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Lisa Owen interviews Les Mills CEO Phillip Mills

Lisa Owen interviews Les Mills CEO and green growth advocate Phillip Mills

Headlines:

Phillip Mills says National-led government has "blocked any green action" and has an “ideological opposition” to green growth

He says that’s primarily due to the "leadership cabal" of John Key, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce

"I don’t believe... the Nats are going to do it. Of five years of trying to work with them, I’ve become cynical, totally cynical about that. I know that they will greenwash the issue, that they won’t do anything about it with the current leadership."

Says National has "emasculated" the Emissions Trading Scheme and is making "economically stupid" decisions

Supports tax on sugary drinks and all added sugar in processed food

Wants junk food banned from schools - says we wouldn't sell tobacco and alcohol in schools, so why junk food?

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Lisa Owen: To start off with, I would like to talk about taxes on sugary drinks. Should we tax them?

Phillip Mills: Absolutely Lisa, I think it’s essential. If you step back and look at the big picture of the health crisis that’s going on in the world today we are seeing dramatically escalating health costs. For instance the US health system has last year cost 3.1 trillion dollars, that’s gone from 2.1 trillion dollars in 2006. 75% of that is driven by lifestyle illness, by things that we do to ourselves; it can’t be cured by the modern medical system very easily. I know these are colossal amounts of money, to put them in context, that’s more than twice the cost of beating global warming which is the biggest issue of our age. And this is the first [interrupted]

I just want to jump in there. You run a gym right, so you know all about motivation and how difficult it is. Well you can’t force people to come to the gym can you, so you can’t really force them to eat well either, can you?

Well you can in this situation. And this is where governments have to lead, where we have to have regulation that creates market failures and helps people to do the right thing. You know taking junk food out of schools is something that we need to do. One of your speakers on the earlier clip said that we wouldn’t be selling tobacco and alcohol in schools, so we shouldn’t be selling junk food there either. This is the first generation that will die younger than their parents, you know. We have got a huge percentage of our children now that are obese and doomed to a lifetime of misery though this. We have found with tobacco that with every 10% of tobacco tax you reduce smoking by 4%. And we have found with the recent sugar tax in Mexico, only a 12% tax, we have seen a reduction in consumption of sugary drinks and junk food of 7%. That’s dramatic.

So just sugary drinks or do we need to do more and say tax on all added sugar?

I think that there is a lot of detail around the policy here, but I think it’s all, certainly all sugary junk food and I think it probably has to go through all added sugar in processed foods.

Ok well let us move on now to the health of the environment. How is the National Government dealing with that do you think?

Not very well, I think. You would have got from my comments over the past few weeks and this is something that I have been personally lobbying.

In what way not well?

I think that the new IPCC report that came out a few weeks ago was explicit and dramatic in what it said was going to happen if we didn’t deal with the issue. I think that it is morally reprehensible for us to sit back and say well ‘ how can we get out of doing anything about it’, by saying ‘well we are so small that it doesn’t count, it doesn’t matter’, what we’ll do ‘we’ll try and save a few pennies’. The time [interrupted]

But the Government is acting isn’t it? I mean, we are less than 1% of greenhouse gases, so they are saying we are playing our role in that context, they are investing in agricultural technology to make us cleaner and greener. We are going to meet our 2020 targets. We are acting, aren’t we?

I’m sorry, but I think that’s greenwash. This Government really emasculated the ETS when they came in and has [interrupted]

So the emissions trading scheme-

And has blocked any green action. And you can say that we are only 1% [interrupted]

Blocked what significant green action do you think?

Well I could give you a lot of details, examples of that. We have been lobbying for green growth for instance through different groups like the 100% group and Pure Advantage. Now this lot has been in government for 5 years and what I’m seeing is an ideological opposition to it. I’m just seeing a lot of greenwash but really a complete sort of an anti to doing anything about it. It seems that this Government wants to doggedly pursue things like coal. We could not economically do coal in this country, even if we open pit mined the Denniston Plateau and ripped up one of our most beautiful natural conservation lands. The way with coal prices and the way that coal prices are going in the world today the only countries that can do that are Third World, or countries that have massive subsidies. Why would we focus in that area? Why not start to focus [interrupted]

Because it creates jobs, the Government would say. In the same way that they are pro-dairying and mining, it all creates jobs?

Yes there are far more jobs to be created in green growth, in the industries of the future as opposed to the industries of the past. Hundreds and thousands of green jobs that have been developed in Germany for instance, which are much more exciting, interesting jobs in the industries of the future, renewable energies, the things that are going to keep our kids in New Zealand. Keep our kids not feeling that they got to go off overseas.

So specifically then who in Government is pushing back? Name some names.

I think that it is the leadership cabal, that there are a lot of people down through the ranks of the party that are really concerned about climate. You know you got your blue-greens that really want to do something but they are not getting a voice at the top. I think that the guys at the top [interrupted]

So who at the top is pushing back?

It would seem to be to me your John Key, Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce, group of people. You know we have heard Steven Joyce’s reaction at the IPPC report as well ‘we can’t do anything about this because it would risk jobs, it would cost us money to do something about that’. Aside from the fact that is morally reprehensible you know we must deal with this. Leaders must stand up and deal with this problem. If we don’t nothing else matters, this is the issue of our time. But aside from that it’s economically stupid.

So are you asking basically for sacrifice now, benefit in the future? So let us look at a couple of things. Dairying, we make a lot of money from dairying. So what are you suggesting? Shall we cap dairy farms where they are now?

I’m not actually anti. I think that our dairy industry is great. I think what Fonterra is doing is great. I think that we have some of the cleanest greenish farming in the world and I think that we should be doing more with that. Doing more to differentiate and price it based on that and to add value. I think that certainly we need to clean up our rivers and our lakes and I think that that is something that is not too difficult to do. And I think actually that’s an area that the Government and the public [interrupted]

Then moratorium on mines? No more mining?

I don’t think that we should be focusing on that. I think that we should be focusing on supporting the industries of the future, renewable energy. Some of the renewable energy industries for instance are ones where we can be real world leaders, we all know that we are world leaders in geothermal. But for instance in the conversion of biomass to fuel that’s an area that we can be, we are world leaders in with our research. That’s an industry of the future that we can be a world leader in. And we should be [interrupted]

I want to just talk to you about the Government then. If this Government is not playing ball in the way that you would like them to, I’m wondering you are putting your money into Labour and the Greens, what do you expect in return for that donation?

I expect a chance for my children and my grandchildren really. There is no trade-off here, I looked at the policies of all of the parties and I have said this is what needs to happen in our country and in the world and I believe that these are the guys that are going to do it. I don’t believe I’m sorry that the Nats are going to do it. Of five years of trying to work with them, I’ve become cynical, totally cynical about that. I know that they will greenwash the issue, that they won’t do anything about it with the current leadership.

So is Labour strong enough though then environmentally? Is Labour really strong enough environmentally. They are pro deep sea drilling. Mines; don’t have a problem with that. So are they strong enough?

I think that they have a modern economic policy. I think that they understand that we have to tilt the table. You know we have got this whole archaic free market, the free market, you gotta let competition decide what will happen. You know that is a crock. That is something smart countries do to tilt the table. The US has subsidised everything from the telegraph to the internet. And if we look at what China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, their markets doing, we are a small shallow pockets country. We have to look at what are the industries where we have strategic advantages, where we have core strengths and we do have to tilt the table.


Ends

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