Monday, November 23, 2009

More on the ETS, the Maori Party and Hone Harawira

There is blood in the water. The emission trading scheme now looks like nothing more than a bait ball for hungry sharks, and the feeding frenzy is on. The National / Maori Party scheme will hand around $110 billion from New Zealand taxpayers to businesses while doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Federated Farmers, not content with the bulk of the fishy proceeds, wants to vacuum up the whole damn lot. They are calling for the Government to scrap the entire scheme without offering a proposal they would support, other than taxpayers picking up 100% of their tab. With all this, it's hard to blame corporate iwi leaders for wanting to get a feed as well. They are currently negotiating (we hear) to plant native trees on conservation land and grab the carbon credits.

The problem arises, of course, because the Government's proposed changes to the emission trading scheme are so contrary that they subsidise the polluters – farmers and industry – and punish the foresters. Maori forestry owners are doubly penalised because many of their forests were planted before the Kyoto agreement was signed and so don't get carbon credits. It doesn't seem impossible to come up with a scheme that actually reduces emissions and treats (pre and post Kyoto) forests fairly, but both National and the Maori Party seem more interested in getting special treatment for their respective powerful lobbies than doing something for the planet.

This has been described in The Guardian (UK) as the worlds “most shameless two fingers to the global community” from “a country that sells itself round the world as 'clean and green'”. New Zealand got a pretty sweet deal in the Kyoto agreement, agreeing to hold rather than reduce our rate of greenhouse gas emissions. We have continued to plead for special treatment ever since, even though we have one of the highest per capital emission rates in the world. Expectations on what will happen at next month's climate change negotiations in Copenhagen vary, but I think that New Zealand can expect to be shamed and embarassed. We certainly deserve it.

Which brings me to Hone Harawira. I've always seen 'motherf***er' as a very literal term describing those who despoil the Earth. Reading his email I don't think he was making a statement about all white people, and while I don't know if he uses that term the same way, it does actually describe quite a lot of colonial history. His words were rash and unwise, but may not have been so shocking if people more fully understood our own recent past, such as the 'scorched earth' policies inflicted in Te Urewera or the bloody invasions of the Waikato.

That's why I can't help feeling that there is more to the Maori Party's attempt to oust him than meets the eye. It has been obvious for some time that Hone is uneasy about the Maori Party's relationship with National and their voting record on things like the emission trading scheme. However, stories have been circulated in the party that Hone is actually upset because he didn't get a ministerial post. What is surprising is that a number of people seem to actually believe it. It looks suspiciously like a deliberate attempt to undermine his credibility in the party, prior to attempting to remove him.

Hone is almost certainly the leadership's most challenging MP, but it would be a grave mistake to think that ousting him would solve the Party's problems. A number of Maori Party activists are also finding the party's current direction difficult to swallow and might view Hone's departure as proof that there is no place left for them in the Maori Party. The Party has always had a difficult challenge in balancing heterogenous Maori interests, and now seems in danger of forgetting that sweet fruits come from healthy roots.

(from myy Waikato Times column 20 November 2009)

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