I laughed out loud as I read the National Business Review’s article about how keen National is to fast track the development of a single market. Apparently Gerry Brownlee didn’t get the memo, as he has summarily torn up a long standing, well developed standards agreement with Australia in his first few weeks. The article, which is not online, opens with:
The global financial crisis has had a perverse, albeit welcome, effect of creating an unprecedented willingness on the part of politicians, business, and regulators to accelerate the development of a single economic market involving Australian and New Zealand.
There are cogent arguments for and against a truly single market, but that is not what I wish to debate here. What I want to point out is that where we already have agreed standards with Australia, the government is undermining them for cheap political gain.
When the Minister of Energy instructed EECA to completely rethink the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for incandescent bulbs and TVs, purely for political grandstanding, he undid years of work between our two governments and industry that had finally struck a balance between our needs and those of Australia.
We implemented a joint performance standard that allowed industry to manage products across both our markets in a staged and sensible way. New Zealand chose not to ban incandescent bulbs but to phase them out gently via the performance standards, whereas Australia chose a short, sharp cut off. This subtle market independence was thought to be as important as the joint standard.
Now we have cut ourselves adrift, leaving industry players wondering what to do and opening ourselves up as a dumping ground for everyone else’s inefficient products as China, the US and the EU are also introducing the same performance standards.
The joint MEPS standards we have with Australia are important. They protect Kiwis from substandard appliances, save us all money and make it easier for trans-tasman businesses to operate. Why, then, are we undermining all of this work just to score political points?