Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 14 December - 14 December

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

Too Cute

The Cullen plan for the final week of the 2007 Parliament was way too cute. The ugly spectacle of passing the hated Electoral Finance Bill (EFB) under urgency had to be avoided at all costs. The Greens were prepared to support urgency for the other Bills on Dr Cullen’s list, but not the EFB. And with even Winston Peters’ own Tauranga branch of the New Zealand First Party publicly revolting against the EFB legislation the use of urgency was out of the question. So Dr Cullen hatched a cunning plan.

Parliament would go into urgency on Tuesday to debate a swag of bills. Some of them really important bills like the Dog Control Amendment Bill and the Mauao Historic Reserve Vesting Bill – the sort of bills that all New Zealanders agree should be dealt with under urgency. Then, miraculously late on Thursday morning, Parliament would lift out of urgency in time for a normal question time to be held, followed by the final reading of the EFB, not in urgency.

Immediately, with the EFB passed into law, Parliament would then go back into urgency to have the required adjournment debate. Except that the new urgency motion would then require debates on a large number of further bills after the adjournment debate. Hang on. An adjournment debate, but then no adjournment? Well, it appears that certain senior personages in the Government and its support parties have holiday flights booked late this week. So Parliament was to endure the farce of an adjournment debate in which such senior personages would be participants, to be followed by a non-adjournment as Parliament debated the introduction of more bills. A total and complete farce. An abuse of Parliamentary process. A naked show of Dr Cullen’s contempt for the role of Parliament.

The idea that a small island of tranquil, pristine, non-urgency might be created amongst a sea of brutal, jackboot-driven urgency and contempt for the role of Parliament was never going to be tolerated by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. And by Thursday morning it was clear that Dr Cullen had well and truly outsmarted himself. His determination not to deal with the EFB under urgency meant neither of the two urgency motions included the dreaded Bill. Dr Cullen had left himself no back door. A modest one hour delay to Dr Cullen’s planned timetable would ensure that his pristine island of non-urgency was well and truly sunk. And so a modest slew of Questions to Private Members were submitted. Sufficient to absorb the requisite time. And to seriously unhinge Dr Cullen’s already tenuous equilibrium.

The only way the EFB could now be debated would be for Dr Cullen to endure the two and a half hour blood-bath that would be Question Time, then swallow his pride and deal with the Bill under urgency. The alternative of returning to pass the EFB next week appeared more palatable. But it is not without its complications. Labour’s partners in political crime, the Greens and NZ First, are both composed entirely of list MPs. A culture of early, long holidays prevails. Rounding up the requisite numbers to maintain a majority for the EFB will be a sufficient challenge to give Dr Cullen a sleepless weekend. Just imagine, losing the EFB at the final hurdle, after all that has been endured.

So, for Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and United Future (yes, to their eternal shame they have been supporting the Bill too), next week will provide the ultimate lose/lose scenario: holiday plans will be abandoned to return to Wellington, in order to pass a bill that continues to attract public loathing on a real and serious scale. Just the right note on which to end the Parliamentary year for 2007.

The Great Chainsaw Massacre

A major source of the Clark Government’s political management woes in recent weeks has been the Ministry for the Environment. So determined has Clark been to use Climate Change as a political tool in election year that her Ministers have presided over a major effort to weed out professional communications managers (who have had a bad habit of resisting the politicisation of their Ministry) and to employ Labour Party flunkies of the Clare Curran variety. What a pity it is that Clark didn’t consider doing something about the substance of the issue instead of just focusing on the spin.

Much of the complexity of the Climate Change debate goes over the heads of the simple souls at the worldwide headquarters of But even they understand that planting trees has a positive impact on the global environment. And cutting them down has the reverse effect. So how could it be that the Clark Government, that allegedly cares so much more about our environment than any other government in the world, and which is intent upon lecturing all and sundry about global warming, could have such a truly appalling track-record on something as fundamental and simple as the maintenance of our forestry stocks?

New Zealand started keeping forestry records back in 1951. And each and every year from then until 2004, New Zealanders planted more trees than they cut down. But from 2004, under the Clark Government that cares so much about the environment and which lectures the rest of the world about climate change, we have a track record for deforestation – we cut down more trees than we plant. And according to official records from the Ministry of Forestry, it’s getting worse.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry official records tell us that from 1995 to 2000 New Zealands planted forestry area increased by 90,000ha, 64,000ha, 88,000ha, 49,000ha, and 52,000ha consecutively. By 2004, we had moved into deforestation mode actually losing 5,000ha of forest. For each of 2005 and 2006 we lost 11,000ha of forest.

But for the gold medal in sheer hypocrisy we need to look at this year’s figures. You see, the Clark Government, having ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, has spent five years failing to put in place any actual policy. And when they did adopt some policies, due to come into effect on 1 January 2008, they created a massive incentive for forest owners to chop down trees as quickly as possible, to avoid a new carbon charge that applies from next month.

The net result of all of the above is that for 2007 the Government’s own experts at the Ministry are predicting the net loss of forestry will substantially top the 11,000ha of each of the past two years of trees. And this, ladies and gentlemen, while we have been governed by the self-proclaimed world leaders in climate change policy. Just imagine what it would be like if we were governed by climate change skeptics? There wouldn’t be a tree left standing.

The Clark Governments’ response to the above will, of course be predictable: they won’t actually change any policies to ensure that New Zealand might actually grow more trees. They will just sack the communications managers at MAF who have presented these appalling figures and replace them with a few Labour Party activists. Just like the Ministry for the Environment. Another reason why the next election just can’t come soon enough.

Merry Christmas

Thanks for your interest during 2007. Merry Christmas and best wishes for a new government in 2008.


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