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Emails show finance minister’s staff tried to keep Treasury criticism secret

Radio NZ reports

Never let the truth get in the way of your lies

Newly-released emails reveal Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s staff tried to keep secret Treasury’s criticism of a government proposal, but were unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, RNZ revealed Treasury had rubbished the so-called “feebate” scheme aimed at promoting electric cars, warning it would have virtually no effect on carbon emissions over two decades.

That advice was obtained by RNZ under the Official Information Act, but fresh correspondence reveals Mr Robertson’s office had tried to stop Treasury from releasing it.

The documents show Treasury initially intended to release its advice in full with just the names and contact details of certain staff redacted.

But officials in the minister’s office were quick to try reverse that decision, first suggesting it be withheld because the advice related to a draft Cabinet paper.

Treasury staff pushed back, saying the draft was “near-final”, so Ombudsman guidance indicated it must be made public.

“We therefore believe the release should remain as it is,” the email said.

The minister’s economic advisor, Alastair Cameron, then tried a different tack, asking Treasury to consider withholding its advice on the grounds of confidentiality.

“As you know, the Govt is yet to make final decisions on the clean car discount and fuel standards, so there may be a case for withholding Treasury’s advice until the decisions are made.”

But, after consulting their legal team, Treasury staff again resisted, saying there was “public interest” in the information being made available to inform debate and feedback.

They also noted Treasury’s position had previously been stated, albeit briefly, in an-already-public Cabinet paper.

“In order to withhold, we must be able to demonstrate the harm that would occur were this information to be released before final decisions,” Treasury said.

“We have not been able to identify any harm, even in discussion with the [Minister’s] Office.”

The intervention, however, did result in some sections of the advice being redacted, notably one paragraph which warned the proposals could cause a “more costly transition” to a low-emissions economy.

Opposition unimpressed

The Opposition unleashed a barrage of attacks on the feebate scheme after its announcement, labelling it a “car tax” which would “penalise” New Zealanders.

National Party transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said it was “frankly outrageous” the Minister’s office had tried to hide important details about the proposal.

“This government said they’d be the most open and transparent in New Zealand history,” he said. “The truth is the exact opposite.”

In a statement, Mr Robertson defended his officials’ behaviour, saying their approach was “common practice” at that stage of the policy-making process.

“My office queried the need to release the information as some of it was still under active consideration and final decisions were yet to be taken.

“The Treasury considered the matter carefully and advised that the material was already in the public domain so it should be released.”

The government’s proposed feebate scheme, unveiled in July, would slap an import fee on heavy-polluting vehicles and use the revenue to subsidise electric, hybrid and low-emission cars.

The plan would run alongside new fuel efficiency standards which would require importers to reduce the average emissions of the vehicles they bring in.

A Treasury report advised against the policy, saying the feebate scheme would reduce emissions by just 1.6 million tonnes over 20 years.

For comparison, New Zealand’s gross emissions are estimated at 80.9 million tonnes per year.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. For comparison, New Zealand’s gross emissions are estimated at 80.9 million tonnes per year.

    Your article doesn’t specify whether it’s tonnes of CO2 or tonnes of ‘carbon’…. but anyway, this is absolutely ludicrous bullshit.

    These climate change fuckwits have got a collective mental illness, but the general population either isn’t intelligent enough or well informed enough to see it.

    Assuming they’re taking about carbon dioxide… just try for a moment to visualise 81 million tonnes of this. It’s a fucking gas which is virtually weightless . It’s only slightly heavier than air, FFS!

    80.9 million tonnes of this ‘evil’ substance is being emitted annually by New Zealanders. Really? And how do they calculate this so accurately? Eighty point nine tonnes! Wow these people must know a thing or two, right? Amazing.

    Seriously, the cunts who come up with this bullshit need a good shooting, and those who mindlessly parrot this superstitious drivel need to be shown up for the idiots that they are.

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    • Seriously. New Zealand desperately needs a political party that will stand up and say in clear language something like this:

      “New Zealand is being led down a path of delusion and economic chaos by the superstitious ‘climate change’ movement and this has to stop. We will immediately withdraw from the Paris Accords, scrap the ETS, stop calculating meaningless ‘carbon’ statistics and work instead towards building our society along rational lines for the good of our children’s future.”

      In follow up interviews in the media, this party’s spokesmen would go on to point out that climate change is a naturally occurring product of solar activity and that any sane society can adapt to it for a tenth of what it costs to go along with the delusion.

      Obviously we won’t ever hear anything like this from the gutless dribbles who call themselves the ‘opposition’. So where is there a person like this with the balls to say it like it is? Is anybody out there????

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      • They are in the same place as those who criticize Islam.

        Criticism of fanatical, death-cults mean you are destroyed. It may be the Labour Party police apparatus knocking on your door, it may be the car with broken brakes. It may simply mean losing your job and being unable to successfully apply for another one.

        The socialists learned well from Islam.

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  2. Seriously looks like treasury is stepping up and making their views known as they should.
    Their advice should be told to the people who pay them i.e. us taxpayers and then the pollies can sepnd their time cchallanging the advice.
    No more secrets.

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    • This voter does. I could not vote for anyone connected to Mr Peters or Ms Ardern. Never ever considered the Green outfit and given the way they have gone with the Coalition we will be safer with them out of the picture entirely.

      The firearms fiasco is a gem in the year of non delivery.

      They rushed through an amendment to the Arms act. Rushed it reduce opportunities for opposition so that is an example of no trustworthy or working for New Zealand. They have a second Arms act amendment and again, a rushed democracy abusing process.

      They will get thumped and deservedly so on this second whack at Licenced Firearm owners but will still have succeeded in disarming some New Zealanders by deceit in process. They do not work for New Zealand as I know it.

      They simply cannot be trusted. None of the components of the current coalition should be enabled to get near the treasury benches In the next election. They need to be tossed so convincingly they do not get back for several election terms.

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