agriculture, adding that it is crucial to pursue science and ideas that enhance our clean green reputation.

“I am delighted that New Zealand is finally doing something serious about fighting climate change and reducing agricultural emissions,” said Green Party Climate Change and Agriculture spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons. …

So New Zealand has achieved around the only positive announcement from Copenhagen, with an initiative that pleases both ETS sceptical businesses and the Greens. So who does that leave?

Labour’s Charles Chauvel. In a bizarre press release (one which Clark would have called treasonous if she was still PM) he has attacked the Global Alliance claiming NZ should have gone it alone:

“The multinational nature of the Global Agriculture Fund will inevitably mean that New Zealand won’t own the results of any research paid for by it.

“So, as well as there being substantially less money for investment in the reduction of emissions from agriculture, New Zealand will be poorer because we lose the opportunity to sell or share emissions reduction technology in our singular area of expertise on our own terms.

“Despite the self-generated fanfare and bright lights, National’s approach represents a failure. It totally lacks ambition and is a huge missed opportunity for New Zealand,” Charles Chauvel said.

Yes Chauvel thinks NZ could have solved the problem all by itself. He also misrepresents intellectual property laws (being pat of a multilateral alliance does not mean individual institutions abandon intellectual property rights over their inventions). It is a shockingly stupid stance.

In Opposition, there are times when mindless opposition just for the sake of a press release is a bad idea. As the Greens show, there are times you can say this is a good initiative – even if we don;t like the other things you are doing.

I wonder what Phil Goff, a respected former foreign and trade minister, thinks of his MPs claim NZ should not have helped set up the global research alliance, and gone it alone? I can’t imagine he possibly agrees.

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Humour transplants needed

November 27th, 2009 at 8:23 am by David Farrar

My God. Someone please ring up Hell Pizza and ask them to deliver some humour transplants to the Labour Caucus Room.

ACT staffer Andrew Falloon joked on his Facebook status that he is off to the Abel Tasman National Park for 8 nights before Gerry Brownlee rips it up and Charles Chauvel both uses this in a question in Parliament, and blogs about it on Red Alert.

Really that is just so sad. I am so glad I no longer work in Parliament if I have to put up with crap like that.

At least Gerry Brownlee shows he still has an excellent sense of humour:

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This summer will be the largest exploration activity ever seen in New Zealand waters.

Hon Darren Hughes: That’s just the Minister on the beach.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Seven offshore wells are being drilled, and thousands of kilometres of seismic data are being shot. In fact, New Zealand is ranked in the top 10 countries for offshore exploration wells. This year we have put in place a seismic data acquisition programme to continue the success. It is a good programme. I know that you do not like us responding to interjections, Mr Speaker, but I just want to say that in order that no one rushes to the beach to save the whales, I will be publishing the dates that I am on holiday.

Heh.

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Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill submissions

November 17th, 2009 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

You can make a submission until 10 December on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill.

The bill is generally excellent – it merges the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Office, and allows the Commission to give advice on the legality of propose ads etc.

The one change I would like is to the method of appointment of the Electoral Commissioners. The current bill provides for the Minister to (effectively) appoint them after consulting with other parties. I would like to see the appointments either made by Parliament directly, or for the consultation requirement to be made an agreement requirement.

The reason is that different Ministers interpret a consultation requirement in different ways. I know in the 1990s that National consulted Helen Clark as Opposition Leader on some appointments and actually withdrew proposed nominees after Clark objected.

But when Margaret Wilson was Attorney-General, she was terrible. Her idea of consultation was to send a letter out Friday notifying the name of the person she proposes to have Cabinet appoint on Monday.

I was hoping some MPs would touch on this issue in the first reading, and they did:

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : The Labour Opposition will be supporting the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill. I thank the Minister of Justice for the consultative process that has surrounded this bill. He has properly engaged with Labour, as, indeed, I am sure he has with other parties in this House in the preparation of this bill. As a consequence of that, Labour members are happy to support it in its reference to a select committee. Initially, the Electoral Commission, which is a new body set up by this bill and not the current Electoral Commission, was to include the Secretary for Justice as a member. Labour and, I understand, some other parties said that would not be right. Of course, the Secretary for Justice is the head of a Government department, so it would not be appropriate for that office holder to hold a role on the new Electoral Commission. The Minister agreed with that, so the commission will now be fully independent, and we agree that that is appropriate.

This is an example of good consultation. Simon Power had feedback from other parties, and modified the proposal. My concern is not about Simon as Minister of Justice failing to act on consultations. He won’t be Minister for ever, and my concern is some future Minister will act like Margaret Wilson and ignore any objections from consultation. That is why I think it should requirement agreement, not consultation.

I think there is still a question as to how the commission should be appointed. I have heard some people suggest that the commission ought to be appointed by Parliament, rather than by the Minister as part of the Government. I think that some people may submit on that issue to the select committee. We in Labour would be interested to hear from submitters and be informed by them on that matter.

I’m glad David Parker raised the issue, and hope that Labour will agree to a change – despite the fact they will be Government again one day.

The need for independence is even greater now, with the Chief Electoral Officer being one of the three Commissioners, as the CEO is the key individual who actually runs the election, and declares the result.

Previously the CEO was within the Ministry of Justice. So the State Services Commissioner appointed the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Justice appointed the CEO. While I don’t particularly like it being witin the Ministry of Justice, it did make it hard for a Minister to put in someone inappropriate.

Now though the Minister can appoint the Chief Electoral Officer directly. That is too great a power I submit.

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) : I do not intend to take a long call on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill. The Green Party will support its first reading to get it before the select committee. We look forward to submissions by the public on the bill. …

When the National Government consulted the Greens on the proposal, we suggested from the outset that an Officer of Parliament – type body should be established, that it would be preferable to ensure that the new agency is absolutely and fully independent of the Government, and does not report to a Minister. The Officer of Parliament model is used here in Aotearoa with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, for example. It is also used in Canada for their electoral organisation and management. It places the oversight of the body with Parliament, as opposed to a ministry of the Government managed by one particular political interest. It reinforces its role to oversee and enable free and fair elections, which is a core concern of the House of Representatives and of Parliament. Certainly an Officer of Parliament model would be perceived by the public as more truly independent and would have more ability to comment on how the electoral process is operating, because it would not report to a particular Minister in the executive.

I agree with Metiria that the Commission is most suitable to be an Officer of Parliament. If this change is not practical in the short-term, than a fallback option is to at least require the Minister to gain agreement, not just consultation, with a super-majority of parties on appointments.

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) :

There is also the police, and I will speak a little bit about their function, because the police are the enforcement body as far as our electoral law is concerned.

Although Labour supports this bill being read a first time, we believe that the bill does not address the issue of the enforcement machinery when there is a breach of electoral law. I suggest that that might be something the select committee looks at. The problem that the police always have, of course, is that electoral offences never go to the top of the queue. The police will always be concerned with crimes against the person, and with dealing particularly with violent crime. They will never be able to prioritise electoral matters, nor will they necessarily have the forensic expertise to do so. These days those questions require skills in dealing with tracking donations and financial disclosures, and so on, which call for quite sophisticated levels of skill that are probably more properly found in organisations like the Serious Fraud Office rather than the police. It might well be that with the forensic skills that are required, it would be useful to think about having an enforcement function under this new independent Crown entity rather than the police being responsible for that function, if we are truly interested in bringing all the functions together in an expert body that has the resources and the time to deal with the questions before it.

I agree with Charles that the Police do not see electoral breaches as a priority and it would be better with the Commission. However that is not so much an issue for this bill, but more for the bill which will come out of the Govt’s electoral finance review.

The final point I make is that if one has a look at the explanatory note, one sees that one of the options canvassed was to have an Officer of Parliament for this function. Personally, I think that would have been the most compelling option to go for. The explanatory note suggests there was not enough time to get that sort of apparatus going before the next election. But if we really want a truly independent body, charged with the conduct of elections in an honest and serious way, then, given the conduct of our other Officers of Parliament, in whom we have enormous faith, then that seems to me to be the best way to go.

Excellent.

What has been nice is that all the Opposition praised Simon Power for his consultation with them over the bill. It is great to see the merger happening after years and years of no action, and electoral law should be an area of bipartisanship as much as possible – it is too important to be treated as a bauble of office, as some sort of winner takes all prize.

I hope other people take the time to do a submission. If you don’t, then no complaining if you wake up one day in the future to read that Winston Peters has been appointed as an Electoral Commissioner :-)

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Charles Chauvel on power profits

October 5th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reported:

Labour yesterday called on the Government to stop taking big profits from the electricity state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“The Government could do this today, with the instant result of lower electricity prices for hard-working Kiwi families and better security of supply from renewable energy,” Labour energy spokesman Charles Chauvel said.

The Government should tell electricity SOEs to cut dividend payments and invest the money in renewable generation that could flatten power price rises, he said.

I have previously blogged on the hypocrisy of Labour preaching lower profits, after it banked $3.1 billion in dividends from energy companies during their term of Government.

A Ministry of Economic Development energy outlook released this week says wholesale power prices are likely to rise by 40 per cent over the next 20 years.

That is much less than the near-50 per cent rise in some residential tariffs over the past five years.

40% over 20 years sounds a lot better than 50% over five years!

But is this standard hypocrisy, or even worse hypocrisy than normal? Because before Charles become an MP, he was a Director of Meridian Energy.

In fact Charles was Deputy Chairman of Meridian Energy in 2005. And what was the company’s net profit after tax in 2005/06? It was $857 million.

Yes in 2005/06 Meridian had an EBIT of $1.03b on gross revenue of $2.22b. Now some of this was from a one off sale, but that money could have been used to lower power prices, as Charles now claims should be done.

Now maybe in 2005/06 the Government was short of money, and didn’t think it could manage with a lower dividend and profit. So what as the deficit in 2005/06? Oh no – it wasn’t a deficit. It was a whopping $11.5b surplus.

So where was Charles in 2005 demanding Meridian pay a smaller dividend, when the Government had an $11.5 billion surplus? Oh he was writing the cheques out.

And now in 2009, when the Government is running a deficit of $7.2b (over 11 months), Charles and Labour cry out to make Meridian less profitable as he says a dividend of $294 millions is far too high.

I am going to enjoy repeating posts like this, everytime Labour call for reduced profits from Energy SOEs.

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Parliament and the Courts

September 11th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Australasian Study of Parliament Group had a seminar in the Beehive on Wednesday on the issue of Parliament and the Courts.

The first speaker was Professor Philip Joseph, who is widely considered the leading constitutional scholar in New Zealand.

Professor Joseph discussed the issue of parliamentary sovereignty and whether or not it exists or is absolute.  There were references to musings from Lord Cooke and Chief Justice Elias that such sovereignty is not absolute.

This does not mean that the judiciary is sovereign either. In fact the theme pushed was neither institution was sovereign, and there is mutual respect for the roles of each, with boundaries between them.

There was a suggestion you could call this co-sovereignty, looking at it being the Crown through her Parliament and the Crown through her Courts being co-sovereign, but sovereignty tends not to be shared (the Roman Republic did effectively share it through having two Consuls but that didn’t work too well eventually).

The example by CJ Elias was whether the judiciary would uphold a law that (for example) said all blue eyed babies must be killed.  Of course that would never be passed (and if it was, the Governor-General might not assent to it) so it is an academic argument.

Professor Joseph said that the rule of law does exist outside of legislation and that it pre-dates the concept of parliament sovereignty by many hundreds of years.

An example would be in countries that have had a coup. Often the judiciary will adopt or refer to the doctrine of necessity to maintain the rule of law – even without legislative backing.

The second speaker was Labour MP Charles Chauvel, in his role as Chairman of the Privileges Committee. He had some interesting historical facts such as how Magistrates were not seen as Independent Judges until just a few decades ago, and how the Minister of Justice used to actually be accountable in the House for their decisions.

His main theme was respecting the boundaries between Parliament and the Judiciary, and how the Privileges Committee decision to recommend limitations on an MPs ability to breach a court suppression order, helps respect those boundaries – especially as it was initiated by Parliament voluntarily.

He took a swipe at both Justice Minister Simon Power and his colleague Trevor Mallard for their recent comments, plus also at Attorney-General Chris Finlayson for not publicly defending the Judges concerned. Power criticised CJ Elias’ call for prisoners to be released early and Mallard criticised the lack of jail in the Moses exorcism manslaughter case, saying they would have got jail time if they were not Maori.

Chauvel said he thought both Power’s and Mallard’s comments pushed against the boundary of mutual respect, or comity.

In fact he revealed the Opposition was concerned enough about Mallard’s comments they their Justice Spokesperson wrote officially to the Chief Justice disassociating themselves from the comments, and saying he was speaking as a local MP only and not on behalf of Labour. The letter and response from the CJ was shown briefly on the screen.

The seminar was well attended and ably chaired by Colin James, with extra chairs having to be found for everyone. Definitely only a topic for constitutional geeks, but it is a fascinating area for New Zealand as one of the few countries with no written constitution.

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Fallow on 2020 target

August 1st, 2009 at 7:18 am by David Farrar

Brian Fallow writes:

The sort of number the Government has been directing our attention towards, in a non-committal way, is a 15 per cent cut from 1990 levels. That would also be 15 per cent below the current commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

But as New Zealand’s gross emissions are 24 per cent above 1990 levels, such a target would be a cut of nearly a third from where we are now.

Yes. This is talking gross emissions and a cut of a third in ten years is not some wimpy cop out but bloody ambitious. Some say it is not so hard as what counts is net emissions. Not quite that simple though. Apart from the fact by 2020 gross and net emissions may be similiar, as I understand it our target is always in gross emissions, but the amount we will have to pay will be based on net emissions. In other words the rest of the world expects us to actually cut emissions, not just plant trees.

It would be the equivalent of eliminating, within 10 years, all emissions from transport and electricity generation, and then some. Transport accounts for 20 per cent of national emissions, the electricity sector 9 per cent.

That is for a target of 15% below 1990. Remember that when the Greens claim anything less than 40% is a cop out.

“The nightmare for the Government is that even what looks like a very modest target is incredibly challenging, because we are starting 24 per cent behind the eight ball,” says Climate Change Minister Nick Smith.

Thanks Helen. Despite her carbon neutral rhetoric, emissions grew faster in NZ under Clark than in the US under Bush, compared to 1990 levels.

There are three ways New Zealand can meet its target: physically reducing emissions within the country, expanding the forest area or buying carbon credits on the international market – which represent emissions reductions which have occurred somewhere else in the world.

All three methods cost money. How much is educated guesswork: all the economic modelling tells us is that the more ambitious the target and the higher the international carbon price, the greater the cost will be.

Yep. The greater all the targets are for reduction, the higher the price per unit and hence the price consumers and businesses will pay in NZ.

Satellite and aerial mapping has confirmed an increase of 566,000ha in the area of plantation forest, which the Government expects will just about cover the increase in gross emissions over the same period.

But most of those trees were already in the ground when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997.

Net afforestation has collapsed since then, and the trees planted in the 1990s will be ready for harvest in the 2020s, turning the forestry sector from a net sink for carbon into a net source.

This is why reliance on our net emissions being at 1990 levels is little comfort for the 2020 target.

Unless, that is, the rules for counting forest emissions are changed. At the moment the carbon sequestered in trees is deemed to be all released to the atmosphere when the tree is felled, which is nonsense if it is used for building timber.

New Zealand is seeking a number of changes to the rules relating to LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry). Groser said that within the range of environmentally credible or defensible rules the difference between the best and worst case outcomes on the rules from a New Zealand perspective could swing the country’s emissions by as much as 70 per cent. The rules will not be finally decided at Copenhagen.

Those potential rule changes are of huge significance.

Labour’s climate change spokesman Charles Chauvel says it is better to be bold than timid.

“We will be a target-taker, let’s face it, when we get to the negotiations. The benefit about being bold in setting a target now is that it will obviously be provisional given that we are going into negotiations and we will effectively be given a target by bigger players.

With all respects to Charles this is a pretty stupid strategy. As he points out there will be international negotiations and in those negotiations big players will try and push up what our target should be. Now knowing this is likely to happen, why would you go in with a target already at the top end of what is possible, as this then removes any flexibility from the negotiations. Sure our initial negotiating target has to be credible, but this talk of boldness (and note Labour refuse to say what target they support) is silly fluff. Ask any negotiator if your starting bid should ever be your final position.

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Bill having fun

July 24th, 2009 at 10:16 am by David Farrar

I suspect Bill English enjoyed yesterday. It is always a bad sign for an Opposition when Governments are looking forward to question time and complaining it is only three days a week. From Hansard:

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has a great deal more confidence in the Minister than a certain Charles Chauvel had in a former Minister when, as president of the Labour Youth Council in 1988, he told the then employment Minister, Phil Goff, to “take action or resign”. Charles Chauvel is probably feeling the same way today.

Some Researcher or staffer earned his pay yesterday.

Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of an employment Minister dealing with rising unemployment during a recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, he has seen a report that states: “It takes more than hot air, more than rhetoric, and more than using the backs of unemployed people to make political points. … I despair at the gamesmanship of politicians trying to get votes from the problem of unemployment”. That was said by Annette King in this House.

This is the problem you have when both the Leader and Deputy Leader were Ministers in not just the last Government, but also the one a decade before that.

Moana Mackey: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister responsible for cutting the training incentive allowance, and does he agree with Christine of Gisborne, a solo mother of four who now cannot do the nursing qualification that would enable her to move off the domestic purposes benefit and into paid work, when she says: “The Government has been sitting there telling us to upskill, get into jobs, not run up debt, to ride out the recession, and then they go and take away the assistance that some people need to enable this to happen.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: What we have learnt from the activities of the Labour Party over the last month is that we have to be pretty careful about believing whether Christine of Gisborne even exists, and also whether she is on the domestic purposes benefit, whether she owns three investment houses, and whether all the information she has given to the Labour Party about her situation has been truthfully represented here.

Once bitten, twice shy. Everyone is going to be very wary of any “example” put forward by Labour.

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Credit Reforms Responsible Lending Bill

May 20th, 2009 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

Labour List MP Charles Chauvel has submitted to the ballot a private members bill – credit-reforms-responsible-lending-bill.

It does four things:

  1. allow pawn brokers to charge administration fees, thereby removing any need for high interest rates
  2. require lenders to seriously consider the actual means of a prospective borrower and their ability to service the debt
  3. allow for the prescription of maximum annual percentage rates of interest payable in respect of consumer credit contracts
  4. restrict the right for a creditor to recover from a debtor any amount beyond the value of the goods sold subject to a security agreement.

Taking each in turn

Pawn Broker Admin Fees

I’m not sure what the original rationale for pawn brokers not being able to charge an admin fee, but seems to me flexibility is a good thing.

Lenders to assess ability of borrowers to service debt

I should start off by saying that I am well aware there are many very scummy companies that exploit people with cashflow problems by taking advantage of their desperation to get them to agree to loans that with compounding interest are crippling.

But I am hesitant about putting the burden of assessment on the lender, rather than the person borrowing the money. The borrower does have some responsibility themselves to judge their own capacity to replay. And you could end up with a lot of uncertainity as to what steps lenders must take to assess repayment. I don’t see this as being practical or necessarily desirable – lenders do have an incentive already to check repayment ability – so they can get repaid.

Maximum rates of interest

The proposal is that the Reserve Bank Governor can set a maximum rate of interest for borrowing. This is well intentioned but may have unintentional side effects. Let’s say you can currently get unsecured borrowing from scummy lenders for between 35% and 75% interest. And let us say the Reserve Bank says that the maximum you can charge os 50%. Now yes that will stop money being lent at 75% interest, but may push the 35% rate up to 50%. A ceiling often becomes a target. And you may also get scummy lenderss claiming greater respectability as their interest rates are “approved by the Reserve Bank”.

Creditor Recovery

I’m not quite sure how this clause will work in practice, so will update when I have worked it out. As I understand itm, this is a more minor part of the law change.

I have doubts over the practicality and desirablity of parts of the bill, but neither do I think the current law is working particularly well – many families are getting exploited.

If the bill gets selected from the ballot, I think it should definitely be supported to select committee so they can consider the issues and proposed solutions. Any support beyond that would depend on what changes get made there.

Generally I support most private members bills going to at least select committee for hearings. My exceptions are those that are:

  1. Obnoxious (EFA type laws) and so bad not possible to make into good law.
  2. Directly contrary to the Government’s policy (designed just to score political points)
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The Lower North Island Seats

November 13th, 2008 at 4:32 am by David Farrar

Whanganui had a 3% lead in the party vote in 2005, and this expanded out to 22% in 2008. And the 3,500 majority for Borrows goes to 6,000.

Rangitikei sees a 25% lead in the party vote and Simon Power moves his majority from 9,000 to 11,000.

Tukituki has an 18% lead in the party vote, and a 2,600 majority for Craig Foss gets a boost thanks to Labour’s sacking of the local District Health Board to over 7,000.

Palmerston North has been held by Labour since 1978. The party vote was narrowly won by National but Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway held off Malcolm Plimmer by 1,000 votes.

Wairarapa has National 17% ahead on the party vote. And John Hayes turns the seat safe with a 2,900 majority converting to 6,300 in 2008.

Otaki was a huge battle. I’ve door knocked Otaki in the past and it is not natural National territory in the Horowhenua parts. So winning the party vote by 8% is good for National after trailling by 3% last time. Darren Hughes put up a huge fight to protect his sub 400 majority but Nathan Guy grabbed the seat by almost 1,500.

In Wellington, Labour does a lot better starting with Mana. Labour remains 6% ahead on the party vote but reduced from 18% in 2005. Winnie Laban’s 6,800 majority shrinks only slightly to 5.300.

Rimutaka was the last hope for NZ First. Labour won the party vote there in 2005 by 11% and in 2008 by 0.3%. On the electorate vote just as narrow with Labour’s Chris Hipkins pipping Richard Whiteside by 600 votes. Ron Mark got a credible 5,000 votes but stll trailed by 7,000.

Hutt South is home to Wainuiomata and Trevor Mallard. Trevor delivered a party vote margin for Labour of 4% and a 3,600 majority for himself. In 2005 the party vote margin was 14% and the personal majority 6,600 so some movement there.

Rongotai is now the home of the Labour Deputy Leader. But even before her ascension, Rongotai gave Labour a massive 11% margin on the party vote – 43% to 32% for National. And her personal 13,000 majority in 2005 was only slightly dented to just under 8,000. If that is her low tide mark, she’ll be happy.

Wellington Central saw in 2005 a party vote for National of just 33%, Labour 43% and Greens around 16%. In 2008 it was National 36%, Labour 34% and Greens around 20%. Marian Hobbs had a 5,800 majority and Stephen Franks cut that to 1,500 against new MP Grant Robertson with some Green party votes giving Robertson their electorate vote to keep Franks out.

Ohariu was assumed by almost everyone to be safe as houses for Peter Dunne. But it got close this time. First on the party vote, National beat Labour 43% to 40% in 2005. This time it was 47% to 33%. On the candidate vote Peter Dunne dropped from 45% to 33% making him vulnerable. National’s Katrina Shanks lifted her vote from 21% to 26% and Labour’s Charles Chauvel from 26% to 30%. The Greens candidate got 7% of the vote and may have ironically saved the seat for Dunne.

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Backbenches Tonight

November 12th, 2008 at 1:45 pm by David Farrar

The election may be over but Backbenches carries on. Tonight:

  • David Garrett, ACT List MP
  • Keith Locke, Green List MP
  • Charles Chauvel, Labour List MP
  • Nikki Kaye, National MP for Auckland Central

They’ll be talking about the new Government, and voter turnout. So come along to teh Backbencher by 8.30 pm for a 9 pm start. Or watch it on TVNZ7.

Should also serve as a good excuse for people to have a couple of drinks to celebrate or commiserate the election outcome.

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Coalition Building

October 17th, 2008 at 2:58 pm by David Farrar

Is this photo of Rodney Hide, Josie Pagani and Charles Chauvel at Backbenches the start of the ACT-Progressive-Labour Coalition, or something else?

Enter your captions below. Just keep them clean.

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