Editorials 1 June 2010

The Herald looks at the BP oil spill:

As oil has become a scarcer resource, the search for it has, out of necessity, moved to more difficult locations. Oil companies have had to take a greater interest in inhospitable regions such as New Zealand’s Great South Basin and the waters off Alaska. They are also drilling in water so deep that any problems are beyond the reach of divers. This increases the potential for severe environmental damage if companies do not have adequate safety back-ups. Clearly, that was the case with BP and its Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, it is now apparent that the company has no real idea how to contain, let alone control, the giant oil spill prompted by an explosion at the rig almost six weeks ago. …

The upshot of this ongoing failure is what the White House now says is the worst environmental catastrophe the United States has faced. The Gulf spill has easily surpassed the Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska in 1989, with estimates of the amount of oil leaking each day ranging from 1.9 to 3 million litres.

And The Press talks tertiary education:

At first glance it does seem to be unfair on New Zealanders who aspire to a tertiary education.

With the Government freeze on funding for extra enrolments, universities are proposing higher standards for students, including courses that had previously been open entry. Yet at the same time the Government is encouraging more overseas students to study here, provided they pay full course fees.

The more overseas students you have, the more domestic students that can be funded. It is not an either/or.

As far as the domestic students are concerned, higher eligibility standards would be a positive development, despite the move being fiscally-driven. For too long there has been an expectation of an automatic right of entry to tertiary study. This unhealthy sense of entitlement among school-leavers should be eroded as universities call for higher NCEA pass rates.

And there should also be a national entry assessment for students over the age of 20 years; they currently have open entry despite the fact that mature students have a higher failure rate than school-leavers.

Finally, all those at universities should be told that they must now perform academically if they are to be entitled to re-enrol or, as the recent Budget signalled, to receive a student loan.

Slackers like myself will need to improve performance earlier, or get a job.

The Dom Post wades into the Andy Haden row:

It is to be hoped that Murray McCully does not apply the same standards to his role as foreign affairs and trade minister as he does to his role as Rugby World Cup minister. Otherwise New Zealand will become an international laughing stock.

It is no more acceptable for Rugby World Cup ambassador Andy Haden to refer to Polynesians as “darkies” than it would be for New Zealand’s high commissioners to Samoa or Tonga to refer to the locals as “coconuts” – another racial epithet Haden considers appropriate in “the right context”.

I don’t think anyone thinks it is acceptable. It is more a matter of whether he gets sacked for it.

Haden represents an old, and not particularly attractive, face of New Zealand. The image New Zealand wants to show the world at next year’s Rugby World Cup is of a young, confident nation that revels in the racial diversity of its makeup. His time has passed. He should go.

Ageism instead of racism!

The ODT also weighs in:

New Zealand’s premier rugby teams of today look very different to those of yesteryear.

They are now much bigger and much browner. Reflecting recent generations of mass Polynesian immigration to New Zealand, as well as Pacific interest and ability in rugby, Samoans, Tongans and Fijians are commonplace.

The All Blacks of the past 25 years would be a shadow of what they have been without Michael Jones, Jonah Lomu, Olo Brown and a long line of others. The Pacific has provided strength, pace, skill and leadership, capped with the appointment of All Black captain Tana Umaga in 2004. …

Selecting sports teams is, in essence, simple.

Pick those most likely to help the team win, whatever their colour, background or connections.

The jobs of coaches are precarious enough without them cutting their own throats by letting other considerations influence their judgements.

At another level, of course, selecting becomes more complex.

Choosing those most likely to help the team win is not the same as picking the most talented individual players. What will the impact of the person be on team culture, so essential for success? How will the player fit in with the style of the team? What is the playing balance of the team? Will the player thrive or shrivel?It is against this background that the extraordinary comments of former All Black lock and New Zealand Rugby World Cup ambassador Andy Haden should be viewed. …

The Crusaders’ primary interest has been to maintain winning ways, and they have, by the length of a rugby field, been the most successful in New Zealand at that.

It is reasonable to maintain that genetic and cultural characteristics influence how many Polynesians play rugby.

And it is fair enough for a team, like the Crusaders, to have a distinct style and therefore to be cautious about the number of its players, brown or white, who play a particular way.

But the Crusaders are too clever to be sucked into the racism that applies generalisations to particular individuals.

Exactly. Generalisations have their place in discussions, but you don’t apply them to known individuals.

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