In line with its whole "being useful" thing, the Science Media Centre has published the results of its political party Q&A on science policy.
On the face of it, there's surprisingly little between National, Labour and the Greens on a number of issues -- but a gulf or two would open up around the actual detail of policy. It's easy enough to say the right words. Act, as you might expect, seems entirely ideologically driven and divorced from reality.
Our economic future very much depends on our ability to manage our natural resources, and both Labour and Greens are strong on that point in their answers on science priorities, but I'm surprised Labour hasn't made more of the national science strategy it established in government, and that strategy's focus on sustainability. National's answer is creamy vanilla, and Act believes there should be no public science undertaken at all.
On the future of CRIs, Labour seems happy with the contestable model, which it says works "fairly well". The Greens doubt the contestable model, even National aims to make changes to it -- and Act vows to eradicate institutional knowledge and continuity wherever it rears its pointy head.
In education, the Greens propose sabbaticals for teachers, Labour would re-fund post-doctoral fellowships and National is "developing five new vocational pathways for young people through a partnership between industry training organisations and the education sector" and proposing an Advanced Technology Institute.
On biosecurity, everyone says roughly the same thing in different words, apart from Act, which "does not have a policy on a specific science or innovation for these challenges. Science and innovation by their very nature are about discovering new knowledge, so it would be presumptuous to say we already know."
Brief WTF? pause here.
On energy, Labour notes that it "set the goal of producing 90% of our electricity from renewables by 2025" and National says "Our goal is to be 90% renewable by 2025." Labour has a full policy release to come. The Greens, as you might expect, place a high priority on renewable energy development and say their "most important step is to implement a New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NZEECS) with real and achievable targets and milestones to assess progress."
Act says: "To the extent that government should try to change the energy sector, it should do so using broad based taxes such as a carbon tax and let the market function, although ACT does not currently support such a tax."
On R&D, Labour has a specific policy on R&D tax credits at a rate of 12.5%, the Greens would take the polluter subsidy out of the ETS and invest it in R&D and National points to its record in increasing private and public sector R&D spending (and avoids mentioning the loss of resrarch science jobs over the same period). And Act "does not have a policy targeting any particular level of R&D spending or specific policies designed to encourage it."
On water quality, National points to some progress in government, and notes it has "increased the investment in waterway clean-ups by five-fold to more than $265 million, compared to just $16 million spent between 2004 and 2008. " The Greens and Labour both regard the waterways as a very high priority: the former reiterate their flagship irrigation charges policy (some of the revenue would be recycled back into clean-up initiatives) and Labour emphasises the need to reduce the use of urea fertiliser and would channel resources from the water resource scheme into waterway improvements and research. Even Act would enforce regulations more strongly.
On health, the Greens would focus on Maori and Pasifika public health, Labour proposes the R&D tax credit would help with health research and National points to its increased funding for "market-driven" initiatives in health research. Act does not have "a specific policy on this, except to say that we do not support government attempting to pick winners in the biomedical space."
On marine sustainability, the Greens "don’t support off-shore oil drilling", Labour "will not allow deep sea drilling to occur unless such standards and safeguards are in place, as well as robust contingency plans and an effective rapid response capability if an incident occurs. We will also establish a comprehensive oceans policy, including legislating to safeguard New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems and to minimise the environmental risks of activities in our EEZ." National points to a "proposed new law [to] protect New Zealand’s oceans from the potential environmental risks of activities like petroleum exploration, mining, marine energy, and carbon capture developments." Act does not " have sufficient policy on measuring the impact."
With leaves us with genetic modification. You can probably guess the responses there.
This is just a quick look, and I've doubtless missed many nuances. I'd be obliged if our science-y readers could have a look and offer some commentary and context.