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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

During the post-election coalition negotiations last year, there was much entrails-reading of which way NZ First would move to form a new government. Labour and NZ First? Or National and NZ First?

Then came the novel suggestion from several  media and mostly right-leaning political commentators – all with singularly hyper-active imaginations – of a potential  National-Green Coalition government. This was mentioned by Laura Walters and Katie Kenny, on 24 September (2017), both writing for Fairfax media; former National PM, Jim Bolger on 25 September, talking with John Campbell on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint; Bill English on 25 September; National’s deputy Paula Bennett on 29 September;  Jim Bolger again on 1 October; Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins on 2 October, et al…

The ‘cheerleaders’ were lining up to “encourage” (and in one instance, demand!) the installation of a ‘Teal’ Coalition.

Even former cricketer-turned-Mediaworks-AM Show presenter , Mark Richardson, offered his one cent worth of advice to Green Party leader James Shaw to  “be a risk taker and back yourself” by coalescing with the Nats. (Though Richardson admitted that a decision by Shaw to coalesce with National would “blow his Party to smithereens“. This did not seem to perturb Richardson, a self-confessed National Party supporter.)

Tracy Watkins had to concede that any coalition deal with the Nats was a lengthy, but guaranteed,  political suicide mission, “National has used up all its future coalition partners. United Future and the Maori Party are gone and ACT is on life support“.

Strangely, Shaw’s response was utterly predictable. He would take a phone call from then National-leader Bill English… but…

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

Act II – Was a ‘Teal’ Deal the Real Deal?

So how viable would a coalition have been between two political parties that – on the face of things have as much in common as a chicken and a platypus?

Not much, it would seem.

On several occassions,  National’s current caretaker  Leader, Simon Bridges criticised the Green Party’s policies on social issues;

In terms of the Greens, if they were a true environmental party that wasn’t focused on other bits and bobs, they could be a party that we could work with and work with strongly,” Bridges said on Tuesday.

And;

You’ve seen me say that I think actually there is a role for us in the environment.

I do have problems with the fact that they’re more than simply an environmental party – a lot of other stuff I disagree with, but on the environment we know… New Zealanders care passionately about this.”

And;

It’s a deep red rather than Green. I’m interested in working with them on genuine conservation, environmental issues but not picketing on the streets.”

The sub-text of that narrative was for the Green Party to neuter itself. As James Shaw had to point out to Simon Bridges – much like an exasperated parent patiently explaining something to a young child;

“History has shown that people want to vote for parties on a range of issues. We’ve always said that sustainability is a function of society, of the environment, and of the economy, and you can’t disaggregate those things,”

It would not be dissimilar to the Green Party dictating to National to abandon it’s close links to corporate interests, the farming sector, and other pro-business lobby groups. A point made by recently-elected Green Party Party co-leader, and former Daily Blog contributor, Marama Davidson;

“They’ve got to change a lot. It’s not good enough that Simon’s trying to position himself as all of a sudden caring about our rivers and our water, when his very policies under his party led to the exact environmental degradation that we’re seeing. He wanted to open up drilling to our Maui dolphins’ home.

They don’t understand the connection of the flawed economic model that led to the environmental degradation in the first place. They would have to change a lot, and I don’t think that’s what they intend to do.”

So how ‘green’ is our true-blue National Party?

Act III – National plays the Green Card

On 28 April, at a so-called “Bluegreens” Forum – a greenwashed front for the National Party –  Simon Bridges made much of his party’s “green credentials“;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.

Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more.

We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

Note; the reported comment from Bridges – “Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren” – is almost a word-for-word repeat from last year’s National’s Environment policy on their website;

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Most crucially, note Bridges reference to needing “ to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions“.

Developing and implementing technological solutions” – not reducing reliance on fossil fuels. For National that was a No-Go Area.

Not so for this coalition government.

On 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced  that “There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted“. She said;

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

More than “a step”, it was a bold leap – perhaps one of the most radical since New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-free nation on 8 June 1987. Climate change officially became this generation’s “nuclear free moment” on 12 April 2018.

Without doubt, it would be an expensive proposition to forego possible, undiscovered, oil reserves that might be worthy millions – billions! – to our country.

But the cost of runaway climate change; increasing CO2; rising temperatures and sea levels; more energetic storms; growing threats of flooding and coastal storm surges; harsher droughts; heavier rains – would  cost us billions as well. With rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges, thousands of homes were now within coastal danger zones;

“Climate change will increasingly create severe risks for New Zealand’s coastal housing stock. Even a small amount of sea-level rise will substantially exacerbate the costs of flooding and storm surges. Under the most optimistic emissions scenario studied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average sea levels will likely rise by between 44cm and 55cm by 2100, and around 1 m with continued high emissions. Across New Zealand, for regions with high-quality data, there are 43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm.”

According to the Ministry for the Environment, the cost of not addressing climate change threats cannot even be accurately ascertained;

The costs of inaction are difficult to quantify as they depend on the actions that the whole world takes to reduce emissions, not just New Zealand. The costs of inaction will be large but are hard to predict accurately and hard to express in monetary terms. This is also the case for modelling co-benefits of action such as air quality and health benefits. Current research and model development is beginning to address these complexities.

As a rough indicator, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes was estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars), which includes $16 billion  for residential construction. Around 10,000 homes were demolished due to earthquake damage. Compare that figure with Motu’s; “43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm“.

Regrettably, National’s green rhetoric and Simon Bridges’ pious claims were not matched with more recent stated intentions – intentions that pose a direct threat to the long-term environmental well-being of our country as well as the entire planet.

Despite Simon Bridges asserting that “climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more” – National was going to do everything in it’s power to oppose practical solutions to reduce climate gas emissions.

Bridges point-blank refused to “do much more“.

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

Soon after Prime Minister Ardern issued her government’s 12 April Declaration, Bridges responded like a child with his favourite toy taken off him;

If we are the Government in two years we will change it back.”

Bridges’ double-speak on environmental matters was pointed out by Fairfax’s Laura Walters in no uncertain terms;

Bridges had made a point of talking about National’s future environmental direction, and saying he would be open to working with the Green Party in the future – something the Greens have said was unlikely to happen.

However, when he was asked about his plans for the environment on Thursday, he was not able to point to any policies, or general policy areas.

In case Bridges protests at being “unfairly misquoted” in the media, his follow MPs were also vociferous in their opposition to the coalition government’s decision to curtail further offshore oil and gas exploration. In a recent press release, National’s Energy and Resources Spokesperson, Jonathan Young, said;

“The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense […]

This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy.

Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

And in a bizarre twist, National’s own Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, also condemned winding back New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry. In the same press release as Jonathan Young, he said;

“The decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.

The Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.”

Todd Mueller has the wrong job title. With his unwavering support  for the fossil fuel industry and increased roading expenditure, he should be National’s Increasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions spokesperson. Nothing that Mueller has said would lead to any reduction in dangerous emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The press release from Young and Mueller was also dated 12 April;

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– the same day Prime Minister Ardern released her statement to wind-back oil and gas exploration off our coast. This indicates how long and hard Young and Mueller must have thought deeply on this matter  before issuing their press release.

Not content with being advocates for the fossil fuel industry, Simon Bridges announced eighteen days later that a National government would over-turn the coalition government’s regional fuel tax in Auckland;

“A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families.

Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.

The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.

The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.

[…]

And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.”

Which contrasted with former National Party leader and PM, John Key, who all but endorsed Phil Goff’s bid for the mayoralty in 2015;

“Phil Goff has been a very long standing member of Parliament. It was quite a combative relationship when he was leader of the opposition, but there’s no question he had a big work rate and he was a very effective minster.”

Simon Bridges obviously didn’t get the memo from Key’s office that Goff “was a very effective minster“.

It is also worth remembering that when National was in power, they also raised the petrol excise duty by nine cents per litre over a three year period, with Road user charges increasing similarly. In March 2009, National’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce announced;

”Our preference is for a simpler system which delivers benefits to road users across the board.” From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

…these smaller adjustments to roading excise and road user charges across New Zealand will make more funding available for roading across the country.”

Evidently, increasing fuel excise taxes for more roads (and thereby more cars) is a good thing. But increasing  fuel excise taxes to fund public transport initiatives – thereby assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is a bad thing. How else could one interpret National’s contradictory statements and policies?

National took matters a step further when they announced on Twitter a petition to persuade the coalition government to reverse it’s decision to ban offshore exploration;

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This wasn’t just Opposition for the sake of opposition. National’s petition signalled a deep ideological opposition to any steps  that would reduce the production of fossil fuels  in this country. The prospect of losing revenue from this industry – despite being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – was simply too much for National to contemplate.

National was signalling to all and sundry that given a choice between maintaining the fossil fuel industry and keeping the revenue stream from it – or beginning a slow phase-out and reduced revenue, the winner would always be industry.

And the environment be damned.

So much for the pious sentiments from Bridges at the National’s Bluegreen Conference;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.”

So with National’s antipathy to taking the crucial, hard steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what was National’s reasoning to entice the Green Party into a coalition deal (or at least a confidence and supply arrangement)?

The answer came from Bluegreens co-chairman, Geoff Thompson. Thompson was unequivocally clear in his stated intention to using his front-organisation as a way for National to return to power;

“We’re a well-liked party … but it’s not good enough. Forty-four per cent [in a recent poll] doesn’t get us there so we want to expand and we see the environmental side of the party, that’s us, as being an opportunity for that expansion.”

For National, “to expand … we see the environmental … as being an opportunity for that expansion” was the answer.

Appealing to the Green Party to work with National would have been made with generous offers.

But the reality is that the Nats would have demanded that the Greens abandon;

  • their “red green” “bits and bobs” social policies;
  • their policies to move away from oil and gas exploration;
  • and policies to improve public transport in Auckland through regional fuel taxes

In short, the Green Party would have found itself neutered on their environmental as well as social policies.

That would have left the Greens with no alternative but to dump their coalition deal, thereby probably triggering an early election. And we all know how voters treat small political parties that cause early elections.

Simon Bridges and his National Party have demonstrated through their opposition to abandoning offshore oil and gas exploration permits that they have very little interest in environmental issues. It is even doubtful they will ever fully  honour the Paris Climate Agreement.

As early as 2012, National had already broken it’s commitment to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme;

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National’s behaviour in the last few months have proven that a coalition with the Green Party is not only impossible – but fraught with danger of broken promises and backsliding on environmental commitments.

National would always give pre-eminence to industry; fossil fuel production, and building roads.  Environmentalism, alternative fuels, and public transport would always taken second priority – if at all.

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

In June 2016, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm) at NIWA’s Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, Wellington;

It came a year after it was crossed at the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii, which has recorded a 24 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels since it began gathering data in 1958.

[…]

Last month, the level was passed at the Australian monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.

Like something out of Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, “On The Beach“, but instead of a deadly radioactive cloud, heightened CO2 levels have reached Australia, and shortly thereafter, New Zealand.

In April last year, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory detected CO2 reaching 410 parts per million for the first time in our recorded history.

We should be recording that level about now, here at the bottom of the world.

It is a grim reminder that rising CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide wait for no man (or woman). Not even for Simon Bridges.

Meanwhile, NIWA reported that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record;

NIWA figures show average temperatures for the month of January across the country was 20.3°C.

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara said the month’s temperatures were unprecedented.

“It was unusual that the entire country seemed to observe temperatures that weren’t only above average, but really considerably above average.”

“The majority of observation stations we had observed temperatures more than 3° above normal and in fact there are quite a few sites that were 4° above normal which were essentially unprecedented – particularly for this time of year,” he said.

While we baked, Simon Bridges and his cronies in the National Party were planning to over-turn any practical steps taken by the current coalition government to do our bit to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

This is why any talk of a Greens coalition with National is ludicrous.  National’s policies, ideology, and base-support is not compatible with environmental protection.

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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“Out of touch” doesn’t even begin to cover Simon Bridges and the environment.

 

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Note: All National Party webspages have been downloaded and saved for future reference. (They have a ‘habit’ of disappearing after a while.)

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

Fairfax media:  The coalitions that could form NZ’s 52nd Government and how likely they are

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

Radio NZ: Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

Fairfax media: National wants conversation with Greens, official talks yet to begin

Fairfax media: Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Politically Correct – Green Party won’t pick up the phone

Fairfax media:  AM Show host Mark Richardson’s advice to Green Party leader – ‘Be a risk-taker’

Fairfax media: Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Fairfax media: Bridges offers olive branch out to Greens, only to be quickly shot down

Mediaworks: National open to working with Greens, NZ First – Simon Bridges

Mediaworks:  National needs to ‘change a lot’ to get Greens onside – Marama Davidson

Fairfax media:  National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

Beehive.govt.nz: Planning for the future – no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

NZhistory.govt.nz: New Zealand goes nuclear-free

Fairfax media: How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring

Motu: Insurance, Housing and Climate Change Adapation:Current Knowledge and future research

Ministry for the Environment: Modelling the economic costs of New Zealand’s intended nationally determined contribution

RBNZ:  The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

NZ Herald: Christchurch Earthquake: 100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable

Fairfax media:  Nats would reverse Govt’s decision on oil and gas exploration

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

National Party: National to overturn Government’s regional fuel tax

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Scientists record symbolic milestone, and it’s not one to celebrate

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: The continuing relevance of “On the Beach”

Scientific American: We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

Radio NZ: January 2018 NZ’s hottest month on record

Mediaworks: Minister didn’t know park was in drilling plan

Additional

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  The Politics of Green Coalitions – rethinking our strategy and positioning

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Ministry for the Environment: Overview of likely climate change impacts in New Zealand

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2018.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 17: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

11 April 2016 8 comments

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we will give you honest government - yeah right

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National Makes Good on 2008 Threat to Sell Kiwibank

NZ Post’s, announcement on 6 April that it intends to sell-down  45% of it’s subsidiary, Kiwibank, appears to make good on Bill English’s inadvertent threat in August 2008 that Kiwibank would “eventually be sold”.

English was secretly recorded by an un-named person during a 2008 National Party Conference, and encouraged to talk freely on the prospect of selling Kiwibank;

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English - I didn't choose my words well - NZ Herald - Kiwibank sale

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English subsequently complained; “I did not choose my words well“.

However, it now appears that English expressed his words honestly,  disclosing a secret agenda to sell Kiwibank to someone he believed was a loyal National Party apparatchik.

Another secret recording, this time from National MP Lockwood Smith, also hinted at a secret agenda held by National;

“There’s some bloody dead fish you have to swallow, to get into government to do the kinds of things you want to do. Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things.

We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process. You wouldn’t be able to do them straight off.”

With the 2008 General Election only three months away, and with a new, untested Leader of the National Party (John Key) facing a seasoned, popular Prime Minister, the secret recordings forced National’s hierarchy to take rapid steps to “kill” the story.

Both English and Key issued public statements  resiling from any intention to sell Kiwibank;

It’s not my view. It’s not my private view. I simply used loose language – I made a statement I shouldn’t have.” – Bill English

We would never make a change to that decision without a mandate.” – John Key

Again in 2008, Key resiled from any sale of Kiwibank;

“I’m ruling out selling Kiwibank at any point in the future.”

And again in 2010,

“National would not sell Kiwibank at any stage, ever. We have ruled it out.”

Making a Promise

On 25 February 2014, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, announced to the nation that National’s asset sales programme was over;

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“Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

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Two years and nearly two months later, and Key’s promise- like so many other committments he has made – appears to have been watered-down to permit a de-facto partial-sale.

The intended purchasers would be two other SOEs,  NZ Superannuation Funds (25%) and ACC Funds (20%);

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NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

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Breaking the Promise

Even as NZ Post’s Directors were announcing the partial sale of their subsidiary, Kiwibank,  Finance Minister Bill English was engaged in some well-rehearsed damage-control.

No doubt with considerable prompting by Party strategists and media-minders, English reassured the public that National would not allow the people’s bank to end up in private ownership, as the former Postbank did February 1989 when it was sold to the ANZ Bank.

English promised;

“Kiwibank will remain 100 per cent government-owned – that is a bottom-line. To ensure this occurs, the proposal includes a right of first refusal for the Government over any future sale of shares – which we would exercise.”

To be blunt, National cannot be trusted to keep it’s word.

Key knew in advance!

Despite  Key’s  committment to end asset sales on  25 February 2014, it appears from Michael Cullen’s own statements that our esteemed Dear Leader was already aware at around the same time, that a partial asset-sale was being planned by NZ Post.

During a video-taped press-briefing by Fairfax media, Cullen admitted that he and Key had discussed the partial-sale of Kiwibank that year (2013/14).

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So Brian [Roche] and I after discussion, and [I] think I remember correctly, I had a brief discussion with the Post Board, went to see the Prime Minister, to see whether there would be a kind of visceral reaction from the government, as our ultimate share holder, to that happening. That was not the case. Mr Key indicated he was very comfortable with that prospect and on that basis therefore we began to proceed...”

So when Key made his public promise on 25 February, 2014, that National’s asset sales programme was over – he was making that committment whilst knowing full well that the partial sale of Kiwibank was already underway.

Broken promises and secret agendas – this story has it all.

Who Pays? Loyal Kiwibank customers do!

There is a hidden cost to the partial-sale of  Kiwibank.

As David Hargreaves from Interest.co.nz reported;

The move could see Kiwibank’s credit rating slip by one notch from the current A+ to A as NZ Post will likely not guarantee Kiwibank’s future obligations once the deal proceeds.

When a financial institution’s credit rating is reduced, it means (generally) that they become a greater risk of lending money to them.  According to Investpedia;

“…While a borrower will strive to have the highest possible credit rating since it has a major impact on interest rates charged by lenders, the rating agencies must take a balanced and objective view of the borrower’s financial situation and capacity to service/repay the debt.

A credit rating not only determines whether or not a borrower will be approved for a loan, but also the interest rate at which the loan will need to be repaid.

… and a high interest rate is much more difficult to pay back.”

It is entirely likely that when a credit down-grade occurs (as happened to New Zealand under National in September 2011), the cost of borrowing funds will increase for the bank.

Which is precisely what Hargreaves reported;

Standard & Poor’s has indicated that following the announcement of the proposed transaction, Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (A+) will be placed on credit watch negative pending the proposed termination of the standing guarantee provided by NZ Post. Should the guarantee be terminated, Standard & Poor’s has indicated it will result in a one notch downgrade to Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (from A+ to A). 

That cost will either have to be absorbed, reducing their profit margins and making it easier for Key and English to justify full privatisation – or will be passed on to the banks customers.

English will most likely not permit Kiwibank’s profit to fall as that would mean lower dividends paid into government coffers.

Which leaves Kiwibank’s Mum & Dad customers  to foot the bill for the partial-sale.

The Agenda #1

The sale to ACC and NZ Super Fund is a clever ploy. On the face of it, Kiwibank remains in wholly State ownership, albeit shifting it’s shareholders around, from one SOE (NZ Post) to three (NZ Post, ACC, NZ Super Fund).A kind of multi-million dollar Musical Chairs.

At the same time,  this would allow a healthy dividend payment (an amount  yet to be disclosed) to be paid to the government. As Cullen said on 6 April;

“The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt. It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown…”

This was confirmed a day later by Bill English speaking with Guyon Espiner, on Radio NZ’s Morning Report;

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Guyon Espiner: “Ok, let’s look at what happens to the $495 million that NZ Post gets from this sale. I understand it doesn’t go to generate any extra capital for Kiwibank, it goes to NZpost to pay down debt and invest in it’s parcel and mail business, right?”

Bill English: “That’s right, and then if there’s, subject to negotiations there may be special dividend passed back to this [inaudible] government.”

English said any dividend payable to the government would “likely be several hundred million“. This would prove a godsend to English who otherwise would be struggling to create another Budget surplus in his May budget.

The Agenda #2

National has not only increased it’s revenue, thereby alleviating a major headache for Bill English, but they have pulled the rug out from under the Greens who, three days earlier, had been calling for increased $100 million investment in Kiwibank. As Greens co-leader James Shaw stated in a recent policy announcement;

“Our plan will help Kiwibank lead a change in New Zealand banking, by giving it a clear public purpose that requires it to drive competition to generate better interest rates for New Zealanders.

We’ll help Kiwibank to grow faster by injecting $100 million of capital into the bank and let it retain more of its profits.

Strengthening Kiwibank so it can create competition in the banking sector is the smartest way to ensure all banks pass on the best interest rates to Kiwis.”

The Agenda #3

A deeply cynical person might suspect that after the defeat of John Key’s pet vanity-project  (the recent flag referendum debacle) that National has decided to exact revenge against the many Labour and Green voters who voted to retain the current flag,  by partial privatisation of a favourite state owned enterprise.

Does such  cynicism border on paranoia? In an era of Dirty Politics; tax-havens with trillions hidden away; and increasingly corruption of state leaders, officials, organisations, and institutions –  the demarcation between healthy scepticism and paranoid fantasies blur, merge, and are tomorrow’s headlines waiting to be made public.

Labour’s Response?

Labour and the Green Party both responded to Cullen’s announcement. As Stacy Kirk wrote for Fairfax Media on 6 April;

The response of opposition parties has been mixed, with the Greens calling it a step down the path of privatisation. 

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was important Kiwibank stayed in public ownership.

“And this does that, there are some good conditions around it,” he said. 

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds, and hopefully for NZ Post to use the funds that they raise from the sale, to put more capital into Kiwibank. 

Meanwhile, Labour Party state-owned enterprise spokesman David Parker said Cullen should be congratulated on the idea. 

“Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank and keep it in public ownership, given the refusal of National to provide more capital for NZ Post or KiwiBank.

“Michael Cullen’s solution only works to ensure the bank will remain in public ownership if National promises that if ACC or the Super Fund sells its shares, then the government of the day would exercise its first right of refusal and buy them back.” 

Labour’s response has not only been weak and naive – but it also appears that David Parker is not “up to speed” with the terms of the sale. It is extraordinary that both Labour’s SOE Spokesperson, David Parker,  and Labour’s Leader, Andrew Little, believe that;

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds… to put more capital into Kiwibank” and that “Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank”.

Nothing of the sort will happen.

Both Cullen and Bill English have been crystal-clear and surprisingly honest in stating that;

  1. “The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt.” “
  2.  “It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown.”
  3.  Kiwibank will get nothing.

So where Parker and Little get their cozy ideas about “putting more capital into Kiwibank” is unclear.

Instead,  Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, seemed more cognisant to National’s real agenda;

“The fact is the Government forced Kiwibank’s hand and today’s announcement will make it easier than it was before to move Kiwibank into private ownership.”

Labour needs to get it’s act together on this issue.

The future of the people’s bank depends on it.

As for the mainstream media, it is high time they became aware of the many promises made by both Key and English – and their subsequent breaking. Otherwise, they too are failing the public.

National, in the meantime, has carried out the  perfect bank “heist”.

It only took eight years to accomplish.

 

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References

Fairfax Media: NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: English – I didn’t choose my words well

TV3 News: National hit by more secret recordings

Fairfax Media: Facebook Video – NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: PM pledges not to sell Kiwibank after all

Faifax Media: Key – Why I should be the PM

Otago Daily Times: Key not ruling out Kiwibank sale in future

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Interest.co.nz: NZ Super Fund and ACC proposed as new minority shareholders in Kiwibank

Investopedia: Credit Rating

NZ Herald: S&P cuts NZ credit rating

Radio NZ: Bill English – Kiwibank will stay 100 percent New Zealand-owned

Green Party: Greens will repurpose Kiwibank and save Kiwis hundreds of millions

Additional

Fairfax media: Kiwibank tape catches English

Scoop Media:  Bill English Talks On KiwiBank Being Sold (audio)

Other bloggers

No Right Turn: Plunder

The Daily Blog: KiwiBank another privatisation by stealth – Robbing Fred to bribe Dagg to pay John

The Dim Post: A fascinating precedent

The Standard: Kiwibank sale to NZ Super, ACC privatisation by stealth

Previous related blogposts

Westpac, Peter Dunne, & Edward Snowden

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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the sale of kiwibank - nz herald cartoon - john key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 April 2016.

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Letter to the editor – John Key’s broken promises, a habit?

26 July 2015 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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If recent recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, are any indication, National appears to be engaging in a “softening up the public” exercise for further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Yet, only seven months before last year’s September General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

One can only assume that collapsing dairy prices will impact on tax revenue to a greater magnitude than the government has been advised and English is desperate to look at any alternative income revenue.

The sale of State houses was an unmitigated disaster. It seems that other State assets may be on the block soon.

So much for John Key keeping his word.

This is becoming a habit.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address & phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English

 

 


 

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Letter to the editor – softening us up for another broken promise?

23 July 2015 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Recent comments by Finance Minister, Bill English, appear to be an exercise for “softening up” the public to further asset sales. On 23 July, English announced at a Commerce Commission conference;

“Why do you want us to keep owning broadcast media – it was worth a billion, it’s worth $300 million today, and soon it will be worth nothing. Same with post offices – was worth a billion, worth $300 million today, soon be worth nothing.” (Radio NZ, “No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English”)

Is this a prelude to another broken promise from National?

Seven months before the 2014 General Election, our esteemed Prime Minister promised no further asset sales after Genesis Energy was partially privatised;

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.” (NZ Herald, “PM: no more SOEs to sell after Genesis”

National is facing a greatly reduced tax revenue as collapsing Dairy prices impact on our economy.

If National wants to sell more assets, they should call an early election and seek a mandate. Otherwise they are breaking yet another election promise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Radio NZ: No plans to sell SOE ‘relics’ – English


 

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John Key - carpet sale - Dannevirke

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National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

23 July 2015 4 comments

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global carbon dioxide rises - NASA

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

global temperature rises - NASA

Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record.

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Top image: NASA

Bottom image: NASA

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1. The Promise

What John Key said to the National Blue-Green Forum, on 6 September 2008, one month before the up-coming election that year;

What global Leaders know, and what the National Party knows, is that environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand.  We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other.  And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.

In the years ahead it will be increasingly important that New Zealand marries its economic and environmental policies.  Global climate change awareness, resource shortages, and increasing intolerance of environmental degradation will give environmental policy renewed relevance on the world stage…

… And, in seeking the balance between environmental and economic goals, National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future.

Significantly, Key added;

National will also ensure New Zealand works on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  We are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations and we will work to achieve further global alliances that build on the goals agreed to at Kyoto.

Pre-election, Key had unequivocally committed National to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and  honouring New  Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (1)

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2. Agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme – Timeline of a Broken Promise

On  May 2008,  John Key stated,

National supports the principle of the ETS and is following the select committee process closely. National has had reservations about the timing of new taxes on motorists and households when there has been no personal tax relief for so long.”

On 8 April 2010, Key confirmed that the ETS would be preserved unchanged,

I’d say it’s unlikely it would be amended.”

By 6 June 2010, the then-Climate Minister,  Nick Smith announced that whether or not agriculture comes into the emissions trading scheme  in 2015  would depend on technological advances and what other countries do.

And on  9 November 2011,  Nick Smith announced,

… It is not in New Zealand’s interests to include agricultural emissions in the ETS yet. The lack of any practical and real technologies to reduce agricultural emissions means it would only impose a cost or tax on our most important export industry. It would also have New Zealand too far ahead of our trading partners on climate change mitigation measures. National will review the position in 2014 and only include agriculture if new technologies are available and more progress is made internationally on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

By 3 July 2012, Key began to publicly vacillate,

John Key says the Government will wait for other countries to follow suit before introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme…

And on 20 August 2012, National introduced the “Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012″, which would remove agricultural emmissions indefinitely, and;

“…remove a specified entry date for surrender obligations on biological emissions from agriculture”.

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Farmers' ETS exemption progresses

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It took them four years to do it, but with some cunning public manipulation (and outright lies) –  National achieved it’s real agenda,

  1. Watering down the ETS until it was toothless,
  2. Keeping agriculture (the worst emitter of greenhouse gases in NZ) out of the ETS
  3. Abandoning the Kyoto protocol

It was National’s worst broken promise (one of many), and it successfully slipped under the public and media radar.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (4)

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3.  Gagging the Watchmen

Part of National’s strategy to cope with embarrassing  data on unpalatable problems – is to eliminate the data. This is Standard Operating Procedure for this government, and has been used to prevent data collected on Child Poverty and foreign investors buying up farms and houses.

By eliminating (or not collecting) data, it becomes difficult for the media and public to assess problems and determine how effective the government is in dealing with them.

The public, media, Opposition parties, and other critics become reliant on hear-say, anecdotal evidence, and evidence obtained through back-door methods. The recent release of a list of non-resident/citizen Chinese investors in our already over-heated property-market is perhaps the best example of this pressing problem.

National also employed the same tactic  by no longer requiring five-yearly State of the Environment Reports from the Ministry of the Environment;

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State of the Environment report stopped

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National’s minister explained;

Environment Minister Amy Adams said the ministry is continually tracing environmental performance using 22 core indicators and the change is to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand.

Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright was not impressed, and said as much;

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright said that is not good enough, because the data is not compiled, analysed, or compared.

Ms Wright is correct. This was National’s clumsy move to silence critics and hide evidence of our on-going environmental degradation. (See Addendum1 below)

Because really, if Minister Adams wanted “to ensure new information is released as it comes to hand” – there is absolutely no sound reason why that could not be done and still have five yearly State of the Environment Reports produced.

The only possible reason for State of the Environment Reports being scrapped by National is that they were fearful of the information that would become public.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)

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4. National abandons Kyoto Protocols

At the same time that National was quietly abandoning it’s pre-election committment to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, our esteemed dear Leader, John Key, was announcing that New Zealand would not commit to the second state of the Kyoto protocols;

Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.

The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.

The treaty aims to curb international greenhouse gas emissions through binding national commitments but some countries have questioned its effectiveness.

New Zealand would be joining other countries in going following the “convention track”, Mr Key said on TVNZ’s Breakfast show today.

“Next year New Zealand will name a binding commitment to climate change – it will actually have a physical rate that we’re going to hit – but instead of being what’s called a second commitment period that is likely to run from 2012 to 2020, we’ll be able to set our own rules around that,” Mr Key said.

As Fairfax’s Vernon Small reported at the time;

The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel “United Nation Convention Framework”.

Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.

[…]

That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.

 “This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies,” Groser said.

In other words, our government has put us into a ‘club’ with the world’s major polluters.

Key wants to  “set our own rules around” climate change. It is fairly apparent what those rules are; doing as little as possible.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (5)

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5. Shifting Goalposts

Even less known by the msm (mainstream media)  and public is how National has moved targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1991. For the the past 24 years, successive National governments have quietly and with little scrutiny,  changed targets for reducing emissions.

  • First Target

In September 1993, the Bolger-led National Government signed up to  the  UNFCCC  (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) .  Four months after the UNFCCC came into effect, in July 1994, National announced a number of very specific climate change committments, as the State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 report outlined;

◊ a target of reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000,

◊ a target of slowing growth of gross emissions by 20%,

◊ increased carbon storage in plantation forests

◊ energy sector reforms

◊ an energy efficiency strategy and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA),

◊ renewable energy sources

◊ use of the Resource Management Act; and,

◊ voluntary agreements with industry.

(Source for precise bullet-points – Wikipedia)

Even the initial target –  reducing net emissions to 1990 volumes by the year 2000 – was the bare minimum, being set at net levels, rather than gross.

National stipulated that if emissions were not stabilised at 1990 levels, by 2000, a (low-level) carbon charge would be introduced in December 1997.

  • Second Target

By July 1996, plans were under way to water down those targets set only three years earlier. Then Environment Minister, Simon Upton “committed” his government to;

…take precautionary actions to help stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reduce risk from global climate change, and to meet New Zealand’s commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including:

•  To return net emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than their 1990 levels by the year 2000 (but aim for a reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2000 if this is cost-effective and will not harm our trade) and to maintain them at this level thereafter; and

•  To reduce net emissions of other greenhouse gases, particularly methane, by the year 2000 where possible and maintain them at those levels thereafter.

Cost effective“, “not harm our trade“, and “where possible” – the weasel words of a government determined not to be bound by any committment.

One could imagine the reaction if those terms were included in marriage vows or other social or legal contract.

  • Third Target

Two years later,  on 22 May 1998,  National ratified  the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. This time, National “committed” New Zealand to a target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008-2012 period to five times the 1990 volume.

Worse still, New Zealand could either reduce emissions or  obtain carbon credits from the international market or from domestic carbon sinks, to meet those “targets”.

The relevant Kyoto Protocol stated;

New Zealand’s emissions management task

•  New Zealand’s initial assigned amount (translating into a corresponding holding of “emission units”) for the commitment period is 365 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is equal to five times the 73 million tonnes that New Zealand emitted in 1990, times 100%, which is New Zealand’s target under Annex B of the Protocol.

•  New Zealand is projected to gain, during the commitment period, additional assigned amount (“removal units”) of 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent due to the growth of trees planted on land that has been converted (or reverted) to forest since 1990.

Like a desert mirage, New Zealand’s targets were continually receding under National.

  • Fourth Target

December 2014 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, announced New Zealand’s latest emissions reduction target of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020.  This pushed the target date from 2008-2012 to 2020.

  • Fifth Target

July 2015 – National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced new emissions target, a 30% reduction on 2005 levels, by 2030.

Not only is the target date pushed further out, from 2020, top 2030 – but the baseline is now 2005 instead of 1990.

Five different targets in twentytwo years – each one more watered down; pushing target dates further and further into the distant future.  Which begs two questions;

  1. What will be the next emissions reduction level and  target date? When does it begin to sound patently ridiculous? 2050? 2099? Next century?
  2. How has no one noticed that National has been surreptitiously shifting the goal-posts?

Massey University climate change expert, Professor Ralph Sims, was not impressed with National’s subterfuge;

Prof Sims said 2005 was the year of New Zealand’s highest emissions and the 2030 target gives New Zealand “10 extra years to produce very little extra reduction.”

By Prof Sims’s calculations, based on gross greenhouse emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand needed to cut emissions by 63,384 kilotonnes under its previous target and by 59,150 KT under the new one.

In essence, he said New Zealand is now doing less than its fair share.

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (6)

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6. The Problem Worsens

Meanwhile, our emissions have continued to worsen, whilst National fiddles;

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NZ's greenhouse gas emissions soar
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New Zealand’s net emissions of greenhouse gases climbed 42 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

Gross emissions, which exclude carbon flows relating to forestry and land use change, rose 21 per cent between 1990 (year zero for carbon accounting purposes) and 2013, to be the fifth highest per capita among 40 developed countries.

Two decades of goal setting; and goal-post moving; and the results have been disappointing, if not predictable.

This has been National’s legacy.

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Addendum1

University’s Environmental Performance Index has highlighted  New Zealand’s falld on international EPI rankings.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked seventh out of 149 nations.

In 2012, our ranking had  dropped seven placings to number fourteen.

Last year, we fell a further two spots, to number sixteen.

As John Key stated seven years ago;

“And we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record”.

On every indicator and policy, New Zealand is doing poorly in the field of conservation. We are going backwards.

Addendum2

“I think we never wanted to be a world leader in climate change.” John Key, 12 November 2012

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References

National Party: John Key Speech – Environment Policy Launch

Fairfax media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

NZ Herald:  ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas

NBR:  ETS may exclude agriculture – Climate Change Minister

Interest.co.nz: See: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

Radio NZ: Govt puts off including agriculture in ETS

National Party: Government announces ETS amendments

Radio NZ:  Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Otago Daily Times: Foreign buyers still in market

TV3 News: Govt – Foreign buyers not part of housing problem

Radio NZ: State of the Environment report stopped

NZ Herald: Key defends decision not to stick with Kyoto Protocol

Dominion Post: Government shuns second Kyoto committment

Wikipedia: Fourth National Government of New Zealand

Ministry for the environment:  State of New Zealand’s Environment 1997 (ch5)

Beehive.govt.nz: Environment 2010 Strategy

Otago Daily Times: Groser – NZ’s emission impossible

NZ Herald: NZ commits to post-2020 emissions reduction target

NBR: New 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target far weaker than 2020 goal – climate change expert

NZ Herald: NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Yale University:  2008 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2012 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University:  2014 Environmental Performance Index

Other Blogs

Green Party: Govt’s emissions reduction target 100% pure spin

Hot Topic: Climate Action Tracker analysis: NZ emissions targets inadequate, not doing our fair share

Hot Topic: Renwick on NZ’s 11% cut: follow us down the path to catastrophe

No Right Turn: Are fossil fuels really an industry we want to promote?

Open Parachute: Talk of “mini ice age” bunkum

The Daily Blog: Using freezing temperatures to claim global warming is a hoax

The Standard:  Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care

The Standard:  It’s just too expensive to act on climate change

The Standard:  Voices of the people on emissions targets and climate change

Additional

NASA Goddard Insititute for Space Studies: Global Climate Modeling

Skeptical Science:  Global Warming in a Nutshell

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

John Key – more pledges, more broken promises?

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

National ditches environmental policies

ETS – National continues to fart around

Dear Leader – fibbing again?!

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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climate change - global warming - new zealand - greenhouse emissions (03)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 July 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 13: Kiwisaver – another broken promise

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budget_2015___the_document_Master

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In the past, when governments broke promises, they were clumsy, heavy-handed, and were punished at the polls.

Political parties and their strategists have learned from those mistakes. Now, when promises are broken, they are done gradually, by incremental steps.  So when the media picks up on it and reports, the public barely notices nor cares.

One such recent broken promise was National’s dumping of the Kiwisaver $1,000 kick-start government contribution, revealed in this year’s Budget.

On 9 July 2008, Key gave a hint as to National’s intentions toward Kiwisaver;

“There won’t be radical changes. There will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver. We will announce that pretty soon.”

On 8 October 2008 – precisely one month before the general election that year – Bill English outlined National’s policy toward Kiwisaver if they became government;

National is proposing three changes to KiwiSaver. These changes will make KiwiSaver fairer, more affordable for current and future members, and more enduring in the long-term.

The three changes National is planning are:

First, a reduction in the minimum contributions demanded of employees.

At the moment, most KiwiSaver members are required to contribute 4% of their income to KiwiSaver. In return, they receive a contribution from their employer equal to 1% of their income. As an interim measure, Labour has allowed some KiwiSaver members to make a more affordable contribution, of 2%. In return they receive an equal contribution from their employer.

National thinks this 2 +2 arrangement is fair and affordable. We disagree with Labour’s plans to ramp-up KiwiSaver over the next three years.

National will make KiwiSaver a 2+2 scheme. Once this is bedded down, however, we will consider offering an alternative 3+3 scheme option, as and when economic conditions permit.

Let me stress that those who want to contribute more than 2% of their wages to KiwiSaver will still have that option. And employers who want to match contributions beyond 2% will still have that option, too.

Second, National will remove the tax credit that is currently paid to employers whose staff are enrolled in KiwiSaver. This will have no effect on the amount of money that goes into New Zealanders’ KiwiSaver accounts.

This subsidy was a transitional tool but it creates a complex money-go-round. It simply doesn’t meet National’s test for effective, disciplined government spending.

I note that the net effect for employers will be small, once they take into account the lower minimum contribution rate.

Finally, National will repeal recent legislation which effectively discriminates against some employees who can’t afford to join KiwiSaver.

However, we will keep a safeguard in place, by amending the KiwiSaver Act to make it explicit that no employee can have their gross taxable pay reduced as a consequence of joining KiwiSaver.

National believes that these three changes to KiwiSaver will make it a fairer, more affordable and more enduring savings scheme.

No mention of cutting the $1,000 kickstart  contribution by government.

In fact, National made no mention whatsoever of removing the $,1000 kickstart contribution at the last election. Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald wrote this informative piece on the issue;

A broken promise is when someone reneges on something they promised to do or not do.

If you were silent, say, about axing the $1000 kickstart payment for new KiwiSaver members, it is not a broken promise, strictly speaking.

But it is an act of bad faith, especially when it happens in the first Budget following an election in which kickstart payments were not mentioned.

The amount of tinkering and tampering with the KiwiSaver scheme since it was announced in 2005 is incredible.

Most of Labour’s changes served to benefit the saver at the expense of the public purse. Not surprising seeing as it began the scheme.

And most of National’s tampering has reduced benefits to the saver and helped the public purse.

Very few other media commentators and columnists have taken National to task for what is undeniably a blatant election broken promise.

Cutting the $1,000 kick-start contribution is short-sighted. Even English had to admit on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, on 23 May;

“…and New Zealand savings rates are now— have been positive for five years for the first time in decades.”

Our improved saving record has not come about because of anything National has done (despite English’s insistence). In fact, National has undermined every effort to improve this country’s dismal savings record.

In 1975, the then-Muldoon-led National government dumped the previous Labour government’s superannuation savings-policy. This cost our nation an estimated $278 billion (according to Infometrics and  the Financial Services Council).

The 2014 Infometrics report calculated that;

“… a worker on the average wage would have saved $256,000 in the scheme over the past 40 years.”

But Muldoon could not wait to get his meddling hands on the scheme, and like many things he touched, it died.

The same applies to the current Kiwisaver scheme.

The current Key-led National government’s piece by piece  gutting of Kiwisaver – ongoing since 2008 – confirms that no superannuation savings scheme is safe from that party’s political interference.

In this instance, removing the $1,000 kick-start contribution is a direct consequence of National’s ill-conceived tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, which left a gaping hole in National’s taxation-revenue.

In effect, New Zealanders continue to pay for those two unaffordable tax-cuts, whether by cutting back on government services such as bio-security; under-funding social organisations such as Relationships Aotearoa; increasing government user-charges such as Family Court fees, medical prescriptions; taxing children; introducing new taxes, etc, etc, etc.

National was so desperate to win the 2008 general election that despite the Global Financial Crisis, it proceeded with tax cuts that we simply could not afford.

National must now cut every form of expenditure it thinks it can get away with, if it is to escape the prospect of another Budget deficit next year.

We are the ones paying for what, essentially, was an election bribe.

On this occasion, though, our children will end up paying as well.

Addendum1

For more invaluable information, refer to Audrey Young’s excellent piece in the Herald, Why axing kickstart is an act of bad faith.

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References

Radio NZ: PM defends scrapping of KiwiSaver kickstart

NBR: Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver

Wikipedia: 2008 General Election

Bill English: National’s Economic Management Plan

NZ Herald:  Why axing kickstart is an act of bad faith

Fairfax media: Compulsory super ‘would be worth $278b’

Scoop media: National Reveals Biosecurity Cuts

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Changes signalled to funding of community organisations; Relationships Aotearoa may close

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: International airfares will rise new departure tax

Additional

NZ Herald:  National denies it misled voters over taxes

Previous related blogposts

Regret at dumping compulsory super – only 37 years too late

Did National knowingly commit economic sabotage post-2008?

Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

National guts Kiwisaver

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2015.

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Dispatches from Planet Key…

1 December 2012 5 comments

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key-loves-you

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This week has been a busy one for Dear Leader…

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Perhaps the most far-ranging trade agreement that New Zealand has been involved with, since CER with Australia took effect in 1983, the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) is currently under negotiation between eleven nations (including New Zealand).

Negotiations are  being held in absolute secrecy, with no Parliamentary or public oversight. Quite simply, New Zealanders have no idea what National is signing up to, until the deed is done and we are committed to god-knows-what.

There are suggestions that part of the TPPA may contain,

(1) The right of corporations to sue governments for “loss of profits”. This is no better illustrated than the recent attempt by tobacco companies to force the Australian government to back down over plans to introduce plain-packaging in that country. (See: Tobacco packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case)

Tobacco manufacturer, Philip Morris, moved it’s subsidiary shares from Australia to Hong Kong so as to exploit a 1993 trade agreement between the two jurisdictions and was thus able to sue the Australian government. (See:  Smoke signals: plans of Big Tobacco plain to see)

This barely-concealed attempt to exploit an obscure trade agreement should serve as a sign of things to come.

(2) Stricter intellectual property rights that may undermine Pharmac’s ability to buy cheaper, generic medicines, after patents have expired.

It is by this process that PHARMAC  can purchase cheaper drugs from overseas and pass those savings on to all New Zealanders.  The US pharmaceutical industry recognises the threat that PHARMAC poses to their profits – especially if the PHARMAC-model is adopted by other nations.

More of what pharmaceutical corporations are demanding can be found in this article, by  Keira Stephenson; TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics.

John Key recently stated,

We’re not prepared to see dairy excluded. And in terms of abolition, yeah, I mean that’s the aim. There might be a time frame under which clearly there’ll be a phase out. But in the end New Zealand can’t sign up to the TPP if it excludes our biggest export.”

See: Key says NZ won’t sign up to TPP unless dairy included

Key also said it would “not a good look” if  concessions undermined the status of  Pharmac.

See: Ibid

Unfortunately, we have good reason to be concerned. If past experience is anything to go by, John Key’s reassurances are mostly meaningless and more changeable than our weather.  Key has changed his position on matters such as,

If there is one thing we’ve come to expect from John Key – he can flip-flop on his promises and committments with all the ease of  a Nigerian scammer.

So when Dear Leader says he is committed to…

We’re not prepared to see dairy excluded. And in terms of abolition, yeah, I mean that’s the aim. There might be a time frame under which clearly there’ll be a phase out. But in the end New Zealand can’t sign up to the TPP if it excludes our biggest export “…

And,   it would “not a good look” if  concessions undermined the status of  Pharmac…

We should immediately be concerned.

The man is simply not to be trusted.

Corporate welfare

In October 2010,  Key categorically rejected spending taxpayers money on corporate welfare for the movie industry,

Mr Key reiterated that the Government was prepared to move at the margins when it came to money but it did not have an open chequebook.

He said Warner Bros were asking for “lots and we’re not offering lots”.

“If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

See: PM: I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

Two years later, and our Prime Minister is dishing out taxpayers money to the movie industry like it’s growing on trees,

The Government wants to offer better incentives to get more foreign TV shows filmed in New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key, in Matamata yesterday for the opening of the Green Dragon Pub at the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, said attracting television series was the next step to aiding the creative industry after movie work such as Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.

“Blockbuster movies are very, very large … but they have big peaks and troughs and during the troughs that’s really difficult for people working in that field, so we can fill those gaps with television,” Mr Key said.

Under Mr Key’s lead the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Film Commission and the Inland Revenue Department are jointly reviewing the incentives offered to overseas producers to film TV series in New Zealand.

See: Key talks up sweeteners for TV

And yet, on 16 September this year, Key specifically rejected all suggestions of subsidies to other industries – especially exporters – to help save jobs,

But there will always be job losses, Shane. There will always be parts of the economy where, for whatever reason, there’s a change in pattern. So years ago, we all did different things from what we’re doing today. The point for New Zealand is if we’re going to sell more to the world than we buy from the world, if we’re going to earn our way in the world and not spend more than we earn, then we have to have a highly focused, competitive economy. And we need to have three things: access to capital, access to markets and access to skilled labour.

[…]

If I just take you back to your point, many of the countries you are pointing to that are paying out these levels of subsidies are backed up by governments that are hugely indebted. So the whole problem in Europe, the whole reason why you’re seeing countries like Spain, like Greece and right through Southern Europe in the sort of mess they are is they have huge levels of government debt. So the answer in New Zealand is not necessarily coming up with a make-work scheme funded off taxpayers’ taxes. It comes off New Zealand having a competitive industry, making sure that we have flexible labour markets, making sure that we are investing in things that will make the economy go faster, like science and innovation.”

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

When it comes to holding two diametrically opposed beliefs, simultaneously, (aka ‘doublethink‘)  John Key excels.

I cannot recall any politician in the last forty years who can flip-flop so easily on any given issue.

Statistics & John Key

When the Household Labourforce survey was made public on 8 November, the data showed a dramatic leap in unemployment from 6.8% to 7.3%. (See: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high) There are now at least 175,000 people without work in this country.

Dear Leader’s response?

He rejected the figures outright, in this Fairfax story,

In the end these things bounce around quite a bit… it’s at odds with what most of the economists thought would happen. Like a lot of surveys, from time to time, it can produced usual data, let’s see what happens in the next one. But it’s not going to make the Government change tack.  These are challenging international conditions … but I don’t think we should change course I think we’re on the right track. “

See: Shock rise in unemployment to 7.3pc

On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 November, Key was just as  reluctant to accept the HLFS results,

The Household Labour Force Survey is a survey. It’s a survey of 15,000 people. It has a quite significant margin of error and it bounces around a lot. Quite a number of the bank economists, in their review of the last number, said it’s notoriously volatile. So I can’t tell you whether it might go up a little bit or go down a little bit. What I can tell you is that’s not the relevant point. The relevant point is is the government doing everything it can to create an environment to allow businesses to create jobs?

See:  TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Which makes it even stranger and more comical when – having trashed the reliability of the Household Labour Force Survey over the last month – he suddenly invokes the very same Household Labour Force Survey to back up his position (which depends on what day it is),

There’s always a range of different data series. QS [Quarterly Survey?] is one. That’s obviously another. Household Labour Force is another. All I can tell you is we’ve looked at [garbled gibberish] … The concensus view and that was the previous government’s view as well, is that HLFS was the best measure of the economy. Sometimes it produces numbers I don’t like. But if you look at their data series what they are saying is, in broad terms, over the last four years, the number of jobs in manufacturing is roughly about the same.” – John Key, 27 November 2012

Source: Radio NZ – PM rejects jobs statistics

It is fairly obvious to the ordinary bloke and blokette in the street that relying on John Key’s word will generally result in disappointment.

Back to Pharmac, the TPPA, and John Key’s “reassurances”

Last year, on 13 June, Fairfax reporter Nikki MacDonald wrote an excellent piece on how TPPA negotiations may impact on Pharmac’s drug-buying policies,

 Pharmac was established in 1993, to rein in rocketing drug costs and distance the government from drug-buying decisions. Its task is to spend its $710 million annual budget to achieve the best health gains for Kiwis.

Broadly, Pharmac works by referring drug-company funding applications to the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee, made up of senior doctors and pharmacists, to examine whether or not the drug is effective, and whether it is significantly better than anything else already on offer.

The committee then gives the drug a low, medium or high funding priority and Pharmac’s board decides whether or not its benefits justify the price tag.

Pharmac’s cost-benefit analysis, which takes into account average patient age and the number of good-quality years gained by the treatment (called quality adjusted life years, or QALYs), is similar to that in Australia’s scheme.

The major difference is that Australia funds everything meeting a given cost-effectiveness threshold.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has a fixed budget, so has to decide whether it can afford to fund a drug in any given year. Pharmac must also consider the opportunity cost of a funding decision – what do you sacrifice to spend $20 million on the latest cancer drug?

Pharmac uses various bargaining strategies so it can buy more for its drug dollar. These include:

Reference pricing: Where a newer, patented drug has similar benefits to a cheaper generic drug, Pharmac might subsidise the newer drug only to the same level as the lower-cost alternative. The drug company then either drops its drug price to the subsidy level, or the consumer pays the difference.

Sole-supply tenders: When a drug patent expires, Pharmac tenders to get the best price for a generic replacement. Drug companies can offer much cheaper deals because they’re assured of a large market share.

A 2004 price comparison found Australia paid up to 20 times more than New Zealand for some generic drugs, because it did not use tenders. (Legislation has now bridged some of that difference, by enforcing staged price drops for generic drugs.) A Canadian study found generic drugs were up to 93 per cent, and on average 58 per cent, cheaper in New Zealand.

Package deals: A costly new drug that works well but is not cost-effective can be funded by negotiating cheaper prices for other drugs made by the same pharmaceutical company. Glivec was funded using this method.

Negotiated contracts. On the numbers Pharmac has been spectacularly successful. In 1985, a basket of commonly prescribed drugs cost 37 per cent more in New Zealand than in Australia. Between 1993 and 2006 New Zealand’s drug spending grew by 11 per cent, while Australia’s soared by 212 per cent. Pharmac estimates its aggressive pricing policies save almost $1 billion a year.

See: Pharmac: The politics of playing god

Most New Zealands either have no idea what the potential impact on Pharmac may be, if US pharmaceutical companies get their way through TPPA negotiations – or are too busy watching the latest “Masterchef Botswana”, “X Factor Bolivia”, or gawking at a celebrity’s tits on some vacuous “reality” show.

It is only when Pharmac’s ability to buy cheap drugs is undermined by the full power of pharmaceutical companies, levied through the TPPA, and the costs for medicines suddenly doubles, trebles, quadruples, will New Zealanders wake up to the fact that we’ve been rorted.

And it all happened on the watch of  our  smiling, waving, Prime Minister – that ever so-nice Mr Key.

By then it will be too late.

So when Key  reassures New Zealanders that,

“…it would “not a good look” if New Zealand made concessions that undermined the status of its drug-buying agency, Pharmac.”

See: Mr Key, reiterated today NZ will not sign the Trans Pacific Partnership unless it provides for the abolition of tariffs on agriculture

See: No TPP deal unless dairy and Pharmac are in, says Key

See: TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics

… it is time to be worried.

Like all his other assurances, pledges, promises, and committments that have been broken or backtracked, our Prime Minister is not a man who stands by his word.

When it comes to the health of our economy, he has failed.

Let’s not allow him to do the same to our own health.

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Sources

US free-trade deal suspect (19 Dec 2010)

Pharmac: The politics of playing god (13 June 2011)

Pharmac faces trade ‘threat’ (26 Oct 2011)

Leaked TPPA document leaves NZ position on software patents unclear (22 June 2012)

Leaked document on Investor Rights to sue sovereign governments

No TPP deal unless dairy and Pharmac are in – Key (26 Nov 2012)

TPPA could ‘gut’ Pharmac, say critics (29 Nov 2012)

Navigating the choppy waters of the TPP (1 Dec 2012)

Right Wing Reaction

Anti-trade camp running debate (28 Nov 2012)

Other blogs

The Standard: TPP Negotiations Auckland next week

Tumeke: Citizen A TPP special with Professor Jane Kelsey & Lori Wallach

Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: TPP in crisis?

Werewolf: Into The Cave of Dreams – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: Selling the Farm – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: The Neutering Of Pharmac – Trans Pacific Partnership

Werewolf: Head First Into The Spaghetti Bowl – Trans Pacific Partnership

Public Citizen: Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda

It’s Our Future

Groups

TPPA Action Group

Additional

NBR:  OPINION: TPP – Groser trades away tech to save agriculture

Fairfax:  CTU seeks answers over trade agreement

NBR:  Govt accused of ‘sellout’ on trade pact negotiations

NBR:  NZ must stay staunch on TPP

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