National slumps; Greens-Labour could govern alone


The headline says it all – almost. A new poll out today shows National having fallen behind Labour for the first time since Labour lost office in 2008.

The latest Newshub/Reid Poll shows that Labour are up to 47%, which would make them the largest party in Parliament at 56 seats. That is the number that National currently hold. Combined with the Greens who are steady on 5% and entitled to 6 seats Labour could govern without its other coalition ally, New Zealand First.

All parties except A.C.T. shed seats to Labour in this rare instance. The Greens lose two, to become a 6 piece caucus. New Zealand First disappear completely and National are down to 50.

This must be sobering news for New Zealand First. It has been consistently under the 5% threshhold to have a presence in Parliament without an electorate seat. At 2.9% it would suffer an even worse defeat than that which was inflicted on it in 2008. Whilst the party has seen bad luck before, much of that was not of its making but the work of dirty politicking by other politicians. That does not apply in February 2019.

New Zealand First shed supporters, including myself after it supported the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. But other people left, expressing concerns about the internal state of the party, which has had to deal with dwarf throwing, the collapse of its South Island support and also the activities of Shane Jones. On one hand Mr Jones who is Minister for Regional Development is proving popular because of his work with the regional development fund, but on the other his refusal to allow cameras on board fishing vessels has sparked the ire of labour rights advocates.

It must also be sobering news for National. For the first time since 2008 it is less popular than its arch rival. At 41% it would get 50 seats in the House. Combined with the solitary seat of its natural ally A.C.T., it would have 51 seats and be well below the threshhold of being able to govern.

National find themselves in a difficult spot. Environmental issues have clearly become more important than many National Party Members of Parliament and their constituents want to admit. The worsening effects of having so much carbon in the atmosphere and in the sea is leading to an increasing pressure for comprehensive reform, except that neither party really knows how – and the Green proposals are seen as too radical and out of touch.

But it is National leader Simon Bridges who must find this most sobering. Mr Bridges has been over taken by Judith Crusher Collins in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. This will excite her fans on the solid blue right wing of the party. Ms Collins, despite her dismissal as a Minister of the Crown for corruption and links to the Oravida scandal, remains a darling of the right wing of New Zealand politics who are itching for a deeper shade of blue than what was offered by Messrs John Key and Bill English.

For Labour and the Greens though, this must be a welcome breath of fresh air. It comes after concerns about the slowing economy, the failure of Kiwi Build and the ongoing concerns about justice, health, among other things. Labour will be wanting to build on this as it looks towards the 2020 election.

Simon Bridges suggestion of a new Green Party laughable


It has emerged that a man named Vernon Tava believes that there is a component of the Greens who are sick of their party’s social policies, and who would consider a merger with the left wing of the National Party. In reviving an old gimmicky vehicle to gain a few political points – or in this case 5% of the party vote – a former Green turned National Party hopeful named Vernon Tava, along with National Party leader Simon Bridges are hoping to undermine the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

To suggest that there are people who are sick of the social aspect of Green Party policies, shows how little Simon Bridges understands of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Mr Bridges does not seem to realize that they are as integral to being a Green as the environmental policies and associated politics that give the party its name in the first place. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what is to even be a supporter of the Green movement, never mind a party member. It is a bit like suggesting National supporters want their incomes, but are not interested in the economic methods that are used to supply those incomes.

These comments are none other than desperate suggestions from a Member of Parliament and Leader of The Opposition who is seriously out of his depth.

And who is Vernon Tava? Here is a guy who to the best of my knowledge has no political profile whatsoever, and now he wants to establish a political party that will somehow reach the lofty 5% threshhold of the party vote. 5% is something Colin Craig and his Conservative Party could not reach. It is something that Gareth Morgan and his The Opportunities Party could not reach in 2017 and something that even New Zealand First failed to reach in 2008. Good luck to him trying, but his profile in New Zealand politics needs some solid work done on it.

The Greens to myself and plenty of others now are as much the party of drug reform, no more wars, more lenience on prisoners as they were the day they entered Parliament. Surely Mr Bridges must have noted the arrival of the Greens in Parliament at the end of 1999 and wondered what a Rastafarian (Nandor Tanczos), a son of Elsie Locke, a beneficiary among others all had in common. Surely he must have understood that there is a section of New Zealand society who do not believe that capitalism is the answer, and that they were as much entitled to exercise their legal rights and views as himself and his well to do mates? Apparently not if you read meaning into these totally baseless comments.

Mr Bridges on one hand appears interested in reviving an old joke wing of the National Party that were never more than a half hearted gimmick. The blue-greens were meant to be a hybrid of the Greens and National with the Greens environmental agenda, coupled with National’s social and economic agenda. That might in itself raise some commentary, but commentary would be about the limit of the reaction – no serious attempt at reconciling either the green wing of politics or the conservative wing with the other’s agenda has ever been seriously attempted. It also ignores some facts that the Greens and the larger left part of the spectrum would consider fundamental:

To have economic growth, people must be in a mental, physical and social state where they can reasonably contribute in the processes. That means having employment policies and protections to stop exploitation and unsafe occupational practices.

Something not everyone in National believe are necessary or even proper.

Challenges facing the minor parties in 2019


The new year has begun and in a few weeks Parliament will be returning to our television screens. Members of Parliament will be coming back after the Christmas break refreshed and ready for another busy year. In this article I look at the achievements of 2018 among the minor parties and what to expect in 2019.

Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (A.C.T.):

The one man band of David Seymour can do only so much. A rebranding of A.C.T. is not likely to result in any significant internal change. Unless A.C.T. can get more than 1.0% in of the party vote at the next election and Mr Seymour holds his Epsom seat, A.C.T. will not grow. A complete dissolution of the party and starting over from scratch is not likely to help either because it risks losing the Epsom seat and destroying whatever replaces A.C.T. Mr Seymour, unlike the larger parties does have the advantage of being able to pick the battles that A.C.T. wishes to engage in, such as economics, charter schools, deregulation, justice and Mr Seymour’s pet “End of Life Choices Bill”.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand:

To be a Green Party member right now must be one of the more exciting things happening on the left of the political spectrum. It is a chance for the social justice crusaders to make good on their promises of so many years, a chance to enact some Green policies. Priorities in 2019 will include pushing for a euthanasia bill to be passed in Parliament, which might find them in the rare and unusual position of supporting A.C.T. – politics can create strange bedfellows at times – in getting David Seymour’s End of Life Choices Bill through. It will also see more progress being made on the landmark announcement in April last year that New Zealand will be rid of oil and gas by 2020, which is something I am watching closely, not least because I do not believe that this is realistic given the economics of alternative energy sources.

Internally the Greens have a few challenges. Marama Davidson’s crusade to reclaim “the c word”, deserved the derision it got from all corners of the internet. I am sure Green party strategists must have shielded their faces from the sight of her making that speech. Attacking the Defence Force as it undergoes necessary equipment upgrades not only to pursue the many non military activities it assists in such as disaster relief, fisheries enforcement and search and rescue will appeal to the far left peaceniks, but not their Labour or New Zealand First colleagues.

New Zealand First

My old party will be proud of what it has achieved in 2018. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters had a stellar year with an injection of funding for South Pacific affairs, and being able to meet numerous foreign counterparts. Minister of Defence and former soldier Ron Mark will be pleased that he was able to get one major Defence Force acquisition signed off. Minister for Children and Minister in charge of Oranga Tamariki, Tracey Martin also enjoyed a good 2018, being able to enact changesĀ  that were stalled by the previous National-led Government.

It will also be a year of major challenges. New Zealand First exists in Parliament because of a core of extremely dedicated party members and volunteers. However its internal organization is lethargic and at election time almost freezes, like it does not know what to do. It’s lack of emphasis on South Island members and electorates has seen many committees be abandoned and left to wither on the vine. Only one Member of Parliament is from the South Island. Addressing these issues will have significant benefits for the 2020 election campaign.

So, with 2019 now underway and New Zealand just waiting for Parliament to resume next month, commentators are waiting to see whether the proverbial dogs (National, Labour) wag the tail or the tails (A.C.T., Greens, New Zealand First)wag their masters.

What will a carbon neutral economy look like?


As 2019 nears the starting line, one of the issues that I have spent time wrestling with, and I am sure others have to is how will New Zealand make the transition from oil and gas to a carbon neutral state by 2050. Can we even do it?

This article examines the commentary of an opinion column by Neil Holdom on Stuff on how, or indeed whether, New Zealand can make the transition.

My responses to individual parts of the article are below:

“Unless we make decisions today that will essentially take effect in 30 or more years’ time, we run the risk of acting too late and causing abrupt shocks to communities and our country,” she said.

Okay, so your government might have made the decision to ban oil and gas by 2050. But there was not a plan in place – if you had said at the start of your Government, that a major decision on oil and gas might be a few years away, but that it would be backed by a substantial plan, I would have applauded you; National would have been left scrambling and your planning credentials as well as your green ones would have had a major boost.

But since then little has been written about what a net carbon zero 2050 Aotearoa will actually look like.

Correct.

What is really surprising is the lack of attention being paid to some very obvious first steps, such as introducing a nation wide recycling scheme for all aluminium. This is a pretty simple, relatively easy thing to do and it would potentially have a near immediate impact if successful.

Another one would be acknowledging and assisting the growth of hybrid vehicles. Yes they might be users of petroleum, but this is a 30+ year project and filling the gap between the old gas guzzling fleet and a bunch of electric cars that among other things still have perception issues around plugging in.

New Zealand produces around 80 million tonnes of carbon annually and our forestry sector absorbs around 20 million tonnes, leaving a balance of 60 millions tonnes to be dealt with.

The article acknowledges the forestry sector and the announcement by Minister for Regional Development, Shane Jones (N.Z. First)that 1 billion trees will be planted and that steps are underway to make this happen.

Whales are also good carbon traps. A sperm whale can account for a similar level of carbon as 690 acres of forest. Protecting and encouraging whales to visit our shores could have a positive contribution to reducing carbon emissions as well as prop up the whale watch industry.

But as yet no one has talked about how to tackle the dairy sector which produces much of New Zealand’s carbon emissions. Through the biological processes of their two stomachs, cows belching put out about. In 2009 a litre of milk manufactured by Fonterra created about 940 grams of carbon dioxide, which would have made the then carbon cost of the then 15 billion litres per annum of milk, about 15 million tonnes.

Ten years later having had an explosion of dairying and becoming a $13.4 billion industry by 2017, with 21.0 billion litres of milk manufacturing 1.8 billion kilogrammes of milk solids, the growth in carbon emissions would be significant.

I find it interesting that little evidence of a co-ordinated approach exists to climate change. I do not see an effort to get the various economic sectors, Ministries of the Crown engaged. There are substantial opportunities to get a healthy green technology sector established here, but I do not see anyone having a clue of how to get started.

So, as the first full year of this Labour-Green-New Zealand First coalition comes to an end, it would appear that New Zealand First is the only party that has seriously given any thought to an increasingly urgent problem.

Government doing okay considering differences


Yesterday I blasted the state of politics in New Zealand and how I find myself along with others feeling abandoned by the party we supported over the Trans Pacific Partnership. Whilst all true and I stand by it, this is just one dimension to a multi-dimensioned state of New Zealand politics, which this article will discuss.

New Zealand, despite its nearly 25 years of experience with coalition Governments, nonetheless has a somewhat chequered history with them in a Mixed Member Proportional environment. M.M.P had its first election in 1996, which resulted in a hung Parliament – neither the incumbent National Party or the Oppposition Labour Party were large enough as a result of that election to form a Government on their own and needed New Zealand First, which had gathered 17 seats and held the balance of power.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters chose National. That lasted 20 months and about a year after it formed, the then Prime Minister Jim Bolger was ousted by his deputy Jenny Shipley. After a tumultuous eight month in which Mrs Shipley floated the sale of Wellington Airport, privatizing the energy sector and pushing through reforms that led to significant increases in university fees (and equally significant student revolts in campuses across the country in 1999), the coalition Government collapsed in acrimonious circumstances.

Contrast that with the coalition Government of today, and contrary to the assertions of National Party Leader Simon Bridges that it is in disarray, the Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is doing alright. Do they agree on everything? Absolutely not and there are plenty of good opportunities coming up for the two to have major disagreements. Mr Peters, whilst claiming to reject the neoliberal stance of both National and Labour, undermined that when his party chose to support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, something myself and others had staunchly hoped he would reject.

They are co-operating on other matters. Mr Peters got a N.Z.$1 billion injection of spending into foreign aid shortly after he became Minister for Foreign Affairs (for a second time). New Zealand First is able to announce significant projects for rural development, something that National lagged behind on during its time in office.

New Zealand First is likely to clash significantly with the Greens. On issues such as defence, justice, criminal law and so forth, New Zealand First will always be more conservative than the Greens. It is not to say that the stance is necessarily correct as there is a great need to legalize medical marijuana as a matter of urgency and review how we treat drug addiction, which is distorting crime statistics significantly with arrests and punishments for relatively minor offences.

Whilst the Greens have made some progressive since Metiria Turei’s departure, it is still struggling with the fallout from Mrs Turei’s admission of having lied to Work and Income New Zealand. This gives New Zealand First a chance to make inroads in pushing the great body of policy that makes up the party manifesto. Whether N.Z.F. realizes this and seizes the opportunity is another story altogether.

The party will also probably clash with Labour at some point. Labour, despite its swing to the left in the last election is still tarred – and might be forever – by its experiment in the 1980’s with market economics. It’s failure to buy back the electricity grid in full has disappointed many. It’s reluctance to announce significant increases in investment in science, diversifying the economy

I am expecting to see significant further announcements across the remainder of this Parliamentary term in a range of areas – from the Defence Force announcing what will replace the C-130 Hercules transports, to the $300 million promised for Christchurch transport to the education review and how the concerns over oil and gas bans will be tackled.

But that does not change the fact that if an election were held in the very new future your guess would be as good as mine about how I would vote. Right now, I honestly don’t know.