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The moral high ground

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, December 5th, 2008 - 15 comments
Categories: climate change, national/act government - Tags: , ,

Murray McCully has just used his recently acquired ministerial discretion to allow Fiji’s under-20 soccer team to enter New Zealand in transit on its way to a tournament in Tahiti. This is broadly at odds with the Labour government’s sanctions following the coup in 2006 (though they did grant the Fiji sevens team permission to play in Wellington last year).

Over the years, New Zealand has grown in stature on the world stage, in part as a result of having taken principled (and sometimes unpopular) positions on moral issues.

Yet I had to cringe last night at the incredulity expressed by a friend in the US that we should be pushing ahead with a select committee review on whether climate change is human caused. “We’re all excited that with Obama as president we’ll finally be moving forward on the issue” he said, “where the f— are you guys going?”. Silence.

Reputation and principle aside, it’s much easier to fight from the moral high ground. Key sounded decidedly under-gunned last week in his meeting with Gordon Brown. Key was meant to be appealing the UK’s decision raise departure charges on international travelers as a measure to help offset carbon emissions – a decision likely to impact heavily on the tourism industry here.

The best he seemed to be able to do was “it’s not fair“, “it’s not rational” and “it would be of significant concern to New Zealand“. It’s hard to make an argument based on New Zealand’s (until now) progressive climate change initiatives when back at home you’ve all of a sudden got a committee questioning the reality of the problem. 

And presumably as worldwide momentum builds to address the issue things are only going to get more difficult for us down here in the bottom corner of the world. We’re going to face similar problems over food miles. I just hope Key’s got his arguments sorted – and ACT back in their box – before then.

15 comments on “The moral high ground ”

  1. The labour party lost all credibility when they put sanctions on Fiji, yet allowed the sevens team to play, but wouldn’t allow a football team to come around the same time.

  2. rjs131 2


    Why were visas issued for the North Korean U/17 girls soccer team to play in NZ. Where were the howls of of protests from left bloggers over that? Where were the media releases opposing it by Lynne Pillay, Lesley Soper and Ashaf Choudery? Are you suggesting that things are worse in Fiji than North Korea? Why didnt the former Goverment take the “moral high ground” in that matter?

  3. principessa 3

    Is there still time to organise going and lying down on the tarmac?

  4. To be fair to Mr. Key, such proposals are not dreamed up overnight, and it is likely that had Helen Clark remained Prime Minister following the election, she would have faced the issue of the British traveller’s tax.

    That is not to say that she would not have handled the situation better. But the change in orientation does send out a powerful statement, that New Zealand is now become the last bastion of the climate change skeptics, a fact that is hardly likely to endear us to our increasingly protectionist trading partners.

    The worst thing about CC skeptics is that they constantly assert “check the science” – when the IPCC and over 95% of the international scientific community assert that they believe that CC is anthropogenically caused – the science is pretty clear. Then, the argument shifts to adaption, and benefits of CC, for skeptics. Which for me, fundamentally underlines and focuses their objections back to their extreme liberatarian principles – “that it is all about ‘my right’ to make money“. That is why they have such an extreme credibility problem.

  5. Graeme 5

    Good old collective punishment … only bad when Israel does it.

  6. all_your_base 6

    Brett and rjs131 – difficult as it may be for you to grasp I think there’s more at stake here than party politics – I mentioned the sevens decision in an effort to make that clear. I’m proud of most of the positions this country has taken and the high regard in which it’s held internationally. I’m worried that in a variety of ways that’s being jeopardised only a few weeks into a new administration.

  7. IrishBill 7

    Graeme, that’s an absurd statement.

  8. Graeme 8

    Why should we punish 18 year-old soccer players by refusing them transit through New Zealand? They live in a dictatorship … isn’t that punishment enough?

    Because you happen to love in a country where people have overthrown the government your parents helped elect, we’re going to forbid you from playing soccer… where on Earth is the logic in that?

  9. insider 9

    Didn’t Labour allow some senior Fiji politicians to come for some medical procedure but banned a schoolgirl netball team because one of the girls father was in the army? The whole administration of thing appeared to be driven more by convenience than principle. MCCully seems to have made a reasonable decision on that basis.

    As for moral highgrounds. How easy is it to fight from this moral highground when it was being eroded by the lapping waters of rapidly increasing emissions? And how useful was it to us when it came to the forming of policy on departure taxes. Looks like zero and it happened under Helen’s watch.

    I’d much rather we argued policy we didn’t agree with on the basis of its irrationality than using some thin veneer of moral superiority. If I were on the receiving end I’d be more annoyed by sneering pretence than well structured arguments.

  10. Its digusting that we wont allow to be in transit here, heck if they were a rugby union team they would be allowed it.

    Really pathetic if you ask me.

  11. I really need an edit button. 🙁

    [lprent: The re-edit isn’t working for you ? e-mail me with details of your configuration and I’ll try to reproduce it]

  12. IrishBill 12

    Graeme, the absurdity of your statement was that it implicitly conflated method with rationale.

  13. Bill 13

    Phil Goff.
    NZ sanctioning the sale of nuclear technology to India.
    US free trade talks.

  14. Tigger 14

    Key on the UK situation was embarrassing. And hilarious to watch. Can’t wait for the House to sit again…

  15. Bill 15

    “…I had to cringe last night at the incredulity expressed by a friend in the US that we should be pushing ahead with a select committee review on whether climate change is human caused.”

    Meanwhile, enjoying cross party support ( the Tories back it)….”Included within the bill are provisions to reduce the six main greenhouse gases by 50 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050, compared to baseline levels from the 1990s. The gases covered include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.”


    And backed by such community based incentives as….

    “It’s not only the legislation that’s ambitious; the Scottish Government is taking creative action at all levels to build a greener Scotland. From the £10million international Saltire Prize for advances in marine energy to the £27.4million Climate Challenge Fund for community projects – the Scottish Government is showing its ambition for Scotland and putting its money where its mouth is.”


    Allowing for a bit of overstatement on the proposals at present, it is still a world away from NZ policy and from a similar sized country with far less capacity for revenue collection. Worth noting that whatever eventuates will be in addition to the UK government proposals.

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