There was a recurring riff behind National’s opposition to two very different Bills on Members’ Day Wednesday. One commonality was that both Bills were voted down by National, Act and United Future, and supported by Greens, Labour, Progressives and Maori Parties.
But the riff I want to highlight is the idea that the problem is so big, and the proposed solution is so small, that it’s better to do nothing than take a step towards the solution. Funnily enough Members’ Bills can only ever be partial solutions due to the constraints of standing orders.
Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Resource Management (Climate Protection) Bill sought to return to the RMA “the consideration of climate change in the granting of air discharge consents and the formulation of regional plans”. The Greens argue that climate change requires responses at all levels – individual, community, council, government and international – and having climate change emissions ignored by the RMA makes for planning and decision that make emissions worse. For example, the commissioners on the Rodney gas station were unable to consider the emissions from that plant as having any impact on the environment. Despite this, one of the arguments used by National’s Nicky Wagner in the debate [not online yet] was that climate change is far too big an issue to leave it to the RMA or Councils to deal with. Well, obviously, but is that a reason not to allow the RMA and Councils to play their part?
Also up for Second Reading was former MP Matt Robson’s Liquor Advertising Bill that would have restricted liquor advertising on television to between 10pm and midnight (currently 8:30pm to midnight). The Bill’s new sponsor, Brendan Burns, acknowledged that the Bill was not the whole answer to the problem, but that: “It confronts what can be done immediately to reduce the harm of alcohol advertising.” Yet, despite National MPs accepting that excessive drinking by young people is a serious problem, National’s Nikki Kaye tried to argued that: “We need to consider the whole problem” as a reason to oppose this step. Despite it being a conscience vote, all National MPs voted nay.
All I can say is that we’d be well advised to apply the motto from Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody: “From little things, big things grow…”