Philip Rush Sentenced

By David

The NZ Transport Agency tells me that their “role in improving New Zealand’s land transport system extends to ensuring the people and vehicles that use our system are safe to do so.” Their website goes on to explain that, “Alcohol and drug affected driving are serious offences and carry tough penalties, especially for repeat offenders. If you are convicted of a third or subsequent offence, you will be disqualified from driving for more than 1 year and either fined up to $6000 or imprisoned for up to 2 years.”

But can any of that be believed? The Chairman of the NZ Transport Agency is Chris Moller. That’s right the same Chris Moller responsible for the Swimming New Zealand Moller Report; the same Chris Moller that called for Swimming New Zealand’s best administrator, Brian Palmer, to resign. When Moller’s transport organization says, “If you are convicted of a third or subsequent offence, you will be disqualified from driving for more than 1 year and either fined up to $6000 or imprisoned for up to 2 years” does it mean it. When Moller says “you will be” does that mean the same as “you will be” to the rest of us?

Apparently not; or not if you work for Swimming New Zealand it seems. The in-group at Swimming New Zealand give every impression of being above the rules.

Because Swimming New Zealand’s Open Water Manager, Philip Rush, was sentenced last week after he was caught in the Wellington suburb of Miramar on August 13, behind the wheel at more than twice the legal alcohol limit. He returned a breath alcohol reading of 829 micrograms per litre – more than twice the legal limit of 400mcg/l.

Rush has three previous drink-driving convictions in 1989, 1996 and 1998. This was conviction number four. And Chris Moller’s organization tells me that’s a serious offence and carries tough penalties.

Well it beats me how Moller can paint that version of reality when the Wellington District Court judge, Susan Thomas, at Rush’s sentencing hearing tells me that Philip Rush has been an exceptionally positive contributor to society and notes his achievements in swimming and in the community, as well as his work as a firefighter. That sounds more like a glowing testimonial to me. For his fourth drink driving conviction Philip Rush was slapped on the wrist with a wet bus pass; disqualified from driving for a year and a day and given 140 hours of community work. According to this judge mentoring swimmers satisfied the definition of community work.

What on earth, who on earth, could have convinced Judge Thomas to stray so far from Chris Moller’s description of the sentencing guide lines? Well, we can now reveal who convinced this judge of the District Court to cock a snoop at, to arrogantly ignore “tough penalties” for a “serious offender”. Swimming New Zealand – that’s who.

Swimming New Zealand provided Rush with a glowing letter of support. The letter outlined his work mentoring young swimmers, managing teams going to world championships, and coaching. Judge Susan Thomas said she had received a, “letter from Swimming New Zealand that talks about not only your own personal achievements in swimming, but what you contribute to Swimming New Zealand. You are a member of the coaching staff. You are a manager of the National Youth and Age programme and that includes establishing the Outward Bound leadership camp. You have coached and managed the last four New Zealand open water teams attending world championships and managed several New Zealand development teams. Outside of the formal scope of your employment you mentor several young swimmers.”

Would you believe it? Philip Rush appears to breach at least three Swimming New Zealand Code of Conduct Rules and Christian Renford tells the court the guy is actually their Mother Teresa. Well Christian Renford please explain to Swimming New Zealand members just how Philip Rush’s four drunk driving convictions match up with the rules you were employed to protect and enforce.

When he drove through Mirimar at 11 o’clock on the night of August 13 was Philip Rush “aware of, and (did he) maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies”? Was Philip Rush being “a positive role model”? Is there any possibility that the actions of Philip Rush “may bring disrepute or disgrace to SNZ members, its stakeholders and/or its sponsors, potential sponsors and/or partners”? Because if any of those events happened then Christian Renford should never have approved that letter.

However all that completely ignores the child protection aspect of the Rush convictions. Some lunatic judge in Wellington says a four times convicted drunk driver should spend his community service “mentoring” young swimmers. Christian Renford adds to the lunacy by pointing out the benefit of placing New Zealand’s young swimmers in Philip Rush’s care.

I received a call today from a young swimmer who attended the 2012 Outward Bound Course on the Swimming New Zealand program. I was told that, while they waited for other course members to arrive at Wellington Airport, Philip Rush took two male swimmers to the pub for a drink. Is that true? Remember Swimming New Zealand have a “no alcohol” clause in their swimmer’s contracts. I was told Rush then drove all the swimmers to their accommodation. As they arrived at the hotel Rush was interviewed by Wellington Police. Is that true? Clearly it needs to be investigated and made public.

Obviously Philip Rush is not Mother Teresa. Philip Rush has a problem.

And while he has anything to do with Swimming New Zealand – no swimmer of mine is going anywhere with Philip Rush, no swimmer of mine is going to be mentored about anything by anyone who has been drinking and driving for twenty four years, since 1989 and no swimmer of mine will ever get into a motor car driven by Philip Rush – not even to visit the corner dairy.

For their unashamed disregard of the standards and responsibilities of this sport Renford and Rush should leave or be dismissed.

However there is another point that really interests me. And that’s the position of Chris Moller in all this. Here we have a guy who is the Chairman of an organization implacably opposed to drinking and driving; who calls for repeat offenders to be “disqualified from driving for more than 1 year and either fined up to $6000 or imprisoned for up to 2 years.”

And here we have the same guy, Chris Moller, who is Chairman of the Appointments Panel for a sport whose CEO approves glowing references for a four times convicted drunk driver; who continues to employ the offender and who has no problem promoting the repetitive offender as a mentor of young children.

Where does Chris Moller stand, with the Land Transport Authority or with Renford and Rush from Swimming New Zealand? The behaviour of the two organizations cannot be reconciled. In the case of Rush the differences are just too great.

So who is right? Chris Moller has to either tacitly accept a multiple drink driving offender and his Swimming New Zealand supporters or he has to send a message that the behaviour of Rush, supported by Renford will not be tolerated in the new Swimming New Zealand. In my view Moller has little option but to ask his two swimming employees pack their cardboard cartons and leave the building.

  • Simon

    I am quite disgusted by this. If what you allege is true then our sport is in a very bad place right now.

  • David

    Simon – I agree. Sadly the root cause of our problems lies at Moller’s door. He failed to appreciate that the shortcomings of the previous administration were structural. The old constitution gave SNZ management too much power. Moller’s solution was to provide SNZ and its management with even more power. And so we should not be surprised that the problems have just got worse. Moller needed to decentralize power. Something he was being told by several people and was certainly being explained in Swimwatch. The checks and balances of decentralization would not allow the abuse we see now – things like supporting repeat offenders and offering foreigners access to national tax payer funded facilities.
    In my view Moller gave us a structure destined to encourage abuse, destined to fail.