National wants to get its shambolic ETS through the House this week. It’s not quite clear what the hurry is; there’s no actual reason why it should be passed before the Copenhagen meeting in December, it’s just an artificial deadline that National have set themselves.
We already know the ETS will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions for subsidies to polluters and, because it will mean higher carbon emissions, will, according to Treasury, “come at a cost to the economy as a whole, by delaying the transition of the New Zealand economy to a carbon constrained world”. Nonetheless, John Key and Nick Smith are determined to push ahead to pass their ETS. This cack-handed legislative process is only going to make things worse.
A deluge of amendments, from technical stuff to the multi-billion deal with the Maori Party, will have to be slammed through under urgency late at night by a Parliament that will not be given the time to consider their substance. The result is going to be a legislative disaster. As Rod Oram notes “When Parliament has degenerated to such shoddy process in the past it has often made horrendous and expensive mistakes.”
National’s ETS is opposed by every other party in the House except the Maori Party (the party, you’ll recall, which didn’t vote for Labour’s ETS because it said it wasn’t strong enough). That gives the ETS 63 votes, a majority of 2. But only two of the five Maori Party MPs support it. What if at least Hone Harawira and Rahui Katene (the Maori party’s passionate environmentalist) cross the floor to vote against the ETS? That would leave Parliament hung on 61-61 – a tied vote means the law doesn’t pass.
Then things would get really interesting. Would National try to get the ETS passed with ACT or Peter Dunne abstaining? Or would Key do what he should have done in the first place – sit down with Labour and come up with a sustainable grand coalition to create an ETS that will actually reduce carbon emissions and put the cost of pollution on the polluters?