The Labour Party is a broad church and its members hold a diversity of views. For instance Pacifica are amongst the strongest supporters of the party but their christian conservatism can cause tension with some of the more socially progressive policies that other members of the party support.
And the debate on deep sea oil drilling certainly shows that there is a diversity of views on this issue within the party.
For instance recently Shane Jones publicly supported Anadarko’s oil exploration in New Zealand.
He opposed attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said on Te Kaea that the protesters should remember that the company has a statutory right to conduct deep sea oil exploration.
Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”
He also noted that Anadarko was spending a million dollars a day on its programme and said that it was good for New Zealand.
It is not surprising that there are some within the party with these views. The party was formed from unions whose workers depended on extractive industries for work. And the EPMU has members who work on the Taranaki Oil Rigs. There is clearly a tension between the environmental and the industrial wings of the party on the issue.
The party’s policy platform places an emphasis on addressing climate change. An “all gases all sectors” ETS free from subsidies to greenhouse gas polluters is supported and a transfer to renewable energy over a period of time is advocated for. In relation to extraction it says the following:
4.16 Resource extraction—While we move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, the extractive industries will continue to be a significant part of the New Zealand economy. These industries deliver construction and manufacturing materials and/or overseas currency vital to our current economic model. Labour is committed to the lowest possible environmental risk from these extractive industries. We will have clear environmental expectations of those engaging in exploration and extraction. Future projects must meet higher standards in emergency response preparedness, liability, and ability to pay if an accident occurs.
4.17 Labour will put in place appropriate legislative provisions to protect the environment, and appropriate regulatory controls for this purpose (including stringent environmental impact statements and ongoing monitoring of sites), backed by adequate and appropriately skilled inspectorate. As part of resource management decision-making, we will consider the appropriate weighting of criteria for extractive resource proposals, including the end use and type of extracted resources, and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
This position was reaffirmed by David Cunliffe yesterday. From the Herald:
A Labour-led Government would change laws to strengthen environmental protections around deep sea oil exploration but would work with existing explorers to allow them to meet the new standards, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.
Labour’s position on deep sea oil exploration including Texan company Anadarko’s current programmes in the Taranaki and Pegasus basins has at times been inconsistent. Economic development spokesman Shane Jones has extolled the benefits in terms of jobs while other MPs such as Phil Twyford have attended anti Anadarko protests.
This morning, Mr Cunliffe said Labour had always been clear about its position, “which is firstly, we are not opposed in principle to deep sea oil exploration, secondly if it is to proceed it needs to have world’s best practice environment standards, full liability cover and clean up capacity and based on what we’ve currently seen, we’re not yet convinced that those conditions have been met.
Mr Cunliffe said Labour’s view was that New Zealand’s law currently didn’t require world’s best practice in deep sea oil exploration, ”so we will be changing the law so it does and we will expect future consents to meet those standards”.
However, Labour would not immediately halt existing exploration programmes.
“We will work with the industry to make sure existing consents meet those standards.
“If a drilling consent has been issued under the current regulatory framework then under the law it is valid at the time it is issued. If the law and the standards change in future, my expectation would be a migration path or an opportunity for those companies to bring their operations up to those future standards.”
The Greens’ position is here. I have not seen it enunciated but this morning on Radio New Zealand Russell Norman talked about how the planet already had more than enough discovered oil which if all burned would cause the planet to fry so I presume the Greens preference would be for an immediate moratorium. I do not know how they will deal with existing permits.
There are going to be issues where Labour and the Greens disagree. This is inevitable and at one level important. The Greens are a proudly independent party.
If there is a Labour Green Coalition after this year’s election no doubt resolving a position on this issue will be one of their first tests.