Monday, December 05, 2005

Sideswipe

By Ana Samways

Ever get the feeling progress on the war in Iraq is going backwards? Two and half years of hard yakker waging war (and four years in the planning), Bush heads back to the brainstorming table. (Source: www.wonkette.com)

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Snippets of conversation from website, Overheard in the Office: New Employee orientation
New Hire 1: So, what time do you think we'll report to our boss?
New Hire 2: Probably in like an hour?
New Hire 3: No, probably later because we have to take the urine test.
New Hire 1: What? Why do we have to take a hearing test?
New Hire 2: No, the drug test!
New Hire 1: Huh?

* * *

German companies have donated the equivalent of about $35 million for a media campaign to make their countrymen feel better about themselves. (Sample script: "(O)utdo yourself. Beat your wings and uproot trees. You are the wings. You are the tree. You are Germany."

Editorial: No end to leaky home debacle

The Herald has been "banging on", as the Prime Minister once put it, about the leaky buildings scandal for longer than we would wish. This is not because we have yet to find who is at fault - that became very clear very quickly - but because the owners of leaky buildings are having a great deal of difficulty pinning the blame where it plainly lies, at the door of the Government's former advisory body, the Building Industry Authority.

Last week the owners suffered a severe setback when the body corporate of the Sacramento apartment complex in Auckland lost a claim again the Crown in the Court of Appeal. Many will wonder how the court could possibly come to that decision, for the facts are well known.

During the 1990s builders adopted a form of construction known as face-fixed monolithic cladding that they attached to the timber frame. It helped produce the neat, box-like buildings that are now commonplace. In 1995 the Standards Association of New Zealand approved the use of untreated timber for building frames. The combination of porous cladding against untreated framing has caused widespread rot.

The Building Industry Association was the statutory body charged with advising the Government on building controls, granting accreditation for building products and processes, and approving building certifiers who were supposed to carry insurance in case of claims against them. In 1998 that body endorsed the Standards Association's ruling on untreated timber, issuing a notice that it "met the durability requirements of timber building elements".

The Sacramento body corporate sued the Crown alleging the Building Industry Association had failed to take sufficient care over the use of monolithic cladding with untreated timber and had been negligent in its supervision of Sacramento's building certifier and the certifier's insurance cover. On the first claim, at least, it is hard to see how it could fail. Yet it has.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Government's advisory body did not have sufficient "proximity" to the problem to have a legal duty of care. It cites precedents for this conclusion, of course, but the justice of it will escape most people. How can a body charged with approving building products and processes escape liability for a common practice that has resulted in so many faulty buildings that the whole system of regulating the industry has since been changed?

The leaky buildings problem occurred under a system of "light-handed regulation" introduced to many industries in the 1990s. The idea was that competitive suppliers and consumers have sufficient incentive to check the safety and reliability of goods and services themselves, so that regulatory bodies need not be as prescriptive as they used to be. The Appeal Court has judged the Building Industry Association in the light of that time.

But even in a regime of minimal regulation, the association ought to have been more vigilant. Builders had a right to rely on the association's verdict on untreated timber even if they had doubts about the wisdom of attaching porous cladding to it. And few intending buyers of the buildings would have had the knowledge necessary to protect themselves.

The buyers of leaky buildings have been waiting a long time to discover where the buck stops. By the time the rot set in developers had ducked for cover, building certifiers were out of business and the insurance they were supposed to carry was not available. Now the Appeal Court has overturned a High Court ruling that the Building Industry Association was finally liable. The buyers may have to go to the Supreme Court for the compensation they deserve.

Brian Rudman: Let's not dither and lose another regional jewel

Only a total grinch is going to attack the Auckland Regional Council for snapping up the 51ha Tuaman property on the Pakiri waterfront to add to the regional park network.

You have to seize your opportunities when you can, or spend the rest of your life regretting - and if you are a politician, being blamed for - that moment of indecision.

Pakatoa Island is a good example. It almost became a jewel in the regional estate 15 years ago when its purchase could have been funded out of petty cash. But the ditherers had their way and it stayed private. Now it's on the market for $35 million and forever out of public reach.

So Pakiri, 25km north of Warkworth and in the path of the relentless drift of humanity north from Auckland, just had to be grabbed before it too became lost to the millionaire beach baches.

And what can you buy for $10.25 million anyway these days? Little more than a kilometre of Alpurt B highway, that's all.

Hopefully the news is good as far as 82ha Rotoroa Island to the east of Waiheke Island is concerned as well. It seems both the politicians and the owners are keen that it should remain a community asset.

Since my recent column about the Salvation Army examining the future of the island after their drug and rehabilitation retreat closes, there's been action. Well, talk of action anyway, by both Minister of Conservation Chris Carter and regional council chairman Mike Lee.

Best of all has been the generous attitude of the Sallies, who want to see this "gift of creation" continue as an "asset to the community".

Major Alistair Herring, who is in charge of reviewing the future of the island, says they do not want it to "fall into the hands of an individual or small number of individuals who would just snub their nose at the rest of the community". He said they're not against "property development per se" but it is not what they want for Rotoroa.

The Sallies are waiting for an independent report on their options, due early February. The brief was that the existing operation was moving on to the mainland, there was a desire to have regard for the public good in any future use, and thirdly, "clearly it is an asset to the Salvation Army and there is an opportunity to realise the asset in one form or other to resource the ongoing work of the Salvation Army as a church and human service provider".

Or in other words, it would be nice to derive some income from this asset to fund the ongoing activities, both worldly and otherwise, of the church.

Mr Herring says while selling is an option, "our preference at the moment is for long-term lease".

Preparing to meet Mr Herring is Mr Chris Carter, who is working with Mr Lee as "a catalyst to bring everybody together to see if we can talk through an outcome that guarantees public access".

Mr Carter's preference is to see the island become part of the public estate to ensure public access and conservation are guaranteed for all time. But he's prepared to look at all options.

One solution, he suggests, is for DoC and/or the ARC to find land on the mainland to swap for the island. He says he's frequently reminded by the Treasurer of the shortage of money for his "iconic" purchases, but under the Conservation Act he has the power to swap land of lesser conservation value for land of higher value.

He has asked DoC to check "surplus" land holdings.

He sees a possible use as a centre for environmental education or for school camps. "I'm prepared to explore a range of options because my objective would be for it to be a public asset and to remain available for public use."

Thanks to the Sallies' community-mindedness, it looks as though for once in a property disposal, the public sector might have the inside running.

Let's just hope the politicians don't use this niceness as an excuse to slack on the job. Breathing down their necks is the private sector.

Major Herring has had a flow of "expressions of interest" since the news broke.

Dithering lost us Pakatoa. We can't have the same happening to big brother Rotoroa.

Claire Harvey: Justice and humanity must outweigh blind obedience

There is no room for democracy, disobedience or dissent in the military.

That's what former High Court Justice David Morris says in his report on allegations of physical and sexual brutality towards boys as young as 15 at the New Zealand Army's Waiouru Regular force Cadet School.

It is a disturbing assertion, that the most important part of military life is obedience, rather than humanity or sense or courage.

It is not so far from what the Nazi war criminals said at the Nuremberg trials: we were just following orders.

It's what lawyers for Lieutenant William Calley said after he and his crazed soldiers massacred 504 villagers at My Lai, Vietnam, in 1968. Calley was guilty only of following orders "a bit too diligently".

Fortunately, it is simply not correct.

Morris' point is that the whole idea of a training camp like Waiouru was to inculcate in the boys the importance of hierarchy.

Invoking the military's long "experience gained in peace and war," Morris says armed forces can function only if all personnel are trained to follow orders without question.

"The Army is not an institution which allows democratic discussion. When an order is given, whatever its rightness or wrongness, or even its necessity, the Army simply expects it to be obeyed immediately and without question," Morris says.

But that argument is directly contradicted by the New Zealand Army's own rules, and the Geneva Convention principles upon which the modern rules of warfare are based.

In reality, all New Zealand soldiers are taught that they have a responsibility to disobey any order which is illegal or inhumane, says Brigadier-General Kevin Riordan, director-general of the New Zealand Defence Forces legal service.

"In the case of orders that are known to be unlawful or which are manifestly unlawful, a Service member is not only entitled to disobey, but is in fact required to do so," Riordan said in response to my request for an explanation of the law relating to military discipline, saying unlawful orders include acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity and torture.

Some dreadful things happened in the Waiouru barracks, Morris concludes after interviews with 114 former cadets, Army personnel, medics, police and civilians.

According to his own report, children of 16 and 17 were given titles like "Cadet Lance-Corporal", placed in charge of younger boys and allowed to punish them for "offences" such as failing to keep their quarters or uniforms clean.

Boys were kicked and bashed, scrubbed with hard laundry brushes until their skin split. The senior boys stripped their victims naked and humiliated them, beat their genitals with wooden implements, smeared their testicles with boot polish.

Several claimed they were sexually abused, two said they were raped.

In 473 emails and letters to Morris' review, 215 former cadets and staff said they experienced or witnessed bullying, while 151 said they had no knowledge of any brutality.

Morris said he believed only some of the ex-cadets' claims, but accepted the testimony of staff and medics that they did not know about or condone bullying and tried to stamp out any hints of cruel behaviour.

"A contention a culture of violence existed ... is not supported by my inquiries and is a gross over-statement," Morris said, attributing the violence to "a few, mainly senior cadets, [who] have behaved like a gang of thugs and bullied a very limited number of cadets."

He goes on to say: "Those bullied appear to have been generally those unable, because of size or makeup, to adequately defend themselves. I suspect a number of these cadets should never have been selected for the Army and were clearly unsuitable for it."

But Morris seems to overlook the quiet theme which comes through in nearly every piece of testimony in his report: the real culture was terrified silence.

Cadet after cadet told him the greatest taboo was to "dob in your mates", and said they would be "marked men" if they dared complain.

A nurse said she suspected the bruised and wounded boys who attributed their injuries to "tripping over a barrack box or walking into wardrobe doors" were actually being abused.

A senior medical officer said he would have been surprised if anyone formally reported abuse because of the Army's "closed shop approach".

Morris says bullying is "a fact of life. Unfortunately, bullies flourish in school environments. The Flashmans and their hangers-on exist today just as they did when Tom Brown attended Rugby. To suffer and endure it is unfortunately the lot of some."

But with that statement, Morris seems to be accepting that the worst vices of hormone-enraged teenagers should be tolerated as inevitable.

Bullying might be part of life, but so is rape, so is murder.

That's why we have a criminal justice system: to regulate the behaviour of the bullies and the sadists.

Society looks to honourable individuals to object to that kind of conduct, whether in civilian or military life.

Individuals like the 24-year-old American helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who airlifted civilians out of My Lai and reported Calley for war crimes.

Like the soldiers who are speaking out about brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For even in barracks, even at school, even in a war zone, some things are more important than blind obedience.

Gregory Dicum: Stop breeding and help save the Earth

We can't be breeding right now, says Les Knight. "It's obvious that the intentional creation of another [human being] by anyone anywhere can't be justified today."

Mr Knight is the founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, an informal network of people dedicated to phasing out the human race in the interest of the health of the Earth.
Mr Knight, whose convictions led him to get a vasectomy in the 1970s, when he was 25, believes that the human race is inherently dangerous to the planet and inevitably creates an unsustainable situation.

"As long as there's one breeding couple," he says cheerfully, "we're in danger of being right back here again. Wherever humans live, not much else lives. It isn't that we're evil and want to kill everything - it's just how we live."

His position might sound extreme at first blush, but there's an undeniable logic to it: Human activities - from development to travel, from farming to just turning on the lights at night - are damaging the biosphere. More people means more damage. So if fewer people means less destruction, wouldn't no people at all be the best solution for the planet?

The problem is stark: The United Nations estimates that the human population, currently at 6.5 billion, is well on its way to 9.1 billion in 2050. Many estimates place a sustainable population in which most of the people on Earth are able to enjoy their lives at between one and two billion.

By nearly every measure - pollution, carbon emissions, forest loss, fishery depletion, soil fertility, water availability and others - the growing population is wreaking havoc on the Earth's systems. And it's setting our civilisation up for a big, hard fall.

As it is, even with my afghan diet, avid bicycling, recycling and energy-conservation measures, if everyone on the planet lived the way I do, we'd need three more Earths. As far as I know, they aren't making any more of these.

Meanwhile, almost 16,000 humans are born each hour. Regardless of the merits of reducing the population to nil - as Mr Knight advocates - it's pretty clear that the world could do without any additional people.

Certainly without more Americans. In 1994, Charles Hall, an ecologist at SUNY Syracuse, performed a life-cycle analysis of the average American by determining each person's lifetime share of the nation's total consumption of various resources. It's the kind of study usually undertaken to assess the impacts of a new product or policy, and the results are unsettling. Mr Hall and his colleagues found that an American born in the 1990s will be responsible, over his or her life, for 9.97 million kilograms of liquid waste and a million kilograms of solid waste and atmospheric waste. He or she will have a lifetime consumption of 4000 barrels of oil, 700,000 kilograms of minerals and 28,000 kilograms of animal products that will entail the slaughter of 2000 animals.

"In terms of energy usage alone, [which is] a convenient measure of environmental impact," Mr Knight says, "the average Ethiopian uses one-310th of what an American uses. So when an American couple stops at two kids it's like an Ethiopian couple stopping at 620."

According to Mr Knight, there are other ways people can have kids in their lives.

"Adoption, foster-parenting, step-parenting - there are a lot of opportunities for people who really do want to get involved with children."

Mr Knight himself is a substitute high school teacher in Portland, Oregon, as befits his patient but forcefully clear demeanour.

He takes care to point out that VHEMT isn't anti-child. Many of its members are parents. Some of its members are children. In many ways, the idea of reducing the world's population is as much about human quality of life as it is about the health of the planet.

"May we live long and die out," says Naomi Thompson, quoting the VHEMT slogan. Ms Thompson, who is in her late 20s and works as an analyst for Wells Fargo in San Francisco, has also concluded that childbearing is irresponsible. "It's not about wanting to kill people, but it's selfish to have a kid at this point when so many aren't getting the love and attention that they deserve."

"I really do love kids," she continues. (Both Ms Thompson and Mr Knight say they were raised in large, happy families.)

"I know it might seem odd for someone who really likes kids to have this stance on breeding - women are mothering, nurturing people, and I definitely have that in me. But women in this society feel a lot of pressure to have babies, and I would like to see more people expressing that by adopting instead."

The question of having children gets to the heart of some of our most basic drives, a place where rationality can take us only so far. Though I can picture myself as a father, I just can't see myself adopting.

I'm more like Mary and Mike Brune. The Alameda couple are longtime environmentalists. Mike Brune is executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, so he spends his entire workday thinking in excruciating detail about just how much trouble the planet is in. Like most environmentalists, the Brunes have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact.

"We certainly do as much as we can to limit our consumption," says Mr Brune. "We made sure we live near mass transit. We have one of the new Priuses. We buy organic food almost exclusively. We feel that it's very important to connect our personal values to all aspects of how we live: where we work, what we eat, what we buy."

But when, after 6 1/2 years of marriage, it came time for the couple to consider a child, those strong personal values came up against an even stronger drive.

"I understand rationally the argument for not having children - I can see the point," says Mrs Brune, a technical writer and, since becoming a mother, co-founder of Making Our Milk Safe, an organisation that monitors industrial toxins in human milk.

"I've talked to friends who have made certain that they can't have children so they don't bring another person into the world," she continues.

"But for us there's a real primal need to have a child. For me, personally, I had a desire to bear my own child."

So they went for it: Their daughter Olivia is now 15 months old.

At RAN, Mr Brune works to transform some of the most powerful elements of Western society, going after oil companies and banks to change the way they do business.

He says that for him this kind of big-picture environmentalism does not translate to the personal decision of whether to have a child.

"The goal here isn't for big supermarkets to have one aisle of organic food - it's to get to a point where all food is produced in a healthy way," he says.

"The same would be true of hybrid cars: We don't want Ford to just have a few hybrid vehicles, we want to have every vehicle nonpolluting." For Mr Brune, the choice to have a child is a personal, emotional one that sits apart from the systemic change he's working for.

But does approaching the issue as an emotional question hinder our ability to address population problems? VHEMT's Mr Knight says there's a taboo against talking about population control in what he calls our "natalist" culture.

It's a barrier that has resulted in many environmental groups either not addressing population or doing so inadequately.

"Nobody will come right out and say that this is unsustainable, you can't do this," says Mr Knight. "If you really are serious about the environment and your impact, zero is the optimal number of offspring that we should be producing."

But the Brunes are sanguine.

"We brought a new person into the world," says Mrs Brune, "and we hope that she'll be one more soldier on the front lines who's going to fight for the earth when she grows up."

Mr Knight says even if Olivia becomes the "firecracker radical activist" her mother hopes, it's going to be extremely difficult for her to overcome the environmental original sin she embodies.

"I do think that if you added up a whole lifetime of one person, even living lightly," he says, "reproducing would bump you up into the Hummer-driver category."

Rather than focus on raising new people in a certain way, says Mr Knight, "if you instead help other people become the people that you think we all should be, you can have far more impact".

"In light of the number of species going extinct because of our increase, and the tens of thousands of children dying every day from preventable causes, there's just no good reason to have a child," adds Mr Knight.

"We have to ignore all those children to create another one. It's like saying: 'Well, they just don't matter.' But they do matter: They're all children in the human family."

But breeding is anything but rational. Every single one of our ancestors, dating back billions of years, has successfully reproduced - it's the essence of what living things do.

It really comes down to whether you are an optimist about human nature.

Having a child is an implicit endorsement of the idea that it's possible to have a sustainable ecosystem that includes humans - that it's possible to find a way out of the mess we've created.

Mr Knight doesn't think people can do it.

"Other than a few examples of tribal societies, we never have lived sustainably," he says.

"We're so dangerously clever that we can become very civilised and industrialised and separate ourselves from nature.

Most of the people who do live close to nature are just a hand axe and a shotgun away from starting on the slippery slope that leads to driving around and talking on cellphones."

In many ways, it's an apples-and-oranges situation: The reasons not to breed - stacked up next to the deep-seated biological and cultural satisfaction of having offspring - can only illuminate the gulf between reason and emotion.

It can't tell us which side of the gulf we'll spend the rest of our lives on - only that we can't have it both ways.

At least by thinking about it and entering into it consciously or not at all, we're rising above mere biology and taking a real step toward overcoming the animal drives that are consuming the planet - a step both Mr Knight and the Brunes agree is important in the evolution of the human animal.

"There's no end to the guilt you can feel as a parent, about everything as a person alive today," says Mrs Brune. "But I'm grateful every day for being a mum and glad that she's here in our lives."

But, she adds, maybe one is enough.

"It is something to question if we should have another child. Adopting a child instead is definitely something to consider."

Even Mr Knight, in his oddly cheery brand of pessimism, thinks that the drive to breed may be insurmountable.

"It's not too likely that the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is going to succeed," he says.

"I don't think any of us are so naive as to think that 6.5 billion people are going to say: 'Yeah, let's stop breeding, this is great.' But it's still definitely the right thing to do."

Jacqueline Rowarth : Anderton hits innovation chord with pledge to agricultural sector

The new Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, has wasted little time in delivering the words many of us have been waiting to hear - that the Government is committed to research, development and innovation in the agricultural sector.

He seems to have grasped at least some of the problems in agriculture already - the need for improving image perceptions, greater industry promotion of opportunities and increased industry training and modern apprenticeships.

He has also recognised the need to attract the best and brightest people into the farming and forestry sectors.

In order to do this, Anderton has indicated that the Government is considering bonding through scholarships, akin to the old teacher-training scholarships that meant teachers were actually paid by the Government to study.

But it will take more than free tertiary education. This is Generation Y we are trying to attract.

The good news is that Generation Y is environmentally aware. More good news is that members of Generation Y care about time for family, friends, and lifestyle. They are focused on enjoying life in balanced fashion.

But the lifestyle and balance they expect is nothing like what the old student teacher-trainees endured.

These are children of a privileged generation. They are choosing to live at home so they can continue the lifestyle their parents can afford. They have cars, mobile phones and work to pay for petrol and communication.

These are factors we must recognise to achieve what the country needs.

Students enrolled in tertiary education commit time, energy and dollars for their futures, and many of them minimise the impact on opportunity cost by working during their education. A full-time student in business studies has a lecture timetable that probably has fewer than 15 hours of lectures a week. In contrast, a full-time agricultural science student probably has more than 35 hours of lectures and laboratories a week. Both have assignments to do; in science the homework includes writing up laboratory experiments.

Students in agricultural science don't have time to work during the semester and in the breaks they are trainees on farms - getting the work experience that will make them valuable members of the community.

And whereas students in business can choose from many different tertiary providers, students in agriculture can choose Massey or Lincoln (now working together through their Partnership for Excellence). This means that most of them will not be able to live at home.

Students in business will study for three years. In agricultural science the degree takes four. To become a scientist will take at least another three years at postgraduate level.

Factor all this together and it will take more than a fees scholarship to attract the savvy student into agricultural science.

The Government also needs to be overt about the value it places on the work the agriculture and science communities do. This requires improvements in salary, security and status.

Most people want to be able to plan their futures (salary and security) and know that they will be valued by society (status). Add lifestyle to the three Ss, and the Y Generation members will be attracted (as long as it doesn't cost too much).

Anderton has said that science is critical to our future - in this sector and many others - "because most of our success is based on research and the commercial development to which it leads. Science is the key to unlocking further productivity gains in the primary production sector."

Who turns the key? The agricultural scientist.

* Jacqueline Rowarth is director of the Office for Environmental Programmes at Melbourne University.

Jacqueline Rowarth : Anderton hits innovation chord with pledge to agricultural sector

The new Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, has wasted little time in delivering the words many of us have been waiting to hear - that the Government is committed to research, development and innovation in the agricultural sector.

He seems to have grasped at least some of the problems in agriculture already - the need for improving image perceptions, greater industry promotion of opportunities and increased industry training and modern apprenticeships.

He has also recognised the need to attract the best and brightest people into the farming and forestry sectors.

In order to do this, Anderton has indicated that the Government is considering bonding through scholarships, akin to the old teacher-training scholarships that meant teachers were actually paid by the Government to study.

But it will take more than free tertiary education. This is Generation Y we are trying to attract.

The good news is that Generation Y is environmentally aware. More good news is that members of Generation Y care about time for family, friends, and lifestyle. They are focused on enjoying life in balanced fashion.

But the lifestyle and balance they expect is nothing like what the old student teacher-trainees endured.

These are children of a privileged generation. They are choosing to live at home so they can continue the lifestyle their parents can afford. They have cars, mobile phones and work to pay for petrol and communication.

These are factors we must recognise to achieve what the country needs.

Students enrolled in tertiary education commit time, energy and dollars for their futures, and many of them minimise the impact on opportunity cost by working during their education. A full-time student in business studies has a lecture timetable that probably has fewer than 15 hours of lectures a week. In contrast, a full-time agricultural science student probably has more than 35 hours of lectures and laboratories a week. Both have assignments to do; in science the homework includes writing up laboratory experiments.

Students in agricultural science don't have time to work during the semester and in the breaks they are trainees on farms - getting the work experience that will make them valuable members of the community.

And whereas students in business can choose from many different tertiary providers, students in agriculture can choose Massey or Lincoln (now working together through their Partnership for Excellence). This means that most of them will not be able to live at home.

Students in business will study for three years. In agricultural science the degree takes four. To become a scientist will take at least another three years at postgraduate level.

Factor all this together and it will take more than a fees scholarship to attract the savvy student into agricultural science.

The Government also needs to be overt about the value it places on the work the agriculture and science communities do. This requires improvements in salary, security and status.

Most people want to be able to plan their futures (salary and security) and know that they will be valued by society (status). Add lifestyle to the three Ss, and the Y Generation members will be attracted (as long as it doesn't cost too much).

Anderton has said that science is critical to our future - in this sector and many others - "because most of our success is based on research and the commercial development to which it leads. Science is the key to unlocking further productivity gains in the primary production sector."

Who turns the key? The agricultural scientist.

* Jacqueline Rowarth is director of the Office for Environmental Programmes at Melbourne University.

James Russell: The price is right on reliability

The old adage 'If you want something done, ask the busiest person' is sound advice according to management author Reg Price, provided that the person is practising "organised busyness".

Problem is, it may be difficult to identify who in your office are what Price terms the "outstandingly reliable people". They are the ones making promises to both customers and work colleagues and then delivering on them, but rarely being noticed by management.

Price grew up on a farm, where "as a farmer's son you always had to do what you said you would or you'd get a kick in the backside".

This basic premise has become the theme of his research and business, based as far afield as Singapore and Britain. And all of this experience has been condensed into his book Give It To Them Like You Said You Would which will land on the shelves early next year.

"My research has shown that between 25 and 30 per cent of promises are not fulfilled," says Price.

He describes most people as 'promises making and keeping machines' and explains that a typical staff member will manage 2000 promises a year at a minimum (some many more) and, also, track the promises other people make to them.

Price has categorised people into four types:

* Trumpeter Tom, who tends to over promise and under deliver.

* Tentative Tim, those who try to slip out of making a firm promise.

* Disorganised Diana, promises well but is too disorganised to deliver.

* Balanced Barry, the aforementioned outstandingly reliable person.

Balanced Barrys are realistic promisers that are focused on achieving a result and, according to Price, may be up to 10 times as productive as other employees. However, it is rare that these people are truly recognised for their skills.

"An outstandingly reliable person may come across a bit gnarly - almost a bit uncooperative - when they are asked to do something. In fact, they want to know what they have to do and what resources they will need in order to do it. They don't want to promise without the certainty that they will be able to deliver."

Price spoke to one outstandingly reliable person who told him he felt like a swan. "He said that he appeared graceful and composed to the outside world, but underneath his legs were going like hell. This is because reliable people often don't have enough support."

Clearly then, Balanced Barrys are the ones you want working for your company. But Price believes that recruiters rarely look for these attributes in potential employees and admits that it also a hard talent to recognise from an interview.

"You have to sift through people's comments and be on the lookout for references to being committed to delivering on promises or always wanting to 'get it right'. It is also often what people don't say rather than what they do," he says.

But some are on the lookout for reliable people.

Price maintains that his philosophy applies to the individual employee delivering on their promises to their co-workers or customers, right through to the most strategic form of reliability - keeping the brand promise.

A good example of a company that keeps its brand promise is Volvo, says Price. "They promise safety and they always deliver on it. Because of it they are an extremely successful company."

It is also important that the brand promise is understood by the staff.

Price says: "Research in Britain has shown that only five per cent of staff actually understand their company's brand promise and, perhaps more importantly, when told of the brand promise, don't feel well enough resourced to deliver on it."

BALANCED BARRYS

* Know how to promise well

* Spend much more time negotiating and agreeing the parameters of a promise

* Know how to say no without saying no - saying no is not acceptable in many organisations

* Have systems to follow up on less reliable people

To improve internal reliability

* Establish a vocabulary for the different roles in making and keeping promises

* Learn how to diagnose a broken promise * Train in good promising work practices

* Dismiss the idea that reliable people are boring

Bevan Graham: New Zealand Entrepreneurs hard to find

New Zealand prides itself on being an entrepreneurial economy, and international surveys back that perception.

Our view - from the vantage point of our involvement in the early-stage capital raising space - is that the major thing holding this country back is a shortage of truly business-savvy entrepreneurs. Think about it this way - at its most basic level, to commercialise a good idea needs three things: a good idea, capital (which may be debt and/or equity), and an entrepreneur. In New Zealand, we have an abundance of the first, sufficient of the second and are severely lacking in the third.

Let's get the controversy out of the way early. I think we are seriously short of true entrepreneurs. By entrepreneur I mean the person with enough commercial expertise to take the bright idea and turn it into a viable commercial enterprise.

This assertion runs against the conventional wisdom and a host of international surveys that constantly place New Zealand at the top of the world when it comes to entrepreneurship. But just having a bright idea doesn't makes one an entrepreneur.

I believe there are enough investors out there to fund our early-stage capital needs. Furthermore, investors are becoming more organised with a number of investor networks appearing. The low number of deals being done is often explained by a lack of capital, but I think it's more because of a dearth of talented entrepreneurs, and possibly a lack of pooling of investment risk among a few investors; that is, sharing the deal.

If there is anything lacking on the capital side it is a lack of appetite for risk. There is a saying in Silicon Valley that if you haven't failed four times, you probably haven't made it yet. Risk is what makes for a thriving entrepreneurial economy.

Those seeking capital aren't going to get off without comment, which brings me to a report released by the Ministry of Economic Development and Statistics New Zealand called "Business Finance in New Zealand".

It appears our business people and entrepreneurs would prefer to raise capital through debt rather than equity. The report identifies that out of businesses looking for finance last year, only 6 per cent sought solely equity finance; most of those were successful; and of those successes, 81 per cent of new equity was raised by existing shareholders and a further 11 per cent from friends and family.

I believe this, at least in part, reflects an aversion to equity financing. The ministry has signalled this result as an area for further study. Let me posit some thoughts about why this may be the case: lack of knowledge about raising equity finance, higher transactions costs and potential loss of control of the idea or business.

So why do we think we know something about New Zealand's early-stage capital raising market? Some background: EDANZ is the Economic Development Association of New Zealand. We are the umbrella membership organisation of around 70 local and regional Economic Development Agencies (EDAs).

We co-manage New Zealand Trade and Enterprises Escalator service with Deloitte, and work with a consortium of brokers (Deloitte, I Grow, Realize Innovations and Ignition Partner).

Escalator facilitates equity capital raising for start-up or high-growth companies. We bring together the bright idea with good potential or the existing business ready to scale up, with serious investors.

The intervention (the bit the tax-payer pays for) is for the time the broker spends assessing up to 300 entrepreneurs and businesses a year and preparing and taking around 45 businesses a year to private sector investors. Since inception, Escalator has raised $26 million for 39 companies and five strategic partnerships (non-equity deals). But just as importantly, for those that have not raised capital yet, it has put more than 600 companies through a process with one of our consortium partners that will have helped them identify (and hopefully start to rectify) issues that might make them a more viable proposition for investors and pointed them to other avenues for assistance.

Our experience with Escalator means we exercise our minds in this space daily. But the conclusions we reach are at odds with the conventional wisdom about early-stage capital raising, which poses some challenges when we think about what the Government should be doing.

It is not clear just what the Government should be doing, so we need to agree on what the problem is. To me, it is a lack of suitably skilled entrepreneurs, an aversion to risk by investors and an aversion to equity finance on the part of the entrepreneur/business owner.

ESCALATOR

* The Economic Development Association of New Zealand is the umbrella membership organisation of regional Economic Development Agencies.

* It co-manages New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's Escalator service.

* Escalator facilitates equity capital raising for start-up or high-growth companies.

* Escalator has raised $26 million for 39 companies and five strategic partnerships since it began last year.


* Bevan Graham is chief executive of EDANZ

Tania Domett and Jacqui True: Fight continues for gender equality

Tapu Misa's comment in her Wednesday column describing New Zealand as "toxic for men" and "a haven for powerful women" is somewhat overstating things.

It is true that the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice are all women. It is also true that the CEO of our largest company, Telecom, is a woman. Apart from these exceptional women, however, the status of New Zealand women in general is a little shakier.

Some examples: recent statistics report that the gender pay gap has widened so that women now earn 82 per cent of men's pay - much less than the 87 per cent they earned last year. Within New Zealand's top 500 companies, in 2000, only 2.4 per cent of senior managers were women.

Women are still overwhelmingly concentrated in occupations that afford low pay and few protections. Women make up 72.4 per cent of the part-time work force, yet only 37.3 per cent of full-time workers, impacting on them financially and professionally. And, last year, Women's Refuge helped 22,500 women and children to escape violent relationships.

Dame Silvia Cartwright, contemplating the retirement of our famous women leaders, said in a recent address, "Do you really believe that we will all be replaced by women? This, I think, is an event a bit like Haley's Comet, only to be seen on rare occasions and perhaps more faintly each time it occurs."

Misa writes that feminism has given women the "freedom to choose". Certainly, legal and institutional changes have established a formal equality between men and women. Yet, life choices are often mediated by social norms that are bound up in gender, culture and often class.

As a consequence, some people are more free than others to chart their life course.

While Misa's daughter may presently be a "living testament to the triumphs of feminism", this is unlikely to last, unless we experience societal change. As the younger generation enters the labour market, and, particularly, contemplates having children, they will come up against gendered notions of the proper social roles for men and women.

Men's roles are still defined primarily in terms of their involvement in the paid labour force, as breadwinners; women's in terms of their unpaid work as mothers, as caregivers, as nurturers.

This has discriminatory effects: for men who seek to involve themselves in their families as equals with their partners; for women who are criticised for the enjoyment, not to mention financial independence, that they derive from their paid work roles.

Furthermore, it is ironic that even as society continues to hold women primarily responsible for the family, those women that do choose to be stay-at-home mothers are often told that what they do isn't "real work".

Collective political activism generally has declined against a backdrop of rising individualism and increasing work hours. This has not only meant fewer prospects for common ground, it has also limited the free time available to try to find it. The women's movement has not been immune to these changes. However, it is definitely not "dead".

Feminists have different views on what it would mean to achieve gender equality. Some believe participation in paid work will result in gender equality, while others believe it lies as well in the systematic valuing of unpaid care work that many women, and some men, do in the home and community.

Far from being anti-male, many feminists consider encouraging men's role as fathers to be crucial to gender equality, a view shared by many in the burgeoning men's movement.

Despite the differences among women, feminists are united in our recognition of discrimination that occurs as a result of gender roles and stereotypes. Furthermore, we are united in our attempts to realise gender equality: through our advocacy, politics and everyday lives.

* Tania Domett is a researcher and Jacqui True a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, University of Auckland.

Jeremy Hall and Robert Patman: China has a long way to go for superpower status

Some 10 days ago there was a huge explosion at an industrial plant in the northern Chinese city of Jilin. Toxic chemicals spilled into the adjoining Songhua river and choked off water supplies in downstream Harbin before continuing across the Russian border.

Days later came the news that an underground explosion in the province of Heilongjiang had killed at least 134 miners.

These disasters have reminded the world that behind the rapid development and modernisation, China still faces serious social, environmental, and political challenges on its journey to great power status. Above all, such events highlight the basic tension between one-party rule and rampant economic liberalism, a tension that is likely to sharpen as China's economic prosperity increases.

The facts of the Chinese economic miracle are incontestable, and its effects have touched most Westerners, including New Zealanders.

Beijing began to move away from a Soviet-style command economy in the late 1970s, and by the mid-1990s economic reform had transformed the country. Consistent economic growth - it is now over 9 per cent a year - and the rise of Chinese manufactured products on the world market became key features of this rapid turnaround.

Status projects such as the launching of Chinese astronauts into orbit in 2003, and the 2008 Olympic bid, have largely gone off without a hitch. Similarly, China's major cities have been redefined by legions of new skyscrapers and other striking architectural developments. Foreign investors are champing at the bit to get access to a surging Chinese market of 1.7 billion people.

Not surprisingly, the rising economic power of China promises to reshape geo-politics in the 21st century. Already, there are signs that Beijing is seeking an international role that it considers to be more commensurate with its growing capabilities.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China has begun to assert itself in relations with its biggest trading partner, Japan. Angered by Japanese textbooks that gloss over wartime atrocities against Chinese citizens and Tokyo's solidarity with the Bush Administration's policy of support for Taiwan, Beijing has sanctioned angry popular demonstrations against Japanese interests.

At the same time, China continues to invest heavily in new military hardware, and the Bush Administration has regularly sounded alarm bells about the growing Chinese threat in the international arena.

In August, China conducted its first military exercises with Russia. While these manoeuvres added some substance to the political rhetoric of a strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow, they reflected, more than anything else, common opposition to the Bush doctrine and its stated determination to maintain the global primacy of the US.

Interestingly, China's international emergence has coincided with a downturn in the global standing of the US. A survey conducted earlier in the year in 16 countries by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project showed that China is actually ahead of the US in public esteem in many countries.

But it would be premature to read too much into such surveys. China faces some formidable challenges in the era of globalisation. Its increasing integration into the global market economy, symbolised by membership of the WTO, is generating new pressures for political reform within the country.

At present, the communist regime retains strict control of the domestic media, right down to a "Great Firewall of China" that blocks websites deemed to be threatening to the political order.

Nevertheless, reports of unrest have periodically surfaced in the Western media. A glimpse of the sort of convulsions that may follow was provided by the Tiananmen Square student demonstrations of 1989 that saw 3000 people - predominantly pro-democracy activists - killed by the Chinese military in the centre of Beijing.

Another act of defiance captured in footage obtained by the Washington Post in June showed a gang of paramilitary toughs attacking farmers who were resisting the seizure of their property for a Government power project in the province of Hebei, just north of Beijing. Six farmers were killed and as many as 100 injured in the clash.

With growing prosperity and the dissemination of personal communication devices such as fax machines, mobile phones and internet access, China is steadily becoming more difficult to control.

Moreover, the greater number of younger Chinese citizens who now have the ability to travel beyond the country's borders will increasingly stretch tolerance for authoritarian rule at home.

The implicit contract between the Chinese Government and the population, which sees the latter acquiesce to the absence of social and political freedoms in exchange for material prosperity, will be difficult to sustain in the rapidly changing circumstances of the 21st century.

So while China is certainly growing in power, it would be a mistake to overstate its interest or its capacity to supplant America's position as the world's sole superpower in the foreseeable future.

Many of America's problems may be solved by a change of administration, whereas China's looming difficulties may yet require a change in its political system.

Understanding a nation as vast and secretive as China is difficult, but absolutely necessary for every nation of the world, not least those of the Asia-Pacific region, who are likely to feel its expanding presence in the economic, and perhaps even military, sphere sooner rather than later.

* Jeremy Hall completed an MA thesis at the Department of Political Studies, University of Otago. Robert G. Patman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Studies, University of Otago.