As if ticket scalpers and price-gougers were not bad enough for the national image, we now face the prospect of protesters hijacking the Rugby World Cup. Groups opposed to the Government's economic policies, including Maori activists, have foreshadowed campaigns of "civil disobedience" to disrupt the tournament.

The most provocative suggestion by a spokesman for the newly formed Coalition for Social Justice was that "we might have to flour-bomb Eden Park again", recalling events on the final day of the 1981 Springbok tour. That announcement prompted two Catholic organisations that campaign for social justice to pull out of yesterday's post-Budget rally in Queen St.

It goes without saying that campaigners have every right to protest about the economic policies of various political parties at any time, and particularly in the run-up to an election that will be barely a month away when the tournament ends.

And it is a predictable and legitimate tactic to step up such activity during a time when the eyes of the world are turned on the country.

But it is another matter entirely to disrupt an event that huge numbers of people have come here to enjoy.

It is the New Zealand way - and a sacred article of faith among Maori - that guests are accorded respect and made to feel welcome and comfortable. They do not deserve to be held hostage in our political disputes when they are visitors to these shores.