Monday, 14 September 2009

back from conference

whew, what a weekend! i've been in rotorua on friday, saturday and sunday at the labour party annual conference. the most important day for me was friday, which is sector day. i had to be at a couple of sector meetings during the day, both of which went well. women's sector was particularly excellent, very well-attended with a lot of buzz in the room.

i've also, this year, been elected to nz council from my region - which is a big responsibility. i'm still new to the role and finding my feet, but i feel honoured that the waikato-bay of plenty region chose me to be their representative. i'm probably the first person from an ethnic minority community (being not maori or pasifika) to get to the council, and what's really inspiring for me is that i've done it via a generally contested position.

so yes, that also took up a bit of time. the friday night conference opening was a cracker, and andrew little really stepped up to the mark. he spoke so well about labour values, and with real passion and conviction. and then there was jim anderton, who was, well, jim anderton. full of common sense and practical ideas.

the saturday workshops were great, and there's some good coverage over at red alert. i'll cover some of the issues over the next few days, as i get time. today, i wanted to talk about the economics workshop, where we got to hear from lachlan mckenzie of federated farmers & selwyn pellet of endace.

first of all, let me say that i was really pleased that mr mckenzie presented at a labour conference, and that he got a pretty fair hearing. i didn't get to hear his speech myself, it's covered very briefly by trevor mallard. but i was there for the questions, and there were a couple asked about the ETS and the delay for the agriculture sector.

mr mckenzie didn't directly answer one of these questions, and to another his reply was something along the lines of the fact that the technology to reduce agricultural emissions hadn't been developed yet, so the sector needed more time. he said that if there were measures that farmers could take, then they would be taking them, but unfortunately these measures hadn't yet been found.

i thought that was incredibly frustrating. who does he think is going to find those measure, and where is the technology supposed to come from? fed farmers were pretty virulently opposed to a small tax that would fund such research. they have supported a government that campaigned on scrapping the $700 million fast forward fund and the R&D tax credit, which said government actioned as soon as it could.

he showed no responsibility, on behalf of his organisation or his sector, for coming up with any kind of solutions, and that's what angers me. after all, even if you put aside all the social and moral arguments (and i don't think that we should), the economic success of the farming sector depends on them reducing emissions. i remember rod oram making this point several times, and stating that he couldn't understand why the sector wasn't rushing to develop and embrace climate change policy. we're already on the back foot with our geographical distance from major markets, so we have to work hard in other areas to remain competitive.

it's doubly annoying because this lack of action and of taking responsibility (and mostly downright oppostion) by the agricultural sector will mean that we all suffer, as a country. while mr mckenzie did talk a lot of sense about other areas, this is one that left me feeling pretty disappointed.

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