Don Brash Writes No. 61, 23 June 2005
Don Brash Writes
No. 61, 23 June 2005
The great Kyoto debacle
At the time of the 2002 election, National campaigned against the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. We argued that it made no sense for a country which contributes just one-quarter of one percent to the global emissions of greenhouse gases to impose a serious constraint on its economic growth when other much wealthier countries, such as Australia and the United States, were refusing to do the same. This was all the more so when there continued to be intense debate about whether global warming was actually occurring and, if it was, whether it was occurring as a result of human activity.
The Labour Government, always intent on "setting a good example to the international community", irrespective of the cost to hard-working New Zealand taxpayers, boxed right on and ratified the Protocol late in 2002. We were assured that, at least through the so-called first commitment period from 2008 to 2012, New Zealand would have more carbon "credits" than "debits" as a consequence of the carbon sinks created by forests planted since 1990, and that these would be worth serious money to New Zealand - perhaps as much as $500 million. Not ratifying, they argued, would deny us the benefit of those surplus credits and would therefore have us walking away from all that serious money.
Well, just last week, the Labour Government admitted that there had been a monumental mistake and that, instead of a surplus of carbon credits amounting to 55 million tonnes, we would instead face a deficit of some 36 million tonnes. This little difference of 91 million tonnes amounts to a difference of $1.4 billion at $15 a tonne, the price of Labour's carbon tax, or $3.5 billion at $38 a tonne, the current price for carbon on European markets. In other words, instead of receiving $2.1 billion from the sale of surplus credits we are faced with paying $1.4 billion.
Moreover, in what must rate as one of the most blatant pieces of deceit by any New Zealand Government in recent times, it appears that the Labour Government was aware of this grave mistake as early as mid-April - when it was apparently reported to the United Nations - but chose to bury the matter 10 pages in to the section on contingent liabilities in this year's Budget, with the comment that it was not feasible to quantify the extent of the liabiltiy at this stage. Given that
* major countries are still refusing to ratify the Protocol,
* there is still some debate about whether global warming is taking place,
* there is also debate on the role of human activity even if warming is taking place,
* there is very considerable debate about whether the enormous cost of slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is worth bearing relative to the modest reductions in temperature which such reductions might achieve, and given the new evidence confirming that ratification imposes a very large cost on New Zealand, I yesterday called on the Government to undertake an immediate formal review of New Zealand's continued participation in the Kyoto Protocol.
This review should include an independent assessment of New Zealand's likely carbon balance in the 2008-2012 period, the viability of a major programme of forest planting on New Zealand's eroding hill country to increase our carbon credits, and the risks to New Zealand of exporting jobs to other non-Kyoto countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
I assured the House that no National Government led by me would be spending hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars, buying carbon credits on the international market.
Tax on racing
In July 2001, then Racing Minister Annette King told the Annual General Meeting of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing that "the current taxation regulations as they affect the racing industry are unfair and the Prime Minister and I accept you are not on a level playing field." In fact, racing pays some six times more tax per betting dollar than is incurred by betting in casinos.
Four years later, with the Labour Government in receipt of a strong submission from Mr Alan Jackson, one of the Government's independent appointees to the Racing Board, nothing has been done to rectify this unfair situation. It is clear that this iconic industry would remain at a competitive disadvantage vis-Ã -vis casinos if Labour were to be re-elected.
The National Party has pledged to end this totally unfair situation from the beginning of the first racing year after National is returned to office.
Last Thursday, I released National's policy on both agriculture and biosecurity at the Mystery Creek Fieldays. The full policies are available on the National Party's website ( http://www.national.org.nz/campaign2005/policies.aspx), but among the key points are:
* National believes that farmers should be allowed to decide who can enter their properties. To allow members of the public to wander onto farms without permission, as Labour proposes, is a fundamental breach of property rights.
* It is imperative that government does everything in its power to reduce on- and off-farm costs to protect the viability of farming - and this includes the abolition of Labour's carbon tax, the re-introduction of competition in the accident compensation market, reform of the RMA, the abolition of the Employment Relations Law Reform Act, and the reform of the Holidays Act.
* To maintain access to international markets, and of course for other reasons, it is essential that New Zealand be protected from incursions by foreign pests and diseases. National will sharply increase instant fines, and deport non-residents who deliberately flout our biosecurity laws. We will also enhance government's capacity to move quickly in response to a biosecurity incursion.
Less and less choice in education with Labour
As if the Labour Government was not in enough political trouble, they announced recently that they would further restrict the right of parents to choose where to send their children to school. Schools have till now been able to take bulk funding for school buses and plan their own bus route. Many schools get significant numbers of pupils from outside their local area because they have flexible bus routes.
The newly announced policy makes two changes. One changes the formula used to calculate the funding individual schools get. Some will lose and some will win. The main change is that schools will have to plan their bus routes according to new rules. They will not be allowed to run a bus past the mid-point of the distance to the nearest school, nor will they be allowed to pick up children who live within 3.2 kms of their own school.
National is committed to providing parents with more choices, not fewer.
Bureaucracy is not a new problem
A correspondent has drawn my attention to a letter from the Duke of Wellington to the British Foreign Office in London, written from central Spain in August 1812. It reminded me that bureaucracy is not a new problem. Wellington wrote:
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests, which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch rider to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I ask your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in Western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability but I cannot do both:
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the Accountants and copy-boys in London, or perchance
2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,