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Global corruption is the number one untold story of the decade, states Avaiki Nius Agency, examining the "least corrupt" country in the world for contradictory symptoms.
Scoring number one spot on a world ranking anti-corruption survey seems cause for celebration.
Story of the decade, kind of thing.
Certainly, in the case of the top ranking from Transparency International, it is.
Transparency International yearly releases what it calls a Corruption Perceptions Index, or CPI.
Same acronym as the slightly better known Consumer Price Index. Unlike the consumer cousin, TI CPI merely ranks perceptions among local inhabitants. Questions asked from a random survey of residents include how they perceive corruption in the public and private sectors, like lawyers and business people.
New Zealanders ranked their own least corrupt in the world last year, for the first time.
public tax records
Level-pegging with the most transparent people in the world in recent years, this new first placing is an achievement, considering other leading countries have (by New Zealand standards) quite astonishing levels of transparency. Residents in Sweden can look up tax records by address. Their neighbour. The Prime Minister. A company director they suspect might be crooked. Norway residents can check what cab company their MP uses.
By comparison, our transparency levels are medieval; auditory chambers of horror. Donations to political parties are secret under $10,000 and no doubt the $9,999 cheques for rightist politician Winston Peters are mirrored by deposits in other party bank accounts. Corporates already know every last detail about "consumers" but those consumers do not have reciprocal insight into the affairs of big business.
New Zealand is so untransparent there is no food labeling. New Zealand consumers have no idea what they are consuming, where it came from or whether the item of consumption is safe, or not as the case may be. From China, toys may be baked in a glaze containing human poo, or inflict reputational damage from news about bizarre chemicals in New Zealand milk powder.
Locally, "Leaky House Syndrome" is a corporately-correct chimera swallowed hook, line and sinker by mainstream media, reporting evidence of gigantic corruption as if a common cold. This agency has already commented on numerous examples that suggest public ignorance leaves us alone, at the top of the rubble from world anti-corruption efforts. Australians next door are more skeptical of their own country, ranking themselves 8th least corrupt in the world, but insist on food labeling and other tougher regulatory environments.
In terms of aid, New Zealand is a rogue state, abandoning 30 years of aid harmonisation with development partners like the UN and OECD in favour of what the current government justifies as a "hand up" policy, dismantling the decade old NZAID and folding it back under the politically correct wing of Foreign Affairs. Historic levels of agreement between aid advocates and other relief organisations saw a campaign called "Don't corrupt aid", but was totally ignored by Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully. Across the Tasman, Australia is well into its second year of reports from the newly established independent Office of Aid Effectiveness.
So why do New Zealanders "perceive" themselves least corrupt in the world? And why are the New Zealand media so quiet about the achievement? Turn on the night news and every other world-beating feat is crowed from rooftops, satirised by the wry L&P slogan, "world famous in New Zealand."
no results at the herald
Deathly silence however greets the latest Transparency International ranking, for 2009.
Search for "Transparency International" on the New Zealand Herald and the site says "sorry no results found". Strange, because NZH used to have links. Using Google to search the same site gets 126 results, at time of auto-publishing this webpage.
Next biggest news website in New Zealand, Stuff, carries just six sentences - count them - from Australian Associated Press.
a minute or two
Takes a minute or two to realise that a more in-depth article dates from 2008, when New Zealand was ranked equal with Finland and Denmark as least corrupt in the world by the annual Transparency International survey.
Finland is better known more recently as an enthusiastic participant in the global economic crisis, banks pitching in with the old tried-and-true formula of loaning billions to rich people, then recouping losses by screwing the poor. Equal footing with Finland underlines the point that, soft as it may be, the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is by nature mea culpa, an admission of guilt that, yes, corruption exists, even in 100% "pure" New Zealand.
Out of a top score of 10, New Zealanders rate their fellow country men and women as 9.4 good in terms of anti-corruption.
blind leading the blind
Stopped at a pedestrian crossing in downtown Apia, Samoa one day, a cliche comes to life.
One blind man, hand-in-hand with another, leading.
Tap-tap-tap across the road.
As succinct a scenario for where New Zealand is going wrong is expressed by Maori activist Willie Jackson, in a September 2009 column titled "Real corruption in New Zealand" about the conviction of MP Phillip Taito Field:
"The fourth  Labour government got into bed with big business. And businessmen acted as advisers over asset sales, but then jumped ship and advised the buyers too. Then through this corrupt process they became part-owners of the assets, clipping the ticket three times. All of this had the full support of many senior Cabinet ministers at the time. We now know that some in the government even had trusts set up for them by the same people who profited from the asset sales. Apparently, it is legal – in fact, some people even refer to it as clever or even smart business practice. But I know workers will always remember it as corruption of the worst kind – a total betrayal. Field's actions pale by comparison."
Corruption of the "worst kind" is not news, however, in a country where such comments are published, but never reported - myopic business people and short-sighted journalists. Indeed, another Maori activist attacks Jackson as corrupt himself after his Taito comments are posted to Facebook.
behind the scenes
Being least corrupt in the world deserves serious world attention.
Leading the world also suggests a need for the country involved to step back, stock take and offer some world-beating self-analysis "if you like", as a leading TVNZ journalist is fond of saying; a critique.
Yes, we do like.
opportunity for honesty
We like the Transparency International Corruptions Index as an opportunity for honest accounting, long overdue.
As an independent news agency of one, this is not so much use of the royal "we" as a distillation, and we use the word advisedly, of disparate sources from right to left who express interesting commonalities in their dissatisfaction with current states of affair within western systems of democracy. Lots of websites. Plenty of networking with media communities. Triangulated against daily stories from the street. Reporting, in other words; the pre-press stage.
Use of the word triangulation may ring bells among journalistic cynics, but shouldn't.
That's how we roll.
all right mate
Again and again this agency has been astonished by the depth of cynicism among New Zealanders, over incredibly parochial concerns, while evincing a Pollyanna optimism that the big picture is all right mate.
That must be how the disgraceful conviction and six year sentence of Phillip Taito Field comes to be praised as evidence "the system" works.
Spending half a million or more on police pursuing the fate of a few tiles while thousands of New Zealanders suffer multi-billion housing fraud ranks right up there in the Keystone cops category.
Adding to corruption comedy are commentators like Chris Ford, alleging a "strong interest" in social justice issues.
Most hilarious was Joe Bennet, searingly sarcastic in a deliriously headlined satire on baby-tossing street celebrations among New Zealanders at news of the first place transparency ranking.
To use sports news short-hand, the UK-born Bennet is one of only two journalists to apply the "blow-torch" to the myths of clean, green New Zealand.
A column in The Guardian slamming New Zealand as the most "shameful" example of "green-washing" in the world prompted mainly hand-wringing about changing the "100% pure" tourism slogan to side-step those environmental concerns.
Perhaps the most shameful aspect is that in the least corrupt country in the world, it still takes outsiders to point out painful truths.
To imagine that New Zealand or Australia are somehow immune to worldwide corruption is naive, reckless.