Archives for March 2023 | Josie Pagani



The Case Against Lake Onslow

It is the perfect farm animal. A pig, covered in fur, that lays eggs and can be milked. The Germans call it the 'Eierlegende Wollmilchsau', or an 'egg-laying wool-milk-sow’. It provides everything you want and tastes great.

It doesn't exist.

According to its cheerleaders, the Lake Onslow pumped hydro-electricity project will mean we don't run out of electricity in winter, bring down power prices, and make our electricity system 100% renewable. An 'Eierlegende Wollmilchsau'.

There are better, lower-cost alternatives to get the same outcome – and sooner. New Zealand has wind, geothermal, solar and potentially biomass and carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) options that can produce electricity at competitive prices today and in the future.

If we choose lower cost options, instead of building Onslow, the government would then have another $15.7 billion-plus, to build much more environmentally valuable projects like passenger trains or insulating homes.

Josie's Stuff column is here.

Australia buying Aukus submarines

Through Aukus, our defence allies Australia, the US and UK have ditched us, and also other allies in the Pacific, Japan and France. The agreement is unnecessarily provocative to China, possibly foolhardy in its nuclear proliferation. It is not clear what Australia achieves by positioning nuclear submarines in the South China Sea, a long way from home.

The shift in defence posture from 'Defence of Australia' to 'Forward Defence' is presumably intended to contain Chinese ships behind a line that extends from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Singapore. China's military build-up and irresponsible threats to Taiwan are warning bells. But China has not threatened to invade Australia.

Meanwhile, Xi Jinping and President Putin have adopted foreign policies of short-term self-interest, getting your way by being bigger and meaner than your rivals, a 19th century approach that ended in global war and immiseration. Xi's trip to Moscow this week was an example of old-style projection of power. His ‘peace plan’ advocates an end to Western sanctions without requiring Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory. China does not care how many Ukrainian cities are destroyed or war crimes committed; it cares only that this keeps Russia and its cheap oil close.

In response, Aukus is not modelling moral behaviour, but instead heading towards the same dangerous 'might is right' foreign policy of threats and dares.

Read Josie's column on Australia's AUKUS agreement to buy US nuclear submarines.

Appointment of new police minister

Josie joined Lloyd Burr on Today FM to discuss the appointment of the new police minister.
Listen here.

Talent, merit and the 1%

Talent includes the ability to entertain the masses and use your art to communicate universal human conditions.

I know a bit about movies having grown up around actors and then worked in the industry. When I caught up with an old school friend recently, I asked if he’d seen our mutual friend Sam Mendes. “Not for a few years,” he replied. “I realised our lives were going in different directions when he was off directing another Bond film and I was spending Christmas with my mum.”

My former friends and colleagues may have Oscars, but do they have a weekly column in the nation’s daily?

Excuse me for a moment while I review my life choices.

Josie's Stuff column is here.

Rob Campbell, the ‘circular bureaucracy’ and cultural conformity

The 'circular economy' was first advocated in the 1960s in an article called The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth. It's another way for the middle class to hector working people about the way you live, what you eat, your tastes and lifestyle. It has the credibility of homeopathy, by which I mean it sounds deep and meaningful to people who know they can shield themselves from the damage done by every utopian theory.

Imagine if the Treasury had a section advocating for collectivisation. But the revolutionary Ministry for the Environment has an entire website dedicated to the circular economy. It tells us that when something breaks “in our modern world” it is often more expensive to repair than to buy a new one. “This take-make-dispose mind-set has created a linear economy.” The sly disparagement of ‘modern’ economies is a clue to what is intended, and the slur is untrue anyway. Modern economies are far more productive than those of our ancestors. Today we create more out of less than our pre-industrial forbears managed. Replacing my carbon hungry Holden V6 with an EV makes sense.

Let’s imagine I'm completely wrong to disparage the controversial Circular Economy. It's still true that advocating for comprehensive change to the way we live and provide for ourselves is more radical than anything Rob Campbell said. Chris Hipkins' 'back to basics' government isn't about to put 'circular economy' on its to-do list. I don’t mind passionate public servants having wacky ideas. One of them might work. But what we are seeing is a public sector where the only daring new opinions are those entertained by the ruling mandarin caste, which Rob Campbell called ‘Poneketanga.’

No wonder they wanted him out.

Instead of giving a challenging voice only to Poneketanga, and muzzling other public officials as if they were passive government backbenchers, we should go the other way and open the public sector to more contestable ideas and individuals capable of pushing back.

Josie's Stuff column is here.

2023 NZ Economic Forum

Josie spoke on a panel at Waikato University's 2023 New Zealand Economic Forum.

Here's how to pay for the infrastructure rebuild

Auckland's light rail to the airport is first on the bonfire. It is budgeted to cost $14 billion. That’s predicted to double. It sounds great. Who doesn't want our own London Underground? But the rebuild is more important. So that’s $30b right there.

Lake Onslow is the next to go. It's a massive valley in Otago that will be concreted over so we can use electric power to push water uphill, store it, and then generate power from the water running downhill when other lakes are empty.

If Onslow is such a good idea, why does the government have to pay for it? When I talk to experts they say Onslow will take until 2040 to build and cost $8b to $10b. Burn it.

So far I have freed up $40b. You could give every household in Auckland a free Tesla for the combined cost of light rail and Onslow.

Come to think of it, taxing tradies with utes to give an $8k subsidy to people who can afford to buy an EV was always a middle class subsidy that didn't pass the sniff test. The subsidy has cost $300 million, with the ute tax covering $100m of that. Each of those EVs then gets another $2000-$3000 a year in avoided contributions towards the cost of the roads it drives on.

That's another $50,000 subsidy if the car lasts 20 years, like my Mum's Toyota. How much subsidy is too much? EVs could at least give way to the rest of us at intersections.

Josie's column is here.

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