Monday, February 09, 2009

Who funded the NZIER report II

Last month, we learned that Solid Energy was subverting democracy again by using public money to pay for a report aimed at undermining the government's climate change policy. In a defence unworthy of a four-year old, Solid Energy claimed that they were not the only government entity to do so, and that the report was funded by "a range of companies and organisations, including government departments". So who were these other government entities? We've already learned that it wasn't Timberlands, Mighty River Power, or Transpower. And now thanks to the OIA, we have some more answers.

Or rather, non-answers. Because despite Solid Energy's claim, no-one else seems to want to own up to funding it. Neither Genesis Energy (prime suspect 1), Treasury (prime suspect 2), or the Department of Conservation helped fund the NZIER's report on "The impact of the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme on New Zealand’s economy", and none helped pay for any related research. Treasury did provide a $15,000 annual grant to help fund the NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion (which asks businesses how they are feeling about themselves, and a perfect example of the low-quality spending Treasury thinks should be cut), plus a $6,000 annual membership fee, but didn't fund anything specific to climate change. They did note however that their Emissions Trading Group was transferred to MfE last year, and I'm still waiting to hear from them.

I've also received a response from the Minister of State-Owned Enterprises on the rules aroud SOE lobbying. The short version? There aren't any:

SOEs are not subject to any specific guidelines concerning lobbying, as this is considered to be an operational matter for SOEs, and is therefore the responsibility of each SOE board (consistent with section 5 of the SOE Act 1986).
So, the Minister thinks it is just fine for SOEs to use public money which could be returned as dividends and used to pay for schools, hospitals and roads to pay for lobbying their owners to shift policy - in short, to subvert democracy. This should not be acceptable, and the Minister should issue a directive to SOEs making it clear that it is not.