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Hodgson puts New Zealand in the red

21 June 2005

Hodgson puts New Zealand in the red

Pete Hodgson must be wishing he'd never got out of bed last week. The Minister's billion-dollar bungle has left him pale faced, with tail firmly lodged between his legs.

Instead of being hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus as Labour has repeatedly skited, New Zealand will face a billion-dollar bill before the ink on the Kyoto Protocol is even dry.

The monumental mess Hodgson has made of New Zealand's climate change policy is akin to his colleague George Hawkins's handling of the 111 crises. Both were avoidable if they had heeded the advice of experts and parliamentary colleagues.

Last year, economist Alex Sundakov warned that New Zealand could face a liability of between $9 billion and $14 billion over the four commitment periods. His report was dismissed by Hodgson as being deeply flawed in methodology and failing to address "probably the biggest threat facing the world today".

Funny how this "deeply flawed report" has turned out to be far closer to the mark than the Minister's estimates, which have changed by 90 million tonnes since the Protocol was ratified by Labour in 2002.

National caught wind of the liability before the Minister made his announcement last Thursday. Doing the conscientious thing we gave the Minister the opportunity to come clean in question time. He dodged the questions, knowing all the time the dire state New Zealand was in.

In fact, he's known since at least the15 April when his department lodged a report to the United Nations.

National's Environment spokesman, Nick Smith, has lodged a privileges complaint alleging that Michael Cullen misled Parliament when he said on 9 June that the latest report on New Zealand's carbon balance had not been completed, when the report released last week was in fact dated May 2005. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

It appears that Labour deliberately withheld the information until a Niwa report was released - a flawed attempt to divert focus from the massive miscalculation.

Kyoto announcement Hodgson's second blunder of the week

The Kyoto miscalculation wasn't Pete Hodgson's first embarrassment of the week. Last Monday he accused the NZ Forest Owners Association of not knowing what they were talking about after they warned of a deforestation liability for cutting down forests (in excess of the 10% cap) planted before1990.

The Minister appeared to have forgotten about Labour's carbon tax - something Kiwis will find substantially harder to forget when it hits then directly in the pocket.

Forest owners have repeatedly asked what form the liability will take, how it will it be measured and who will pay for it? Still there are no specifics; I don't think the Minister even knows the logistics of implementing the tax.

This uncertainty has lead forest owners to deforest at unprecedented rates for fear of being lumped with huge costs after the Protocol comes into force.

Vicious thugs give money to victims - yeah right

The recent enactment of the Prisoners and Victims Claims Bill disturbs me to the core. Ensuring prisoners can get compensation if their human rights are impinged completely thumbs the nose at victims.

Sam Te Hei murdered a young woman in the most brutal manner conceivable - her own mother (Mrs Hawkins) didn't even recognise her, such was her daughter's disfigurement after he beat her to death. He got compensation.

At the select committee, Mrs Hawkins asked me, "what about my human rights? What about my little girl's human rights?"

I was close to tears but I couldn't tell her anything satisfactory. However, I can now tell her that Labour has passed a law whereby she can sue Te Hei for his money. That's right. To get justice, Mrs Hawkins has to engage a solicitor and the very man who has caused her so much heartbreak and harm. She will have to live her nightmare all over again.

Kiwis are not unreasonable. Most of us don't think prisoners should be mistreated, and that if prison officials are acting unlawfully, they should be held accountable. But let us be clear - minor infractions against human rights should not create windfalls for those who have committed some of the most horrendous crimes imaginable.


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