Monday, May 31, 2021

Good riddance to a climate criminal

Nick Smith has announced his retirement from Parliament to beat a news story on his bullying. Good. As the announcement makes clear, his "employment issue" is about him being a bullying arsehole, and people like that should have no place in our Parliament. But beyond that, he's also a climate criminal, having fought tooth and nail for over twenty years to prevent action on climate change. He opposed carbon pricing in opposition, and gutted the ETS as Climate Change Minister. The floods the South Island is experiencing today? His actions - or rather, his deliberate inaction - helped cause them. And one day, he should be held responsible for that in court.

The cost of cheapness

Last week, in the wake of the budget, Stuff's Thomas Coughlan had a rather pointy article about how the government systematically mismanages public finances, by only measuring the cost of doing things and ignoring the cost of not doing them. Job-creation, which reduces welfare spending and increases taxes? Cost. Child-poverty, which has enormous long-term benefits for health, crime, education and other social statistics, leading to big savings across the board? Cost. Fixing climate change, reducing the likelihood of enormous floods in future? Cost. And we're receiving a rather graphic demonstration of this right now, with the ongoing ransomware attack on Waikato DHB, which has basicly disabled it for two weeks. Because of course there was a proposal to upgrade DHB IT security to reduce the risk of such attacks, which of course was shitcanned on cost grounds:

The Ministry of Health abandoned an effort to secure all district health board computer systems citing budget constraints.

The Government also has not followed through on its Cyber Security Strategy 2019 which promised annual reports around cybersecurity breaches.


Stuff has seen messages between IT industry vendors showing high-ranked Ministry of Health technology personnel discussing a more advanced cybersecurity system with the industry in 2019. Conversations ended because the department said it had no approved budget to pay for the proposed system.

Obviously IT security is imperfect, and there's no guarantee that this would have protected Waikato DHB against the current attack. But in the current context, it looks like an awful mistake. And what drove this mistake was exactly what Coughlan wrote about: the government seeing everything as a cost. As for the cost of their cheapness, well, the people of Waikato get to pay that, while Ministry of Health executives laugh all the way to the bank.

Denmark's traitorous spies

Denmark has been spying on Germany for the NSA:

Denmark's secret service helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a European media investigation published on Sunday revealed.

The disclosure that the US had been spying on its allies first started coming to light in 2013, but it is only now that journalists have gained access to reports detailing the support given to the NSA by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE).

The report showed that Germany's close ally and neighbor cooperated with US spying operations that targeted the chancellor and president.

The then chancellor candidate for the German center-left socialist party (SPD), Peer Steinbrück, was also a target, the new report disclosed.

As the article notes, we'd known they were cooperating with the Americans to spy within the EU since 2013. What's new is the targets, which are explosive. And its not just Germany that was targetted: the article says they also spied on politicians in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France.

The good news is that the Danish government sacked the entire leadership of the FE last year over this. But the fact it even happened is highly disturbing, and really makes you wonder who the EU's spy agencies are really loyal to: their own European governments, or their American "allies". And of course it raises similar questions about who our spies are really working for, and how many of our friends they're spying on for America.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Climate Change: A duty of care

Hot on the heels of last night's decision in the Netherlands that the right to life requires Shell to reduce emissions, an Australian court has ruled that ministers owe young people a duty of care over climate change:

The federal court of Australia has found the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis in a judgment hailed by lawyers and teenagers who brought the case as a world first.

Eight teenagers and an octogenarian nun had sought an injunction to prevent Ley approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales, arguing the minister had a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.

Justice Mordecai Bromberg found the minister had a duty of care to not act in a way that would cause future harm to younger people. But he did not grant the injunction as he was not satisfied the minister would breach her duty of care.

In other words, the decision hadn't been made yet. But the strong implication of the last bit is that if the Minister approves the project (especially without strong consideration of climate change impacts and how they may be mitigated), the decision will be overturned.

New Zealand has both an enforceable right to life in the BORA, and similar common law to Australia on the duty of care. So while not precedent here, both cases could be persuasive to New Zealand courts, and provide further weight to the Zero Carbon Act's "permissive considerations" clause. But we won't really know that until its argued.

Poisoning the well in Samoa

Samoa's Court of Appeal (which is actually the other half of its Supreme Court) will be hearing the appeal on the women's quota on Monday, with a decision due on Wednesday or Thursday. The decision would end any pretended uncertainty about the constitutionality of parliament or who has a majority, and the caretaker regime has apparently promised to respect it. So its quite surprising to see their Attorney-General attempting to have all the judges disqualified:

The office also applied for the disqualification of the presiding judges, “given their potential conflicts of interest and potential favouritism”, a press release from the attorney-general said.

“All four cases between FAST [party] and the Government all went against the Government and favoured FAST ... there is now substantive evidence before our office that is questioning the appearance of impartiality and integrity of the judiciary presiding over this matter,” the attorney-general said.

Alternatively, perhaps the regime lost all those cases because their arguments were weak and their position tenuous? But obviously, that can't be it...

The HRPP's solution is for the case to be heard by overseas judges, who they will appoint. Which will of course take time to recruit, leaving the regime in power. And since in the regime's opinion parliament cannot possibly be convened until this case has been heard, no-one will be able to vote them out. Its just a further example of their attempts to use process to frustrate both democracy and the courts. But its also a clear setup for them to refuse to accept any decision which does not go their way. Which is the real underlying problem here: a government which refuses to accept the judgement of the courts, or more importantly the judgement of the people.

Climate Change: A massive victory

Big oil is the big barrier to real action on climate change. But now a Dutch court has ordered Shell - one of the biggest oil companies in the world - to cut its emissions:

A court in the Hague has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its global carbon emissions by 45% by the end of 2030 compared with 2019 levels, in a landmark case brought by Friends of the Earth and over 17,000 co-plaintiffs.

The oil giant’s sustainability policy was found to be insufficiently “concrete” by the Dutch court in an unprecedented ruling that will have wide implications for the energy industry and other polluting multinationals.

The Anglo-Dutch company was told it had a duty of care and that the level of emission reductions of Shell and its suppliers and buyers should be brought into line with the Paris climate agreement.

Note "and buyers" - this isn't some pissy scope 1 emissions measure which only looks at how much they drive and how much paper they use. Instead, they're basicly being ordered to cut oil production, and on human rights grounds (climate change is accepted as a threat to the right to life). And the latter provides precedent for similar cases in jurisdictions which comply with UN human rights standards (which, for the time being, includes the UK, HQ of BP. The other oil majors are headquartered in the US, which has no enforceable right to life).

Shell will appeal, of course. And then they'll probably try some dubious restructure and pretend that this nullifies the court order. But if they want to do business anywhere in the EU (including dodging taxes and laundering money through EU jurisdictions), they're going to have to comply. And hopefully there will be similar cases against other oil companies forcing them to as well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

You can't manage what you don't measure: Improving OIA statistics

Back in 2017 the then-SSC published the first set of performance statistics on the Official Information Act. The statistics were crude: just the number of requests handled, the number and percent on-time, the number published on the agency's website, and the number of complaints and final views issued by the Ombudsman. But it immediately allowed some problems to be identified, and there was a commitment that:

Over time the information on performance that is gathered and published will increase to provide a more comprehensive picture of compliance with the letter and spirit of the Act.
That hasn't happened, and five years on, we're still using the same crude stats, with a crude focus on timeliness we were using in the beginning. Its not like they didn't think about it: in late 2017 they published agency guidance on Selection and Reporting of Official Information Act Statistics, encouraging agencies to collect and report additional statistics to give a better view of their performance. But there was no real followup: Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission does not even bother to monitor what statistics agencies collect. In September / October 2019 they cautiously proposed a limited expansion of statistics to include whether information was released (granted in full / granted in part / refused / publicly available), and possibly some information on extensions and transfers, but nothing has come of it. And in the meantime agencies have learned to juke the stats, with an increasing number of extensions for "consultations" to meet timeliness targets, or in the case of the police, packing the stats with a vast number of requests which are not legally OIAs to hide their utter failure to obey the law. And they are able to get away with this because of the crudeness of our statistics. And you only have to look at the UK, which publishes full annual statistics on timeliness, outcomes, and withholding grounds used, to see that we could be doing a lot, lot better.

So what could they do to produce immediate improvements? Back in February I used the OIA to survey core government agencies on what OIA statistics they collected, using their 2017 guidance as a template. The raw data (including links to responses) is here. The good news is that most government agencies already collect or report the information TKM-PSC proposed in 2019, and most also measure the time taken to process requests or to extend them. Which means that with a bit of leadership for TKM-PSC we should be able to get full UK-level stats on timeliness, extensions, and outcomes. Which would show us a bit more where agencies are falling down and how they're juking things.

So will they do it? Its literally their job, and I've been told by TKM-PSC staff that their Minister, Chris Hipkins, is fully committed to open government. If that's the case, then fixing this seems to be an obvious and easy way to show it. You can't manage what you don't measure. So start measuring this, and let public expectations start managing it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Climate Change: How the ETS keeps emissions high

Stuff reports today that Refining NZ has reached an in principle agreement to shut down the Marsden Point oil refinery and move to importing refined fuels. Which should be good for emissions - as best I can tell from Emissions Tracker, Marsden Point is responsible for 664,000 tons of CO2 (being the only liquid fuel refining facility in the country). Thanks to a past sweetheart deal, none of that is covered by the ETS, and they weren't scheduled to enter it until 2023. The shutdown is explictly driven by their desire to avoid ETS costs.

This is exactly what the ETS should be doing: polluters who can clean up, polluters who can't shut down. And in the case of Marsden Point, its a success. But Marsden Point is an exception, and with other major industrial polluters - Tiwai Point or Methanex, for example - their shutting down won't actually reduce emissions. Why? Because the permits they would have bought to cover their emissions will still be free to be bought by someone else, meaning they can be used to pollute now or in the future. While supposedly intended to reduce emissions, the ETS actually locks us onto a high emissions pathway, where pollution shutdowns don't reduce pollution.

(This might not be so much of a problem if that pathway was steep enough to push us towards a credible emissions reduction goal. But ours isn't. And because future ETS budgets are set five years in advance, we're basicly locked into a pathway which keeps prices low and emissions high, rather than the other way round).

How do we fix this? The obvious move is that we remove permits from the system whenever a major polluter shuts down, by immediately reducing future auction allocations accordingly. This would change the fixed cap in the ETS into a permanently sinking one, and mean shutdowns actually result in emissions reductions, rather than creating space for someone else to pollute instead.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Lessons from Samoa

Samoa's parliament was meant to meet this morning, on the last possible day following their elections in April, to swear in MPs, elect a Speaker, and demonstrate where confidence lies. Instead, the HRPP's former Speaker - who retired at the election and is no longer an MP - took the keys and locked the new parliament out of the building. This is expected to be used by the HRPP as "justification" for new elections: "parliament couldn't meet (because we stopped it), a government couldn't form (because we refused to recognise it), so time for the people to correct their error and endorse us again".

There are no doubt lawyers arguing in the Supreme Court right now to get an explicit order upholding the constitutional requirement that parliament meet today (or just to determine who is Speaker and how far their power under the Legislative Assembly Powers and Privileges Ordinance 1960 extends). Based on the court's previous rulings, there's some hope for a peaceful and democratic outcome. OTOH, with the former government simply refusing to accept the results of elections and nakedly defying court orders, that may be too much to hope for.

What lessons can we draw from this? People often say that New Zealand needs a written constitution (as if our Constitution Act and BORA and other legislation didn't exist), or at the least, that we should nail down more of the current "unwritten" powers in statute to prevent abuses. I support the latter position, because its always useful to know what the rules are. But that's exactly what Samoa did - their constitution eliminated the reserve powers, and specifically enumerated the head of states powers to call and dismiss parliament and the circumstances in which that could happen. And none of that helped. The problem in Samoa isn't that constitutional powers are unclear, giving scope for disagreement, but that the HRPP are wilfully ignoring them, and ignoring the courts when they do their duty to interpret the constitution.

What ultimately protects democracy is not just clear constitutions - that helps, but the USA is a perpetual counterexample - but politicians actually being democrats, and respecting democracy and the rule of law. Samoa's problem is that the HRPP, or at least its leadership, don't (and this has been clear for a while, with their constant attempts to prevent other parties from forming to challenge them, and to bring the judiciary under their thumb). Instead, Tuilaepa is basicly a Pacific Trump. And once that poison is in your system, you need to excise it quickly, before it infects everything. Hopefully Samoa is up to the job.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Labour actually does something

So, against expectations, the Labour government has actually done something, reversing the 1991 benefit cuts with a significant increase to benefits to levels at least (and usually higher) than those recommended by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (and yes, I checked). Its good, it corrects a historic wrong, and it will help - at least until landlords raise rents to steal it all for themselves. Which highlights the need for more work, especially around housing and renter's rights.

But before we get too carried away, they're also planning to shift unemployment benefits to an ACC-style "social insurance scheme" with a limited duration. I'm really not sure this is a good idea. While (short-term) rates will increase, there's the obvious question of what happens when the support period runs out and how it copes with long-term unemployment. It will also make the scheme subject to the same pressures as ACC around interest rates, and allow the right to perpetually scaremonger about how it is "going bankrupt" and use that as an excuse to cut rates or worse, privatise it (something they tried to do to ACC in the late 1990's). Direct government control and a pay as you go system means there is direct government responsibility, matching our social expectation that no-one in this country should go hungry or homeless. An insurance model seems to undermine that.

And then there's climate change, which Grant Robertson explicitly says is next year's problem. He blamed this on the timelines set by the Zero Carbon Act, but this is bullshit. Nothing stops the government from acting in advance of the Commission's recommendations, and starting work on cutting emissions now. Except of course their own propensity for foot-dragging and delay. This is not a problem we can afford to piss around on; instead we have to throw everything at it now, otherwise we won't have a future worth living in.

Update: So, there's $300 million for as-yet-undefined EV incentives. That's a start, but we're going to need a lot more than that to decarbonise within a decade like we need to.


Greymouth Petroleum has surrendered three oil exploration permits in central Taranaki. There's been no media coverage, but I noticed while doing a routine check of exploration permits that the map looked a little different, and checking with the permit spreadsheet pinned down the missing permits as 60097, 60098, and 60099. A query with NZPAM confirmed that they were surrendered on 16 May 2021. According to the 2015 block offer (when the permits were granted) he surrendered area totals 121 square kilometres. Map below:


(Meanwhile NZPAM is still showing the supposedly surrendered offshore South Island permits as still being active, so I'm not sure what's going on there)

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Austerity kills transparency

Back in March, we learned that the promised review of the Official Information Act had been deferred indefinitely due to resource constraints: The Ministry of Justice had been told to do too much by their Minister, so it was dumped. At the time, I thought that this was due to policy changes after the election. But according to new documents released by the Ministry of Justice, the rot set in much earlier.

In September 2019, the Ministry recommended a review of the OIA. In November 2019 they followed this up with a budget bid for Budget 2020. This was clearly being progressed, and in February 2020 they got as far as drafting a Cabinet paper. But in the end, it was "never provided to the Minister or sent outside the Ministry of Justice". And unfortunately we don't know why, because there are no more documents, and the Ministry conveniently didn't take notes in apparent violation of the Public Records Act and Public Service Commission guidance.

The Cabinet paper has been withheld entirely as "free and frank advice" (which is naturally off to the Ombudsman), and large chunks of the budget bid are redacted as "confidential" despite this review being shitcanned. But in the bits they left in, there are explicit statements that the Ministry was unable to do the review without extra funding:

However due to resourcing constraints and an over-subscribed work programme the Ministry cannot commit to a review of the OIA in the next 2-3 years.
Current funding for the Policy Group is insufficient to take on substantial new projects without trading off against other priorities. A review of the OIA is highly unlikely to proceed under these constraints because of its impact on other high priority Government and Ministerial projects.
In other words, Labour's ongoing austerity seems to have killed any effort to improve transparency. The Ministry took another go after the 2020 election, drafting a briefing in September 2020 in anticipation of a post-BIM discussion. In the end it was not finalised, after Kris Faafoi indicated his policy priorities did not include transparency.

Which is a shame, because the budget bid makes a clear case for reform, stating that "[w]ithout a review, ongoing concerns about compliance with the OIA and with the legislation itself are likely to remain unaddressed" and delivering a damning assessment of the current state of the law:

The OIA is 37 years old and has not substantially changed since enactment. It no longer reflects its operating environment or developments internationally. It is perceived as outdated and lacking in credibility.
And a year later, its even more so. It would be nice if the government finally decided to fix one of the foundations of our democracy.

Horizons supprts Māori wards

My regional council voted for Māori wards today:

“The time has come.”

Wiremu Te Awe Awe​, the first Māori elected to Horizons Regional Council, did not even try to hold back his joy as the council voted on Wednesday to have Māori wards for the 2022 election.

About 50 people from as far afield as Taumaranui and Horowhenua packed the council chamber for the extraordinary meeting, having earlier taken part in a hīkoi from Te Marae o Hine/The Square.

The decision was made after feedback was sought from those on the Māori roll, as well as iwi and hapu in the Horizons area.

Watching council after council vote this way, its amazing how quickly the tide has turned. Removing the racist veto has, as expected, freed councils to do the right thing and ensure Māori representation. And the councillors voting for it don't seem to fear de-election - they can sense how public opinion has turned. Its an example of how leadership by government can push positive change. And it really makes you wonder why Labour spends so much time being cowards and chickenshits.

Update: And just after I wrote this, Hamilton joined the club.

Climate Change: End fossil fuels now

When the government banned new offshore gas exploration permits, it was denounced as radical by the National party and their polluter cronies. But now the policy has had a powerful endorsement from an unlikely source: the International Energy Agency:

Exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year and no new coal-fired power stations can be built if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the world’s leading energy organisation has said.

In its strongest warning yet on the need to drastically scale back fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency (IEA) also called for no new fossil-fuel cars to be sold beyond 2035, and for global investment in energy to more than double from $2tn (£1.42tn) a year to $5tn (£3.54tn) The result would not be an economic burden, as some have claimed, but a net benefit to the economy.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director and one of the world’s foremost energy economists, told the Guardian: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.”

The IEA are not what you'd think of as climate change activists. For years, they have predicted a future still dominated by coal and oil, underestimating the growth of renewable technologies and preferring to push for non-existent, magical carbon capture technology. So when they say "that's it, we need to turn off the tap" and predict a future runing on wind and solar, you'd expect governments to sit up and listen. ...including our government. Because while we've banned new offshore fossil fuel exploration permits, the existing ones will last for decades, and can still be converted into mining permits lasting for decades more. If we're serious about turning off this tap, we need to stop that, with legislation to revoke all exploration permits, prohibit new mining permits and resource consents, and sunset all existing mining permits and related consents. And we need to do this as quickly as possible. The Māori Party's anti-seabed mining legislation shows us the way to do this; will the government rise to the challenge?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Refugees do not belong in prison

We like to think that New Zealand is a better, kinder place than Australia. We welcome refugees, while racist Australia puts them in Pacific gulags where they are tortured and abused. Except its not true: New Zealand operates its own refugee detention system to discourage and punish those who dare to believe our rhetoric. And according to Amnesty International, it involves widespread human rights abuses:

Shocking allegations of rape, assault and attempted suicide have emerged from asylum seekers who Amnesty International argues are being unfairly detained in prisons by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

The human rights organisation has released its first extensive report into the treatment of 12 of 86 detained people who sought asylum here between 2015 and 2020.

Amnesty International said at every stage there were failures to ensure basic rights to a fair process.

You can read the full report here. Refugees are unreasonably and unlawfully detained, not informed of the reason for their detention and denied access to lawyers, incarcerated with criminals for years, and abused. The courts, which are meant to protect human rights, rubber-stamp this. It violates the Bill of Rights Act and international human rights law. The underlying reason for detention - to deter claims and punish those who enter New Zealand unlawfully or without travel documents - violates the Refugee Convention.

This has to stop. Prison is an inherently dehumanising environment. Putting people who have been tortured, abused and persecuted there is simply cruel and vicious. But I guess this is another example of Jacinda Ardern's "kindness".

Refugees have no place in prison. If you'd like to tell the government that, you can send a message here.

A conflicted spokesperson

Stuart Smith is National's climate change spokesperson. As such he spends his time trying to discourage and undermine government action on climate change.

Stuart Smith also appears to be quite rich. And according to the Register of Pecuiary Interests released today (p45-46), he has a large investment portfolio, including shares in Contact Energy, Genesis Energy, Vector, Freightways, Mainfreight, and US energy conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (which was in the news this month for rejecting even reporting on their emissions). In other words, in gas, coal, trucking, and oil - all industries which need to radically shrink or change if we are to meet our climate change goals. Which seems like a fairly direct conflict of interest to me.

Another government agency which refuses to enforce the law

Back in 2008 Parliament established the Walking Access Commission. While initially concerned with negotiating public access, the Commission now administers a network of walkways across New Zealand. It has an explicit function of enforcing the law around these walkways, and there are offence provisions to ensure safe public access. In order to enforce these, the Commission can appoint enforcement officers, who have statutory powers to prevent offences.

So how many of these enforcement officers has the Commission appointed to ensure safe access across its walkways? Someone used FYI, the public OIA request site, to ask them, and the answer may surprise you: zero. They have never appointed any enforcement officers, and have never prosecuted or fined anybody. While police and DoC rangers can also enforce the law, if they had a policy of outsourcing enforcement to those agencies, you think they'd say so. So the natural conclusion is that this agency is simply uninterested in enforcing the law.

Is this a problem? Parliament certainly thought it was a big enough deal to grant these powers in the Act, and refusing to enforce them (even by outsourcing to another agency) seems like a frustration of Parliamentary intent. And if they're not going to bother, then maybe those powers need to be removed, and the job explicitly given to a competent agency which can do it: DoC.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Samoa is still a democracy

Last month Samoa went to the polls, and gave their authoritarian Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi a solid kick in the nuts, delivering a hung parliament with an independent as kingmaker. In a desperate attempt to cling to power, Malielegaoi had the Electoral Commission appoint a new MP under the women's quota (which required that 10% of MPs be women) to ensure a deadlock, then had the O le Ao o le Malo revoke the election and call a re-run before parliament had even had a chance to meet to sort things out. But today, both those decisions were declared unconstitutional by Samoa's Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court has overruled a declaration by the Head of State voiding last month's elections as having no legal authority.

The court has reinstated the results from April's election and ordered Parliament to convene within 45 days from the 9 April polling day.

Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese handed down the decision of a panel of Justices decision on Monday afternoon.

The parliamentary numbers are still effectively deadlocked - FAST will be able to appoint a Speaker, but won't have an overall majority. And there are still electoral petitions to sort out, which could further change the balance of power. But those are problems for the politicians to point out (ironicly, the HRPP's vicious attempts to use anti-party-hopping laws to crush the opposition and prevent the formation of new political parties makes this situation harder to resolve). Democracy has been restored, and it has been made clear that the government cannot void an election and call another simply because they don't like the results. As for the caretaker PM and head of state who committed that constitutional outrage, I hope they will both resign. Because clearly, they have no place in a democratic state.

When the government says "can't", they really mean "we chose not to"

Nurses are going on strike next month for better pay. And honestly, they deserve it, after how hard they worked to keep us all safe during the pandemic. But "Labour" Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pleading poverty and says the government can't afford to reward them:

Tensions are continuing to escalate as ongoing pay negotiations with the nursing workforce fail to reach a resolution, with the Prime Minister arguing she isn't in a position to reward everyone who rolled up their sleeves during the pandemic.


"This is the difficulty of having this job. I also have to have an eye to whether or not everything we do is sustainable, and I have to have an eye to issues like inequality and poverty - and there's only so much capacity we have right now," Ardern said.

"COVID has cost this country a lot. As much as I would wish to be in a position to be able to reward everyone who has worked so hard, I have to keep that in mind as well - I can't."

But how much money the government has is determined by tax rates, and is basicly a political choice. Our government has chosen to starve itself of revenue so they "can't" pay public servants properly; they have chosen to underpay these people. And when the people making that decision are all paid more than quarter of a million a year, it looks more than a little self-interested. To say it nakedly, Cabinet Ministers choose to underpay public servants so they don't have to pay more in tax (or capital gains on their investment properties, or whatever). Even under Labour, its a government of the rich, by the rich, which seems to be for the rich as well.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Climate Change: Reannouncements don't reduce emissions

Road transport emissions make up ~18% of our annual total, and if we are to have any hope of reducing them, the government needs to start acting now. But rather than do that, they've reannounced their old policies, dressed up in a new discussion document:

The Transport Ministry has again floated the banning of importing petrol and diesel cars by 2035 so New Zealand does not become a dumping ground for old cars.

Its part of a high-level look at how New Zealands transport system could reduce its emissions to zero by 2050. Transport currently makes up about half of our emissions.

The government said it wants a "national conversation" about the changes needed to reduce transport sector greenhouse gas emissions.

And while they're pissing about having this "national conversation", people will be importing dirty, inefficient utes, and the temperature will be rising. But no hurry, eh?

And while its good to see Labour finally coming round to a fossil-fuel phase-out - an idea they chickened out on when Julie Anne Genter pushed for it in 2018 - they're acting too slow. The world has moved on, and 2018's climate change policy is not enough in 2021. Or, in concrete terms: a 2035 phase-out date does not stop us from becoming a fossil-fuel dumping ground when everyone else is moving to 2030. Instead it pretty-much guarantees it.

Contrary to the government's rhetoric, this isn't leading. It isn't even being a fast-follower. We're foot-draggers. And at this stage, that's as bad as climate denial.

Nurses to Labour: "fuck your pay freeze"

Last week, the government froze public service pay for three years. This week, they tried to pretend it never happened (while leaving the pay guidance document still in force). So what did this desperate grab for a headline to appeal to National voters get them? A nurses strike:

Nurses have voted to strike for an eight-hour period in a month's time over a breakdown in pay offer negotiations.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation, which has 30,000 members working in district health boards (DHB), says members are angry at the first DHB pay offer last month and overwhelmingly voted to strike.

The union said the offer would have given most members a 1.38 percent wage increase, below inflation.

I think that's a pretty clear message from the nurses, and they're likely to have overwhelming public support on this. Because does anyone outside the Taxpayer's Onion really think the people who saved us are overpaid?

How does the government still not know this?

For the past two years the government has been trying to decarbonise the education sector, funding schools to replace dirty old coal boilers with heat pumps and solar panels. But according to Stuff this morning, they still don't know how many they need to replace:

An estimated 1150 state schools burn fossil fuels to heat classrooms, but the Government doesn’t have an exact figure, or a full list of affected schools.

This suggests the Government’s funding to date – $55 million to convert 90 schools to green fuels – will cover a small fraction of the problem.


Pressed for the numbers, the Ministry of Education said there are at least 200 boilers in schools burning coal, an estimated 150 burning diesel and roughly another 800 burning LPG or natural gas (the fossil form of methane).

How does the government not know this? They put this policy in place two years ago. It will have been under development for a year before that. You would expect that in that development process someone would have asked how big the problem was, so they would know how much it was going to cost. And unlike Stuff, whose OIA requests just get ignored by incompetant and lawless school boards, the Ministry of Education can demand schools provide information, and these demands get actioned. If they didn't know when they developed the policy, they have absolutely no excuse for not knowing it now.

But I guess that, like school maintenance, knowing means having to pay to fix it, which for an agency under constant budget pressure from a government still dedicated to austerity means a strong incentive to ignore problems and not know things until forced to. Which does not bode well for the effectiveness of this programme, or its durability.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Another captive agency

The Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 requires leaseholders to obtain permission before conducting certain activities, such as burning vegetation or disturbing the soil (which includes clearing vegetation, planting trees, draining wetlands, and applying fertiliser, as well as going wild with a bulldozer). It allows the Commissioner of Crown Lands to take court action if these activities are carried out without permission, and allows for remedies including orders to remedy damage, exemplary damages, and forfeiture of the lease. So how many times has the Commissioner done that? None:

An Official Information Act (OIA) response received by Forest & Bird details 10 years of complaints about activities on public land held as pastoral leases. The compliance responses show that Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has so far undertaken no prosecutions.


The OIA response lists 125 complaints over 10 years, which include soil disturbance, cultivation, spraying, over-sowing and top dressing, exceeding stock exemptions, clearing scrub, burning vegetation, gravel extraction, constructing tracks, wetland clearance, commercial hunting and undertaking commercial tourism activities without permission from the Commissioner of Crown lands.

“We’re disappointed that even repeat offenders have not been prosecuted to date. Forest & Bird has written to the Minister of Land of New Zealand, Damien O’Connor, expressing our disquiet at the past lack of accountability and transparency shown in high country management.” The letter is available here.

No prosecutions means there is simply no incentive for leaseholders to refrain from illegal environmental destruction. But it does make it clear that the Commissioner has been systematically derelict in their duty to protect public property from abuse, and that (like MPI over animal welfare and the Ministry of Fisheries over fishing) they have been captured by the very people they are meant to police. And this is simply unacceptable. If the Commissioner is unwilling to do their job properly, they should be fired and replaced with someone who is.

Labour: Dirty and corrupt

The Serious Fraud Office has laid charges over illicit donations to the Labour party in 2017:

The Serious Fraud Office has charged six people in relation to a donation made to the Labour Party.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Thursday the defendants are entitled to seek name suppression therefore haven't been named until any name suppression issues have been resolved.

"We note, however, that none of the defendants are sitting MPs or are current or former officials of the Labour Party," the SFO said in a press release.

Labour will be making much of that disclaimer, just as NZ First did over their charges. But note that the SFO doesn't rule out former MPs, or members, which you think they would if either were true. And in any case, they're still tainted as a party which took dirty money. In that, they're in very bad company, with National and NZ First currently before the courts on similar charges, and the Māori Party currently under investigation. Its almost as if our political establishment is institutionally corrupt, addicted to dirty money.

A clean government would make it a priority to fix this rotten system, and reform our electoral finance laws to give us full, real-time disclosure of any non-trivial donation, and annual audits by the SFO to ensure compliance. But Labour is about as interested in that as they are in fixing the OIA. Instead, their priority seems to be extending the parliamentary term to make themselves less accountable to voters, so they can better serve their corrupt donors. And that is simply not something we should accept.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Another English war crime

Fifty years ago, the British army murdered ten people in the Ballymurphy massacre in Northern Ireland. In what has become a common tactic for the British establishment, they immediately tried to cover up their crime by smearing the victims as IRA members. Now, a UK coroner has ruled the killings unjustified:

Ten people killed in Belfast during a British army operation in 1971 were unarmed, innocent civilians and posed no threat to soldiers, an inquest in Northern Ireland has found.

The damning findings in a long-awaited coroner’s report implicated the army in an atrocity to rival Bloody Sunday, potentially galvanising a new push to prosecute army veterans.

Nine of the dead were killed by soldiers using unjustified force but the inquest could not establish who killed the 10th victim, John McKerr, during a blood-soaked incursion in Ballymurphy, a west Belfast Catholic neighbourhood, in August 1971.

“All of the deceased in the series of inquests were entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question,” said the coroner, Mrs Justice Keegan, dismissing claims by soldiers that some of the victims had been armed and shooting.

The next step must be to identify and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. And if the UK refuses to do it, then the international community must do it for them.

Members Day: Second readings

Today is a members day, and it looks like it will be wall-to-wall second readings left over from last term. First up is Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki's District Court (Protection of Judgment Debtors with Disabilities) Amendment Bill, followed by Louise Upston's Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill. Both of these have received positive recommendations at the select committee stage, so should pass. The House should also make a start on Nick Smith's Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill, which Labour has decided to shitcan so it can bully its backbench into line. At a scheduled two hours per bill, they're unlikely to get further. And as they won't be doing any work on first readings, there will be no ballot tomorrow.

The future finally arrives

Over the past few years I've been watching the price of solar energy fall, to the point where it now outcompetes fossil fuels, and wondering when it is finally going to take off in New Zealand and give us the clean, green future we need to survive. And now it looks like that future has arrived, with plans announced for five solar plants in Northland and Bay of Plenty:

A new company has unveiled plans to build five solar energy farms in the upper North Island at a cost of $300 million, which will together be capable of providing about 1 per cent of the country’s electricity supply.

Lodestone Energy has secured sites near Dargaville, Kaitaia, Whakatane, Edgecumbe and Whitianga for the solar farms which it describes as “a massive turning point for the country’s energy production”.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said she was “hugely excited by the new, independent, entrant to the renewable energy market”, which she forecast would bring about cheaper power bills, as well as reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

These are small facilities, collectively the size (and cost) of a single normal-sized windfarm. But at the same time its a massive shift. Meridian wasn't expecting to do utility-scale solar farms for five years yet, and now they've been beaten to it. Its also a shift towards local generation, rather than relying on the national grid, which should provide some regional backup in the event of grid failure. And the joy of solar panels is that if you need some extra power, you can just add some more (it helps that they're building them in a way which also allows the land to be used for farming). Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of these in the future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The same question again and again

The Independent Police Conduct authority has found police were unjustified in using an attack dog against a fleeing child:

Police were not justified in using a police dog to bite a young offender following a pursuit, according to an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report.

The 14-year-old was bitten as he ran away from the car he was driving in rural south of Hamilton two years ago.

The IPCA report noted the young person spent two days in hospital after being bitten on his leg by the dog.

It said the injury was "severe" and he may need skin grafts in future.

Which sounds an awful lot like wounding with intent, a crime carrying a penalty of 14 years imprisonment. Alternatively, insofar as it was intended as a punishment for fleeing, its torture. The IPCA found that the use of force was disproportionate and unnecessary, and cannot be justified under either s39 or s40 of the Crimes Act. So why isn't this cop being prosecuted? And the simple answer is "because they wore a uniform". But every time they look the other way on crimes by one of their own, the police look more and more like a criminal organisation. When are we going to bring them under control?

Samoa tries to gag its people

Samoa's dodgy dissolution will be challenged in court this Thursday, which should provide some certainty over whether they are having an election next week. Meanwhile samoa's caretaker government is reportedly planning to ban Facebook for the election. Their reason?

“The disrespectful, repulsive and obscene language towards our leaders; not only the Head of State, the Hon Prime Minister, the Honourable Fiame Naomi and all other politicians as well as the Judiciary is not only culturally inappropriate but also concerning as our children are exposed to this,” says [Caretaker Minister of Communication and Information Technology] Afamasaga. “It goes against what we teach them as right behaviour”.


Afamasaga Toeolesulusulu says the issue is no longer about freedom expression, but a matter of national security with divisions being seen in families, villages and communities.

So, being "disrespectful" to leaders by questioning them is "a matter of national security". Right. Alternatively, a thin-skinned elite is getting increasingly intolerant of criticism and looking for any way to shut it down and stop people having the national conversation about them an election is meant to provoke. Again, they're taking the mask off, and showing they're not really interested in democracy. Which does not bode well for what will happen if the court rules against them.

But it also seems well beyond what a caretaker government should be doing. Constitutional traditions obviously differ, but Samoa is nominally a Westminster system, and at least pretends to have a caretaker regime between elections. Normally that means that the government doesn't make big decisions, as it does not necessarily have the confidence of the House to back it up (in NZ, that also extends to things like calling new elections). But I guess when you haven't had a democratic change of power for 40 years, these things tend to slip a little...

Monday, May 10, 2021

Climate Change: "Least cost" means "do nothing"

The National Party is trying to sabotage the struggle against climate change again, with a bill in the member's ballot to force the Climate Change Commission to allow our domestic targets and international commitments to be met with "offshore mitigation". What does "offshore mitigation" mean? From past experience, it means Russian fraud and a flood of fake "credits", allowing polluters to do nothing to reduce emissions.

Of course the National Party will claim not to want that, oh no. This is about allowing polluters to "fulfil their emissions reduction obligations at least cost". But in practice, that also means less action, and higher emissions. Why? Because the whole idea of a price on carbon is built on the idea that high prices are an incentive to reduce emissions, either by investing in cleaner technology or just by stopping pollution because it is uneconomic. Any reduction in carbon prices lowers that incentive - and in particular, lowers the incentive to invest in doing things cleaner. In practical terms: lower carbon prices means fewer wind farms and solar panels, fewer electric cars and hydrogen or biodiesel trucks, fewer factories using electricity rather than dirty coal to provide low-level process heat, and fewer trees to soak up carbon and lock it away in the biosphere. Instead it means more coal, more gas, more planes, more utes, more inefficiency, so polluters can keep profiting by slowly killing us all. And if the National Party is in favour of that, then they are enemies of humanity, and we need to vote them out of Parliament completely to stop from inflicting any more damage on us.

Incoherent 2

Last week, the government froze public service pay for three years in a return to the economy-strangling austerity politics of the National era. But today, suddenly they're rolling in money:

There’ll be more spending and lower debt levels in the 2021 Budget than expected, the Finance Minister, Grant Robertson says.

He told an audience of business leaders at a breakfast at Deloitte in Auckland that there would now be more money both for day-to-day spending and capital investment than he’d signalled in his last major Budget update in February.

But improving economic conditions mean this additional spending won’t be accompanied by increased debt levels; instead, he said the Government’s new debt track will show lower borrowing levels.

Naturally, there's no numbers. But it kindof contradicts the debt fearmongering they were spinning last week, and makes their pay freeze even less supportable. And I expect it will go down like a cup of cold sick with the people Labour is expecting to sacrifice so they can get headlines to appeal to arsehole National voters.

The Scots deserve their referendum

Scotland went to the polls on Friday in national elections, and delivered another thumping victory for the Scottish National Party. Once again, it fell just short of an absolute majority, but has an easy majority with the Scottish Greens. Both parties campaigned explicitly for Scottish independence, and in a democratic country, it would be just a matter of time before they got one. But the UK is not a democratic country, and Boris says "no". Which is I guess what we should expect from a party which has announced its explicit intent to rig the mayoral electoral system in England to make it easier for them to win...

On democratic principle, the Scots are in the right. They clearly campaigned for a referendum, and won majority support for it. But more generally: its their country, not England's. Decisions about what happens in Scotland should be made in Edinburgh, not Westminster. If that's not going to be the case, then maybe they should petition the UN to be added to the decolonisation list.

Friday, May 07, 2021


On Wednesday, the government froze public service pay for three years in a vicious attack on the very workers who have kept the country alive during the pandemic for the last year. Meanwhile, today they've re-announced their new system of "Fair pay Agreements", allowing unions to negotiate basic terms and conditions for entire industries. Its a fairly incoherent agenda, but I guess they think workers should get a better deal unless they work for the government.

But it does suggest a solution to Hipkins and Robertson's austerity-driven ratfuckery: the PSA should seek to negotiate a fair pay agreement for the entire state sector, including as a minimum term and condition an annual cost-of-living adjustment of the CPI + n% (where n can be variable depending on current pay, to deliver more to people at the bottom), plus additional regional allowances for public servants in Auckland and Wellington to offset the costs of the government's housing crisis. And if Hipkins and Robertson refuse, they can use it as an excuse for the public-sector-wide strike those fuckers so richly deserve.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Punishing our saviours again

Last year public servants saved our lives, working overtime in the middle of a pandemic to stand up a response which kept out Covid and kept kiwis alive and employed. The government rewarded them with a pay freeze. And now they're extending that for another three years:

Public servants earning more than $60,000 will only be offered pay increases under select circumstances for the next three years, Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

There will be no pay increases for those earning more than $100,000 or senior leaders, while those earning less than $60,000 – about a quarter of the sector – will still see pay increases.

The move extends a measure brought in last year, set to expire next month.

This is unjust, and in the middle of a housing crisis which has seen the price of houses in Wellington jump 25% in a year, cruel. But its also stupid. Public servants already have a strong culture of switching jobs or quitting to work as contractors to get a pay rise, destroying institutional memory and agency capability in the process. And Hipkins has just hit the accelerator on that merry-go-round in the name of mindless austerity. The long-term consequences are unlikely to be good. But since when have politicians cared about the long-term?

Samoa's dodgy dissolution

Samoa's tied elections took a turn for the worse last night, with the O le Ao o le Malo purporting to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections in what looks awfully like a self-coup. The "justification" for this was the uncertainty created by the hung parliament - a situation the O le Ao o le Malo had created themselves two weeks ago when they controversially appointed an extra MP under a dubious interpretation of the constitution's women's quota clause. That appointment had been challenged in court, and if the legal process had been allowed to take its course, would have worked itself out (as would the uncertainty created by the massive number of electoral petitions, most of which tend to be rapidly dismissed). But the O le Ao o le Malo also questioned the impartiality and independence of the courts, suggesting that he does not trust them to rule the "right" way. In any case, dissolving parliament because no government can be formed before it has even had a chance to sit and vote on the matter seems grossly premature, and gives the impression that this is a desperate attempt by the HRPP to retain power in the face of an electorate which has rejected them.

What will happen next? It is unclear at the moment whether the dissolution will be challenged in court, or even if it can be. But if the HRPP is allowed to get away with this, this may be remembered as the day they took the mask off, and Samoa's de facto one party state became a legal reality.

12,000 unemployed under Labour

The quarterly labour market statistics have been released, and once again outperformed expectations, with unemployment dropping to 4.7%. So there are now 135,000 unemployed, 12,000 more than when Labour took office. Its not all good news though: the underutilisation rate is up, suggesting that more jobs are part-time. Still, compared to what was expected to occur due to the pandemic, its amazing.

Labour refuses to condemn genocide in Xinjiang

But they will condemn "possible severe human rights abuses".

What a pack of snivelling, grovelling chickenshits. Refusing to call the crime what it is for fear of offending the criminal. But maybe this is Labour's "kindness"? Fuck the poor. Fuck the kids. Fuck immigrants. But be kind to génocidaires.

But for all their grovelling, it is unlikely to be enough to satisfy prickly China, and we'll likely suffer those "trade consequences" anyway. Which makes you wonder why they're bothering. But I guess cowardice and a refusal to stand up for anything is just in their nature now.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Greens worry about morality, Labour worries about trade

The Greens have done what was expected of them, and agreed to back ACT's motion on genocide in Xinjiang tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Labour Party is worrying about trade:

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor has warned a parliamentary debate on whether Beijing is committing genocide in Xinjiang would damage trade with China.

Parliamentarians were set to decide on Tuesday morning whether their parties would back a motion in Parliament to label the human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region of China as an act of "genocide".

Senior ministers in the Labour Government have cautioned the use of the genocide label outside the definition prescribed by the United Nations. National Party leader Judith Collins said the Government should release what information it had on abuses in Xinjiang to MPs, to allow them to decide.

“Clearly the Chinese Government wouldn't like something like that ... I have no doubt it would have some impact [with trade]. That's hardly rocket science,” O’Connor said to reporters, on the way into a Labour caucus meeting on Tuesday .

Its not rocket science, and yet its also irrelevant. Genocide is being committed in Xinjiang. Its a crime under international law, and just fundamentally immoral. When that is happening, worrying that you might offend someone by calling them on their crimes is fundamentally missing the point.

But isn't it so very Labour? Make a lot of noise about their principles ("kindness", "my generation's nuclear free moment", Norman Kirk and David Lange), and then when they are actually tested, turn into whining, snivelling cravens?

Labour adopts NZ First's racism

New Zealand First were a nasty pack of racists. One of the ideas they pushed was that immigrants - which in NZ First-ese means "non-white people", not those lovely people from the UK or South Africa - are coming here to steal the pensions of "hardworking" (white) New Zealanders by the dirty deceitful trick of becoming New Zealanders themselves. They constantly had member's bills in the ballot to stop this - one of which was voted down in 2015. They're out of Parliament now, but it seems that their racism has found a new home, in the Labour Party. Because their latest bill on the topic - the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income (Fair Residency) Amendment Bill - was drawn and sent to select committee just before the 2020 election. And the Labour Party has apparently decided to back it, with a select committee report recommending its passage. The only party on the committee which opposed its passage was the Greens.

I guess its another example of how Labour is "bringing kindness back": by making older immigrants second-class citizens and raising the risk that they'll spend their final years in poverty, in order to pander to the myths of racist old people. Which doesn't actually seem very "kind" at all.

The police's "emissions-free fleet" strategy

Last year, just as the government was announcing plans for a carbon-neutral public service, the police announced they were buying new petrol-powered patrol cars. But they weren't ignoring the government's requirements, with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster quoted as saying "we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and have outlined a 10-year plan to an emissions-free fleet."

He was lying.

I was curious about the plan, so I tried to request it under the OIA. In what has become a typical experience of requests from police, my request was extended "for consultations" ("between internal workgroups" to boot), then whizzed past its extended deadline, before being ultimately refused under s18(d) as it would "soon be publicly available". Naturally I complained to the Ombudsman, who has begun an investigation. And as part of this, today I received an attempt at an explanation from police. That "10-year plan to an emissions-free fleet" they big-noted about to the media in an effort to make it look like they were working with government policy rather than against it? It turns out it is only being developed. Worse, its not even very well-developed, and that development has been paused. Can I have the work that's been done so far? Of course not:

We are therefore unable to release a strategy that is under development, which could impact both the public's trust and confidence in Police and set unrealistic expectations with the public.
None of this is actually a lawful reason to withhold anything under the OIA, and I've made it clear that I expect the draft work to be released. But the police's willingness to simply make up the law to suit themselves in this area does not inspire confidence about the lawfulness of their behaviour in e.g. criminal matters.

Meanwhile, the lesson to journalists is clear: when the police refer to any report or strategy in public, ask for it. Because at least some of the time, they're lying, presenting unfinished work as complete to make themselves look good. Which is dishonest and unbefitting any New Zealand public agency.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Climate Change: Cut methane now

Farmers are our biggest source of climate pollution, being responsible for 48% of our emissions. Three quarters of their emissions come from methane, caused by burping cows and rotting cowshit. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, but short-lived; its impact on global temperature over 20 years is 84 times higher than that of carbon dioxide (its impact when averaged over a century is "just" 28 times higher). Which means that if your goal is to reduce temperature and climate change impacts, the biggest short-term benefits come from cutting methane.

How big are those benefits? On Newsroom, Rod Oram reports on a UNEP/NOAA report which suggests they are staggering:

“The benefits that would come from reducing human-caused methane by 40-45 percent by 2030, a level consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to keep warming to 1.5°C, are also quantified and they’re enormous. It would avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s and, each year from 2030 onward, prevent more than 250,000 premature deaths, more than 750,000 asthma-related hospital visits, more than 70 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and more than 25 million tonnes of crop losses globally.”

The Climate & Clean Air Coalition’s website lays out multiple ways to reduce methane from agriculture, fossil fuels and waste management. In agriculture, for example “rapid and large scale implementation of improved livestock feeding strategies” could reduce methane emissions from animals by 20 percent by 2030; and “full implementation of intermittent aeration of continually flooded rice paddies (known as alternate wetting and drying cultivation) could reduce emission from rice production by over 30 percent.”

In New Zealand, 90% of our methane is agricultural. So we could achieve this cut by halving cow numbers. Farmers act as if this would be apocalyptic, but it would merely reduce them back to where they were thirty years ago, before cows started completely destroying our landscape and our rivers. Which also both shows the clear environmental benefits of doing so, and highlights that we would be reversing an apocalypse, not causing one.

(There would also be economic benefits. According to SwissRe the difference between 1.5 and 3 degrees of warming is 10% of GDP. Which is more than the entire agricultural sector).

This goes well beyond what has been proposed by the Climate Change Commission - a 45% cut in methane is at the upper end of their 2050 target, which they seem to have no intention of meeting (can't offend the farmers after all). But it is what's necessary to mitigate this crisis. And any government which doesn't sign up for it is basicly committed to letting coastal New Zealand drown.

Government of kindness?

Remember John Campbell's "Feed the kids" campaign? Free school lunches are one of the most effective education policy interventions we can make, boosting attendance and improving learning outcomes. Currently the government funds them for the 25% of children living in the poorest areas of New Zealand. But poor kids whose schools aren't in South Auckland or Aranui or Highbury miss out. Newshub is pushing again for the programme to be expanded so that everyone gets fed. Jacinda Ardern's answer? No:

But despite overwhelming evidence free lunches work to keep students in school and learning, the Government won't commit to making it universal.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show although she, in principle, supports universal free school lunches, it's "a matter of prioritisation".

"I don't have a problem with unlimited lunches. I think that would be great... But I have to prioritise, and it is quite costly to roll out and I have to ask the question 'is that the next step for us?'"

The Government hasn't costed what it would take to provide free lunches across Aotearoa, but Ardern says the current program costs "hundreds of millions".

The current cost is $220 million to feed 200,000 children. According to Wikipedia there are around 760,000 schoolkids in New Zealand. So, quadruple it, and we're talking around $850 million. This is serious government money, but to put it in context, its less than the cost of a single road in Auckland - or just one of the gold-plated anti-submarine warfare aircraft the government is buying to prop up the American weapons industry.

Decisions on spending at this level are fundamentally about priorities. And Jacinda Ardern, who promised to "bring kindness back", would rather have pollution-boosting roads and war-toys for the generals than well-fed, well-educated kids. I guess she just has a different definition of "kindness" to the rest of us.