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A moment of irritation at Bream Bay - Upton

Sitting in the staff room at Bream Bay College upton-on-the-road was irritated by a line of questioning favoured by certain members of staff. "If you didn't give away the tax cuts you could do XXX".

This line can legitimately be used on one or two occasions. If National didn't give a $400 million tax cut, you could spend $400 million more on health. The problem is, of course, that the line is peddled constantly on all sorts of health, free tertiary education, student loans, rural assistance, business assistance, and a host of other schemes and services.

The $400 million (and the other $400 million Labour plans to add by raising taxes) is spent many times over. The fact that truck-loads more money is spent on health and education now than ever before does nothing to appease the disgruntled questioners.

It's pretty clear that Labour candidates stand up in front of meetings vowing to spend $400 million to get them off any hook they happen to be on at the time. Upton-on-line is interested to receive intelligence of promises dealt with in this way. New and shocking responses will be posted on this site.

Bream Bay was Wednesday. On Thursday upton-on-line was drawn to the St James theatre on Wellington's Courtenay Place last night to hear the disturbing words of Macbeth:

"If you can look into the seeds of time And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favours or your hate".

Upton-on-line did not seek out Shakespeare to replenish his spleen with bile for the campaign, neither was he indulging in an evening's entertainment. He was, in fact, at a function hosted by one of the Crown Research Institutes, AgResearch. They were repositioning themselves as a "Life Sciences" company.

These scientists were in a philosophical mood. They also quoted Ernest Rutherford:

"I am confident that although even the most imaginative scientific man cannot foresee nor control the wrong use of any discovery, it cannot be denied that the progress of science has been so far overwhelmingly beneficial to the welfare of mankind".

This allusion to the two edged sword of scientific progress reflects the science community's awareness of the unease that infects parts of the public as we look to advance biotechnology.

Upton-on-line was obliged to say a few words. He had recently seen a letter that the ACT party had sent to farmers. It stated,

"National's decision to take $135 million allocated to research for primary industry and divert the money to 'knowledge intensive' industries had nothing to do with the issues and was all to do with winning voters in Auckland".

This claim was firmly scotched. Nothing could be further from the truth. The "knowledge economy" that we hear about has to be the whole economy. It's no use having both a "bright" and a "thick" economy. Since two thirds of our economy is biologically based, it stands to reason that the "knowledge economy" must extend to it.

It's not about abandoning vast areas of the economy and pouring all our effort into new, as yet un-dreamed of, industries. It's not about forgetting the cockies and giving all our science money to suburban computer nerds. In the agricultural sector it is about intelligently transforming our production so that we no longer produce mere commodities, but rather turn them into foods, fibres, pharmaceuticals and materials for which people are willing to pay premium prices.


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