Q&A with Jack Tame.
Chris Hipkins' vision for Aotearoa and why he's choosing to make Climate Change worse.
This morning saw the first major political interview of the year. The first interview of Chris Hipkins with Q&A since he became Prime Minister.
Which Jack Tame would turn up? The one that asks the tough questions or the one that floats up great juicy patsy questions. You never quite know what you’ll get with Jack, I wonder if he decides on the day, or if he receives instructions earlier.
“Jack, ears painted on today, just keep asking the same question 10 different ways until you get the answer we want”, for example. Or perhaps “For goodness sake don’t do anything to make Luxon look bad, stick to the talking points or he’ll go to pieces”?
Jack looks upbeat. Blue suit, blue tie, bags under his eyes. TVNZ have brought their game face to the interview, I wonder what they have planned? Is it too soon to lambast the PM for all the current problems? He has been in the role for nearly two months. Or maybe a soft “get to know you” interview, as they’d have for a new opposition leader.
No, the honeymoon is over. It’s straight into disaster management over the cyclone and flooding, harking back to Chris’ Covid response role. The first question asks for the PM to recall a memory or an image that brought home the human cost of the tragedy. It occurs to me that they would never ask Luxon that question. What would he say “it was like that time my co-workers at McDonalds tricked me into cleaning the soft serve machine - big job I can tell you.”
The PM spoke of visiting the orchardists, seeing the silt piled up high, cars in the tops of trees, it brought home the force of what they dealt with. He spoke of talking to the people that were rescuing others from roofs. Jack nods, sound bite presumably complete and moves on “I want to focus on some of your policies in the last few weeks, do you accept that your decision to extend the fuel excise tax cut for a forth time is going to lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions?”
OK, well I can see what sort of interview we’re going to have. Three minutes in and Jack has just blamed the Prime Minister for making Climate Change worse. Good oh.
Does Jack, does anyone, really believe that the excise tax cut lead to a large increase in fossil fuel use? Or did it just mean that once people had bought their petrol to get to work, or wherever, they had a bit more money to spend on other essentials in a cost of living crisis, as intended?
Chris puts Jack’s mind at rest explaining that people would still have driven about the same amount but there is a lot we need to do to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions. Pricing people out of the market at the pump is not the way to do it, but increasing the use of electric vehicles (EVs) is, and we’re one of the fastest countries in the world to take up EVs. Is Jack satisfied with that? No.
“That doesn’t answer the question”, says Jack, about the answer he has just received, and asks the exact same question again. Hipkins answers it again, and again Jack is not happy. This is not the confession he was looking for. “Do you have official advice to that extent?” demands Jack. “No”. “Did you seek any official advice as to the greenhouse gas emissions blah blah blah.” “There will be some advice, I just can’t recall if off the top of my head”, “Did you personally blah blah blah blah?”
Jack asks the question twice more, because Jack has some information to make the PM look bad. The very first topic of the year with the new PM is a “gotcha” set up. I guess the TVNZ CEO, former National Party cabinet minister Simon Power, really didn’t like those polls out during the week. Still he doesn’t need to make a LinkedIn post like Rob Campbell to express his views, no Simon has a whole TV station to get his message across without breaking any rules.
The gotcha is a cabinet paper from mid last year showing that the tax decrease could lead to a 1-2% increase in emissions. I find myself thinking - but has it? Did you do any ground work Jack? Surely you could check with the Petrol companies to see if they have sold more fuel than prior to the tax cut. Did you do any journalism Jack?
“What does it say about Chris Hipkins’ leadership that days after the worst flooding event in our biggest city in history you introduced a policy that will ultimately make these kind of events worse”. Wow, just wow. We have two parties in parliament resisting any effort to do anything at all about Climate Change and you’re pinning future storms on Chris Hipkins because they eased the cost of living pressure on those needing to buy petrol?
I imagine Simon Power, or whoever wrote that line - and it is clearly a line that was pre-prepared you can even see Jack refer to his notes while delivering it, are pleased. The last few minutes of discussion have obviously all been to bring us to it’s delivery.
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