OPINION: There has been a prevailing myth in New Zealand that the private sector does everything better than the public.
Democratically elected committees are a joke, whereas lean and mean boards based on the corporate model are the way to get things done.
The accuracy of that myth was pepper-sprayed last week as a number of ACC board members either resigned or were not re-appointed. Perhaps a revolving door needs to be installed in the ACC boardroom so it's easier for board members to come and go. As the kerfuffle about exactly who called the cops in the Bronwyn Pullar case continued, the ACC board made the parents committee of the local kindy look like a slick, well-oiled machine.
But should we be blaming the board for ACC's woes? The biographies of the departed (they were still on ACC's website last Friday - so it's not just claims that take a while to be actioned) reveal them to be highly successful people. But perhaps that's the problem?
Because of this Government's obsession with the corporate model, boards are stacked with successful businesspeople who have often made a lot of money. And let's face it, the ACC board's brief was to cut costs and improve revenue which they did.
But though the ACC board were experienced in business, accounting, insurance and "governance" (whatever that is) had any of them ever actually been on compo? Did any of them know what it was like to sit in a wheelchair or hobble around on crutches after an accident waiting for your ACC payment to be approved so you could buy groceries? I suspect not.
It's the same with the Welfare Working Group. It was full of competent people who were extremely good at making money, "governance", and telling beneficiaries that they should be eating wine biscuits instead of mallowpuffs. But was there anyone who had recently been a beneficiary? Little wonder their recommendations lacked innovation.
When I was at secondary school, I got elected as student representative onto my school board. Back then school boards had student, parent, council, union, employer and university representatives. Yes, it was ungainly and I got sick of the employers' representative always talking about trade training. But we had some great arguments and it was far more constructive than if six boring, balding middle-aged Pakeha businessmen with experience in "governance" and a token Maori woman were appointed to run the organisation, as happens with so many boards today.
But now, with the introduction of the latest local government bill, our councils may also be run along corporate lines. Forget small inefficient councils, we'll have big amalgamated super councils with council-appointed (not citizen-elected) committees to run services. These committees will be lean and mean and won't cause any fuss just like the council-appointed committee that currently runs the Ports of Auckland.
Even our political parties have become corporate. Lawyers and other professionals predominate on both sides. You could count the number of Labour MPs with genuine working-class backgrounds on the fingers of your left hand and the number of National Party farmer MPs on the fingers of your right.
One political party likes the corporate model so much it has a board to make its decisions. There is no messy, inefficient grass-roots democracy with ACT. Trouble is, because so few people in ACT were actually involved in decision-making, Don Brash was able to launch a hostile takeover and become leader of a party he'd never joined with catastrophic results.
I look forward to seeing the future appointees to the ACC board. Will ACC Minister Collins appoint compassionate people who understand workplace injury, disability and chronic pain?
Don't hold your breath. I suspect we'll get another influx of successful rational men (and the odd woman) with CVs detailing their experience in insurance, accounting, business and, most ironically of all, "governance".
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