Thursday, November 09, 2006

National's hypocrisy on coal

Yesterday in Question Time, National Party climate change spokesperson Dr Nick Smith attacked the government over Marsden B, asking the Prime Minister

Why have her Ministers supported the decision of the Government company Mighty River Power to proceed with a 320-megawatt coal-fired power station in Whangarei—a plant with a life of 40 years, over which it will emit 36 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere—and how is that decision consistent with the Prime Minister’s aspiration that New Zealand should be carbon neutral?

Quite apart from the fact that the government hasn't so much "supported" Marsden B as taken the usual stance of not interfering in the day to day business decisions of an SOE, its a bit rich for National to be complaining about this. In case anyone has forgotten, back in 2004 National was explicitly supporting Marsden B, saying that

The Government must ensure that it doesn’t let the RMA sink this desperately needed piece of generation like it sank Project Aqua

and that "coal has a key role to play in the future generation needs for New Zealand" and that therefore National would oppose any carbon tax.

Labour has been slack in acting on climate change - but National has been far worse, opposing any action whatsoever and even going so far as to deny that the problem was even real. For them to complain now about the government's slow pace is the height of hypocrisy.


Hypocritical, for sure, but as a Greens supporter I see it as an overwhelmingly positive sign of position change.

Of course it only means anything if National intend to stay pointed in the 180-degree position, otherwise it is empty grandstanding of the highest order.


Posted by Anonymous : 11/09/2006 09:39:00 AM

I think you are being far too hard on National (of course). You overlook that one of the important roles of the Opposition is to hold the Govt to account over the Govt's own promises.

In that role, it doesn't matter what National's own policy on greenhose gases is (that is important in other roles such as promoting an alternative Govt) - ttheir job is to scrutinise the Govt's actions over the Govt's rhetoric and promises. So if Clark make huge audacious claims of carbon neutrality, you want the Opposition to be pointing out the Govt's actions are leagues away from their new rhetoric.

Posted by David Farrar : 11/09/2006 10:17:00 AM

While you may be right, I think we want to encourage this behaviour rather than discourage it.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/09/2006 10:49:00 AM

Indeed David. National's job is to point out the failings of the Government.

And it is the role of public commentators to point out the failings of opposition political parties.

If National are sincere in their position, and support ending our coal burning and mining industries I'll be the first to cheer. But given National's outspoken history over climate change, they need to prove they're not merely grandstanding.

Contrary to your assertion, it DOES matter what policy National has. You can't just attack the Government without having credible alternatives.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/09/2006 01:56:00 PM