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Brownlee’s blow-out

Written By: - Date published: 11:33 pm, November 27th, 2008 - 47 comments
Categories: climate change, flip-flop, Media, national/act government - Tags:

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]

47 comments on “Brownlee’s blow-out ”

  1. Quoth the Raven 1

    What a laugh these National kids are. Cue the right wing mental/linguistic gymnastics to defend National’s flip flop on fictional nanny statism. Along the lines of “they weren’t saying that SP your exaggerating consequently the grasshopper is a column” What mirth.

  2. T-Rex 2

    Maybe the media are failing to cover this for the same reason that I wish you hadn’t – They’re trying to forget that someone as uninformed as Brownlee is Minister of Energy.

    I mean it’s important to get it out in the open and all, but doesn’t it feel kind of like chewing a roofing nail?

  3. Camryn 3

    Cats are banned from dairies? Madness!

  4. Stephen 4

    Not sure where you got “A staffer for Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has told reporters that National/ACT will not be reversing the new light-bulb standards”, cos:

    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.

    They haven’t confirmed anything, and the staffer said something different to what you claim, so I think it’s a bit premature to crow.

  5. ghostwhowalks 5

    See the announcement Paul Oliver is to leave the Herald political reporters to work for John Key.

    No surprise really as her stories were all patsies anyway. But she didnt waste any time

    her new full time job making sure the National spin gets in the Herald….come to think THAT was her full time job before the election

  6. Janet 6

    Interesting that Bob Jones is already getting cynical about the new leader he campaigned for. His column this morning is an attempt at satire about the expensive junket to see Gordon Brown. Now I wonder if the DomPost will bring back their ‘junketwatch’ column?

  7. ah, the perils of writing at 11pm, I had just cited Brownlee’s refusal to confirm the policy, then I looked at the nzpa article again an got my wires crossed. You’re right Stephen, the staffer does say the opposite, that the reversal would go ahead, but the crucial thing is that Brownlee is already backing away from it. I’ve edited the post.

    You also have to remember that nzpa didn’t ask Brownlee about this out of the blue – they got some info off the record to prompt them to seek clarification from the minister.

  8. Tim Ellis 8

    I agree with you SP, there does seem to be an inconsistency here. Interesting post. I think National voters probably do see that Brownlee should reverse the standard, as National did campaign on it up and down the country, and they should also pull back on nanny-statism where it exists.

    Have you got a link to the article? I think a lot of National voters will be really annoyed if that standard stays in place.

  9. Stephen 9

    Cheers. In any case, I doubted they’d reverse the proposed changes too, if only because it seems pretty rare that any previous government’s legislation is overturned/repealed by a new one (?), unless it’s REALLY a big deal to them e.g. the Employment Contracts Act, or the EFA.

  10. Stephen 10

    Have you got a link to the article? I think a lot of National voters will be really annoyed if that standard stays in place.

    I don’t think so, because it’s not going to have that much of effect.

  11. toad 11

    Thanks for the correction, Steve. I’d just blogged about it myself on g.blog, including that I thought you had got it wrong, before I noticed that you’d edited it.

    I suspect (hope) that Brownlee will heed the advise of EECA, and leave the standard intact. Or maybe fiddle around the edges of it to be seen to be doing something to appease those voters who bought into his political electioneering beat-up of what should be a science-based decision.

  12. Janet 12

    By the way these things add to the view that NZ is going against the world trend on climate change. In Australia this new standard is the unquestioned norm, plus they are of course very vigilant about water – low volume shower heads and toilets that only work on half flush are the norm. Australians who know about these election issues wonder why are NZers so resistant to doing anything about climate change.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    I heard Bill English talking about all this sort of stuff (shower heads, light bulbs etc) on ZB yesterday. He said they were reviewing all these standards etc with a view to simplifying the building consent process. So, it looks like the proposed standards could be given the boot.

    Personally, I have no objection to efficient light bulbs etc. The problem I have is having these things made mandatory. I am sure there would be a substantial voluntary uptake through a good marketing campiagn without the need for compulsion.

    I have used ECO bulbs before and in my experience have found that they are not suitable for all applications (taking time to get fully bright etc). In some situations the ECO bulbs could actually cause hazards because they do not provide adequate illumination immediately.

    Therefore, I think people need the freedom to use conventional light bulbs where they are more effective.

  14. insider 14

    LAbour mucked this up completely. They turned a smallish issue into a touchstone one through arrogance. The ban wasn;t even needed as the market was converting itself, so it was bad policy and politics. The state dictating what you could buy just created an issue for fear and loathing to coalesce around. Not for the first time Parker showed poor judgement for someone so senior.

    As for the fridges comparison, you usually only buy one every 10 years and in my experience new fridges tend to be better than old ones. That is not my experience with cfls and I think that many have a similar view and that is what has driven a lot of the negative reaction.

    As for people relying on blogs for analysis, there was a US Professor of media in NZ recently who said the evidence for that was skimpy. He said that while it is often claimed the landscape has changed, when you get into it you see it is the blogs that are actually highly reliant on the media for their content.

  15. Chris G 15

    If they dont stop the change in efficiency ratings, then they mislead the public in their campaigning, how long will that list be?

    insider, Evidently the way you see things, the national party does not share that same view:

    “A newspaper yesterday yesterday reported a National staffer saying the phase-out would not go ahead but Mr Brownlee would not confirm that” Dom Post today.

    If it were so clear cut, as you suggest, and say its: “The state dictating” Then why isnt brownlee taking a page from Hide and saying ‘Itll be gone by Christmas!!!’

    I thought the Nats are the masters of economics? Why then dont they share your immediate concern that the market was already changing itself?

    On a personal note, naturally I hope they let the phase out go ahead

  16. Strathen 16

    I find it amusing you seem to think there’s a proportion of people that voted for National/ACT because of light bulbs and cats. I know quite a few National voters, and none have mentioned this as an issue for voting. Even my family and mates that are builders thought the legislation was a pain in the arse, but not an election keystone.

    Their biggest gripe is how long it takes the building consent process. The posters above that touched on this and the safety issues around these bulbs in some applications are more on the money as to where I interpret voters would want this issue analysed.

    To take the debate away from the real issue so as to label it a ‘flip-flop’ shows that left commentators still haven’t grasped how out of touch with the real voters, and their reasons, they are.

  17. insider 17

    Chris

    Brownlee did say that before the election. Funny how things change once you are bound by ministerial responsibility. Note the ban still has some significant hurdles to get through which a smart bureaucracy can use to delay it – and I wouldn;t mind betting that is the outcome, delay it a few years so the market changes on its own and more products get introduced to smooth the way.

  18. bill brown 18

    It’s interesting that under the Labour government the use of incandescent light bulbs was coming under pressure due to their non-adherence to proposed efficiency standards whereas under the Nactional, Brownlee is looking at a ban of a particular type of bulb (or not) for bureaucratic reasons.

  19. Chris G 19

    Insider,

    I cant see how brownlees comment isnt from yesterday, rather than before the election. Looking at the article in todays paper it seems like the comments are from yesterday, if not very recently.

    Ill tell you what john boy said in one of the leaders debates though: “They’re banning lightbulbs!!” The sensationalism!

    Once again, I’ll point out that if it were so obvious, as it is to you, that the market was changing anyway… why isnt Gerry saying so and telling the press a more assertive statement on the lightbulb standards?

    I think they’d be plain stupid to not drop the phase-out given johnnys aforementioned rant, but you never know with the Nats. Someone at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority might just whisper some advice in Brownlees ear.

  20. gingercrush 20

    Bah leave poor Gerry alone. You lefties are mean.

    —-

    Anyway on a serious note. I’m not a fan of those new lightbulbs because we brought several and two didn’t even last a year and in one of them it burned the lining. While the savings are admirable. I do have questions over their safety or claims of how long they last. Because as I said two did not last a year which meants whatever savings we could have made. I doubt we made any considering the lightbulbs at the time were four times the price of a standard lightbulb.

  21. bill brown 21

    GC,

    See the following for some links that should assuage some of your fears.

    Mythbusting: Half of new generation is thermal

    (Not the Wishart ones, the others – the Wishart ones will just make your brain rot).

  22. Ianmac 22

    Strathan: “I know quite a few National voters, and none have mentioned this as an issue for voting.”
    Of course not! But the thread of Nanny-state included light bulbs and showerheads and protect your kids and um…. Just mention Nanny-state and the chunk of voters eyes light up like a 200watt lightbulb!

  23. Stephen 23

    The bulbs might not have been a single factor exactly, but it would’ve added weight to the ‘this government needs to be shown who’s boss’ feeling of some voters, and THAT was a significant factor.

  24. Strathen 24

    Ianmac – I’m not sure it’s the voters eyes that light up, but more the right commentators. Whilst I mentioned the left commentators are out of touch with the voters, the same can be applied to the right as well. I’m often dismayed at what is reported in the media and on blogs, a lot of it takes an issue and seems to grab one part of it, most often the irrelevant part. Maybe my gripe is with the commentary of all. The one-up-manship seems to take priority over the genuine debate. It’s as if everyone wants to win, rather than look at what is happening for the country.

    Stephen – Agreed. Perhaps tie it in to tall poppy syndrome. I would think your line of thought would be better for the topic of a blog article, but instead there is a prevailing need to get ‘flip-flop’ in to the commentary.

    Flip-flop is a horrible term that has been embraced by people that should know better. What does it actually mean? What are the practical applications? What are the parameters required so as to apply this term? My impression is that it can only be used to describe the right wing parties as it seems to get dismissed if an attempt to apply it to left wing parties is put forward. Following this line of thought, the term ‘flip-flop’ would probably be classed as propaganda or sensationalism. Something to brainwash the masses with.

  25. insider 25

    ginger

    Don’t believe the safety issues – the fire service has actually had fewer calls to efficient bulb events than to traditional bulb ones and there are about 10 million cfls in place. Remember when unleaded fuel was introduced? There were a spate of vehicle fires reported and the fuel blamed. Turned out vehicle fires actually reduced after PULP’s introduction but common old ignorance and superstition fuelled a media beat up. It’s just flat tyre syndrome or people ignoring the instructions and putting them in the wrong places.

    As for lifespan, bulbs fail all the time before their typical lifespan – mostly we don’t log and time it becasue the traditional bulbs have a limited life anyway. Could be electrical, could be manufacture. Make sure you don’t get the low quality ones. Or get the halogens that look and perform just the same as the old bulbs but only save 30% energy.

    Chris

    I agree with you that the NAts should stick to their promise (which I think was that they wouldn’t introduce it in 2009). Like I said, it may be that it is a bit more complex now they are in power – as it is a common standard with Aus there may be some agreed deadline (but no-one has mentioned it). Easiest option is to not do or delay the ground work meaning they can’t implement it.

  26. Quoth the Raven 26

    GC – Yes Gerry is such a nice fellow so nice in fact that he assualted a pensioner.

  27. gingercrush 27

    Oh don’t start that crap QtR. Irrelevant and totally out of order as well.

  28. this to express appreciation for bill brown’s “Nactional” — oh I do like that one. For another coalition of the willing. But that small ‘c’ suggesting that instead of willing one could suppose shilling (for who knows what shall remain unspoken).

    on the bulbs business, I like the low wattage jobs, better for my eyes. I have long thought how incandescents deal wasted heat AND light. In comparison with the others they have hitherto constituted a one-type fits all monopoly.

    choice – now there’s the thing.

  29. sweeetdisorder 29

    Swing and a miss pierson.

    As reported midday news on ZB,

    Lights out on incandescent bulbs ban

    28/11/2008 12:04:20

    The previous government’s ban on incandescent lightbulbs is being reversed.

    There have been conflicting reports today on whether the new Government would follow through on its pre-election stance.

    Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee says he has instructed the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority to prepare the paperwork to overturn the ban.

    He expects an announcement will be made early in the New Year, reversing the decision to phase out incandescent lightbulbs.

  30. Pascal's bookie 30

    Thanks sweeet.

    Now we know what the Nactonauts mean when they say they are ‘looking into it’ or ‘considering’ something.

    Puts Rodney’s little slush fund for pre ordained research into it’s proper context.

    Why don’t they just front and up and say what they are going to do straight off the bat instead of paying our money to their mates in the consultancies to spin a line?

  31. Ianmac 31

    Bet the incandescant bulbs don’t last till the next election. There won’t be a world market so the supply will just dry up.

  32. Janet 32

    Watch this policy change over this parliamentary term. Try buying one of the old light bulbs in a couple of years – or admitting to your friends and neighbours that you still use them. Will have the same status as leaving the sprinkler on your garden in a time of extreme water shortage. Something probably only Act voters do.

    Green issues are going to escalate in significance in the next couple of years and this announcement of Gerry’s will come back to bite him.

  33. Its all about choice.

    People can buy what they like under National, under Labour they had to get Aunty Helen’s permission first

  34. Felix 34

    Bloody silly banning cats from dairies.

    At one time they were compulsory and with good reason.

  35. Janet 35

    Brett
    Choice is a cultural construct.
    It’s not a level playing field.

  36. gingercrush 36

    Janet – The Greens polled nearly 7% and 7% only. Green issues while adopted in Labour and elsewhere does not mean the whole of New Zealand is turning Green. It also doesn’t mean some stupid social stigma will be attached to those that use OMG the old lightbulbs. Get real.

    People still have fireplaces and people still use coal. Do people give them social stigma? No. People still drive cars and older cars that use more emissions. Do they get socially stigmatised?No. So please don’t speak like you are everyone. Because anyone that would stigmatise someone over using old lightbulbs really needs to get themselves in check

  37. bill brown 37

    GC, suddenly you’re all over telling everyone how to think – go take a cold shower and get over yourself.

  38. RT 38

    Must be an Act convert, and they polled well below 5%

  39. Janet

    Choice is not a culture construct (what ever the &*^%$ that means)

    Choice is choice.

  40. Quoth the Raven 40

    GC – What’s environmentally unfriendly about a fireplace? Fitsimmons has a fireplace. As long as you’re burning wood there’s nothing wrong.

  41. gingercrush 41

    cultural construct – Pathetic sociology term.

    bill brown – You get over yourself or would you stigmatise someone for using old light bulbs? Yeah I think you would. Such a shame.

  42. Janet 42

    Brett
    Some people are in a position to exercise choice (because of wealth, access to resources, money, transport etc). Most people aren’t. Choice is not a neutral term. It is a concept that some people have created to justify their own access to, or desire for something, that other people can’t have (for a variety of reasons).

    GC
    Green issues are actually sustainability of the planet and support for humanity issues. Wait till President Obama gets going – being Green will not only be very cool, but finally people will realise that it is essential for our mutual survival.

  43. gingercrush 43

    Yes Green issues will become more relevant I actually don’t disagree with you there. As for Obama. Before Obama a number of states were already working on Green ideas and in America the best way is through the states though Obama will be a larger proponent of Green issues. I wouldn’t expect miracles from Obama and increasingly his team isn’t looking like change its looking like a government from the left. Which is fine but to me Obama’s whole rhetoric was a change and an America citizens can once again believe in. But when most of your team is made up of the same washington insiders as the Clinton administration I don’t see change. And also in America there are several steps where Green issues will be resisted. Unless Obama totally changes how Washington operates which I think looks unlikely. The Green movement there will only go so far. And it still requires action to be taken by the states where that will be more effective.

    Green issues likewise will be relevant here. Just because people vote National does not mean we don’t care about green issues or in sustainability. But that doesn’t mean we’ll go down the route of the Green party and implement their policies. That is something most New Zealanders haven’t voted for.

    QtR – I was using that as an example. And I used that as an example because 1 trees breathe in CO2 and 2. burning of wood still creates emissions. And 3. I believe you live in Christchurch which as you know has certain smog levels that are rather unacceptable and the council has implemented new standards in housing etc for what a person can or can’t use as energy. Thus even burning wood fireplaces have been tackled as part of that implementing. Thus by Janet’s analogy people could have been stigmatised for having wood burners. But that hasn’t happened meaning I can’t see how someone would be stigmatised for using old lightbulbs.

  44. DB,

    Choice is choice.

    Whicha choice is whicha..?

    There’s the choice of preferment(aka cultural construct (of becoming))..

    and the optional choice – can have one, can’t another – as per the intended law re out with incandescents, in with low wattage light efficiency.

    BTW: be interesting to note how incandescents are characterised since they do waste heat energy( excepting the infrared jobs at 250 watts for tiny bathrooms!)

    and the choice most folks take the word to mean, between one thing and another, both retained or available..

  45. Im always amazed how ordinary folk have fallen for Nanny State as a means of attacking the Political left. In a natural crisis like floods and slips these same people are the first to moan if “nanny state”action is not started at once.
    The wealthy and privaledged among us have done very well out of “nanny state ” but as soon as a helping hand is given to working people the rich and their mates say
    its nanny state .A simular motive is when the union movement gains something for its workers , the first in the queue to recieve are the non unionists. The left needs to capture the power of words ,and well before the next election.

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