Editorials 15 March 2010

The Herald talks about respect for the :

Mr O’Connor’s approach is even more problematic. He says a lack of guilty verdicts in the District Court had shown society and criminals that insulting the police is acceptable. It has also made the police reluctant to charge people for low-level offending using the legal provisions. “Cases show that it’s something police are expected to put up with, but it shouldn’t be,” says Mr O’Connor. His response is essentially a zero-tolerance policy that would see people shouting obscenities at the police convicted for insulting behaviour.

This raises several problems. The first is that the courts are merely reflecting societal mores in their approach to such offending. Obscenities do not have the same impact as they did, say, 30 years ago. Nor are the police alone in feeling that respect for their authority has dwindled. The teaching profession, for example, suffers from the same ailment. When it applies a zero tolerance approach, it means large-scale suspensions and expulsions.

That is as misguided as a policy that would burden overloaded courts further with low-level offences against the police for little gain. Zero tolerance does not work because its inflexibility leaves no room to deal with an out-of-character indiscretion or suchlike. Its approach to minor misdeeds is also far more likely to create a climate of fear than engender respect.

I think there is some linkage between the fact that people can now call the Police c**ts to their face, and that some of those people then also go on to assault them.

The Press focuses on irrigation:

The selection of two irrigation schemes among the four winners of a competition to find projects with a long-term potential capacity to make a significant contribution to the Canterbury economy demonstrates the significance of the appropriate use of its resource to the region.

The fact that both schemes are extremely contentious shows also how arguments over the use of the resource are unlikely to be quickly resolved.

But if the judges are right, that these schemes are among a handful in Canterbury with the capacity to generate $100 million of revenue for Canterbury within five years and $1 billion or more in revenue within 10 years, it is obviously very important that the decisions that are reached on these projects are the right ones.

There is precious little else on the economic horizon with such potential.

I should get more excited about water issues in Canterbury as I know they are important, but frankly I don’t.

The Dominion Post looks at funding:

In short, the Government appears to have heeded OECD criticism in 2007 that the public science system was unduly fragmented, as well as Sir Peter’s advice.

Science might be finally emerging from the shadows, its non-sexy status having long been reinforced by an often scientifically ignorant public, suspicious of the work many scientists do – take, for example, widespread distrust of genetic engineering, despite the public good it might do.

Thus, science is so often in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Not last week, though. Then, two Wellington scientists were awarded the inaugural Prime Minister’s Science Prize for their research into the multimillion-dollar field of high-temperature superconductivity.

Both work for Industrial Research.Its chief, Shaun Coffey, says public-sector investment in the scientists’ endeavour has not only been repaid in terms of their work’s contribution to the economy, it has also positioned New Zealand “at the forefront of a new industry that is set to revolutionise the way electricity is used and distributed”. He knows the challenges ahead, however.

All eyes will be on the budget, as it has been made clear this is one of the few areas to get extra funding:

The ODT looks at the proposed tertiary education reforms:

Recent Cabinet decisions relating to funding for higher education and research suggest the Government is serious about its objective of raising knowledge standards and building a solid base for public and economic benefits from progress in science.

These are not easy decisions to make from a political perspective, since if they deliver hoped-for benefits they will do so only in the longer term.

There are few votes in such policies and it is to the Government’s credit that it is not afraid to embrace long-term goals for the greater good. …

The Government is in effect offering financial incentives for institutions tied to the improving educational performance of their students, which suggests that institutions with an aspirational goal of excellence, such as Otago university, can only benefit.

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