Charge of the right brigade

Paula Rebstock is appointed to the ACC Board one day after the resignation of Chief Executive - National lays strong foundations for further ideological assault on ACC

Yesterday’s announcement that Nick Smith has appointed Paula Rebstock to the Board of ACC should really have come as no surprise.

After all, it’s already six weeks since she completed her sterling work for National, laying out a platform for the most serious and harmful welfare reform our country has seen since the foundations of the welfare state were laid in the 1930s.

Yet I couldn’t help feeling a sense of shock - and deep foreboding - that the full force of Ms Rebstock’s considerable powers are now to be focused on ACC.

Ms Rebstock is clearly a hard worker, and gives her employers value for money. From National’s point of view, I’m sure the estimated $1200 a day she got for chairing the $1.3 million Welfare Working Group was worth every penny.

Now it’s ACC’s turn to benefit from the Paula Rebstock touch.

In a 2006 Herald article, Ms Rebstock said, ‘I never lose sight that all the benefits of our society derive from the activities of the business community….the free market economy is a great way to allocate the country’s resource, but to make sure the benefits flow through to everyone, you have to have competition.’

She was of course speaking in the context of her then job as Chair of the Commerce Commission, but all indications are that the sentiments expressed here outline in a nutshell why she was, from National’s point of view, the ideal person for the hatchet job on welfare – and now for the partial privatisation of ACC.

Alongside her is another new appointee to the ACC Board, Jill Spooner.

Ms Spooner is an actuary, which will fit very nicely with ACC’s current directions. She is also a self-confessed National Party volunteer worker who ‘had aspirations of becoming an MP but quickly realised that it was not for me.’

Every Government has the luxury of appointing its own people to key boards, and it would be naïve in the extreme to expect anything else.

But I believe these appointments, coming a day after the announcement that current ACC chief executive Dr Jan White is leaving her job when her contract ends later this year, mark the beginning of the next, more serious, phase of National’s push to reform ACC.

Judging from Ms Rebstock’s performance on welfare reform, anyone who supports an equitable, state-run, compassionate and fair ACC system should be very, very afraid.