It has been revealed the Government ignored official advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) when setting the methane target for the Climate Change Amendment Act Bill, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Briefings obtained under the Official Information Act show that MPI advised that a reduction of 25 per cent would represent a realistic emissions reduction that can be achieved with technologies currently under development and avoiding significant land use change.
“Anything further would come at significant cost and moves into the realm of far more speculative technological advances.
“National has been strongly opposed to the onerous and poorly researched target of up to 47 per cent in the Climate Change Amendment Act Bill, as we believe it will have perverse effects on the primary sector, and that targets should be based on solid scientific reasoning.
“The Minister of Climate Change has said that the briefing provided ‘bad advice’, but in reality it is just another example of him only listening to advice that suits his narrative.
“Previously he has dismissed reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on the methane target, and he refused to listen to the Climate Change Chief Executives Board, who advised him that the methane target should be given to an expert group such as the Climate Change Commission.
“National accepts the need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to do so, but we must also be aware of the potential costs and ensure decisions are backed by solid scientific reasoning.”
Government members of the Environment Select Committee have today voted down the opportunity for a one month extension to the Zero Carbon Bill process, which would have given New Zealanders more opportunity to be heard, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This piece of legislation is important and people deserve to have their say. It has already had over 12,000 submissions and 1,500 requests from the public to appear in front of the Committee. The current timeframe affects the ability to hear and consider these submissions.
“A one month extension would have meant there was still time to enact the Bill by the end of 2019, but would also have given the Select Committee the time to properly assess the many submissions.
“Now there is going to be a truncated regional Select Committee programme, with as few as two MPs present at times. An extension is needed to allow the Committee time to properly hear regional submissions.
“Regional submitters are concerned by many parts of the Bill. The methane target of a 24 – 47 per cent reduction goes beyond what many believe farmers can achieve, and forecasts of over a third of pasture being converted to pine for forestry offsets have caused alarm.
“The Government has claimed their priority is to inform the public of the ‘just transition’ to lowering emissions, but by not allowing the Bill to be properly considered they are doing the exact opposite.
“It appears that this Coalition Government is so concerned with being first, fast and famous on the matter of climate change they’re failing to consider the impacts the Bill could have on everyday New Zealanders.”
Today’s NZ Initiative report confirms so-called ‘Fair Pay Agreements’ will be compulsory, centralised unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Fair Pay Agreements will force all workers in an industry to go into union negotiations if just 10 per cent of workers in the industry are in favour. Let’s be clear, that is compulsory unionism by stealth.
“This will be a return to 1970s style National Awards. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now. Changing the name won’t change the fact they are bad for the New Zealand economy.
“The Government and its working group have tried to justify the need for these compulsory, centralised Fair Pay Agreements on four claims: a falling share of income going to labour, rising income inequality, a race to the bottom for wages and low productivity.
“The report clearly shows these claims are either blatantly false or that Fair Pay Agreements will not fix them.
“The share of income going to labour has not declined since the 1991 labour reforms. Income inequality has not risen in three decades. And there has not been a ‘race to the bottom’ for wages, in fact, every single income decile has had real wage increases since the 1991 reforms.
“New Zealand’s low productivity pre-dates the 1991 labour market reforms and is a symptom of other problems, Fair Pay Agreements will not fix this. Even the OECD in its recent report on our economy confirmed this.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s bad policies and decisions have dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party.
“The Government needs to dismiss this wacky idea. It is becoming increasingly clear these changes will cause a boom for unions but will damage New Zealand workers and businesses. New Zealand needs a flexible labour market that respects individual rights to negotiate contracts and doesn’t require compulsory unionism by stealth.”
The Labour-led Government needs to quickly rule out compulsory unionisation which is being proposed by its mates, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The idea being proposed by academics and a former Labour Party president that workers should automatically be signed up to the union and have to opt-out if they don’t want to be is just a sneaky way of making trade union membership compulsory.
“Professor Mark Harcourt and former Labour Party President and MP Margaret Wilson have been working on this since just after the Labour Government came into office. They say they have had meetings with senior Government Ministers about their plan.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s poor policy making decision has dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party. This would be a return to compulsory unionism.
“If this Government is serious about improving business confidence, it will rule out this proposal.”
Retailers will still be allowed to sell heavier grade, more environmentally-harmful plastic shopping bags despite the Government’s plastic bag ban because of a loophole in the regulations, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“It’s another example of the Government not delivering on its promises. They like making grand gestures but are hopeless when it comes to the detail.
“Documents from the Ministry for the Environment, supplied to me under the Official Information Act, show the Government was warned back in March that its ban doesn’t cover so-called ‘emergency style’ plastic bags made from 55 micron LDPE plastic.
“An example of these are the green and white bags that were being sold for 15c at Countdown supermarkets. They are actually more harmful to the environment than the single-use bags that have been outlawed.
“These bags are exempt because they can be reused 20 times, but officials told Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage back in March that they shouldn’t be. They said plastic bags should be able to be reused at least 55 times to pass the multi-use test.
“Officials warned Ms Sage that most people would not hold on to these bags for reuse, and many would end up in landfill. But rather than get tough with retailers she chose to just cross her fingers and hope they don’t start using these heavier plastic bags.
“Countdown won’t sell their emergency bags from July 1, but Foodstuffs are apparently working on a heavier grade version of their own. If more retailers follow their lead it will see even more plastic enter our landfills and marine environment.
“We need to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, but Ms Sage clearly doesn’t have the mettle to make this happen.”
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has opened up the possibility of collective bargaining to all contractors following changes made to the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The Government is intent on giving more power to unions and this is just another example of that. Introducing collective bargaining to contractors will remove the flexibility for both workers and businesses and further lock up our labour markets.
“Labour promised to repeal the so called ‘Hobbit Law’ within its first 100 days, but realised it was a sensible and pragmatic solution. Now 18-months later it’s decided to make onerous changes to keep its union mates happy.
“The screen industry brought in $3.3 billion last year and creates 30,000 jobs. By caving into the unions, movie makers are more likely to head offshore, that means less money for our economy and fewer jobs in the film industry.
“New Zealand has a reputation for making great films. The industry has had huge benefits for the economy and has meant more jobs for people in the industry.
“The Government put $155 million in the Budget for film industry grants, so it’s giving with one hand but deterring film production with restrictive employment laws with the other.
“National believes the best framework to increase wages over time includes flexible labour markets, respect for the right of individual workers and businesses to agree to their own terms and allows workers to negotiate their own contracts based on productivity or experience.”
The Minister for the Environment needs to step in and provide tangible Government support for the West Coast landfill spill, says National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.
“So far the Government haven’t done enough to address the issue, and ten weeks on we’re continuing to see tonnes of waste spewing into the Fox River and washing up on the coast in what has been described as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Despite the magnitude of the situation Environment Minister David Parker has palmed the job off to Associate Minister Eugenie Sage, but she is failing to make any headway into what is becoming an increasingly big issue.
“The job has been left to a handful of dedicated volunteers who are trying their best to clean up but are lacking resources. The local Westland District Council have already spent more than a million dollars but can’t fund further work. They need serious and urgent Government assistance.
“If a disaster of this magnitude was taking place in a less remote part of the country there would have been a huge public outcry for action already. The Government is taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach that’s entirely unacceptable.
“My colleague based in West Coast/Tasman Maureen Pugh has started a petition calling on the Government to address the situation, and I encourage you to sign it by following the link on my Facebook page.
“This is a Government that often tells us how much they care. Now it’s time for them to walk their talk and do something meaningful to help the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment.”
Eugenie Sage’s working group set up to combat China’s ban on importing waste has released a set of soft options that won’t address the issue at hand, National Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Following the Government’s trend of releasing bad news on Friday afternoon are today’s recommendations that lack any immediate solutions to the piles of plastic waste being stockpiled or sent to landfill in New Zealand.
“I’m especially disappointed the Minister has refused to consider the introduction of a container deposit scheme, which would offer a tangible commitment to combatting waste.
“Instead the Minister has opted for a light range of options that equates to more reviews and studies rather than effective change.
“The Minister claimed to have all the answers in Opposition but seems to have nothing substantial now she’s in Government. She needs to commit to tangible initiatives rather than more eco-babble.”
Trade unions will gain even more power as a result of new laws taking effect tomorrow, National’s Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“New trade union friendly laws pushed through Parliament last year mean powerful and increasingly militant trade unions will become more aggressive than they have been over the past 18 months.
“The changes mean trade unions will have greater influence in the day to day running of businesses. There are a raft of new rules and regulations employers are having to grapple with. All the changes add confusion, complexity and cost. None of them improve productivity.
“Reports of businesses using a ‘sinking lid’ are increasing. When people leave or retire they are simply not replaced. Employers are looking for ways to minimise the negative impacts of these changes and having fewer staff is one of those.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are already struggling as trading conditions weaken across the country and typically small businesses don’t have access to their own in-house HR resource or advice.
“It’s no surprise that many will now structure their business to minimise intrusive, strike happy trade union involvement by reducing employee numbers, hiring contractors instead of permanent staff or just shrinking their business.
“Since the Labour-led government came to power we’ve had more strikes than at any time in the past 30 years. That’s no coincidence and these changes are more about the Labour-led Government paying back a political debt than they are about creating an economy in which businesses can have the confidence to grow and create new permanent jobs.”
Notes to editors:
Changes coming into effect on Monday 6th May include:
- Paid time for union delegates to do union work on the employers time
- Requirement to conclude collective bargaining
- Provision of rates of wages and salary to be included in collective agreements
- Employers’ obligations to new employees who are not union members
- Changes to 90 day trial periods
- Continuity of employment if an employee’s work is affected by restructuring
- Rest break and meal break changes
The Government needs to step up to assist in the cleaning up the Westland landfill washout, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This is a large scale environmental disaster. It’s unacceptable to have rubbish from the disused landfill spewing out into one of New Zealand’s most pristine natural environments.
“I visited the site over the Easter break with local West Coast based National MP Maureen Pugh. What we saw was heart-breaking. It’s so sad to see old rubbish like this in one of our country’s most magnificent natural places. Future floods will see more rubbish washed down river and into the ocean.
“This is a Government that says it cares about the environment, but when action and financial support is required, it is nowhere to be seen. The Council has done what it can as a patch up job. But with more bad winter weather coming soon, a much bigger, costlier solution is required.
“Associate Environment Minister, Conservation Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage needs to step up but she says she won’t. No wonder people are saying this Government doesn’t walk the talk when it comes to environmental issues.
“Some people have described the landfill washout as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith told me his council can’t keep funding the clean-up work by itself. Minister Eugenie Sage needs to provide some meaningful financial support right now.
“Ms Sage has options and funding could be made available if she wanted it to be. The fact she hasn’t done anything speaks volumes about her actual commitment to our environment.
“Volunteers have been doing a terrific job trying to pick up rubbish but we can’t rely on the goodwill of small teams of volunteers to sort a disaster of this scale.
“The Government is failing the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment. It’s time for the Government to stop telling us how much it cares and to actually do something tangible.”