Richard Prosser finally makes a name for himself

Admit it -- you'd never heard of NZ First MP Richard Prosser till the Wogistan debacle. Now he is a household name. Plus Ralph Stewart's payout and Novopay.

A week ago I wrote a blog about Parliament, noting that what went on there was mostly theatre – a “game” – and the content of what was said there was not to be taken too seriously. In one sense what Richard Prosser MP said last week confirmed this; the content of his statement about young Muslim males and “Wogistan” was such nonsense that only a fool could take this guy seriously. You might hear that kind of overstated nonsense if you were listening to a half cut table at the local boozer, but you would not expect it from an MP.

Those comments were so over the top that one wonders how anyone claiming to be responsible (and at least I hope MPs claim to be responsible) could hold such ridiculous views.

And that was followed by rather ridiculous attempts to explain the statement away. NZ First MPs caught by journos had a stock standard ‘all statements in relation to this matter will be handled by the leader’ response. When we heard an explanation we were told that the statement was merely an argument for profiling initiated after Mr Prosser had had a pocketknife taken away during an airport security check. Debate on the ‘real topic’ had been taken over by a distracting sideline comment within the article. At the most it was a ‘mistake’ – written in an ‘unbalanced’ way. When the controversy refused to go away, an apology for upsetting people emerged but nothing to indicate that the underlying views expressed in the article were repudiated. No one other than the already converted accepted the explanation, and when you look at the overall article, neither should they.

Until this statement arose I had never heard of Richard Prosser MP. Whatever else, during the time he has been in Parliament he has made no impression warranting publicity. And yet this ridiculous statement received international publicity.

Herein lies the dilemma. If you say something sensible and moderate, the chances are that you will receive no publicity at all. If you say something absurd and ridiculous, it could well be heard worldwide.

Also in Wellington last week ACC paid Ralph Stewart, their recently resigned CEO, a $100,000 bonus. Setting aside the point that for most hard working New Zealanders $100k is a massive amount for a year’s work, this is not justified. There seems to be a view that supports these payouts that goes like this – if an organisation is performing well it must be because the chief executive is performing well. Here military history is a great teacher. An army succeeds not just because it has a good general officer, but when the general officer and everyone down the line does their allotted task well and properly. This applies to organisations across the board.

Finally, there was Novopay. The policy underlying the State Sector Act of the 1980s was that Ministers (politicians) would determine policy and the CEOs of government departments would take responsibility for the organisation required to practically deliver that policy. This definitely covered activities like payroll.

As a consequence of taking such a broad responsibility, the CEOs would be significantly better paid than had been the case in the past. But equally, they would be accountable for the organisation’s performance. Now we have the worst of both worlds. We have the golden handshakes, the golden parachutes, the huge packages, and so forth with the responsibility for failure apparently lying with the Ministers.

Perhaps it’s time to refresh ourselves on the State Sector Act and send Richard Prosser off to be the High Commissioner to Wogistan.