National/ACT has only been in power a week, but the flip-flops keep coming. Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee will not confirm that that National/ACT will reversing the new light-bulb standards. This after they campaigned hard against these standards and Key repeatedly promised that under a National government people would not be told which type of light-bulbs they can use. Brownlee hasn’t confirmed that the policy will be dropped, but he is no longer confirming his party’s policy stands and that says it all.
Campaigning on reserving the standards was a typically hollow vote-grabbing move from National; the kind of politics that encourages you not to think too hard, just be outraged. ‘Don’t let the nanny state take away your lightbulbs’ – it’s enough to stir the brain-dead reactionary in all of us.
Just as predictable as National’s pre-election bluster is their post-election back-down. The fact is there was never anything extreme about the improvement in light-bulb standards that most incandescent bulbs can’t match: the Government sets standards for all kinds of consumer goods for safety and environmental reason among others (that’s why you can’t get CFCs in your refrigerator anymore). We are actually behind the rest of the world in raising our standards and will look positively Luddite if we lower them again. In fact, the choice to buy incandescent bulbs is going to be taken away from us soon enough because China produces 70% of the world’s supply and has already banned their use domestically. So, National will move quickly to get this inevitable flip-flop out of the way so the voters forget.
Now, we can’t blame National too much for cynically exploiting this issue then back-flipping any more than one can blame a polar bear for eating baby seals; it’s just what they do and they’ll do it as long as they can do it successfully. What is disappointing, though, is that they are allowed to get away with, first, the electioneering stunt and, soon, the back-flip.
Only one group has the power to effectively expose and disarm cynical electioneering. But the media’s ping-pong excuse for objectivity failed because it can’t point out that one side of the argument is complete bollocks. Worse, we had excitable columnists comparing the light-bulb standards to the third Labour Government’s public health regulations that (among a whole slew of other things) banned cats from dairies, which National used to whip up the knee-jerk conservatives. In a bizarre reading of history, they claimed banning cats from dairies had cost Labour re-election in 1975 and light-bulbs would do the same in 2008 – they failed to ask whether National’s promise was the right thing for New Zealand or likely to be kept by a National government. The fact that parties are permitted by the way the media reports politics to get away with this kind of dishonest crap is an indictment on the industry that is meant to perform a crucial role in informing us and protecting our democracy*.
Well, that notwithstanding, it looks like those excitable columnists’ comparison between the incandescent ban and the cat ban was valid but in a way they perhaps didn’t foresee. After all, when was the last time you saw a cat in a dairy?
*[I wonder if the media bigwigs have realised that it is this failure of duty that is driving people away from the mainstream media to the blogs for their political analysis]