It might seem churlish to criticise those receiving New Years honours because every year, as well as some very deserving people, the awards predominantly go to friends of the government in power or “business leaders” who have feathered their own nests at the expense of the rest of us.
But it’s too hard to hold one’s nose at awards to the likes of Teresa Gattung and Murray McCully.
Gattung’s citation says she received her award for “services to business and philanthropy” but her contribution to New Zealand would be better described as “a successful public relations campaign to cover deceit and theft from New Zealanders with highly publicised “good works””
Gattung was the golden girl of neo-liberalism who was appointed CEO of Telecom after it was privatised and ran it as private monopoly which stripped billions from ordinary New Zealanders. She even bragged about the corporate deception at the heart of Telecom’s pricing of services.
I wrote about this in 2006 like this:
“Gattung told business analysts in Sydney two months ago that Telecom has “not been straight up” with customers. She said “Think about pricing. What has every telco in the world done in the past? It’s used confusion as its chief marketing tool. And that’s fine. You could argue that that’s how all of us keep calling prices up and get those revenues, high-margin businesses, keep them going a lot longer than would have been the case. But…customers know that’s what the game has been. They know we’re not being straight up”.
This kind of cynical manipulation of the public by a multi-million dollar “golden girl” is a tragedy for us all. For 16 years we have suffered as Telecom has abused its private monopoly over our phone networks. We have been fleeced.
In round figures the purchase price for Telecom was $4 billion and when the original American buyers sold it, the selling price was $12 billion. This capital gain of $8 billion was on top of another $12 billion they made in profit over the 10 years they owned the company. Ameritech and Bell-Atlantic (the initial American owners) were staggered at their good fortune and at the blind stupidity of our government. They nearly drowned in the trough.”
That the likes of Gattung should receive a New Year’s honour is an insult to every New Zealander and in particular to families who have struggled to pay their phone bill. The fact she gives a small amount of money and publicity to a couple of charities is a cover – like trying to hide the stench of a sewage pond with a bottle of cheap perfume.
In Murray McCully’s case the award says more about a weakness in the character of Prime Minister John Key than anything to do with McCully.
McCully is reported as saying “It was unusual to do it while Members of Parliament are serving but in this case he (John Key) was keen to take that step in recognition of the (United Nations) Security Council campaign and I regard it as a recognition of the whole effort that was made by the ministry, in particular, and those who worked with the ministry to achieve what was an outstanding outcome.”
However the truth is that McCully has been a poorly performing minister at best having attempted to trash the public service ethos of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and downgrade our diplomatic representation – all to save money and look good at the cabinet table.
Knowing how widely despised McCully is within the public service, Key has taken the opportunity of the security council seat to give the fingers to public servants
It’s much the same reason he keeps Hekia Parata as Minister of Education – a sly dig at those educationalists who genuinely believe in high quality education for every child.
The New Zealand honours system should be taken out of the hands of politicians and vested in an independent body which is above cheap party politics, community abuse or cynical philanthropy which purchases awards.