Hard News by Russell Brown


The smart thing to do

The Herald's editorial witters on for a few hundred words but eventually gets there. The Listener's editorial is unusually direct and well-informed on the matter. Rod Oram, as usual, knows what he's talking about. And Brian Fallow ably conveys the concerns of the business sector.

Their common topic is the range of problems created by John Key's granting of the Act Party's wish for a show-stopping "review" of the Emissions Trading Scheme. As Oram notes, the granting of that wish represented National's first explicitly broken campaign promise: it had been pledging all year to let the ETS go forward, but to quickly amend what it saw as the scheme's flaws.

It was reasonable of National to want to conclude negotiations on support agreements in time for John Key to undertake an important round of official foreign engagements. But with Act playing hardball, dispatch has begun to look like haste. Act rejected the offer of two Cabinet posts, which would have smacked too much of accepting responsibility. It wanted policy trophies.

There has been one immediate consequence of this concession to Act. And, ironically, it has become manifest on the very diplomatic tour that hastened it. The ditching of the ETS has undermined New Zealand's carbon credibility, and made difficult for us to argue our own virtue in the face of Britain's proposed new departure taxes. Says the Herald:

A brisk reappraisal based on the current economic climate may have served a purpose, but an Act-induced agenda that includes a review of climate-change science smacks of unnecessary dawdling. Europe and most of the rest of the word have moved on. President-elect Barack Obama favours a cap-and-trade scheme not unlike that fashioned by the previous government. Mr Key's visit to London should have convinced him that he cannot procrastinate over modifications to this.

Any delays will diminish New Zealand's reputation in environmental matters. They will also make his tourism portfolio far more onerous.

And yet, as Fallow says:

Act's proposed terms of reference, perhaps deliberately, are a recipe for interminable further delay and uncertainty.

The committee should hear competing views on the science from internationally respected sources, it says. Apparently the careful processes of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, endorsed by the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society and all the other guardians of the scientific method, are not good enough.

A few New Zealand MPs are more likely to get to the bottom of it.

That's laughable.

It gets even jollier when you consider that Act will pursue its agenda with the assistance of another negotiated bauble: its own slush fund. As No Right Turn points out, it's not yet clear where Act's money for commissioning its own "research" and "consultancy" will come from -- he even allows for the possibility that the National Party itself might pay the money -- but it is an unprecedented slab of political pork that Rodney Hide should be reminded about every week for the next three years.

But hey, you can do your bit. Pop on over to Don't Be a Rodney, which provides background and a letter template for citizens who wish to urge John Key to ignore the party whose charms appear to be rapidly fading, and to act in the better interests of the country by pursuing his own party's policy. Or, if the review really is locked in, to assert a design that will not allow Act to derail the issue for years. That would be the smart thing to do.

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