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Yesterdaze: Angry Andy, Shane’s gingernuts & Winston

James Elliott's look back at a week of mad regulations, mad calls for resignations, and tax explained by a packet of gingernuts.

We're already five days into the second half of the year. There are now only just over 170 sleeps until Christmas - fewer if you suffer from insomnia.

We kicked off the second half of the year dealing with a non-plastic grab bag of law changes. The most prominent of these is The Waste Minimisation (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulations 2018 that came into force on July 1. These are regulations aimed at minimising waste but maximising the number of words in the name of the regulation. Retailers can no longer sell or distribute plastic bags that are less than 70 microns in thickness and have carry handles. In other words let the plastic bag public shaming begin, just as soon as we’ve worked out what a micron is and how thick 70 of them are. To help you out, a micron is a millionth of a metre, or 0.000039 of an inch for the imperially minded. And 70 microns equates to about 0.07 of a millimeter or the average thickness of a hair on your head. This means that if there are no hairs on your head you should be able to make a realistic looking toupée from strands of recycled single use plastic bags. So the ideal way for the soon-to-be former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon to signal his green credentials to blue-green voters as he makes his predicted foray into politics would be via the “ploupée”.

Another set of regulations that came into force on July 1 is on insulation rules that require the owners of rental properties to ensure those properties are properly insulated to prescribed standards. The thickness of the required insulation depends on a range of factors so it’s hard to give a concise summary. But I can tell you that numerous landlords have apparently been asking Google how many single use plastic bags it takes to insulate a rental property.

And if that wasn’t enough change for one week, petrol tax was increased. Again. This time by 4 cents a litre. This means that more than half the price you pay for petrol goes to the government as tax. It’s like buying a packet of Gingernuts and having to give Shane Jones every other one. And that’s enough to drive you to drink. But bear in mind that if that drink comes from the top shelf then about 40 percent of what you have paid for it goes to the government as well.

With all the legislative changes this week what we really needed was the calming effect of certainty and predictability from our leaders. And we got it in the form of Winston Peters who called for someone to resign. Again. Predictably. Because he did the same thing last week.

That was when Winston called for John Key to resign as the Chairman of the ANZ Bank. He didn’t. This week Winston called for Simon Bridges to go as leader of the National Party. He didn’t either. But at least Winston’s call for Bridges to go had a couple of interesting features. First, it wasn’t coming from within the National Party itself. And then there were the byzantine steps Winston took to get from a far right protest rally to the call for Bridges to go. Now take a deep breath and stay with me on this. The far right protestors are being investigated for making death threats against Winston because they think Winston supports a UN migration pact that they oppose, as does National, but Winston says that both the far right protestors and National are being influenced by “a campaign of fake news and misinformation from a bunch of neo-Nazis in Austria” to such an extent that Bridges was allowing those same Austrian neo-Nazis to reflect Bridges’ own opinions on the UN migration pact, which any normal person in a political setting would say is untenable so Bridges has got to go. And … breathe.

It would take a lot of time to work through the logic, if there is any, of those steps. That’s time probably better spent on speculating on whose head Winston will be calling for next week. Here’s looking at you Kane Williamson. Suffice to say that these days Winston’s becoming more and more like Father Jack if Father Jack alternated between yelling “drink” and “resign”.

If you don’t know who Father Jack is, Google him while you can still use Google in New Zealand. Google’s future here could be on shaky ground because Justice Minister Andrew Little is reportedly very angry at Google for not respecting our name suppression laws. Having spoken to Google about the issue six months ago and with Google not making changes to its system a furious Andrew Little took direct action by issuing a press release and speaking to the media. “They’ve shown no willingness to want to look at their systems and I’ve got to be concerned about that” he thundered. So concerned in fact that he’s considering taking official advice on what legal actions can be taken against Google. His stern warning to Google, “Don’t be evil. Do the right thing.” It reminded some in the media of the time when Little was known as “Angry Andy”. If you don’t remember when that was you can Google it. At least you won’t be paying any tax on that. And neither will Google.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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