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Politics in Full Sentences, 25 October 2019

The Podcast
Last night, host Max Whitehead interviewed former EMA boss Kim Campbell, along with ACT’s Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke. ‘What’s Eating Business Confidence?’ was the theme and Kim gives a highly knowledgeable account of what the policy landscape looks like from the point of view of business. You can also listen here.

Big Wednesday
On Wednesday night, Parliament agreed to add a referendum to David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill. Seymour needed two big changes to secure support from the Greens (make the Bill only for those with a terminal prognosis) and New Zealand First (a referendum). Winning both does not mean the Bill will easily pass its third reading on November 13, but its chances are better than ever.

Stuff and Nonsense
One proof of capitalism’s overwhelming success is that profoundly stupid people can live very comfortable lives. Some even get elected to Parliament and others write newspaper editorials. As one recent example, people claim that having a referendum means Parliament has abdicated its responsibility. To be clear, Parliament has carried out its full process. In fact, the End of Life Choice Bill has had the most comprehensive examination of any bill in recent history. The effect of the referendum is that the public could effectively veto a bill that Parliament’s passed. If only this option applied more often.

Why You Should Oppose the Zero Carbon Bill
ACT has voted alone against the Zero Carbon Bill. It has nothing to do with how big a problem you think climate change is. It has everything to do with the centralisation of power the bill would bring. Everybody should read sections 5ZD - 5ZF of the Bill. It allows the Minister to put together ‘carbon budgets’ with plans for each sector. It gives the ‘Duty Minister’ enormous power over the ability of an industry to grow, or even survive.

We’ve Been Here Before
Last time we had a law like the Zero Carbon Bill was the Economic Stabilisation Act. The Act was passed in 1948, to formalise a number of ad hoc wartime powers the government no longer needed into statute law. (There is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program). The Act gave the government of the day dictatorial powers over private business, politicising commercial decisions. Muldoon was able to wield the power he did because of the Economic Stabilisation Act.

It’s The Skylines, Silly
For thirty years the Wellington skyline has stagnated while the Auckland skyline has erupted. Why? Since ACT’s founders fixed our economic policy, business hasn’t had to go cap in hand to government to get anything done. The Zero Carbon Bill would change all that. When a Minister can decide the fate of an industry, it’s a great day for lobbyists. The Greens are the main party that complain about lobbying in politics, but they will have done more to promote it than any party since 1948.

Another Reason to Oppose the Zero Carbon Bill
The Bill requires carbon credits to be bought in New Zealand ‘as far as possible.’ Who knows how that will be interpreted. We suspect it will mean, ‘if there is a way to save carbon emissions in New Zealand, it must be done.’ The Bill says nothing about price. If there are foreigners who can generate carbon credits for $10 a tonne but they cost $25 a tonne in New Zealand, guess what? New Zealanders will pay 2.5 times as much to achieve the same result. It’s nuts.

Putting It All Together
The Bill may or may not reduce carbon emissions and save the planet, but it will certainly centralise control of the economy. As the New Zealand Initiative have published, Greta Thunberg was right. The politicians are letting her down, but in a way she’d be unlikely to understand.

Never Forget
The National Party is voting for this bill. They have never raised concern about the centralisation of power despite supposedly collaborating with the Greens to create the bill.

Holding the Government To Account
This week David Seymour got Jenny Salesa to admit her goal is a ‘vape-free New Zealand,’ hence her irrational war on this harm-reducing product. He also got Police Association representative Chris Cahill to back down on his inflammatory rhetoric towards the firearms community. Not a bad week for one MP. We need more ACT MPs.

With That…
Have a great long weekend!

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