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real issues 6 October 2005

real issues 6 October 2005


* Character on and off the field
* The term that will be
* Intergenerational thinking

Character on and off the field

Anton Oliver claims in his new book that a drinking culture is prevalent among the All Blacks. That should concern all New Zealanders. Rugby is central to the lives of a greater proportion of young men in New Zealand than probably any other country in the world, although we mustn't forget Wales. It shapes their expectations and their character.

There is a lot of sensible talk among rugby administrators about the need for discipline on the field - it can and often does win the game. The training and management hierarchy know full well that physical and psychological fitness is critical. Good and responsible character is also an essential part of the game. Too many young athletes, not only All Blacks, get themselves into unnecessary difficulty off the field through lack of discipline. Norm Hewitt's story is testimony to that. As indeed is Anton's own poignant story of his profanity in a Dunedin restaurant.

And there is a lot of money involved. New Zealand's bid to host the 2011 World Cup, which is being supported by the government, could be worth $500 million to the country. South Africa, supported by that symbol of discipline and suffering Nelson Mandela, is our most obvious opposition, so character becomes even more significant.

Money, sport and character are a critical trinity. For those of us who enjoy rugby and who also want to see our young men mature into good citizens and parents, what happens on, off and around the rugby field is profoundly important. The All Black management has an opportunity to do New Zealand a great service by taking seriously the responsibility they have for the ethical development of the players they serve.

The term that will be

Being Prime Minister may be harder this week than at any other time over the next three years. With the final election results announced, Labour leader Helen Clark is working on forming a government, which might involve negotiating agreements with up to five parties. The scale of these negotiations gives us a clue as to the possible nature of the next Parliamentary term.

It seems clear that the final shape of the next government could be formed through formal coalitions, supply and confidence arrangements and agreements to abstain on confidence votes. In order to get the support needed for stable government, Clark will have to negotiate competing interests of minor parties, and compromise some of Labour's own policy platforms.

Government which relies on so many parties for support may mean the Bills going through Parliament are more thoroughly debated. This is both a strength and a weakness of a proportional representation system. Stable domestic and international circumstances may give rise to a more moderated government where issues are thoroughly aired and considered by Parliament. During unstable periods which require decisive action, government by consensus can be problematic.

The success of this week's negotiations will depend on the initial outcome reached by the personalities and parties involved - but its sustainability will also depend on how it faces the events and conditions which arise over the next term.

Intergenerational thinking

The responsibility and connection that exist between generations were vividly demonstrated this week. Pierre Chatelanat, a Swiss-born farmer and immigrant to New Zealand, and his wife, Jacqueline, have donated their 843-hectare farm overlooking Kaipara Harbour to the nation. Mr Chatelanat carved the property out of a ti-tree and gorse wilderness after moving to New Zealand in the 1950s.

This is not the first time the public has benefited from generous donations and forward thinking. Auckland locals and visitors all appreciate the refuge of Cornwall Park. Donated in 1901, the land provides a haven of green towards the centre of the city. With cows and sheep grazing, the generations coming after Sir John Logan Campbell value his great contribution to the city. Similar vision by our forefathers also led to the creation of other inner city parks, such as Hagley Park in the centre of Christchurch.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, has called the latest gift to the city "a vision of generosity on a heroic scale". The Chatelanats are leaving a powerful legacy which future generations will be grateful for. The concept of society as a contract between the "living" and "those who are to be born" is a valuable one and it's encouraging that many New Zealanders and Councils still recognise this.

Thought For The Week - J. S. Mill (1806 - 1873)

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. - On Liberty


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