Political response..

By | March 21, 2009

Over the last few months, I wrote two letters to NZ members of parliament, one about the proposed review of the science of climate change, the second concerning the s92a amendment to the NZ Copyright Act. On Wednesday, I got responses to both. Here’s my comments:

Climate Change

The letter concerning climate change was sent to John Key and responded to by Nick Smith, Minister for Climate Change Issues. I’ve posted it here if you want to take a look. There are a few things I want to highlight:

  • Concerning the science and uncertainty associated with various estimates, he says “I do not believe this uncertainty justifies taking no action“. I’m cynical enough not to assume that they’ll treat it as a priority or that they’ll take measures as strong or sincere as I’d like, but it’s nice when the discussion moves on from whether we should do something to what we should do.
  • He weasels around the intent of the review of the Emissions Trading Scheme. He says they’ve rejected ACT’s calls for a full review of the science, but says they want to “identify the central/benchmark projections that are being used as the motivation for international agreements to combat climate change“. That sounds to me like they still want to review the science, but they don’t want to admit that. Since the point of reviewing the science (again) is really just to delay and obfuscate, it’s hard to see how this is really any different.
  • I’m pleased to see it acknowledged that green technologies represent an opportunity for NZ rather than a threat. I perceive National as being primarily about benefiting themselves and their corporate sponsors and so, getting them to recognize that there’s some way in which they could benefit seems to me to be a key step in getting them to do something. That said, I’ve got no idea what policies they might enact to realize this benefit without dropping their normal slash and burn approach to governance; setting up seed investment and technology grants in areas of importance like this is so passe and left wing – hardly something that fits the National Party profile.

s92a – Copyright

The letter concerning s92a went to my local MP, Lianne Dalziel. It got forwarded to Clare Curran, Labour’s Spokesperson for Communication and IT, who sent me this response. I wasn’t terribly satisfied. It completely failed to address the threat posed by guilt by accusation to a democracy, let alone the impact on individuals, or the potential for abuse of such policies and the potential chilling effects on fair use. Instead, it talked about “unreasonable burden[s] on internet service providers“. I’m certain that they can take care of themselves.

Isn’t the idea of democratic government that it’s for the people? Isn’t Labour NZ’s main center left party? How does turning this from a significant issue of freedom of expression, cultural development and longevity, and corporatism serve the people? The problem with Section 92a is not that it places a burden on telecommunications providers, but that it provides a mechanism by which powerful entities (such as content publishers and any other corporation) can oppress individuals who publish content that they disagree with. You might think we’re just talking about music piracy, and that this will never be seriously abused, and you’d be wrong – look at the host of abuses of the DMCA in the US. Sure, there’s definitely a place for copyright protection measures, but some balance is definitely in order, and the issue of piracy is a lot more complex than that of simple theft.