Thursday, November 27, 2008

ACT in Government: Wasting your taxpayer dollar

Lets be clear. The Select Committee review of emmissions trading is a waste of money and a broken election promise on the part of National.

National was quite emphatic before the election that the ETS would not be repealed, that emissions trading would go ahead, and certainly that "the scientific aspects of climate change" were no longer up for discussion by New Zealand politicians.

We appear to be back to square one, at least if the select committee Terms of Reference in the confidence and supply agreement are final, or if Murial Newman gets her way. Here she is in the NBR spouting the "warming stopped in '98" canard and calling for a select committee review "of the science". As if scientists were not continually engaged in reviewing the scientific aspects of climate change!

It's breathtaking that ACT want to hear "competing views on the scientific aspects of climate change from internationally respected sources" when pretty much every scientific association in the world, including our own Royal Society of New Zealand, has carried out a careful review of the science and concluded that anthropogenic global warming is real.

I challenge ACT to find an internationally respected source to disagree. (And no, Thatcher-era UK cabinet ministers don't count. I'm interested in a scientifically respected source.)

In any case everyone is in agreement on this point so write a letter to John Key already.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Election Theories

The Labour party will be dismayed at how few electorates still have a list vote lead for Labour. An alarming number of Labour-held electorates had National ahead on the party vote. This includes not only New Lynn but also Mt Roskill. In almost all Labour-held seats the MP is more popular than the party.

Since it is the home town, lets look at the Christchurch list votes. Increasingly rural Waimakariri looks like a safe National seat. There was just enough personal vote for Clayton Cosgrove for him to barely hold it. Christchurch Central was a very narrow win for Labour on both MP and list vote so you should think of that as a marginal(!) Labour seat. Port Hills looks marginal National and Wigram(!) looks to be only marginal for Labour. Only Christchurch East still looks like a pretty comfortable Labour seat. That's not the electoral map that I grew up with to say the least.

Oh and I almost forgot Ilam is still a National safe seat.

We were told by Mike Williams on election night that the get out the vote efforts developed in South Auckland last election were implemented nation wide this election.

Indeed I myself was prevailed upon to go door to door encouraging people to vote in Mana and there were certainly many Labour people out on the streets of Wellington Central getting out the vote. Based on experiences in Porirua I can only agree with the Labour leadership, many heartland Labour voters are still remarkably positive about the party.

Clearly though the get out the vote efforts were not as successful as might have been hoped, particularly in Auckland but in other centers also.

Here's my working theory.

There is a difference between knowing in principle how to organise the party vote, and having enough enthusiastic volunteers to execute.

Were Labour party operatives really working that hard on Saturday?

A question for an investigative journalist?

Iran and the Solomons

It seems like it's not just China, Taiwan and Japan practising checquebook diplomacy in our back yard Lowy Interpreter

Tehran and Honiara have little in common, but as Taiwan found out a long time ago, the Solomon Islands’ vote in the UN General Assembly is worth as much as that of the US. Hence the interest Iran has started to show in the welfare of Solomon Islanders. The two countries recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which may eventually lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Key's first mistake

Last election I was appalled by the sight of Don Brash's grinning face surrounded by a posse of Diplomatic Protection Squad members as he entered the National party function to make his concession speech. I'm amazed that we saw a rerun of this disastrous image tonight. It spoke volumes at the last election that we saw Helen Clark's protection staff only in so far as they were required to help her parents into a car, and in tonight's efforts to protect Clark the DPS was similarly circumspect.

This is not an easy issue. I have heard that those who were charged with protecting Clark sometimes felt that she asked them to stand off at considerable risk to her person. They did not see this just as a risk to her but also as a risk to them and their reputations.

However, I don't believe that the New Zealand public wants to see its Prime Minister designate separated from the press or from the party faithful by the kind of linked arm squadron we saw tonight. This is an appalling look for the leader of any democratic country and should not be countenanced by the Prime Minister designate of New Zealand. Key should get up the courage to a put a stop to this sort of image.

I wonder whether the choice of venue has contributed to this situation. National Party organisers should select election night venues with a view to allowing the DPS to protect its leader while keeping out sight of the TV cameras.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Vote for Generational Change

For various reasons I've been thinking this year about the messiness and necessity of generational change. I think I might finally be beginning to understand all those Greek myths where the son kills the father.

For the moment at least, I am planning to cast my electorate vote this year against my sitting MP. This means voting for a young, allegedly liberal, woman from the National party. It's not an easy decision and I may yet change my mind.

The Labour party is still my political home and I'm giving them my party vote trusting that in six years time everyone who sat around a Cabinet table or in a Labour party caucus room in the 80's will have retired and we will be electing a talented and enthusiastic new Labour-led Government.

In the meantime social democrats should be contemplating the extraordinary testimony of Alan Greenspan.

We will agree with John Quiggin on this point

Coming to substance, quite a few people have argued that the crisis doesn’t really signify very much, and that, once it is resolved, things will return to pretty much the way they were a couple of years ago. I disagree.

This concession of error by Alan Greenspan is, I think, pretty strong evidence against the view that the crisis is not so significant, in policy or ideological terms.

We'll also agree that news of the "great moderation" was premature.

As taxpayers we will want a say in the running of banks or other private businesses that we underwrite or take shares in.

In contemplating the future it seems to me that like many Australians, including the current Treasurer, we should be thinking about Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley in these times of financial crisis. (There is a new documentary on his fascinating life to show on the ABC.)

Chifley took over from wartime Labor Prime Minister Curtin who is credited with forming the Australia-US alliance and who died in office. He lost power in the early fifties after trying to to nationalize the banks, after sending in the army to break up a mining strike and after failing to totally overcome Communist influence in the Australian union movement and Labor party. I've been learning about him from Bob Ellis's book "Goodbye Jerusalem".

Near the end of his life Chifley said

I remember when in the thirties because of the banks hundreds of thousands of breadwinners were thrown on a pitiful dole. Farmers were sold up and shopkeepers closed their doors, and insecurity, misery and want were forced upon our people. We are determined with all the power that we command that that shall not happen again.

"A new dawn of American leadership is at hand"

I spent the day with a score of physicists trying to get work done while they scanned their Blackberries for the latest vote counts. Having gotten home and watched Obama's speech my relief has been replaced by excitement.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

My friends on the left, particularly in New Zealand, have a sometimes deserved reputation for anti-Americanism. At the end of four years living in the United States I was an enthusiastic combatant for the contrary view in any and all private discussions but I finally shut my mouth after the first photos from Abu Ghraib. From tonight I'm back on the team.