Wednesday, November 23, 2005


By Ana Samways

The petrolheads from Ground-Sky photography couldn't believe their luck when, at the 2005 Dunlop Targa rally last month, somewhere near Bulls, a police car came blatting down the road and went through a fence while one of their photographers was in wait for the rally cars. Being the caring, sharing guys they are, they are offering you your very own 42x60cm copy for $8 - a great present for any petrolhead. Go to (see link below).

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A worm tells us that now Judy Bailey has more time on her hands, the Ministry of Women's Affairs has been in touch. The ministry keeps a list of suitable female candidates to put forward for board vacancies, and Bailey is just the ticket, they say. Asked what boards she might be keen on, Bailey answered: "I'd quite like to be on the board of TVNZ. I could go through it like a dose of salts."

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There's some strange cosmic augury thing happening with the banners on the Hobson St building at the state broadcaster. First Judy Bailey was canned, when a NZ Idol banner read "Who will be next?" Then Ian Fraser got the hump and quit. The banner: "Not everyone survives the fall". Parliament decides to have an inquiry. The banner: "Rescue Me". Bill Ralston might be worried that TV One has a competition to win Sorting Out Billy. It's a novel by Jo Brand, the stand-up comic in British gameshow Nobody Likes A Smartass.

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Best letter to the editor ever: The October issue of Vanity Fair included a profile of Paris Hilton, including a chat with her younger sister Nicky, who asked the following question: "I'm 21 years old, I run two multimillion-dollar companies, I work my ass off. Like, what were you doing that was so f**king important at that age? I feel very accomplished for my age." A reader responded: "When I was 21, I was busy working toward my PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota. I was the first to synthesize the compound okadaic acid, shown to be the leading cause of breast cancer. Steven F. Sabes, Minnesota."

Editorial: PM takes silence on SAS too far

Our secretive participation in modern warfare apparently knows no bounds. Early yesterday, not a full day after the Prime Minister confirmed the Government had received a British request for greater assistance in Afghanistan, our combat force of 50 Special Air Service soldiers arrived home, probably for good. Greeting them, Defence Minister Phil Goff said the third rotation of SAS troops had played an important role against remnants of the Taleban and there were no immediate plans for them to return.

So that seems to be that. An Army reconstruction team remains in Afghanistan but our fighting contribution has been withdrawn as secretively as it operated there. There has been no opportunity to discuss the condition of Afghanistan today and debate whether the moment has come to pull out. The British Government clearly does not think so. It is trying to organise through Nato a counter-insurgency force to step in when the United States reduces its commitment early next year.

Reports from Britain last week suggested Canada, Australia and New Zealand were being asked to help fill the gap left when 4000 American troops depart. On Monday Helen Clark revealed that Britain had approached defence officials here around the time of the election but no formal talks had been held. She said the subject might be raised when she met Nato leaders in Brussels early next month but she thought it unlikely that New Zealand could meet the request.

Even as she spoke the SAS contingent was on its way home, as she must have known. The public deserves better. The Prime Minister obviously feels obliged to honour the strict secrecy that protects the lives and operations of special forces that infiltrate enemy territory. But other countries that put these sort of units in the field seem able to keep their citizens reasonably briefed on what is being done in their name.

Military force is the most serious action a people collectively can take. And increasingly the only fighting contribution we can make is in the shape of the relatively small, highly trained clandestine units that can be sent on special operations. Officially we are never told what they do, even long after they have done it, unless more candid allied forces mention them in passing, as happened at least once during their time in Afghanistan.

With no more reliable information available, critics have a free ride. Green MP Keith Locke yesterday claimed the US forces, with whom the SAS served, used questionable tactics, were trigger-happy and treated prisoners poorly. He also claimed that despite the four-year campaign, insurgent activity and casualties were increasing. The last is true. Taleban survivors have stepped up attacks on police, aid workers and occupying forces this year, killing almost 1500 people. It is the largest death toll since 2001, when the US drove the Taleban from power in retaliation for the terrorism of September 11.

The subsequent attack on Iraq and the continuing success of insurgency there has inspired renewed Islamic militancy in Afghanistan at the same time that it has drawn US energy away from the place where al Qaeda was based and possibly survives. The elected Government in Kabul still struggles to impose its will in many parts of the country. Warlords still rule and the heroin trade thrives. The conditions that bred terrorism there remain.

Helen Clark has cited Afghanistan whenever it was suggested her Government was not doing its bit for international security. This is not the time to quit.

Fran O'Sullivan: EU obstinacy beats Apec wizardry

Technical wizardry was on show at this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum.

Political leaders held virtual meetings, shook hands with a robot mocked up as Albert Einstein and gushed over the Wibro gear and other electronic gadgets that their Korean hosts gave them.

But when it came to show-time - mustering sufficient collective pressure to shame the Europeans into being more flexible on agricultural trade and ensure significant movement at upcoming world trade talks - wizardry was absent.

The leaders' declaration lacked one vital factor. Right through Apec week, agricultural-exporting nations such as Australia and Canada lobbied hard for a stronger statement than that ultimately adopted by the leaders of the 21 Apec nations. They wanted the European Union named and shamed as the key obstacle to getting a big wave of agricultural liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Round.

The big trade gun, WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, was wheeled in from Geneva for confidential discussions with trade ministers.

US Trade Representative Rob Portman lobbied behind the scenes (unsuccessfully) for an Apec agriculture offer to be made to the WTO. Portman's binding offer - which would have covered agriculture protectionists from within Apec's own ranks, such as Korea and Japan, and the US, which has already made a significant offer - would have been too difficult to stitch up in time for the mid-December meeting in Hong Kong, or so the story goes. It might yet eventuate if the upcoming Hong Kong WTO meeting fails altogether.

Former US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, now Deputy Secretary of State, left big shoes when he vacated the trade czar's role. But Portman - like US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who uses the prowess of New Zealand farmers he has met as an exemplar for how US farmers could flourish without subsidies - has proved to be a quick study.

Cabinet Minister Phil Goff, who takes over the trade negotiations portfolio from Jim Sutton in the New Year, found Portman personable and easy to deal with (if not getting anywhere yet on bilateral free trade talks).

Goff defends the initial statement which was forwarded by trade and foreign ministers to their leaders, saying that when Apec talks, the world listens.

He notes all countries will benefit from a successful WTO round. This is the most important thing that might happen for the developing world; if we lose this opportunity, the next might be years away. Those facts are relatively sobering.

Goff says it's important not to lump all 25 EU nations in together.

While France is still the clear sticking point, several EU members do not support the common agricultural policy.

Finding a path around the impasse in agricultural negotiations, and getting greater market access, is where the action has to be.

Sutton, who was in Busan on his Apec swansong, says nations who are playing hardball and refusing to budge are playing a high-stakes game that puts the whole Doha Round at risk.

But Sutton's plain-speaking did not make it through the wall of officialese.

The brute reality is that if 21 Apec nations, which between them account for 70 per cent of world trade and drive the global economy, cannot bring a grunty offer together in speedy fashion, Lamy, with some 149 WTO members to cajole, faces a much bigger challenge.

The political leaders' mutual backslapping over their Busan Declaration might seem preposterous but for one thing - the public relations value of a show of solidarity which trade ministers can draw on when they return to WTO talks.

The clear consensus from Busan was to prepare to lower expectations on this round.

The Hong Kong ministerial meeting will still take place, short of the EU throwing its toys out of the cot. Lamy is using the looming deadline for the expiration of presidential trade promotion authority in the US as a cudgel to get recalcitrant WTO members to give way.

But a consensus is developing that this Doha Round will not deliver the big rewards to developing nations that were initially pledged when Mike Moore, WTO director-general at the time, kicked it off about six years ago.

The proliferation of free-trade deals criss-crossing the Asia-Pacific region (known as the spaghetti bowl) is beginning to trouble more free-market-minded Apec members.

Many deals are not WTO-plus - in other words, do not make substantial inroads into liberalisation across goods and services, let alone investment.

For instance, the China-Chile deal unveiled at Busan does not cover services.

New Zealand could have got to the signing stage just as quickly if it had been prepared to make significant carve-outs.

But from Prime Minister Helen Clark down, the word is that New Zealand will hang tough for an ambitious result rather than a down-and-dirty quick deal.

Despite the forced optimism, there was also talk of the dreaded "F" word - failure.

After two previous disasters - Seattle and Cancun - the WTO will not want to chalk up yet another failure when this round is supposed to deliver greater access for poorer exporting nations to the world's richest markets.

A fallback option - reviving the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific which was proposed by Apec's official business lobby last year - is also being plugged.

Sir Dryden Spring, who is one of New Zealand's three representatives on the Abac (Apec Business Advisory Group), said the official statement was not grunty enough but was probably as much as could be expected.

Spring's own "letter of committal", a robust document that accompanied Abac's executive summary to Apec this year, needed to be toughened up again after it got lost in the morass of officialdom. He believes that if the Doha Round results in a less-than-optimal deal, Apec should go ahead and overlay the WTO agreement with a much more ambitious Asia-Pacific deal which would exclude the EU.

This is not a bad pathway forward if Doha fails; and if Doha is a success it is still a way of making sure we achieve liberalisation in the Apec countries more rapidly than can be achieved under multilateral negotiations.

The big issue is how to consolidate the proliferation of free-trade bilateral deals and regional deals into an over-arching, binding agreement, with a big A for agriculture.

Auckland University's Rob Scollay did the initial proposal. But Spring believes it may be timely for the full feasibility study that Apec leaders deferred last year.

He acknowledges that little is likely to happen on the Government side while officials are fixated on Doha.

Sutton says it's not timely to push for the FTAAP (Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific) while the Doha discussions continue.

But Goff believes the Pacific Four deal linking New Zealand, Chile, Brunei and Singapore could be held up as a model which people can join if they wished. There has been some interest from other countries.

Tapu Misa: Smacking law change can lead to attitude change

The first time I tackled the subject of smacking in this column, it started out as a defence of a parent's inalienable right to smack.

After all, I'd been smacked in my younger days by my Christian and otherwise non-violent parents, and had emerged without any deep physical or psychological wounds.

As a parent, I too had administered the very odd bit of physical correction without attracting any attention from Child, Youth and Family.

But in the midst of what had seemed to me unassailable arguments about the need to save one's children from themselves, the need for strong parental control to prevent children reverting to their naturally unpleasant ways, and the fact that smacking did not equal child abuse, I had a change of heart.

It became increasingly clear to me that I was defending the indefensible.

Could there really be anything right about accepting a lesser standard of protection in law for children than we would for adults and animals?

Imagine a man trying to mount a defence of reasonable force for lovingly smacking his partner.

Well, maybe once upon a time, in the good old days when a man's home was his castle and the reasonable chastisement of one's chattels - children, wives, servants, slaves and apprentices - was permissible under the law.

Now it just seems illogical, and never more so than when I consider the campaign to change attitudes to child-rearing among Pacific Island parents.

This weekend in my old hometown, Porirua, Wellington, families will march down the street I once lived in to promote the reduction of violence in Pacific Island families.

Which is a good thing, of course. But how do you explain the inconsistencies of the New Zealand attitude to new arrivals from the Pacific - who, the promotional literature tells me, are more likely to have higher levels of tolerance to violence?

How to explain that violence is a no-no here - so lay not a finger on your wife or any other adult - but beat your child with a bamboo stick, a belt, a hose pipe, a piece of wood, or put them in metal chains to prevent them leaving the house, and we'll call that reasonable force within the law, as some juries have done under Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961?

I used to think that the attitudes of some Pacific families were about 20 years behind the times, but given the resistance of so many to Green MP Sue Bradford's bill to repeal Section 59, now at select committee stage and open to public submissions, it's clear that new arrivals from the Pacific aren't the only ones behind the times.

In fact, if anything, many of us (and Maori too) may be ahead of Pakeha in our willingness to put an end to legal sanctions for the physical punishment of children, according to one study.

Remember that around 80 per cent of New Zealanders think that physical punishment of children is okay in some circumstances.

Remember, too, that a 2003 Unicef report ranked New Zealand third-highest for child abuse deaths.

It would be silly to claim that the repeal of Section 59 will stop child abuse, at least the kind that's been making the headlines recently: the Whakatane toddler who was subjected to severe abuse at the hands of his mother's boarders, and the Nelson baby whose parents broke his ribs and arms.

The perpetrators of those crimes are what leading Canadian researcher, psychologist Dr Joan Durrant, has described as "outliers", the small proportion of people at the extremities of society who are impervious to education and other appeals.

But a law change might be the start of an attitude change. It might just prevent the other abuses of children that go undetected, yet still carry harmful consequences.

As Sue Bradford says, it isn't just the law, it's the psychology. The argument that the law shapes people's ideas about the boundaries and limitations of physical punishment is borne out by the Swedish example.

In 1979, Sweden became the first country to ban any kind of physical abuse of children. The ban didn't happen in a vacuum, and the reforms didn't happen overnight.

Change began in 1928, with the abolition of corporal punishment in schools (New Zealand followed suit in 1990), and accompanied a programme of educating parents and putting in place state-funded initiatives to help families.

Since then, attitudes have undergone a radical shift. In 1965, 53 per cent of Swedes supported corporal punishment, but only 11 per cent do so now.

A 1994 survey of students, aged 13 to 15, found that only 3 per cent reported harsh slaps from their parents, and only 1 per cent said they'd been hit with an implement.

Not a single child died as a result of physical abuse in Sweden during the 1980s. Four died between 1990 and 1996, but only one at the hands of a parent.

Although reports of assaults against children have increased since 1981, which some detractors have pounced on as proof that the reforms didn't work, Dr Durrant, who spent 15 years studying the reforms, has pointed out that the majority are for petty offences, the reporting of which was encouraged by the reforms.

The proportion of suspects prosecuted who are in their 20s, and therefore raised during the no-smacking culture, has decreased.

But there's been no increase in parents being dragged off to the courts for minor infractions, and no increase in youth violence owing to a want of spanking in their upbringing.

Twelve more countries have followed Sweden's lead, with Finland, in 1983, being the only country in which a majority of the populace actually favoured abolition before the law change.

Israel found its way there through the State of Israel v Plonit case in 2000, in which the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a single mother of two children, aged 5 and 7, who hit her children on a daily basis, using her slippers and occasionally household objects.

Will we get there? Inevitably. Eventually.

Brian Rudman: Bus system on a ride to nowhere

I can't imagine any tears being shed around Auckland Regional Council at the news that bus operator Stagecoach has sold out to Wellington-based "infrastructure investors" Infratil.

Relations between the bus operator and the regional purchaser of bus services have often be fraught, particularly so this year when Stagecoach gave three months' notice it would walk away from 13 "commercial services" unless a subsidy was forthcoming.

Faced with the sudden disappearance of peak hour services to places like Otara, Te Atatu Peninsula and East Coast Bays, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority was forced to add $8 million to Stagecoach's annual subsidy of $40.6 million.

Whether Infratil will be any less hard-nosed is anyone's guess. But at ARTA they're saying that at least it will be handier to contact than the present Scottish owners.

Of course the big problem with the bus system in Auckland is not who owns the buses, but the crazy system of regulation and procurement of services we're saddled with, copied from Thatcherite Britain back in the 1980s by the Rogernomes of the parliamentary bureaucracy.

As ARC chairman Mike Lee said this week, it's dysfunctional. He and other Auckland leaders have been clamouring for change.

Apparently the Wellington bureaucrats agreed to a review process several months ago and are talking of reporting back sometime next year. Next week would be better.

The solution is not hard. And until the Government gets off it's chuff and changes the law, Auckland's passenger transport system will be doomed to be hog-tied by this flawed market-driven experiment. One effect of which is to block any chance of integrated ticketing, and complicates attempts to make bus and train services complementary rather than competitive.

Ironically, it also stymies efforts to make transport services more responsive to market demand.

The key reform required is to give ARTA the responsibility to draw up an integrated network of passenger transport services for the region, then call on bus and ferry and rail companies to tender to provide the services required.

Instead of each provider collecting the fares and seeking, when necessary, top-ups from the public purse, ARTA would collect the cash and pay the provider the contracted price for the service.

Such a system would immediately make possible an integrated ticketing system, commonplace overseas, where passengers can move from different modes and service providers, using the same ticket. It also makes it easier to adjust routes during a contract period and to develop bus/rail interchanges like the new one at Manurewa and one planned for New Lynn.

The model we're stuck with begins with the premise that any bus company can apply to register a "commercial" passenger service. As long as it has adequate buses and drivers and doesn't charge above ARTA's set maximum fare, it has to be given the green light.

ARTA is then left with the job of filling in the gaps, calling tenders for the less popular, out of the way and off-peak routes. Providers then state what subsidy they want to do it.

The result is at best messy, with, on occasion, different providers plying the same route at different times of the day and week. It can lead to questionable practices. Back in July Stagecoach gave three months' notice it was pulling out of a third of it's "commercial" services, claiming wages, rail competition and falling patronage had made them uneconomic.

Under the market model, the bus operator was in its rights. The ideologues would argue that a gap in the market would suddenly appear for another operator to fill.

But for all we know, Stagecoach had already burned off the competition by registering these routes as "commercial".

The reality was, that ARTA had a social responsibility to provide an on-going service and could not speculate on whether or not the invisible hand would come to the rescue. So without being able to inspect Stagecoach's balance sheets, it had to come up with an $8 million handout.

The present system also tries to inject competition into the tendering system, by insisting no contract require more than about 20 buses.

This has resulted in the North Shore, for instance, having a patchwork of 10 contracts. It's messy. As is the whole complicated market model. What better time to throw it out as well and start anew?

Jim Eagles: Feel the fear and fly anyway

It's true I was at the back of the queue when hair was being passed out. But on the other hand I was also born without a fear of flying which is probably more important for a travel editor than a thick rug.

That's not to say I've never been nervous in a plane.

A couple of times when I've come in to land at Wellington into the teeth of one of their rare gales, with the wings see-sawing up and down and looking perilously close to the raging whitecaps below, I have found my jaw and fists clenched a bit tighter than necessary.

And many years ago, at a time when aircraft bombing was at its peak, things got a little twitchy when an aged Arab woman sitting beside us on a flight from Beirut to New Delhi produced a mysterious steel flask in rather dramatic fashion, patted my wife comfortingly, said something sympathetic and shed a few tears.

My wife was convinced the old woman had a bomb and wanted me to raise the alarm, but being a typical Kiwi male I would rather be blown up in mid-air than make a fuss. In the event it turned out the flask contained the ashes of some recently departed loved one. We arrived safely.

Apart from that I've always been relaxed about flying but I am aware that makes me lucky.

On most flights you see passengers having difficulty coping with the stress of being in a plane, and some people are quite unable to fly.

Fortunately, as travel journalist John Kron reports, there is now quite a lot of help available to the anxious flier ...

You would think that I'd be used to flying by now. The first time I flew on a jet airliner was 30 years ago and these days I fly five or six times a year.

However, over the years I have become more anxious about flying - not so much that I hesitate to get on a plane, but enough to have avoided watching Lost on TV2 because of its crash scenes.

I get a bit nervy when we hit real turbulence - why make it worse with stark portrayals of disaster?

Which makes me wonder - do I need help for my anxiety?

Dr Alison Smith, a Sydney psychologist, says it is common for anxiety about flying to get worse with time. Research shows that 40 per cent of people feel some anxiety about flying. Most are mildly apprehensive, about 10 per cent can still fly but spend the whole flight wishing it would end, and a few completely avoid it, she says.

People like me, who fall into the mildly apprehensive group, are vigilant when flying because we are extra aware of the dire consequences of a serious mishap. We notice sounds we haven't heard before, or if the plane banks in an unusual way, we wonder if there's something wrong, says Dr Smith.

Each time we fly the anxiety accumulates. We're a little more anxious than the previous time and those unusual sounds and events make us more anxious again. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Compounding the problem may be nervousness and stress about other aspects of life, such as work, which makes it harder to cope with anxiety about flying. Even getting married or having children can contribute through fear of being lost to the people we love.

Individuals vary over when their anxiety is bad enough to seek help. I've decided I'm okay for the moment, although I need to keep tabs on it getting worse.

Most people seek help when the anxiety becomes too disruptive.

Natasha Hydon, a 33-year-old manager, loved flying as a child.

But she first felt anxious as a teenager and the anxiety gradually increased until it reached traumatic levels two years ago.

Hydon and her husband got on a plane in Brisbane, Australia, for a five-day holiday on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

She spent most of the two-hour flight with her eyes shut, sitting in a fetal position, rocking and crying. When opened her eyes she constantly buzzed the flight attendants, sure that something bad was about to happen.

"I had all sorts of fears that the engine would fall off and we'd plummet to the ground or I'd have a heart attack and not get to a hospital in time," says Hydon.

"As terrible as the experience was, I buried it away and didn't face up to it until the next time we talked about flying, about a year later, to catch up with friends interstate," she says.

"It was too far to drive, we had to fly, but I was too scared. That's when I suddenly realised that, although there were things in life I couldn't control, this was something that I could try to fix."

People can reduce their anxiety about flying through self-help or professional help, which can involve seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist or, as Hydon did, complete a fear-of-flying therapy course.

* Anxiety about flying can be easily reduced with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which includes learning about the realities of flying to challenge unhelpful beliefs, learning relaxation techniques and gradually exposing people to the thing they fear, starting with the least feared and moving on to the most feared. On average three to six sessions of CBT may be required.
* Doctors can prescribe anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Normison, which may be appropriate for someone flying once a year or flying tomorrow.
* Reassuring facts are included in books such as The Fearless Flier's Handbook by Debbie Seaman. They include information on the realities of flying such as "each plane is put through safety checks equivalent to the most severe turbulence before being allowed to fly".
* Flying Without Fear, phone 0800 737 225 / (09) 483 5547. This organisation holds therapy courses in the main cities throughout the year in association with Air New Zealand. The four-session courses are run by Grant Amos, a registered psychologist with a background in the aviation industry.

Michael Morris: United front required to combat corruption

Widespread systemic corruption is not an issue that leaps on to New Zealand's electoral stage once every three years.

We locked up a former MP this year for fraud, and in 1997 we locked up an Auditor-General for the same crime, but, deplorable though these cases may have been, they are notable because of their rarity not their frequency.

New Zealand, according to the index published annually by Transparency International's secretariat in Berlin, is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, second equal with Finland and only behind Iceland.

This means that all of the countries in which we do business are more corrupt than we are, and many of them significantly more corrupt.

Recent concern that New Zealand companies may have been party to the payment of bribes to the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, via the UN Food for Oil programme, has focused attention on the ethical standards of New Zealand businesses, especially exporters.

Although the companies have been found not to have paid any bribes, our exporters trade amid varying degrees of corruption, and taxpayers' funds are used by New Zealand's diplomats and our international aid agency, NZAID, to help combat corruption abroad.

Regrettably, few of the people who run New Zealand's export businesses know that they risk prosecution if they stoop to the standards of some of their competitors and of the officials in the countries in which they trade.

New Zealand is a signatory to the OECD anti-bribery convention, and in 2001 Parliament passed legislation making it a crime for a New Zealand citizen or company to pay bribes to public officials of a foreign country, even if the bribe is paid in a foreign country.

This law was passed as more and more countries began to realise that corruption was a huge contributor to inequality and poverty and an understandable cause of much of the world's social and political unrest.

In many developing countries, bribes ensure the rich get richer while the poor suffer through the replacement of pharmaceuticals by inferior or even dangerous, counterfeit drugs.

Bribes allow building codes to be regularly bypassed, only for buildings to collapse from earthquakes or floods.

Bribes allow huge contracts to be awarded to the wealthy cronies of the national elites.

Relief for the victims of natural disasters gets stuck on wharves or on-sold and never reaches those who need it.

The result of this is more suffering, growing inequality, entrenchment of undemocratic and unaccountable governing elites, accumulating popular resentment and eventual outbursts of destructive political upheaval - and yet more suffering.

The international community wants to sever this vicious cycle. But conventions sponsored by the OECD and the UN show a realisation that corruption can not be countered if it is only confronted by a leaky, fractured front.

The more nations that stand together the more effective the action, and New Zealand's Parliament has decided that this country should form part of such a united front.

This is no small matter, as exporters of goods or services will face pressure for bribes from foreign politicians and customs and procurement officials. At the same time, some of New Zealand's competitors will be offering bribes.

It is all too easy to take the attitude that we may as well do as everyone else does.

But it is not possible to reconcile willingness to turn a blind eye to offshore bribes, with a society which seeks to adhere to the rule of law at home. We can't condemn bribery at home then ignore our own laws intended to combat foreign bribery.

It is our willingness to abide by the law which gives us a reputation for integrity. If we are to expect our domestic laws to be observed it is not tenable to argue that some laws should be observed and others ignored.

Actively fighting corruption is also in our interests as a trading nation which has made a virtue of shunning subsidies and letting our businesses survive on their own merits.

The more we can bring a united front in the international campaign against corruption, the better it will be for our exporters, who face obviously unfair competition from those who willingly pay bribes.

Unfortunately, while New Zealand has made the right legal moves, little has been done by the Government and the relevant professions to make our exporters aware of the legal risks they face if they pay bribes overseas.

Research by Transparency International New Zealand, presented at the OECD earlier this year, found almost nothing had been done to make New Zealand businesses aware of the 2001 anti-bribery law.

The accounting and legal professions have been equally inert.

Considerably more effort is needed to ensure that New Zealand businesses and professions are aware of the law and are enlisted in the global campaign to combat corruption.

Without some action to back up our legislation we are likely to be seen as hypocritical, and face the added risk of importing into our own relatively clean environment the business practices that we condemn overseas.

If we do not see more action on this front, the novelty of seeing an MP or an Auditor-General locked up for fraud may become less novel and our reputation, which is of incalculable value, may be irreparably damaged.

* Michael Morris is chairman of Transparency International New Zealand (TI-NZ), a chapter of Transparency International, the only international anti-corruption movement.

* Declaration of interest: TI-NZ will be receiving funds from NZAID to support the work of the Pacific chapters of Transparency International.

Anthony Grant: Civic leaders without vision

In Chicago a couple of weeks ago I was so inspired by the cleanliness of the city, the flowers, the parks, the lack of tagging, the absence of skateboarders, the magnificent architecture, and the general good order of America's third largest city, that it made me even more depressed about the lack of vision on the part of Auckland's mayor and council.

I resolved to meet Dick Hubbard and try to inspire him to achieve this city's potential.

I asked my secretary to organise a meeting with him. He is, after all, a man who has told the media that he holds constituency meetings with citizens.

She told me, after being passed from person to person, that I was to send an email in which I should explain the purpose of the proposed meeting.

I did that almost a week ago and there's been no reply. If Hubbard can't be bothered to meet me I can tell him through these columns what I want him to hear.

The mayor of Chicago has a passion for his city. Its citizens wait with expectancy when he goes away to learn what new initiatives he will bring back to enhance its appeal.

He has put its police on the two-wheel upright machines which are used in Paris. They scoot along the pavements and provide a ready police presence.

He likes flowers and has organised for the retailers in the main retail street - North Michigan Avenue or "the Magnificent Mile" - to have large planters along its length, filled with attractive plantings. North Michigan Avenue is a real main street in which Chicagoans can take pride.

The proposed plans for upgrading Queen St, by contrast, show an ignorance of what is needed to make Queen St appealing and impressive.

Chicago's architecture is world-renowned. Huge buildings rise with an awe-inspiring presence.

Our council fosters low-rise buildings with no landscaping around them, each of which is allowed to block the views of the others, and each of which is unlikely to have any architectural sympathy with the others.

If the mayor and council of Auckland had any vision for real architecture they would create rules which foster it.

The tagging of Auckland's walls, fences and street structures is a debilitating blight that is worsening daily. We are beginning to resemble the suburbs of Naples with its uncontrolled graffiti.

I saw no tagging in Chicago, not even in derelict lots. If a city the size of Chicago can beat tagging, why can't Auckland?

Our rates should be spent on initiatives like that rather than building housing for the poor - which is clearly the job of central Government.

In Freyberg Place and elsewhere in the city, skateboarders smash the seats, smash the pavers and drive peaceful citizens away. By contrast, signs in the Chicago CBD warn roller skaters and skateboarders that they will be arrested - and there were none.

It is a great shame that Auckland has not, since Robbie's day, had a mayor with a real vision for this city.

We have the Aotea Centre only because first Christchurch and then Wellington got modern town halls and it was embarrassing for Auckland not to have one.

Similarly with the new arena - Christchurch and Wellington had them first and it was too embarrassing for Auckland not to have one.

And the one that we're getting by Quay St is architecturally quite out of keeping with the other buildings in the area.

If only someone with a true concern and vision for this city was willing to stand for mayor.

* Anthony Grant is an Auckland lawyer.