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The election, the G20, and the climate – very simply: a matter of priorities

By: MP Kennedy Graham

In New Zealand, we observe the quaint constitutional custom of having the political leader of the nation decide the date of the next election.

This of course is done with the utmost objectivity.  Yesterday Prime Minister John Key chose 20 September.

The objective reasons he advanced were that a number of leaders of the G-20 have expressed an interest in visiting New Zealand, and that would not be possible in the midst of an election campaign.   He did not identify who the leaders might be – we are left to take him at his word.

The G-20 meeting this year is to be held in Australia, and it has invited New Zealand along.  Government ministers are beside themselves with excitement.  It is the first, and probably the last, time New Zealand will appear in the company of the economic majors.

Mr Key went further: “given the frequency of large international events like the G-20 and APEC in November, September elections should be the norm”.

So, through Mr Key’s worldview, in determining an issue that has constitutional implications for New Zealand – whether there should be a ‘norm’ or a ‘fixed date’ for each general election – we should have more regard to international meetings (some of which we are actually not, as of right invited to) than to what is best for the formal expression of our nation’s electoral opinion.

This reveals with a new clarity the political priorities of John Key’s leadership.  He pins it on a G-20 meeting.

In doing so, he is either oblivious or indifferent to the more important meeting taking place in New York three days after the election date he has announced.   This is the Climate Summit at the United Nations in New York.  If international meetings are the determinant, he got it wrong.

On 23 September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to the Summit.  He says:

I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process.”

The Prime Minister turns his back on the UN and the global climate and embraces the G-20 and economic growth.

The G-20 has no formal charter and lacks true legitimacy.  As Norway’s foreign minister observed in 2010:

“The G-20 is a self-appointed group. Its composition is determined by the major countries and powers. It may be more representative than the G-7 or the G-8, in which only the richest countries are represented, but it is still arbitrary. We no longer live in the 19th century, a time when the major powers met and redrew the map of the world. No one needs a new Congress of Vienna.”

But that is John Key’s worldview.  He enjoys posing with the big players, less so the total group.  And besides, climate protection is not exactly the key Government’s strongest visiting card.  We have arguably the worst track record on 1990-2010 emissions of all developed countries.

John Key’s worldview is mercantilist, and a rather cheap one at that.  He sees the world as a market, pure and simple.  He has no truck with the UN and with non-monetarised aspects of foreign or domestic policy.

Today in the House, his Justice Minister was questioned, yet again, over her endorsement of a milk product in a company in China in which her husband is a director.  Her shrill reply:

I will continue to do everything I can to support ‘New Zealand Inc’, especially when I am overseas”. 

03/12/2014 – 17:02


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