Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

By David

The Regions of New Zealand swimming recently adopted a new national constitution. Peter Miskimmin’s forces won a comprehensive victory. Swimming New Zealand was no longer a democratic federation where power was shared between the Head Office in Wellington and the Regions. It would be easy to become quite emotive about the form of government that Swimming New Zealand adopted. I will not do that. Instead I will return to my days at Victoria University where my BA degree included a major in Political Science. How would a political scientist describe the new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand?

Well, first of all Swimming New Zealand is now “aristarchic”. That means it is controlled by a small group of individuals, with little intervention from most members of the organization. There are six types of “aristarchic” government. The new Swimming New Zealand is the form called “kratocracy”; meaning rule by the strong; a system of governance where the strong seize power through social manoeuvring or political cunning. Political scientists make one further distinction based on how those who have achieved power maintain their position. The new Miskimmin and Moller 2012 Constitution changed the organization from a “liberal democracy” to a “totalitarian democracy”; a system of government in which members, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government.

And finally political scientists look closely at an organization’s “pejorative” features. What that means is, regardless of the form of government, do the leaders of the organization indulge in any behaviour that may be just as important to sustaining their power as the formal structures of government.

In the case of the new Swimming New Zealand the rulers most certainly do. Miskimmin and Moller created a “phobiocracy”; meaning rule by fear. In particular the Miskimmin and Moller 2012 Constitution and Special General Meeting began a process of making the membership fear each other and fear those in power. The purpose of a “phobiocracy” is to have the ruled too afraid to resist those in power at Pelorus House, the Millennium Institute and the AMP Building. The regular use of threats has successfully created, in the membership of Swimming New Zealand, a fear of the consequences of noncompliance. Behave or be punished is everywhere in New Zealand swimming these days.

It is important to provide examples of what Miskimmin and Moller have done that led to these conclusions. It is especially important when the new Swimming New Zealand is a less democratic, harsher and harder place that it was before. We gave up a lot when we succumbed to Miskimmin and Moller. We gave up liberty and we gave up the freedom to steer our own course. People have literally died for what we discarded; for what we threw away. My father left body parts on a hill in Italy defending the values that the new Swimming New Zealand has taken. The Miskimmin and Moller Swimming New Zealand had better come up with some really stunning results. The price we paid them was exceptionally high.

It is important to understand that change does not require a host of examples. It takes only a few key alterations to redefine an organization. The world’s worst tyranny survived for twelve years on a document of only 219 words called the Enabling Act of 1933. And so, in the case of swimming, what are the constitutional manoeuvres that converted swimming into a wholly owned subsidiary of Sport New Zealand?

The rulers of most totalitarian democracies find it important to alienate a section of their population in order to show the majority what could happen to them if they step out of line. Over the years Jews, black people, communists and the followers of Islam have been isolated and reviled to keep those being ruled in line. I believe Moller understood that principle well when, at the Special General Meeting of Swimming New Zealand, held on the 28th July 2012, he “called for the Auckland Board and its Chief Executive to stand down, as they had requested Swimming New Zealand to do.” There is nothing “Nelson-Mandela-like” about Miskimmin and Moller. This was a time for reconciliation. Instead they chose revenge. This was an appeal to the worst in us all. Their message to everyone was clear.

  1. Although half a dozen Regions signed the request for the old SNZ Board to stand down, it was actually Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board that caused the turmoil and problems. Focus your blame, your censure and your scorn on them. Punish Palmer and Auckland. It will be good for the organization.
  2. Be careful. Censure will happen to you too if you question the authority of Swimming New Zealand. Anyone who challenges the divine right of the Swimming New Zealand Board to govern will be punished. Like Auckland future insurgents will be banished from the sport. Dissention and debate will not be tolerated in the new Swimming New Zealand.

In addition to manipulating the environment, Miskimmin and Moller prepared a constitutional structure that preserved central power and made it difficult for the membership to ever again express dissent or assume power. They did this by preparing just one “take-it-all-or-leave-it-all” motion for the special meeting to accept or reject. This is what it said [PDF file].

That Swimming New Zealand Incorporated accepts and adopts in full the report of the Independent Working Group for the Review of Swimming New Zealand dated June 2012, including the recommendations in it numbered 1-21 inclusive, Swimming New Zealand Incorporated repeals its existing constitution and adopts the attached new constitution dated July 2012.

The decision the regions faced was all or nothing; the Review, the Constitution, everything or nothing. There was no room for discussion; no room to select aspects of the Review or the Constitution that appealed or debate and reject those that the Regions did not like. Miskimmin and Moller knew the good people in the regions were most unlikely to reject everything they had done. The motion put to the meeting ensured that these people accepted everything; including their own passing.

And the new Constitution did prescribe the end of federalism; did witness the end of Regional power. The new constitution required each Region accept a new constitution as written by Swimming New Zealand. Rejecting the new Regional constituting would see the Region banished from the organization. Miskimmin and Moller did this by including three measures in the new Swimming New Zealand Constitution. As effective organs of government the Regions were no more. This is what the Swimming New Zealand Constitution said.

A Regional Association is an entity governing a region which adopts the form of Regional Association constitution prescribed by SNZ.

A Regional Association is an entity governing a region which is approved as a member of SNZ

The objects of a Regional Association must include: maintaining its membership of SNZ.

I have no time for the politics practiced by Miskimmin and Moller. The exercise of naked power that demanded the Auckland CEO and Auckland Board resign fills me with contempt. Palmer and the members of the Auckland Board are good people. Their only crime was to express concern at some very bad central management. If Miskimmin and Moller want to censure New Zealanders for holding an opinion they should go and live somewhere else.

I have nothing in common with the way Miskimmin and Moller manipulated good swimming people and stripped them of power. The federalism we practiced was not perfect but it was democratic, it was free and it accommodated the world class successes of Loader, Simcic, Hurring, Kent, Winter, Bray, Langrell, Moss, Kingsman and Jeffs. The Miskimmin model will not match those successes. I can only hope the Miskimmin and Moller enabling act of 2012 lasts less than twelve years.