Newsroom Pro's 8 things: Long lead time for Zero Carbon Act to win bi-partisan support; NZME-Fairfax merger rejected; Winston not giving up legal action

In today's email we looked into the Government's Carbon Neutral goal, heard some blunt talk from Willie Jackson on his political rivals, and chose our media person of the year.

1. Long lead time for Zero Carbon Act

Jacinda Ardern described climate change as her generation's 'nuclear free moment' during the election campaign and she is hoping a target of New Zealand being net carbon neutral by 2050 becomes a similarly bi-partisan goal.

The early indications are the National Opposition is warming to the idea, in particular with a new climate change spokesman in Todd Muller. There have been no 'gone by lunchtime' comments yet. That's despite then Prime Minister Bill English's declaration during the election campaign he saw no need for such an Act and his comment that voters 'don't get out of bed every morning worried about climate change.'

The Prime Minister and James Shaw yesterday announced the Government would name and start setting up an interim Climate Commission in March or April next year that would operate while the Government consulted widely and tried to win cross-party support for a Zero Carbon Act that targets net zero emissions by 2050.

They said they planned to introduce the bill into Parliament by the end of October next year and pass it during the first half of 2019. The Government had included setting a zero emissions goal and 'begin setting up the Independent Climate Commission' as one of the items in its 100 day plan.

Asked about the long lead time to create the Commission, Ardern and Shaw said fresh macroeconomic research needed to be done and the Government wanted to consult very widely and deeply, including with the Opposition.

"There's quite a lot of economic research we have to do that relates to right across the economy. The last set of me research that we did hasn't been redone since 2013/14 and even then it was a once over lightly approach and it made a number of assumptions that were wildly incorrect, and all of that work has to be updated," Shaw told Ardern's post-cabinet news conference.

"We want to make sure that when we introduce the act that it's based on solid evidence and that we've had good consultation right across the economy, and particularly with key stake holders in business, in the unions and with communities," he said.

Ardern said the interim commission would work on the policy needed to target 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and start plans to plant one billion trees.

"It doesn't mean that all our ambition around climate change goes on hold while the legislation is being drafted. We have an amition to move to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and all our commitments around tree planting -- all of that continues," she said.

Asked the need for a bi-partisan approach, she said: "There are two issues where I hope we're able to build consensus around goals going forward and our legislative framework on how to tackle them. The first was child poverty -- I still have ambitions that we might get cross party support on that -- and the second is climate change."

"We cannot every election cycle, every time there's a change of Government have another conversation around climate change when it's got to be less a conversation around target setting and moving on to establishing what our action plan is and sticking to it."

Shaw also said consensus building was one of the reasons for "taking our time."

"Not only to we need that evidence base, but we want to make sure that our process is really thorough and that we've crossed all our 't's and dotted all our 'i's -- that we've included the opposition, we've included business, we've included farmers and the agricultural communities, that we've included energy companies and the communities where they operate to make sure they feel a part of that process before we've even introduced the legislation," he said.

The full Commission would look to set carbon budgets for the economy and plan to include all sectors of the economy, including Agriculture, which is responsible for around half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

"We've got a pretty steep curve if we're going to hit net zero by 2050. That's true of the whole planet. We've been talking about this for a number of decades. Everyone, not just New Zealand, but all around the world is waking up to the reality that it's time for a little less conversation and a little more action," Shaw said.

Ardern was also confident agriculture could adjust without necessarily reducing output.

"There's a lot of room for us within the agricultural frame to make a lot of technological advancements. We're seeing that even the type of feed that you use to the way you graze can make a difference to our emissions profile. The issue we have is making sure we're undertaking that research that we are at the front of the pack when we're making those advancements, which is why we've always indicated that having a comprehensive regime is one way that we can incentivise that work being undertaken," she said.

National's climate change spokesman Todd Muller was open in his first comments about supporting a Zero Carbon Act and the creation of a Climate Commission. He pointed in particular to the apparent cross-party support for Britain's Independent Climate Commission. The change in tone was noticeable from Bill English's opposition to a Commission or an Act.

"The Government has signalled it will seek Opposition feedback and support in drafting climate change legislation, which we look forward to," Muller said.

"I’m particularly interested in testing how a successful model like the UK Independent Climate Commission might work here."

“Our primary focus for the conversations ahead of us is that any transition to a low carbon economy must ensure local communities can adjust and thrive, rather than seeking accolades from the UN."

The Nuclear Free legislation was also opposed by National at the time it was developed, but was accepted by both sides at the 1990 election. Don Brash's 'gone by lunchtime comment' was the last sign of opposition from National.

The Government will also be hoping the Independent Climate Commission develops the same level of cross-party support that the Reserve Bank Act had in its first 30 years.

2. 'I wanted to destroy the Maori Party'

Newsroom's National Affairs Editor has interviewed Willie Jackson about his transition from being a talkback host with links to the Maori Party to a Labour Minister who almost didn't make it.

Jackson was typically forthright.

When Jackson announced his decision to stand for Labour, he also decided to campaign full-bore on wiping the Maori Party from Parliament.

Having got his wish after co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell was beaten by Tamati Coffey in Waiariki, Jackson is unapologetic.

“I came into the game to destroy the Maori Party, just like their game was to destroy us. Labour wants to destroy National and National wants to destroy Labour, go ask the Pakeha politicians the same question.”

“It’s the game we play, the game we play is take each other out. Not their families or anything, their families are all good people but I was clear from the start as campaign manager we had to take them out.”

He says the Maori Party “gave it a good go” but made strategic mistakes and took the wrong advice at times.

His thoughts are similar on Harawira, who stood in Te Tai Tokerau but was beaten soundly by Kelvin Davis.

In October, Harawira launched a scathing attack on Jackson calling him a “dirty, lowdown skunk” over comments that Maori had moved on from the foreshore and seabed legislation.

Jackson says he is glad Harawira won’t be a disrupting factor in Parliament and was disappointed to see him flinging insults on television.

“What’s our relationship now? Nothing. Will we patch it up one day? Maybe. The kaupapa’s bigger than our own relationships but I’ve made it clear to him don’t get in touch with me again.

“I don’t need to be reminded about being Maori, I was born a Maori, I wake up one every day...that’s an insult.”

See Shane's full article from the interview here on Newsroom Pro, where it was first published yesterday.

3. Media person of the year

Newsroom Co-Editor Tim Murphy has named Guyon Espiner as New Zealand's media person of the year for his stellar performance on Morning Report during the election campaign and for sparking a fresh debate about the use of Te Reo more widely.

Here's Tim's full piece on Newsroom, which I heartily endorse.

4. Winston still wants to sue

Tim is also keeping a close eye on Winston Peters' law suit against Bill English, Steven Joyce and various journalists, including Tim.

He reports Peters has finally filed his own affidavit with the High Court to try to force the respondents to hand over documents - and has confirmed he intends to sue those responsible for news of his superannuation overpayment being made public.

The documents show Peters was in no mood to be friendly with National shortly before the election, when he filed the initial law suit.

Peters claims National wanted him and his party gone from Parliament at the election.

"I believe the National Party election strategy was to damage my reputation, seeking to cause the vote for New Zealand First to drop below the five percent threshold and to prevent me winning the Northland seat, thereby eliminating New Zealand First completely from Parliament."

See Tim's full article on Newsroom.

5. Briefly in our political economy...

Rejected again - The High Court has this morning emphatically rejected an appeal by NZME and Fairfax NZ against the Commerce Commission's May 2017 decision to block their merger. The Court awarded costs to the Commission.

"The appellants’ primary ground of challenge was that the Commission was acting outside its jurisdiction by taking into account the loss of media plurality when weighing the public benefits and detriments of the proposed merger," the Court wrote.

"The High Court has declined this appeal after reaching the same conclusion as the Commerce Commission in respect of four of the six markets subject to the competition analysis, namely: the reader markets for online national news and for Sunday newspapers; and in both the reader and advertisers markets for community newspapers in 10 North Island areas where the appellants’ existing community newspapers compete," it wrote.

"The Court did not uphold the Commission’s view that the proposed merger would have resulted in the likelihood of substantially lessened competition in the advertising market for Sunday newspapers, and it also dismissed the prospect of one of the appellants introducing a pay wall for their online publication, post a merger."

Perhaps most significantly, the Court ruled the Commission could take into account the potential loss of media plurality.

"On all the evidence before the Commission, we consider that it is appropriate to attribute material importance to maintaining media plurality. It can claim status as a fundamental value in a modern democratic society. We cannot be certain that a material loss of plurality will occur because of the factors we review that would hopefully assist in maintaining it. However the risk is clearly a meaningful one and, if it occurred, it would have major ramifications for the quality of New Zealand democracy. In our analysis on the clearance application appeal we have recognised material barriers to entry in the market for production of New Zealand news . We agree with the Commission that a substantial loss of media plurality would be virtually irreplaceable."

The bolding is mine to indicate I agree with the court.

Slightly less confident - ANZ reported its Roy Morgan survey found consumer confidence fell slightly in November, but remained at robust levels.

"Consumer confidence is holding up remarkably well in the face of a slower housing market and increased uncertainty," ANZ Chief Economist Sharon Zollner said. "We suspect the strong labour market has much to do with it. However, there is a hint of wariness in the responses to the forward-looking questions," she said.

"This is consistent with our belief that the economy is experiencing a bit of a lull as a number of growth drivers run out of puff around the same time (migration, housing, and construction in particular) and uncertainty weighs. "

Much more worthy - Statistics New Zealand reported that New Zealanders' net worth rose at its fastest pace in a decade in the year to March 31, mainly because of higher property prices. New Zealanders’ net worth rose $136 billion to $1.5 trillion.

Still expanding - In another sign the economy is not slowing as fast as wider business confidence might suggest, BusinessNZ and BNZ reported their Performance of Services Index (PSI rose 0.7 points to 56.4 points in November from October. Any reading over 50 indicates the sector is expanding.

"Positive signs were widespread across the PSI with expansionary readings seen in the unadjusted results across all industries, regions, sub components, and firm sizes," said BNZ Senior Economist Doug Steel.

Displacement activity - Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced the relocation grant offered to Aucklanders would end from January 15 because the scheme had simply shifted demand for housing to other areas that also had shortages.

6. Briefly in the global political economy...

The penny drops - The new chairman of Newcastle Port, Roy Green (his actual name), said he wanted the world's largest coal export port to shift away from its 90 percent reliance on coal. "There is also an urgent need to diversify the Hunter economy and the port’s business," he said, announcing hopes to bolster container traffic. “Clearly the long-term outlook for coal is a threat to the port and Hunter region," he said (The Guardian)

A senate blockage - Australia abandoned plans to increase fees for New Zealanders studying at Australian universities after budget legislation failed to pass its senate yesterday. (Stuff)

Another euro drama? - The leader of Italy's Five Star movement said overnight Italy should quit the euro unless tight budget restrictions were lifted. Five Star is favoured to win elections in March and has pledged to hold a referendum on euro membership. (Reuters)

7. Coming up...

Parliament resumes at 2 pm for its final sitting week of the year, with the final day expected to be tomorrow.

Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to release international travel and migration data for November on Wednesday at 10.45 am.

It is scheduled to release GDP data for the September quarter at 10.45 am on Thursday.e

8. One fun thing

It's late in the year and close to Christmas, which means I can't resist the odd dad joke here and there.

Here's one courtesy of Stu Fleming: "I bought shares in a startup that sells an innovative kind of highhat cymbals. It’s been the worst investment ever. They go up and down all the time and I’m just scared there’s going to be a big crash at the end."