Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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What may have begun as a typographic error has been embraced by the Government, with the budget tipped to see a sweeping "rebalancing" of the taxonomy system.
The biological classification system, which arranges all living organisms by ranks such as kingdom, genus and species, has remained largely unchanged since the introduction of the domain level under the Labour Government. Business and financial interests have argued the system is due a shake-up.
A recent report revealed New Zealand has some of the lowest taxonomy rates in the OECD.
Along with a host of minor changes, archaea are likely to be formally classified as part of the bacteria kingdom, abandoning the 'domain' level of classification. Finance Minister Bill English has previously indicated he sees this upper taxonomic bracket as inducing unnecessary compliance costs.
"Nine long years of organism-filing mismanagement has left us with a legacy of thousands of unclassified samples," said English. "Labour claims there are tens of millions species on the planet but when you go and look you find almost all of them are entirely undiscovered. They knew about this growing problem and did nothing. Even during the recession the world has been discovering dozens of species a week. Without some hard changes, that is unsustainable."
"Ongoing uncertainty in the area of unicellular microorganisims is damaging economic growth. You'll have to wait until Budget day, but I can say taxonomists not having to faff about with the difference between Archaebacteria and Eubacteria would boost productivity as much as any other change we'll make."
Ease of processing would also reduce widespread taxonomy avoidance, English said.
Challenged on whether the classification of living organisms was a matter for the Minister of Finance, English said that, if Police Minister Judith Collins could be responsible for the justice-related three strikes bill, he didn't want to be left out. Also reflecting the three-strikes process, the species-reclassifications would be made with no input from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.
Prime Minister John Key explained that the scientific discipline of biological taxonomy "is the Government's business, actually."
Key would not confirm plans to classify members of the mammal subclass prototheria as aves struthioniformes apterygidae, but pointed out that making the marsupials and montremes technically kiwis would be consistent with the Government's plans to catch Australian by 2020.
"Besides," said a visibly enthusiastic Key, "Kangaroos had two legs. And platypuses have beaks, so it's not really that much of a stretch. I've made my expectations very clear and I don't foresee any problems."
Key conceded that experts in the field might consider such changes ludicrous and unsupportable. "But we did campaign on stuff like three strikes, national standards and boot camps. So that is the kind of thing voters expect from us."
He added that the changes would balance our species-categorisation responsibilities with our economic opportunities.
When asked for comment, the Prime Minister's Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman explained that he had something in his eye.
Act leader Rodney Hide has supported the changes. "Scientists might want this system to stay the same," he said. "But who were all these systems devised by? Scientists! And we all know about scientists. You know who liked scientists? Adolf Hilter."
Labour leader Phil Goff has asserted these changes do not conform to first principles, and plans an 'axiomate the taxonomy' bus tour to highlight this discrepancy. He has "no idea" what he would do about them if elected.
Cameron Brewer of the Newmarket Business Association welcomed the changes.
Despite enquires launched earlier this year into leaks of Government plans to groups such as Forest and Bird, there will be no investigation of widespread unofficial knowledge regarding these Budget taxonomy plans among media. An unnamed source close to the Government declined to comment, for once.
The most notable public reaction to the plan is Budget-day drinking games with a drink every time the minister says "phylum".
and lessuss whocaresus
Replacing the ICZN with the 'flat'PhyloCode will end the wastefulness of the current system's endless fights about the correct rank for Pulmonata and incentive's workers to get on with erect new unranked taxa!