Transport Heavyweight Championship: Julie Anne v Gerry

Julie Anne Genter is a transport heavyweight. She’s got all the academic qualifications and consultancy  experience to know what she’s talking about as far as transport is concerned. Gerry Brownlee is a heavyweight too, although his most admirable qualification in that regard appears to be his loyalty to the National Party and his being prepared to take one (or two, or three) for the team.

So here’s how they shaped up in 3 rounds of sparring in Parliament last week:

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Big points win to Julie Anne.  We have the long Easter recess for Parliament now, but I suspect when it resumes Julie Anne will win by TKO.

We Greens support non-violence, so however big and ignorant the opponent is, we still need to leave him or her with some respect. So no KO leaving Gerry convulsing on the canvas – although I’m sure you could do that, metaphorically, should you choose, Julie Anne.

Blessed silence

Congratulations to Metiria Turei!  She seems to have discovered the secret to silencing Gerry Brownlee.  Now if she can just extend her powers beyond the debating chamber…

Of course, I’m not quite sure how, according to the Speaker and Kiwiblog,  the general public is supposed to “having heard the question and seen the Minister’s refusal to answer it, [make] the final judgment on the situation”.

“Ministers would be very unwise to refuse to answer them, because in the court of public opinion a Minister would be condemned for refusing to do so.”

I’m all for being an active, informed and engaged member of the polity, but requiring the public to continuously listen to parliamentary debates so that they can learn that Brownlee acted like a pratt, is perhaps asking a  bit much commitment on their behalf.  So I guess the minister gets away with his contempt for proper debate this time.

Max Bradford’s unfinished business

Remember this guy?

Yes it’s former National Party Energy Minister Max Bradford. The same Max Bradford whom I recall Paul Holmes continually lampooning in the lead-up to the 1999 election by replaying a clip of him saying:

…competition would bring electricity prices for the consumer down.

Well, it hadn’t by 1999 and, as the Commerce Commission has found, it still hasn’t. Electricity consumers have been ripped off to the extent of $4.3 billion since Bradford’s reforms came into effect according to the research conducted by Professor Frank Wolak of Stanford University for the Commission.

What’s worse is that according to the Commerce Commission it has all been perfectly legal.

The Max Bradford solution was to split the old Electricity Corporation up into four corporate entities to force them to act competitively. They privatised one of them, Contact Energy, in 1999. Fortunately, National lost office before they managed to hock off the other three, Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Mighty River Power.

The competitive model has been shown to be a miserable failure. So what’s the current Minister of Energy Gerry Brownlee’s solution?

Mr Brownlee said that the Government was prepared to make big changes to the electricity industry to stop massive price rises.

That included examining the market model introduced in the late 1990s by the former National government and the possibility of breaking up big state-owned retailer-generators such as Meridian and Genesis, he said.

He doesn’t go as far as using the “P-word” that National Ministers have been prohibited from saying, but it’s pretty clear that he’s thinking about breaking up and privatising the state-owned electricity generating companies, which is really just finishing Max Bradford’s unfinished business.

At least with three of the big generation companies in state ownership, much of the ill-gotten profits remain in New Zealand in the Government coffers. With what Brownlee is hinting at, the profits would head off overseas to the shareholders of big energy corporates.

Eddie over at The Standard has a different idea.

Buy back Contact (work out a fair share price and do it through legislation). Put the whole thing back into one and set it some simple goals: reliable supply at a steady, low price and phasing out fossil fuels.

I agree.

It’s time to see the light Gerry

It seems that Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee might be having a rethink of National’s ridiculous pre-election position of opposing the Household Lighting Efficiency Standard that would see the phase-out of inefficient incandescent bulbs for household lighting purposes.

NZPA has reported:

A newspaper today reported a National staffer saying the phase out would not go ahead but Mr Brownlee would not confirm that.

Mr Brownlee said officials at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority were doing some work on the issue.

“We’ll be making an announcement about that in due course,” Mr Brownlee said.

Steve Pierson at The Standard thinks this is a backflip by Brownlee [EDIT: Steve Pierson acknowledges he got it wrong and has now edited his post]. I wouldn’t go that far, as no decision has yet been made, but it is an optimistic sign that Brownlee has asked EECA to do some work on the issue rather than make a knee-jerk political decision that is not supported by the evidence. I’m confident that he will recieve the same professional science-based advice from EECA that Jeanette Fitzsimons received when she was Energy Efficiency Spokesperson for the last government – advice that supports the introduction of the new efficiency standard.

Even China, hardly an environmental paragon on the world stage, are phasing out incandescent bulbs. So are Australia and Great Britain. Surely this is not an issue that Brownlee wants New Zealand to be seen as dragging the chain on. If it does turn out to be a flip-flop, it is one I will support him on.

Can we have some of these please, Gerry?


Last Saturday a chap named Ian Carline received 392 votes as the ACT candidate in Invercargill electorate. But 5 of his climate change denying mates got into Parliament, and will be part of the next government in which Gerry (Sexy Coal) Brownlee is likely to be Minister of Energy.

Today a letter from the same Ian Carline appears in the Southland Times:

“..we must have increased reliable supply from a cost effective, efficient source, that is not weather dependent like hydro and wind. Once again we come back to the obvious. Coal.”
– Ian Carline, Act candidate, Invercargill.


The Minister for Prestressed Concrete

Posting this on behalf of another Green member who doesn’t yet have gblog posting permissions:

I don’t know how inspired you were this morning by John Key’s latest ministerial creation. It had shades of Don Brash and the Minister in charge of PC, do you remember Wayne Mapp and political correctness. We now have a Minister for Prestressed Concrete. Gerry Brownlee would be a likely candidate, so from uptightness about political correctness we have rectitude on infrastructure. Kathryn Ryan didn’t get much joy from Key on concrete proposals, but there was a lot of water and hot air sloshing about.