Monday, July 31, 2023

Will Labour allow more offshore drilling?

Offshore gas exploration permit 38602, held by Todd Energy, was due to expire today, and I was looking forward to announcing its demise. First granted in 1993 to Todd Energy, it was apparently the site of a gas discovery in 2004. But rather than exploit it, Todd sat on it for twenty years, repeartedly extending the permit for "appraisal" to ensure they could claim the value of this "asset" on their books. The most recent extension was in 2019, and was one of the first signs of the emptiness of labour's offshore gas ban. But when I checked today, it looks like Todd have applied to convert it into a mining permit.

This is perfectly legal, thanks to Labour's chickenshittery. While they banned issuing new offshore petroleum permits, a sneaky little transition clause buried in a schedule ensures that reapplications must be determined "as if the Amendment Act had not been enacted". Because we wouldn't want that "ban" to actually mean anything, would we? But the new Crown Minerals Amendment Bill (currently waiting for its committee stage) seems to fix this, with a new transition clause saying that existing applications will be determined in accordance with the amended Act (which of course includes the offshore ban). The question now is whether Labour will actually pass this before the election, or whether by cowardice and chickenshittery they'll effectively enable a continuation of offshore drilling, in violation of their own "ban". And if they do, will voters tolerate that gutlessness at the ballot box?

[For the curious, I'm tracking petroleum permits here. The next expiry after this isn't until December next year, though if we're lucky we'll see some surrenders as a result of "drill or drop" clauses]

National doesn't get it

Temperature records are being broken everywhere, Europe is on fire, the Gulf Stream is about to collapse, so of course National reannounces its perennial election policy of "more roads!", coupled of course with "less public transport".

There are plenty of reasons to hate this - sprawl, dodgy costs, National punishing cities who don't vote for them - but the big one is simple: this is the exact opposite of what we need in a climate crisis. More roads equals more traffic equals more emissions equals more fires, floods, and cyclones. Its a clear sign that National just doesn't get it on the biggest challenge facing Aotearoa. And that means they're unfit to govern.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

One country at a time

Ghana has abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes:

Ghana has become the 29th country in Africa to abolish the death penalty in a move hailed by human rights activists.

The decision means that the 176 people currently on death row, including six women, are likely to have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

On Tuesday, Ghana’s parliament voted to amend the country’s criminal offences act, removing the use of capital punishment for crimes including murder, genocide, piracy and smuggling.

The death sentence can still be given for acts of high treason, and campaigners cautioned that the country’s constitution would have to change for a complete removal of the penalty.

And hopefully that will happen soon. But this takes capital punishment off the table in almost all circumstances, and it is something to be welcomed.

More wealth tax trouble for Labour

Last month the Greens released their tax policy, pushing for a wealth tax to end poverty. Today, Te Pāti Māori followed suit, releasing an even more progressive proposal:

Te Pāti Māori released its tax policy on Thursday, going into October’s election. It joined the Green Party’s call for a tax-free income threshold and a wealth tax – but Te Pāti Māori went a step further.

Te Pāti Māori pushed for a range of new taxes, targeting landowners, the rich and the profits of foreign corporates. And, as Stuff revealed earlier, it included an income tax-free bracket up to $30,000, offset by higher taxes on higher incomes.

Waititi positioned the policy as a Robinhood-style reimagining of the tax system.

There's some magical thinking in Te Pāti Māori's proposal, in the line about getting $7 billion in tax by funding the SFO to crack down on fraud. Its not that there's nothing there to be gained, or that massively increased SFO or IRD funding won't help cut criminal evasion, but it just sounds awfully like the infinite money the right thinks it can get from "reducing waste".

This is clearly going to mean coalition pain for Labour if they're in a position to form a government post-election. They're going to have to accept some form of wealth taxation and an increase in progressivity, or else try and form a coalition with National or ACT. Though as both of those parties seem closer to Labour's preferred position ATM, maybe they'll do that rather than work with their allies.


A ballot for three Member's Bills was held today, and the following bills were drawn:

  • Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) (Provision of Breast Cancer Screening Services) Amendment Bill (Shane Reti)
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights (Right to Lawfully Acquired Property) Amendment Bill (Barbara Kuriger)
  • District Court (Protecting Judgment Debtors on Main Benefit) Amendment Bill (Anahila Kanongata’a)

So it looks like ACT's propertarian radicalism is back, now being pushed by National. Which shows you how far right they've come in the last decade. And unfortunately the bill will be voted on by the next Parliament, which might have an ACT-National majority. Ugh.

There were 70 bills in the ballot, which is a pretty healthy number.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Member's Day

Today is a Member's Day, and after a long period of later stages, we should finally be seeing some first readings. First up is the second reading of the Annie Oxborough Birth Parents Registration Bill, a private bill to undo the effects of an old adoption on someone's birth records. That's unlikely to take long - no-one objects to it - so then its on to the committee stage of Camilla Belich's Companies (Directors Duties) Amendment Bill. After that, it's first readings: the last ten minutes or so of Eugenie Sage's Crown Minerals (Prohibition of Mining) Amendment Bill (which chickenshit Labour will vote down, raising the price of any future coalition), Karen Chhour's racist Oranga Tamariki (Repeal of Section 7AA) Amendment Bill, and Helen White's Employment Relations (Restraint of Trade) Amendment Bill. If the House moves quickly it should make a start on Stuart Smith's Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Cellar Door Tasting) Amendment Bill. There should be a ballot for at least two bills tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Climate Change: Unfucking the ETS

Earlier in the month Lawyers for Climate Action won a historic victory, overturning labour's 2022 ETS settings decision, which had crashed the carbon market. The courts told the government to go back to the drawing board and do it again and come up with ETS settings that complied with the law. Today, the government released its response. The full settings are here, and they have largely followed the Climate Commission's advice. On price, they've adopted the Commission's advice completely, so from December we'll have a CCR trigger price of $173, and from next year we'll have a two-tier CCR triggering at $184 and $230. Which is high enough that it should never happen, meaning those units will never be released. On volume - the measure which matters - they've differed a little from the Commission advice, likely because they're trying to mash two sets of Commission advice together. But the court-granted ability to adjust this year's settings means they've ripped 2.9 million tons out of 2023, giving a number even lower than that originally recommended by the Commission. The table below shows auction volumes without the CCR, to make them easy to compare (the 2023 Commission figures are adjusted to account for the fact that there has been no CCR release in 2023):

YearCurrent settingsNew settingsCC 2022 (p45)CC 2023 (p 42, ignoring step 7a)
Total (2023-7)75.561.668.5-
Total (2024-8)-53.5-51.1

So, they've unfucked their previous decision, and once you account for ripping 2.9 million tons out of 2023, actually come in half a million tons lower than the Commission's pathway.

This is a pretty good result, and might finally restore some sanity to the ETS and let it actually function. At least until National breaks it again.

Climate Change: Turning the supertanker around

Newsroom reports on StatsNZ's latest estimate of greenhouse gas emissions, and the news is hopeful: gross emissions have dropped, and are now at their lowest level in at least nine years:

A drop in greenhouse gas emissions due to Covid-19 measures was sustained well beyond the end of movement restrictions and lockdowns, new data shows.

In fact, climate pollution continued to fall through all of 2022, with the December 2022 quarter delivering the lowest figure in at least nine years barring the period covering the first lockdown, Statistics New Zealand reported on Thursday. While the pace of the decline isn't yet sufficient to meet New Zealand's climate goals, it suggests we have well and truly bent the emissions curve and are on our (slow but steady) way to a net-zero economy.

Digging into the detail, the biggest drops were in electricity generation, manufacturing, and agriculture and forestry. Part of this is weather-related - its been a good year for hydro, so a bad year for coal and gas. But manufacturing emissions have dropped because major polluters have closed down (e.g. Marsden Point) or are cleaning up in response to (then-)high carbon prices. As for agriculture and forestry, in December 2022 we had had years of rising carbon prices, and so years of dirty inefficient farming being replaced by clean, efficient trees. Unfortunately transport emissions are still rising, but there's a clear policy path which should turn that around as well. And we're still well behind other developed countries, which have reduced their emissions significantly while ours have risen.

...which leaves us with the giant cow in the room. While agricultural emissions have dropped slightly, its not nearly by enough. we need real policy in this area, and the government's he waka eke noa bullshit won't cut it. Either we need to price agricultural emissions by including them in the ETS at the processor level, or we need to use a regulatory scheme of using the NAIT database to cap cow numbers and manage them down directly. The alternative is an unmanaged decline, as Fonterra destroys its own markets and the cyclones they cause destroy their production. Having actual policy seems less cruel.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Labour's self-inflicted wounds

"Justice Minister resigns after being charged over drunken car crash" was not what I expected when I heard the news this morning. And obviously it sucks for that Minister, and they clearly need help (and maybe to leave politics so they can have a normal life). But its also the latest in a long-line of completely self-inflicted wounds for Labour, which may end up being the death knell for its re-election chances.

Michael Wood, sacked for keeping his pecuniary interests hidden. Jan Tinetti, caught lying to parliament to cover her control-freakery. Stuart Nash, sacked for corruption. These were all completely voluntary and hence completely avoidable political wounds, the result of arrogance and stupidity. So is drunk-driving and refusing to accompany police to provide an evidentiary alcohol test. And the fact that this just keeps happening suggests there is something very wrong with the Labour team, and the behaviour it sees as acceptable.

Another self-inflicted wound is the refusal to promote anyone to Cabinet to cover the gaps left by the various resignations, meaning that core Ministers get overworked with additional portfolios - and important policy areas get neglected due to lack of Ministerial attention. Not that Labour is doing policy anyway - they're the government of doing nothing, and the proximity of the election means what little they do do is all reactionary bullshit made up in five minutes to neutralise a bad headline. But not having proper Ministerial oversight does not help, and is likely to lead to more unpleasant surprises in the future.

None of which bodes well for October. The equation for government under MMP is that you need around 48% after the wasted vote. For the left, that means the Greens need to bring 8% and Labour 40%. Te Pāti Māori gives Labour a bit of wiggle room most years - and more than usual this year. But Labour still is not doing as well as required. If they end up on the opposition benches after October, they'll have no-one to blame but themselves.

Everyone loses in Spain

Spanish voters went to the polls yesterday in national elections. And it looks like everybody lost, with neither bloc winning a majority.

The elections had been called early after the (former fascist) People's Party and (actually fascist) Vox had swept local elections, causing the Socialist government to panic. But in the end the PP and Vox could only muster 169 seats in the 350 seat Congress. Meanwhile, the Socialists and the left-wing Sumar managed 153. And in between there's a bunch of mostly Catalan and Basque regionalist parties, who both the main blocs hate. They're never going to vote for a PP/Vox government, given the latter's desire to eliminate their languages and end their autonomy - but the Socialists have broken the promises they gave to these parties to secure power last time, and started their campaign with an explicit "fuck you" to them. The gambit here will be the usual "are you really going to let fascists into government?"; the problem is that after years of mistreatment enabled by this bullshit, some of those parties might just say "fuck you" right back, and trust in the power to roll the government whenever they want to limit its abuses, rather than clearly worthless promises. Which is a high-risk strategy, and another way for everyone to lose.

If no government can be formed, then it will be back to the polls, just as happened in 2019. Given that the socialists called the election early for fear of a bigger loss if they waited, hopefully they'll have a strong incentive to avoid that result.

Friday, July 21, 2023


Writing in The Post, David Cormack contrasts the trivial nature of much recent political "journalism" with the substantive issues those same journalists are ignoring. Workplace dogs! Politicians drinking! Statistical whataboutism! Versus poverty, domestic violence, covid, and climate change. And ultimately, he compares this with the trivial nature of our politics - "tinkering around the edges... student politicians playing grown-ups". But behind the trivia, there's some very real choices we're making:

All of the above issues hurt the individual. The individuals they hurt tend to be those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. And all of those issues have solutions that politicians all around the world actively choose to not do.

Which means all of those problems are a choice. We choose to let families go hungry. We choose to not divest from fossil fuels. We choose to allow capitalism to run unfettered, ruining huge numbers of lives as it makes a small number of people unfathomably and unnecessarily wealthy. We then choose to not tax them fairly.


We choose to shake our heads in disappointment or mirth at our political figures for not knowing the exact CPI, or unemployment rate, or some other obscure figure when we should be shaking our heads at the inaction on helping those who most need it but are least likely to ask.

Its easy to criticise politicians for being trivial and ignoring real problems. But they're that way because they can be, which means ultimately that they're that way because we let them. Its time we stopped letting them. In three months time there's an election. Its time we made some different choices.

Climate Change: NZ policy in a nutshell


We've all seen the cartoon above, about the endless cycle of New Zealand climate change policy. But the Zero Carbon Act was supposed to stop it, by forcing the government to actually make plans and account for its failures if it didn't actually do anything to achieve them. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be working out that way:

There’s a risk the Government will not reduce emissions enough to meet its first emissions budget.

But this does not necessarily mean the Government has fallen short of the emissions reduction rules it has set itself. While emissions reductions might not be sufficient to fall within the budget, the Government can “borrow” against a future budget, meaning it technically lives within its commitments.

This is technically legal - the Zero Carbon Act allows governments to borrow up to 1% of the next budget to meet a previous one. For the 2026-2030 budget period, that equates to about 3 million tons. But its obviously not what was meant to happen, and raises the prospect of successive governments perpetually borrowing from the future in order to legally - but not actually - meet commitments they've made impossible due to their own short-term thinking and pandering to polluters. Which is kindof the whole problem in a nutshell: constantly throwing our problems onto future generations.

This short-term dumping of our problems on the future needs to stop. And if mainstream politicians are the barrier to that, well, that is what elections are for. Meanwhile, if we're looking at ways of making up Hipkins' climate shortfall, the 2021 ETS participant emissions report gives a good idea of places to target for immediate shutdown.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Climate Change: Getting it done

Back in May, the government signed a $140 million deal with NZ Steel to halve its emissions by 2030. Now, they've followed it up with a $90 million subsidy to Fonterra to bring forward its scheduled emissions reductions:

The Government has announced it will partner with Fonterra in an attempt to cut coal use in the dairy industry, and reduce agricultural emissions.

The relationship will see the dairy giant commit to cutting coal usage across six of its manufacturing sites which it says will result in 2.1 million tonnes of early C02e reductions. This equates to taking 120,000 cars off the road.

The changes are expected to deliver 2.69% of all New Zealand’s required emission reductions between 2026-2030.

This is not as good a deal for us as NZ Steel - the cost of the cuts is $43/ton, vs $16.20/ton for NZ Steel, and there's no subsidy which can be cut to offset costs. Its also morally repugnant that we're further subsidising Aotearoa's worst polluter, to do something that the market looked certain to force it to do anyway. But on the gripping hand, we need to cut emissions as quickly as possible, and this gets it done. And there should hopefully be a nice side-benefit of killing off a bunch of coal mines too.

The important thing now is to rip those savings right out of the ETS to ensure they actually happen, rather than just being emitted by someone else. Otherwise, the government just paid $90 million to shuffle emissions around and make a dirty company look good.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Labour says "fuck transparency"

Last month, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee reported back on the Inspector-General of Defence Bill making numerous changes which significantly improved the transparency and credibility of the Inspector-General. When I posted about this, I said that NZDF was likely to be unhappy with this, and that

the danger now is that the Minister will listen to them and abuse Labour's majority to undo the committee's recommendations and restore the coverup regime.
Unfortunately, this seems to be exactly what has happened. Defence Minister Andrew Little has introduced a supplementary order paper which unpicks key amendments made by the committee. The SOP will:
  • Allow the Minister to censor the Inspector-General's reports;
  • Reverse the presumption of transparency and make investigations private by default;
  • Remove the IGD's investigations from the coverage of the OIA.

The result will be an "inspector" which is effectively a stooge of the Minister, which exists to cover up rather than bring to light NZDF wrongdoing. And the Inspector-General will lack credibility as a result.

If this passes, I'd hope that a pro-transparency party will put an "Inspector-General of Defence (Transparency and Credibility) Amendment Bill" in the ballot. Meanwhile, the sooner we get back to "normal" MMP politics and coalition government, so governments have to actually listen to Parliament rather than over-ruling it by the whip, the better.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

More privilege problems for Labour

This afternoon Parliament will debate the report of the (powerful) Privileges Committee on Education Minister Jan Tinetti's misleading the House. But it looks like another (former) Minister is in trouble as well: Parliament's Registrar of Pecuniary Interests has reported back on their inquiry into Michael Wood, finding that Wood had not complied with his responsibilities. Along the way, the Registrar also found that Wood had lied to the public about his compliance:

Noting that his pecuniary interests had been the focus of intense media scrutiny and comment, I then showed Mr Wood a video clip of an interview he gave on 8 June 2023, the day the inquiry was announced. Apart from expressing the hope that “clarity and transparency” would emerge from the inquiry, Mr Wood had stated that “I have also followed up and corrected the Register of Pecuniary Interests going back to 2017”. I put it to Mr Wood that that statement was not correct, as there had been no amendments made at all to his previous returns, for the entire period since February 2017. What did he mean by that comment to the media? He replied that he “must have misspoken in the heat of the press scrum”. He thought he might have mixed up the Standing Orders and Cabinet Office requirements.
Wood does not look at all good from this. Its one thing to make a careless mistake, front up, and fix it. Its quite another to refuse to fix it, despite constant reminders, for two years, then lie to the public about what you're doing. Voters in his electorate can draw their own conclusions about his honesty and fitness for office.

Wood's case will now be considered by the (powerful) Privileges Committee. Of course, given that Labour has four of the eight places on the committee, and will effectively be judging one of its own, I don't think the public can expect any justice from them. The problem of course is that if Labour gives Wood the proverbial (powerful) slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket, it makes the entire pecuniary interests declaration system pointless, with a consequent impact on Parliament's credibility.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The government of doing nothing

Last week, Labour chickenshitted out on a wealth tax, with Prime Minister (for now) Chris Hipkins ruling it out as long as he holds office (which sortof suggests a solution, doesn't it?) But taxing wealth to build a more equal Aotearoa wasn't the only thing they chickenshitted out on - they also refused to break up the rapacious supermarket duopoly which is robbing us blind. Why? Largely it seems because they'd get the blame if it went wrong, and so they'd rather let Foodstuffs and Progressive keep screwing us than do anything about it. And today, there's the icing on the cake: a consultants report advising that the government's current half-measures are ineffective and will condemn us to another 20 years of supermarket robbery:

The Government’s much-touted reforms of the supermarket industry are unlikely to result in a material improvement in competition, according to its own advisers.

Instead, without additional action, consumers can expect little to change for the better over the next 20 years, with a risk that the variety of products stocked by the supermarkets will continue to reduce and that supermarkets’ gross profit margins will continue to rise, ministers have been told.

Crushing the supermarket duopoly and limiting its excess profits is something that would have a huge effect on the cost of living, and on poverty. But Labour just won't do it, because they're chickenshits afraid of upsetting the status quo. "In it for you"? You be the judge...

New kiwi blog

An old-style post-title for an old-style post! Che Tibby returns to blogging with The Apocrypha of Noah - which so far, seems to be looking at climate change.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Climate Change: Overturned

Last December, Labour made the first in a series of terrible climate decisions, over-ruling Climate Change Minister James Shaw and the Climate Change Commission to sabotage the ETS by setting excessively high volumes and low prices. The result was immediate: the carbon price crashed from ~$85/ton and began a long-term decline (which has only worsened as Labour has done more to undermine it). But today, thanks to Lawyers for Climate Action, that decision has been overturned:

Today the High Court gave judgment in favour of Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc in a judicial review of the Regulations which set the number of additional Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) units available over the next five years and imposed various price restrictions. The Regulations are referred to as the Climate Change (Auctions, Limits, and Price Controls for Units) Amendment Regulations 2022 and were made in December 2022.

The judgment means that the Minister of Climate Change must now reconsider the unit limit and price control settings for 2023 to 2027 by 30 September 2023.

The decision was by consent - Shaw accepted that his decision-making process was flawed, and that he did not have reasonable grounds to conclude that Labour's preferred settings were lawful and in accordance with our emissions budgets or Paris NDC. Which means they will have to be re-made. The government is currently considering settings for 2024 - 2028, and this decision will neatly allow them to bypass the statutory requirements for changing the settings for the next two years (since those requirements were met or irrelevant for 2024 and 2025 respectively).

This is a significant victory for the climate, and a significant defeat for chickenshit, sabotaging Labour. And hopefully it'll help set a convention in future of always following the Climate Commission, rather than trying to over-rule it. We all owe Lawyers for Climate Action a debt of gratitude. And if you'd like to support them in their work, you can make a donation here.

Labour won't tax the banks either

Buried under yesterday's chickenshit announcement by Chris Hipkins that Labour won't support a wealth tax so long as he is leader is another example of Labour chickenshittery: they won't tax the banks either, despite them making "supernormal" profits:

The big four Australian-owned banks avoided a windfall tax on their Covid-era profits partly because Treasury could find no clear evidence their “supernormal” profits at the time were out of line with their standard supernormal profits.

Budget documents released on Wednesday showed the Government considered, the decided against, levying a windfall profits tax on banks to help pay for the rebuild in Hawke’s Bay following devastation in February from Cyclone Gabrielle.

They also show Treasury officials told the Government that while big bank profits had increased in the Covid era: “We have not identified clear evidence for windfall profits, on top of the sector’s usual elevated level of profitability”.

...which seems to be a strong argument for a perpetual windfall tax on bank profits, to tame these rapacious parasites. But instead, Labour decided to do nothing, as usual. So, they won't tax the rich, they won't tax the banks, but they'll cry "poverty" when anyone voices basic expectations about a functioning state or public services. But they're not "poor" - just too stupid, weak, and craven to govern effectively.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Hipkins surrenders

Last month, the Greens kicked off their election campaign, proposing a wealth tax on the ultra-rich. Its a good, sensible policy: the New Zealand state is decrepit and run-down, with everything falling apart and failing after decades of austerity. A wealth tax would give it the money it needs to be able to do the things we want it to do: schools, hospitals, a welfare system that ends poverty and ensures human dignity.

So, you'd expect Labour, the party of ordinary kiwis who rely on those public services, to support this, right? Of course not:

Labour will not propose a wealth tax or a capital gains tax at the election, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said overnight on Wednesday.

“I’m confirming today that under a Government I lead there will be no wealth or capital gains tax after the election. End of story.”

He said “now is simply not the time for a big shake-up of our tax system”.

And so Labour, "the party of the workers", has sided with the ultra-rich to fuck over normal people, as usual. But then, should we really expect anything different from a man paid $471,049 a year, who owns three houses? Bluntly, he's not one of us - he's one of them. Of course he stands for their interests rather than ours.

Obviously, we have MMP, so this is really a question of the balance of power between Labour and the Greens and Te Pāti Māori after the election. But Hipkins' announcement today means that that might not be an issue. He's basicly told voters to fuck off, he's not going to offer us anything - just the awful, unequal, rusting status quo. There's no hope for a better future under Labour. So why bother voting for them?

The clear message from this announcement is that if you want change, you need to vote for the Greens or Te Pati Māori. As for Labour, a party which offers its voters literally nothing deserves to lose.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


If a political party had been playing host to someone accused of historical indecent assault, you'd think that's the sort of thing voters ought to be able to know during an election campaign. But not according to this snobby judge:

A former political party figure charged with indecent assault will keep his name under wraps until his trial next year.

His lawyer Ian Brookie successfully argued the case could have become a political football in an election year, jeopardising his client’s right to a fair trial.

Brookie defused what was alleged to be a potential election bombshell in two hearings about a month ago in the Auckland District Court.

Judge Anna Skellern recently released her reserved judgment to parties in the case, granting the man ongoing interim name suppression until his trial, scheduled to start on August 19, 2024.

This is terrible for voters, who are being denied information which could affect their vote. Its terrible for the party, who are being denied the opportunity to defend themselves and dispel the inevitable suspicion that they knew or were careless about this historical offending. Its terrible for the party's candidates, who face being tarred by association and suffering reputational damage when the truth comes out. But most of all, its terrible for our democracy. Because if the party ends up in government and helping to make justice policy after the election, and then suppression is lifted, voters will rightly feel that they have been defrauded at the ballot box and that the government gained power by covering up child abuse. Which is obviously horrific for its legitimacy, and for public confidence in our democratic institutions.

But hey, we couldn't inconvenience a rich person, could we?

This is simply untenable. The consistent use of name suppression to protect the rich and powerful from the reputational consequences of their actions is already undermining public confidence in the justice system. Lets not let it take down our democracy as well.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Climate Change: Underwhelming

The Greens had their pre-election AGM on the weekend, and released their manifesto, including their climate change policy. Unfortunately, its a bit underwhelming. Climate change is the biggest policy challenge facing humanity, and Aotearoa needs to do a lot more if we are to meet our Paris commitments and the 1.5 degree target. And the Greens are offering us... the status quo. Oh, there are tweaks: a standalone Ministry, moving control of ETS settings to the Climate Change Commission and out of the hands of politicians - but these are bureaucratic fiddles. There's no new policies for emissions reduction, no increased ambition, nothing substantive.

On the one hand, this is probably to be expected. James Shaw is the Climate Change Minister, and the status quo is (mostly) his policy. So of course he's focused on fixing the bits where Labour has over-ruled him. But on the gripping hand, it is clear that what we are currently doing is simply nowhere near what we need to be doing. And on that front, a wishy-washy promise to simply "price" agricultural emissions seems weak, leaving open the crucial questions of "how much" and "how much will you shrink the sector by". Because that dirty, inefficient, polluting sector needs to shrink if we are to lower emissions (and improve water quality), and pretending it doesn't does no-one any favours.

This is still the best climate change policy on offer. But I expected more from the Greens. And if they're not going to offer what's required, then who will?

Britain's corrupt Parliament

Last month, Transport Minister Michael Wood was forced to resign after deliberately and repeatedly concealing his pecuniary interests. There's no suggestion that they ever influenced his decision-making, but in Aotearoa we're rightly suspicious of politicians being in a position to profit from public office, and have no tolerance for politicians who refuse to comply with the basic safeguards against it. Meanwhile, in Britain, Wood's crime would have been both legal and normal:

More than 50 MPs have owned stakes in publicly listed companies that raise questions about possible conflicts of interest and that until now have been in effect secret, the Guardian can reveal.

Parliamentary rules mean MPs’ shareholdings, including ones that were held by the former prime minister Theresa May and the former education secretary Gavin Williamson, do not need to be publicly disclosed in parliamentary registers. But as a result voters are left in the dark about some of the financial interests of their elected representatives.


Almost all of the holdings found are not strictly required to be publicly declared under current transparency requirements. Parliamentary rules, unchanged since 2015, require MPs to register holdings they have in a single company when they own more than 15% of its shares or when their shares in it are worth more than £70,000.

That declaration threshold is around 80% of a backbench MP's salary - a ludicrously high amount. Meanwhile, in Aotearoa, there's no threshold - MPs are required to declare every company in which they have a pecuniary interest (though not, weirdly, its value). And that seems much safer. Allowing substantial financial interests - and over twice the UK median income is "substantial" to anyone who isn't a member of Britain's out-of-touch political elite - to remain secret is simply a recipe for corruption. And while UK MP's might argue that it's "within the rules", that's utterly unconvincing, given that they wrote those rules to suit themselves.

Westminster desperately needs reform to force disclosure, and ultimately divestment, of these corrupt financial interests. And until they do, UKanians are entitled to regard it as a corrupt sewer of self-serving pigs, perpetually ripping off the public to feather their own nests.

As for Aotearoa, the Guardian article mentions that the US requires its politicians to disclose share market transactions, to prevent insider-trading. That seems like it would be a useful addition to our system. Better to be safe than sorry, and if politicians don't want their financial affairs scrutinised, they're not really suitable for public life.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Justice for robodebt

Between 2016 and 2020, the Australian government inflicted nearly $2 billion of imaginary "debts" on welfare recipients, courtesy of an illegal automated overpayment calculation system. The policy led to suicides as people struggled to pay debts they didn't owe. The scheme was scrapped in 2020, and the illegal "debts" were later forgiven and repaid. And today, a royal commission into the fiasco has recommended prosecuting its architects:

The architects of Robodebt will be referred for criminal and civil prosecution after a royal commission handed down its report into the unlawful scheme today.

Commissioner Catherine Holmes has branded the former coalition government's debt-raising scheme an "extraordinary saga" of "venality, incompetence and cowardice".

"The report paints a picture of how the Robodebt [scheme] ... was put together on an ill-conceived, embryonic idea," Commissioner Holmes wrote.

"It is remarkable how little interest there seems to have been in ensuring the scheme's legality, how rushed its implementation was, how little thought was given to how it would affect welfare recipients and the lengths to which public servants were prepared to go to oblige ministers on a quest for savings."

It also finds that former PM Scott Morrison (who was social services minister at the time robodebt was created) misled Cabinet by failing to provide all relevant information about the scheme and its lawfulness. To prevent this happening in future, it recommends repealing Australia's blanket exemption of cabinet documents from the Freedom of Information Act. Its still secret who should be prosecuted, and what for. But the onus is now on Australian federal agencies to follow the recommendation. The problem is that they have a track-record of perverting the course of justice to protect those in power. Hopefully that won't happen in this case.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

A tyrannical move in France

The internet is how people communicate now, and social media has become a natural platform for sharing dissent and organising protests. As a result, one of the first things tyrants do when facing mass opposition is shut it down, with blocks on specific platforms, or just a system-wide blackout. We've seen such attacks on the public's right to free expression in places like Iran, Egypt, Myanmar, and India. And now, faced with widespread protests against police murder and institutional racism, Emmanuel Macron is suggesting that France follow suit:

Emmanuel Macron is facing a backlash after threatening to cut off social media networks as a means of stopping the spread of violence during periods of unrest.

Élysée officials and government ministers responded on Wednesday by insisting the president was not threatening a “general blackout” but instead the “occasional and temporary” suspension of platforms.

The president’s comments came as ministers blamed young people using social media such as Snapchat and TikTok for organising and encouraging rioting and violence after the shooting dead of a teenager during a police traffic stop in a Paris suburb last week.

“We need to think about how young people use social networks, in the family, at school, the interdictions there should be … and when things get out of hand we may have to regulate them or cut them off,” Macron told a meeting of more than 250 mayors, whose municipalities were hit by the violence, on Tuesday.

Because obviously, only "young people" - non-pensioners? - use the internet nowdays...

This is simply not what democracies do. Instead, it is the action of a tyranny. Sadly, it seems like France is following Britain towards authoritarianism. The problem for Macron is that a government which walks away from democracy forfeits its legitimacy; if he behaves like a tyrant, there's no basis for complaint if he suffers a tyrant's fate.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Britain's SAS hosted a serial killer

In 2020, the Brereton report found that the Australian SAS had murdered 39 Afghan civilians and committed war crimes. The British government is finally reviewing the actions of its own special forces in Afghanistan, and it looks like the death toll is at least twice as high:

Eighty Afghans may have been victim of summary killings by three separate British SAS units operating in the country between 2010 and 2013, lawyers representing the bereaved families have told a public inquiry.


Afghans were often killed after allegedly producing weapons when separated from their wider family by SAS soldiers, but there were five incidents where the number shot dead exceeded the number of weapons found.

The fresh claims are cited in a document submitted by the law firm Leigh Day, based on previous Ministry of Defence court disclosures, to a new public inquiry into allegations of war crimes committed by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

And these are the murders they have admitted to. There'll be a lot more they've covered up and kept secret.

Appallingly, nearly half the admitted death toll is due to a single soldier, who had a policy of murdering all "fighting-age males", regardless of whether they posed any threat. Which seems both genocidal, and the actions of a straight-up serial killer.

In Australia, the Brereton report got to the truth, and led to consequences. An entire SAS unit was disbanded for its crimes, and criminal trials are imminent. In the UK, with its long history of official coverups, and with politicians trying to "draw a line" under historic crimes to prevent embarrassment to the power structure, I don't think we can have any confidence that anything will be done. Britain will not provide justice for its crimes. Instead, these war criminals and their political accessories and co-conspirators will have to be sent to The Hague.

"Lets lynch the landlord" as policy

Last month the Greens released their tax policy, was was basicly eat the rich. Over the weekend they followed it up with their rental policy. The short version? lets lynch the landlord:

Rents controls would limit how much landlords could increase the rent by each year. The cap would never be higher than 3 percent, which is the upper limit of the Reserve Bank's inflation target.

Landlords would not be allowed to raise rents beyond this limit unless they have made substantial improvements to the property.

The controls would also be property based rather than tenancy to prevent landlords putting up the rent between tenants.

A Rental Warrant of Fitness would guarantee all rental homes were safe, warm and healthy to live in.

A national register of all landlords and property managers would keep track of how many properties were rented, ownership, how much rent was charged over time, and compliance with the Rental Warrant of Fitness.

Less headliney, but also important: relaxing Labour's austerity limits on Kainga Ora, allowing them to build even more state houses. Which would restore some balance to the rental sector.

Naturally, landlords hate it, making their usual threat to sell up. Which is a feature, not a bug, because unless they turn arsonist, the houses will still be there. They'll just be parasite free. Economists also hate it, but given that their "discipline" is basicly making excuses for the rich, they would. And as with MMP, the Wal Footrot principle applies: want a reason to vote for it? Just look at the people telling you not to.

[With thanks to the Dead Kennedys for the post title]