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Populist politics, the backlash of unfettered globalisation

Opinion, by Denis McMahon, chair of the Tauranga-based syndicator & funds manager PMG Ltd

Denis McMahon.

2 weeks into the 2019 financial year, there are some very important trends emerging & playing out in the world which I believe will be affecting our lives, and investments, for some years to come.

The US got off to a good start in January, with most forecasters predicting a good year but not a stellar one. There has been a good deal of exuberance in the US stock market and many commentators are expecting earnings to grow, despite recent volatility.

The World Bank is predicting global growth of 3.1% – again, not spectacular, but something we need to get used to in a global environment of low inflation.

There are housing bubbles in Canada, Australia, China and, as most argue, in New Zealand (specifically in the main centres), although China appears to be stalling at present. Property bubbles are always a cause for concern as they always involve leverage and, as 2007-09 showed only too clearly, once people are unable to service the debt, the dominoes start to tumble.

But for me, the biggest threat to stability & progress around the world is the spectacular rise in populist politics. A lot of this is a backlash against decades of globalisation, as evidenced by the rise in protectionist policies. Ironically, this is happening at a time when the US is stepping back from its traditional role of global leader & guarantor of what is being called the Pax Americana.

Since the end of World War 2, the world has had the US enforcing the spirit of free trade, but I suspect those days are gone. The benefits of globalisation have not been evenly distributed and we are now seeing the backlash.

Globalisation has, since the 1970s, seen the transfer of millions of jobs from the US to emerging countries and that has changed the relative value of capital & labour the world over. One of my favourite historians, Niall Ferguson, has said that around 40 million Americans lost their jobs in the global financial crisis and the backlash is starting to be felt.

The same story is playing out in Europe, where populism is on the rise as a backlash against the EU, who have completely ignored the massive concern shown by many member states over both the EU’s mismanagement of the financial crisis and its apparent failure to stop over a million people entering its member states in an uncontrolled fashion.

As examples:

  • Austria has elected a 31-year-old anti-immigration candidate as chancellor
  • Italy’s populist & digitally progressive Five Star Movement won the most votes, nearly 33% in the 4 March election
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel won the election but it took 5 months of negotiations & compromises for her to be able to form a government because of the strong showing by the populist Alternative for Germany party
  • Our own elections in September, showed an increasing number of people wanted change to the existing National establishment. Although National received the most votes, Labour’s new young, female leader saw support for Labour rise rapidly in the few short weeks leading up to the election.

Ferguson believes it is the beginning of the end for the EU and I suspect he’s right. So, when you start to see the rise in populism coupled with a rise in protectionism, you can well expect disruption in the markets.

Meanwhile, back in “Shortland Street”, business has typically not reacted well to the election of a

Labour-NZ First government, with polls showing a sharp drop in business confidence. To be fair, this is nothing new, as 2000 was a particularly bad year for business following on from the election of the Clark-led government in 1999.

What was different then was that they then had 7 years of arguably the best economic times in decades to mitigate the perceived negativity. They will certainly not have that this time around. With so much uncertainty and a low inflationary environment, it’s hard to see any current justification for a hike in interest rates. However, with Labour clearly signalling their desire for higher wages, this will feed through into the economy and generate some inflationary pressure, possibly resulting in interest rate rises.

We’re certainly seeing some very interesting trends, which all point towards increased market volatility and, in my view, reinforcing the need for a defensive portfolio approach & diversification in your investment strategy.

I’ll watch with much fascination to see what unfolds here & overseas in FY19.


Mr McMahon has been working in, managing & investing in property for 33 years, starting in Auckland, where he managed a property portfolio (including 2 retirement villages) for a local council body, which led to a position as manager of property & legal services for the Tauranga City Council in 1990. This work included rationalising the newly amalgamated authority’s property portfolio over a 2-year timeframe.

He set up Property Managers Ltd in 1994, introducing investors to property syndication. In 2014 with Phil Tushingham, he co-founded Pacific Property Fund Ltd, PMG’s first managed property fund.

In 2013, Mr McMahon became chair of PMG, following the appointment of Scott McKenzie as chief executive.

The portfolios PMG manages include Pacific Property Fund Ltd, which invests in geographically & category-diverse properties; 2 funds which invest in category-specific properties, PMG Direct Office Fund & PMG Direct Fund; and a private equity fund, PMG Capital Ltd.

Disclaimer: The Bob Dey Property Report & Bob Dey Publishing Ltd do not have a policy on opinions & their slant, other than that they ought to relate to property. Bob Dey believes nobody is right 100% of the time, including himself. Opinion pieces such as Denis McMahon’s are presented to you unedited, apart from fitting the website’s style.

Attribution: Denis McMahon.

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On joining the 1%

I suppose I ought to have become excessively rich too. “Ought to”, rather than “could have” or “should have”.

“Ought to” because, although this country has always had its share of people born with a silver spoon in their mouth, it’s also been possible to attain great heights from a lowly start. And, to a great degree, it’s been up to you – but the rules have been changing.

I began writing this as I heard Labour Party leader Andrew Little talk of slashing immigration by the thousands, perhaps 10s of thousands, and of building houses for the out-crowd, and after reading a few items online about the Deep State, the 1% and more rewriting of economics.

Slashing the migrant inflow is easily done, and we won’t have to lift a hand, I’ve been telling people. All we need is for the Australian economy to perk up, and 10s of thousands will be gone again. Including the “pass-throughs”, the people who found it easier to get a New Zealand passport than an Australian one, but really wanted to go to the bigger economy.

Soon the pass-throughs won’t be able to get into Australia so easily though, and we’ll lose their short-term input as well.

Having more people here doesn’t hurt us. Failing to provide for their arrival – or for our “collateral damage”, the people left without home or job or hope – does.

And speculation? It moves on when the opportunities dry up. One way is to increase supply and another, as Mr Little is proposing, is to remove tax inequality.

On building homes, prices & markets

This morning I read various pieces on economics & politics to see where Donald Trump might take us next or what alternatives might gather support, and I made my periodic sortie on to Twitter, visiting long enough to leave a comment on a councillor’s (and National Party conference attender’s) page saying we hadn’t reached record house-building yet, but that consents were high and construction was increasing.

One of the misleading statements on housing statistics recently has been that record dollars spent equates to record construction numbers – ignoring the influences of land & construction inflation (Statistics NZ doesn’t count land in the estimated costs of housing, but it matters to everyone who wants to work to a land:building ratio).

Another misleading theory is that foreigners represent only a tiny percentage of home buyers, so their influence can be dismissed. It can take just one successful bid at auction for the right house on the right street to influence a market, up or down, and a bidder not seeming to care about the price can wield undue influence. There’s been plenty of that in Auckland, but it’s mostly stopped.

You’ll have seen that construction hasn’t started on many of Auckland’s special housing areas with the alacrity the ex-minister kept presuming – there were still catches – and that most of that housing was targeted too high for low-earners to buy in. The US’s tactic to take ownership down to that basement market evolved into an extraordinary rash of worthless subprime mortgages and an international collapse called the global financial crisis, but there are more sensible ways of achieving a wider spread of ownership.

An era of inequality as policy

Since that crisis began, it’s been evident that many of the excessively rich have become filthily excessively rich, and you don’t get invited to go out fishing with them in their tinny because it happens to be longer than a very long wharf, with exclusive entry.

You’ll have read plenty about the 1% grabbing all the money, that it’s not trickling down to the rest of us. And in the US, how the Deep State controls all the levers, but you’re never quite sure who this Deep State is or how to belong to it.

From most articles about this mystical beast, ordinary mortals aren’t invited. Right family, right school, right university, right employer, all of those and you’re in.

You can break in, though sometimes you might have to pick the lock.

It would come as no surprise, given my job, that I’ve conversed with a high proportion of New Zealand’s 1% over the years – some there by inheritance, many on their way up – and they come in a range of political hues, partly, I think, because so many have climbed from a low rung and haven’t followed orthodox courses to the upper echelons.

Those upper echelons exist in both the corporate & public sectors, and paths within the 2 have become closely related, starting when the corporate sector crashed & burned in 1987. In the preceding 3 years, as the neoliberal mindset began to dominate, corporate salaries began to be topped up with various extras such as options, warrants & bonus shares.

Come October 1987, many of the leading companies ceased to exist and bonus shares & options were of no value, but the notion that executives deserved far more pay clung on. It had far less to do with performance than with who held the voting power at company meetings. It was an international affair, enabled by majority shareholdings being under the control of institutions which didn’t disagree with the notion.

The public sector, meanwhile, chased higher executive earnings to maintain staff quality.

The inequality which continues to grow can be rearranged through taxes & earnings ratios (for example, relating the cleaner’s pay to the chief executive’s, much as minimum pay could be worked out on a ratio instead of a fixed figure).

Here, the Deep State constitutes political insiders who include senior public sector executives and corporate, bank & finance sector leaders.

Many of our 1% made their money in the 1980s and kept it, some by the skin of their teeth, and through judicious investment since then have become multi-millionaires.

I reflected today, instead of swearing the oath of poverty by choosing a career as a journalist, I might have turned off at one of the many corners that crop up on your way forward in New Zealand. Into one or another aspect of the sharemarket, or an inside instead of outside position in property, for example. But I didn’t, and so ensured I wouldn’t become a 1%er.

Nor did I aspire to become a member of the Deep State (or anyone inside it to even think of hiring me).

So, having failed right from the first paragraph of this article, I bring you some other writers’ insights on how insiders succeed in growing their position at the outsider’s expense, how the art of propaganda has advanced well beyond the understanding of many of us, and – this one is a dark delight – how people in an inconsequential town in Macedonia played a fake-news role in the US election, and what most unlikely reason drove them to it.

Counterpunch, 15 March 2017: How bankers became the top exploiters of the economy
Quartz, 13 May 2017: 21st-century propaganda: A guide to interpreting and confronting the dark arts of persuasion
Wired, 15 February 2017: Inside the Macedonian fake-news complex

Attribution: Comment.

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Policies fit for purpose – the electorate rejected the communal model

[This article is a post-election commentary about ways forward.]

Green co-leader Russel Norman: “The dominant ideas of the last generation are no longer fit for purpose.”

The election majority: “We’re sticking with them.”

I was surprised by a handful of outcomes from the election. I expected National to win, but more narrowly. I thought the Greens might rise enough to start challenging Labour as Opposition leader, as Labour works on the choice between being broad left-wing versus more narrowly focused advocate for the labour force, and the Greens at last start to get a smattering of economic nous.

And I was most surprised that tens of thousands of voters could cast a vote for the candidate of one party (notably Labour, especially its leader & former leaders), then party vote for a direct opponent (notably switching to National). Those voters were telling these candidates they would support their presence in Parliament, but not in government.

The Greens campaigned on a platform of “cleaner, fairer, smarter” and, while Labour was infighting & uncertain during the last 3 years, the Greens stepped into a leadership role of looking to the future rather than management of today.

Co-leader Russel Norman highlighted 3 issues in his closing campaign speech on 18 September: contesting asset sales, opposing the SkyCity convention deal and advocating for clean rivers. Each of these issues has an economic, social or environmental basis which sets the Greens apart from both National & Labour.

In that speech, Mr Norman said: “Elections should throw up new thinking to help drive our country forward because the dominant ideas of the last generation are no longer fit for purpose. They have left our environment & too many of our people in trouble. We need new thinking to take on the increasingly complex challenges we face as a country, and as a human race. National has completely failed to grasp this….”

No government seeking a third term is going to advocate much change – that would be telling the electorate what it’s done in the first 6 years was wrong.

The question now is, for both the Government and for opponents’ ideas: ‘Where to next?’ From this website’s perspective, that question concerns economic policy, property, resource management, transport, local government.

During Helen Clark’s third term in office, her government increasingly turned to self-preservation as first option. That option, I think, guaranteed defeat. National incorporates self-preservation along the way, only occasionally launching into bolder policy initiatives. It’s felt safe heading to the right on resource management, will feel it has support to continue implementing those reforms and will feel less need to accommodate opposing views.

As billions of dollars are spent on remedying & litigating leaky building errors, a basic National philosophy – that safeguards are an expense to be avoided if possible – will prevail. It will also continue to prevail through the housing accord mechanism for ramping up residential development, where the emphasis on speed will put construction ahead of providing infrastructure such as efficient & cost-effective access, and social infrastructure such as sports facilities & other community amenities.

Likewise, in transport more generally, National will see the vote as a mandate to continue the Roads of National Significance programme and to limit support for expanding public transport networks. Urban congestion will grow, but this will be a problem for somebody else to fix later.

Economist Gareth Morgan wrote on his blog 3 days before the election: “Overall it is almost impossible for the average voter to sort their way through [transport policies]. Which policy really is best? This is more confused when local authority plans for public transport are based on the government roading plans for their area. Why not have one, agreed, ideal plan for transport in our major cities that covers road, rail, cycling & walking?”

The Government’s NZ Transport Agency looks after highways, including highways running through cities, and provides funding at lower levels. In Auckland, creation of the super-city means Auckland Transport manages what was previously a fragmented transport network.

You could argue that all city transport & networks could be managed by the city, and funded directly. You could also argue that central government could manage everything, but to do that it would still require local managers & knowledge. And you could argue that local networks could be managed locally – in Auckland, now, ward by ward – which would effectively return Auckland to the previous local government setup.

You could also accept the Morgan recommendation of a single plan, which would identify the poor transition between motorway & the urban street network as the major congestion cause.

Under all of those models, transport & access are treated as something separate when they should be treated as integral. Cost:benefit ratios are mostly focused on the route & service provided rather than the potential wider economic gains and potentially drastic lifestyle changes. To take that wider view you need to dream a bit – what kind of city, what kind of suburb, where will people work, how will they spend their free time, should the spending on infrastructure lead them in certain directions?

Dr Morgan advocated depoliticising road & public transport funding, but there’s always going to be an argument about what’s best, and what’s best can change. Cycling is a transport means from the past which is gaining new popularity, increased urban living makes walking more practical for many, public transport is useful for regular commutes but also requires inbuilt flexibility to meet new demands, the availability of anytime private transport is a luxury whose benefits are readily enjoyed but whose true cost is rarely examined.

As an example of managing resources, when the infrequent use of many suburban streets is considered, do they need to have 2 lanes of seal? Although advocates of more extensive business land availability push for greenfield expansion, is there a case instead for more intensive business use of existing land – multi-storey commercial & industrial premises?

National will continue its roads-based strategy. Advocates of alternatives will have to produce deep & imaginative research and, for Auckland, ideas which transcend the mostly narrowly focused submissions process on the council’s unitary plan.

Resource management generally needs better than a tightening or loosening of controls in accordance with political shifts. National is intent on loosening controls on development and tightening controls on council activity. The loosening amounts to dismantling a model built up over 2 decades to better understand outcomes of land use, which ought to have brought evident benefits. Unfortunately the model was accompanied by regulatory excess, so the tightening is aimed at strapping councils in rather than offering them space to do a more limited job better.

National has been directing New Zealanders toward more personal responsibility, toward personal investment & less state intervention, and I think that undercurrent is what brought more support for National, gradually building up over 6 years. The excitement of revelations, the possibility that leaders were doing things they shouldn’t, didn’t outweigh the core view implanted by this government that individuals can decide the course of their own lives and pay less to look after others. First, it’s selfish; second, it’s a societal shift.

Advocates of less self-indulgence & more communal support will have a hard job being heard, as advocates of restraining public spending hold the upper hand.

Links: Russel Norman, campaign close
Gareth Morgan, blog 17 September 2014: Politicians not experts on transport – Why trust them to make smart decisions

Attribution: Norman campaign close, Morgan blog, own comments.

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Ken Shirley expresses his contrary-to-Kyoto view

Act’s pending release of a new party book, Old Values — New Ideas, reminded me that I’d intended to add a Ken Shirley piece on the Kyoto treaty to this website’s new Philosophy section.

Mr Shirley’s contribution to the new book — this item — was posted on Act’s website on 31 January.

The first item in this website’s Philosophy section was a piece I took from Act leader Richard Prebble’s Letter from Wellington in early March, where he argued the new 4.7c/litre petrol tax was for politics, not roads.

The only changes to the Shirley piece are style differences & the addition of sub-headings.

The Kyoto Protocol — The Emperor’s new clothes

Displaying messianic zeal, the Labour/Alliance government of New Zealand is determined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 irrespective of the resulting economic damage & erosion of New Zealander’s living standards.

For many within the international community climate change has become “flavour of the decade.” It has dominated political agendas and captured a disproportionate share of publicly funded science.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted & signed by over 170 countries at the United Nations Convention for Environment & Development held in Rio de Janeiro during June 1992. This “earth summit” was the biggest jamboree imaginable. When combined with the parallel global forum attended by non-governmental organisations it comprised over 10,000 delegates. Most world leaders & heads of state attended, together with a vast assortment of enthusiasts ranging from Jacques Cousteau, Jane Fonda, Al Gore & the Maori queen. It is hard to imagine a more eclectic bunch gathered in one place – all determined to save the planet from imminent disaster.

In the years following the earth summit numerous international forums involving the signatory parties toiled to develop a response involving preventative actions. This process culminated with the Kyoto Protocol adopted in December 1997 and refined by subsequent meetings.

As the Kyoto Protocol currently stands, the developed nations of the OECD, together with some former communist countries, will upon ratification undertake to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions either to a level prevailing in 1990, or to some agreed fraction of the 1990 level by 2012. This group of 34 nations with commitment obligations are referred to as the Annex 1 countries.

Although they are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, the developing countries have no binding emission restraints in the first commitment period between 2008 & 2012. Instead it is anticipated that they will agree to such obligations in the subsequent commitment periods. If that does not occur a global curtailment in emissions will not be possible.

While the signing of the convention binds countries to its purpose, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol cannot be undertaken until countries have in place the legal means to fulfil their commitment. This will include such things as legislation for carbon charges & emission permits. The New Zealand government is moving to enact such legislation early in 2002.

Japan joins US in not signing

There is a 55/55 trigger mechanism for the framework convention on climate change to become operative. At least 55 of the 186 signatory countries must ratify and at least 55% of the C02 emissions for Annex 1 countries as identified in 1990 must be included. The US has refused to ratify and accounts for 36.1% of this total. Europe accounts for 24%, the Russian Federation 17.4%, Japan 8% & New Zealand 0.2%. At the last meetings of the parties in Marrakesh the Europeans placed considerable pressure & inducement on Russia & Japan to ratify in order to attain the 55% trigger threshold. Initially Japan succumbed to this pressure but in January 2002 reversed its decision and now joins the US in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in its present form.

To date Romania is the only Annex 1 country to have ratified the protocol but numerous other parties to the climate change convention, including New Zealand, have signalled their intention to ratify during 2002. In part this timetable is set to coincide with the Rio 10 Earth Summit 2 being held in South Africa.

Poorer beneficiaries keener to sign

Not surprisingly, the non-Annex 1 countries, which have no obligations whatsoever, have been more enthusiastic with 45 nations of this group already ratifying the Kyoto Convention. Undoubtedly these countries
see windfall gains based on direct monetary & technological transfers. In addition they stand to gain as industries relocate away from Annex 1 countries to avoid carbon taxes & other compliance costs associated with the Kyoto Protocol.

What is the problem?

In all endeavours it is prudent to first define & attempt to understand the nature of a problem before attempting remedial action. It is equally prudent to proceed with any remedial action reasonably confident that the intended goal will likely be attained. Neither of these pre-conditions has been met with the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate change is an undeniable fact. From its inception Planet Earth has experienced dynamic and often dramatic climatic change. The real question is not “climate change” but rather to what extent human activity is contributing to global warming through accumulated greenhouse gas emissions. What are the likely consequences of these accumulated emissions and what, if anything, can sensibly be done to ameliorate any adverse impact?

Changes in context

Let’s put climate change in context. The last 2 million years are referred to as the Ice Age because of cool fluctuating global climates & the formation of massive ice sheets in higher latitudes. There have been about 30 major oscillations between cold “glacial” & warm “inter glacials” over the past 2 million years. The peak of the last glaciation was 20,000 years ago when sea levels were 130m lower than at present because of the volume of ocean water locked up in the massive ice sheets. In New Zealand this meant that forest growth was restricted to what is now the north of the North Island with Taranaki & Nelson being joined in one land mass.

In the Northern Hemisphere a 2km-thick ice sheet extended as far south as London & Paris. Today 6m of sea-level equivalent are locked away in the Greenland ice sheet, 6m in the relatively small & unstable West Antarctic ice sheet, and a massive 60m in the huge East Antarctic ice sheet.

The present inter-glacial period has so far lasted 16,000 years with sea levels reaching their present level about 6000 years ago and since then remaining at a relatively constant level. Given this regular oscillation it would arguably be more sensible to be preparing for what will inevitably be the next Ice Age.

Climate change cyclical

On a shortened time cycle we similarly see a regular pattern of fluctuating climate. Oxygen isotope ratios in the skeletons of small organisms measured in both the Sargasso Sea and peat bogs in north-east China both show a period significantly warmer than present between 3000 and 1000 BC.

The medieval period 7th to 14th century was a period of milder weather & more benign climate than today. During these times grapes grew on the Scottish border, the Danes settled & farmed Greenland, where today we see perma-frost. The Polynesian migrations to Aotearoa occurred in this period.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the world experienced a mini ice age with rivers such as the Thames freezing every winter. For the past 300 years the world has experienced warmer climates with short-term fluctuations throughout this period closely paralleling the 11-year solar cycle.

This century

The third assessment report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was issued in March 2001. This report claimed that the Earth’s surface has warmed by 0.6° centigrade and is likely to have been the largest rise of any century during the past 4000 years. The IPCC also reports that the planet has lost 10% of its snow cover since 1960, while Arctic sea ice has not only thinned by some 40% since the 1950s, the surface area that it covers during the spring & summer is also down by 10-15%. IPCC reports claimed that this was unprecedented in recorded history.

This claim is clearly refuted by a letter written in 1817, by the president of the Royal Society addressed to the British Admiralty, recommending they send a ship to the Arctic to investigate the dramatic changes in sea ice.

The following is an extract from that letter (Refer Royal Society London 20 November 1817. Minutes of Council Vol 8 pages 49-153): “A considerable change of climate inexplicable at present to us must have taken place in the circumpolar regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been, during the last 2 years, greatly abated.”

“2000 square leagues of ice which the Greenland seas between the latitudes of 74° and 80°N have been hitherto covered, has in the last 2 years entirely disappeared.”

“The floods which have the whole summer inundated all those parts of Germany where rivers have their sources in snowy mountains, afford ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened.” The latest IPCC report concludes that there is now “even stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activity.”

Bureaucrats produce highly political documents

Unfortunately IPCC reports are highly political documents produced by a very large committee of bureaucrats. They are notorious for misinterpreting & misreporting scientific evidence. In 1996 a chapter of the final report officially approved by the full IPCC in Rome was subsequently radically altered by a working group chairman.

Several statements in the approved report which said there was no indication of any human influence on climate were removed. The substituted text read: “The balance of the evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on climate change.”

The present level of carbon dioxide, the main heat trapping or greenhouse gas generated from the burning of fossil fuels is up 31% from the level prevailing in 1750. The IPCC points out that the present level has not been exceed in the past 420,000 years and likely not during the past 20 million years.

Changes attributed to equipment location

On the other side of the ledger many scientists take the view that the extremely small global warming of only 0.6° centigrade in the past 140 years is fallacious and is caused by small long-term changes in the thermal properties around the measuring equipment and not by changes in the ambient climate. Thus the fall in recorded surface temperatures from 1940 to 1975 was due to the removal of weather stations from inner-city locations to out-of-town sites, particularly exposed airports. The rise recorded between 1975 to 2000 can be explained by heat generated from airport development & the closing of many rural stations.

In support of the conclusion that “global warming” is an artefact of closeness to humans is the fact that all measurements of global temperature that are made far from human habitation show no signs of
any warming.

Global temperature measurements which show no warming include:

Measurement of the thickness of tree rings & other proxies for the past 600 years

Measurements made by weather balloons for the past 52 years

Measurements made by Nasa satellites (the only true global measurement) for the past 21 years

Many remote surface weather stations including records from such New Zealand stations as the Chatham Islands and Hokitika.All of these measurements, both on the surface & in the lower atmosphere, record temperature fluctuations due to volcanic eruptions & oceanic weather patterns such as El Nino & La Nina but do not show a steady warming of the combined surface record.

Sea levels

Moreover recent satellite measurements of mean ocean sea level show that the sea level is not currently rising. Satellite measurements since 1992 have proved that mean sea levels have hardly changed. Dire predictions of submerged island nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, together with the inundation of the Ganges Delta have been shown to be nothing but sensationalised nonsense. Not surprisingly those developing nations who have no commitment or obligation under the Kyoto Protocol but stand to gain considerably from transfer payments & relocated industries are more than happy to perpetuate the myths.

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Levels operated by Proudman Oceanic Laboratory gives comprehensive sea level records for the globe (see their website There is no discernible increase in sea levels in the Pacific Islands in the past 20 years of records:

Funu Futi, Tuvalu — no change for the past 24 years

Tarawa, Kiribati — no change for the past 12 years

Nauru — no change for 26 years

Honiara, Solomons — no change for 26 years

Johnston Atoll — no change for 50 years.Rise in sea levels a fallacy

Based on records over the last 50 years the general belief that sea levels are rising had been proven to be completely without foundation.

While there has been a considerable recorded increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations we have not seen a commensurate increase in global temperatures. This can be explained in part by the fact that atmospheric CO2, along with the other greenhouse gases — water vapour & methane — absorbs outgoing radiation only in specific wave bands. Scientists have reported that these particular wave bands are already at saturation point.

Therefore no more infra-red radiation can be absorbed even if we double or treble atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In any event CO2, the completely oxidised form of carbon, cannot be regarded as a pollutant. It is after all the essential element in the photosynthesis of all plant growth.

The oceans of the world play a critical part in the carbon cycle. Atmospheric CO2 readily dissolves in seawater with the soluble CO2 concentration in the oceans being 50 times greater than in the atmosphere. The insoluble carbonates in oceans account for 50,000 times the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere. The absorption or
release of CO2 from the oceans is temperature dependent. It is estimated that 800 billion tonnes of carbon is recycled naturally each year. Since 1850 24 billion tonnes has been generated annually from human activity, with over half being absorbed by the oceans.

The IPCC models have always & continue to assume that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing exponentially at 1% per annum. This stance is retained in the 2001 report despite all evidence demonstrating that the rate of increase is 0.3% per annum.

Scientifically the greenhouse scare & hype has been substantially rebutted but the global bureaucratic machine created to respond to it is self-perpetuating & feeding on its own myths. In all probability future generations will look back with considerable amusement at the nonsense surrounding the present-day debate.

The remedy

The Kyoto Protocol purports to be a market-based mechanism to manage the environment risk of human induced global warming. The introduction of greenhouse gas emission charges is intended as a means of changing the behaviour of businesses and society generally. The need to cut emissions can be offset by carbon sinks that lock up atmospheric carbon.

Afforestation is the main sequester of carbon.

In New Zealand the burning of fossil fuels accounts for 45% of our greenhouse gas emissions with agriculture accounting for 55%, principally methane & nitrous oxides.

Initially it was thought that New Zealand stood to benefit from windfall gains under the framework convention of climate change with our extensive areas of newly planted pine forests. These early hopes have been dashed. 75% of our commercial forests were planted prior to 1990 and consequently generate no carbon credits. The subsidy to post-1990 forests in the form of a carbon credit will increase plantings & log supplies from non-Annex 1 countries with pricing distortions that will place the bulk of New Zealand’s commercial forests at a disadvantage.

This problem has been greatly exacerbated by the “sweetheart” deal used to entice Russia’s ratification of the protocol. Russia has an estimated 51% of the world’s standing stock of softwoods (pine, spruce, fir). At the Marrakesh meeting in late 2001 a regime of enhanced carbon credits for Russia’s vast natural forests was agreed to. This concession can only further depress the international price of wood fibre and erode New Zealand’s comparative advantage.

Gloomy outlook for wood processing

The story is even gloomier when we consider wood processing. Here the Kyoto Protocol results in higher transport & energy costs.

On the one hand the Government champions more added-value processing in New Zealand utilising the wall of wood to create growth in the regions & new jobs. Under the Kyoto Protocol the competitiveness of New Zealand’s wood products and pulp & paper sections will be reduced. There will be no incentive to invest in new processing plants here. Rather investment will occur in the non-Annex 1 countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, India, Chile, Brazil, Argentina etc. We will continue to export large quantities of raw logs but even here we will be at a disadvantage.

The situation for aluminium, cement, steel & methanol production is even worse. New Zealand’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will inevitably result in the closure of our two cement works in Whangarei & Westport. Jobs will be lost, product will be imported & global emissions of CO2 will be unchanged.

Undoubtedly the biggest impact on the New Zealand economy will be in the pastoral farming sector & its associated processing industries. Under the Kyoto Protocol 1 tonne of methane, the chief agriculture greenhouse gas, has the global warming potential of 23 tonnes of carbon dioxide. A single dairy cow produces about 75kg of methane/year, equivalent to over 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Atmospheric concentration of methane increased by 150% globally over the past 250 years while carbon dioxide concentrations increased by 31%. Obviously it is more politically expedient for the champions of climate change to concentrate their propaganda on the developed world’s use of fossil fuels rather than methane

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research published a report in November 2001 providing a quantitative evaluation on the economic effects of greenhouse gas emission policies. The NZIER concludes that
the economic effects of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are likely to be substantial. New Zealander’s livelihoods & living standards will be adversely affected. An accumulating 1%/year reduction in gdp growth is predicted. This results in gdp being 18% lower after 15 years.

Overall the analysis shows that the New Zealand economy will adjust to climate change policies primarily through the shutting down or reducing production in the emitting sectors rather than by substituting inputs. Since both New Zealand & the world will continue to demand the outputs, the overall global emissions are
unlikely to be reduced. Developing country suppliers will be able to step up production to substitute for the output lost in New Zealand.


There is no reliable evidence that global temperatures have increased either naturally or because of human activity. The predicted sea-level rises have not occurred.

The Kyoto Protocol as an intended remedy is fundamentally flawed. It will damage the economies of the developed world. It is unfair and it does not achieve the stated purpose of reducing global CO2 emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol is driven by fraudulent science, voodoo economics & political chicanery.

Why would New Zealand want to ratify it?

[The content above is from the emailed report by Act MP Ken Shirley, unedited apart from style differences & the addition of sub-headings.

As I wrote when the Prebble piece appeared: What am I doing running straight political speeches, in election year, on roads (in that item, on global warming in this one), instead of concentrating on property?

The subject matter of roads or global warming/world decisions/impact on forestry/impact on land values has an impact on property in numerous ways.

The idea of running such items has been with me for a while — not necessarily political, but statements that seem to advance the philosophical debate.

You won’t see lots of these items on this website, but feel free to suggest — or contribute — items, and to comment on them. I expect they’ll generally slot into a Sector/Philosophy category.]

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Prebble says 4.7c petrol tax for politics not roads

Political directive to Transit takes us back 40 years, says Act leader

Act Party leader Richard Prebble puts a different spin on most things, so it’s no surprise to see him fire a few well-aimed shots across the motorway debate in his Letter from Wellington today:

Last week Labour broke its clearest promise — “read my lips, no new taxes” — to impose a 4.7c petrol tax. Why? Labour’s polls say Auckland traffic has become an election issue.

It’s an example of how an Opposition party can change opinion. It was the Act Party that first advocated for completion of Auckland’s motorway network. John Banks made it part of his mayoral election strategy.

Transport Minister Mark Gosche last election campaigned against widening the Southern Motorway that goes through his electorate.

The No 1 roading priority in Auckland is widening the motorway between Otara and Otahuhu. The project has the support of the Auckland Regional Council, Auckland City Council, Manukau City & the two community boards in the area through which the motorway runs.

31 houses are affected. Most are rental properties and the owners were delighted to sell, as Transit’s valuations are way above market.

Mr Gosche, as Transport Minister, could not interfere directly so he got Helen Clark to write to Transit, asking it to review the project. The review has caused a delay of at least 24 months — work won’t start until 2003 — and delayed every motorist on the southern motorway by about 10 minutes every night.

Labour realised it had to do a U-turn to meet public opinion. What’s more dramatic than a petrol tax?

Roading politics

The petrol tax will raise $182 million a year. The government has siphoned off $101 million for the “green package” & other spending. Just $81 million is for roads. Normally, Auckland gets about a third of roading spending so it could expect about $27 million – not enough to make a difference. So why was John Banks so enthusiastic about the package? The Letter understands a national transport strategy will be drawn up, directing Transit to give priority to Auckland’s roads. Auckland will receive an extra $73 million from the directive – the maximum the government claims the roading industry can use in a year.

This will be political dynamite. No government has given a political directive to Transit for over 40 years.

New Zealand politics used to be about “roads and bridges”. This led to a massive misdirection of the roading vote. So politicians set up the National Roads Board — now Transit — to allocate money for roads on a non-political basis. It’s been the longest-standing political agreement in New Zealand.

If Transit can be directed to build Auckland motorways, then why not Wellington’s Transmission Gully or a scenic route in Southland?

Package will make things worse

The Greens, in return for supporting the package, not only got $3 million for walking and $30 million for rail, but also a promise of a new, more lengthy process for motorway approval. Sue Kedgley has publicly said she believes this means the Wellington bypass won’t proceed. The bypass was planned 40 years ago, approved in 1994 & nothing’s been built.

The Mayoral Forum and the Business Forum agree the real reason for the failure to complete Auckland’s motorways is the Resource Management Act. Even with the extra spending, the RMA means the eastern & western corridors won’t be built by the 2007 target date. Clark has ruled out changes to the RMA.

So Labour last week:

got itself $101 million election bribe money
convinced the Holmes Show it was fixing Auckland’s roads
promised the Greens that new planning procedures would stop motorway extensions.And Banks says it’s the best thing since the Auckland Harbour Bridge. No wonder Labour’s polling so well.

[The content above is from Richard Prebble’s Letter from Wellington, unedited apart from style differences.

What am I doing running straight political speeches, in election year, on roads, instead of concentrating on property?

2 things: 1, these pieces of road impact on property in numerous ways (which is way I’ve run lots of snippets about transport over the past 2 years).

2: the acceptance speeches looked pretty unctuous to me; Mr Prebble has a habit of digging differently.

The idea of running such items has been with me for a while — not necessarily political, but statements that seem to advance the philosophical debate.

2 recent pieces fitted the category — one from Laila Harré & the other from Ken Shirley. I’ll dig them out. You won’t see lots of these on this website, but feel free to suggest — or contribute — items, and to comment on them. I expect they’ll generally slot into a Sector/Philosophy category.]

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