Saturday, November 08, 2008


The politics of change in New Zealand November 2008

I am pleased to report the sun rose this morning and the birds started to sing. Last night a National/Act/United Future government was elected and Helen Clark announced she will resign as leader of the Labour Party. The Greens scored eight seats and may get another.

So we come to another political cycle. Helen Clark, who has had a good nose for how the public thinks, has been ahead of them once too often and has paid the price. She will, no doubt, get a good job with the United Nations.

Meanwhile the need for local activity in sustainability becomes more and more important. Those of us who reserve their political action for growing a grassroots movement to strengthen local resilience in the face of peak oil, climate change and economic upheaval will be more resolved than ever to grow this movement.

In Otaki electorate we now have a National MP and he needs to become aware that there are many of us who want food, economic and energy resilience at local level. When the first National MP mentions transition towns in Parliament we will have made progress.

Meanwhile I was so impressed by the quality of television coverage on the election. It kept us enraptured for four and a half hours. We only went to bed when we couldn't stand John Key's smirks any more. He will never be a Barack Obama in oratory though he did his best last night to emulate him. But the commentators were so good! Even Michele Boag the former National party president was able to drop her partisanship and give measured commentary with political wisdom and judgement. Former MPs like Paul East, Richard Prebble (radio) all came out well. Jenny Shipley looking slimmed down and elegant in her wonderful glasses knows how to hold her tongue when it comes to commenting on Winston Peters' departure.

Oh Winston. What will Parliament do without you? What will the Press Gallery do now? You were so relaxed and happy to be out of Parliament and your lined quizical face was compelling viewing. You lost with grace and thank you for all you have achieved.

We had change in 1975 when Rob Muldoon won, elation when David Lange won for Labour in 1984 and then again a downer in 1991 when Jim Bolger won. Each time a National Government was elected I said we had to get back into protest mode. But I am not sure I have the stomach for protest nowadays. We will see. Some of the policies of each Labour Government were reversed by the incoming Nats but not all.

What will the new Government do with the Repeal of Section 51 of the Crimes Act legislation? Do they bring in a pro-smacking bill? No, I suspect. First we will see a change to the Resource Management Act. Then ACC. The prison bill will soar. If my grandchildren get a job in police or the armed forces, that's where the jobs will be. But they will also be in green businesses and in other government departments.

As for peak oil, we wonder if world oil production of sweet crude has now peaked and so has the global GDP. That's what Richard Heinberg thinks. There is no money for investing in more drilling or exploration because US $12 trillion was lost in one week on the sharemarket in October. Even after Obama was elected the US stockmarket dropped 9% in two days. There is no capital for getting more oil. The Nikkei is down to under 9000 and the UK interest rates are 3%, US 1%, Japan 0.3%. Ours will no doubt go down and so will our currency. We won't be able to afford our oil if the price goes up because our dollar will be so low. Or maybe that will be a while, I don't know. Peak oil has met the imperative for economic growth. The economy can't grow without abundant oil so we now have a million unemployed in US and one in four homes are worth less than the mortgage owed on them. Ford and GM are in deep trouble and British Airways profit was down over 90%. They were predicting only four airlines will be operating in Europe soon.

I am looking forward on the 12th November to the release of the new IEA report. A leaked version said oil output will decline 9% a year if there is no new investment. Nine percent. Whew.

So this morning the train came through at the usual time, the birds sang and the seeds are still pushing up. Cycles continue. Fortunately with MMP we don't get the wild swings. We used to run from one end of the football paddock to the other. This time, hopefully the swings will not be so great. It is such a waste of time repealing everything the previous government passed...

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