Going, going, almost gone

August 28, 2008

Colin Espiner thinks Helen Clark has run out of options.

True to her natural style of caution, Clark has given herself the night to sleep on it. She will take advice tonight on the likely impact on her government of cutting Peters adrift, and take some soundings from NZ First about what may happen to Labour’s relationship after the election if she sacks or suspends him.

It’s understandable that Clark doesn’t want to sack her Foreign Minister. It’s a bad look. It will make him very angry. It may derail the third and final reading of the Emissions Trading Bill. It could end her hopes of a fourth term.

But she simply no longer has any choice. The Prime Minister has given Peters as much rope as she can afford to without being dragged under in the same whirlpool currently sucking the NZ First leader beneath the waves.

What are her options? She could argue that the SFO investigation is only into NZ First, not Peters himself. Except that the SFO specifically mentions the involvement of ”a minister in the government” in its press release. She could argue that the investigation has nothing to do with Peters’ job as Foreign Minister. Except that as Foreign Minister Peters is the representative of New Zealand abroad and it’s difficult to have someone under investigation for fraud in such a role.

She could argue natural justice. That has got her through so far with the privileges committee – just. But the SFO is a whole different kettle of fish. The privileges committee is the proverbial wet bus ticket. The SFO is the big time. Clark cannot have a minister of the Crown signing ministerial warrants while under investigation from the SFO.

The positives for Clark are these: Sacking Peters will make her look decisive. It will end John Key’s short but triumphant occupation of the moral high ground. It will disassociate her and her government (partially) from further fallout, for it looks as though there certainly will be further fallout. It will not bring down the government.

In some ways it’s a sad end for Peters. He has been a reasonably good Foreign Minister. Labour could not have governed without him. But he has brought this entire controversy upon himself. Peters has no-one else to blame. Clark knows she must sack him. And sack him she must.

The alleagions are still just allegations and Peters as an individual is innocent until anything is proved to the contrary. But the role of Foreign Minister is one of the most important in the government and while questions are raised over him personally it reflects on the position he holds.

Clark has to accept that Peters is not just damaging himself, his party, her and her government, he’s risking New Zealand’s reputation in the international community.

Why come clean today?

August 28, 2008

John Armstrong  asks why Helen Clark chose to admit that Owen Glenn told her in February that he’d given a $100,000 donation to New Zealand First.

Another day, another bombshell. The Owen Glenn donation saga just keeps getting worse and worse for the Prime Minister.

Her gobsmacking admission today that Glenn had told her earlier this year that he had given $100,000 to New Zealand First drags her right into centre-stage of this debilitating mess when she has preferred to sit in the wings from where she would ultimately pass judgment on Winston Peters.

The big question is why she has revealed this information now and not earlier. She has had ample opportunity previously to do so.

Her answer is that she has been consistently assured by Peters that Glenn was mistaken. She had to accept Peters’ word.

Helen Clark certainly faced an invidious choice. Had she made this information public, it would have embarrassed Peters, possibly forcing his sacking and thereby destabilising and potentially endangering her minority Government.

She will thus be accused of withholding the information in order to both protect Peters and protect her administration.

And rightly so too because the important question is not why did she chose to come clean today, but why she opted to say nothing before.

ETS passes 2nd reading

August 28, 2008

The Bill which will introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme passed it’s second reading with 63 votes in support and 56 against.

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and the Progressive party voted for it. National, United Future, Act, the Maori Party, Gordon Copeland and Phillip Field opposed it.

The Maori Party  media release on the Bill makes interesting reading:

We remain strong in our belief that, fundamentally, the ETS is still just an Emissions Trading Scheme, when what is required is an Emissions Reduction Programme,” said Co-leader Tariana Turia.

“A 2% reduction in emissions over ten years is simply fiddling while Rome burns. The time for scheming is over. Now is the time for a programme of action,” said Mrs Turia.

“A real Emissions Reduction Programme will require significant changes in our lifestyle, but the alternative, of doing almost nothing, will be a lot worse,” she said.

Doing something is not always better than doing nothing – this something will sabotage the economy for little or no environmental gain

“A sound programme would be comprehensive, covering all industries and all gases. The government’s scheme is on the right track in that respect.

“But a scheme worth supporting would also be fair to all industries and consumers, and transparent, so everyone can see how the costs and credits have been allocated,” she said.

“Pollution is a cost of business that should be identified at source, and that business must be held responsible. Any cost they pass on to consumers will at least encourage environmentally responsible choices. The principle must be that polluters pay, because the purpose of the programme is to cut emissions.

But there’s no point in levying what is effectively a tax on primary production when science has yet to come up with much in the way of effective ways to counter emissions.

“Instead we have deferred liability and masses of free credits going to the biggest industries and the worst polluters for years to come. This negates any incentive for them to make changes. This is not ‘polluter pays’ – it’s ‘pay the polluters’,” said Mrs Turia.

“Credits to assist export-exposed industries to adjust to the new regime should be allocated on the basis of need – not by blanket donations and exemptions to huge corporate lobbyists.

“Those free credits could be invested by the government in speeding up energy savings and moving to renewable sources, in building resilient and sustainable communities, and supporting poor and vulnerable people who will be worst affected by the social and economic upheaval,” said Mrs Turia.

“The government is not willing to fully explain the disastrous consequences of doing so little to save the planet, for fear of a voter backlash. We have to know the truth, so we can make the tough decisions that are needed right now.

Of course there would be a voter backlash if it was understood that the ETS will impose such huge costs for little or no gain.

“We are told the Green Party and NZ First have signed up to it. I predict that the concessions won by them will seem like a mere thirty pieces of silver, once the full impacts of climate change start to be felt,” she said.

“We maintain our original position – that we need a radical rethink of the whole approach. This scheme represents a failure of leadership.

The need to make drastic changes to curb greenhouse gas emissions is what defines this moment in our history. We have no time to lose. The common interest must prevail in the pursuit of environmental justice, and social and cultural wellbeing,” said Mrs Turia.

Regardless of the science, the politics requires action. Good leadership would have achieved cross party consensus which balanced costs and benefits. But bulldozing through this legislation will do economic and social harm with little or no environmental good to show for it.

Hat tip: The Hive

Women are better drivers

August 28, 2008

A survey by AA Insurance  suggests women are better drivers than men.

The survey of more than 2500 drivers found men are more inclined to speed, show aggression, fall asleep at the wheel and be impatient.

Learning to drive is tough no matter what your gender, but for those who have left the ‘L’ plates behind, who makes the better driver?

New figures suggest women. The AA’s insurance company asked motorists to describe their own driving behaviour.

The survey found less than 20 percent of women described themselves as impatient drivers, compared with a quarter of male drivers.

Women were also less likely to speed. Under 10 percent admitted they often exceeded the limit, compared to 15 percent of men.

And when it comes to driving while tired, only 13 percent of women said they had momentarily fallen asleep at the wheel, compared to a whopping 25 percent of men.

I wouldn’t use “only” in front of 13%  who admit to falling asleep at the wheel; and the cynic in me notes this survey relies on self-assessment so the results could just show men are more honest about their failings. 🙂

The findings are supported by Ministry of Transport statistics which show women drivers are less likely to be killed or injured on the road.

Is that measured in time and/or distance driven or just numbers driving?

But they do make six percent more insurance claims than men.

“The accidents for men tend to more collisions, possibly a little higher speed,” says Mr Fox. “Whereas with women they tend to be more smaller accidents in the car park, perhaps difficulty judging a distance, so they are smaller claims.”

Ah yes, there was that incident with a flowering cherry…

Smaller claims mean women in general pay less for their car insurance.

But there is one area where the sexes are as bad as each other. Just over half of both women and men admitted abusing another driver for doing something they saw as rude or dangerous.

Guilty – but only under my breath after severe provocation.

SFO to investigate Peters

August 28, 2008

He asked the Serious Fraud Office to put up or shut up and go away – and they’re going to do the former.

The Serious Fraud Office has decided to launch a full investigation into Winston Peters, and will use its powers to find out whether donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers reached his New Zealand First party as intended.

SFO Director Grant Liddell said he had enough information to suspect the investigation may reveal “serious and complex fraud” the threshold for the statutory powers which can force documents to be produced or people involved to answer questions.

Mr Liddell has been assessing a complaint from Act leader Rodney Hide for the past month.

He said he did not believe there was enough evidence to use the SFO powers on the Owen Glenn donation, because it was clear from both men’s accounts the money was donated to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

And while the allegations concerning the scampi select committee were serious, Mr Liddell said “seriousness of allegation alone is not enough”.

He said it may be that further information was uncovered on these allegations that gave him “reason to suspect” and use the powers.

Keep in mind though, as Matthew Hooton pointed out on The Panel  this afternoon that legislation abolishing the SFO is pending; and that if an election was called the priviliges committee would go too.

But even Helen Clark wouldn’t rush through the legislation then call the election so that both inquiries were aborted, would she?

Head & heart

August 28, 2008

Idealog asked New Zealand Institute chief executive David Skilling why economic growth is important. He said:

It matters in terms of the quality of health, education and social services that we can afford in this country. Also, importantly, it gives a sense of confidence and momentum.

If you look across history and across countries, periods of sustained economic growth go hand in hand with improvements in welfare, better treatment of immigrants and minorities and more generous attitudes towards social and environmental issues.

And we’re losing 70,000 New Zealanders permanently each year, and we have done for quite some time.

Simple really – it’s not economic growth or social services, it’s both. We need economic growth to pay for social services. 

A stronger economy sustains a better society which in turn helps the economy fuelling a virtuous cycle of head and heart.

The full interview with Skilling is on Idealog TV here.

Who’s the best pilot?

August 28, 2008

Michael Cullen says New Zealand is facing the most challenging financial times since the 1987 share market crash.

“New Zealand is facing a serious economic challenge generated by the global credit crunch and steep rises in global commodity prices,” Dr Cullen said.

“These are the most complex and challenging set of economic forces we have confronted in at least two decades.”

And who would you want to pilot you through this economic storm?

A couple of academics who have squandered the good times or a couple of people who have succeeded in the real world in good times and bad?

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