Why National should support Gareth Hughes’ bill at first reading

October 13th, 2015 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes has a bill up for first reading soon called the Electricity Industry (Small-Scale Renewable Distributed Generation) Amendment Bill.

I hope the Government/National votes for the bill at first reading, for three reasons.

  1. It is a (fairly rare) constructive opposition bill that has identified an issue, and is not proposing a solution that is just designed to get National to vote against it
  2. While the bill’s solution may not be the best answer to the problem, even having select committee hearings into the bill may lead to better outcomes with pressure on energy companies
  3. National would gain kudos for supporting a bill which could encourage more people to sell surplus solar back into the grid.

This Stuff article highlights the current problem:

“The bill is trying to fix a serious problem, which is that thousands of Kiwis are going solar and finding the electricity companies have all the power.

“My bill would empower the Electricity Authority to act as an independent umpire to make sure that solar consumers get a fair go,” Hughes said.

At present companies set the price when they buy back electricity from customers who generate more power than they use.

Hughes said Meridian Energy used to pay 26 cents per kilowatt hour to consumers who had generated extra electricity, but were now paying between 8 and 10c.

DC Power business manager Sarah Laurence said the pricing was discouraging consumers from going solar.

The company installed solar panels for Barbara and Atsushi Taniyama at their Palmerston North restaurant Yatai. Laurence said expansion could have been on the cards if the buy-back price was certain.

“The dropping price has prevented them from putting in a bigger system,” Laurence said.

So the problem with the status quo is that prices for buying back excess solar have dropped by around two thirds, and there is no price certainty.

A further Stuff article explains:

Almost every region had different rules, regulations and need for resource consents in order to install solar panels, Hughes said.

And alongside that, power companies held the literal and metaphorical power when it came to setting buy-back rates. Hughes said rates had fluctuated from 17 cents to as low as 4 cents, without more than a month’s notice, leaving those signed onto solar energy in a constant state of uncertainty, he said. 

“I’m not asking for it to subsidised, I’m proposing the Electricity Authority to act as an independent umpire and set a fair and reasonable buy-back rate.” 

Now I’m not convinced that having the Electricity Authority set the rate will be the best solution, as I’d like to see power companies compete to offer the best rates for buying back surplus solar.

But I think it is a reasonable option that should be considered by a select committee. A select committee could hear from solar users and hear from energy companies, and consider the size of the problem, and what the best solution is.

As I said above, just the scrutiny of the select committee may be enough to get some companies to offer better terms – that might not even be higher rates, but guaranteed price stability over a period of time.

I also think it is good to be constructive with an opposition bill, when it is not proposing something hugely expensive, or is just trying to make the Government vote against something for scaremongering purposes (such as Clayton Cosgrove’s ludicrous bill to stop the Government selling Kiwibank).

So I hope the National caucus decides to back the bill at first reading. There will be many grateful solar users if they do decide this is an issue worth select committee scrutiny.

Shaw leading to date

May 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I heard from a reliable source last week that in the voting to date, James Shaw has a narrow lead for the Green Party male co-leadership.

The actual election takes places at their conference at the end of May, but the delegates from each electorate get instructed how to vote at their electorate AGMs, which have started.

I’ve commented on the four leaders here:

With no disrespect to Gareth or Vernon, but it appears to be a two horse race between Kevin and James.

The good thing for the Greens is both Kevin and James have considerable strengths, and both should be more successful than their predecessor. It’s a great thing for a party to have a positive choice of leadership candidates.

Danyl McLauchlan blogs:

I’ve been helping James Shaw out with his campaign. Up until now its been impossible to tell how things are going, but now that the branches are voting we have a rough idea and I am cautiously optimistic. It’s going to be close but James could win. My reason for supporting him over Kevin Hague – who I have a huge amount of respect for – is pretty simple. The key role of a leader in a modern political party is to be the public face of that party, to front to the media and the public, and to win new voters. Maybe I’m just blinded by partisan bias, but I think James is going to be a lot better in that core role than the other candidates.

That doesn’t mean he’ll win. Kevin Hague also has a lot of great qualities, and they make him one of the most beloved guys inside the Green Party – which gives him a big advantage in a contest to become leader of it. But being the leader is about connecting with the public, not just the party’s own membership. The best thing for the future of the Green Party is to elect a leader who can grow it.

I agree with this analysis. Kevin is very respected and popular with the members – and with many other MPs. I regard Kevin as a good guy, who would be a good Minister of Health and a good co-leader for the Greens.

However the Greens seem to be stuck at a 10% vote ceiling. James Shaw does represent the best opportunity for the Greens to break through that 10% ceiling, and if I was a Green party member I’d vote for him.

If Shaw wins the male co-leadership and Julie-Anne Genter becomes (in time) female co-leader, then I think the Greens would have a real possibility of shaking off the past, and grow support and votes for the Greens.

But as I said, I think Kevin will do a solid job also. Again the Greens are fortunate to have a positive choice.

Hughes standing for co-leader

March 5th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Fifth-ranked Green MP Gareth Hughes has confirmed he’s standing to become the Green’s male co-leader.

The 33-year-old who’s in his third term as an MP says his candidacy is for a generational shift in New Zealand politics .

West Coast based list MP Kevin Hague has already put his hat in the ring and is considered by some to be the front runner.

The party will decide on who the male co-leader is at its conference in late May.

It’s good Green members will get a choice.

I don’t agree with Gareth on most environmental issues, but he has done a lot of good work in the Comms/ICT sector and has built up a lot of respect for his approach to issues in this sector – even by those who disagree with him. If there had been a change of Government, many said he would be a good Comms/ICT Minister.

It is hard to see him beating Hague, but the fact that Hague is seven years older than the retiring Norman may be a factor – hence why Hughes is talking generational shift.

Not sure if James Shaw has totally ruled out standing, but it seems unlikely. Kennedy Graham is talking about it, but I think the real contest is likely to be between Hague and Hughes.

Agreeing with Gareth Hughes

June 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blogs:

Today over in the US, John Key is drumming up support for a UN Security Council seat and Murray McCully is attending John Kerry’s Oceans conference but it seems no one in National has thought of joining the two issues up. I would love to see New Zealand sitting at the United Nations top table and I support our bid to be represented on the UN Security Council. I think the world needs our voice for peace and environmental protection around that table as it debates thorny issues like Syria, Ukraine and climate change. Facing intense competition from Turkey and Spain for the Council seat we need to put our best foot forward. The world knows us as a proud independent country at the bottom of the world that defied the odds and went nuclear free. The world knows us as stunning Middle Earth. This environmental image is our strategic advantage and building on it by creating the Kermadecs Sanctuary, the world’s largest marine reserve, strengthens our point of difference in the Security Council bid.

Marine conservation is heating up as a significant global issue and enhancing our credentials would be perfect as part of the UN campaign. We are known for our small size and tiny population but when it comes to our oceans we are a marine superpower. We have the fifth largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, at twenty times the size of our landmass. We have been leaders on stopping destructive driftnets, opposing whaling and protecting the waters around Antarctica. At a time when the world’s scientists are saying the oceans are in crisis with overfishing, acidification and pollution marine conservation could be an area where New Zealand can do more and lead.

Just imagine: if this week, New Zealand declares the worlds’ largest marine reserve around the Kermadecs. It would be met positively by the international media and would be a massive public relations victory. It would send the world the message we care about the challenges facing our oceans and are prepared to act to protect them. It could be what gets us over the line as various countries vote for UN Security Council seats. It would also be the right thing to do to protect this special part of New Zealand.

I agree the Kermadecs should be turned into one large marine reserve. There are a number of smaller marine reserves there, but we could make the entire area a unique marine reserve. There would be little economic loss in doing so (unlike in other areas), and considerable environmental gain.

The Kermadecs lie North East of New Zealand, halfway to Tonga, ‘in the midst of a prodigious ocean.’ The waters around the Kermadec Islands contain incredible natural diversity and include whales, fish, turtles, and seabirds. Beneath the surface is a series of undersea volcanoes and the world’s second deepest marine trench. National Geographic calls it “one of the last pristine sites in our oceans”. Our largest current marine reserve extends out to twelve nautical miles around the Kermadec islands but successive government’s lethargy in modernising our 1971 Marine Reserves Act to allow for reserves in the EEZ means it is stuck at its current size. I have a Private Members’ Bill in the ballot to extend the Kermadecs Reserve out to 200 nautical miles making it, at 620,000 square kilometres, the largest marine reserve in the world and New Zealand’s only reserve that protects an entire ecosystem.

I have applauded the Government’s recent creation of the Subantarctic Islands marine reserves but it is not enough to prove we’re a serious global champion of the oceans. While 4,300 square kilometres will be protected around the Bounty, Antipodes and Campbell Islands it only increases the percentage of our waters protected in marine reserves from 0.31 to 0.41%. Less than half of 1% protected looks laughable compared to the third of our land protected in National Parks. The creation of the expanded Kermadecs reserve would immediately take this to 15%.

There is incredible diversity there, and it is pristine.

Despite the enormous area that would become protected, only a minimal amount of fishing activity would be displaced. Between the 2007 & 2010 fishing years, an average of only $109,000 a year of fishing activity occurred. 

It’s really a no brainer. we should do it.

Caption Contest

June 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


From Gareth Hughes on Facebook.

Captions below. As always, funny not nasty.

Jones v Hughes

March 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour economic development spokesman Shane Jones has taken a swipe at the Greens, calling ocean spokesman Gareth Hughes a “mollyhawk” for comments Jones says “undermine” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A hearing began today to consider an application by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) to mine iron ore from the seabed off the west coast of the North Island. …

The Greens also called for a moratorium on all seabed mining until it was proved “unequivocally safe”.

A standard impossible to meet. They also I presume call for a ban on cars until they also are proved “unequivocally safe”.

Jones used an interview on Radio Waatea today to take a swing at Labour’s potential coalition partner, saying its activist stance was inappropriate for a government-in-waiting.

“Minerals and exploration is an essential part of the economy and the process shouldn’t be undermined by political commentary,” he said.

“There’s a standard to be observed between parliamentary figures and state bodies.

“I’ve been warned not to crisscross the Commerce Commission investigation, if it’s good enough for me as the Labour economic development spokesman, then it’s good enough for Gareth Hughes.”

The EPA was also independent from the Government, and Jones said governments-in-waiting needed to observe constitutional proprieties.

Hughes’ contributions were unhelpful, and “carrying on like a mollyhawk” would not achieve anything, he said.

A mollyhawk is a type of gull. I’m not sure quite what Jones is trying to call Hughes by calling him one.

Just one problem

November 12th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar



The Greens released a “public owners report” into Mighty River Power with a photo of Gareth Hughes in front of what one would assume is an MRP wind turbine.

There’s only one small problem.

I’m told Mighty River Power doesn’t have any wind turbines.

Now if an energy company that didn’t actually have any wind turbines, used a photo of one on their annual report cover, I’m pretty sure the Greens would condemn them for green-washing and false advertising. So will the Greens condemn their own annual report?

Guest Post: Gareth Hughes on copyright

October 8th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Greens MP Gareth Hughes:

London School of Economics on copyright.

A new report out by the London School of Economics busts some of the myths around copyright infringement and the laws passed that try to punish online file-sharing. 

The London School of Economics Media Policy Project has published a report entitled “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing”, which argues ‘The creative industries are innovating to adapt to a changing digital culture and evidence does not support claims about overall revenue reduction due to individual copyright infringement,’ and that a punitive approach risks ‘incentives for innovation and growth will be weakened.’

It’s a timely report that challenges the claims the music industry is at mortal peril from online file-sharers and that graduated response regimes like our Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Amendment Act, or more popularly known as the ‘Skynet Law’ are the best way forward to address the challenge of copyright infringement.

I am a Spotify premium subscriber and I just love being able to access a lot of the world’s music conveniently, portably and legally for a small monthly charge. It is one example where the music industry is innovating and adapting to the digital world profitably. The report notes in 2013, for the first time UK revenues for online music was higher than for CDs and vinyl combined as part of overall revenue growth. The report recommends a review of the UKs stalled Skynet-style law, the Digital Economy Act and that ‘a copyright enforcement model that is out of touch with today’s online culture will only supress innovation and dampen growth.’

Another recent paper, this one published from Australia’s Monash University on copyright enforcement also found graduated response or three-strike laws internationally, including New Zealand’s own ‘Skynet Law’ were not working. In New Zealand’s case the report found the law was hardly acting as an effective deterrent to reduce online copyright infringement and people were simply switching from Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing sites to other methods such as cyber-lockers to obtain content

The New Zealand Government unfortunately has decided to delay the anticipated copyright review and with more reports published challenging the effectiveness of graduated response regimes to copyright infringement as seen in our Skynet Law it’s time the Government reopened the copyright debate and let evidence set policy. I would much rather the Government put their energy into promoting legal content over punitive laws that stifle innovation and plainly don’t work.

The London School of Economics report is a very good read at debunking the myth of revenues dropping.

I wouldn’t rush to judgement on how the NZ law is working. The level of fines have been reasonably modest, and what I will be interested in is how many infringement notices in total got issued over a year, how many went to a second and a third strike.

The parliamentary prayer

October 4th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blogs on the parliamentary prayer, which is:

Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Gareth says:

Speaking in my personal capacity, I think it’s time to have a discussion around it.  Like many Kiwis and MPs I am not a Christian and I don’t think the prayer reflects the rich and varied religious and spiritual life in New Zealand in 2013. To me, it’s an issue of having Parliament – the representatives of the people of New Zealand – actually reflect the people of New Zealand rather than only one religious group. We should have an inclusive ceremonial opening that all kiwis can feel comfortable with, whatever their faith.

Not all Parliaments around the world have a prayer, though most inherited the practice from growing out of Britain’s Westminster model. South Africa’s National Assembly and parts of Canada have a moment of silence for personal reflection for MPs. In Scotland, they rotate speakers of different affiliations to reflect the make-up of the census. One week they might have a Christian speaker, and another a speaker with no religious affiliations.

There are three major options as I see it:

  1. The status quo of a Christian prayer
  2. Change the prayer so it isn’t exclusively Christian, but a general spiritual prayer
  3. Have no prayer at all

My preference is 2. I could make a case for 3, but people don’t have to take part in a prayer if they don’t want to. However having a prayer which is exclusive to one religion is not a good thing, and is a bad precedent.

Chatham Rock Phosphate to Gareth Hughes

September 24th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

An open letter from Chatham Rock Phosphate to Gareth Hughes:

You have publicly said you are not against mining per se and will evaluate each project on its merits. We wonder how much faith to put in that statement if the evaluation is based on so little consultation and so few facts.   If you have ruled out this mining project as well as countless others, are there any you do support?

Can anyone identify a mine that has not been opposed?

We’re astonished you have formed such a negative opinion about our project given the compelling potential environmental and economic benefits it offers and its minimal environmental impacts.

To remind you:

1. Chatham Rise rock phosphate, as an ultra-low cadmium direct-application fertiliser, has proven to be as effective as processed fertilisers while reducing run-off effects on New Zealand waterways by up to 80%. 

2. This resource provides fertiliser security for farming by providing a local alternative source.  Most rock phosphate used to make fertiliser now is imported from Morocco.

3. Moroccan rock phosphate is high in cadmium, involves high transport costs and has a significant carbon footprint.

4. New Zealand is predicted to be $900 million richer as a result of our new industry and we’ll be generating annual exports or import substitution of $300 million, plus supporting farming, our biggest earner.

5. By area, the economic value of the phosphate resource is 500 times greater than fishing; it is expected to yield $9.1 million per km2. In contrast, bottom trawling yields less than $20,000 per km2.

So while our operations will have some environmental impacts, they also offer very significant environmental and economic benefits.

The TV3 news item noted your alliance with the fishing industry is an unlikely one.  I agree, given bottom trawling’s massive environmental impacts and lack of environmental oversight.

So the Greens are so anti-mining, they prefer bottom trawling to it!

Our proposed mining operation is subject to a rigorous environmental evaluation and monitoring process. The story that should be getting your attention is not the potential environmental impact of our project, but the freedom of the fishing industry to devastate as much of our EEZ as they like (currently about 50,000 km2 per year, or 385,032 km2 or 9.3% of the EEZ since 1989) with no environmental oversight or monitoring.

We wouldn’t consider extracting phosphate nodules from a very limited area of the Chatham Rise if we expected it to cause more than very minor environmental impacts. Our operations will lift the top 30cm of sandy silt and redeposit 85% of it on the same area of seabed after extracting the nodules. Modelling indicates the material returned will not be widely dispersed, and the sediment that doesn’t immediately settle will rapidly dilute to insignificant levels.

Our draft environmental impact assessment (EIA), supported by more than 30 expert reports, has identified no long-term impacts on key spawning, juvenile and young fish habitat. Any potential impacts are predicted to be confined to our limited extraction areas, and are short-term, reversible, and of low environmental risk. 

But while bottom trawling – ploughing vast tracts of the EEZ seabed decade after decade – requires no environmental consents, our project needs a mining licence and a marine consent. These cost millions of dollars, require years of research, consultation and official process, and involve full public scrutiny.

Chatham’s planned 15-year extraction project will touch a total of 450 km2, far less than 1% of the Chatham Rise.  In contrast, over the same period fishing will bottom trawl 750,000 km2, about three times the size of New Zealand.

This reinforces my view that the Greens tend to be knee-jerk against any new project, rather than treat them on their merits.

UPDATE: Gareth Hughes has responded in the comments.

Gower on Clint

April 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower blogs:

The “Hey Clint!” moment – where Gareth Hughes stops mid-interview and asks a spin doctor what to say – has generated a bit of chatter here and there.

Some people – including even colleagues here in the Press Gallery – have suggested it was wrong to run it, that it was a big call, or even that there were journalistic ethics at stake.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t think this was the ethical issue of the century, or the year, or the week.

Because screening it was the right thing to do. In fact, it was the only thing to do.

I cannot believe there are journalists out there who would think otherwise.

However, I do understand that some in the public like to understand what goes on behind the scenes of political reporting: How we interact with politicians, what’s on and off record, how anonymity and background works. It’s not a secret society – and it shouldn’t be.

So Monday went like this: As soon as my colleague Tova O’Brien finished the interview for my story, she told me what she had.

She’d asked one of the critical questions in the power policy struggle, that after putting a dent in the Mighty River Power sale, potentially wiping hundreds of millions of dollars off it, “are you pleased?”  

Hughes had stopped mid-interview, called “Hey Clint!” and asked political advisor Clint Smith what the answer was.

My thoughts, like Tova’s, were “that’s incredible”. I have never ever before seen a politician call out during an interview for a spin doctor to tell them what the answer is:

Neither have I. You ask them for advice before the interview, but you can’t and don’t ask them for lines during an actual interview. At the end of the day the MPs are the ones who stand for election, not the advisors.

The full video is embedded above.

Now I know a lot of people watch “Hey Clint!” and find it funny.

But to me it showed much more than a bit of humour. It showed what we know – the Greens, like Labour, are trying to act like they are not gleeful that the policy is screwing with the MRP float.

In fact, it looked like Gareth Hughes was stoked. It was in the public interest to run it. No question.

It busted spin, in fact, it blew the spin apart.

It showed that the Greens, like Labour, are trying to come up with ‘lines’ to pretend that it’s not about wrecking the float.

Of course it is an attempt to sabotage the float. The policy could have been announced months ago. In fact why didn’t Labour and Greens campaign on it at the last election – so people had a clear alternative? But they can not accept they lost the election, so are trying to sabotage the float.

If you don’t accept that interpretation, then tell me why else they announced it after the float document was released, and not earlier?

They must be besides themselves with joy. One joint press conference, based on a quickly assembled policy, and they have wiped almost a billion dollars of wealth off investors. think how much more damage they can do if they ever get to actually implement policy. Their printing presses will be going non-stop.

Hey Clint

April 22nd, 2013 at 8:34 pm by David Farrar

If your Energy Spokesperson is asked if he is pleased about something, you’d think he’d be able to answer without having to check with his political advisor.

Twitter has a fairly amusing hash tag running on #heyclint.

There is nothing wrong with checking lines with your staff. But generally you are meant to do that before the interview – not halfway through it!

Labour’s Energy Spokesperson is not in their shadow cabinet, so presumably Gareth will be Minister of Energy in a Greens/Labour Government and in charge of nationalising a $6 billion a year industry. I guess Clint will be a busy man if he is!

Ignoring the cost of capital

April 20th, 2013 at 2:15 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on Wednesday the following graph:



I was pointing out the Greens are against nuclear, coal and large hydro which doesn’t bode well for the future cost of power.

Now Gareth Hughes has responded with this graph:



But do you see what is missing? The cost of capital or construction. These costs are often the largest part of total costs.

Of course once you have a dam in place, or a wind turbine in place, the operating costs are less than having to keep digging up coal from the ground. But capital is not free (unless you print money!) and there is an ongoing cost to capital – either interest or opportunity cost.

So if you look at the graph I provided, it shows that solar has no operating costs (of course) but huge construction costs.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think renewables are the future. I think wind, hydro, solar and even tidal are part of our future energy supply. But they need to be cost effective. Blanket bans on coal and large hydro are not the way to go.

Great news from the Greens

January 28th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Green MP Gareth Hughes blogs:

BusinessDesk said today, “Onshore Taranaki oil explorer TAG Oil is planning more than 130 new onshore wells, with 13 to be drilled in 2013 and consents sought for platforms from which another 120 could eventually be drilled.”

Not all wells will necessarily be fracked, but you can be certain that fracking technology has made the building of these wells economically viable.

That’s great news, and a superb endorsement of fracking. Without it those well would not be viable and we’d have to import more oil from the Middle East, and have fewer jobs and lower tax revenues in NZ.

Hipkins and Hughes

January 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Two more MP profiles in the Herald. First Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins:

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

One of the career pluses for me has been questioning Hekia Parata [Education Minister] in Parliament over the Christchurch schooling stuff. I was able to translate a lot of concern amongst the schools being affected into questions and subsequent action in Parliament.

I think this show Chris’ background as a parliamentary staffer and straight into being an MP, that he cites question time as a highlight!

What MP outside your party impresses you?

I would say Chester Borrows [National, Wanganui] but I would have to say in brackets other than the fact that he closed our local Hutt courthouse. He is a thoroughly decent human being. I worked with him on the justice and electoral select committee when he was the chair of that and I found him to be very, very fair and able to do the job without letting the politics get in the way.

Very generous words by Chris.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

I do. I have a bill that would require the government to produce their documentation and legislation in plain English. There is an international guide around plain language. Legislation has been passed in other jurisdictions, in the US for example, which means the general public should be able to pick up any document or piece of legislation and understand it without having to have someone decode it. It means you steer clear of bureaucratic language and jargon and acronyms and you basically write in such a way that anyone can understand.

Sounds good in principle, though I wonder if a law is needed. It does remind me of some years ago where there was some bill called the paperwork reduction bill, and the advertisement for submissions on it called for 20 copies of your submission to be mailed to the Clerk’s Office! Very ironic. Luckily now most submissions are electronic.

And Green List MP Gareth Hughes:

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

Personally, it has been watching my kids grow up. Arlo is 5 now and Zoe’s 2. I guess politically it has been trying to put the issues of fracking and deep-sea oil drilling on the agenda. I think that well and truly is a bit of an issue nationally and we’ve seen the likes of Petrobras pull out which I think has come, in part, because of that public pressure we’ve seen.

I like the answer about the kids. Fracking is on the agenda, and thanks to Gareth we now better understand the huge economic and environmental benefits of fracking – as seen overseas. I’m not sure this is the result he wanted though!

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

Yes, I’ve got a number I have developed. I’ve got a Copyright Amendment Bill in there which would give Kiwis the ability to use parody and satire which is something we don’t have compared to many other countries. Under the Copyright Act there are a number of exemptions [for copyright] such as for literary criticism or for using for the news. Unfortunately parodying or satirising something isn’t a defence under the Copyright Act.

I’m supportive of this bill. It would bring us into line with other countries such as the US where parody and satire have a fair use provision.

What’s one of the best shows or concerts you’ve been to in recent years?

I’ve really enjoyed Public Service Announcements at Bats Theatre in Wellington. They’ve done three seasons where they just parody politics over the previous month or so. It’s rewritten. They have political characters and they have the mickey taken out of them. The last one was all about David Shearer getting advice from Russel Norman and reminiscing with the ghosts of Lange and Muldoon. I’ve had brief cameos in all of them.

That was a very funny play.

Shane Jones on Q+A on Ross Sea

October 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Shane Jones appeared on Q+A at the weekend to defend the Government’s position on fishing in the Ross Sea, from the Greens. This was notable for several reasons.

  • Jones is currently suspended as a spokesperson for Labour, so shouldn’t be agreeing to go on TV shows unless he no longer regards himself as bound by caucus discipline
  • He was (again) attacking the Greens
  • He was implicitly defending the Government’s position

Shane said:

I actually think the Kiwis are in a fantastic position of leadership, etc. They used a science-based approach. The science around that particular fishery is considerable, not only based on published papers from our own scientific community, but acknowledged by the Aussies and a host of others. Now, if it comes to pass that we completely lock it up, etc, well, that will be a decision that’s made on the basis of values. The fishing industry are there at the moment. I don’t think that their impact is anywhere near as destructive as Gareth would have it. I mean, if you take that money out of the industry, and it’s vastly more than $20 million, I mean, what is the industry to do? It can retire back home and find fresh activities. They’re not going to find activities with Gareth’s approach where they’re banning aquaculture and they’re banning fish farming.

And on the Greens and Greenpeace:

Um, I think Gareth ended up doing the bidding of the green priests, otherwise known as Greenpeace. They are an international franchise organisation, and they raise a great deal of money from our country, and they should expect to be criticised, as we are. Did the workers deserve to be dissed by the Green Party? No, they didn’t. I mean, I think it’s hypocritical at one level. Russel, someone I considerably respect as their leader, is up in a manufacturing inquiry, and Gareth is out there acquiescing with the deprecation and humiliation of New Zealand workers. You can’t have it both ways.

So what does this mean. It certainly fist my theory of Shane being happier in NZ First. NZ First love the fishing industry (especially their cheques).

Claire Robinson noted on the panel:

Interestingly, you know, Shane Jones – that could have been a government representative sitting up there talking to you. He was so much along the lines of what the government might say.

Imagine what the rest of the Labour caucus feels, having a Labour MP on the coveted Q+A show defending the Government.

Scott Yorke blogs:

 Despite not being Labour’s spokesperson on conservation or fisheries (he’s not the party’s spokesperson on any issue, after being stood down pending the Auditor General’s investigation of the William Yan matter), Jones appeared to endorse the government’s approach to the marine reserve issue. He made no attempt to distance his own views from the official Labour position.

Labour hasn’t actually determined its position on the issue. So why did Jones appear at all? Did he get clearance from David Shearer before appearing?

Labour having no position at all, is confirmed in this story:

Labour says it has not taken a position on whether to back the United States proposal for a large reserve in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea or the Government’s proposal for a smaller reserve that are about to be debated in Hobart.

Conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson confirmed yesterday that the party had not taken a formal position, after colleague Shane Jones appeared on TVNZ’s Q&A supporting the Government’s reserve.

“Our consistent policy has been to make sure we always use the best science,” Ruth Dyson said, as it had done to support the net bans to protect Maui dolphins.

Saying our policy is to use the best science is a slogan not a policy. The question is quite simple – does Labour back the US proposal or the NZ proposal?

Scott continues:

Labour needs a leader who will bring wayward MPs into line, because the voting public will not enthuse over a party that does not have a clear and consistent message. If some MPs won’t accept that then they need to be encouraged to consider their futures.

Or maybe he already has. Either way, the ball is in Shearer’s court.

Best reply ever

June 29th, 2012 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

From the parliamentary written questions database:

3061 (2012). Gareth Hughes to the Minister of Energy and Resources (20 Apr 2012): Where, to the best of the Minister’s knowledge, has hydraulic fracturing occured in New Zealand?
Hon Phil Heatley (Minister of Energy and Resources) replied: Underground.
Heh. MPs need to be precise with how they ask questions 🙂

Kiwi music at risk

March 13th, 2012 at 8:07 am by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blog at Frog Blog:

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations having just occurred in Melbourne I’m urging the Government not to surrender New Zealand’s sovereignty on copyright so we can keep enjoying Kiwi Music in the public domain.

Under a leaked draft of the TPPA, copyright length is to be extended from 50 to ‘…not less than 95 years from the end of the calendar year of the first authorized publication of the work, performance, or phonogram,’ meaning music and recordings set to enter the public domain in New Zealand will take decades longer.

An iconic song that would be impacted by the copyright extension is the Fourmyula’s “Nature”which was voted the best New Zealand song ever written. Produced in 1969 this song should enter the public domain in 2020 to be remixed, re-played, and re-imagined however under proposed TPPA rules Kiwis would have to wait to 2065. Likewise Ray Columbus’s “She’s a Mod,” released in June 1964 wouldn’t enter the public domain till 2059.

The extension in the term of copyright would mean no new works would enter the public domain in New Zealand until at least the late 2050s negatively impacting access to New Zealand culture and history. In particular ‘orphan works’ that aren’t available commercially would just not be accessible.

Kiwi listeners and artists will miss out on freely accessing Kiwi classics until the 2060s not benefiting the musicians who would have likely died decade’s prior, but benefitting mostly very profitable businesses who own the copyright. Copyright is about finding a balance and I welcome a discussion – should it be 40, 50, 60 years etc. but I think 95 years is extreme.

95 years definitely is extreme, and the TPP should not be used to rewrite our copyright and other intellectual property laws. The Government has been resisting the US demands, but of course at some stage there will be great pressure to make concessions. Our concessions should be  allowing the US to export whatever goods or services they want to us, but not allowing them to export their laws onto us.

MP to have plastic surgery

August 28th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

But this surgery is in a good cause. Sunday News reports:

MP Gareth Hughes will have plastic surgery to repair a badly broken nose, busted while playing for the Parliamentary Rugby XV.

Hughes, the only Green Party MP in the side, suffered the injury on Monday in a game against a Diplomatic Corps XV in Wellington. The match was a warm-up for the Parliamentary World Cup, starting next Sunday.

The broken nose forced him out of yesterday’s game against a West Coast invitational team in Greymouth – won by the Coasters 12-0.

“I got the ball out of a ruck and started charging it up,” Hughes said. “But then I got knocked with some guy’s forearm.

“I went down and an awesome amount of blood came out. I went off to hospital and they said, `Wow, that [nose] is really bent’.” …

Hughes will return to Wellington next week for surgery to straighten his nose.

“I’m out of the World Cup unfortunately,” he said.

“But I will offer to be their water boy.

Hughes suffered cracked ribs in his debut for the Parliamentary World Cup side at Murupara in July.

“But it hasn’t put me off rugby. I will definitely play again when I am fit,” he said.

Good on Gareth for showing some Kiwi guts, and sticking with the game.

Double talk from the Greens

July 26th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blogs:

The Green Party does not have a deal with the Labour candidate, Charles Chauvel, nor does it intend to ask its supporters to vote for him in an attempt to defeat Peter Dunne in the Ōhariu seat. …

In Ōhariu, just like in every other electorate, we are only campaigning for Kiwis’ party vote.

I’m not telling people who to vote for as their electorate MP in Ōhariu but I am upfront with them – I like Charles and I think Dunne is done: he’s out-dated and voters are tiring of his brand of bland ‘any way the wind blows’ politics. This is evidenced by his falling popularity in the electorate over the last three elections, as well as his dismal party vote throughout the country.

Our position is very different from National’s deals in Epsom and Ōhariu where they are telling their supporters to vote for the Act and United Future Party’s candidates.

This is double talk, or less politely crap. Gareth is trying to say he is not telling people to vote Chauvel, except that he also says he is telling people he likes Chauvel and thinks Dunne is done.

Gareth also mis-represents National’s position. It is in fact identical to what the Greens are doing. National is campaigning for the party vote only in Epsom and Ohariu. It is not telling supporters whom to vote for.

I can guarantee you that Gareth will tell far far more people to support Chauvel, than Katrina Shanks will tell people to vote Peter Dunne. Katrina will be loyal and campaign for the party vote only I am sure, but I suspect it will be a warm day in hell before she tells someone to vote for Peter Dunne.

To some degree, it is all a fuss about nothing anyway. So long as candidates are on the ballot paper, people have a choice to vote for them. And most party supporters do not give a toss what the party hierarchy wants them to do. In 2005 the party hierarchy wrote letters to all Epsom voters asking them to vote for Richard Worth, but the National voters made up their own mind and voted Hide.

Likewise in Ohariu Katrina got around 7,000 votes, despite United Future having pledged it would support a National-led Government, and had John Key welcome it.

Now I am not the only one less than impressed with the Greens double-talk. John Hartevelt blogs:

If it looks like a deal, sounds like a deal and smells like a deal, it’s probably a deal.

The Green Party has taken great offence at the suggestion they are tied up in some kind of agreement with Labour in the Ohariu electorate.

Co-leader Metiria Turei told off the media via Twitter for not getting their side of the story before pushing what the party is now calling “rumours” of a deal in Ohariu. The party insists there is no deal with Labour. Rather, there is some convoluted position whereby Greens candidate Gareth Hughes doesn’t tell people to vote for him or for Labour’s Charles Chauvel … but he does say that incumbent Peter Dunne is a dinosaur and ought to go; that the Greens are concentrating on the party vote; AND that, by the way, they reckon Mr Chauvel is really rather great. Ahem, wink wink, nudge nudge.

Well frankly, I call BS on the Greens’ position. …

Labour have played this game also. For example, Helen Clark told people in 2005 to vote for Richard Worth, to try and keep Rodney out. Parties will always advocate people vote in a way which maximises their chance of being in Government. This is why we might see Phil Goff encourage people to vote for Winston Peters, to help Labour’s chances of forming a Government.

An own goal

March 5th, 2011 at 11:39 am by David Farrar

I think almost everyone in NZ has been impressed with the Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch. They formed from a good idea and a Facebook page for the 1st earthquake and sprung back into life for the second earthquake.

Green MP Gareth Hughes blogged a post in praise of them. I agree with him saying:

The volunteers and organisers I met today represent the nation at its best. Simple and humble community-service and hard-work mixed with cutting edge online tools and organisational software (with a large dose of fun mixed in). They all deserve medals.

But then Gareth had to go for the cheap political jibe, concluding with:

The image of the lazy, selfish, and drunk student or the inept and corrupt student association so favoured of ACT and National Party arguments is well and truly busted.

I commented:

Oh Gareth you were doing so well before you went for the cheap and nasty political jibe. You could have just praised the students for the wonderful job they have done.

Before you embarrass yourself further, you might want to reflect that the student who organised the SVA, and whose idea it all is, is a National Party member. So maybe your little smear against National is rather stupid.

The SVA is not political, and it was only when Gareth tried to politicise the great job they have done, did I point out how ludicrous his position is.

And kudos to UCSA for getting behind the SVA and providing support to it. UCSA is one of the better run student associations, and I’ve blogged this in the past – in fact held up the market research they recently did on what services students want as a model for other campuses.

To make things worse for the Greens, my comment was deleted from the blog after it was made. It later reappeared (along with Whale’s – see his blog here) and the disappearance was put down to technical issues.

Japan buying votes

June 14th, 2010 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blogs at Frog Blog:

A Sunday Times investigation has exposed Japan for bribing small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support for the mass slaughter of whales.

The British seem to excel at this type of investigative journalism (think Fergie) and this will really embarrass the Japanese whaling industry. While we’ve known for a long time that Japan uses aid money to buy votes at the IWC, this investigation gives amounts and a personal touch to the reality. For example, the Tanzanian IWC Commissioner Geoffrey Nanyaro, who talks about an all expenses paid trips to Japan and being set up with prostitutes there – “…it starts by saying: do you want massaging? Are you not lonely? You don’t want any comfort?” Like the experiences certain former ministers are having here, these practises behind closed doors look outrageous once they are out in the open.

Will it impact on the IWC negotiations currently happening in Morocco? I’m not sure – it’s embarrassing but I imagine the ‘bought’ nations will keep voting with Japan who also provocatively sent out its whaling fleet for the Northern Pacific hunt last week.

I’m not a fan of the lunatics at Sea Shepherd, but neither am I fan of the Japanese Government on the whaling issue. Their shameless vote buying at the IWC would get them jailed if it was done on a person to person basis, rather than govt to govt.

This is partly why a negotiated agreement with Japan would be a useful outcome – it would end the years of corruption that has almost destroyed the IWC’s credibility.

New Zealand has negotiated in good faith to try and reach a diplomatic compromise, and I still hope we can reach one that strengthens whale conservation, but this really is an outrageous practice by Japan that makes joining Australia in taking a case to the International Court of Justice a much more appealing option.

Like Gareth, I believe a diplomatic compromise that enhances whale conservation would be a good thing. I have to say it is not looking highly likely. If the diplomatic route fails, then the ICJ is worth considering. However that has its dangers also – if you lose, then the Japanese position will be greatly improved.

Jeanette resigns

January 28th, 2010 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

Jeanette Fitzsimons has announced she will resign from Parliament in February.

Jeanette has almost been the iconic face of the Greens, and their brand will suffer without her. Gareth Hughes has some large shoes to fill.

Jeanette’s politics are not my own, but MPs from both National and Labour will say she was a very good person to work with, and I doubt she has any enemies in the House.

Like Sue Bradford, Jeanette would have loved to have become a Minister, but Helen kept rejecting her in favour of Peter Dunne and Winston Peters!