Word of the day

16/08/2022

Equivocation – the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; speaking that is intentionally not clear and is confusing to other people, especially to hide the truth; something said in this way;  the use of equivocal or ambiguous expressions, especially in order to mislead or hedge; prevarication.


Open and transparent

16/08/2022

Remember Labour’s promise to be open and transparent?

Labour MPs had a secret Zoom meeting last night without Dr Gaurav Sharma to discuss his fate.

The NZ Herald understands MPs met at 8pm, but Sharma says he was not told of the meeting.

He found out about it after a message – including a photo of Kelvin Davis on the zoom call – was sent to him by mistake.

“Apparently caucus had a full meeting at 8pm yesterday with all members except me and the decision was predetermined,” Sharma said in a text message sent to NZME.

The Herald has confirmed last night’s meeting from other sources.

The meeting was organised by a Signal group and the whips started to organise it on Monday morning to get a suitable time – before Sharma had put up a further Facebook post on Monday afternoon.

It comes as Labour’s caucus meets at 2.30pm, as announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday in her post-Cabinet press conference. . .

So much for kindness!

If Sharma wasn’t invited to the meeting, there’s little if any chance of his remaining in caucus, and probably the party.

There’s even less chance of a caucus and party that isn’t open and transparent with one of its own, being open and transparent in government.


Sowell says

16/08/2022


Rural round-up

16/08/2022

Lack of rural health services distressing – RWNZ :

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) say it is distressing to see rural communities suffer due to a lack of access to quality health services.

RWNZ president Gill Naylor says the health and wellbeing of rural communities is at risk of further deterioration if something is not done to resolve the issues facing people who live, work and play in rural New Zealand.

In June this year, a rural health strategy was added to the Pae Ora Healthy Futures legislation which came into effect last month. The strategy had been removed during the select committee phase but was added back into the legislation after Health Minister Andrew Little was convinced to add it by his party’s ‘rural caucus’.

Naylor says the challenges rural families face with access to health services are varied and include a lack of rural midwives, lack of rural nurses and GPs, lack of rural mental health services, delays in emergency services such as ambulances and long distances to travel for services like allied health and cancer treatment. . . 

Exotics forestation surges on ETS carbon values – Richard Rennie:

The Climate Change Commission is estimating exotic forestation has surged to a rate well beyond the annual levels it says is required for New Zealand to achieve 380,000ha of exotic plantings by 2035.

The commission’s general manager for emissions budgets, Stephen Walter, told delegates at this year’s Carbon Forestry conference that the latest data indicates 60,000ha of exotic forest will be planted this year. That is more than twice the rate the commission envisaged.

This is also reflected in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ workload for accepting forests into the Emissions Trading Scheme. MPI’s ETS forestry manager, Simon Petrie, said there is an application queue of 130,000ha of forest awaiting scheme approval as of June.

The recent move by the commission to recommend the government limit carbon units is partly due to concern that current ETS emissions prices will drive large-scale afforestation for sequestering carbon, rather than behaviour change to reduce emissions. . . 

Rural residents ropeable over lack of cellphone coverage – Rachel Graham :

Residents in Ladbrooks, a seven-minute drive from the edge of suburban Christchurch, say living in a cellphone coverage blackspot is annoying and dangerous.

Ladbrooks School, with its 150 pupils, sits in the centre of a semi-rural area with an increasing number of lifestyle blocks.

It also sits in the middle of a cellphone black spot.

Ladbrooks School principal Margaret Dodds said the lack of cellphone coverage was much more than an inconvenience. . . 

Bale-grazing experiment benefits cows and soil – Shawn McAvinue:

A grass and hay wintering system is showing promising results in Northern Southland.

AgResearch Invermay soil scientist Ross Monaghan is running a nearly $1 million project to explore whether dairy cows grazing on pasture in winter can reduce nitrogen leaching and mud compared with being on traditional forage crops.

The Soil Armour Project was launched in October 2020.

Experiment sites are live on a dairy farm on the Telford campus near Balclutha and Freedom Acres Dairy Farm at Wendonside. . . 

New Zealand’s pipfruit industry gathers in August for National conference :

More than 250 growers, suppliers, industry leaders and government officials from around the country will gather at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson for the 2022 NZ Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI) Conference.

The Conference will be held on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 August, with the industry AGM being held on Wednesday 24 August at 4pm. An ‘Agritech in the Orchard’ field day will be also be held on Wednesday 24 August, a collaboration between Callaghan Innovation and NZAPI.

The theme for the 2022 conference is ‘Adapting to New Horizons’. NZAPI CEO Terry Meikle says that two years on from the beginning of the pandemic, we have learned to modify and adapt to a new environment to ensure New Zealand pipfruit can continue to compete on the global stage, demand premiums and remain an industry exemplar.

“NZ is widely regarded as the best apple and pear producer in the world, but to retain that title, we must continue to adapt and innovate. The Conference will explore how we as an industry can meet and succeed in these new environments. . . 

Improving crop resilience with nanoparticles – Neil Savage:

Materials that can carry CRISPR gene-editing into plant cells could be key in the fight against global hunger.

There were sceptics when Michael Strano and his colleagues published their method for using nanoparticles to alter the biology of living plants (J. P. Giraldo et al. Nature Mater. 13, 400–408; 2014). In a letter to Nature Materials, one prominent plant scientist stated that the findings were wrong. “She wrote to the editor and said, ‘What these authors are proposing is not possible. We think they’re misinterpreting their data’,” Strano recalls.

But the chemical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge, won over his critics, overturning an assumption that the membrane of the chloroplast — an organelle within plant cells that is responsible for photosynthesis — was impervious. “We had real-time video of particles going into this seemingly impenetrable chloroplast,” he says. The method, known as lipid exchange envelope penetration (LEEP), allows scientists to calculate where a nanoparticle will go to inside a cell — such as into the chloroplast or another organelle — or whether it will remain in the cytosol, the fluid that surrounds the organelles. This information can inform the design of nanoparticles that carry gene-editing machinery to targeted areas to rewrite the plant’s genome and imbue it with properties such as pest and disease resistance.

In particular, researchers are exploiting the CRISPR gene-editing system to engineer food crops that offer higher yields, or plants that produce compounds used in medications. The technology, for which Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, allows specific stretches of DNA to be targeted for editing, deletion or replacement. . .

 


FSU ranks universities on free speech

16/08/2022

The Free Speech Union has ranked universities on their policies and practices for upholding free speech :

The Free Speech Union has released the first Annual Universities Ranking Report, taking a critical look at the policies and practices of New Zealand’s universities with regards to free speech, and “grading” them on whether they suppress or encourage academic freedom and free expression on campus, says Jonathan Ayling, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.

“As an institution, the University is critical for introducing, challenging, and disseminating ideas in New Zealand culture and society. It has a traditional and statutory role as ‘critic and conscience’ of society and the Free Speech Union is determined to showcase universities that bear this responsibility, and to hold them to account when they don’t.

“The report analyses the policies and reported practices of universities, alongside the perceptions of their own academic staff (as shown in the Annual Free Speech Union Academic Survey) to determine where speech is most free on campus. It has been reviewed by the Free Speech Union Academic Advisory Council and presents a thorough overview of the state of free speech at universities.

“It is apparent which institutions uphold their role as ‘critic and conscience’ and those that seem to value their supposed progressive reputations over the ability for their staff and students to express themselves and perform research freely. The only university to receive a fail mark was Auckland University of Technology, which continues to display consistent opposition to free speech and its role as ‘critic and conscience’ of society.

“Despite the wide range of results, we believe all universities have room for improvement and we hope to engage constructively with Vice-Chancellors to amend and develop policy that enhances the freedom of their staff and students.

“We intend for this report to be updated annually to track the development of academic freedom and free speech in New Zealand’s universities. It is our expectation that we will see consistent improvement in years to come.”

The full report is here.

Victoria University scored best, with an A:

Committed to academic freedom and free speech in both policy
and practice. Policies show few restraints on free speech and
controversial events are consistently allowed despite protests
and calls for cancellation. 

Auckland Institute of Technology scored worst with an F:

Comparatively little regard given to responsibility of upholding
free expression and academic freedom, alongside policies that
show willingness to police language. Poor record regarding
controversial events, displaying a willingness to suppress ideas
in favour of maintaining progressive reputation. 

Ah the word progressive which has become oxymoronic in that its followers are regressive, fostering a return to the bad old days and bad places where thoughts were policed and free speech curtailed.


When politics get personal

16/08/2022

Have you noticed how Labour has started attacking National leader Christopher Luxon?

Richard Prebble explains why:

The commentators are busy writing off National leader Christopher Luxon. One wrote that he is “starting to look more like a Todd Muller“. Another claimed “the number of people who dislike Luxon is very high for a new leader“.

It is total nonsense. Luxon is nothing like the hapless Muller. The only politicians who no one bothers to dislike are those who are totally useless. Around a third of the electorate are committed lefties. They dislike Luxon because they think he can win. Labour would not be testing attack ads if their polling did not say the National Leader is a threat.

Objectively, Luxon’s achievements as a leader are astonishing. When he took over as leader the National caucus was a poisonous bear pit.

It is a remarkable turnaround. He could now boast to his conference that his “MPs have their hopeless Labour counterparts on the run”. He now leads what appears to be a cohesive team.

Luxon has been in Parliament for less than two years and leader for just eight months. It takes most MPs six years and three elections to become effective. What is remarkable is not his occasional slip-up, but that he has made so few.

National received just 25.58 per cent of the vote in the last election. Now it is New Zealand’s most popular party. . .

David Farrar explains just how significant that turnaround is:

I don’t think people realise how remarkable that swing has been. They were 25% behind Labour at the last election and now lead them in every major poll. A swing of 10% is considered significant. A 25% swing is huge. Here’s what the swing has been for every MMP election (gap between  and Labour):

  • 1999: -15%
  • 2002: -12%
  • 2005: +18%
  • 2008: +13%
  • 2011: +9%
  • 2014: +2%
  • 2017: -14%
  • 2020: -32% . . .

Only in the last election, when Labour was assited by Covid-19 and national disfunction has the swing been greater.

Back to Prebble:

Luxon has the great advantage of not only having a good CV, but of looking like a prime minister. Nothing else has changed, so he has to be given the credit for National’s revival.

He has united caucus, gained the support of the wider party and is convincing the voting public that National would lead a much better government than Labour.

The next election is now Luxon’s to lose. Labour’s only hope of re-election is to politically destroy the National leader.

There is a tried and tested formula. Accuse the Opposition Leader of having no policy. And when he does announce some policy, put it on trial and find it guilty.

When Luxon announced a detailed youth unemployment policy on Sunday, some 15 months before the next election, Labour could not wait to find it “guilty”. The attacks would have been more effective if ministers could agree on what is wrong with National’s policy. Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says it is because the policies have no merit. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is because the policies “already exist”. Of course both could be true.

If both exist why is the government expending effort and money on policies that don’t work?

The apparatchiks are surprised Luxon has chosen youth unemployment as that is not an issue in any poll. Luxon also identified the cost of living as a crisis when inflation was not an issue. His identification of the issue and Ardern’s dismissal of any cost of living crisis is the reason why voters now say National is better able to handle the economy.

There is great unease over how the young are faring under Labour. Just 46 per cent of pupils attended school regularly in term one. There is a 49 per cent increase in the number of young people on the Jobseeker benefit. When Luxon says “get the kids back to school” and that young adults need to “find a job and become independent”, the country agrees.

Not getting the kids back to school and not helping them find a job and become independent isn’t just failing them. It’s causing problems that will haunt the country for decades and the high truancy and benefit numbers can’t all be blamed on Covid-19 and winter ‘flu.

Luxon’s statement to the National Party conference that – “as a nation, we all bear the costs when welfare becomes not a safety net to catch people if they fall, but a drag net that pulls the vulnerable in” echoes Norman Kirk. Kirk used to say that welfare needs to be not a safety net that catches, but a springboard that propels back. . . 

Margaret Thatcher said I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

Labour’s attacks on Luxon personally and politically reflects well on him and poorly on them.

It shows they recognise how well he’s doing, that they have nothing substantial to criticise him on and no substantial policies to counter his attacks.

The contrast between his decisive reaction to revelations about one of his MPs and Jacinda Ardern’s trade mark equivocation in response to her MP, Dr Gaurav Sharma’s public complaints – ramped up yesterday with screen shots of messages from other MPs –  clearly shows who is the better leader.


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