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Opinion: Upton Online - Payouts, Stragglers & ACC

Feb 9th

Pay outs

Much fun is being had unearthing ever more Byzantine pay-outs for executives. The grounds given for their departure can be plotted on a simple ‘RISC’ scale descending from retiring through incompetent to somnolent and corrupt. The real life scale of moral torpor is more nuanced and you would need to consult a specialist in moral outrage like Trevor Mallard to understand its finer points. But upton-on-line finds the 4-step RISC scale a useful orientation device.

It’s going to be needed since the Government has announced with mock solemnity that an on-going trail of revelations is likely as further outrages are uncovered. No doubt someone on the ninth floor has been tasked with identifying, packaging and then marketing an outrage a week with a couple held in reserve to smother any unplanned Government embarrassments.

When will everybody grow up on this subject? The single biggest cause of pay-outs to departing executives – whether in the public or the private sector – is the way the Employment Contracts Act has been applied by the Employment Court. Quite simply, the more you’re paid, the more worthwhile it is to hire an expensive lawyer to find a flaw in the process.


Somewhat to my surprise the National team disclosed, in advance of the House sitting, its tactics: to pick off the weaker ministers in question time. Tactical matters are not normally shared with the enemy. Then again, the game is as old as the Rift Valley and cruelly Darwinian.

In the same way that a weak or injured gazelle is separated from the pack then set upon by baleful predators further up the foodchain, so faltering, fumbling ministers are marked for slaughter.

Every government has them. Robyn McDonald comes to mind from the last crop. The search is on for new protein. At this stage it’s all a bit of a blur – the migrating herd hasn’t had time to string out yet and some of the scavengers are still overgrown puppies. But as they limber up in the weeks ahead fear will start to haunt the eyes of those appointed to tasks beyond their wits.

Already some seasoned maulers like Tony Ryall and Richard Prebble are circling for an early kill. Marian Hobbs barely escaped alive yesterday as she muddled her executives and chairmen. She invented an extraordinary new ministerial duty: having confidence in the Board of TVNZ. There was a whiff of the Vatican about it. Far from being its inquisitor, we were told that she had a duty to believe in its infallibility.

This is unlike Marian. She is a forceful speaker and an MP of truly positive countenance. She will probably manage to re-join the herd. Others won’t be so lucky. But being one of the old school, I won’t be providing advance notice of their identity.


Perhaps I’ve missed something, but among the stranger consequences of the Government’s re-nationalisation of accident compensation is the division of the world into two blocs. Big corporates can go off and carry their own risks (which will, effectively, be reinsured with the private sector). Little people are marched off to the state bureaucracy. (As a special concession small traders are allowed to pool their risks with more accident prone competitors).

Is this really what modern social democracy is about? The big players are given the keys to their cells while the little people are locked up?


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