Question time Mapps a revelation

A Mapped-out question

Hide one, NIWA nothing

Question time in the House today was a revelation. You could see it, writ large and terrible, on Wayne Mapp’s face as he finally realised the depth of deception he’s been handed by his own department, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

It has been obvious for a while that NIWA has not taken the good minister into its confidence, and I hope that the Hon Dr Mapp went back to that department today and rapped some naughty NIWA knuckles. It is past time it happened.

Deception is the wrong approach to use on a Minister of the Crown. You might try it, and for a time you might succeed, but it will catch up with you. I would not be in David Wratt’s shoes right now for any price.

Dreadful display of ignorance

Wayne Mapp did not appear to know

  • that the schedule of adjustments was not, in fact, contained in the voluminous references NIWA gave the NZ Climate Science Coalition (CSC)
  • that there are reasons other than location changes to adjust temperature readings
  • that the schedule of adjustments is not on NIWA’s web site
  • that Salinger’s thesis is not publicly available
  • the difference between the methodology of the temperature adjustments and the adjustments themselves
  • that the documents cited by NIWA do not in fact exist on NIWA’s web site but are elsewhere
  • that the famed schedule of adjustments does not actually exist

It was a dreadful display of ignorance by a Minister facing questions in the Parliament.

Why didn’t he know these things? Because his departmental advisers had not told him. How could that be? What could possibly justify keeping pertinent and vital information from their own minister? What could tempt them into playing so perilously close to the strict limits of the law governing their public service jobs? Not to mention their minister’s parliamentary career?

Perhaps we’ll never know.

What happened in Question Time?

* At about 2:45 pm today, John Boscawen, a list MP for the ACT party, was recognised by the Speaker of the House and addressed a question to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, the Hon Dr Wayne Mapp.

Mr Boscawen asked if NIWA maintains an up-to-date schedule of adjustments to the temperature data. Dr Mapp confirmed that adjustments are made when stations are moved and mentioned Wellington as an example. He said the methods for making changes are on NIWA’s web site and they were developed in Dr Salinger’s (publicly available) PhD thesis.

John said they’d searched that information and not found the schedule. Could he point to it?

Mapp referred to complexity and to an article by Rhodes and Salinger in the International Journal of Climatology. He referred again to complexity.

Rodney raised a point of order. He said the Minister had been asked whether he could point to the actual schedule of adjustments, not just the methodology.

Speaker: “Information should be available”

The Speaker himself got involved, saying he was sympathetic to Rodney, because the question was “on notice”. (This simply means the question was written down and circulated a few hours before being asked in the House.)

Lockwood Smith said the question asked whether the institute maintains a schedule of adjustments, not why or how those changes are made. The information should be available. It was most agreeable to hear the Speaker of the House supporting the principle that these questions should be answered.

Now Mapp revealed his complete ignorance of the issues, for he simply repeated the main points of his previous answer. But significantly, he also, in what I believe to have been his growing anxiety to give an acceptable answer, let slip a crucial instruction he has given to the institute, evidently quite recently. He said: “As Minister, I have advised the institute that it should provide as much information as possible on how the adjustments were made, so that they can be independently analysed.”

NIWA should come clean – does a schedule exist?

Note that this statement gives no hint of a reconstruction of the schedule of adjustments, it just demands information on how they “were made” and is clearly aimed at providing for the peer review we’ve been asking for.

But it gives us a clue that this Minister has been inadequately briefed. For it seems he was unaware that the schedule of adjustments does not actually exist. Unless, even under pressure, he was being very clever indeed, and I didn’t get that impression, observing him on the Internet feed.

I wonder if his department has kept from him the crucial but highly embarrassing news that the schedule does not exist? That it does not exist is by now beyond question. Otherwise, why have they lied to us in their citations (for there is no other word for it), and why can’t Mapp give a simple yes or no to the question “where is the schedule?”

Here’s the most telling question of all: If a schedule exists, why are NIWA busy reconstructing one?

Mapp accused of “trifling” with Speaker’s ruling

Rodney told the Speaker the PhD thesis is proving difficult to locate and is not actually available to the public [Hot Topic please take note] then repeated his previous point about not finding the schedule on the web site and asked is it there or not. The Speaker again supported his request, stressed the simplicity of the matter and its importance to the House and demanded an answer from the Minister.

Mapp simply repeated the points from his previous answer.

Rodney suggested the Minister may have been “trifling” with the Speaker’s ruling. Dramatic stuff, because you don’t do that and remain in the House. Dr Mapp would certainly be noticed by the PM if he got thrown out for that, which the Speaker has the authority to do.

Lockwood expressed concern, but wanted the House to move on and so he proposed to leave the protagonists to sort it out on subsequent days. He took a moderate approach in giving more time for the Minister to bring his unruly department to order.

John Boscawen asked if the Minister was aware of climategate; Mapp said he was.

Rodney got in a final question that described the warming in the official record as being created only by the adjustments, getting Mapp to agree that those adjustments need to be explained.

* You can download an early (i.e., unedited) transcript from Parliamentary Services, courtesy of ACT. It’s rough, but readable. I’ll try to post the final version when it becomes available. (pdf, 18KB)

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