Focus on right solutions

October 23, 2019

Stephen Franks explains why he supports climate change investment:

An article in Forbes magazine reports on George Shultz recounting how Ronald Reagan gained a consensus to support the Montreal Protocol to combat the fluorocarbons that were thought to be creating the hole in the ozone layer. He refers to the problem of persuading people who felt there was too much uncertainty in the science.

“And then he [Reagan] did something that nobody ever does anymore,” Shultz said. “He went to the scientists who didn’t agree and put his arm around them and said, ‘We respect you, but you do agree that if it happens it’s a catastrophe, so let’s take out an insurance policy.’”

For 20 years I’ve used the same analogy in trying to counsel people who trap themselves into claiming more confidence in the “denialist” case than they can possibly justify, just because they can’t stomach the religious fervour and anti-human callousness of many climate campaigners.

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. . .

Proposed measures do the opposite.

And so we have in NZ a closing of ranks against climate “denialism”. Our elite hunts for heretics. We should instead respect those who are suspicious of compulsory ‘scientific consensus’ but ask them to join in working out what is likely to be most efficient (given we are going to spend on ‘insurance’ anyway).

It is wicked to take steps just for expansive show. The Zero Carbon Bill approach will actually increase world CO2 emissions, just not here.  So we are posturing to an indifferent global class, impoverishing ourselves (reducing resilience) and achieving as much against climate change as the Summer Palace did for the Qing dynasty and China.

It is frustrating that climate evangelists insist we accept the science on climate change but don’t follow the science on mitigation and solutions.

In doing so they are ignoring the high economic and social costs for at best little environmental gain and too often losses.

Bjorn Lomborg also writes about the need to focus on the right solutions:

As it is becoming obvious that political responses to global warming such as the Paris treaty are not working, environmentalists are urging us to consider the climate impact of our personal actions. Don’t eat meat, don’t drive a gasoline-powered car and don’t fly, they say. But these individual actions won’t make a substantial difference to our planet, and such demands divert attention away from the solutions that are needed.

Even if all 4.5 billion flights this year were stopped from taking off, and the same happened every year until 2100, temperatures would be reduced by just 0.054 degrees, using mainstream climate models — equivalent to delaying climate change by less than one year by 2100.

Nor will we solve global warming by giving up meat. Going vegetarian is difficult — one US survey shows 84 percent fail, most in less than a year. Those who succeed will only reduce their personal emissions by about 2 percent.

And electric cars are not the answer. Globally, there are just 5 million fully electric cars on the road. Even if this climbs massively to 130 million in 11 years, the International Energy Agency finds CO₂ equivalent emissions would be reduced by a mere 0.4 percent globally.

Put simply: The solution to climate change cannot be found in personal changes in the homes of the middle classes of rich countries. . .

If these changes won’t work, what will?

We must look at how we solved past major challenges — through innovation. The starvation catastrophes in developing nations in the 1960s to ’80s weren’t fixed by asking people to consume less food but through the Green Revolution in which innovation developed higher-yielding varieties that produced more plentiful food.

Similarly, the climate challenge will not be solved by asking people to use less (and more expensive) green energy. Instead, we should dramatically ramp up spending on research and development into green energy.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked 27 of the world’s top climate economists to examine policy options for responding to climate change. This analysis showed that the best investment is in green-energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This would bring forward the day when green-energy alternatives are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels not just for the elite but for the entire world.

Right now, despite all the rhetoric about the importance of global warming, we are not ramping up this spending. On the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate summit, more than 20 world leaders made a promise to double green-energy research and development by 2020. But spending has only inched up from $16 billion in 2015 to $17 billion in 2018. This is a broken promise that matters.

After 30 years of pursuing the wrong solution to climate change, we need to change the script.

The predominant script is a red one not a green one. It’s driven by an anti-capitalist political agenda.

We need to write a new one directing efforts towards research and innovation that will save the earth without imposing huge costs on the world.

 


Let’s not panic

April 2, 2019

Andrew Little plans to fast track a law review which could make hate speech illegal:

. . .He said the current law on hate speech was not thorough and strong enough and needed to change. . . 

Isn’t it thorough enough and does it need to change?

The Free Speech Coalition disagrees:

The Free Speech Coalition will campaign against new laws to suppress traditional freedom of speech signalled by Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Constitutional lawyer, and Free Speech Coalition spokesperson, Stephen Franks says, “New Zealand already has clear laws against incitement of violence. We have a very new, uncertain, and far reaching law against digital harassment.”

“We have seen little or no effort by the government to enforce the existing law in the internet era, or even to explain it. Few New Zealanders know how our existing law works to criminalise genuinely hateful attempts to incite violence and contempt. We have seen instead repeated efforts to justify the granting of fresh powers like those used overseas to allow authorities to criminalise arguments and the expression of concern about issues where they want only one view to be expressed or heard.”

“The Government and the Human Rights Commission should focus on explaining and enforcing the existing law, not disgracefully seizing on the wave of sympathy from all decent New Zealanders, to rush through new restrictions on the opinions we may debate, express and research.”

“The term ‘hate speech’ is deliberately extreme. It has been designed to prejudice discussion. It exploits the decency of ordinary people. How could anyone not oppose ‘hate’? But as defined legally it generally means something that could upset someone. Overseas examples often just gives authorities the ability to say it means what they want it to mean from time to time. Recently, in Britain, their version of the law was used to bring criminal charges against an elderly woman who refused to use a transgender man’s preferred designation as a woman and insisted on referring to him as a man who wanted to use women’s toilets.”

David Farrar lists a few more of the perverse outcomes from hate speech laws in the UK which includes:

  • A student was arrested for saying to a mounted police officer “Excuse me do you know your horse is gay”
  • A teenager was arrested for barking at two labradors, as the owner was non-white
  • A teenager was prosecuted for holding up a placard that described the Church of Scientology as a cult
  • A man was charged with racially aggravated criminal damage for writing “Don’t forget the 1945 war” on a UKIP poster
  • An Essex baker Daryl Barke was ordered to take down a poster promoting English bread with the slogan “none of that French rubbish”, because the police believed it would stir up racial hatred. . . 

Emotions are understandably high after the Christchurch terror attack but that’s no reason to panic and rush.

Freedom of expression is a basic plank of democracy which must be protected from the borer of emotive and ill-defined constraints.


When does caution become censorship?

March 27, 2019

Chief Censor David Shank is defending his decision to classify the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto as objectionable :

. . .The Free Speech Coalition said the manifesto could be important for society to understand a dark part of New Zealand’s history.

“New Zealanders need to be able to understand the nature of evil and how it expresses itself,” coalition spokesperson and constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks said.

Free speech isn’t just about what we can express, it’s also about what we can hear and read.

Defending his decision, Chief Censor David Shanks told Morning Report a number of criteria were checked when assessing this sort of material.

“We look for exhortations to kill, exhortations to commit terrorism from someone who has influence and credibility in persuading others to do likewise,” he said.

These types of publications were not the place to go in search of reasons behind such events, because they were specifically aimed at a “vulnerable and susceptible “audience, “to incite them to do the same type of crime, he said.

“There is content in this publication that points to means by which you can conduct other terrorist atrocities … it could be seen as instructional.

“There is detail in there about potential targets for this type of atrocity and there are justifications for carrying out extreme acts of cruelty.”

Those who have the publication for legitimate purposes, such as reporters, researchers and academics to analyse and educate can apply for an exception. . .

I haven’t read the manifesto and have seen enough quotes from it to know I don’t want to but it wouldn’t be hard to find it online and the censor’s classification only applies to New Zealand.

It has already been widely distributed and will continue to be so.

Michael Reddell has been reading the Censorship Act and says:

. . . As many people have pointed out, by Shanks’s logic all manner of historical documents –  that are freely available –  would in fact be banned.   It serves the public good to be able to better understand Hitler or Mao or the Unabomber or the IRA, the PLO, or the Irgun Gang.  It won’t serve public confidence, or the public good more generally, to attempt to maintain some half-cocked ban on the Tarrant “manifesto”, in a world in which writings about it –  and quotes from it –  will be readily available in mainstream publications, serious and otherwise, internationally.  . . 

Meanwhile, Stuff has been reviewing its policy on on-line comments in light of the terror attacks and concluded:

. . . Too often, our comments section has allowed casual prejudice to seep in from the fringes.

Improvement begins with Stuff’s moderation rules and how we enforce them. Effective immediately, we’re making changes designed to cut out comment pollution. . . 

Comments made on-line, often under cover of a pseudonym, frequently fall well under the standard that would be accepted for a letter to the editor in print. A tightening up might be reasonable but Stuff’s new  rules include:

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s 20 topics on which few if any comments will be permitted.

All media have the right to rules on what they will and will not allow whether it’s in print or on-line but this list of topics on which no comments will be enabled appears to be well over the top and cross the line from caution into censorship.


Free Speech Coalition has funds to take ACC to court

July 12, 2018

The Free Speech Coalition has succeeded in its first goal – raising enough funds to take the Auckland City Council to court.

In less than 24 hours, the Free Speech Coalition has reached its $50,000 fundraising goal and will be engaging lawyers to bring judicial proceedings against Auckland Council for its ban on Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux at Council-owned venues.

Chris Trotter, who is supporting the Coalition, says, “Thank you to every New Zealander who has dug deep to support such an important cause.”

“We had hoped to raise this money by 5pm Friday. However, within the first day of this campaign we have been completely swamped by people pledging money to the cause – from $5 to $5,000.”

Melissa Derby, another supporter of the Coalition, says, “We look forward to setting a strong legal precedent that shows the use of publicly-owned venue cannot be dictated by the political whims of those in power.”

“For us this is not about helping these particular speakers, but in defending the rights of all New Zealanders to express and hear controversial views.” 

Stephen Franks calls Goff’s actions in denying the speakers the right to use council-owned venues a partisan abuse of political power:

He has claimed the power to decide which political views can be discussed in Auckland public halls.

If the Mayor of Auckland has that power it is no local matter. With it he could deny nearly half the population of New Zealand a practical chance to see and to assess for themselves any speaker the Mayor decided they should not be free to judge. He may claim he has that power to ban things he sees as inimical to the “social” or “cultural” health of his subjects.

The law deliberately gave the Auckland Mayor presidential authority plus a Council with limited power to control him. But even if the Councillors had normal council powers over Council officers and the Mayor, a Council should not have the power to stop people from meeting in public halls to hear and judge unpopular speakers.

The long established legal boundaries on freedom of expression are all the “protection” Councillors should be allowed to assert. Public authorities at both central and local government level should now be scrupulously secular and politically neutral in their stewardship of public assets.

The bitter struggle to win freedom of religion, thought and expression was marked by majority tyranny. . .

Freedom of assembly and speech may be even more important now, in the era of social media echo-chambers and bubbles. Most political and religious discourse is now in soundbite abbreviations. Many political debates never reach the public, except as a species of comedy, lampooned by ignorant scoffers in media programmes that specialise in mockery. There is little chance for people to get the kind of sustained sequential argument and discussion that happens at public meetings.

Mr Goff, somewhat ludicrously, said he will not allow divisive speech. He wants speech for unity. What about diversity Mr Goff. Have you turned your back on that? What do you seek from it? All thinking and speaking in unison? If our society has become so fragile it can’t handle awkward or unsettling speech or challenge, then it may be because young people have had too little practice.

STEFAN MOLYNEUX AND LAUREN SOUTHERN gave New Zealanders an opportunity to test their values – most especially their tolerance. Controversialists, almost by profession, these two Canadians espouse ideas which most Kiwis find extremely jarring. We have come to accept human equality and religious tolerance as the unequivocal markers of all decent and rational societies. For a great many people it is deeply offensive to hear these concepts challenged openly.

Over the past few days Molyneux and Southern have very skilfully tested our tolerance – and we have failed. They’ve also tested our ability to re-state, re-affirm and justify our commitment to freedom of expression. We failed that test too. . .

Truth is not afraid of trigger-words. Truth does not need a safe space. Truth is not a snowflake. Truth can take the heat and most certainly should not be forced to vacate the kitchen in the face of a couple of Alt-Right provocateurs and a politically-correct Mayor.

When people across the political spectrum unite to protest, as they have over this, it pays to listen.

Few if any of them will support the speakers and their views. They are not fighting for them or their beliefs but for their right to express them.

Now that it has enough to take the council to the court, any further funds will be used to fight the case. You can donate to the FSC here. I have already.


Rural round-up

January 29, 2016

Hard to see where sheepmeat solution will come from – Allan Barber:

Not surprisingly farmers are dissatisfied with the state of the sheepmeat market. The impact of drought has brought about a near 20% increase in the kill for the first quarter in a season where the full year lamb kill is forecast to be 1.7 million lambs below last year.

Consequently this season, already characterised by a falling schedule, will come to an early finish. Meat processors will need to manage their capacity and seasonal plant closures very carefully if they are to avoid incurring unwanted costs. From the farmers’ point of view, uneconomic prices for lambs are accompanied by a lack of killing space for ewes, of which there are plenty waiting for capacity to free up. . . 

Another tough season ahead for farmers:

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the on-farm cash income of farmers from all milk production this season will be under $4 per kgMS as a result of today’s news from dairy co-operative Fonterra that it is dropping its forecast Farmgate Milk Price to $4.15 per kgMS.

“That’s because some extra Fonterra payments for this season are shifting forward out of the 2015/16 season into 2016/17. Very little was carried over from 2014/15.

“This will have ongoing effects on farmers’ cashflows, their business equity and their ability to keep managing debt. The reduced milk price announcement today means our industry is facing a reduction in dairy revenues by around $800 million. That means $67,000 less in cash revenue for the average farm producing 150,000 kgMS. . . 

Farm scarce wildlife to take profits from poachers – Stephen Franks:

Cheaper DNA identification could soon end lucrative illegal trading in protected New Zealand wildlife. All it needs are some careful law changes. Maori could once again routinely feast on (farmed) kereru, without risk to wild populations.

Current law prohibits buying and selling threatened species. That is meant to prevent profiting from poaching. Illegal supply to meet legal commercial demand could strip wild breeding populations. But the prohibitions perversely increase the scarcity value that makes poaching lucrative.

Now DNA technology can cheaply and quickly identify the family of individuals in a population. It could tell which are descended from an authorised commercially bred line and which are from the wild population. . .

New Zealand wine exports reach record $1.5 billion high:

New Zealand wine exports have reached a new record high of $1.54 billion for the 2015 year, up 14% on 2014 according to New Zealand Winegrowers.

‘The new record level of wine exports is an outstanding achievement for New Zealand wine exporters and testifies to the strong global demand for our wines,’ said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

New Zealand wine is exported to more than 90 countries, and is New Zealand’s 6th largest export good. . . 

Man plans tractor trek after wife’s death:

Ten vintage tractors will travel the length of New Zealand next month to raise awareness and money for Hospice New Zealand.

Auckland man Phil Aish came up with the idea after the death of his wife Janice 15 months ago.

The Tractor Trek will begin in Bluff on 22 February and end almost a month later on 18 March in Cape Reinga.

Mr Aish said some tractors had been bought in Southland and some were being freighted to Bluff before the big trip. . . 

Purple haze proves a hit – Sally Rae:

Blake Foster has contemplated putting a warning sign on State Highway 80 that reads ‘‘caution, purple distraction ahead”.

For visitors to the Mackenzie district can now stop and smell the lavender – all 99,000 or so plants of it.

Situated on the Mt Cook highway, New Zealand Alpine Lavender is the largest certified organic lavender farm in the southern hemisphere. . . 

Wool Eases Slightly:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s C.E.O, Mr John Dawson reports that the combined North and South Island wool auctions saw targeted buying with some categories firm to slightly dearer and others marginally easier.

Of the 19,800 bales on offer 93.7 percent sold.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies remained similar to the last sale on 21th January, softening by 0.23 percent. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand appoints new CEO:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has appointed Sam McIvor as its new Chief Executive Officer. He will also have the role of CEO of the New Zealand Meat Board.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons said McIvor is an experienced CEO who brings a range of strategic thinking and management experience to support both organisations’ work for sheep and beef farmers, and the broader sector.

McIvor is currently the Group General Manager Farm Operations at Ospri and he has held the roles of CEO Preston Corp Ltd and CEO of New Zealand Pork. . . 


Some would owe us

July 22, 2014

Stephen Franks has an innovative suggestion on incentive pay for MPs:

. . . When the Remuneration Authority was asking MPs about reform of the system 10 years ago, I urged that parties be given a material amount they could distribute among their members according to their pre-Parliament incomes, to do three things:

  • reduce the income cut involved in going to Parliament for people for whom there is much more to lose, and
  • reduce the overpayment of the kind or people who would never be thought useful enough outside Parliament to get anywhere near their Parliamentary income, so they don’t cling quite so desperately to their places; and
  • have the supplement reduce each year after entry to Parliament, to encourage turnover of people who have not progressed. . .

It would be very interesting to know how many MPs take a pay cut when they enter parliament and how many get an increase.

I can see why Franks’ suggestion could appeal but wages and salary are best based on what people are being paid to do rather than what they did in a previous position.

An MP like mine, Waitaki’s Jacqui Dean, has to service an electorate of 34,888 square kilometres which places far more demands on her than those with smaller electorates or in parliament through a party list.

However, while paying on performance would have appeal, how to judge that would be debatable.

Although this Twitter exchange, brought to my attention by Kiwiblog,  provides evidence some MPs are paid far more than they could possibly gain outside parliament:

Asenati Lole Taylor  could be a Minister in a Labour, Green, NZ First, Internet Mana Party government.

If this exchange is a fair reflection on her competence and she was paid on performance she’d owe us.


Rural round-up

April 18, 2014

A sense of proportion about risk, and be grateful for farmer success – Stephen Franks:

I look forward to playing with my latest farm toy. The family call it a ‘golf cart’. It is a UTV ( said by a Jim Mora Panel listener to mean ‘Utility Task Vehicle’) but more commonly referred to as a “side by side”.  As dairy farmers upgrade their gear in the dairy bonanza, the rest of rural New Zealand benefits from their second hand off-road wheels.

The farm bike then quad bike largely replaced the horse several decades ago. Now they in turn will be replaced by UTVs.

The safety over-lords expolit the injury rates on ATVs to get ordinary people to cower apologetically before them. Ignoring the drive of many of us to use our machines to the limit for the same kind of satisfaction as we get from mountain climbing, or playing rugby, or skiing fast, or even perhaps binge drinking, they force industry leaders into snivelling apologies for accidents that are inevitable if people are to continue to be free to choose their preferred levels of risk. . .    

Govt to establish Food Safety Science & Research Centre:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that expressions of interest have been released for a Food Safety Science and Research Centre.

Establishing a New Zealand centre of food safety science and research is one of the 29 recommendations from the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident, released in December last year.

“The centre will ensure delivery of excellent food safety science and research while also minimising the risks of foodborne illness and maximising economic growth opportunities,” Mr Joyce says. . .

Dairy Women’s Network appoints Atiamuri dairy farmer to North Island convenor role:

Atiamuri dairy farmer Karen Forlong has been appointed North Island convenor coordinator for the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN).

In the 20-hours per week role, Forlong is charged with supporting 18 regional volunteers who run the Network’s regional groups from the top to the bottom of the North Island.

DWN chief executive Zelda de Villiers said the Network was delighted with Karen’s appointment.

“Karen brings a wealth of farming and leadership experience to the Network. Alongside her farming responsibilities she is on the board of Rotorua District Vets and is about to complete the Agri-Women Development Trust’s Escalator Programme. . .

 

Spreading the word on alternative tree species:

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew has announced that a project which aims to provide information for growers on alternative tree species has been approved for a Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) grant.

“The project will focus specifically on cypresses and eucalypts. Both species groups have been successfully grown here on a wide range of site types for many years, but on a limited scale,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“When grown well, both cypresses and eucalypts produce high-value timber with a wide range of possible uses. They have a valuable role in soil conservation, improving water quality, providing shade and shelter, and increasing biodiversity.” . . .

$9.9m in funding for new sustainable farming projects:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the latest round of projects receiving funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF), covering a range of issues from water quality to climate change.

“There are 31 approved projects in this round, with $9.9m in funding over three years coming from the Government and $8.7m from the project’s co-funders.

“The one common factor is they will deliver real economic and environmental benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries. They are driven from the grassroots and will make a real difference to regional communities.

“For example a project addressing water quality issues in the Opihi catchment aims to increase profitability and productivity while reducing the environmental impacts on catchment farms.   . .

Delegat’s founder Jim Delegat to step back from daily operations – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Jim Delegat, founder of Delegat’s Group, is stepping down from running the winemaker’s daily operations to focus on the company’s strategic direction.

From next month Delegat will take on the role executive chairman, where he will provide strategic direction and monitor performance, the company said in a statement. Graeme Lord will take over as managing director and will be responsible for developing growth plans, building a high performing organisation and executing business plans. Lord has been the general manager of global sales and market for the past six years. Current Delegat’s chairman Robert Wilton will remain on as a director. . . .

 

 


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