The emphasis seems ever to be on murder and mayhem, road fatalities and other tragedies,' />

There's not much good news in the newspapers these days.

The emphasis seems ever to be on murder and mayhem, road fatalities and other tragedies, always accompanied by screeds of turgid emotional claptrap parading as human interest.

Then there are the extremes of political correctness, whose protagonists do their best to make sure that when it comes to certain subjects you shall never have a firm opinion or tell the truth but must dissemble and use circumlocution.

Poor old Alasdair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers Association is the latest victim, being pummelled by both genders for his period-problems comment on lower wages for women.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Mr Thompson and only contempt for those who contrived to have him sacked.

He is entitled to his view and is no doubt only too ready to defend it in a legitimate argument, but his attackers make sure they leave no room for that and, like the immensely talented broadcasters Paul Holmes, Paul Henry and Michael Laws, he has to make abject apologies or resign rather than be allowed to battle it out with his critics.

Granted, Henry's remarks about the Governor-General went far beyond the right of free speech and he deserved what he got. Those who have met him will tell you that Sir Anand Satyanand is one of nature's true gentlemen, a credit to his country, its Government and the Queen, whom he represents.

What Mr Thompson and others are guilty of is a temporary lapse. They forgot one of public life's golden rules: it's not what you say, it is how you say it that matters.

The hoo-ha over Mr Thompson's remarks highlighted once more the blurring of genders that has happened over the past half-century; the proposition that men and women are the same. That, of course, is utter nonsense.

Apart from both being human, men and women are absolutely, wonderfully, delightfully different and not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually, too.

Women, I have always said, represent the epitome of God's creative ability, and he left them until last to be sure he got it right. He did, spectacularly so.

I have no argument about women in the workforce and believe they should be given the same opportunities as men for promotion on merit to every level of business, industry and commerce to which they aspire.

When I started out in the craft of journalism, and for years after, the only women on the editorial staff were the "lady editor", responsible for the "women's page", and the editor's secretary.

Today newsrooms are at least 40 per cent staffed by women, including several editors, and journalism has been enriched immensely as a result.

My one reservation - and it is a grave one - is women being allowed in the front line of any of the armed services. There is something achingly sad, and just plain wrong, about that.

But now for some good news. It was brought to us by the Weekend Herald in the pieces by Andrew Laxon on the new community-policing teams operating in South Auckland and some other parts of the country.

I have argued several times in this column over the years that the police need to reconnect with the communities they serve, and it seems that is now happening.

This is no short-term policy, either, for these neighbourhood-policing teams of a sergeant and up to six constables will work for up to five years with local people and organisations in specific areas to take back control of neighbourhoods affected by criminal behaviour such as violence, drugs and gang intimidation. (Rotorua could do with a couple of these teams right now.)

As the Sergeant Jonathan Milne, leader of one of Otara's three neighbourhood-policing teams, puts it, police have learned to change their approach to earn the community's trust.

"We've actually gone in and asked questions and listened, rather than telling people. We've sort of got a mandate to police in these areas because we've brought the community with us."

This policy, devised by new Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush when he was Counties-Manukau commander, is already working. Mr Bush says early results show crime is falling, even though the teams are uncovering previously unreported offences.

Sergeant Milne said he realised nothing would happen without community support, so he started with a door-knocking survey of 500 people, followed by meetings with community groups, schools, businesses and government departments.

That couldn't not work, for it recalls the days of the suburban police station with its suburban policeman, who knew his suburb intimately and was known to, and generally trusted by, everyone. His place in the community was as respected as that of its school teachers and church ministers.

The new policing teams, along with the clean-out of the old guard at police headquarters and the appointment of two respected policemen at the helm - Commissioner Peter Marshall and Mr Bush - tell me that the future for law and order looks much brighter.