Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sideswipe

By Ana Samways

Gordon Eade was at Red Beach School gala day and realised just how far he was from his South Auckland home when he saw children queuing for the novelty of riding in the back seat of a police car.

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Graham Ogilvie has just returned from following the All Blacks tour. He was in Ireland on the day the IRB was to make its decision on the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He writes: "That morning the Irish Times columnist, Gerry Thornley, in analysing New Zealand's bid, said: 'As they proved during the Lions series, the whole country would buy into hosting a World Cup, it would be a true rugby event, and they have the backing of their Government, hence the presence of their Prime Minister, Helen Smith, to head their delegation'."

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Top 10 songs that rhyme "Bacardi" with "party":
1. It's Like That - Mariah Carey
2. The Jump Off - Lil' Kim featuring Mr Cheeks
3. You Be Illin' - Run D.M.C.
4. Where The Party At - Jagged Edge featuring Nelly
5. In Da Club - 50 Cent
6. Get Ur Freak On (Remix) - Missy Elliott with Twista
7. Thug Lovin' - Ja Rule featuring Bobby Brown
8. Triple Trouble - Beastie Boys
9. Jack The Ripper - LL Cool J
10. Don't U Know - ODB with Killah Priest
And still no one drinks the stuff.

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Philip Lyth from the NZ Kennel Club gives us all a lesson in safe dog/car travel: "Your tale of doggy Klaus locking himself in Derek's Merc happens to many dog owners. The NZ Kennel Club, as the organisation of responsible dog owners, says the best way to travel is with your dog either in a harness clipped into the seatbelt buckle, or in a safe travelling crate. Much safer if your car is involved in a crash, as well as stopping the embarrassment of being locked out by a man's best friend."

Editorial: Airlines protecting children

The revelation that Air New Zealand and Qantas have a policy of banning men from sitting next to unaccompanied children has sparked predictable outrage. Critics, depending on their stripe, have claimed discrimination, political correctness gone mad, or a blow to a society in which men are playing a greater role in the raising of children. The airlines have reacted somewhat uncomfortably. Such are the problems of balance that these issues present to society.

The airlines have chosen to keep their policy close to the chest, presumably because they anticipated an adverse response. But that decision acknowledges only the inherent friction in their approach. It does not mean their policy is wrong.

A Qantas spokesman put the issue in a nutshell. The ban, he said, was what the airline believed customers wanted. He was referring particularly to parents, the vast majority of whom would prefer their child to be sitting next to a woman, rather than a man, when flying alone. The reason is obvious: most paedophiles are male.

It is easy to think the airlines' approach is overly cautious. That they should not be deeming all males untrustworthy because of a worst-case scenario. And that such a scenario is highly unlikely, given the crowded nature of most airliners and the watchfulness of airline staff. But case after case has shown that people who prey on children are masters of cunning and trickery. And that children's innocence, inexperience and willingness to trust without question leaves them highly vulnerable.

In many ways, indeed, an airline flight represents a real risk if an abuser was to be seated near a child. Passengers are crammed together, usually for at least an hour, in a situation that demands interaction. It could be an opportunity for contact to be made which might lead to "grooming" of a child.

It is rare to see an unaccompanied child on trains and buses on longer journeys. Children usually travel in a group or have their own school-based transport. So it would be wrong to conclude that the airlines' policy sets some kind of precedent.

Those who criticise the airlines must also be careful not to play down the danger. A Huddersfield University survey suggested that one in five English children had been the subject of unwanted sexual advances outside the home. Critics should also ponder the particular problems that predators present. Most commonly, these revolve around the right to privacy when the monitoring of a sex offender's movement is at issue. The rights of the community are pitted against those of an individual. There, as in all matters bearing on such abuse, society must make the protection of children its paramount concern.

This has always been the line pursued by the police. Occasionally, that has attracted criticism. Now, it is also the policy of Air New Zealand and Qantas. If they have erred, it is only in the somewhat hamfisted treatment of Mark Worsley, the passenger ordered to change seats during a Qantas flight because he was sitting next to a young boy travelling alone. Potential problems would have been erased if the young boy had been the one changing seats.

All in all, the two airlines have what amounts to a reasonable risk management strategy - as grating and unfair as it is to men. This recognises the devious, well-organised or opportunistic nature of abuse. It also provides the maximum protection for children. There will be no complaint from the parents who trust their sons and daughters to the care of those airlines.

Garth George: It's much too easy to become a slave to debt

Someone once said that "debt is the worst form of bondage". I don't know who said it or when, and have been unable to find out, either the easy way (Google) or the old-fashioned way (the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations).

But he (or she) was on to something for I have, at times in my life, been deeply in debt and recall painfully the constant anxiety and sense of unease it brought.

I have always been grateful that back in those wild, irresponsible and drunken days there were no such things as credit cards for, had there been, I'd have soon been in jail for misuse thereof.

And that back in those days individual customers pretty much had to get down on their knees and weep and beg to get a bank manager to give them an overdraft, let alone a loan.

Even 15 years ago, when my wife and I decided to save to put a deposit on our first home, the ANZ Bank, of which I had been a customer from the age of 18, would lend me only 60 per cent of the price of the house on mortgage.

(So we took a punt and went to Countrywide, which lent us 90 per cent even though its staff had never seen us before. We moved all our accounts there, remained with the National Bank when it bought Countrywide and will stay only as long as new owner ANZ leaves it alone.) Nowadays, bank managers almost tout on the street in their enthusiasm to lend you money. The other day the bank let me know that, unless it heard otherwise, it would increase my credit card limit by $3500. It heard otherwise.

The banks make borrowing so simple it's no wonder some people get themselves in money trouble. (Not long ago I needed $30,000 as a deposit on a new home and raised it on the existing mortgage. On Monday I sent an email to my personal banker; on Tuesday she phoned to ask me in to sign the papers, which I did; and when I got back to my office 15 minutes later the money had been credited to my account.)

Every week "personal" letters arrive in the mailbox from companies offering me thousands of dollars credit. They go the same way as all the other junk mail. Even so, we can't blame the lenders for the deplorable state of the nation's debt finances as reported in the Weekend Herald. People who get themselves irretrievably in debt are either stupid (like the bloke with the family income of $250,000) or ignorant (like some of the sad folk budgetary services try to help).

What does get up my nose is the callous avarice of those moneylenders and purveyors of goods (mainly used cars) who prey blatantly on the ignorant.

Open the classified section of any suburban newspaper and you will find columns of ads by usurers offering "instant" money specifically to people with debt problems or poor financial records. And one particular used-car advertising brochure, which regularly arrives in my mailbox, is plastered with similar ads from car dealers tempting the already deeply indebted to buy a vehicle on credit.

This is a matter of grave concern to Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson, whose organisation is left to deal with people who have taken up these offers and who are so deeply in debt that their families go hungry, ill-clad and ill-housed.

In an interview published in the Christian newspaper Challenge Weekly, of which I am editor, she said there were a number of things that could be done to push these firms (loan sharks and used-car dealers in particular) to be more ethical, especially those which gave credit to those who cannot afford to have credit.

"It's about highlighting the problem, it's about educating people, as well as saying 'this is the silliest thing you could possibly do'," she said. Of concern to her and her staff was the number of children caught in the poverty trap, often brought about by unmanageable debt. Working closely with schools in South Auckland, the mission had discovered some startling facts.

For instance, about 40 per cent of children had no shoes to wear to school, many were going without lunch, some had never been on a motorway and many had never celebrated a birthday. It seems strange to me, in a nation which seems literally to be awash with money, that there is so much abject poverty and that some of those who have control of that surplus money are busily using it to increase the burdens of the impoverished.

Surely the Government should take a look at this situation, particularly the scurrilous advertising, and see if some form of ethical regulation might be imposed.

As for the rest of us - the frugal, the prudent, the prodigal and the plain stupid - considering the miserably low wages paid in this country, the usurious rates of interest charged by financial institutions and the blatant thievery of the Government, it's no wonder some of us succumb to the temptation to borrow ourselves into bondage.

Philippa Stevenson: Living memorial honours work of mother and son

"Life is no brief candle for me. It's a sort of splendid torch which I've got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

Two years ago, that quote from George Bernard Shaw closed a column on the Hamish Saunders Memorial Trust.

Shaw's words encapsulated the hopes of the trustees who sought to honour a young man by offering his short but full life as an example and encouragement to others.

Hamish Saunders, who was raised in the Waikato, was only 26 when, in April 2003 while voluntarily researching endangered species on remote Pedra Branca Island, 25km south of Tasmania, he was swept off the rocky outcrop to his death.

Trustee John Clark, Hamish's uncle, said then that the many people who felt that his nephew had made a tremendous contribution and a remarkable impact in a very short time were supporting the trust.

The trust was created to nurture future leaders in the knowledge, conservation and management of marine environments.

Just seven months after the news that devastated his family and friends, the fund they established contributed $9000 to three research projects.

As more plans were being made, however, a second tragedy struck the Saunders family.

Hamish's mother, Judith, 54, died suddenly last December, just 10 days after falling ill.

For bereaved husband and father David Saunders it became even more important that the trust succeed.

His wife, a botanist who loved the New Zealand native bush and encouraged the couple's three sons in conservation endeavours, would not have wanted the trust's name to be changed, he told me.

In all but name, though, the trust is now a memorial to mother and son.

Last month it sponsored two Auckland University students, Jenni Drummond and Andrew Dopheide, to Tasmania where they helped with what is intended to be the first of many ecological surveys of the islands off Tasmania.

The trust is working with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE), with whom Hamish was working when he died, to do similar surveys over many years.

It has also set up a reciprocal programme with the Conservation Department for Australian students to do similar research here.

Drummond and Dopheide joined a DPIWE team checking the plants and animals, including seabirds, seals and pest cats, on wild and remote Tasman Island.

The few days on the island proved inspirational for Drummond, newly graduated with a BSc in biology and ecology.

The rare opportunity for a new science graduate to be involved with such a study has inspired her to carry on with her "passion for conservation and opened my eyes to the great people you can work with", Drummond said.

The joint programme between the trust and DPIWE promised to be beneficial for New Zealand and Australia as the countries worked on the common goal of protecting biodiversity and dealing with pest problems on unique islands, she said.

Saunders said the trust was seeking funds here and in Australia to continue the programmes, which it hoped would be extended to other parts of Australia as well as New Zealand's islands.

The other trustees include scientists Dr Bill Kain, Professor Terry Healy of Waikato University, Dr John McKoy of NIWA, and businessman and family friend Ross Townshend.

Another of Hamish's uncles, Alan Saunders, a scientist for the World Conservation Union and Department of Conservation, is an adviser.

As many of the elder statesmen and women of the conservation movement grew older, it was also important that the trust identified and supported people who could be tomorrow's leaders, David Saunders said.

It appears to have done well with its first sponsorships.

Dopheide, who is studying toward a masters degree in environmental science, is also a keen photographer and filmmaker who hopes to use his skills in science communication.

And Drummond is eager to educate people about the environment and the need for conservation.

The legacy left by Hamish and Judith Saunders looks to be in good hands.

Cara Battye: Death penalty won't stop druggies

Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van has been sentenced to die by hanging in Singapore tomorrow. The use of the death penalty for drug offences is an alarming practice that runs contrary to the worldwide trend of either abolishing it or restricting the offences to which it can be applied.

The increased willingness of several Asian nations to apply the death penalty suggests a decreasing respect for the value of a human life.

The more offences it is applied to, and the more individuals who receive it, the cheaper life becomes, until it can be taken for even minor offences.

Indonesia has seen proposals to use capital punishment for illegal logging and corruption, adding to the already long list of crimes for which execution can result.

Drugs are undoubtedly a serious problem in these countries and the authorities are right to be concerned at how many lives are ruined by them.

However, their approach to dealing with the problem is as ineffective as it is cruel.

The drug trade exists because where there is demand, there will be supply.

It is the millions of drug users who choose to begin using drugs who fuel the ongoing problem.

Too often, however, those caught using drugs get the lightest punishments, or are not caught at all.

Tackling drugs at the grassroots level is difficult and expensive. It involves a lot of manpower to track down the many drug users rather than the few drug suppliers.

Education campaigns and rehabilitation centres are likewise costly.

But the most difficult thing of all is to address the poverty and corruption that makes many of these countries havens for drug pushers.

As a result, those caught and punished are the small-time suppliers.

The rich and powerful ringleaders are rarely caught, and as one of the smaller associates falls, another can readily be found to take their place.

The death penalty has never been proven to have a deterrent effect, and looking at the international drug-trafficking scene it is difficult to see how it could.

Preying on poverty, naivety, desperation and family ties ensures that the trade will go on. It is not enough to say the condemned knew what they were getting themselves into. Drug users too, know perfectly well what they are getting themselves into when they use.

When the Singaporean Government says that Nguyen had enough heroin to destroy 26,000 lives, they neglect the fact that those 26,000 users chose to destroy themselves as surely as Nguyen chose his own fate.

Yet again, the users are protected while the supplier gets all the blame for their weakness.

It goes without saying that suppliers should be punished. However, prison sentences are quite sufficient and if the authorities wish to impose a lengthy term they are within their rights to do so.

But the taking of human life only adds to the toll of those whose lives have been lost or broken by the drug trade.

Their deaths serve no purpose other than to make those in authority feel as though they are doing something about the problem, without having to do anything at all.

Perhaps one day something may be done about the real causes of drug abuse in society. But for now the Singaporean Government insists on adding yet another young life and yet another grieving family to what is already too long a list.

* Cara Battye is a freelance writer from Auckland.

Alasdair Thompson: Asia united on need for free trade

A week after attending the Apec CEOs summit in Busan, Korea, my lasting impression is that every Asian leader who addressed us began their presentations with unequivocal support for business and free trade as the way to lift the living standards of their citizens.

Never in my life have I heard any of our prime ministers - the first I remember was Sir Sidney Holland - speak with such conviction and clarity in endorsing the importance of private-sector business.

Take the last six years in New Zealand. The most memorable thing the Government has done for business is to expand the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Economic Development to provide modest handouts to some qualifying businesses for developing a product or service. Research and development was also made 100 per cent expensible.

In the same period, business compliance costs have rocketed up as the Government re-regulated areas such as employment, OSH and holiday law. One could be forgiven for believing our Government's focus was upon social policy.

In contrast, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his Government's priority was to ensure its population was equipped for business, especially in ICT and the knowledge-based economy, as they move beyond gathering and managing knowledge to creating it.

He said his Government's number one priority was to create an ethos that supported and nourished the private sector.

Its second priority was to bring out the best in their people by making knowledge available to its citizens. In Singapore, every student must be provided with skills suited to their aspirations and talents.

The third priority was to cut down on regulation - already 67 per cent of tax returns are filed online.

China's President Hu Jintao started his speech by saying it was all those engaged in business and trade who created the wealth that raised living standards.

Hu endorsed building a harmonious world, liberalising trade, removing trade barriers and supporting business; he was talking about private-sector business which now accounts for 60 per cent of China's business GDP.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard praised the United States for its tremendous response in respect of agriculture for the WTO meeting in Hong Kong. He criticised, although not by name, the likes of France and Japan for clinging to their agricultural protectionism.

Peru's President Alejandro Toledo was adamant government should never be in business. He said business was the role of the private sector from which the state took its taxes for the sole purpose of reducing poverty through the provision of public education and health.

Chile's President Ricardo Lagos implored his colleagues to strengthen Doha for multilateral trade - 70 per cent of Chile's GNP comes from trade (imports/exports) and more than 70 per cent of that comes under the aegis of bilateral trade agreements.

President Roh Moo-Hyun of South Korea emphasised the need for an Apec free trade area too and a Busan roadmap to realise the WTO multilateral free trade objective, saying it was the main objective of the leaders' meeting. He said business was the basis of his country's success and his Government's focus was on ensuring its citizens skills to enhance innovation, science and technology. The second main focus of his Government was to make Korea the most business-friendly nation in Asia.

Can you imagine Helen Clark or even Don Brash saying: "My focus is to make New Zealand the most business-friendly place in the Pacific or the world?"

At the WTO meeting in Hong Kong this month, negotiators will come up with something they will hail as a successful outcome for world trade. But this time it will be a hollow victory because, despite the progress made in earlier years, the hard areas - agricultural and food products - hold the greatest benefit for New Zealand and many other countries.

Despite the commitment by the 21 Apec leaders at Busan to complete the Doha round of world trade negotiations next year, the statement was weaker and more vague than wanted by the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. President Vincente Fox of Mexico, and other leaders were even tougher.

Pointing the finger at Spain and France in particular, Fox said: "Now it is the turn for Europe to move."

On the same day, Christine Lagarde, France's Trade Minister, said blindly slashing agricultural tariffs was not the solution. The global agriculture market was dominated by a handful of large, mainly developed exporting countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the US and large emerging countries such as Brazil. Reducing tariffs would only serve to help those countries. The answer lay in granting concessions only to the poorest economies.

That is what we are up against.

* Alasdair Thompson is chief executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern)

Michele Hewitson: Gimmicks on the menu

There were hailstones the size of golf balls further up the island. It was Saturday and at our place there was wind and rain. It was summer in Auckland. We had the heater on. We didn't mind. It was cosy. What were we going to have for tea?

This is a thinking exercise which can take up the best part of a day. I thought a nice thing to do on a horrible day, while thinking about what to have for tea, would be to watch the new Food Television channel on Sky.

I'd watched a bit earlier in the week - you can never start thinking about what to have for tea on a Saturday too early. I watched, or sort of watched, while reading my ratty old Nigel Slater cookbook for the 100th time, some stupid thing about a chef billed as The Surreal Gourmet.

This chef was, not very surreally, doing candied yams. They looked like kumara to me. This chef was cutting them into star shapes. It didn't matter, he said, if they were a bit wonky - they could be cartoon stars.

I always aim to make my food look like cartoon food. Like the stuff they construct on Muck in a Minute, my favourite cooking show of all time - so a big thank you to the person who signed me up to receive their recipes via email.

But I do think Muck in a Minute needs a new gimmick. The Surreal Chef cooks out of a silver caravan with two big bits of brown stuff popping out of the roof. This is supposed to be, surreally I expect, a giant toaster.

The food channel is all about gimmicks. These are, except for the toaster man, borrowed from the reality genre of television. There's a kitchen make-over show called Kitchen Accomplished and I'd rather eat a potato pom pom pizza than watch that one again. There's a show for morons (actually, there are a number of shows for morons) called How To Boil Water. I couldn't bear to watch that one for longer than it takes to boil water.

There's Iron Chef America in which two chefs have an hour to make a meal using one secret ingredient, and hundreds of other not-secret ingredients. On Saturday it was pizza dough. One chef made the dough with brown sugar and wrapped figs and gorgonzola in it. And, mozzarella balloons as a garnish, anyone?

This was riveting stuff which takes place inside a studio called Kitchen Stadium. The dialogue is brilliant: "Chef is using the back of that pan!" "Yes, indeed he is!" "The ice-cream maker has been activated!" And so on.

One of the judges was Jeffrey Steingarten. Jeffrey Steingarten! Who wrote two brilliant books about food. Brainy Jeffrey Steingarten as a judge on this nonsense. Yes, indeed he is!

Good old telly, eh. It shatters your ideas about your heroes until they are but broken meringues. I still haven't got over seeing Rachel Griffiths on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? where she turned out to be an airhead.

Oh well. There is always Cooking Under Fire which is billed as the search for the next great American chef. But I have no great hopes for this. Nothing could be as good as the search for America's Next Top Model.

Did you see Tyra have a meltdown last week? Now that was good telly. I'd rather watch those silly, skinny bints attempt to pronounce "Lacroix" than Gordon Ramsay's temper tantrums any day.

For tea we had chicken stew and apple crumble.

Talkback: Go local to beat TV ad turn-off

By Jonathan Russell

With the advent of DVRs and the imminent launch of New Zealand's first personalised TV offering (My Sky, coming from Sky TV this month), there is a view that TV advertising has had its day.

A ripple of panic has spread through the advertising industry - what does this mean for ad-flaks, brands, advertising?

While absolute penetration of DVRs in the United States is still small, it's growing. Experience there suggests that DVR owners tend to be relatively affluent, male and urban-dwelling.

As Karen Chan pointed out in her column on September 8, one way that advertisers will fight back is through product placement in movies and on primetime TV. But more than this, we see it driving fundamental change in the way we as an industry think about reaching consumers.

Personalisation will be the key. What PVRs and DVRs will give us is detailed, segmented consumer data, so we know with more precision who we are talking to. This means ads in their present form must change to become more targeted, creative, specific, interactive and engaging.

We also need to consider the vast array of other media today's consumers have at their fingertips and how these enable us to get even closer to consumers. With the rise and rise of the screen in its myriad forms - cellphones, video iPods, the internet - and people's growing dependence on these devices, advertisers won't run out of ad placement choices.

In this increasingly fragmented media landscape, integration continues to be the Holy Grail. And this means a lot more than just making sure a brand's advertising across multiple media shares a distinctive look and feel. It means bringing the brand promise alive at every touch-point for the consumer.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, this philosophy influences everything we do. In retail, 80 per cent of our work is about things other than ads. It's about staff training, design, packaging and in-store placement - all the things that make the consumer's interaction with the brand real.

Similarly, in social marketing, TVCs play a key role in shifting attitudes. But to generate real behaviour change, the concept must come alive in communities: on the road, in schools, churches, golf clubs and marae.

There is a Chinese proverb: "Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand." The same holds true for advertising. It's not just about a pretty package; it's about getting involved with people at a community level. And if you don't like the sound of that, think back to our not-so-distant past.

Traditionally, we all had relationships with the businesses in our local community: the butcher, grocer, postman and milkman. But with the assault of advertising and the explosion of global brands, we have become more selective about who we talk to and what we read and watch.

With the personalisation of media, we're going to be able to build depth of relationships, not just breadth.

Bring on the global local. The world just became a little smaller.

* Jonathan Russell is general manager of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington