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What's Going Wong - 23 June 2005

What's Going Wong - 23 June 2005

Kelly’s semi-apology

Judging by the public’s reaction to the offensive comments made by New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Canada, Graham Kelly, during a sitting of a Canadian Senate committee he has probably received more messages of support than opposition.

Comments that have been sent to me have ranged from ‘he has the right to speak his mind’ to ‘of course it’s true.’ I believe it’s important to look more closely at the issue instead of impulsively reacting to his comments.

Mr Kelly said ‘our new immigrants from Asia are one of our biggest problems, with their lack of understanding of conservation and the environment. We often see them strip mining a beach of periwinkles and having a boil-up’. These statements were made in a formal setting to a Canadian Senate committee. He made similarly distasteful comments about Maori and members of the Pacific Island community.

While Kelly did apologise, he did not directly say sorry to those he offended.

During his time as a Labour MP, Graham Kelly represented the Mana electorate, an area with a diverse population including Maori and Pacific Island communities. Why should these entire communities be made to bear the burden of misconduct by some in their communities?

One popular opinion is that these comments are true, but are they really?

Three years ago, a group of Chinese New Zealanders set up the Chinese Conservation Trust of which I am the patron. Since its inception the membership has grown into the hundreds. Currently, planning is underway to extend the Trust to Christchurch.

Apart from the various seminars and meetings they hold to educate our Asian communities, members have been planting trees, cleaning beaches and promoting recycling. Their work has won the Ministry for the Environment’s Green Ribbon Award and Kelly’s statements have undermined the good work that the Trust carries out.

When someone makes negative sweeping statements about a group of people, it reinforces stereotypes and makes it okay for others to make further accusations.

This is a tough attitude to change.

I am aware of the opinion held by many that new migrants don’t try hard enough to fit in. In order for them to meet these expectations we need to show them how to fit in. In regards to the environment, the New Zealand Chinese Conservation Trust is trying to do this – on it’s own.

During the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Act, Labour rejected my proposal that all prospective citizenship applicants should have to complete a course that will educate them about New Zealand.

I believe that educating our soon-to-be-citizens about New Zealand’s laws and common practices, along with proper resources for enforcement agencies, will help address this problem and break down some of the negative stereotypes.

Kyoto: shrouded in secrecy

The Government’s deep, dark secret in this year’s budget wasn’t the impressive 67 cents a week tax cut due in 2008, but one of their biggest bungles so far this year – their failure to budget for the billion dollar liability of the Kyoto Protocol.

As Convenor for the Ministerial Group on Climate Change Pete Hodgson is responsible for implementing the Protocol. Until recently he was quite happy to tell the country that we would make a profit from our high number of carbon credits, and that not ratifying it would be the equivalent of setting fire to a $200 million cheque.

Last year, a report was released by economist Alex Sundakov warning the country could face a liability of between $9 billion and $14 billion. At the time Mr Hodgson rubbished the claims, but now he’s probably wishing he took a closer look.

Mr Hodgson has repeatedly dodged questions about the true cost of the Kyoto Protocol, only admitting last week that there will, in fact, be a considerable liability. But the United Nations was formally advised of New Zealand’s new position on the 15th of April. It would seem the Minister was aware of this for some time and had stuck his head in the sand.

This isn’t the only deep, dark secret that Labour is trying to hide.

They are yet to disclose the true nature of Transpower’s financial arrangement. Reports suggest the SOE borrowed $732.7 million from an overseas company, kept $200 million for its own purposes and then sent the rest of the money (more than $500 million) offshore.

It is ironic that Parliament recently passed tax legislation that closes loopholes to stop foreign banks paying minimal tax. National supported this legislation because we believe it is of utmost importance to the country that corporate organisations should have to pay their fair share of the tax.

Labour is arguing for a change on the ethical perspective of such deals – can Dr Cullen assure the public that Transpower’s ethics are intact following this financial arrangement?

Coming back to the Kyoto saga, it reminds me of the financial problems faced by the BNZ in 1990. The Government failed to tell the country about the situation before the election, and National had to bail it out when it became Government.


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