It’s a good week to be a farmer. Fieldays, a record forecast for primary exports, and killing Labour’s plan for a climate tax.
It’s never looked more certain that Labour’s tax plan is dead.
The writing was really on the wall months ago. Labour lost the farmers in October, all the way back in the days of Jacinda Ardern.
You might even remember the exact day if you watched the news that night. Ardern went to Wairarapa, donned a puffer jacket and some Red Bands, stood behind a haybale podium and announced her plan to price farm emissions by 2025.
Farmers will definitely remember it, because that was the day a lot of them saw the detail for the first time, blew a gasket and demanded the resignation of industry body leaders who had helped build the plan.
But some who had been in the negotiations say even they were caught by surprise. They said they’d been taking part in talks in good faith. They didn’t mind the end result they’d all come up with. But then Labour took the deal away, made small but fundamental changes and what came back was unpalatable.
To make Ardern’s plan work, New Zealand would have to get rid of 20 per cent of its sheep and beef farming and 5 per cent of its dairying. The outrage was proportionate to the stupidity of the plan.
It was only this week that it became obvious just how dead the deal really was, because on Monday the National Party threw the farmers a lifeline that killed any hope of its survival. If National forms a government in October, the climate tax plan is scrapped. They’ll do it differently. It won’t kick in until 2030.
All farmers have to do is hold on for another four months. And also allow Labour and James Shaw to keep up the pretence that it’s still alive.
Even this week, Chris Hipkins announced at Fieldays that the partnership was “still very much alive”. It’s not. Nothing will be agreed before the election.
The power lies entirely with farmers. That’s why Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s threat of a fertiliser tax lasted only about two weeks before he and the PM were forced to meekly withdraw it.
It’s not a biggie for Labour or Shaw that they failed to tax farming emissions. It’s not as if they’ve gone backwards. Nothing’s changed. Farmers weren’t paying for their emissions in 2017 when this Government took over, and they still aren’t. Status quo.
And no one’s going to stop the press to tell the country this Government failed to deliver on an election promise. Ardern was hopelessly naive when she warned, in 2017, that she would have farmers paying for climate pollution by 2020. Not a shock. Ardern also promised light rail to Mt Roskill by 2021 and 100,000 KiwiBuild houses in 10 years.
It’s a good thing for New Zealand and the entire planet that farmers held the line. It makes no sense for them to pay a climate tax. No other farmers in the world do.
Why - if we rely so heavily on these people to fund the basics of our economy - would any of us think it’s a smart idea to impose a tax on them that none of their global competitors pay?
And why - if we actually do care about the climate instead of just saying that we care about the climate - would we want to shut down some of the most efficient farmers in the world just so some cowboys in another country can pick up the resulting gap in the market and do it less efficiently, thereby making climate change worse?
Is there anything crazier than that? Actually, yes, there is. Saying climate change is your nuclear-free moment, reading your own document that warns you that if you impose a climate tax on Kiwi farmers it will lead to leakage, which would make global climate change worse but then deciding to push ahead anyway is crazier.
It’s a good week for our farmers. It’s a good week for New Zealand. And, in a small way, it’s a good week for the planet.
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive, Newstalk ZB, 4pm-7pm, weekdays