Thursday, August 31, 2023


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

  • Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) (Improving Mental Health Outcomes) Amendment Bill (Matt Doocey)
  • Electoral (Equal Protection of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill (Arena Williams)
  • Employment Relations (Trial Periods) Amendment Bill (James McDowall)

This is the last ballot for this Parliament. The bills will all be considered by the Parliament we elect in October.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A violation of the rights of children

Last week, in a desperate attempt to get some "tough on crime" and "we hate children" headlines before the election, the government introduced the Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill. The core provisions increase penalties for ram-raiding, allow children to be prosecuted as adults for it, allow them to be stuck in a police DNA databank for the rest of their lives as a result, and allow them (and other people) to be punished more heavily if they livestream or post a video of a criminal offence. In other words, stop those annoying kids from posting tik-tok videos which undermine the government's "tough on crime" narrative. Now, the Attorney-General has warned that it violates the Bill of Rights Act:

The Government’s plan to crack down on ram raids has been given a stinging rebuke by Attorney-General David Parker, who says it is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act (BORA) on multiple grounds.


Parker, in vetting the bill against the protections in the BORA, said it appeared to be inconsistent on three grounds: the right of a child to be dealt with in an age-appropriate way, the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure, and the right to freedom of expression.

The bill might be justifiable if the benefits outweighed the harms, but Parker said that “a court is, having considered relevant evidence, likely to conclude that the harms outweigh the benefits”.

“In terms of benefits, it is unlikely that the new pathway into the Youth Court for 12 and 13-year-olds will, as a general proposition, result in a systematic benefit of reducing criminal offending or improving child outcomes,” he said.

...which is obvious: while the Boomers love it, sticking kids in jail never helps, and usually makes things much, much worse, for them and for everybody else. Meanwhile, on the anti-tiktok provision, its clearly punishing people for expression, and its not hard to see cases where such expression has significant value. To point out one obvious example, a political protest which is livestreamed engages exactly the core values section 14 of the BORA exists to protect, and punishing people more harshly for doing so is a gross violation of that right. It is easy to see a future court overturning sentences, convictions, and the law itself if it is used in that manner (as it almost certainly will be by police looking to throttle protest).

So, did Parliament take the Attorney-General's warning seriously, and send the bill back to the drawing board for further work before considering it? Of course not - they sent it straight to select committee. And if it emerges without significant change, it will be another example of how Parliament doesn't take its responsibilities under the BORA seriously, and why we need ultimately to take the job off them and give it to judges, rather than headline-chasing politicians.

Member's Day

Today is an unexpected Member's Day - the House had been in urgency, but it wrapped up early enough to allow consideration of Member's Bills. First up is a private bill, the St Peter’s Parish Endowment Fund Trust Bill. This is being run through its final stages in one go, but even so is unlikely to take long. After that, the House will continue the interrupted first reading of Ibrahim Omer's Crimes (Theft by Employer) Amendment Bill. Following that there will be the first readings of Angie Warren-Clark's Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill (which re-introduces cause alongside our no-fault divorce system), Tracey McLellan's Employment Relations (Protection for Kiwisaver Members) Amendment Bill, and (probably) Shane Reti's Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) (Provision of Breast Cancer Screening Services) Amendment Bill. There should be a ballot for three Member's Bills tomorrow, but anything drawn will be dealt with by the next Parliament.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

No way to run a partnership

Yesterday, in an effort to screw the PREFU and narrow the space for National to promise tax cuts, the government announced a $4 billion austerity program. Part of this was a $226 million raid on the climate emergency response fund - meaning less climate action. You'd think the government would have bothered to tell its Climate Change Minister about that. But of course they didn't:

As part of a $4 billion savings initiative announced on Monday, the Government will cut $236 million from climate policies on agriculture, transport and forestry.

One unusual aspect of the move is that climate funding is supposed to be ring-fenced solely for climate policies, but the savings will instead be returned to the general coffers.

Another unusual aspect is Minister for Climate Change James Shaw wasn't aware it would be happening. He told Newsroom he knew the Government was doing a savings exercise and evaluated a couple of policies he was responsible for, which didn't get cut. He was also briefed on a $10m cut to a waste policy.

But he found out about the remaining $226m in climate cuts at the same time the public did.

Regardless of what you think of the merits of cutting climate action in the middle of a climate crisis, this is a shitty and arrogant way to run a political partnership. And its worse because the Prime Minister thinks its perfectly appropriate. The casual attitude of disrespect displayed does not bode well for any future coalition arrangement between Labour and the Greens.

Climate Change: The cow in the room again

Aotearoa has an official climate change target of a 50% reduction in (net) emissions by 2030. There's a lot of spin and bullshit - in the way the target is measured, so its not as impressive as it seems. But even with all those accounting tricks, the IMF has warned that we are not going to meet it:

New Zealand remains significantly off track to meet a promise it made to the United Nations to reduce its net carbon emissions to half of its 2005 gross emissions by 2030, the International Monetary Fund says.

But it says doubling the real price of carbon credits by 2030, while “politically difficult”, could largely close gap.

...which simply tells us that the IMF haven't really looked at Aotearoa at all, and are working purely from theory. Because while a significant rise in the carbon price would be welcome, and would reduce emissions, it will only affect emissions which are subject to it. And thanks to National's corruption and Labour's cowardice, our biggest polluter - agriculture - will not be subject to it. And when that polluter is responsible for 50% of our emissions, that makes a 50% reduction effectively impossible.

This is where the refusal of successive governments to confront the dairy industry has left us: it is impossible to meet even our mid-term climate change targets unless everyone who is not a farmer reduces their emissions to zero. And it means that the burden of emissions reductions is being placed entirely on urban Aotearoa, while the tiny rural population who are the worst and most economically inefficient polluters are protected.

The government will say that this doesn't really matter, as our NDC is a "responsibility target" - meaning that they think we can just buy our way out of it by paying for emissions reductions somewhere else. But even if you accept this, and accept that the "reductions" are real and not just more Russian fraud, it means a huge expense - $24 billion at last estimate. And that cost will effectively be incurred by the dairy industry, but paid for by the rest of us, in the form of worse schools, hospitals, public transport and other services we would be able to pay for if farmers paid their way.

This is simply immoral. It is neither fair nor equitable for urban Aotearoa to spend tens of billions of dollars subsidising the pollution of a dirty, inefficient, rural elite, at the cost of the services we all need. And given the relative balance of population between cities and farms, I don't believe it is politically sustainable. In the 1970's Muldoon ruined the country with subsidies to farmers; one of the few good things the fourth Labour government did was end them. We need to do the same. End this subsidy, make farmers pay their way, and give us a chance of meeting our environmental obligations to the international community and the planet.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The opportunity costs of Labour's stupidity

In 2022, Labour finally committed to building light rail in Auckland. Unfortunately, they chose the stupidest, most expensive option, putting trams - which should run on streets to be easily accessible - in tunnels. Effectively they were committing billions extra to stifle criticism around construction disruption, at the cost of limiting the network and creating an all-or-nothing solution which would be easily cancelled. But over the weekend, the Greens released their transport policy, which highlighted the opportunity cost of Labour's stupid decision: for the cost of that tunnel - again, designed solely to limit bad PR for the government - we could have surface light rail not just in Auckland, but in Wellington and Christchurch as well.

Its a single line in each city. But the thing about surface light rail is that its easy and cheap to expand. So what the Greens are offering is the backbone of a network in each city, which can then be expanded as required. Which seems like a no-brainer. If we want liveable cities, and a liveable future, that means getting people out of cars. And this is a good way to start doing that.

Its also a marked contrast to the two status quo parties, whose transport policies have focused exclusively on promises to build more stupid, environmentally destructive motorways in Auckland. As one of the two-thirds of kiwis who don't live there, its nice to see a party offering something for the rest of us.

The buck stops where?

US President Harry Truman infamously had a sign on his desk saying "the buck stops here", signifying that he was ultimately responsible for the problems of his nation and how he dealt with them. But Labour, it seems, disagrees:

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni is avoiding accountability over the cost of living crisis, saying it's "not necessarily the Government's fault".


"New Zealand has been through a lot over the past six years… It's tough for people at the moment and I think when we sit back and reflect it's not necessarily the Government's fault that we've got cost of living issues, that we've had weather events, that people's everyday experiences have been very difficult," she said.

The government is not responsible for the weather, or the pandemic. But they are absolutely responsible for how they respond to them - and in particular, whether they protect people from the effects, or leave them to suffer. And while Labour has done a few things, pretty obviously, its not enough. There is a real cost of living crisis, with the middle classes being driven into poverty, and the poor being driven down further. And for Labour to disclaim responsibility like this basicly sends a signal of "fuck you; you're on your own". That's bad enough coming from a "labour" party, but having it said by a woman on $334,734 a year plus perks and slush smacks more than a little of "let them eat cake". But then, that's the modern Labour party, isn't it? A pack of professional politicians climbing the greasy pole for their mega-salaries, forgetting any hint of why they were elected in the first place.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Now de-select him

Earlier in the month National MP Tim van de Molen threatened and stood over the chair of the select committee he was serving on after getting angry over the number of questions he was allocated. Today, the (powerful) Privileges Committee found that he had committed contempt of Parliament, and recommended that he be censured. That looks like it will happen next week, and be one of the last acts of this Parliament.

National has already stood van de Molen down from all his portfolios, but it should do more. Parliament has a bullying problem. It is a toxic environment due to those bullies. If it is become better, they need to be removed. And one way for parties to do that is to drive out toxic, bullying MPs (another way is for us to de-elect them).

Van de Molen is already the lowest-ranked MP on National's list. But he's still their candidate for Waikato, a safe rural seat. They need to de-select him. Otherwise, they're effectively saying that his conduct is acceptable and that they want a thug like him in Parliament.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

"Prominent political figure" meets Parliamentary Privilege

Earlier in the year we saw the usual story: a "prominent political figure" (who was not an MP) had been charged with some unpleasant crimes, and had had their name suppressed. And then the story got even more outrageous, when a judge decided that he would not be identified until after the election, and neither would the party he was associated with - effectively denying us crucial information which might affect our votes. At the time I pointed out that this was untenable, with potentially horrific effects on the legitimacy of any government which included that party, as well as our democratic institutions. But it looks like we've dodged that bullet, because in Question Time today Te Pāti Māori MP Rawiri Waititi effectively identified "prominent political figure" and the party he was associated with. From Hansard:

Does the Prime Minister agree with a judgment that we've got the leader of ACT chiming in about law and order but is first to get name suppression for his president for heinous crimes?
[You can watch the video (which includes an assist from ACT's David Seymour) here (start at 4m 30s)]

Waititi's question is absolutely protected by Parliamentary Privilege, and its for Parliament to judge whether he committed contempt. But that Privilege also protects the Hansard report and video above, as well as any delayed communication of those proceedings - like this blog post. While that protection is only "qualified", it generally means people are free to report and comment on the proceeding, provided they do not act in bad faith or with ill will, or "abus[e] the occasion of communication" (whatever that means). In this case, the person is still facing trial, so I'm not going to name them. But we should absolutely scrutinise the consistency of ACT's actions in seeking suppression with its stated positions on free speech, as well as its decisions about who holds office in the party, and we should judge them for it at the ballot box.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Climate Change: Ecuador keeps it in the ground

Ecuador went to the polls over the weekend in presidential elections, which look like they will go to a right-left runoff. But alongside the elections was another battle: a referendum on banning oil drilling from the Yasuní National Park. And when given a choice, Ecuadorians voted to keep it in the ground:

Ecuadorians have voted in a historic referendum to halt the development of all new oilwells in the Yasuní national park in the Amazon, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet.

Voters opted to safeguard the unique biosphere by a margin of nearly 20% with more than 90% of the ballot counted – with more than 58% in favour and 41% against, according to Ecuador’s National Electoral Comission. Voting took place in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday.

The move will keep about 726m barrels of oil underground in the Yasuní national park, which is also home to the Tagaeri and Taromenane people, two of the world’s last “uncontacted” Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation.

That's around 312 million tons of carbon which will be kept out of the atmosphere and which won't contribute to destroying the planet. Or about five years of Aotearoa's emissions, in one decision.

Now all we need is for other countries to do the same. We can't afford to burn the oil we have discovered - not if we don't want to burn ourselves. And the sooner we start legally locking it away, the better off we'll be.

Monday, August 21, 2023


At the 2020 election, Labour promised to regulate property managers. In February 2022, they said they were actually doing it. In November 2022, they repeated that claim. Now, less than two months from the election, they've finally introduced the legislation. Whether doing something grudgingly, at the last possible minute, and after years of foot-dragging counts (and when it won't actually pass before the election) counts as keeping their promise is left as an exercise for the reader.

As for the legislation itself, it would require property managers to be licenced, with criminal penalties for doing business without a licence. There will be a complaints regime, allowing licences to be suspended or revoked, but weirdly failing to comply with the Residential tenancies Act won't be a grounds for complaint, and there'll be no automatic notification tot he disciplinary tribunal if a property manager is found to have done so by the Tenancy Tribunal (these seem like good things to push for at select committee). Delivering services "in a way that falls short of the standard that a reasonable member of the public is entitled to expect" is grounds for a complaint, and I suspect that clause is going to get a real workout.

The legislation might get a first reading before the election, but it won't be getting any further until afterwards. Which means that if you want it to pass, you need to vote for a party which will support it, rather than a landlord party which won't.

More Labour secrecy

The Spinoff has a piece this morning by Max Rashbrooke asking "Has Labour really been ‘the most transparent and open’ government ever?" If you pay attention to transparency, then the answer won't really be surprising - at best they're a "meh", with any moves towards openness countered by a trend of increasing secrecy and control-freakery.

Part of that trend is an increasing use of "secrecy clauses" in legislation, over-riding the OIA and forbidding disclosure because dysfunctional government agencies don't trust each other to obey the law properly. I keep a list of these clauses (slightly out of date, I'm afraid) here. And right on cue, the government has introduced another one: its new Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill - intended to force foreign social media services to pay kiwi media for using NZ news - includes both a secrecy clause forbidding the BSA from disclosing information obtained the Act, and an ORCON clause allowing it to impose conditions if it decides to release something - and whack people with a $500,000 fine if they disobey. So effectively it adds criminal penalties for requesters to the OIA, criminalising prejudicing the commercial position of companies whose information is held by the government. Which while a violation of professional duty for public servants, doesn’t seem like it should be a crime, especially for anyone outside of government.

(While section 82(2)(a) allows disclosure if "the information or document is available to the public under any legislation", the Ombudsman has ruled that similar language does not actually protect OIA rights. If we want them to be protected, there needs to be an explicit statement that "nothing in this clause limits the Official Information Act 1982")

It is easy to see this as carelessness and shoddy drafting. But when it happens time after time after time, and the clauses keep getting passed and passed and passed, there can only be one conclusion: this government loves secrecy. It is actively expanding it - in the process robbing us of our right to freedom of information. And if we want it to stop, we have to stop them, by voting them out of office.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Climate Change: Labour grovels to the mighty cow

RNZ has the second part of Kirsty Johnston's "Crown vs Cow" today, about how farmers exploited he waka eke noa for predatory delay, and how the process ultimately fell apart. Meanwhile, the process reached its denounement today - according to Labour at least - with the government announcing its "final" decision on agricultural emissions pricing. Which is of course to kick the can down the road a bit more, before completely surrendering to the climate-denying agricultural industry. Farmers won't even have to report their emissions until later next year, they'll get ETS credit for bullshit "sequestration" which is outside the national inventory, and of course there will be huge subsidies for "new technology" which never arrives and will never be adopted if it does. As for prices, its very vague, only saying that farmers will pay "the lowest level possible", and then not until late 2025 (if then).

Which is simply bullshit. This is our largest polluter, and the government is giving it a free ride. Again. The planet is fucking burning, Laihana has been burned to the ground, incinerating over a hundred people; Yellowknife is being evacuated to avoid the same fate; and Los Angeles is about to be hit by a tropical cyclone, bringing months of rain in one go. And the government is still trying to subsidise the cause of all this havoc, the dairy industry. It will be fascinating to see what the Climate Commission makes of it.

(Meanwhile, there's more than one way to cut emissions. This ought to help. And the longer it lasts, the better).

Labour says its decision is "final". We'll see about that. What's done can be undone, if not after this election, then after the next one. Farmers shouldn't get comfortable with their subsidies. We outnumber them, and eventually, we are going to make them pay their way, just like the rest of us do.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Climate Change: Two stories

Two big climate change stories today. The first is obviously RNZ's "Crown vs Cow: The inside story of how we failed to regulate our worst climate polluter" about the rise of the he waka eke noa scam. Its an appalling tale of how a labour government which had promised to take climate change seriously caved to a powerful industry lobbying for a free ride. There will apparently be more on this tomorrow, about how the deal fell apart. But as someone who opposed it from the beginning, I'm glad it did. Farms are just like other polluters - worse, in fact, since they produce methane, which is 80 times worse than carbon dioxide, and so needs to be cut immediately. And they should pay their way, just like the rest of us. If they can't, then they should go out of business, just like any other polluter. And we'll all be better off if that happens.

Second is a piece by Thomas Coughlan in the Herald about National's lack of climate policies. Climate change is the biggest challenge facing Aotearoa, but all National has promised to do is remove existing emissions reduction policies - the agricultural ETS backstop, the clean car program, GIDI, etc - and so increase emissions. Which is simply not credible (some might even call it ecocidal). But its sadly what you'd expect from a party which is still stuffed full of climate change deniers and apocalypse-obsessed religious fundamentalists. The question is whether voters will be happy with that, when we've seen Auckland flood twice already this year, the East Coast is still wrecked after Cyclone Gabrielle, and we've seen entire towns overseas razed to the ground by climate-change-induced fires.

ACT is a terf party

Last night the government passed the Integrity Sport and Recreation Bill under end-of-year urgency. But there was a nasty surprise in the committee stage: ACT's Karen Chhour put up two terf amendments to try and exclude trans-women from women's sport.

The good news is that both amendments were overwhelmingly voted down, 106-10, with only ACT voting in support. But its worrying that ACT is either now explicitly committed to terf ideology, or willing to pander to terfs for votes. And its even more worrying when you consider that they might be in government after the election and able to impose their hateful views on Aotearoa.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Labour will allow offshore drilling

Last month I noticed that Todd Energy had applied to turn its sole remaining offshore gas exploration permit - which it had sat on for twenty years after discovering gas in 2004 - into a mining permit. The application is permitted under current loopholes in Labour's offshore drilling "ban", but the government has a bill on the order paper which would close that loophole permanently. Which raised the obvious question: was Labour going to let this happen?

Sadly, it looks like the answer is "yes". The House is currently in urgency for the end-of-term wash-up, and the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill, which would close the loophole, was not in the urgency motion. Which means that its unlikely to be passed before the election, giving Todd Energy a good couple of months to slip their application through and get a mining permit. Which in turn will enable them to extract that gas and burn the planet.

"Climate emergency"? Yeah, nah.

So, if you believed that Labour was doing the right thing about offshore drilling, ha ha, they fooled you. Cynical arseholes in Wellington who see everything as a PR stunt played you for a sucker. If you're angry about this, the best revenge is to vote for a party which takes the issue seriously and which will follow through on its policies. Which means voting for the Greens or Te Pāti Māori.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Merry Trumpmas again!

At the beginning of the month, former US president and would-be dictator Donald Trump was finally charged in federal court for trying to overturn the 2020 federal election. But his efforts to overturn democracy happened all over the US, and now the state of Georgia is getting into the act, prosecuting him for racketeering over his fake electors:

Donald Trump and some of his closest confidantes have been indicted on state racketeering and conspiracy charges over efforts to reverse Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election in Georgia. This indictment makes the former US president a criminal defendant in a fourth case as he campaigns to recapture the presidency.

The sprawling 41-count indictment, handed down by a state grand jury in Atlanta late on Monday night, charges Trump himself with 13 counts and accuses him of orchestrating a criminal enterprise.

In addition to Trump, prosecutors in the office of the Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis charged 18 other defendants, including his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as well as his 2020 election lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro.

The charges mark a moment of significant legal peril for Trump, since the charges come at the state level and he would not be able to undo any potential convictions through measures such as a self-pardon or appointing a sympathetic attorney general if he were re-elected president in 2024.

Of course, Georgia has a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, so there's plenty of scope for Republican corruption of the judicial process. Still, every indictment is something to celebrate, a sign that the US may be turning away from the path of dictatorship and returning to being a normal democracy.

Te Pāti Māori on climate change

Earlier in the month Te Pāti Māori released its climate change policy. And looking at it, its pretty good, with a focus on cutting off fossil fuels at source. The headline policy is to shutdown the gas industry with an immediate ban on onshore exploration, and a phase-out of existing oil and gas mining permits within five years. Buried in the fine print is that they'd also target coal, banning new coal mining permits and phasing out industrial coal use by 2030. They're also committed to making farmers pay for their pollution, by bringing agricultural methane emissions into the ETS and phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Finally, there's a bunch of funding for Māori community energy projects, Māori-owned renewable energy, and incentivising Māori farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture.

All of this is good, though very high level. It targets the big problems, while also easing disadvantage and focusing on Māori control ("yes, with tino rangatiratanga" in other words). While it doesn't engage with the nitty-gritty of the ETS or the Zero Carbon Act, it signals a very clear direction. If you're a climate voter this election - and we should all be climate voters now if we don't want to drown or burn to death - then this seems like a policy worth supporting.

Monday, August 14, 2023

A murderous election gimmock


20 people died last week of covid. So, two months out from the election, Labour has announced the end of all covid restrctions. We can all get plague and brain-damage now, as a little treat.

While covid numbers are currently low, this doesn't mean we are safe, or that we can end our response. A requirement that people stay home when infected is a basic precaution which keeps everyone safe. Hipkins says that we shouldn't need a legal requirement to do that, and that its part of being a good human. As one journalist noted, so's not driving when drunk, but we have laws against that. The fundamental problem here is that employers aren't good humans, and will force people (on threat of starvation) to come to work when sick and infect others. A government requirement protects us all from them.

But instead of keeping us all safe, Hipkins has decided to endanger us all, and kill some people, as a pre-election gimmock. He's no different from a murderer. And we should remember that at the ballot box.

The Greens' clean power policy

Over the weekend the Greens released their clean power policy, promising a "clean power payment" of up to $6000, interest-free loans of up to $30,000, deductibility for landlords, and a massive investment program in putting solar panels on state houses. Unlike the current Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, it won't be means-tested, and it will fund a much wider range of upgrades: not just insulation and efficient heating, but also solar panels, batteries, double-glazing, and fast-chargers for EVs. So basicly, if you own your own home, the Greens will make it much easier to make it warm and efficient. And if you live in a state house, the Greens are going to make sure you get free power in summer.

Looked at just as a solar energy programme, its obviously not the most efficient way of installing panels. Take the state housing upgrade program, which would see solar panels installed on 30,000 (of 67,000) state houses: putting them on rooftops would cost ~$525 million for ~150MW, about five times the cost of an equivalent-sized array stuck in a field. But this is about encouraging distributed home generation for home use, for the direct benefit of the people who live in those homes. State house users not having to pay power bills for a quarter of the year or more is going to significantly improve their welfare, and that is going to have flow-on effects elsewhere. And the same is going to apply to homeowners who use the grants and loans to install panels and batteries.

And of course, its not just a solar energy programme, but about insulation, heating, transport, and the elimination of fossil fuels as well. Aotearoa needs to make a massive transition in the next two decades to a cleaner, more efficient economy, which means upgrading all of those things. And this is about pushing that. Banks are already offering similar loans for these upgrades. But government grants will push things faster, and interest-free government loans will keep the banks honest.

But while this is excellent news for people who own their own homes, that's an ever-declining proportion of us. The big problem for the national upgrade is landlords, who face very weak incentives to provide solar panels, heat pumps, and EV chargers for the benefit of their tenants. Tax deductibility may help a little, but its probably better to see this as a carrot to go alongside the stick of the rental WOF scheme. And its not hard to see that being eventually extended to require such things alongside insulation, heating, and ventilation. And of course I'd like to think that if state houses provide them (at income-related rents, too), private landlords will feel some pressure to compete. Alternatively, i am more than happy to see the government build, buy, and upgrade more state houses, and put the private landlords who won't compete out of business.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Climate Change: Is FENZ prepared?

RNZ has a piece today revealing that Fire and Emergency NZ had not trained to deal with landslides before Cyclone Gabrielle in February. There are historical reasons for this - before the 2017 amalgamation they were officially responsible only for fires, despite being the default first-responders for everything. But two firefighters died as a result.

Meanwhile, like everyone else, I'm looking at the news of the destruction of Lahaina in Hawaiʻi in shock. 53 people are dead so far, and an entire town of 12,000 has been destroyed. In an NZ context, that's a town the size of Waikanae, razed to the ground by climate change-driven fires. Which makes you wonder whether FENZ is prepared for this threat, and whether they have plans in place to limit loss of life if we have a similar disaster in Aotearoa.

We've had a warning sign of this already: the 2020 Lake Ōhau fire. But that was a much smaller town. The official FENZ report on that disaster said that everything had been planned for, but that turned out not to be the case. Weirdly, the report made no major recommendations - the implication being that FENZ thought it had nothing to learn from the disaster. Which is a little bit worrying. Multiple ICC reports had warned of increased fires as a result of climate change, and the Australian bushfires the year before Lake Ōhau should have been a screaming warning sign. In the wake of Lahaina, it would be good to know that our emergency services are actually prepared for the future we face.

A question


Is this ad encouraging people to vote for or against NZ First?

In fact, its an ACT ad, intended to discourage people from voting for Winston. But the fact that it is completely indistinguishable from an NZ First ad encouraging people to vote for him doesn't just make it a tremendous advertising own-goal - its also legally problematic. Section 204H(1) of the Electoral Act 1993 provides that

A person may publish or cause or permit to be published a party advertisement that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote for a party only if the publication of the advertisement is authorised in writing by the party secretary.
This ad can clearly "reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters" to vote for NZ First. The question then is whether ACT sought the written approval of NZ First before running it? If not, well, its not a crime - failing to see the double-meaning in your ad isn't wilful contravention - but ACT probably shouldn't be promoting another political party without their permission.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Something to go to in Auckland


System Change Aotearoa is holding a "tax the rich" rally in Auckland on 19 August.

When: 19 August 2023, 14:00
Where: Britomart Square

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Climate Change: Fixed

Last December, Climate Change Minister James Shaw introduced a bill to the House which would have massively increased pollution subsidies in the ETS. As introduced, the Climate Change Response (Late Payment Penalties and Industrial Allocation) Amendment Bill would have scaled subsidy eligibility to pre-2020 carbon prices - meaning that every industry currently classified as "moderately emissions intensive" would be reclassified as "highly emissions-intensive", getting them a 50% increase in free pollution permits. In a perfect example of regulatory capture, the proposal was developed by MBIE, primarily to protect a handful of large, status quo polluters, and had been done without any consultation or real analysis. It was, unsurprisingly, not popular with people who wanted the government to actually cut emissions - and plenty of us told them so when the bill went to select committee.

The select committee has no reported back, and the good news is that they've made the changes people wanted, removing the scaling of eligibility, and so the potential for increased allocation. They also introduce a tweak saying the Minister can't reconsider the eligibility of existing activities - which stops them from being reclassified upwards. Unfortunately, it also stops them from being reclassified downwards if their emissions drop - something the Minister should be aggressively looking for opportunities to do - but the committee recommends addressing this through the phase-out rate (which can be set on an industry-by-industry level). The committee also recommends seriously attacking industrial allocation as part of the second emissions reduction plan (which will be developed next year).

All of which is a nice improvement. And fortunately, James Shaw isn't a petulant little baby like Andrew Little, so he'll probably accept the changes, rather than trying to reverse them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Climate Change: Meh

The government made a "big" climate announcement today: a $2 billion climate infrastructure fund to invest in the transition to renewable energy. But it won't be funded by the government, or even by New Zealanders. No, instead, our renewable energy transition will be paid for by international vulture-capitalists, Blackrock.

Its hard to be enthused or excited about this. Not least because Labour has consciously chosen to partner to one of the biggest investors in climate destruction on the planet. Could they really not find anyone else? So that's a "meh" right there. Yes, its better that they're investing in renewables than fossil fuels, but still, meh. And its not as if there's any great shortage of investment in this area, at least judging by the number of wind and solar projects in the pipeline. Every bit helps, of course, but its hard to get excited about just a bit more money in the pile. So that's another "meh". In fact, the real barrier to our transition seems to be the structure of the energy market and the gentailer cartel's reluctance to invest in things that would reduce electricity prices, and hence their profits. Blackrock is unlikely to fix this - they will want a return on their investment, so won't actually want to push fossil generation out of the market - and the fact that the fund includes hydrogen as well suggests it will be as much about increasing demand (and power prices) as renewable electricity. So triple meh. And on the gripping hand: electricity is about 6% of our total emissions. Its good that we're working on a solution, and seem to have a clear pathway to eliminate them (and reduce transport and industrial process emissions into the bargain). But meanwhile, agriculture, our biggest polluter, is responsible for 49% of our emissions - and the government is doing nothing about them. When we have a $2 billion fund to destroy the polluting dairy industry, then maybe then it’ll be worth getting excited about.

Saying the unsayable

Labour is expected to announce its pissweak, don’t-upset-the-rich tax policy this week. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has said the thing they really didn't want anyone to say: the government needs to collect more taxes:

Damien O’Connor, a senior minister at the centre of the climate change issue, started the week with a blunt assessment of the tax-climate issue. He told the red meat sector: “We probably don’t have enough tax in this country.”

During a Sunday night debate at the Red Meat Sector Conference, O’Connor said the Government was hard-pressed trying to find funds to respond to Cyclone Gabrielle. With climate change expected to bring more regular and more severe extreme weather events, he told the crowd he thought more taxes would be needed to fix infrastructure.

“We’ve put a bit more into [road] maintenance, but we still actually have to catch up. If we want to continue to run our economy the way we have run it in the past, we are going to have to contribute more,” he said.

And just to put the icing on the cake, he said that those taxes should target wealth or capital gains, rather than ordinary people through GST.

O'Connor is worried about paying for the costs of climate change - something his audience of farmers are paying nothing towards. But we have other problems as well. A crumbling health sector. Collapsing social services. Rampant inequality. Insufficient housing. Higher taxes targetting wealth will help us fix all of these problems, and more. But Labour is apparently not allowed to publicly admit that, for fear of upsetting the rich - who do not vote for them anyway. It is weak and pathetic, and they would apparently rather see the country fall apart than do anything real to stop it. Fortunately, thanks to MMP, we have other electoral options, who are willing to recognise our problems and the obvious solutions, and who aren't suck-ups to the rich like Labour are.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Crown Law's counter-productive secrecy

Over the weekend, the Sunday Star-Times reported on another case of arrogant secrecy from the government. Judges in this country enjoy all sorts of perks in addition to their formal salary. But we plebs are not allowed to know the details:

The Government is refusing to make public a suite of taxpayer-funded privileges for the country’s judges.

The judiciary has one of the most generous pensions in the public service, with their salaries padded by nearly 40%.

But they’re also entitled to things like chauffeurs, housing allowances, and even subsidised school uniforms.

The benefits are all laid out in what’s colloquially known as ‘the red book’ of judicial entitlements. The Sunday Star-Times asked for a copy – but the request was denied, with no explanation.

...which just reeks of a privileged elite trying to keep the dirty peasantry out of "their" business. Which is really our business, because it is public business.

There are very good reasons for judges to be paid well and enjoy generous retirement packages. Stopping them from behaving like Clarence Thomas is the obvious one. There may be good reasons for the various perks (I can see public benefit in sabbaticals - professional development - for example, and paying people to move cities for work is perfectly reasonable). But there's absolutely no good reason for secrecy about it. This is public money, and we have a right to know how it is being spent, so we can see if it is being spent well.

Crown Law has done us no favours here with its OIA games. Rather than promoting trust in a core public institution, they have instead created suspicion and undermined its legitimacy. And if judges find themselves viewed as greedy rorters troughing it under cover of secrecy as a result, then they know where to point the finger.

Friday, August 04, 2023

More public service contempt for parliament

There have been a couple of troubling incidents this term of government agencies trying to subvert and interfere with the parliamentary select committee process - first DIA making unauthorised changes to the three waters bills, and then Ministry of Health failing to include pro-transparency submissions in its departmental report on the Therapeutic Products Bill. And now we have a third example, with MBIE's chief executive making a non-apology "apology" after being caught trying to subvert the committee process on the Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill:

The head of MBIE has apologised to a Parliamentary Select Committee as a senior MP accused staff of “devious” conduct in preparing a report despite clear direction it had not been requested.


Committee chair and Labour MP Jenny Salesa said today that due to that 50/50 split, they were unable to reach a majority position on the bill and so had not sought a department report, which usually occurs when there is agreement.

Despite this, department officials prepared a report anyway, which Immigration Minister Andrew Little said would be used to inform any changes he would make to the bill as he proceeds to the second reading.

Committee members from all parties today raised concerns with MBIE officials that those staff had circumvented the committee, and in turn submitters, by preparing a report without their input.

Meanwhile, MBIE CEO Carolyn Tremain's "apology" is minimising bullshit, calling her agency’s disobeying an explicit committee instruction a "misunderstanding". Some MPs are talking about complaining to the (powerful) Privileges Committee as a result, and that needs to happen - because what happened was clearly contemptuous of the committee and of parliament, born of MBIE's belief that Parliament "had no choice but to pass the bill".

But prosecuting and sacking a CEO for contempt of parliament only deals with the symptom. The underlying cause - identified by the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties during the recent review of Standing Orders - is that committees are advised by departmental officials, who have deep and fundamental conflicts of interest over the bills they are advising on. The solution is for committees to have their own independent advisors, to provide actual independent advice (and as a bonus, they won't automatically be spies for the Minister on the committee process). But the chances of the executive stepping up and funding Parliament to reduce their own power sadly seems remote.

Thursday, August 03, 2023


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

  • Human Rights (Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Gender Identity or Expression, and Variations of Sex Characteristics) Amendment Bill (Elizabeth Kerekere)
  • Medicines (Exemption for Authorised Prescribers) Amendment Bill (Penny Simmonds)
  • Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill (Teanau Tuiono)

So bills to ensure explicit protection for trans people and right one of Aotearoa's great historic wrongs have been drawn. Unfortunately, they'll be voted on by the next Parliament, not this one, which (on current polling) means a lower chance of passing.

There were 69 bills in the ballot today.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

More petulance from Andrew Little

Back in June, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee reported back on the Inspector-General of Defence Bill, making numerous improvements. But Defence Minister Andrew Little said "fuck transparency" and petulantly undid them. Now it looks like he's going to do a repeat performance. The same committee has reported back on the Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill, delivering a unanimous report that it was unnecessary and that it not be passed. They recognised that the bill undermined our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and international human rights law, and effectively criminalised seeking asylum. Andrew Little's response? It's the committee and submitters who are wrong:

Little vowed to continue progressing the bill despite the select committee’s concerns. He said classified information, which the committee heard, would explain the need for this law change.

He reprimanded the select committee on Tuesday, saying there was something “seriously wrong” with it.


Little said the committee had failed to adequately consider “legislation dealing with a pretty serious potential national security risk”.

...Or maybe his bill really was an ill-considered power grab which infringed fundamental human rights without any justification - and one so awful that even the authoritarians in the National Party could see it (you know you're in trouble when the National Party is acting as your conscience...)

Unfortunately, thanks to single-majority government, Little will probably get his way. He'll convince Cabinet, Cabinet will whip the Labour caucus, and that's 61 votes. The actual merits simply don't come into when one party holds a majority. Which means the sooner this aberration is over and we can get back to the checks and balances of normal consensual MMP politics, the better.

An essential part of the US's democratic correction

When former US President Donald Trump was charged back in April with falsifying business records, many people expressed disappointment that he hadn't yet been charged with his real crime of attempting to overturn an election by force. Now, that's finally happened:

Former President Trump has been indicted on four counts following a special counsel investigation into efforts to stop the transfer of power after his 2020 election loss and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

The charges are conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy against rights and obstruction or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. The indictment alleges that Trump pursued discounting legitimate votes and subverting the 2020 presidential election results through three criminal conspiracies.

Good. This is an essential part of holding the Trump regime accountable, and an essential part of the US's democratic correction. A country that wishes to remain democratic cannot just let a politician attempt to overthrow an election! And hopefully it will result in both Trump being convicted, jailed, and barred from office, and in other Republicans being deterred from following in his footsteps.

14,000 employed under Labour

The quarterly labour market statistics were released this morning, and unemployment has risen slightly to 3.6%. There are now 109,000 unemployed - 14,000 fewer than when Labour took office.

So, so far the Reserve Bank has managed to throw all of 7,000 people out of work in its quest to protect the value of rich people's yacht money. Which seems to be fewer than they want to, so they'll probably keep trying to spread misery and hardship. Which really does make you wonder why we put up with them, rather than having an economic policy focused on protecting people, rather than money.

Member's Morning

Parliament has an extended sitting this morning, which unusually is being used for Member's Bills. First up is the third reading of Camilla Belich's Companies (Directors Duties) Amendment Bill. This will be followed by some first readings: Stuart Smith's Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Cellar Door Tasting) Amendment Bill, Melissa Lee's Fair Trading (Gift Card Expiry) Amendment Bill, and probably Nicola Willis's Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Shared Leave) Amendment Bill. Which means there should be a ballot for two more bills on Thursday.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

A small win for transparency

The Social Services and Community Committee reported back today on the Resale Right for Visual Artists Bill. The bill establishes a resale right for visual artists, and empowers the government to appoint a collection agency to manage it. But weirdly, despite performing public functions, that agency wouldn't have been subject to the OIA. The good news is that the select committee has fixed hat:

The Chief Ombudsman submitted that the collection agency should be subject to the Official Information Act 1982 and the Ombudsmen Act 1975. We agree that, since the collection agency would be performing a public function, it should be subject to the same accountability mechanisms that apply to public sector bodies. We understand that similar private or non-governmental entities that carry out public functions, such as Netsafe or Agriculture New Zealand Limited, are subject to public accountability legislation such as the Official Information Act.

Consequently, we recommend amending clause 22 to provide that the collection agency would be subject to the Official Information Act, the Ombudsmen Act, and the Public Records Act 2005 in respect of its public functions under the bill.

Its a small win for transparency, but still worthwhile. But last time a select committee recommended transparency improvements, Labour arrogantly overturned them. So, we should hold off on any celebrations until its actually law.