Bruce, The Social Scientist

Do you know the way the All Blacks whisper plans for the next play behind their hand? Well, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, Bruce Cotterill, does the same thing. The difference is, he does it all the time. I think he must believe that whispering in a code behind a cupped hand makes what he says sound more important. He is wrong, of course. It actually means no one understands a word he is saying.

I don’t think Cotterill has ever heard the expression, “Just say what you think” or “Give it to me straight” or even, “Speak your mind.” The 2019 Annual Report has a classic piece of Bruce speak. Here is what he says.

One area of the business that has occupied an increasingly major part of the Board’s time over the year has been matters relating to membership protection. Society’s attitudes and expectations are changing rapidly which in turn is testing our ability as an organisation to meet these changing expectations and delivering outcomes in a timely and satisfactory manner.

What was acceptable yesterday may very well not be acceptable tomorrow so the Board is continuously looking at ways that it can provide a safe environment for all members while at the same time ensuring that our systems for dealing with membership protection matters are fit for purpose and easily understood by all.

First of all, what the does that pile of jargon mean? Second, if you take what he says word for word, it really is a load of old rubbish. Cotterill is as bad as Donald Trump for denying any problem is his responsibility. Don’t believe me? Read what he says. He says society is changing so fast Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is struggling to keep up. His clear intent is to blame the pace of social change on the difficulty SNZ is having doing the right thing. It is not SNZ’s fault. The problem lies with society. If society slowed down SNZ would be just fine.

It clearly has never occurred to Bruce that society might not be changing fast at all. Society might be jogging along quietly at the pace it has been for five hundred years. SNZ’s problem may be the Neanderthals running the show. I suspect a social snail would show that lot a clean pair of heels.

For example, the Privacy Act was passed by the NZ government in 1993. That’s sixteen years ago. And yet in 2019 Cotterill and his Board were told by the Privacy Commissioner they had breached the Act by interfering in my privacy. It is not the pace of social change that did that. Society’s privacy rules haven’t changed for sixteen years. That problem is down to the Board of SNZ not keeping up.

Socially at least, while the world is catching a flight to the future, SNZ is walking around in animal skins. The beginning of the second paragraph shows perfectly Bruce’s blind ignorance of his role in the problem. He says what was acceptable yesterday might not be acceptable tomorrow. Therefore the Board is constantly looking at ways to provide a safe environment in ways that are understood and “fit for purpose”.

That is rubbish. When I needed protection from a SNZ club President who has recently been found responsible by the Queensland Supreme Court of employment mismanagement and employee abuse, did SNZ provide me with a safe environment? No they hung me out to dry. They protected the identity of the false accuser. They are spending a fortune hiding the results of the investigation. And now they are setting aside $100,000 to pay for the legal costs in an effort to prove they were right.

SNZ knew the serial problems caused in Hawkes Bay, Auckland and Canterbury clubs by the woman who complained about me. They should have known she had been directly involved in a $1.4million employment claim. But SNZ believed her; took her side and they still are. That’s not adapting to the pace of social change. That’s not being “fit for purpose”. That’s sticking your corporate head in the sand and paying whatever it takes to dig your way out of trouble. And SNZ knows it. In an effort to dodge a bullet SNZ is employing two lawyers – one their normal Approachable Lawyer from Auckland and the other one of New Zealand’s foremost privacy lawyers from Christchurch. Two lawyers at $1000 an hour against me – a swimming coach with a BA in political science. It’s like me getting into the ring with Mohammed Ali. That is the measure of their desperation. That is what your membership money is being spent on – that is not social change – that’s your membership fees paying to protect Cotterill’s ego.

Because what a real man would do in this situation – what a genuine person interested in the protection of members would do is call me to a meeting, say he made a mistake, ask how can he fix it, do a deal and end it all tomorrow. That’s what keeping pace with social change means. It means being honest. It means fronting a mistake and moving on. Susan Turner has proved to be an unreliable partner. Protecting her privacy while trampling all over mine was not a good decision. As it stands, Cotterill’s Annual Account words mean nothing. His words and his actions have zero relationship to each other. Anything can be fixed but I doubt they have the courage or perception to do it. A bull in a china shop is more their style. And Cotterill blames society! I don’t think so. This one is down to him and his new found mate.

SNZ’s AGM is in a few days. Ask him about it.

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