A climate emergency declaration, a swiftly passed tax hike and a last minute pill-testing law. It was a week of urgency and brutal put-downs, writes James Elliott in his news of the week.
You may not have noticed but we’ve been living under a state of emergency since Wednesday. And it’s not even a Covid-related emergency.
On Wednesday, Parliament passed a motion declaring a climate emergency in New Zealand, which was ironic given that most of our carbon emissions are caused by the passing of motions by our dairy herds and other assorted farm animals. PM Jacinda Ardern spoke to the motion, the Parliamentary one, announcing various emission reduction measures including the goal of making the public sector carbon neutral by 2025.
One of those measures is to electrify the state sector’s fleet of 16,000 vehicles which will achieve two outcomes. First, with New Zealand accounting for 0.17 percent of all global emissions, shifting the state sector’s 16,000 vehicles from Toyota to Tesla will reduce global emissions by roughly the same number, one sixteen thousandth of one percent. Secondly, unfortunately that emission reduction will be more than offset by the plume of CO2-laden rants that billow out of Mike Hosking at any mention of electric cars.
National and Act opposed the climate emergency motion because of course they did. I’m assuming that Act did so to maintain ideological consistency, extending the right of assisted dying to the planet itself. The motion was also dismissed as virtue signalling by National’s current leader and woman pictured posing in prayer on election day, Judith Collins.
National and Act opposed the climate emergency motion because of course they did. I’m assuming that Act did so to maintain ideological consistency, extending the right of assisted dying to the planet itself.
Unsurprisingly, the Greens supported the climate emergency motion, but they did not support Labour on another piece of legislation passed under emergency to increase the top tax rate to 39 percent on income over $180k. And while the Greens didn’t support Labour’s tax hike, they didn’t oppose it either. Instead they abstained from voting which was commented on as being a rare occurrence in our Parliament but at least consistent with the Greens’ core philosophy of abstinence for all. There’s quite a lot of stuff the Greens want us to abstain from doing, like mining, drilling for oil, and the wearing of ties in the debating chamber.
The new tax rate wasn’t the only legislation passed under urgency this week. A temporary pill-testing law has been brought in, appropriately speedily, just in time for the summer festival season. The new law allows people to get pills tested at festivals without prosecution. It’s like checking for confirmation that there are way too many calories in the burger that you’re going to eat regardless.
The debate in Parliament over the pill-testing law got pretty heated, particularly between Simon Bridges and Chlöe Swarbrick, both of whom could have benefited from taking a tested and approved chill pill of their own. Simon was strongly opposed to pill-testing, claiming that no pill was safe and that pill testing was decriminalisation by another name. In response, Chlöe claimed that Simon’s abstinence-based attitude “kind of makes my blood boil”, a self-diagnosed medical condition that could well have been accurate, given what followed next. And what followed next was, what I am prepared to assume without checking Hansard, to be a Parliamentary first, the quoting of this line from the 2004 teen comedy movie Mean Girls in general debate – “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and you will die.”
The new law allows people to get pills tested at festivals without prosecution. It’s like checking for confirmation that there are way too many calories in the burger that you’re going to eat regardless.
It was certainly novel, but I’m not convinced that quoting Mean Girls was the best response that Chlöe could have made to Simon’s bleak assertion that the Government’s intent was to extend pill-testing from festivals to “all over New Zealand”. Especially when “Okay gloom and doomer” was right there for the taking.
And even that wouldn’t have been the most brutal political put-down of the week. That honour went to a surprise contributor, China. When the Five Eyes group of countries, including New Zealand, criticised China’s latest manoeuverings in Hong Kong, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told them to mind their own business saying: “They should be careful or their eyes will be plucked out”. It’s a fairly stark warning that makes me wonder whether the meaning of ‘Five Eyes’ somehow got lost in translation to Chinese.
And more translation was to follow. Later in the week, New Zealand joined in with Australia’s own war of words with China over a Chinese official’s tweet of a doctored image of an Australian soldier harming an Afghani child. We registered our “formal concern” over the “unfactual post”. This prompted a Chinese media organisation to claim we were “like bleating sheep”, which is at least technically accurate as to the description of the crying sound made by sheep.
And whereas sheep bleat, humans babble. And the best example of babble this week was the PM’s description of how we raised our concerns with China:
“But of course, we always conduct our relationship in our own interests … we will speak up on issues that we have concerns about, we will stick to our independent foreign policy, but that doesn’t stop us observing what’s happening with others.”
Good luck translating that.
Have a peaceful weekend.