The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister – Revisited

By   /   July 2, 2018  /   36 Comments

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Following John Key’s sudden (and largely unexplained) resignation on 5 December 2016, I wrote a piece lamenting that he had left no positive  legacy of significance;

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… much  has been said of Key’s “legacy”. Pundits have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out what  “legacy” can be attributed to eight years of a Key-led administration.

Despite screeds being devoted on the subject, it appears that little can actually be attributed to any form of Key “legacy”.

[…]

[Brent] Edwards contrasted Key’s administration with that of Jim Bolger and pointed out the latter’s legacies, which have had a lasting impact of New Zealand’s social and political landscape. The first was the advent of MMP which forever changed politics as it is done in this country. The second was Bolger’s courage to stand up to his party’s redneck conservatism and engage with Maori to address Treaty of Waitangi grievances.

[…]

In an era marking the rise of nationalistic political movements (Brexit, Trump, et al), Key’s “package of reforms” will be rolled back and many, like Charter Schools, swept away entirely.

These legacies of a failed economic ideology – neo-liberalism – may rate a mention in the footnotes of future history books, but not much more. In fifty years time, no one will point to Key’s supposed “reforms” as people still do to Michael Savage’s achievements.

[…]

… and I leave this brief assessment for future historians;

John Key – Master at spin, photo-ops, and PR, but nothing else. When the teflon was stripped away, there was nothing underneath.

And that will be his legacy: nothing. We simply couldn’t think of a single damned one.

As I pointed out then – and which has subsequently been proven – National’s  “growth” was illusory, based mostly on high immigration and unsustainable ballooning house prices in Auckland.

Unfortunately, my dismissal of Key’s administration as historically inconsequential may have been a rush to judgement. I regret that I failed to pick up a vital policy change that has had a long term – albeit utterly unforeseen at the time – beneficial impact on  this country.

On 21 May 2009, John Key announced the appointment of Professor Peter Gluckman as the first  Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. At the time,  Key stated;

“This appointment delivers on the Government’s goal of including science at the heart of our decision-making.

I campaigned on creating this role because I recognise that New Zealand’s prosperity rests on our ability to make full use of the expertise that our scientists can contribute.

Professor Gluckman will provide me with a direct line to advice when I need it. He will be an independent voice that will complement existing channels of advice such as government departments and the Royal Society.

This role is one of vital importance that demands not only a high level of science expertise, but also the utmost integrity to fairly represent the state of science knowledge.”

Fast forward to almost exactly nine years later;

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Sir Peter was unequivocal; there was no credible data to support the meth hysteria that had swept the country;

“There’s absolutely no evidence in the medical literature anywhere in the world, of anybody being harmed by passive exposure to methamphetamine at any level.

“We can’t find one case in the medical literature, we can’t find one case by talking to experts where there is evidence of harm … it makes no sense.”

It backed up a curious admission from National Party leader, Bill English, in August 2016, where he questioned the validity of p-contamination levels in state houses;

“Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.

According to that guideline they should not be moving people into houses where there is P contamination.

They’re operating to a Ministry of Health guideline which I understand is internationally standard, but is regarded as not quite appropriate”

It would certainly help housing New Zealand if the scientists applied themselves to coming up with a new guideline.

We would hope that within a few months there will be a standard that all the scientists regard as more appropriate. In the meantime, Housing New Zealand are doing their best to ensure that they don’t inconvenience tenants any more than is necessary.”

Astonishingly, despite Bill English knowing two years ago that meth-testing levels were probably bogus, National’s current Housing spokesperson, Judith Collins, voiced ignorance to its validity;

“We didn’t know. I spoke to [then-Minister of Social Housing] Paula Bennett about it, and she’s absolutely adamant she didn’t know. She got advice from the Housing NZ and also the Ministry of Health, and apparently Standards NZ were involved. So it’s the first time that we knew.”

Ms Collins was happy to pass the buck;

“But Housing NZ needs to front up, because they have refused to front up to media, and their minister Phil Twyford, he’s not making them front up. Let’s just find out what they knew.”

In October 2016, the Ministry of Health repeated it’s assertions that P levels in houses were only dangerous if manufacturing – not smoking – had taken place;

Ministry of Health Director of protection, regulation and assurance, Stewart Jessamine, said;

“Underpinning those conversations has always been the Ministry’s view that the Ministry’s guidelines only cover clandestine laboratories and this has been routinely pointed out.”

Despite clear statements from the Ministry of Health and from then-Prime Minister Bill English, Housing NZ continued its policy to evict around 300 families from State houses; disrupting lives; and demanding compensation from some former tenants.

On 6 June this year, Housing NZ’s CEO,  Andrew McKenzie, denied point blank ever being advised by the Ministry of Health that they were mis-applying P-levels;

“We weren’t warned repeatedly.

No, we weren’t  [told].

[…]

So, certainly, the organisation is very clear, we were not told. There’s no record of being told that we were mis-using the guidelines.”

Evidently, the Prime Minister of the day’s public comments on national radio, questioning meth-testing levels,  did not constitute “being told”.

National party current-leader, Simon Bridges gave a belated qualified “apology” – of sorts;

“I’m sorry that the advice we got was wrong and has made this situation what it is.”

Bridges’ apology was for “advice we got was wrong” – not for wrongful eviction of tenants.

But not one single individual has taken responsibility for 300 families losing their homes and $100 million of tax-payer’s money flushed down the toilet on pointless testing.

Since Sir Peter’s meth-testing bomb-shell, Housing NZ has been forced to apologise to tenants who were caught up in the hysteria; cease demanding repayment for unnecessary clean-ups; and taken evicted tenants’ names of a Housing NZ black-list. There is also consideration of making compensation payments for Housing NZ tenants who lost their homes and possessions (though tenants in private “social housing” may miss out).

The policy of evicting tenants for flawed meth-levels, and where culpability for who (if any of the current tenants) smoked the drug, has been put to a stop.

For 300 people whose lives have been unnecessarily disrupted, it is too late. But at least no more vulnerable families will be put at risk of summary eviction and imposition of hefty punitive financial penalities.

In a curious way, this is due to Key’s decision to implement the role of a Science Advisor nine years ago. Sir Peter’s description of his new role in 2009 was remarkably prescient;

My primary task is to give the Prime Minister strategic and operational advice on science and science policy issues.

[…]

… I have a role of advising on specific matters related to science. In general this will be in the form of formally commissioned reports that will summarise the evidence base to suggest a specific mode of action or secondly where new scientific developments create either opportunity or risk. Again, I anticipate that my role will be limited to situations where my independence and hopefully high public respect can add value beyond what can come from departmental or sectoral advice.

[…]

… I will serve as a conduit of alerts that might arise where scientific progress shows either opportunity or threat for New Zealand. I will not be a lobby for individual science projects, but where scientists see something emerging that they think policy makers need to be aware of, I can assist with communication.

More recently, in an interview on TVNZ’s Q+A with Corin Dann, Sir Peter expanded on the role of Science Advisor for sound policy-making;

“So most of the things that governments really need help from the science community over are remarkably complex. The water system, the climate system, the agricultural system. That’s what we can try and do is explain both to the public and to the policy maker and to the politician. What are they options that then emerge? Complexity always means there are multiple options.

[…]

…the whole question of, ‘How do we have complex conversations over difficult matters in a constructive, collegial manner. Because this is a matter where, clearly, people come to it with different personal perspectives. We have put the evidence on the table, and I would hope that over time – we said that when we released the report – it would hopefully promote a conversation where people would look at the evidence across all the political parties, and with the public, and perhaps reflect that perhaps we’ve gone too far into the retribution model of justice and not enough into the restorative, rehabilitative and particularly preventive form of justice which other countries, such as Finland, Germany, have done. And the evidence there is, in my view, that we could have a conversation…

[…]

And what a science advisory system can do is provide the evidence on the basis that it will help, over time, governments and societies make better decisions.”

For far too long, New Zealand’s policy-making by our elected representatives has been predicated on knee-jerk reactions and populism. Whether it was Muldoon’s disastrous  decision to abandon compulsory superannuation payments which left New Zealand at the mercy of overseas financiers – or the current explosion in incarceration rates in our prisons based on “tough on crime” jingoism – political decisions have hardly been predicated on sound science.

As a nation we have paid heavily – in both social and financial measures – for flawed political decision-making.

Sir Peter’s revelations that meth testing was a sham was based on science. The data was hard (if impossible) to refute.

It is high time that Science Advisors should be mandatory and well-resourced for every single Ministry and department in this country. Their advice should be critical in all aspects of crucial policy-making.

Otherwise we lurch from one ineffectual populistic policy extreme to another. All to win votes in a vacuum of real information and hard data.

Make no mistake, we end up paying for policy extremes that are not founded in sound science. National’s populistic tough-on-crime mantra and harsher bail laws has resulted in a massive explosion in our prison population.  The number of prisoners (including non-sentenced people awaiting trial, whose guilt/innocence has not yet been decided) now exceeds 10,000 and approaching 11,000.

As Justice Minister Andrew Little pointed out;

“The Netherlands, where I was last week, a country of roughly 15½ million, has a prison population of 7000. We’re a country of 4.7 million and we’ve got a prison population of approaching 11,000. What is happening in New Zealand is abnormal, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

National would have wasted $1 billion of our taxes on a new mega-prison in Waikeria. They have lambasted Labour’s attempts to grapple with a burgeoning prison muster by parroting the “soft on crime” mantra. Simon Bridges and his National party MPs have capitalised over fear-mongering on this issue;

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Sir Peter Gluckman weighed in;

“Cabinet will be considering a range of questions and issues in the next two to three weeks, and a range of decisions will be taken about stuff to do in the short term and stuff we’ll be able to do in the longer term.

I was shocked by the rate of rise in the prison and justice system costs in the past 30 years, and in particular that this rise has continued and is actually enhanced at the very time that crime rates are actually declining.

We say, ‘Lock ’em up, lock ’em up, be tough on crime.’ But all that’s going to do is keep driving up costs.”

Of course, some offenders still needed prison time for retribution and to protect the public.

But if you look at what’s driving the costs – it’s that we’re making more severe sentences.

Now is that sensible when we know people who are in prison for longer often become professional criminals? It’s an inevitability of what the environment creates.

Evidence in the report suggests prisons are often training grounds for further offending. Prisoners can build their criminal careers by learning criminal skills in prison, which damages their employment, accommodation and family prospects, and compounds any existing mental health and substance use issues.

Associate professor, Ian Lambie, a Science Advisor to the justice sector and clinical psychologist, stated with crystal clarity;

“This Government has clearly indicated they want some work done and are interested in reform.

Where we are heading is not where we should be, and it does not create a safer society, a safer New Zealand.

What we have to do, rather than building more prisons, is focus the money on ways to create fewer prisoners, and we have to look at early intervention.

We have to remember that the majority of people [prisoners] get out. They have mental health needs, literacy needs, housing needs – and those life needs need to be addressed. We need to give the support and services if we’re really going to turn their lives around.”

So who do we listen to?

Politicians such as tough-on-crime National MPs with an eye on the next election in 2020?

Or Science Advisors who act on information and are impartial and dispassionate on issues?

It is time that New Zealand put more weight on evidentially-based policies. Relying on emotive, political, headline-grabbing sound-bites designed to scare people and elicit their votes is a poor way to formulate sound policy.

The meth-testing scam is a clear case of where emotion and politicisation leads us. It is a warning we should heed as a nation if we are to learn from our mistakes.

That’s not a bad legacy from a Prime Minister who otherwise wasted nine years.

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References

Fairfax media: John Key dismisses rumours surrounding resignation

Radio NZ: PM to resign – ‘It feels like the right time to go’

NZ Herald: NZ’s half-trillion-dollar debt bomb

Beehive: PM appoints Chief Science Advisor

Radio NZ: Meth house contamination debunked by PM’s science advisor

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Mediaworks/Newshub: National had no idea meth guidelines were wrong – Judith Collins

NZ Herald: Housing NZ on the defensive over meth testing as it says just five state house tenants have been evicted over P use

Radio NZ: Housing NZ boss apologises over faulty meth tests

Radio NZ: Housing NZ boss ‘regrets’ meth-testing approach (audio)

Fairfax media: Housing NZ report into meth test saga to cover ‘every aspect’ of ‘policy failure’

Fairfax media: Housing NZ backtracks after saying it has no plans to stop taking payments for meth clean-up costs

TVNZ News: Social housing tenants evicted over meth contamination may miss out on compensation

Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor: The Role of the Chief Scientific Advisor

Scoop media: TVNZ – Q+A – Sir Peter Gluckman interviewed by Corin Dann

Fairfax media: Compulsory super ‘would be worth $278 billion’

Interest.co.nz: English says NZ$1 bln capital cost and NZ$1.5 bln of operating costs for extra 1,800 prison beds reduces room for tax cuts

Fairfax media: Prisons under ‘immense pressure’ with only enough space for 300 more inmates

Fairfax media: Government aims to cut prison population and fix ‘abnormal’ system

Fairfax media: $1 billion prison expansion entering final stages of approval

TVNZ: Waikeria Prison expansion is ‘unfortunately’ needed and Government is ignoring the reality of high inmate numbers – Simon Bridges

Additional

Radio NZ: Sir Peter Gluckman: Meth fiasco shows science advisors crucial

Other Blogposts

Liberation:  Cartoons about John Key’s resignation

No Right Turn:  A tiny start

No Right Turn:  Priorities

No Right Turn:  Calling bullshit on “P-contamination”

Public Address:  “Meth contamination”: the making of a moral panic

Public Address:  We are, at last, navigating out of the “meth contamination” debacle

Pundit: Meth house clean-up only just begun

The Daily Blog:  Well, well, well – so the meth contamination hysteria was bullshit? When will the Mainstream Media & Paula Bennett apologise to NZ?

The Daily Blog: New meth hysteria allegations – Auckland Health Board narked on tenants using their addiction services to HNZ

The Daily Blog:  Shocking new details – HNZ kicked 300 onto street AFTER they were told meth hysteria was wrong

The Daily Blog:  Drug driving hysteria will become our new Meth housing hysteria

The Daily Blog:  Radio NZ continue to promote the lie that National didn’t know about meth testing scam

The Daily Blog:  Soper demanding answers over Metiria when HNZ blew $100m for meth testing hysteria – the double standards are unbelievable

The Standard: Gluckman – Methamphetamine policy was a crock

The Standard: Dud advice

The Standard: National’s strategy on the Housing Corp P fiasco

Previous related blogposts

The Dismantling of a Prime Minister – Completed

The Legacy of a Dismantled Prime Minister

Letter to the editor – John Key’s legacy?

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36 Comments

  1. e-clectic says:

    Key’s legacy wasn’t nothing. It was less than nothing. It was a debt that leaves us in hock with limitations on future programmes unless the government has the guts and/or smarts to step outside the mainstream financial systems.

  2. WILD KATIPO says:

    Yeah , – and then there’s Operation Burnham , the Panama Papers and NZ’s Tax Haven , the setting up of Kim Dotcom and the illegal arrest and search warrant , – not to mention the debacle with Nicky Hager , the Hobbit Laws, the misuse of the SIS by Keys office , the XKEYSCORE program lies , Dirty Politics run out of Keys office ( again ) and a raft of other corruptions.

    The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED) « The Standard
    https://thestandard.org.nz/the-great-big-list-of-john-keys-big-fat-lies-updated/

    If anything , the man should be before the courts and only remembered for being the most brazenly corrupt PM this country has ever had the sheer misfortune to have had to endure.

    The only word that will be forever associated with Key and his National party inner core will be ‘corruption’ .

    • MattyGee says:

      and the SkyCity licence extension…

    • cleangreen says:

      100% Wild Katipo.

      We remember john Key and has corupt club meeting at Bilderberg in 2011 with his three criminal attendees.

      John Key did this secret clandestine meeting he had with this dark secretive black ops organistaion from all of us who live in NZ.

      http://twochurchesonly.com/volume-1/supmat/03/most_influential/bilderberg_group/list_of_bilderberg_attendees.pdf

      QUOTE;
      List of Bilderberg participants 4
      New Zealand
      • John Key (2011-2012), Prime Minister of New Zealand

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        Anyone concerned with national sovereignty should be alarmed at the Bilderbergers.

        The Bilderberg Group: Founded by a Nazi and Continuing the Agenda …
        humansarefree.com/2015/06/the-bilderberg-group-founded-by-nazi.html

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        Oh , – and perhaps I had best clarify about Nazi links regards Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands ,…

        ——————————–

        “Bernhard, a secret history” has revealed that the prince was a member of the German Nazi party until 1934, three years before he married Princess Juliana, the future queen of the Netherlands.

        “Annejet van der Zijl, a Dutch historian, has found membership documents in Berlin’s Humboldt University that prove Prince Bernhard, who studied there, had joined Deutsche Studentenschaft, a National Socialist student fraternity, as well as the Nazi NSDAP and its paramilitary wing, the Sturmabteilung.

        “He left all the groups on leaving university in December 1934, when he went to work for the German chemical giant, IG Farben.”

        ——————————-

        And WHY is this so important?

        Well , perhaps we should once again turn to Hugh Prices article where he states:

        ——————————

        …’ Mont Pelerin shared the same “conservative revolution” philosophy as the Nazis. It also shared some of the same personnel. For instance, Max von Thurn und Taxis was a sponsor of von Hayek and his new society.

        Thurn und Taxis’ family had founded another society in southern Germany before World War 1, which was composed entirely of aristocrats, known as the Thule Society. Thule in turn formed a special “workers division” known as the “National Socialist German Workers Party” (NSDAP).

        The NSDAP, into which an Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler was recruited, later became better known by the abbreviated version of its name, the “Nazis.” In 1989, Max von Thurn und Taxis attended a meeting of his Mont Pelerin Society in Christchurch, New Zealand, to judge, first hand, the results of the “worlds most radical free market revolution ‘ …

        ——————————-

        New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
        http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

        There’s your global One World Government that George Bush Sr bragged about right there.

        Nazi’s.

        Therein lies the origins of their ideology.

        Nazi’s.

        Or ,… to be less ‘Godwin ‘ about it , – far right wing fascist thinkers from the old elitist orders of European nobility.

        You would not buy a house or a car without at least a cursory inquiry into their history , would you ?… and yet ,… so many will blindly vote for criminals to be their leaders , – then wonder why they are doing so poorly in life, – yet not for one minute will they think of inquiring into the background / ideology of the ones they’ve just voted for and placed in power over them….

        Let history be your teacher.

        Because as sure as the sun rises,… the mainstream media certainly wont.

        In fact , the global MSM have blood on their hands in aiding and abetting the obscene carnage of both world wars.

    • Jack Ramaka says:

      Evidently the “Paradise Papers” are due out soon ?

  3. Jack Ramaka says:

    Increased debt loading to the US Bankers and his attempt to change the NZ Flag ?

  4. cleangreen says:

    Key’s legacy was = Selling of as much of NZ as possible.

    • mary_a says:

      Sums up Key’s corrupt tenure correctly Cleangreen. The man is also a pervert and a war criminal, as well as a traitor!

      As far as I’m concerned unwanted touching of young girls and women, (accompanied by that creepy, heinous, slimy smirk, as he satisfied himself), war crimes and treason will go down as Key’s filthy legacies!

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        … ” The man is also a pervert and a war criminal, as well as a traitor! ”…

        —————————–

        Yes indeed, … and after having being asked to cease and desist humiliating that woman , – carried on that behavior for SIX MORE MONTHS !!!

        In plain sight of the Diplomatic Protection Squad , no less.

        And then there was little Fatima… the three year old… and Keys signing off on Operation Burnham.

        While Key sold his mansion off to Chinese buyers for a 20 million dollar profit.

        What a total piece of shit he is.

  5. Christine says:

    Key enabled the ripping the social fabric of NZ into pieces and flogging off the big bits.

    Society needs and values men who engage in farming, fishing, weaving carpets or weaving anything, building, writing poetry, cooking, cleaning, healing the sick, plumbing, making music and playing and singing it, painting beautiful pictures, designing space rockets, reaching for the stars and picking up rubbish off the pavement.

    We got stuck with a loser who only knows how to make money, and can seemingly barely hit a nail with a hammer – think I can repair a fence and plant a tree or a bean better than John ever could.

    I was living overseas when Norman Kirk was PM but I know that he built his own house – as did Nicky Hager.

    I see no virtue in MSM portraying Key as a state house kid who made good. He didn’t make good at all.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      … ” We got stuck with a loser who only knows how to make money, and can seemingly barely hit a nail with a hammer – think I can repair a fence and plant a tree or a bean better than John ever could.

      I was living overseas when Norman Kirk was PM but I know that he built his own house – as did Nicky Hager ” …

      ——————————–

      Although this was the punchline, the rest of your post was pure gold.

      Thank you.

      • Christine says:

        Thank you, Wild Katipo. I had decided not to comment on Key again, because he is one of those rare people in whom I can see no good at all, absolutely none, and querying my objectivity here.

    • cleangreen says:

      Christine,

      I was living as a kiwi in Toronto in 1972 to 76 when i brought my new only once married new wife home to live and in 1976 and we also missed Kirk’s Government but everyone in Napier said he was a great guy.

      Then we built our own large extension to our only home there we still live in 38 yrs later.

      We have never speculated to get rich and am sad to see others speculate as it will end badly for the younger generation now.

      • Christine says:

        Cleangreen – something very fundamental and hugely satisfying about building your own home – I often wish I was a man – but we woman build nests.

        I got Kirk’s biography from the Sallies and am reading it just to encounter a good man; by chance I learned of Raoul Wallenberg and read of him for the pleasure of knowing there are very good selfless people who act for something immensely bigger than themselves. We need them in our psyche.

        Money as God didn’t really exist when I was growing up, it was what sort of person you were that mattered, so the wholesale media worship of a someone like Key, I don’t understand, but it is probably just because the MSM is corporate-owned.

        My late brother – possibly quite wealthy – said that Rupert Murdoch is the most evil man in the world.

        One young relative says a complete breakdown in modern communication systems could engender new and different values.

  6. Jack Ramaka says:

    Should have won NZ Real Estate Salesperson of the Year for successive years.

  7. Jack Ramaka says:

    That’s what Merchant Bankers do package stuff up and sell it ?

    Parasitic activity ?

  8. Mjolnir says:

    Good try, Frank, but I think the universal oppobrium shown on Key’s prime ministership has left a sour taste in peoples’ mouth. You’re more charitable than the rest of us.

    On the point of a Science Advisor – couldn’t agree with you more !!

  9. Observer Tokoroa says:

    The False Man

    It is so good that Mr Key is being seen for what he is. An empty man.

    There is however, one outstanding feature of the miserable toad. He shows us exactly what Capitalists are !

    They harass.They bully too. they underpay staff. They don’t give a fig about anyone or anything – other than their own Greed.

    Key is the man that achieved through his meek little Treasurer English, $100Bn Debt. See Stats NZ. Together they threw the Nation into Poverty. While they grew like fat Pigs.

    We must get rid of unsharing filthy capitalists.

    • Quicksilver says:

      The economic doctrine of neoliberal capitalism is easily understood by psychopaths.
      A system where worth is reduced to, and measured by, a simple monetary value. This is something the psychopathic brain, lacking as it does the capacity to comprehend normal emotional significance, can understand.

      The smiling assassin and assorted sub-humans that have backstabbed/lied/betrayed/slithered their way to positions of power and authority in our society…….they prosper in exactly such a system, along with their enablers.

  10. Damocles says:

    Gluckman has come out supporting the use of Genetically Modified Organisms – still support him and the appointment of other Science Advisors?

    • If the science shows that after several decades GMOs pose no threat – then yes. (With the exception of GE such as ‘terminator genes’ in seeds.)

      I am not bound ideologically to any position. I prefer evidence-based policies (as I wrote above).

      And I say that as someone who campaigned against GE in the 1990s and early 2000s.

      • John W says:

        Evidence does not always enable incite into the future and consequences of decisions.

        The precautionary principle stands.

        You can never change one thing without other changes resulting.

        Europe seems to have opinion abouit GM that is progressive in protecting the future of public good, while the capitalist US Corporates worry about expansion of profits as the only measure of worth.

        The war of words and citing of evidence is one one hand to prevent actual and possible harm socially and economically while on the other hand argument is constructed to create opportunity for corporate profit.

        How you apply science and scientific argument is often guided by non scientific ideology.

      • Danyl Strype says:

        “If the science shows that after several decades GMOs pose no threat – then yes.”

        The problem here is that science can only gather data on things that have happened. The only way to gather scientific data on the consequences of millions of people smoking tobacco, or spraying DDT or dioxin based agro-chemicals around, or building thousands of nuclear power stations, or wiping out the keystone species in ecosystems, or emitting billions of tonnes of carbon-based gases into the air, is to do it. As each of these examples show, it’s often better to apply a cost/ benefit analysis first, and put the burden of proof on those who will profit from potentially risky activities to show that the potential public benefit is significantly greater than the potential social and environmental risk.

        Genetic engineering fails this test not because of the weight of evidence of risk (although it exists), but because once you remove all the empty PR claims about feeding the world, you find a complete lack of evidence for any public benefit. Gluckman’s approach, like most pro-industry scientists, is to downplay the evidence of risk, and reference the industry PR as evidence of benefit. On topics like GE, you need to consult independent scientists like Dr Mike Joy or Dr Merial Watts, or Dr Sean Weaver, who have no skin in the GE game, and can give genuinely neutral assessment of GE that tables *all* the evidence.

        (With the exception of GE such as ‘terminator genes’ in seeds.)

        The same corporate PR that claims GE will “feed the world” now claims that Monstanto was never working “terminator” technology, but there is plenty of evidence that such technology was being developed, and that Monsanto was involved in that research. Anything the GE industry claims needs to be carefully fact-checked. I’ve started doing that here:
        https://www.coactivate.org/projects/drillingfortruth/genetic-engineering/

        • John W says:

          Science is a process whereby evidence is examined and tested.
          Nothing can be “proven” in the realm of Science.

          The burden of evidence without reductionist selection must always involve the bigger picture and never avoidance of information nor argument designed to support and untested theoretical outcome.

          So the precautionary principle is and must be the essential modifier of action.

          • Mjolnir says:

            Isn’t that the excuse that Housing NZ used to evict 300 tenants from their homes, John? Those evictions were based on “precautions” as well, not sound reasining and science. Look where that got us.

            • John W says:

              While there may have been claim to eviction being a precautionary measure, such an argument would be weak justification of a simplistic decision.

              Certainly the likely consequences of such a decision would be largely predictable in terms of the effects on tenants.

              The claimed health effects of residual Meths traces were not well researched yet action was taken on poorly supported assumptions.

              A precaution alone is not a sound immutable argument.

              The precautionary approach has to involve a weighing up of evidence and generally delaying of a decision where making that decision may have undesired able or irreversible unwanted consequences.

              So qualified judgment is involved and those affected may well want to be included in the discussion.

    • Jack Ramaka says:

      Gluckman typifies a GMO, brainwashed by the multinational chemical companies and does not have the ability to think outside the square of main stream thinking and group think ?

      • John W says:

        His choice of words leaves that likelihood somewhat open.

        There appears to be little evidence that stands in support of GM cropping and certainly once GM pollen is introduced it may be impossible to eradicate its potential negative effects.

        Several other better and more predictable choices can be made to have more food available, than the reductionist confinement of the proposition to include GM.

        But the larger picture must be looked at and Human population must be limited either by intelligent planning, or by the consequence of a variety of situations created by expansion of numbers and consumption of shrinking Non Renewable Natural Resources.

        China is the only state to formally recognise that and legislate.

        NNRs are finite.

        Gluckman doesn’t seem to go there.

  11. cleangreen says:

    John Keys legacy = was to make greed a popular pass time.

    Sad animal he is.

  12. Scotti says:

    Well writ and calmly John W .

  13. Kim dandy says:

    Im wih Wild katipo on this one. Key should be before the courts for this country to have any justice for the corruption and crimes he committed. On trial behind him should be NZ’s MSM, for supporting a criminal for 9 years!

  14. R.P Mcmurphy says:

    Key was a ring in headhunted by some new york outfit and given the seaal of approval by the old boag and hooton and other wingnuts in the nationals party and adopted by the hair and teeth crowd from TVNZ and other media.
    his ascension was predicated that if he was good at using other peoples money in business then he could do the same with kiwis.
    The final wash up is that he was all style and no substance and that sums up the idiots who elected him.

  15. […] blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July […]