ACT Party advertising complaint upheld by ASA

act_ets_flier3Before the election the Act party sent a letter and flyer about the emissions trading scheme to rural households. This letter and flyer contained some excellent information on the ETS, and I was glad to see Act educating people about this flawed scheme.

However Act claimed to be the only party opposed to the ETS, and the only party that would withdraw from Kyoto (note Kyoto was only mentioned in the letter, not in the flyer reproduced here). This was completely false, as the Family Party also opposes the ETS, and supports withdrawing from Kyoto.

I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority over this, and my complaint has been upheld. Act’s response to the ASA over this issue was very arrogant, and stated (in full):

“The statement needs to be taken in the context of current political discourse in New Zealand.

This is an election campaign where most parties contesting the election will not obtain parliamentary seats. The Family Party is likely to be one of those parties.

Accordingly, the meaning of the statement is that the ACT Party is the only party that voted against the passing of the bill in parliament and will be the only party elected to parliament after the election that will oppose it.

If the Family Party oppose the statement on the flyer then that party is welcome to produce and distribute its own flyer/pamphlet putting their position. That’s how elections work.”

As it turned out we did not get into parliament, and I can understand their position on this. But the fact remains that they said they were “the only party”, which is completely untrue. If they had said “the only parliamentary party” or something to that effect, it would have been fine. But they didn’t.

I did not like complaining about these advertisements as the message was one that needed to be heard. But I could not roll over and allow a blatant lie. If someone has a good message they can portray it honestly.

I am glad this complaint was upheld.

I am also glad that Act was able to gain enough votes to get 5 MPs and get some concessions out of National on this important issue. I am however disappointed that a lie was used to in part achieve this result.

Are Family Party policies affordable?

I was speaking at a meeting with the local candidates Amy Adams (National), David Coates (Labour) and Ivor Watson (ACT) on Wednesday. It went very well and I received a lot of applause and positive comments. People especially appreciated our stand on the smacking law and the drinking age.

Amy Adams had the last speaking slot however and said something like “I have news for the Family Party, these minor parties can make all sorts of promises because they haven’t costed them out, and we won’t implement them. All our policies are fully costed and affordable”, which I had no opportunity to counter. This objection is often made to all minor parties however.

There is no point in a minor party attempting to fully budget for if every single one of their policies were implemented, as this won’t actually happen so the figures would be useless. Rather we need to look at the impact of each policy individually, as each policy would be fitted into the budget of the major party in government.

So let’s consider our top 10 policy priorities, and whether they could be implemented by a National-led government:

  1. Repeal the Anti-Smacking law:
    Costs nothing. Saves money (better disciplined children = lower crime in future).
  2. GST off basic foods and other essentials:
    Will cost money. Some of this will be recouped through lower health costs (healthier foods & warmer homes = less health problems), but that won’t fully pay for it.
  3. More front-line police:
    Will cost money. But National is already budgeting for more police, not as many as we would like but it is a step in the right direction.
  4. Harsher sentencing:
    Could cost more, but National is going in this direction too, so already budgeted for. Part of our policy includes “disciplined hard work” for all sentenced prisoners, which will actually save money.
  5. Repeal the Emissions Trading Scheme:
    Saves billions of dollars. This does remove the government’s “windfall” tax profit from it, but National is intending to remove this anyway (although they will keep the ETS). Unlike National’s policy of retaining the ETS (slightly tweaked), our policy keeps far more money in the NZ economy, resulting in more economic activity here and a higher tax take.
  6. Constitutionally strengthen the traditional family unit:
    Costs nothing.
  7. Counter NZ’s abortion-on-demand culture:
    Fewer abortions = saving of public health budget. Adding education programs for mothers considering abortion = extra cost. Should be revenue neutral.
  8. Protect NZ’s Christian Heritage:
    Costs nothing.
  9. Repeal the prostitution law reform act:
    Costs nothing.
  10. Repeal the Electoral Finance Act:
    Costs nothing.

So we have:

  • 6 policies that cost nothing or should be approximately revenue neutral
  • 2 that cost money but are already at least partially budgeted for by National
  • Only 1 that costs additional money not in National’s budget
  • 1 that saves billions

It is quite clear we would have few financial problems introducing our top ten policies within a National-led government. Our one costly policy in this list is balanced out by one that would save billions (as compared to National’s budget), probably saving far more money than the other will cost.

Our policies are sensible, practical and affordable. We just need the numbers to persuade National to adopt them.

Furthermore it is extremely arrogant for a National candidate to suggest that National would not be implementing any policies of a potential coalition partner. If they wish to be in government they will have to compromise on policies, that is a fact, it is ridiculous to suggest they can rule alone under MMP, especially based on current polls.

National’s proposed amendments to the ETS

John Key has announced what he is intending to do about the ridiculous emissions trading scheme. Just as I suspected, he is just fiddling round the edges. He would making a dumb expensive scheme that does nothing for the environment into a dumb nearly-as-expensive scheme that does even less.

In the first 9 months we will amend the emissions trading scheme. The second thing is that we want to put balance into the scheme so balancing our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities. Thirdly we need to ensure that the scheme is fiscally neutral so that it’s not a big moneymaking device for the government and thirdly that it’s got some either regard or respect for schemes that are similar around the world, where we could be at a competitive disadvantage, particularly Australia.

So all the changes that we are looking at a forestry offset scheme to allow forestry to be a bigger part of the solution. Some specific changes like ensuring that there is 90% grandfathering provision for fishing which at the moment is currently zero would change to 50%. There are other aspects that we are looking at. For instance the current scheme has a linear phase out of the credits from about 2018 depending when they come in the scheme. We think it should be more flexibility when it is phased out. Fourthly it is about getting I think getting the right incentives in that scheme so for instance take farming. In Australia agriculture comes in 2015. In New Zealand it comes in 2013 at 90% their historical allocation and then by 2018 it’s reduced. In Australia they are saying let’s be flexible about that and I am just saying I think we have got to make sure we have a scheme that reflects the need to be more flexible.

Once again, showing why we need the Family Party and Act to knock some sense into the new government.

Family Party environment policy

My speech on the Family Party environmental and agricultural policy at the conference on Saturday:

My name is Samuel Dennis. I grew up on a farm in the Selwyn electorate, in Canterbury. My great-great-grandfather came to Selwyn from England in 1868, and I grew up on land that has been in the family since 1879. I have worked on a range of different farms around Canterbury, and have a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree with Honours from Lincoln University. I am currently completing my doctorate in Soil Science, and was in Ireland over the last two years doing research for that. I have been married for 2 1/2 years and have a four-month-old son.

My great grandfather Ernest Dennis and his brother were founding members of the National Party in Hororata in 1936. My grandfather Gordon Dennis was on the executive committee of National in Selwyn for 28 years. He then stood as an independent candidate twice in the 80’s, before being a founding member of Christian Heritage in 1989 and standing for them in 1993 and 1996. It is great to be able to carry on this family heritage of political involvement in Selwyn as I stand before you today as The Family Party candidate for Selwyn. It is also an honour to keep on going where Christian Heritage failed, and to have Albert Ruijne, a founding board member of Christian Heritage, on our board today, and my grandfather Gordon Dennis helping me with my campaign.

New Zealand has a reputation for being clean and green. We live in a great country, and the more of the world I see the more I realise this.

We have a wonderful environment that New Zealand families enjoy. We can go tramping, hunting, fishing, jetboating, swimming – our environment provides us with a lot of enjoyment. But more importantly than that, it is our environment that provides us with clean water to drink, food to eat, air to breathe – we are totally reliant on our environment, and must preserve it, for our benefit, and also for our children and grandchildren.

Our thinking on the environment comes from the Biblical principle of responsible stewardship. Mankind was placed on earth to tend and keep it, while at the same time the environment is provided to us for our benefit. While it is popular in some circles to see humans as a disease on the earth, and that the earth would be better off if man did not exist, we reject this view. The environment exists for the benefit of Man, and this is why it is vital that we preserve and care for it. We don’t just want a healthy environment – we need a healthy environment.

For this reason we believe that minimising waste and pollution is an important and desirable goal. We believe in industrial progress, but believe it should not occur at the expense of the environment.

So how should we protect our environment?

We need practical policies that actually work. Where there are problems with the environment, we need to be able to measure them, and implement policies that will actually fix them.

But we should also do this using as little legislation as necessary. I have been in Ireland over the past two years. In Ireland there have been detailed laws to protect the environment, for example water quality, for many years now. In order to get subsidies how farmers operate is regulated down to the smallest degree. But it is difficult to know whether these restrictive policies have actually been working at all. Just this year a large study is being set up to figure out if these detailed regulations have actually been doing any good.

Ireland, and other European countries, have been tackling the issue the wrong way around. They have been regulating many little details, providing a lot of work for bureaucrats, but producing in some cases debatable environmental gains. We don’t want to fall into this trap. We must focus on results, and how to achieve them, rather than legislating every detail of how people operate without knowing the results.

Winston Churchill once said “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law”, and this is a very important principle. People will obey a few basic laws. But if there are too many, people’s focus shifts to finding loopholes in the law and avoiding obeying it, which is completely counterproductive.

The Family Party wishes to cut to the heart of environmental issues and address the key problems, while avoiding a proliferation of regulations on minor details that may cause more frustration than benefit.

GLOBAL WARMING:

Global Warming is the biggest environmental issue we are dealing with today, and I am sure all of you are familiar with this.

But what you may not realise is that there is actually scientific disagreement on two things. Scientists disagree on how much of a problem it really is, with some saying it is not a problem at all. Those scientists that do accept it is a big issue disagree on whether we can actually stop it through emissions reductions, or whether this is a waste of money and we should be adapting to a changing climate instead. There is disagreement on what we should be doing about climate change.

Most other parties have accepted climate change is a massive issue, but one that can be stopped through emissions reductions, and are rushing through legislation to look like they are doing something about it.

An Emissions Trading Scheme was recently put into law by Labour, the Green party and New Zealand First, and is supported in principle (with an intention to tweak it a bit) by National and United Future. This scheme is supposed to be New Zealand’s way of combating climate change. It is the most comprehensive and hard-hitting emissions trading scheme in the world. But:
– It will cause NO discernible reduction in carbon emissions according to Greenpeace. Let me say that again: even Greenpeace says this scheme will do nothing for the environment.
– It could actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions. As it penalises businesses in New Zealand it may force them to move overseas. For example, the owners of the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter in Southland have indicated that they may have to move it off-shore. This smelter uses a lot of electricity, which currently comes primarily from renewable sources. If they moved to China for example, most of their electricity would come from coal. This would cause an increase in global emissions, for no reason.
– It will cost an enormous amount to do nothing. If businesses are forced offshore, there will be job losses in NZ, many families could have their primary income cut off. If the Tiwai Point smelter were to move offshore for example, the 900 staff they employ would lose their jobs, and other jobs in the wider community would probably go as well. It will also increase the cost of everything you buy, and could cost families $3,000 extra per year by 2025. So families will be hit from both ends, with less employment but higher costs. And all for no environmental benefit.

This scheme is pure greenwash. It is designed to make New Zealand look good to the United Nations and Europe, and back up Helen Clark’s United Nations “Champions of the Earth” environmental award by being the Prime Minister of the first country to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme that includes all sectors. But it will do NOTHING for the environment, and could in fact damage it.

The Family Party would repeal this scheme.

In addition to emissions trading, other parties want to do lots of other fiddly things around climate change, and if you read their policies you will find such fiddly regulations littered throughout them. Here are a few examples from the transport policies of other parties:
– Labour has passed an Act requiring mandatory levels of biofuel in petrol and diesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite even the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment saying this Act should not be passed.
– The Green Party wants to force cars being imported to be more economical on average, despite people already buying more economical cars because the fuel price is so high – it is pointless to legislate for something that is already happening.
– United Future wants to require all new government vehicles to be hybrids, despite some research showing these are actually far worse for the environment than conventional cars.
– National wants to have no road user charges for electric cars, to promote them – and electric cars are good, there is nothing wrong with promoting them. But the problem with electric cars is not running costs, even with paying their fair share of the cost of road maintenance they are far cheaper to run than petrol vehicles. The problem is supply. Even if you got a free house with every electric car you bought, if you cannot go to a dealer and actually buy an electric car the scheme will do nothing.

All this is fiddling around the edges. Some of the fiddly policies of other parties are not entirely without merit. But they are primarily designed to sound good and buy votes, without actually doing anything for the environment. Furthermore each involves yet another piece of legislation for families to have to deal with.

The Family Party will not fiddle around with little vote-buying pieces of legislation like this. We want real, practical policies that address the real issues, actually help families, and help the environment. We call for a unified approach to climate change, rather than loads of little fiddly laws.

The Family Party is calling for a Royal Commission of Enquiry into Global Warming, to look at the scientific and economic facts, and design practical, cost-effective policy that actually solves the real issues.

The first job of the Commission will be to look into the evidence of the scientists who disagree with the IPCC and say global warming is not a problem, to determine whether there is any substance in these claims. If the Commission concludes that global warming is a real problem, its job will then be to work out whether we should be trying to stop it or adapting to it, and design policy to do this. Designing effective policy will be the biggest job of the Commission. In doing this the Commission will need to bear in mind the effect of this policy on our access to international markets.

We aren’t pretending to have all the answers. We don’t believe that any politician has all the answers. This approach will take this massive issue out of the hands of politicians, who care primarily about votes, and put it into the hands of the experts instead.

OTHER ISSUES:

We want a unified, practical approach to all environmental issues. Currently, each new issue gets a new piece of legislation to solve it, from either central or local government. But legislation is an inefficient way to solve environmental problems. Legislation is slow, as it has to wait its turn, and be debated and amended by politicians. It can take a long time from an issue being identified before legislation to solve it is actually in place. Furthermore, legislation can be inefficient, as it can result in one-size-fits-all solutions designed by bureaucrats, that may not be appropriate to solve complicated real problems on the ground.

The best way to solve environmental problems is through community- and industry-led initiatives. These initiatives are faster, because they can be implemented without waiting for legislation to be debated. They can be more efficient, as they draw on the expertise of the local people who are most familiar with the issues. And they can have far more willing participation, resulting in better outcomes, than if people are being forced to do something by legislation.

The Family Party will introduce a single unified process to allow environmental problems to be solved rapidly and flexibly as they arise.

Firstly, the problem must be measured. For example, if we have a polluted river, the level of pollution must be measured.

Secondly, a target must be identified, which is an acceptable condition for the environment. With the polluted river, this would be a target level of pollution that must be achieved.

Thirdly, the problem and target must be presented to the community and industry. They will be given an appropriate timeframe to identify a solution, and implement it. By the end of the period they must be on track towards achieving the target. With our polluted river example, factories may limit effluent discharges to the river. Farmers may restrict stock access to water. Households near the river may ensure their septic tanks are working correctly. The community would do whatever they felt was needed to fix the problem.

Finally, legislation may be considered ONLY if:
– after this time the problem is still not being solved, and
– a known solution exists that is expected to be much more effective than the community solution.

This process is very simple – identify the problem, present it to the community, if they don’t fix it, legislate.

The big advantage of this is that environmental problems can be solved rapidly, as the community will be encouraged to start doing something about it as soon as the problem is identified rather than waiting for legislation. There will be a strong motivation for people to fix it themselves, to avoid having legislation thrust upon them. But if legislation is required after all, no-one can complain as they had a chance to fix it themselves but blew it.

AGRICULTURE:

One large aspect of managing our environment in New Zealand is agriculture. This is because so much of our environment is managed by farmers. Agricultural policy also directly impacts on families because so many families derive their income from agriculture. 54% of New Zealand’s exports in 2007 were agricultural products. For this reason, agriculture provides employment and income for many families – and even here in Auckland, if many of you today were to trace back where your income ultimately comes from, you may well find it originally comes from agriculture.

The Family Party recognises that farmers know far more about farming than politicians do. Just like our environmental policy, our agricultural policy is designed to have minimal, yet effective, legislation, and as much as possible allow farmers to farm without politicians getting in their way.

The Emissions Trading Scheme could have a disastrous effect on agriculture, because agriculture is responsible for a high proportion of NZ’s emissions, and this could flow on to many of your own jobs. Dairy income could reduce by 12%, Beef by 21%, Sheep and Venison by around 40% – this is massive for such a large section of our economy. New Zealand still survives “off the sheep’s back” and we need to preserve this industry that underpins our country. Repealing the Emissions Trading Scheme and pursuing practical environmental policies is vital to keep our economy running, and preserve the income of our families.

Our community- and industry-led approach to environmental issues will be a welcome approach for farmers, that will prevent us ending up in the same over-regulated situation that European farmers have to deal with. We will be very cautious about any new bureaucracy that may be proposed, such as an animal identification scheme that is being designed at the moment, and will only support such bureaucracy if we are convinced that there are significant advantages to be gained from it and it has widespread farmer support. We will be reviewing the RMA to ensure that it is efficient, and while it is protecting New Zealands natural resources it does not also require unnecessary levels of bureaucracy around minor environmental issues.

SUMMARY:

In summary, we are calling for a unified, scientific approach to solving climate change. We will not impose costs on families for dubious benefit. We reject the ineffective legislation being promoted at the moment, and will repeal the Emissions Trading Scheme. We will establish a Royal Commission of Enquiry to have climate change policy designed by the experts rather than politicians.

We will establish a clear approach to solving all environmental issues, that focuses on achieving results, and promotes community- and industry-led initiatives before resorting to legislation.

And we will support farmers, as the caretakers of so much of our environment.

You will notice that our environmental policy is much shorter than that of many other parties. This is because we don’t have a load of new regulations we want to impose on families. Rather we want to get down to the fundamental issues, fix those well, and otherwise let families get on with their lives and enjoy our great environment.

Thankyou for listening.

Would slaughter stock rather than pay tax

It has taken me a while to post on this one, sorry about that. On September 9, Straight Furrow published an article on Gavin King, a Selwyn sheep and beef farmer who has done the sums and worked out that the ETS passed by Labour (and which will be kept by National) is completely unaffordable – in fact he would rather slaughter his sheep and cattle than pay for it. A few quotes:

Many farms would fall over depending on the final tax rate and it would severely hurt service industries, he said. …

“They have evolved over thousands of years burping and farting and to think we can change that in a short time is stupid. Several hundred years ago there would probably have been more animals than today.” …

King has 8840 sheep stock units and 1595 cattle stock units, so his yearly tax could range from $93,525 to $187,050, he said. …

Meat & Wool estimates that about 82% of sheep and beef farms would be uneconomic if the carbon tax is passed.

This is damning. I have known the Kings for years and would hate to see them go out of business, but this is the situation faced by every farmer in the country, including my own family. Farmers are already struggling and cannot afford another cost, especially one as pointless as this, because even Greenpeace states that the ETS:

“will deliver no significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions”

This legislation is a disaster for farmers. But National, who most farmers have traditionally voted for, will keep it, with a few tweaks. These tweaks may make it slightly more affordable but as a result will make it do even less for the environment, so it will still be completely pointless.

Only The Family Party will repeal this legislation and commit to basing future legislation on science and economics. It is crazy that an Auckland-based party is now the one direction farmers can turn if they wish to stay in business, with National betraying them, but if that is the way NZ politics is going so be it.

We have an ETS

Labour’s emissions trading scheme has been passed into law. This is a sad day for New Zealand. And virtually no attention was given to this massive law, the biggest reform since Rogernomics, by the TV media – everyone was focussed on the Winston Peters scandal. That scandal is completely unimportant by comparison, it just made good headlines.

National could have prevented this law being passed, at least today, as they could have delayed it until tomorrow by which stage Winston Peters may be fired. But they appeared to make little effort to do this in parliament today, rather allowing it to go through.

This means New Zealand has ended up with a terribly faulty piece of rushed legislation, that could do immense damage to our economy. National may modify it somewhat, but it will still do a lot of damage.

But National allowed it to be passed today probably because this means they can blame any problems with it on Labour, rather than taking the blame themselves as they would have to if they introduced one.

This is blatant politicising, not working for the good of the country.

If you want this legislation repealed, as every person who cares about the environment and the economy should, there are only two parties that will push for this – The Family Party and Act.

I mention both parties, rather than just pushing the Family Party, because this issue is far too important to just use to gain votes. It could be the biggest issue affecting the country today. There are two parties who will seek to have it repealed, and together we may achieve this. It is too big for one minor party to tackle on their own.

But a vote for National is a vote to keep this disasterous legislation, with some minor tweaks.

EDIT:

Family Party press release on the ETS.

EDIT2:

Federated Farmers are justifiably annoyed with this, read their response here.

ETS not about reducing emissions

There is an excellent editorial in the Dominion Post about the ETS. It points out that the ETS is not designed to reduce emissions, rather to work out who pays for our Kyoto obligation. And in paying our Kyoto obligation, it is taking money that could be being used to actually reduce emissions.

“There is no question that Labour is well-intentioned. Despite that, the legislation is part of a strategy that remains deeply flawed. It risks concentrating on the accountancy of who ends up picking up the bill for carbon emissions, rather than on reducing those emissions.

The reality is that the scheme, designed to meet New Zealand’s Kyoto protocol commitment, will end up increasing the prices that consumers pay for all manner of things, and damage the economy, without necessarily doing anything about reducing the amount of carbon emitted in New Zealand.”

Assuming humans are causing global warming, the ETS is a waste of money. Assuming humans are not causing global warming, the ETS is a criminal waste of money. You can’t win with this legislation. Yet both Labour and National continue to push it.

Hat tip: David Farrar

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