Palmer calls for a written constitution

April 6th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s time for New Zealand to draw up its own constitution and a 40-page document would be enough, says constitutional law expert and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

Palmer has long advocated greater attention to the country’s constitutional laws but said he had reached “a new plateau”. 

In Nelson to address the Spirited Conversations group on this subject, he said he hadn’t before advocated a full written constitution.

The architect of the 1986 Constitution Act and the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, he said an entrenched bill of rights was no longer enough. 

I support a written constitution.

This would be a significant change, as implicitly or explicitly it would give the courts the power to strike down laws that breach the constitution.

I used to be opposed to such a power, but changed my mind around a decade ago.

When the Clark Government had Parliament retrospectively amend the Electoral Act so one of their MPs could avoid a by-election, after he had breached the Act – that was when I realised that you need stronger protections against a majority in Parliament. A Parliament that can retrospectively amend the Electoral Act to avoid a by-election, is one that could change the term of Parliament to ten years without consultation.

So I think we do need some laws that MPs can’t change or ignore at whim.

Palmer on Lange and Clark

November 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Anthony Hubbard at Stuff reports:

The Lange government fell apart, Sir Geoffrey says, because of “a failure of one of the most basic principles of Cabinet government”.

Prime Minister David Lange was the main culprit. He canned the newly elected government’s notorious economic package of December 1987, a dramatic lurch to the Right based on a flat income tax and sweeping privatisation.

Lange’s unilateral decision was something “that you can’t do”, Sir Geoffrey says. “And that’s why it all fell apart.”

He points to the selfishness of both men. “Neither David nor Roger seemed in their epic struggle to consider the interests of anyone but themselves,” he writes.

There were faults on both sides, “but David had serious weaknesses that in the end destroyed his government”.

“He could not or would not have meaningful discussions with Roger Douglas over their differences.”

In terms of the actual management of government, Lange was arguably the most incompetent Prime Minister we’ve had. He had great strengths but he couldn’t do the basics right.

“He was not well organised personally and lacked administrative skills. His office was not well run and that was his fault.

“He did not have much stamina for meetings, and politics requires many long meetings. He often left meetings for long periods, aimlessly wandering about talking to people.”

Lange’s “multifarious health problems affected not only his ability for sustained work but also in later years his judgment. . .

“Neither did he seem to be able or willing in Cabinet to argue strongly for particular policy positions, so it was hard to see where he was coming from.

“He really did not exert much influence over the policies of his own government. He was not an effective policy operator.”

Nature abhors a vacuum, and this is probably one of the reasons why Roger Douglas ended up almost running the Government.

When Sir Geoffrey became prime minister, Helen Clark was elected as his deputy. His assessment of her performance is cool.

Clark “is, as everyone knows, extremely able. She was not, however, an ideal deputy because she had only been a minister since the 1987 election.

“In January 1990 she was saddled with two new and difficult portfolios, health and labour. As a result, she did not have the time to devote to firefighting and management of the whole.

“Her style was to micromanage her portfolios. She had strong connections with the party and that was very helpful, but I found myself wishing sometimes that I had a deputy of the type I had been.”

Loyal? Clark knifed Palmer to install Moore.

Worth noting

October 1st, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Slate, an influential US publication, notes:

Most governments are unwilling to own up to unlawful surveillance. But not in New Zealand. The country’s prime minister this week admittedthat one of its spy agencies illegally intercepted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom’s communications for a full month—prompting aninquiry into how it was allowed to happen. …

In response to the revelation, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has apologized to Dotcom. Key has also ordered the GCSB to review all cases dating back to 2009. That Key has apologised is commendable, as is his handling of the illegal spying generally. There are few governments in the world willing to candidly publicly acknowledge wrongdoing by their intelligence agencies, especially when it comes to high profile cases. When authorities commit wrongdoing the tendency is often to keep it under wraps in a self-interested bid to protect reputations. In this case, despite knowing it would cause controversy and a storm of negative reaction, N.Z.’s government chose disclosure over secrecy. A rare example of transparency more countries could do well to follow.

Also former Labour PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer has said:

Well it’s hard for me to say that, but it is clear to me that the Prime Minister did really get stuck into this agency very heavily when he found out what they’d done.  I am sure they’re all running  very scared there now, and that they are trying to rectify what was an egregious error, and it seems to me that that’s what a minister should do when confronted with this sort of situation.  The doctrine of administerial responsibility says you have to put it right.

The PM sent in the Inspector-General when notified, informed the public what had happened, released the IG’s report, and gave the GCSB a powerful public booting.  Other PMs might have kept it all private.

Palmer was asked:

Is there a need do you think then, for a wider inquiry?

His response:

Well I think you have to be very careful about this.  These two intelligence agencies, the GCSB and the Security Intelligence Service are both intelligence agencies.  You can’t have an open inquiry like a commission of inquiry with evidence in public about that, because these agencies will cease to be any use if their secrecy is not preserved.

Hat Tip to Whale for the Slate link.

Looks fair

September 2nd, 2011 at 4:24 pm by David Farrar

YNet reports:

UN’s Palmer Report says Israel’s Gaza blockade legal, slams ‘reckless’ violence of Turkish activists facing IDF soldiers; however, Israel’s deadly raid on vessel characterized as ‘excessive, unreasonable’

A long-anticipated United Nations report on Israel‘s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound ship in 2010 justifies Israel’s blockade of the Strip, but accuses the IDF of using “excessive and unreasonable” force to stop the vessel.

 The UN’s Palmer Report was first published by the New York Times Thursday evening. The full report is available here.

Addressing Israel’s Gaza blockade, the UN’s Palmer Report notes that the Jewish state “faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza.”

“The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law,” the report says.

The UN panel noted that Israeli forces who boarded the Mavi Marmara in order to prevent it from breaching the blockade faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers,” adding that the violence required the IDF to use force.

I thought that Sir Geoffrey would do a fair job, and without having read the full report, it looks like he did.

The summary that the blockade was legal, that the passengers were armed and violent but that the Israelis used excessive force in responding is pretty much what I expected would be the situation.

Sadly Turkey is rejecting the recommended settlement.

The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

Sir Geoffrey and Gaza

August 3rd, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says he is honoured to head an inquiry into the fatal Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla earlier this year. …

Overnight United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon announced the four-member panel, to be chaired by Sir Geoffrey with outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice-chairman, plus one Israeli and one Turkish member.

The identities of the members from Turkey and Israel were not given on Monday, but the panel is due to begin work on August 10 and submit a first progress report by mid-September. …

Mr Key said Sir Geoffrey had done a tremendous job representing New Zealand on the International Whaling Commission.

“He’s a very, very intelligent man and has a great knowledge of the law and I think it is (also) a recognition that New Zealand is seen as an honest broker, we don’t take sides between Palestine and Israel.

“I think it would be great for New Zealand if it took place.”

Israel’s decision to back the panel was unexpected as it had for weeks insisted it would not co-operate with any international probe and instead launched two internal inquiries.

The about-turn followed contacts and consultations with a seven-member Israeli ministerial forum to ensure that “this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true,” the Israeli leader said.

“It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

I think this is a good decision. I may not like his report on alcohol laws, but I do respect his ability and fairness, and hope he will be able to help resolve the tensions surrounding what happened with the flotilla. I understand he has an expert background in maritime law which is of course highly desirable.

Editorials 8 June 2010

June 8th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald says work can make you better:

For some time, the startling increase in the number of people on sickness and invalids benefits has been as vexing as it is worrying. Have we become a sickly society? Is this the logical consequence of an ageing population? The relentless rise in the number of such beneficiaries – from 1.2 per cent of the working-age group in 1980 to 4.8 per cent today – suggested other factors were at work. Indeed, it is now apparent that a major factor is mental illness. Psychological disorders, led by stress and depression, accounted for the entire increase in sickness benefits and a third of the increase in invalids benefits from 1996 to 2002. This has obvious implications for those charged with getting as many beneficiaries as possible back into the workforce. …

Happily, it has just been highlighted by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which, in a position statement, noted that “the evidence is compelling: for most individuals, good work improves general health and wellbeing and reduces psychological stress”. The college points to a recent British review, which found the beneficial effects of work outweighed any risks, with the benefits much greater than the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence.

I’ve had a couple of brief periods of unemployment or under-employment. During those times I did volunteer work so I was still doing something, rather than nothing.

The Press focuses on the proposed Gaza flotilla inquiry:

The Israelis also fear what they see as the stitch-up that the Goldstone inquiry into the assault on Gaza a couple of years ago became. Although it was led by a respected South African former judge, Richard Goldstone, and made some efforts at even-handedness, that inquiry’s findings were quickly unpicked by critics as weighted unfairly towards the Palestinians and ultimately were easily dismissed. One of Palmer’s tasks, if he gets the job, will be to ensure that the inquiry is conducted with a scrupulous regard to impartiality. A properly conducted inquiry might help defuse some of the tension that the raid has generated. It might go some way to averting serious and lasting diplomatic damage that at the moment seems inevitable.

I may not agree with Sir Geoffrey on alcohol reform, but I think he would be a very good choice for this role. NZ is one of the few countries seen pretty much as an honest broker, and a proper inquiry would be very beneficial.

The Dom Post talks road safety:

Last year 10 people died on the roads over Queen’s Birthday Weekend. By late yesterday this year’s toll was one. That is good news, but it is still one too many.

Aroha Ormsby was killed when she was thrown from a car. Her death leaves three young children motherless, and friends and family confronting a personal tragedy that will never be revealed by a study of the bald statistics.

The death of Ms Ormsby – and of the hundreds of other New Zealanders killed each year – is why the police were right to trial a lower tolerance for those who break the speed limit. As long as there are New Zealanders dying on the roads there can be no slackening in the effort to make the roads safer.

The sceptics will point to the atrocious weather over the holiday break, and say that the low toll and lower speeds owe as much to people staying home or slowing down in the rain. That will have played a role but so too will the increased prospect of a ticket.

I certainly think the appalling weather was the major contributor. I also think it is unwise to jump to conclusions based on just two data points.

They should remember that the 100kmh limit is just that – a legal limit. It is not meant to be treated as an infinitely flexible guideline, something that applies unless the road is clear and it’s a sunny day, or unless there is a car that needs overtaking

I hope the editorial writer has never over taken a car by exceeding the limit. Never mind that to overtake a car travelling 90 km/hr means you need a straight road with no cars coming for at least 2,000 metres to do so without exceeding 100 km/hr.

The ODT looks at Labour’s mud and smears:

The Labour Party seems unable to get over the fact that John Key is wealthy, and it has frequently made attempts to imply or demonstrate that he gained his wealth deviously, and continues to do so.

None of these efforts has succeeded.

Helen Clark tried it when she claimed Mr Key personally profited from the 1993 privatisation of Tranz Rail, because he had been a former director of Bankers Trust, which won a contract to advise the then National government on the sale.

At the relevant time, however, Mr Key was nowhere near the sale; he was operating as a foreign exchange dealer.

Ms Clark may have been badly advised, but this did not slow her attempts to muddy the Prime Minister’s credibility, especially in the business and commercial world.

Clark and Labour’s view seem to be if you made your money in business, you must be corrupt – the only honest way to earn money is as a teacher, academic or unionist.

The latest attempt has been made by another senior party figure, the Dunedin North MP, Peter Hodgson, who has tried to show the Prime Minister knows what assets are held in his “blind trust”, implying that a conflict of interest has or can arise where government policy is concerned, to Mr Key’s financial advantage.

That is a serious claim to make where public figures are concerned who hold positions where they can influence policy.

Mr Hodgson’s “evidence” – it hardly justifies the description – has been successful to the extent that Mr Key, in responding, seems to have had some knowledge of one asset in particular.

It is no more than that, however: there is no shred of proof that his knowledge – if he had it – has been used to influence policy to his advantage.

Key’s crime is that three weeks after the blind trust was set up, he referred to owning a vineyard that was now in the blind trust.

That appears to be the end of the latest attempt to impugn the Prime Minister for his wealth, but it is unlikely to be the last.

The ODT has got to the heart of the real crime – that John Key is wealthy. You can just feel the envy and hatred blister as they snidely refer to his holiday home in Hawaii. How dare he have become wealthy.

Palmer to head Gaza inquiry?

June 6th, 2010 at 5:02 pm by David Farrar

Haaretz reports:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed a proposal to Israel to set up an international commission of inquiry into the raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla a week ago.

The head of the committee would be former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, an expert on maritime law. Committee members would include representatives from the United States, Turkey and Israel.

Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry said Israel should consider the idea favorably.
I think this is a very good thing. It would reinforce NZ’s role as a honest broker who doesn’t take sides, and I think Sir Geoffrey would be scrupulously fair.
With so many allegations on both side, an independent inquiry which establishes what happened, and what was legal, would be very useful.

The war against alcohol

April 23rd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my weekly Dispatch from St Johnnysburg at NBR 24/7 I write:

The anti-alcohol industry (and it is an industry – mainly taxpayer funded) will be delighted by the Law Commission’s report when it is released on Tuesday. They have succeeded in convincing the Law Commission that alcohol should be treated in the same way as tobacco – an evil to be heavily discouraged, if not prevented.

I focus on how the role of the Law Commission has changed from quiet diligent updating of laws to:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer has morphed back into his former role of a crusading politician, and has spent months talking about the evils of alcohol. He even went out to Courtenay Place with a Police escort, and said he saw scenes that “no civilized society can relish”.

I end up at Courtenay Place around once a month on average. Often until well past 2 am. Sometimes there to dance and party with friends, but often just to carry on chatting politics and life over a few drinks. I’ve never seen these scenes “no civilised society can relish”.

The crusading was not restricted to New Zealand. Sir Geoffrey even went to Australia, and spoke at an Australian Drug Foundation conference. Not the Minister., ot the Director-General of Health, but the Law Commission President. The 68 year old Sir Geoffrey decried the fact that people put photos from parties up on Facebook. He wants an end to people getting drunk – an endeavour that would be as likely to succeed as prohibition succeeded in the 1930s.

I await the proposal to ban photos from Facebook which show alcohol.

The full article is subscriber content at NBR.

The Law Commission proposals on alcohol

April 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Government is releasing a 500 page report next Tuesday from the Law Commission which makes scores of recommendations of changes to alcohol laws and policy.

The report was commissioned by the former Labour Government, and the primary author is former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer – who is also the Law Commission President.

Details of the report have leaked out, and I can exclusively reveal some of these. They represent a nanny state mindset which I doubt even the last Government would have ever gone along with. It stops short of prohibition and six o’clock closing, but represents a huge step backwards. Fundamentally the report fails to propose measures that target the minority of people who cause problems of crime and violence when under the influence of alcohol, and instead it has gone for a one size fits all approach which punishes millions of responsible drinkers, and especially 130,000 18 and 19 year olds.

I understand the Palmer Report proposes:

  1. A massive 50% increase in the excise tax on alcohol. This would result in an extra $500 million of revenue to the Crown at the expense of everyone who drinks.
  2. Banning the sale of liquor at off licenses after 10 pm. So if you pop into New World at 10.30 pm to do your shopping (which I often do), you won’t be able to buy a bottle of wine.
  3. Forcing bars and nightclubs to refuse to allow people to enter after 2 am.
  4. A nationwide closing time for all outlets, probably at 4 am.
  5. An increase in the purchase age for alcohol from 18 to 20, criminalising 130,000 18 and 19 year olds if they buy alcohol.

As I said, this is nanny state unleashed. What is most disappointing is the failure to come up with measures that might actually target those causing the problems such as a drinking age (instead of a purchase age), increased penalties for alcohol related crime, and a one size fit all approach.

I would not necessarily be against allowing local communities through local Government able to (for example) set a closing time for their local neighbourhood.  But a nationwide closing time that treats Ponsonby and Courtney Place as the same as (say) Wainuiomata is a bad thing.

I am sure there are some useful recommendations in the Palmer Report, but its main recommendations represent the worst excesses of nanny state and punishes all New Zealanders, rather than targeting problem drinkers and the associated violence and crime they cause.

I hope the Government, and in fact all parties in Parliament, reject any wholesale adoption of the report’s recommendations.

Armstrong on ship visits

April 15th, 2010 at 6:55 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Still waters run deep when it comes to the public’s attachment to New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy. Just how deep could be plumbed by this week’s misinterpretation – deliberate in some instances – of a few innocuous remarks by Sir Geoffrey Palmer about the desirability of an American naval vessel soon visiting a New Zealand port. …

Sir Geoffrey’s statement that a port visit would be “desirable” was rapidly translated on both sides of the political fence as him arguing for a change in the anti-nuclear law.

I never thought it meant that.

He was certainly not advocating any change to the anti-nuclear policy. He doesn’t need to do so. Whether the Americans send ships here is purely a matter of their choosing. That has been the case for the past 19 years.

In 1991, the US removed all nuclear weapons from its surface naval vessels, confining such firepower to ballistic nuclear missiles on its nuclear-powered submarines. Along with those submarines, other surface vessels – principally aircraft carriers – were still shut out by New Zealand’s tandem ban on nuclear-powered vessels.

The upshot was that all the Prime Minister had to do to determine if a ship could enter New Zealand’s coastal waters was to consult Jane’s Fighting Ships, the reference bible on the world’s navies.

The point I made yesterday.

What is really at stake here, however, is the mending of the extensive military ties between Washington and Wellington which existed before the bust-up of Anzus in the 1980s.

The restoration of such links is hotly opposed in some political quarters. The easiest way to try to stop that happening is to scare the public into thinking the anti-nuclear policy is under threat. Sir Geoffrey unwittingly provided the platform for others to do that.

In other words a bout of scare-mongering.

Palmer calls for US ships to visit

April 10th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at the Dom Post reports:

A driving force behind New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, says it is time for United States Navy ships to return to our waters.

As Prime Minister John Key heads to Washington for a summit which seeks to rid the world of nuclear weapons, Sir Geoffrey said ship visits would not breach New Zealand’s anti-nuclear laws. The return of the US Navy was not only possible “but desirable”.

Now that NZ ships have visted the US for the first time in 25 years, a return visit makes sense.

There are very few US ships that would be unable to visit, under our legislation.

Some aircraft carriers are nuclear powered, but generally they would not visit anyway – we are too far out of the way, and they are too big for some of our ports to handle. A pity, in a way, as I’d love to tour one.

The other are some of the US submarine fleet. But many of the subs don’t do port visits anyway as their job is to sit at the bottom of the ocean, with some missiles pointed towards North Korea.

So I’m all for a visit by a US ship, just as Canadian, Australian, British and Japanense ships visit here also.

Palmer on Whaling

March 21st, 2010 at 4:38 pm by David Farrar

Q+A interviewed former Labour PM and NZ’s rep to the IWC, Sir Geoffrey Palmer:

GEOFFREY No I’m saying that’s the number of permits that are issued, the number of – they don’t always kill the number that they issue permits for, they’re killing on average over 1600 whales a year right now commercially.

GUYON So how many will be killed after this proposal should it go ahead?

GEOFFREY We don’t know because that hasn’t been negotiated yet, but unless it’s a substantial reduction it won’t be worth countries like New Zealand considering, it has to be a substantial reduction, that’s the whole purpose of this exercise.

And this is what Labour is campaigning against – a substantial reduction in whaling. They are saying best to have futile protests against whaling, rather than actually achieve a reduction.

GUYON You’re saying that the moratorium on commercial whaling won’t actually be lifted, under what grounds then will whales be killed under this proposal?

GEOFFREY They’ll be killed under an interim arrangement that for ten years there will be an ability for the Whaling Commission to function. This is one of the worst international organisations we have, it is completely dysfunctional, it is a place where there are enormous disputes. For the last two years there’s been a complicated international negotiation going on, to try and bring it together so it can work, because if it doesn’t work it will collapse, and if it collapses there’ll be nothing to protect the whales.

People don’t realise that Japan and allies are close to gaining a majority on the IWC, which would allow them to remove all barriers on whaling. That will be great for the protest movement but not so good for the whales.

GUYON This is though with all respect, a major change in New Zealand’s position on whaling. I mean we have had a staunch opposition to any form of commercial whaling and now we’re saying that we are potentially supporting a proposal that would allow that under certain grounds.

GEOFFREY We’re not saying that, we’re saying that we have to do something to fix the position of whales and make it better so fewer are killed. We’re not supporting commercial whaling, I don’t think New Zealand will ever support that. The question is how you achieve your objectives. The only other way of looking at this question is to offer to litigate at the International Court of Justice as Australia is offering to do, we regard that as a very uncertain proposition at all, and if that case were lost the situation would be worse than it is now.

Yet Chris Carter continues to misrepresent even his former Leader, on this issue by claiming NZ is supporting commercial whaling.

The whaling debate

March 10th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Browning at Pundit pulls no punches:

Shame on Labour spokesperson Chris Carter and partisan blog The Standard for using anti-whaling diplomacy for short-term political gain

Never has the right-wing sobriquet “The Stranded” seemed more appropriate.

I am truly loathe to diss a friendly fellow blog, and I apologise for it already. But they asked for it. It stems from this hysterical politicisation of New Zealand’s IWC negotiating stance, here and here, by The Standard blogger Eddie, which even one of their own readers characterised as “partisan hackery”. “I’m not sure what I think of this [wrote Neil] but using it as an excuse for more partisan hackery is tedious”. That didn’t stop Labour spokesperson Chris Carter wading in:

And then:

Even more offensive than Eddie’s posts was colleague Marty G’s comments, excoriating anyone who might disagree on the comments thread, evidently mistaking ad hominem for wit: “I don’t give a crap about Palmer … have you suffered a head injury? … follow the link in the post, genius” … and so on.

Claire concludes:

Using dead whales as pawns in a political game is no less sickening than their original butchery. Carter says the Labour Party stands for their conservation. What I take from the past two day’s performance is that it stands for ill advised unnuanced politicking, over substantive hard policy choices.

John Armstrong also looks at the diplomatic proposal:

Has New Zealand sold out to Japan by backing a compromise proposal before the International Whaling Commission which would reopen the door to commercial slaughter of whales, albeit in limited numbers?

The answer is an emphatic “no”. If John Key and his Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, should plead guilty to any charge, it is to one of being realistic.

The one-dimensional “you are either with us or against us” nature of the debate between the pro- and anti-whaling brigades leaves little room for the subtlety and nuance of diplomacy which – despite the hairy chest-beating of Australia’s Rudd Government – is the only viable means of reducing the ever-increasing number of whales being harpooned in the southern oceans.

Even the merest hint of concession to the Japanese had the Government this week labelled as “pro-whaling” by Labour. That is absurd. It is equally absurd to paint the Government’s caution compared with Australia’s bellicosity as evidence National does not give a toss about the environment.

Were that true then Sir Geoffrey Palmer – someone with a passion for preserving the environment and the expertise in international law to make it happen in this case – would by now have presumably resigned as New Zealand’s Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission.

And what has happened under the present stand off:

The status quo on whaling is no longer tenable. Japan’s ships continue to steam through the huge loophole which permits whales to be killed for “scientific” purposes. The number of whales slaughtered each year for science has risen steadily from 300 in 1990 to an expected 3000 this year.

Australia’s threat to take Japan to the International Court of Justice might make people feel a lot better about those figures. It will not save one whale. It could in fact endanger many more.

It would be years before the court made a judgment. If Australia were to lose its case on the legality of whaling, it could be open slather on the species.

The only thing Australia is likely to achieve is wrecking any consensus on the plan to allow commercial whaling for a 10-year period, but with big cuts in the numbers killed each year,

This plan would buy time for the commission while restoring some control over the numbers killed – something it is powerless to do with regard to scientific whaling . …

With an election later this year, narrowing opinion polls plus a manifesto commitment to go to the international court, Kevin Rudd is having severe problems with digestion. His tough talk should be seen for what it really is – utter expedience, making New Zealand’s stance look principled in comparison.