Thursday, December 23, 2021

The police kill again

On Monday, the Police put a man in a coma during an arrest. Today, he died. The cause?

Earlier, police said the initial information indicated that during the arrest, both the officer and the man fell to the ground, with the man hitting his head.
Given the phrasing, I think we can interpret this as the police officer did something to cause it (which police PR is trying to minimise), rather than it being a case of two tragicly-placed banana skins.

When one of us peasants does something which intentionally or negligently causes death, its a crime. So, will the police be held to the same standard they enforce on the rest of us? Or they corruptly excuse their own, as usual?

Climate Change: Dragging their feet again

In June 2020 the government finally took some concrete action on climate change, repealing an odious provision in the RMA which prevented local authorities from considering it in resource consent decisions. It was a good move, which meant that big polluters like the Huntly power station or Glenbrook steel mill or Methanex's methanol plants could be forced to adopt new technology to reduce their emissions, or to offset them with native forest, or even denied resource consent altogether if it was not practical to do so. Of course, implementation was delayed until the end of this year, but now the government has decided that that's too soon to start cutting emissions, and delayed it by the maximum amount possible, until November 2022:

The government has quietly delayed by a year a deadline for councils to consider climate gas emissions when deciding whether to grant consents.


Changes to the Resource Management Act slated for the end of the year would have made regional councils take climate emissions into account when making rules and giving permission for businesses to use industrial fossil fuel boilers.

Cabinet has now agreed to delay that until 30 November 2022, subject to final Cabinet approval.

In an email update to submitters, the Environment Ministry says the reason for the delay is to give time to work out how to treat greenhouse gas emissions that do not come from industrial heat processes while work is still being doing to complete the RMA reforms underway.

James Shaw is right: this fails to show the urgency we need in cutting emissions. Instead, despite having declared a climate emergency, Labour is pursuing the same old Augustinian climate policy: they want to cut emissions, but not just yet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Labour's racist covid policy

For the past two weeks the Waitangi Tribunal has been hearing evidence on the government's Covid-19 response and its effect on Māori. This morning they released their urgent report [PDF], which is absolutely damning. In it, they find that the government's decisions to not prioritise Māori for vaccination and to move to the new "traffic light" framework when many Māori had been left behind in the vaccination race ignored scientific advice from officials and public health experts and violated its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and put Māori at risk.

The government's excuse for all of this is that they were worried about public reaction and a "racist backlash" - effectively by the ghost of Don Brash. The Tribunal is particularly scathing of this:

The Crown has a Treaty duty to adopt rational, scientific, equitable policy choices for Maaori. It has a moral and ethical duty to defend them against unreasonable public backlash. It cannot simply find ways of avoiding these duties by coming up with less equitable alternatives; it must make those choices that sustain Maaori well-being, and then explain and defend them as long and as vocally as is required. Failing to perform these duties for the sake of political convenience does not reflect the Treaty partnership and, in fact, threatens the fundamental basis for it.
The question now is what the government is going to do to fix this. They've already agreed to set up a new state-Māori liaison group, Ngā Mana Whakahaere o Covid-19, and to prioritise vaccination for Māori children, and that sounds like a good start. The question is whether they'll actually deliver. But if they don't, then they'll be inviting an electoral backlash from Māori in 2023.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The left wins in Chile

Chileans went to the polls for the second round of presidential elections today, and elected left-wing former student leader Gabriel Boric. Which is great news, not only for the obvious reasons, but also because his opponent (and front-runner after the first round last month) was José Antonio Kast, a homophobic racist who supports the Pinochet dictatorship and whose father was an actual Nazi. If he'd won, it would likely have turned back the clock on the last decade of social and democratic progress (not to mention potentially have messed with the ongoing process of reforming their Pinochet-era constitution to be more democratic). With Boric's election, Chile seems to have dodged that bullet.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Justice for the "hooded men"?

In 1971 the British government explicitly approved a policy of torture in Northern Ireland. Fourteen people were tortured as a result, rounded up as part of a mass-internment campaign and subjected to the "five techniques". While the ECHR later ruled the "five techniques" were illegal and amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, no-one has ever been held legally accountable or criminally responsible for their use. But that might be about to change, with the UK Supreme Court ruling that the Northern Irish police can't just look the other way on torture:

The UK supreme court has ruled that a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) decision in 2014 to discontinue an investigation into allegations of controversial interrogation techniques against the “hooded men” was unlawful.


Delivering his judgment on Wednesday, Lord Hodge referred to a 2014 RTÉ documentary about the hooded men case which referred to a British government memorandum, known as the “Rees Memo”, which “referred to the use of torture and to its approval by UK ministers”.

Following the broadcast, the PSNI considered whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant a new investigation, but concluded that there was not.

Lord Hodge said: “The court finds that the PSNI’s decision taken on October 17th, 2014 not to investigate further the allegation in the Rees Memo was based on a seriously flawed report, was therefore irrational, and falls to be quashed.”

The PSNI will now have to make an actual decision, and likely pursue an investigation, rather than just do their usual job of covering up British crimes. Unless of course Boris Johnson manages to pass his "amnesty" law to grant impunity to the torturers first. But that of course simply moves any case to international courts, while making Johnson and his government accomplices.

Climate Change: The Netherlands cuts cows

The way kiwi farmers complain, you'd think their situation of being a country's largest polluters was unique and special. But its not. The Netherlands also has a problem with too many polluting farm animals. But unlike New Zealand, they're actually doing something about it:

The Dutch government has unveiled a €25bn (£21bn) plan to radically reduce the number of livestock in the country as it struggles to contain an overload of animal manure.

A deal to buy out farmers to try to reduce levels of nitrogen pollution in the country had been mooted for some time, and was finally confirmed after the agreement of a new coalition government in the Netherlands earlier this week.

But the plan, the first of its kind in the world, faces a huge backlash from farmers who have staged big street protests in recent years over the prospect of tough regulation and farmer buyouts. They fear permanent damage to food production in the country if too many farmers are forced to quit.

“We don’t want the system to collapse,” said Utrecht dairy farmer Marije Klever, from the Dutch young farmers’ union. She said farmers would oppose any nonvoluntary measures.

“I am a land owner, so a critical question is whether the government are allowed to push farmers out of the land. It can’t be The Hague telling farmers they must go, you need an agreement.”

While being lauded internationally as the “tiny country that feeds the world” and the continent’s biggest meat exporter, the Netherlands has been struggling at home with a pollution crisis caused by an excess of farm animals.

Which all sounds very familiar. The difference is a court order saying they actually need to cut pollution nationwide and a government finally willing to act on it by paying farmers to fuck off or de-intensify. While initially voluntary, there's the threat of legislation if not enough farmers are willing to stop polluting.

New Zealand's dirty farmers also pretend to be a "tiny country that feeds the world". But as Dutch MP Tjeerd de Groot says, "We can’t be the tiny country that feeds the world if we shit ourselves". We need to clean up our pollution, both nitrogen and methane, before we drown in it. And we can only do that by cutting cows.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Climate Change: Funding the transition

Finance Minister Grant Robertson released his annual Budget Policy statement today, which included a $4.5 billion fund to fight climate change:

The cornerstone of this new focus will be a Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF), made up of $4.5 billion in proceeds from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Half of the fund will go to capital expenditure and half to ongoing spending.

Already, some $840 million to fund the Government’s increased international climate aid commitments has been allocated from the CERF. That leaves about half a billion dollars a year for capital spending over the next four years and about $300 million for the operating costs of new schemes.

The CERF will also bankroll efforts to adapt to the coming impacts of climate change in Budgets after 2022, in addition to reducing emissions.

Taking climate aid out of it suggests not all of the spending will be new (I'd expect top-ups to the clean car rebate scheme if it works and people buy fewer utes to come out of it as well). But that's still a big pile of cash. And you can do a hell of a lot with half a billion of capital funding a year. For example:
  • For $300 million a year, we could build a 150MW windfarm or solar plant every year to help decarbonise electricity generation and drive Huntly out of business;
  • For a one-off-cost of roughly $500 million, we could clean up Glenbrook and transition it to clean steel production;
  • For $50 million a year, we can scale up biofuel production to reduce transport emissions;
  • For $75 million a year, we can put solar panels on 10,000 state houses a year, reducing the power bills of the most vulnerable while expanding renewable generation capacity. Or we could run a subsidy scheme along the lines of the insulation subsidy for twice that many homes;
  • For $50 million a year, we can plant 2500 hectares of native forest as a permanent carbon sink, increasing biodiversity while returning carbon to the biosphere;
  • For $100 million a year, we could fund or subsidise 50,000 e-bikes a year to boost uptake and build towards giving free e-bikes to everyone (though arguably this should be funded from the same pool as the clean car rebate, by increasing fees on polluting utes).

There are other options where the costs are less obvious: funding rail transport or coastal shipping to get trucks off the roads, or funding the transmission line upgrades which are limiting industrial electrification, or building the network of EV charging stations. And there'll be all sorts of little things we can do as well. Many of the ideas above are already cost-effective at the government's internal carbon price, meaning they are a long-term saving for New Zealand which we should fund anyway. Having a dedicated pot of cash for these things means we can start actually doing it. Obviously, more money would be better, and allow a faster transition. But this is a good start, and hopefully when free allocations are cut and agriculture is bought into the ETS, we'll see more money to push things faster.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The police don't know how many times they steal people's online identities

Last month RNZ reported on a disturbing new police practice of identity theft, where they take over the social media and email accounts of suspects and defendants to gather information. While ostensibly done by "consent", they said the same about stealing kids' DNA or taking their photographs for future databasing. And the fact that they are focusing on young and vulnerable people really tells us everything we need to know about the ethics involved.

This is an invasive process, and its use to deceive others arguably constitutes a "search" under the Bill of Rights Act (the Law Commission certainly thought so in its Review of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012). So you'd expect the police to have some idea of how often they do it, right? Wrong. According to an OIA response,

Police do not hold statistics as to the use of this form and as such your request is refused pursuant to section 18(f) of the OIA as the information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation and research
There's also no approval process, and no formal guidance on when police can seek to assume an online identity. Its just completely unregulated, left to individual officers running investigations, with no oversight or monitoring whatsoever. Effectively, random plods are making up the law as they go along. Which does not seem like a good way to manage an invasive search power.

If we took steps to ban or regulate this practice, the police would no doubt claim it is a valuable investigative tool which should be left alone. But without even basic statistics on how often it is used, they simply have no empirical basis to make that claim. Without guidelines, they have no basis to claim that it is used only in circumstances where it is lawful and proportionate, and without an approvals process, they have no basis to claim that it is used only in those circumstances. In the absence of such things, given their past track record on such issues, we're entitled to deep, deep suspicion.

A law we should adopt

In Aotearoa, Ministers are supposed to be accountable for their Ministerial conduct, both to the Prime Minister and to Parliament. Once upon a time this meant that in cases of clear failure by themselves or their agency, a Minister would resign. Now, it simply means endless obfuscation and coverups while dumping the blame on public servants. This lack of accountability leads to poor decision-making, because there's no incentive not to (to put it in simple terms: they're never going to get fired, no matter what they do, so they have no reason to do their jobs properly).

Meanwhile, Denmark shows that things can be done differently: they actually jail Ministers who violate their Ministerial duties:

Denmark’s former immigration minister has been sentenced to two months in prison after a special court found her guilty of illegally separating several couples of asylum seekers where the woman was under 18.

Inger Støjberg was sentenced on Monday to 60 days in jail over accusations that she violated the European convention on human rights by ordering the separation of couples, some of whom had children.

“Inger Støjberg is found guilty of a deliberate violation of the Ministerial Responsibility Act,” Denmark’s court of impeachment of the realm said in a statement.

The Ministerial Responsibility Act is a fairly simple law. It makes it a crime for a Minister to (bad Google translation):
intentionally or through gross negligence neglects the duties incumbent on him under the constitution or legislation in general or according to the nature of his position.
It also makes it a crime to mislead or conceal significant information from Parliament. Here's how the Danish civil servant's code describes it:
Ministers are not only politically accountable to the Folketing. Denmark is a country based on the rule of law where ministers have a legal responsibility for complying with the Ministerial Responsibility Act (Ministeransvarlighedsloven) and other legislation. The Ministerial Responsibility Act establishes among other things that ministers must not give the Folketing incorrect or misleading information and that during the Folketing’s consideration of a case they must not withhold information of essential importance to the Folketing’s assessment of the matter in hand.
This is a law we should adopt here. After all, aren't we meant to be a country based on the rule of law? And given the scale of the decisions they make, shouldn't Ministers be more accountable for them than simply having a sneering competition with their peers in the House? An NZ Ministerial Responsibility Act would provide an actual incentive, an extra reminder to Ministers that their decisions must be lawful at all times, as well as a useful tool should the worst happen. It seems worth having that backstop.

An unjustified limitation


Last year, the Make It 16 campaign took the government to court, arguing that the government's restriction of the right to vote to people over 18 was discriminatory and therefore a breach of the Bill of Rights Act. They lost, but only because the judge didn't actually engage with the question and fell back on tradition. Today, the Court of Appeal ruled on the inevitable appeal, and found that the voting age is discriminatory, and that the government had made no effort to justify it to the standard required. However, it declined to issue a formal Declaration of Inconsistency.

(Along the way they also held that the BORA's interpretation clause applies to the BORA itself, which is useful caselaw for the future).

This is a pretty big victory for Make It 16, and it puts the onus squarely on the government to either justify its voting age policy or repeal it (obviously I'd prefer the latter). The obvious vehicle for that is the upcoming electoral law review, though that won't see it fixed until the 2026 election at the earliest. A better path would be for the government to simply accept the ruling and legislate next year, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in 2023.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Labour chooses to be cruel to beneficiaries

RNZ reports that WINZ is systematically racist and misogynist about debt, with Māori being forced deeper into debt, and women and Māori forced to repay at a higher rate than men and Pākehā. From past statistics, most of this "debt" is due to benefits being too low in the first place (and almost all of the rest is due to WINZ fucking up and overpaying people), so its prima facie odious. Meanwhile, high repayment rates grind the poor deeper into poverty. Hardly any of it will ever be paid back. The obvious solution is simply to write it off. But is our "kind", "centre-left" government going to do anything about it? Of course not:

Ultimately, the Greens, Te Pāti Māori and Auckland Action Against Poverty all wanted a debt amnesty to wipe the slate clean.

Sepuloni said an amnesty would require a law change and was not something being considered.

Bullshit. Just to pick a few examples: at any time, Sepuloni could amend regulation 206 of the Social Security Regulations 2018 to specify that some things (for example, conditional benefits and recoverable grants) are not "debts to the crown". Or she could amend the Ministerial Direction on Debt Recovery to change the rate and method of recovery or allow recovery to be indefinitely deferred. Or, she could jointly give an authorisation with the Minister of Finance under regulation 207(3) to simply write debt off.

Again, the Minister can do this at any time, with the flick of a pen. So when she pretends to be helpless, she is lying. The government can end this cruelty whenever they want. They choose not to. They choose to further immiserate the poor and destitute, out of festering NeoLiberalism. And we should hold them accountable for that choice.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

A victory for trans rights

For the past three years terfs have been frothing over the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill, which would allow people to change the gender on their birth certificates without having to go to court or provide invasive medical information. Its a simple measure which protects the dignity of trans people. And it just passed its third reading on a unanimous voice vote, with no opposition.

...which I guess showed us how much political support there is for terfs here: basicly none. No political party wanted to vote against this, because they're just not that vile (alternatively, no-one wanted to be recorded as voting against it, because they know they'd be carrying that stain forever). Its also I think a sign of how far our society has moved since the hatefests over civil unions and marriage equality. Yes, the terfs were vocal on the interwebs. But its not like they could organise a giant hate-march up Lambton Quay over it. Mostly because most of those vocal internet voices are in fact bots amplifying a tiny clique of obsessive arseholes in the UK. Locally, there's very little support for their hate, and only NZ First was sufficiently indecent to want to pander to it. And with them gone, we can finally have a better society.

Climate Change: Another test case

Waka Kotahi basicly exists to build roads. And predictably, their latest land transport plan, while having some funding for public and active transport, is road heavy. And now they're being taken to court over it:

Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), is being taken to court over an alleged failure to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The legal challenge is being brought by Movement, a charity organisation promoting sustainable transport.


Movement chair Christine Rose said the Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport 2021 had requirements that Waka Kotahi act to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“However, NZTA continues its bias towards roads and continues to approve transport projects that will increase emissions,” Rose said.

This isn't the first challenge of a core government policy on climate change grounds, and it won't be the last. And while the merits aren't clear yet, the fact that it has been brought should have an effect on future policy, by making Waka Kotahi (and other agencies) more cautious to avoid future challenges. And that will be worth it, even if it fails.

The New Caledonia referendum

This weekend, France will be holding an independence referendum in New Caledonia. Normally this would be something to celebrate, part of the decolonisation process which should hopefully result in a peaceful transition to self-rule. Except that France is holding this referendum against the wishes of New Caledonia's indigenous people, who have called it a "declaration of war".

The problem is timing. Holding a referendum in the middle of a pandemic is obviously suboptimal. Holding a referendum in the middle of a pandemic which has killed more than 200 people (and overwhelmingly Kanaks) in a culture with a prolonged mourning period is even worse. The pro-independence parties have asked that the referendum be delayed. When that was refused, they have decided to boycott it. The outcome will be a foregone conclusion, but also not remotely representative of the wishes of New Caledonia's people.

Because of this, our Pacific neighbours have been pushing for a delay. Today, the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat (representing Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG) called for its members to refuse to recognise the result. The obvious question for Aotearoa is whether we will support them? Does the New Zealand government support actual decolonisation and self-determination in the Pacific, or a continuation of colonial rule?

Why would we want to do that?

Back in September, Australia, the UK and the US announced the formation of a new military alliance: AUKUS. And now, Labour wants to join it:

Defence Minister Peeni Henare says the Government wants to benefit from the Aukus defence pact that will have Australia gain nuclear-powered submarines, and he has raised this with his Australian counterpart.

Henare, when announcing his defence priorities on Wednesday, said he had spoken several times with Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton about how New Zealand could participate in the new defence pact formed between Australia, the United Kingdom, and United States.

To ask the obvious question (because clearly the Minister hasn't): why the fuck would we want to do that?

AUKUS exists for one purpose: to threaten China. It's part of a hegemonic dick-waving game between the US (a failing power) and China (a rising one). Rather than contributing in any way to our security, it instead promotes insecurity, in the form of great-power competition. As a country which wants a peaceful world where we all get along, we shouldn't be touching it with a barge pole. Instead, we should be running as fast as we can to get away from those warmongering fuckwits before they start the fight they so obviously want.

As for supposed "technological benefits", the pandemic has shown us that, when it comes to funding, our national security policies are exactly arse-backwards. Its not ships and guns and expensive war-toys that keep us safe, but a (barely-) functioning health system. And in terms of other actual (rather than imagined, or desired) threats, what we need is a well-funded civil defence agency, not expensive and pointless spies. We should be reallocating resources towards the things which actually threaten us, rather than fantasies which don't.

But I guess the real problem here is that the existing defence and "security" apparatus is never going to recommend that, because it would mean they no longer existed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Equality comes to Chile

Chile's legislature has voted overwhelmingly for equal marriage:

Lawmakers in Chile on Tuesday legalized same-sex marriage, a landmark victory for gay rights activists that underscores how profoundly the country’s politics and society have shifted in the past decade.

By overwhelming majorities in both chambers, lawmakers put the unions of same-sex couples on par with others, making Chile the 31st nation to allow gay marriage and taking a significant step toward consolidating it as the norm in Latin America.

Good. And on the latter front, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights rule in 2018 that countries must recognise same-sex marriage; hopefully the remaining countries will hurry up and implement it.

Failure to deliver

Remember the Welfare Expert Advisory Group? When it reported back in 2019, it found that the welfare system was "no longer fit for purpose and needs fundamental change". You'd think a "centre-left" government would be eager to fix things, but you'd be wrong: Labour has been dragging its feet like a farmer responding to climate change:

In February 2019, WEAG's experts delivered their report calling for complete reform of the welfare system. It provided 42 key recommendations and 126 detailed recommendations.

However in the second annual review, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has found progress to be "slow, patchy and piecemeal" with 22 key recommendations minimally or partially implemented.

CPAG researchers and report co-authors Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Professor Emeritus Innes Asher warn at the pace the Government is moving, it could take "decades" to implement the proposed welfare reforms.

As with KiwiBuild, its basicly a long litany of non-delivery. The cost of this foot-dragging? More people in poverty, more kids in hospital, more blighted lives. But why would Ministers care about that, when they're paid $217,000 a year, plus expenses and slush fund?

Member's Day

Today is a member's day, the last one of the year. Unfortunately its dominated by local bills and late stages. First is the Palmerston North Reserves Empowering Amendment Bill, which is about letting the Palmerston North City Council sell the old bowling club on Fitzherbert Ave. They've already tried and failed to do this once before, and they're clearly hoping that people will have forgotten. Next there's another rerun, the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill, in which ECan - having refused to implement Māori wards - is seeking the power to let Ngāi Tahu appoint people to the council. This one has also been voted down in the past. In both cases, being local bills, they'll probably be sent to select committee.

After that, there's the third reading of the Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill, which is solely about changing the words said in court to imply that people who aren't guilty are. Then there's the committee stage of the Harmful Digital Communications (Unauthorised Posting of Intimate Visual Recording) Amendment Bill. If the House moves very quickly, it might continue the second reading of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill, but I doubt it'll get further than that. As its later stages all the way down, there won't be a ballot tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Time to ban anonymous donations

On Friday, the government began "consulting" on changes to electoral finance law, including a ban on anonymous donations. Given the subject, that's the sort of consultation you'd expect to be well-publicised to maximise public input, but apparently they forgot to do that bit, and we didn't learn about it until a sharp-eyed journalist bought it up at the PostCab press conference yesterday. Which I guess makes it one of those "consultations" where the government doesn't really want to hear from the plebs anyway.

Snark about transparency aside, the merits of the proposal actually look pretty good. The core idea is to increase transparency by aligning the disclosure threshold for party donations with that of candidate donations at $1500, while increasing reporting frequency to quarterly or six monthly (obviously, quarterly is better, and why piss about with half-measures?) There's also a move to improve disclosure around "in-kind" donations, such as those paintings Labour likes to auction, so that we get to know who is actually paying inflated prices for them. Another suggestion is to ban anonymous donations, presumably using the same mechanism as used for overseas donations. As Andrew Geddis points out, there's not really a lot of problems with someone giving $100 or $150 to a party without anyone knowing, but that's really an argument about where the threshhold should be; the principle that all non-minimal donations should be recorded is a good one, and the question is whether its rich people or real people who get to decide what "minimal" is (rich people have weird ideas about this, and seem to think that amounts that are more than what average people earn in a day or a week aren't important, which just shows how divorced from reality they are).

The one sticking point is the proposal to remove immediate reporting of large donations. The justification for this is that there will be more frequent reporting anyway, but seeing quickly who is buying our politicians has significant benefits, and there's a hell of a lot of difference between seeing in ten days (as we do at present) and seeing in three or six months. This is something where we resist change, and insist on additional transparency where there is a higher risk of corruption and undue influence.

Details on the consultation are here. There's also a briefing note with details of the proposed changes. Submissions are due by 25 January 2022, so there's no real hurry. Just remember not to forget to do it over the holidays.

Monday, December 06, 2021

The polluter doesn't change its spots

Over the weekend there seems to have been a bit of a campaign to paint Nationals' new leader Christopher Luxon as being somehow different from his predecessors on climate change (despite its total absence from his initial "big issues" list). For example, this piece in Stuff, talking up Luxon's time at Air New Zealand as somehow demonstrating a personal commitment to sustainability. So, what change have we actually seen? So far Luxon has:

  • said that farmers - our largest polluters - aren't villains. Their climate record tells a different story.
  • refused to countenance any drop in cow numbers in a Q&A interview, effectively saying he intends to do nothing about the problem.
  • Reappointed Scott Simpson as climate spokesperson, suggesting that the current policy of foot-dragging and pandering to deniers will continue.

These are not the actions of a leader who views reducing emissions as a priority. Rather, they're the actions of a leader trying desperately to protect polluters and continue the "business-as-usual" policies which are destroying the planet. The polluter party doesn't change its spots.

So when can believe National has changed on climate change? Obviously, when it actually does. When they stop advocating foot-dragging and denial, and start advocating effective policy - the complete shutdown of the fossil fuel industry and a massive cut in dairy herd sizes - then they might be acceptable. Until then, they're firmly on the side of those wanting to destroy the planet.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Incentives work again

Back in July the government introduced an incentive scheme for electric vehicles. So how's it going? While the official statistics aren't in yet, Stuff seems to have got them, and they look pretty good:

The November sales figures are in, and battery electric vehicles are closing in on the 1000-per-month registration milestone. That’s largely because Tesla received two big shipments over the course of two months, but it shows that Kiwis are increasingly looking to electric power.

There were 947 BEVs registered over the month, along with 432 plug-in hybrids and 1462 hybrids, meaning 17 per cent of the monthly new car fleet was electrified to some degree.

The EV fleet statistics track BEVs and plug-in hybrids, so the relevant number here is 1379. Which compares very nicely with the 1071 EVs registered last month, or the 652 on average in the first six months of the year. So it looks like the policy has basicly doubled uptake.

Is it enough? Not yet. RNZ recently reported on the scale of change required to meet our climate budgets, and the immediate goal for EVs was 10% of new light vehicles by 2025. Currently we seem to be sitting on ~8% (from the Stuff article), which isn't quite there yet. But the stick side of the incentive - a fee for dirty vehicles - doesn't kick in until next year, and that should change things a bit. So while we can't mark this one as "achieved" yet, it at least looks like a real possibility.

The real challenge will be in the next budget period, when we'll need 62% of all light vehicles entering NZ to be electric. By that stage the prices should have crossed over - meaning EVs will be cheaper than dirty vehicles - and car buyers will be staring down the barrel of a ban on new fossil imports (meaning potentially a lack of spares and possible problems with fuel availability for fossil cars in the long term). But it still looks like a very intimidating target.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

An embodiment of our problems

When Christopher Luxon was anointed leader of the National party, the first thing I did was look up how many houses he owned in Parliament's Register Of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests 2021. The answer is seven, suggesting that when it comes to housing, one of Aotearoa's big three policy problems, he is part of that problem, not part of a solution. And it gets worse:

Soaring house prices mean new National Party leader Christopher Luxon is effectively earning about $90,000 a week in capital gains on his seven properties, which give him the biggest property portfolio of any sitting MP.


Luxon’s properties – a family home in Remuera, a Waiheke Island bach, an apartment in Wellington, his electoral office and three investment properties in Onehunga – now have a combined value of $21.145 million.

Their value on paper has increased by $4.3m since the start of this year – and by $3m since June alone – but most of those gains, if realised, would fall outside the “bright-line test” and would therefore be untaxed.

Hickey noted that Luxon had theoretically earned even more this year from housing than the $4.2m he earned in his last year as chief executive of Air New Zealand.

That $90,000 a week is more than the median kiwi makes all year, and on an annual basis its 50% more than we earn in a lifetime (based on median hourly earnings). Of course, that median kiwi pays taxes on every dollar they earn; for Luxon, its all tax free. And as the icing on the cake, he doesn't even recognise that this is wrong.

This is a man who has absolutely nothing in common with the people he purports to represent and supposedly wants to lead. He might as well be a Martian for all he has in common with us. Instead, he's basicly an embodiment of two of our three biggest problems (and conspicuously silent on the third). Only a party whose MPs own three and a half houses each (and are thus similarly divorced from reality) could think he could win us over.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

More solar

The other day I posted about the renewable energy challenge if Aotearoa is to meet its climate change goals, arguing that we can do it. Today, Christchurch Airport has stepped up, providing another big chunk of what we need to get to a greener 2035, in the form of a 150MW solar farm:

Christchurch Airport is committing 400 hectares to create a renewable energy park with a solar farm that will generate enough to power 30,000 homes.

Kōwhai Park will be located on the airport's Harewood campus, with hopes it will help businesses to transition away from fossil fuels.

The park will scale up over the next 30 years with the first phase dedicated to a solar energy farm capable of generating 150 megawatts of electricity. That is about 20 percent of Christchurch's current residential electricity use.

The park will support future development of green fuel production for land and air transport, green data centres and green vertical farming.

The latter is interesting. Airlines are going to have to decarbonise, and they have a number of technological options available (electricity, hydrogen, and straight-out synthetic fuel are all on the table). But all of those options will need electricity, and the airport is basicly signalling that they're ready to provide it to help the transition.

When will we follow Barbados?

Barbados became a republic last night, ending nearly 400 years of British colonialism:

After 396 years, the sun has set on the British monarchy’s reign over the Caribbean island of Barbados, with a handover ceremony at midnight on Monday marking the birth of the world’s newest republic.

As the clock struck 12, the Royal Standard flag representing the Queen was lowered over a crowded Heroes Square in Bridgetown and Carol Roberts-Reifer, chief executive officer of the National Cultural Foundation, made the declaration of Barbados’ transition to its new constitutional status.

Guests in the square applauded as Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president by the chief justice and took the oath of allegiance to her country. Hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital cheered and a 21-gun salute was fired as the national anthem was played. Barbadian singer Rihanna also attended the ceremony and was declared a national hero.

Obviously, congratulations are in order. But Barbados also provides a model of how we could do it. They're a "twink republic": twink out old royalist terms ("Governor-General", "Crown") and replace them with republican ones ("President", "State"). The forms change, but the underlying structure remains the same, providing constitutional continuity and certainty. They even appointed their incumbent Governor-General as President, to ease concerns around political appointments and ensure norms around non-interference were continued.

This is the easiest pathway we could take to a republic. It avoids opening any cans of worms around relitigating constitutional norms (or rather, puts it off into the future when we can handle it without the distraction of a foreign monarch and her local personality cult), while making the change that really matters: ending the undemocratic institution of the foreign monarchy.

In Barbados, the shift was seen explicitly as ending colonialism and restoring the dignity of Barbadians. The obvious question for Aotearoa is when we are going to follow them, join the future, and live in dignity?

Something is missing from this picture

Yesterday the National Party picked a new leader, who seems indistinguishable from the last-but-one. Today, Stuff has an article exploring where he stands on the "big issues", which looks at "faith and politics", "identity and housing", "three Waters and He Puapua", and "health and social investment". What's missing? Just climate change - our biggest environmental problem which is going to shape all of those other issues.

That's quite the omission. And given Stuff's declaration that they will treat climate change like the emergency that it is, I'd have expected them to have asked about it. Did they forget, or did Luxon refuse to answer? And if the latter, isn't that pretty newsworthy?