Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup

The Bledisloe Cup is a rugby union competition between the All Blacks (New Zealand national team) and the Wallabies (Australian national team). The All Blacks have held the cup since 2002, but in the first game in the series last week, the Wallabies soundly beat the All Blacks The competition became a hot topic of conversation in Australia, in the hopeful belief that they might be able to take the cup for the first time in 17 years.

Such was not to be. Perhaps it was the passion in the haka that fired up the All Blacks (or intimidated the Aussies):

No matter. We won 36 – 0

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Abortion law reform passes first reading

The first reading of the abortion reform legislation has just passed 94 votes to 23. It was a conscience vote, meaning MPs were not required to vote down party lines.

Source: Abortion law reform passes first reading


Although 94 votes to 23 might seem like overwhelming support to non-Kiwi readers, this is not how we do things. After a bill passes its first reading it’s referred to a Select Committee where it is considered in detail and where interested parties can make submissions. This process can typically take around six months. This is the forum where the issues are debated, and the public are listened to. Rarely does a bill pass through this stage without some changes. Shutting down debate does not resolve issues – it’s more likely to harden prejudices.

The Committee process will see and hear submissions from all sides including health professionals, women’s groups, the legal profession, social workers, members of the public – in fact, anyone who wishes to have a say on the matter. MPs (Members of Parliament), whether they support or oppose the legislation understand this, and realise that without reasoned discussion, an informed decision cannot be made. Many, but not all, are open to persuasion based on the facts presented.

I expect the vote at the final reading will be much closer, perhaps 65 votes to 55.


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Practicalities of abortion law reform

Somewhere between one in three and one in four women in Aotearoa New Zealand will seek and have a legal abortion at some time in their life. A decade ago, there were almost 21 abortions per year per 1000 women of child bearing ages, but  has been declining since. Last year it was 13 per 1000. Better education and contraceptives have seen a dramatic drop in teenage abortions while abortions in women in their twenties and thirties have risen slightly. Our abortion rates are not too different from countries in North America or western Europe, but unlike in the US, abortion here is a crime.

The law as it is now

The Crimes Act 1961 determines the grounds for an abortion under 20 weeks, which can be serious danger to life, any form of incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental sub normality and foetal abnormality. Extremes of age and sexual violation can also be taken into account but aren’t grounds in themselves.

After 20 weeks gestation the grounds are different. Abortions can only be performed to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother.

The law is an ass

Around 98% of abortions are perform on mental health grounds, and are essentially a means of getting around the current criminal nature of abortions. The Dunedin longitudinal study reveals that the most common reason given for having an abortion was not being ready, followed by relationship reasons, including being in the wrong relationship and being alone. In other words the law is an ass. The law should be either enforced or changed.

And here we differ markedly from the trend that we observe is going on in America. In early 2018, Andrew Little, the Minister of justice, asked the Law Commission to provide advice on what alternative approaches could be taken to ensure New Zealand’s abortion laws are consistent with treating abortion as a health issue.

Law Commission recommendations

Earlier this year, the Commission presented its ministerial briefing paper and offered three possible models:

  • Under Model A there would be no statutory test that must be satisfied before an abortion could be performed. The decision whether to have an abortion would be made by the woman concerned in consultation with her health practitioner.
  • Under Model B there would be a statutory test. The health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Under Model C, there would be no statutory test until 22 weeks of a pregnancy. After 22 weeks, the health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Regardless of which model may be preferred, the briefing paper sets out several other changes that could be made to align the law with a health approach to abortion. They include:

  • Repealing the current grounds for abortion in the Crimes Act.
  • Removing the requirement for abortions to be authorised by two specially appointed doctors called ‘certifying consultants’.
  • Repealing the criminal offences in the Crimes Act relating to abortion. Instead, other offences in the Crimes Act and health legislation that currently exist would protect women from unsafe abortions. If Model B or C is adopted, an additional offence could be introduced in health legislation for people who perform abortions that don’t meet the statutory test. In no case would the woman be subject to an offence.
  • Allowing women to access abortion services directly, rather than having to get a referral from a doctor as they do under the current law.
  • Removing the current restrictions around who may perform an abortion and where abortions must be performed. Instead, the provision of abortion services would be regulated by appropriate health bodies, the same as any other health care procedure.
  • Moving the Abortion Supervisory Committee’s oversight responsibilities to the Ministry of Health.
  • Requiring health practitioners who do not wish to provide health services in relation to abortion because of a conscientious objection to refer women to someone who can provide the service.

The full briefing paper can be found here.

The art of the possible

The legislation that is to be introduced into the parliament is essentially model C with all the suggested changes, but with the statutory test being at 20 weeks instead of 22. Andrew Little would have preferred model A, but politics is the art of the possible. It’s unlikely that a bill based on model A would be able to make its way through all stages of the process required to make it law. He’s indicated that the 20 week threshold was another of those compromises he needed to make to gain support from some members of parliament, notably members of the New Zealand First party. While the reforms might not be ideal, it’s certainly far better than keeping the status quo. As the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern commented “Ultimately, it is about putting something to Parliament that has the strongest likelihood of succeeding. This issue should not be in the Crimes Act.”

Polls indicate that around 70% to 75% of the NZ adult population favour decriminalising abortion, but to what degree liberalisation should occur is less clear. However, as elsewhere, those opposing reform are by far the loudest. In this country opposition is not entirely along religious or gender lines.

Passage through parliament

If the bill passes its first reading it will be referred to a select committee, which can then take months to hear submissions from all interested parties, and you can be sure that on this topic there will be a great many submissions. It’s most likely the the select committee stage will be a prolonged affair, as more that the usual numbers supporters and opponents will wish to make vocal submissions as well as written ones. This can be expected on issues where emotions run high.

After the select committee process the bill then has to pass the second and third reading before being passed into law, and as the minister of justice admits, there’s no guarantee that this will happen. However, it’s very unlikely that he would introduce the legislation unless he believed there was a better than even chance that it would get through all stages. Time will tell if he is correct.


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Is Google a publisher of news?

Google say no. The NZ government seems to think it is.

The background

Late last year, New Zealand was shocked by the murder of a British tourist as this type of killing is unusual here. At the first court appearance of the accused murderer, a temporary name suppression order was made. As Andrew Little, the Minister of Justice stated:

Permanent suppression orders are very difficult to get in New Zealand. But temporary, or interim, suppression orders are commonly used in the early stages of a case to manage the needs of a fair trial. They are used as a practical application of the principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Even at the time of arrest, or well before the trial takes place, there is a lot for prosecuting and defence counsel to do to prepare, including working out what facts or issues are in dispute. Sometimes the issue of identification of the perpetrator is in question. Keeping the identity of an accused secret until after the trial ensures witnesses don’t get confused between what they saw around the time of the offending and what they’ve seen in the news since.

While NZ newspapers do honour suppression orders – the penalty for contempt of court can be high – foreign publication do not feel the same need need to comply. One British newspaper did publish the accused’s name and this was picked by Google’s news aggregation algorithms and mass emailed to all who subscribe to Google’s Trending in New Zealand newsletter, and included the name of the accused in the headline.

Official complaint

When the breach was discovered, Andrew Little confronted New Zealand Google executives about what happened, and they indicated they took the issue seriously and would look at what they could do to fix the problem. Last week, almost seven months after the complaint was made, Google announced it was not going to do anything about it. That lead to an angry response from the minister.

The Minister’s response

As you might imagine, Google’s response didn’t go down too well with Andrew Little. In part, he stated:

Google’s attitude to fair trial rights in New Zealand should concern us all. It’s time to call out their recklessness.

Frankly, their size, far from meaning they can’t fix an obvious risk to justice systems, means they are big enough to do better. I would be failing in my duty if, as a minister of justice in a small country, I threw in the towel and decided nothing could be done in the face of a giant international corporation thinking it could ride roughshod over one of the most important principles of criminal justice.

Google chooses to operate their business here, to earn revenue here, to publish news and information here. So they have obligations here. The same obligations other news publishers have. And for that matter, other multinational corporations.

I will not accept that Google can avoid their obligations. New Zealanders deserve better.

So I’ve asked for advice on our current suppression laws, the contribution of the Contempt of Court Bill that is currently before parliament, and what more is needed. I also want to know what avenues for legal action there might be.

This will be an issue that will affect other countries, so I want to explore how it is being dealt with overseas.

Meanwhile, one of the issues Google has raised is they don’t know what suppression orders are in force in New Zealand at any time. This doesn’t stop New Zealand based publishers from adhering to the law but I have asked the Ministry of Justice to review how it notifies media about suppression orders as part of its work to implement the new contempt laws.

One thing is clear. I’m not prepared to let Google off the hook, and all options are on the table.

A partial backdown

On Friday, Google offered an apology and has immediately suspended some elements of the subscriber news service Google Trends in New Zealand.

That means that people will no longer receive emails on any trending searches for New Zealand. Isn’t the suspension of the service a bit like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer?

Throw the book at them

Meanwhile, a tech law specialist, Rick Shera, has stated:

Sabre rattling and wringing of hands by the Minister and, previously, the Privacy Commissioner, is good, but court proceedings should be issued if laws have been broken and Google or any other provider is unwilling to accept responsibility.

In follow-up comments to the NZ Herald, Shera noted a bill going through Parliament would create a $100,000 fine for corporates who break a suppression order (an individual can be fined up to $25,000 or receive a prison sentence up to six months).

“That is clearly de minimis [chump change] for the likes of Google or Facebook,” Shera said. “The bigger issue for them is being found to have broken the law – the reputational effect – and the precedent effect overseas.”

Google vs the little guy

An unrelated court case involving Google has fizzled out. The claimant sought an order restraining Google from including specific search results when a search was made on his name. Google argued two lines of defence:

  1. It was not a publisher. It simply gathered information already published.
  2. New Zealand has no jurisdiction in the matter, and the appropriate place to proceed is in the courts in the USA, the headquarters of Google, and where its technology originates.

I understand the claimant, realised that he didn’t have the resources to take on Google, even if the NZ courts had determined they had jurisdiction, so the case was abandoned.

What should be done?

Ideally, this situation needs to be resolved by international agreements, but unless the USA is willing to come on board, no agreement will be very effective, if at all. We’ve already seen the extra-national arm the American law in cases such as Kim Dot Com whose extradition case is still going through our courts. Dot Com’s alleged criminal activity occurred while he resided here, and he did not commit any crime under NZ law, but that seems to matter little to the USA. Then there’s the case of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, being detained in Canada at the request of the USA. How about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden? Perhaps the US can show that harm has been caused to its interests as justification in all these cases??

If so, has not Google’s actions caused harm to New Zealand? Perhaps the NZ government should seek the extradition of Google’s chief technical officer for allowing Google to cause harm to our judicial system. To make sure a request isn’t laughed out of an American court, perhaps NZ should wait until he visits another nation such as the UK or Australia. Just imagine Trump’s response. I suspect most Americans would be behind Trump in this particular case.

So I’d like to ask the opinion of my readers in three matters:

  1. What constitutes publishing? If I emailed the same headline to friends or collegues as Google did in its “What’s trending in New Zealand” email, or posted that headline on this blog, I have no doubt that I’d be publishing in both cases. In fact, even if I did not mention the accused’s name, but provided a link to the British article that named him, I’d be in contempt of court. Why should Google be treated differently?
  2. How far should organisations go to comply with the laws of the country they operate in? Google has offices and staff here. Should they be able to avoid local laws by claiming it’s the parent body that’s responsible? Would that work in China?
  3. Should free speech be restricted to ensure a fair trial? I know jurors should only consider the evidence presented in court, but it’s human nature to form opinion from many sources including public conjecture, which may affect a juror’s ability to make an impartial decision. If suppression orders continue to be broken, there will be occasions where justice will not be served.

Just to clarify the name suppression order: The accused’s solicitor asked for name suppression, which was opposed by the police. The judge declined to grant name suppression, but the solicitor immediately filed an appeal. The appeal set in place an automatic 20-day interim suppression order so that both parties can prepare their arguments for or against the decision.


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Political leaders can change our opinions

I have been a regular participant in the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) for many years. Their website describes NZAVS as a

20-year longitudinal national study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes of more than 60,000 New Zealanders. The study is broad-ranging and includes researchers from a number of New Zealand universities, including the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, and Massey University. The NZAVS extends our understanding of how New Zealanders’ life circumstances, attitudes, values, and beliefs change over time. The study is university-based, not-for-profit and independent of political or corporate funding.

A recent NZAVS newsletter included the headline “Political leaders can change our opinions” which I found intriguing. My first thought was that politicians typically try to determine the opinions of potential voters, particularly in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the differences between the centre right and centre left are very small and there are very few issues that polarise  public opinion.

But then I thought about Trump and wondered how much his opinions and those of his supporters influence each other.  Research shows that the positions taken by political leaders and political parties can have an important impact on peoples’ preferences, even on issues that are supposed to reflect personal preferences. The newsletter reports:

How much can our own attitudes be affected by our political leaders?

In 2015, then-leaders of National and Labour publicly expressed their personal opinions on whether the New Zealand flag should be changed, with John Key (National) arguing New Zealanders should choose a new flag, and Andrew Little (Labour) arguing New Zealanders should keep the current flag. We measured public support for changing the flag both before and after these opinions were published in the media.

Overall, 30.5% of National party supporters and 27.5% of Labour party supporters changed their original opinion to match their party leaders. This research provides a rare real-time example of politicians’ influence on public opinion.

To learn more, read the article from the Association of Psychological Science

Although the research was conducted only on Kiwis, I wonder to what degree the same effect occurs in other countries. Anyone care to comment?


Just for the record, I’ve wanted a flag change since before I was old enough to vote, and I still hold that opinion. If Australia changes their’s before we do, then I might consider it a less pressing issue, but one still worth pursuing.


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Update Aoteraroa 22nd May 2019

As selection of Aotearoa New Zealand news items I found interesting…

Member of Parliament is provided with security escort

Sigh. Even in our relatively liberal multicultural society and perhaps because of the Christchurch massacre, white extremists seem to be more confident about expressing themselves more openly, while still hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

Green MP (Member of Parliament) Golriz Ghahraman is being provided with a security escort any time she leave Parliament due to the nature of of online comments about her. Comments go so far as to discuss lynching. I don’t know what security is provided to legislators in other countries, but here the only other polititian to have a security escort is the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Read more (Reuters)…

Surge in Australians pondering move to New Zealand after election

There has been a spike in interest among Australians in moving to New Zealand since the Australian elections.

Immigration New Zealand says four times the usual number of Australians visited its website and information site New Zealand Now on Sunday, the day after the Liberal coalition’s surprise win.

Expressions of interest in moving to New Zealand were 25 times higher than the week before.

But as the video on the linked article suggests, there may be other reasons why Aussies want to move here 🙂

Read more (Stuff)…

What if NZ movies and TV actually included all New Zealanders?

Migration plays an important role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand society. New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, is now “more diverse than London“, and one in four New Zealanders have come from elsewhere.

[The above link to Statistics NZ is broken at time of publication. Instead, refer to this news release]

The large number of arrivals from across the Pacific region has given Auckland the largest Pacific Islander population of any city in the world. Almost one-quarter of Auckland’s population is now classified as Asian. This itself is a catch-all term for a wide range of peoples and cultures covering half of humanity.

But while diversity in New Zealand is greater than ever, there is a gap between the society we see around us and what is reflected on screen.

Read more (NZ Herald)…

New Zealand-led research could change the way doctors treat asthma

New Zealand-led research on asthma treatment is being called a “game changer” for stopping mild asthmatics from having severe attacks, an author of the study says.

The four-country study conducted by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved 675 people who had been taking medication to relieve their symptoms, and divided them into three groups: one just using a reliever inhaler when they had symptom, one using preventer and reliever inhalers and one using a combined preventer-reliever inhaler only when they had symptoms.

Study co-author Richard Beasley said the third group had half the risk of a severe attack compared to using the reliever inhaler alone.

Read more (TVNZ News)…

 


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How to Stop the Next Christchurch Massacre

An opinion piece written by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has been published in the NYT and a number of other publications (I have included to content of the opinion piece after my “two cents worth”).

Already I see assertions that the U.N. has a hidden agenda to shut down free speech in order to bring in some new oppressive world order – that order depending on where on the political spectrum the “pundit” stands – and that Jacinda is a willing or inadvertent pawn in the conspiracy. It’s also amazing to see the number of people on various platforms who seem to believe that the Christchurch atrocity was staged by the government or the U.N (or some other boogieman) in order to make people more accepting of restrictions imposed by those in authority. But I digress.

The planned Christchurch Conference has already been criticised because it doesn’t propose any specific solution to the use of social media as a tool to promote terrorism. They miss the point. The whole purpose of the conference is to bring about a round table discussion involving all interested parties on what should be done and how it might be implemented to reduce or eliminate social media being a tool of the terrorists.

Our Prime Minister, along with the rest of the country have determined that “prayers and platitudes” are not the answer, and sitting on our hands will not make the threat of terrorism by social media go away. There’s a high chance that the conference will not achieve the desired outcome, but unless those with the “power” to affect an outcome sit down together and discuss it, “prayers and platitudes” will be all we have to look forward to.

Here is the opinion piece:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.

He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.

For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.

This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.

The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.

The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.

We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.

My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.

Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.

But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.

We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.

I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.

Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.

But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.

And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.

The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.


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Update Aotearoa 11th May 2019

Recent newsworthy items of interest to me:

Australia’s most trusted politician is…

With just over one week to go before voters make their way to polling stations across the country to have their say in the federal election, a new poll has revealed just how much Aussies actually trust leading politicians.

Surprisingly, the results revealed that the politician who is held in the highest regard by Australian voters isn’t even an Aussie, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came out on top. With a score of 77, Ardern emerged as the most dependable elected representative, with respondents also marking her the highest when it comes to ‘integrity’.

Read more (Starts at 60 Writers)

New Zealand fish stocks healthy and sustainable

Verified for another year – New Zealand fish stocks healthy and sustainable.

Research has again shown that New Zealand’s fish stocks are in great shape, thanks to a world-leading management system. The annual Fish Stock Status Report from Fisheries New Zealand confirms that 95 percent of all fish landed in New Zealand is from stocks that are sustainable and healthy. Fisheries New Zealand has verified the status of 169 fish stocks and found 142 stocks with no sustainability issues and 27 stocks that need to be rebuilt.

Read more (Scoop Business)

Auckland sweet shop owners jailed for exploiting workers

The owners of an Auckland confectionary shop have been jailed for worker exploitation.

Mohammed Atiqul Islam faced 20 charges in total, and was on Friday sentenced to four years and five months in prison. Those charges included 10 for exploitation, two for aiding and abetting a person to breach visa conditions, five for providing false and misleading information to an immigration officer, and two for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Read more (Newshub)

2019 Register of members’ interests published

Every year, Parliament publishes a summary of MPs’ interests, including certain assets, debts, and gifts they have received.

This summary is known as the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament. The 2019 Register was presented to the House this week by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard. It covers the period from 1 February 2018 to 31 January 2019.

Read more (New Zealand Parliament)

NZ introduces groundbreaking zero carbon bill, including targets for agricultural methane

New Zealand’s long-awaited zero carbon bill will create sweeping changes to the management of emissions, setting a global benchmark with ambitious reduction targets for all major greenhouse gases.

The bill includes two separate targets – one for the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and another target specifically for biogenic methane, produced by livestock and landfill waste.

Read more (Sciblogs)


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Update Aotearoa – 8th May 2019

Some news items that are of significant interest to me personally:

Climate change bill, independent commission announced

The government has unveiled its plan to combat climate change, under which methane will be treated differently to other greenhouse gases, in response to push back from the agricultural industry.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill – introduced to Parliament today – sets out a plan for the next 30 years.

The government has also set a new emissions reduction target for all greenhouse gases, except methane, to net zero by 2050, in line with New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“The government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Agriculture was “incredibly important to New Zealand”, Ms Ardern said, but also needed to be “part of the solution”.

“That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane” and adopted what’s known as a “split gas” approach.

Read more (RNZ News)

Should New Zealand history be compulsory in schools?

Is Aotearoa New Zealand alone in not mandating the teaching of its own history in schools?

A leading historian has renewed calls to make New Zealand history a compulsory subject in schools. Vincent O’Malley says the Ministry of Education’s reluctance to mandate the subject is not good enough.

He says the current curriculum was “failing” young people. “Any half decent education system anywhere in the world should deliver a basic introduction to the country you live in, that you grew up in. Ours is failing to do that. A lot of young people are asking to learn about this history.”

Read more (TVNZ One News)

Standards vital for new cannabis industry

MANU Caddie, chief executive of Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company, says a University of Otago academic is right to claim cannabis is unable to be considered a medicine because it contains multiple active ingredients.

Professor Michelle Glass published an opinion piece in the New Zealand Medical Journal last week suggesting there is no need for the Ministry of Health to develop new regulations governing cannabis as medicine because the Medicines Act already outlines the standards a product needs to reach in order to be considered a medicine.

Mr Caddie says recognition of cannabis as a medicine is challenging when whole plant extracts contain active ingredients in addition to THC and CBD.

Read more (Gisborne Herald)

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says anti-vaxxer parents are ‘pro-plague’

The education minister doesn’t think children shouldn’t miss out on school just because their parents are what he calls “pro-plague”.

The Northland DHB has suggested unvaccinated children stay home from school for the next two weeks, after two known cases of measles have been discovered. Northland has the lowest immunisation rate in the country at 85 percent.

Chris Hipkins said the DHB should be stepping up to ensure the region has sufficient immunisation levels. “Clearly there is an issue there that the DHB needs to address, they are responsible for that. I don’t believe that kids should be denied their right to an education, particularly if it’s a conscious choice by their parents not to immunise”, he said.

He said he uses the term ‘pro-plague’ for anti-vaxxers because that’s what they are. “It is a statement of fact. It is a ridiculous position, it is not based on science, there are very good reasons why we require a certain level of the population to be immunised, so that we’re not susceptible to massive outbreaks.”

Read more (RNZ News)

Mohua goes from rare to common in 21 years

The once rare mohua/yellowhead has for the first time become the most common native bird counted since predator control began in the Landsborough valley in South Westland.

Mohua numbers have risen more than 30-fold and overall, native bird numbers have doubled in the 21 years since monitoring began in 1998, recently analysed Department of Conservation (DOC) results show.

DOC Principal Science Advisor Dr Colin O’Donnell says the long-term study charts the response of 13 native bird species following sustained predator control to suppress rats, stoats and possums.

Read more (Scoop Sci-tech)

Celebrating New Zealand Sign Language Week and working toward an accessible future

For Deaf Aotearoa‘s executive assistant Erica Dawson access to political knowledge and information has “opened a whole new world”. It started in 2017 when a sign language version of the final debate between Jacinda Ardern and Bill English began.

For the first time the clash was aired  with a hand-to-hand battle between interpreters. Signs for policy words needed to be created, and people within the deaf community helped ensure viewers were given the correct messages from Ardern and English.

Last year Ardern announced all post-cabinet press conferences would be interpreted into NZSL going forward. That’s meant for the first time in Dawson’s almost 30-year life, she has been able to follow politics.

Read more (Stuff National)