What Would I Know?

June 23rd, 2019

 

Breeding Ground of Champions – The Pool at NPBHS

I suspect Steve Johns tells his mates over a latte bought from the Millennium Pool’s Wholefood Café that the old bugger drinking tea in the far corner knows stuff all about swimming. Compared to Steve Johns that’s probably true. When you have won the something-or-another freestyle at the New Plymouth Boys High School swimming sports, when you have played a dozen waterpolo games for Taranaki, what more is there to learn?

Level Five ASCA coaching, one Olympic Games, 95 World Cups, three World Championships, three Commonwealth Games, three Pan Pacific Games, a Central American Games and a Gulf States Championship hardly compares with the honours available at New Plymouth Boys High School. Consider what their web-page has to say.

New Plymouth Boys’ High has a history of producing great Swimmers and Surf Lifesavers.

The highlight of the school year for the sport of Swimming, is the school Swimming Sports competition, which is held in February. Swimming Sports is a battle for honours for the students respective houses on this hugely popular day, and is supported by the whole school in house colours, often with an element of costume. The champions of this day go on to represent the school at the annual Taranaki Secondary School Association Swimming Sports in Stratford and in the TSSSA surf lifesaving competition in New Plymouth.

The author of that obviously failed Level 11 English. The first sentence is a breathless 55 words. The apostrophe in student’s is missing in action. I suppose it’s arguable whether Sports should be “is” or “are”. It seems that Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) might have learned their English skills at this fine New Zealand establishment.

But, on a serious note, Steve Johns has had a swimming experience that fills me with envy. Did you see this acme of Johns’ swimming history includes “an element of costume”. What I want to know is; what did Steve Johns swim as? Donald Duck would seem to me to be most appropriate. But perhaps the well-known Hagfish could have earned an appearance. I’m told their “slime producing capability is what makes the hagfish so special”.

But on a serious note did you hear that last week the Chairman of SNZ, Bruce Cotterill, invited senior SNZ staff to dinner on his beautiful new yacht. Bruce Cotterill, I’m told, drank too much, walked on the deck and fell over the rail into the water and was calling for help. Steve Johns said, “Oh no the sharks will get him.” All of the party lined along the rail and noticed the sharks were swimming around Bruce in a circle. Gary Francis said, “The sharks are not even bothering him!” A shark lifted his head out of the water and said, “Professional courtesy.”

But there is something Steve and Bruce may be able to explain to me. Seriously I do not understand – and that is this para-swimming classification business. I mean the principles seem pretty straight forward. I understand it is a function based classification system designed to allow for fair competition in disability swimming. Swimmers are divided into ten classes based on their degree of functional disability: S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7, S8, S9 and S10. The most severely affected are in class S1; these swimmers, I am told, normally use wheelchairs outside of the pool.

But what I do not understand is, what is Sophie Pascoe’s classification? She was in S10 and now is S9. Why is that? Did her disability all of a sudden get worse? Does getting older count in the para world? Did she want a new and slower set of world records to break? Was she wrongly classified when she swam as S10? Is this correction necessary to put her in the correct classification? Have SNZ and Para Swimming manipulated her classification in order to convince Miskimmin to give them more money on the basis of a string of Pasco world records?

The circumstances of Pascoe’s classification do need to be explained. The way it is just now is probably perfectly up-front and honest. But to an ignorant punter like me it looks bad. It gives the appearance that someone has decided to drop Pascoe down a classification to make life easier, to break more world records, to solicit more funding, to lead a more affluent lifestyle. For those of us WHO DO NOT KNOW it looks like cheating – and that’s not good – because I’m sure it is not. But the impression is a bad one and needs to be explained.

My email is nzdaw@yahoo.co.nz – anyone who has a moment to explain why Pascoe’s classification has changed, who approved the change and why, I’d love to know and publish the reasons.

And seeing it was the shortest day yesterday here is a midwinter’s story. Steve Johns arrived at work and texted Gary Francis, “Windows frozen, won’t open.” Gary texts back: “Gently pour some lukewarm water over it and gently tap edges with hammer.” Johns texts back 5 minutes later: “Computer really messed up now.”

Privacy In Theory Or Privacy In Practice

June 20th, 2019

What is it in the Marris Report that Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) are trying to hide? They have had their normal, Approachable lawyer working away for six months or so trying desperately to keep me or anyone else from reading the un-redacted Report. The “Approachable Lawyer’s” website doesn’t tell us his hourly rate. But this week he went overseas on holiday and handed over the Marris Report case to Christchurch based privacy specialist, Barrister Kathryn Dalziel.

Her website is impressive. She clearly has a huge specialist knowledge of privacy cases. Websites can be deceptive but facts don’t lie. The privacy matters Dalziel has dealt with suggests she is an expert on the subject. SNZ are paying through the nose to get the best. At $400 an hour let’s hope they have got an expert.

But consider that hourly cost for a moment. Why are SNZ prepared to spend $400 an hour to keep my private information away from me? Why are SNZ happy to spend $400 an hour to keep the Marris Report secret from the SNZ members? What is in the Report that justifies that amount of money? Shouldn’t someone be preparing a question to be asked at the next AGM? Isn’t anyone concerned about the member’s money spent on legal fees?

Just consider this – a day and a half spent on a Christchurch lawyer could have paid for Daniel Hunter to go to the World Swimming Championships. It will take about 40 swimmer’s membership fees to pay for about 10 hours legal work hiding whatever is in the Marris Report. There has to be something pretty incredible in that Report to justify spending your money and mine on a lawyer – even if she is a good lawyer.

But I really love one feature of the choice SNZ has made for a lawyer to act for them while the Approachable version is away. You see the government is in the process of considering changes to the 1993 Privacy Act. That’s the Act we are dealing with in the Marris Report case. The proposed law change is going through all the committee hearings and readings required for it to become law. But guess who is one of the people advising the government of the changes it should make? You are right – Kathryn Dalziel. I told you she knew her stuff.

But the interesting thing is that Dalziel has written about the proposed new law on her website. I was deeply interested in a couple of the alterations to the 1993 law she was promoting. Here are three reforms Dalziel recommends on website.

new criminal offences: it will be an offence to mislead an agency in a way that affects someone else’s information. The penalty is a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Where is the law when you need it? SNZ have lied without shame throughout this process. The other day they told the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) that I had never been promised a copy of the Marris Report. However here is a sentence from an email sent to me by the author of the Report. – “I am in the process of finalising a report to Swimming New Zealand. As I have assured you from our first meeting, you will certainly receive a copy of that.” And that promise is in addition to the verbal promise given to me by the CEO of SNZ when I was asked to participate in the investigation.

SNZ wrote in a letter that my interest in getting the Marris Report was to publically discredit those who made the complaints. That is not true and has never been said by me. My interest is to establish the truth; to find out what Marris said. I have little or no interest in Susan Turner or Nikki Johns.

I could go on but those two examples are probably enough to see what I mean.

·         compliance notices: the Privacy Commissioner will be able to issue compliance notices that require an agency to do something, or stop doing something, in order to comply with privacy law.

Can we backdate the new law? No I guess not. That is sad because the Privacy Commission recommended that SNZ give me the Marris Report and undertake a course in Privacy. We know SNZ refused to comply with the Report recommendation. My guess is they haven’t bothered about the privacy education either. But what an opportunity they have now. You see Kathryn Dalziel is an approved person to teach courses in privacy. SNZ should give her a call. They must have her number.

Privacy Commissioner making binding decisions on access requests: this reform will enable the Privacy Commissioner to make decisions on complaints relating to access to information, rather than the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

“Binding decisions”! Now that’s a step forward. The Privacy Commissioner told SNZ what they needed to do with the Marris Report – give me a copy. And SNZ ignored them. Actually worse that ignoring them – SNZ told the Commissioner there was no way that was about to happen. It seems that in SNZ’s world everybody has to drive below 100kph except SNZ. However the good news is that very soon even SNZ are going to have to comply with the law.

But I live in hope. Just maybe, if Kathryn Dalziel’s website is to be believed, just maybe, perhaps, it could be, that she will convince Cotterill and Johns this case is a lost and futile cause for them. The Marris Report together with a cheque for the damages SNZ has caused should be dispatched to my home. The amount is only 600 hours of a good lawyer’s time.

Abysmal Autocrats

June 19th, 2019

I have no idea whether the title of this story will be approved by the Swimwatch editor. I hope so. [Slightly altered. Ed.] Sometimes exclamations, verging on profanity, are the only appropriate response. I watched an interview with Barrack Obama this week. In it he admitted to occasionally having a good cuss to himself. It cleared his mind, restored his sanity, gave him the space to move on.

This week I was prompted to use the Obama method. You see a week ago Eyad and I had a very good meeting with the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC). We were there to discuss what Eyad was required to swim in order to have his name put forward to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be part of their world refugee programme. The meeting was chaired by NZOC boss Kereyn Smith. I like Smith. She gives me the impression of being tough and straight. It is easy to deal with people like that, people whose word is their bond. I’m not so sure about the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) representatives in the room, Steve Johns and Gary Francis.

In front of Smith they were all sweetness and light, so bloody reasonable, so obsequious I felt like being sick. I popped a Prozac and resisted the urge, choosing instead to make progress on Eyad’s case for as long as Smith had the clowns under control. Eventually we agreed a good deal. Eyad knows what he has to do. SNZ knows the rules and Smith was there as a witness and referee. It had taken a while but we were, in modern parlance, moving forward all on the same page.

The first opportunity for Eyad to meet the approved conditions comes this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. The first opportunity for SNZ to prove that their good behaviour was a temporary respite in a sea of pettiness was this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. And sure enough they reverted to type.

To be fair Gary Francis did his best to continue the meeting’s good vibrations, We had a long chat on the pool deck last weekend. Right from the beginning of his employment with SNZ I have said Gary’s contribution was going to depend on whether he was strong enough to change SNZ or whether the suffocating ignorance of SNZ was going to change him.  I think Gary knows what’s right. The problem is he is not strong enough to do it.

And yesterday there was a perfect example. The club I belong to only had one coach’s pass for pool deck access to the New Zealand Championships which obviously the main club coach was using. Even if he is not at the pool the rules, I am told, do not allow me to use his pass. But fear not, in the spirit of our NZOC meeting of helping a refugee as much as we can I asked Gary if I could have a pass to be on pool deck for 120 seconds while Eyad swam a couple of 50s and a 100.

Here is Gary’s reply.

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎17‎ ‎Jun at ‎12‎:‎21‎ ‎PM

Hi David

Leave it with me, I’ll try and get one sorted.

Regards

Gary

All good so far. In my view that is Gary Francis doing what he knows is right but a bit scared that because it’s David Wright asking he’d better check with Count Dracula first. A few hours later Gary got his orders. Kereyn Smith was at an IOC meeting in London. Normal service was restored. And this email popped into my In-Box,

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎18‎ ‎Jun at ‎8‎:‎10‎ ‎AM

Hi David

I’m sorry but I have not been able to secure you an accreditation.

The Events Team will not issue any more passes for the meet.

Regards

Gary

SNZ wonder why I get so mad that I call them racist and anti-refugee. Well it’s because of this sort of rubbish. That lot are no more there to help Eyad or any swimmer than fly to the moon. The minute Kereyn Smith gets on an aeroplane to London, they revert to type. Screw Eyad, screw David Wright, screw a dozen swimmers on their way to a world championships, screw them all but make sure the members pay the inhabitants of Antares Place.

Oh, I know their excuse will be that if they handout one pass they will be in the gun for a hundred others. But that is rubbish. We are talking about a refugee here. We are talking about minutes of watching time. We are talking about helping someone whose home town in Syria, Aleppo, was bombed into a piles of blood stained rubble by the Americans, the Russians and their own government. We are talking about a man who was denied entry into public swimming poos because of his nationality. We are talking about a swimmer who never had a coach because of his nationality.

But most important of all WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A REFUGEE WHO IS BEING TREATED WITH CONTEMPT BY SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND. SNZ may wonder why I have called them racist in the past. I’ve done it because that is what this sort of behaviour deserves.

PS – I have little interest in SNZ’s B-Grade championships. But I do want to help a guy who deserves our help. And when arrogance and obstructiveness stops me doing that – then I have to cuss a bit.

PPS – I’ve been to the pool this afternoon to check on Eyad’s training.  Amazingly, I learned something new.  For the rest of the week my Club has no swimmers involved in the Championships EXCEPT EYAD!  So the Club Coach doesn’t need his pass. But he can’t give it to me because of SNZ’s ridiculous rules.  Eyad has to swim with no assistance from anyone.  Way to help a refugee you guys.  Good one SNZ. I hope you are proud of yourselves.  It would seem the lunatics are running the asylum.

What’s It All About

June 12th, 2019

IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW TRIBUNAL             Reference No. HRRT 011/19

UNDER THE PRIVACY ACT 1993

BETWEEN                                                                   DAVID ALEXANDER WRIGHT

PLAINTIFF

AND                                                                          SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND INC

DEFENDANT

In a few weeks this case will be heard by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT). I am in the process of finishing my submission to the Tribunal. It is a lengthy document; involving four submissions and 18,854 words. Posting all 61 pages on Swimwatch seemed an unnecessarily difficult way of explaining what the case was all about. In fact the case is much simpler than that.

This is a dispute between me and Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). I say I am entitled to have a copy of private information contained in a Report, prepared for SNZ by an expert investigator called Michael Marris over complaints made about my coaching. The complaints were made by a parent (Susan Turner) and a swimmer (Nikki Johns) involved in the doomed West Auckland Aquatics swimming club. SNZ argue that I am not entitled to the Report.

The Privacy Commissioner ruled in my favour; SNZ should give me the Report. SNZ refused and so we will now appear before the HRRT and let them decide.

While it may take 18,854 words to discuss all that has gone on in the three years since the Report was written, the case will be decided by how the HRRT interprets three quite straight forward clauses of the Privacy Act 1993. The HRRT will decide the case, not on my 18,854 words but on the law. The sections of the Act that the HRRT will consider are:

Principle 6 says, “Where an agency holds personal information the individual concerned shall be entitled to have access to that information.”

This is the portion of the law that supports my position. SNZ, in the Marris Report, holds information personal to me and the law says I am entitled to have that information.

SNZ, on the other hand, says there are two clauses in the Privacy Act that allow it to refuse to provide me with a copy of the Report. These are:

Clause 29 Other reasons for refusal of requests

  • An agency may refuse to disclose any information if the disclosure of the information would involve the unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of another individual.
  • An agency may refuse to disclose any information if the disclosure of the information or of information identifying the person who supplied it, being evaluative material, would breach an express or implied promise.

I doubt that the HRRT is going to have any difficulty agreeing that Principle 6 provides approval for me to have access to the Report. Therefore whether I get the Report or not is going to depend on the HRRT’s view of the two exceptions allowed in the Act. My task is to say the two exceptions do not apply. SNZ, on the other hand, needs to prove that justice depends on the validity of the two exception clauses.

If SNZ manage to do that then I will not be given the Report. If I manage to convince the HRRT that the exceptions do not apply, the Report will be mine. If I am awarded the Report I am also claiming $240,600 in damages. I am fascinated to see how SNZ handle the contingent liability of a quarter of a million dollars in this year’s accounts. Conservative and correct accounting procedures require SNZ to increase their legal expenses by the amount claimed. A note in the accounts is not really good enough; especially when they have already lost the case in the Privacy Commission. But I wouldn’t bet against this lot ignoring the claim altogether.

And so the question comes down to – what are the arguments that have taken 18,854 words to explain and that I hope the HRRT will find sufficiently persuasive to rule against SNZ. Please note this post is summarizing quite complicated events in a dozen or so words. The simplicity apparent here is not necessarily accurate.

  1. I do not believe SNZ made a promise of confidentiality that included me to Turner and Johns. I would need to see that in writing.
  2. Even if a promise to them was made it has no merit because of four promises made to me.
  3. SNZ cannot make contradicting promises – one to Johns and Turner and another to me. I was promised the Report:
  • Verbally by the CEO of SNZ, Christian Renford
  • Verbally and in writing by the author of the report, Michael Marris.
  • In writing by SNZ Disputes & Disciplinary Policy rules.
  • In writing by Principle 6 of the Privacy Act 1993.
  1. The author of the Report’s email said I would “certainly” receive his Report.
  2. Both Turner and Johns have “outed” themselves by discussing their involvement in the Report on national media or social media. Johns has entered into many discussions on Facebook with her followers on the subject. By their actions Turner and Johns have admitted that SNZ’s promise of confidentiality, if it ever existed, is meaningless.
  3. SNZ have offered me a secret read only of the Report. If it was so confidential, if it was the subject of such rigid promises, why are SNZ proposing a secret read? I declined the offer.
  4. When it suits SNZ they are selectively leaking portions of the Report. Full disclosure is required to avoid the damage of their gossip and innuendo.
  5. The Report is not “evaluative material” described in the Act and is therefore not subject to any SNZ promise of confidentiality. Semi-judicial findings about criminal events are not included in the Act’s definition of “evaluative”.
  6. The Report is not for the “sole” purpose of terminating my SNZ membership and cannot be withheld on that basis. There are at least two purposes, three parties and 10 possible sanctions in this case. That is not the “sole” event described in the Act.
  7. The truthfulness, motives and behavior of Johns and Turner are an integral part of the investigation into my guilt or innocence. The disclosure to me of their veracity is part of my privacy. Its disclosure is therefore warranted.
  8. SNZ are claiming confidentiality now they know the findings of the Report. If I had been found guilty the Report’s findings would have been given to me immediately and I would have been sanctioned. Justice cannot depend on whether SNZ approve or disapprove of the verdict.
  9. I believe SNZ know the best way to hurt a well-known critic is to hold onto the Report. Stay silent and people will assume the worst. So that is what they are desperate to do.

There you have what is happening. In a few months we will know what the Tribunal decides.

Confidentiality

June 7th, 2019

Much of the debate surrounding my application to the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) for access to the Marris Report involves the word confidential. The views of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) are very different from mine.

In my view an agency responsible for a main-stream sport, dependent on public membership and reliant on the government for the majority of its funding has a duty to every New Zealander to be open and honest with as much information as possible. Members should receive Board minutes. Information on legal disputes should be posted on SNZ’s website. Members own the organisation. Almost without exception – the members need to be told what is going on.

The Board of SNZ don’t see it that way. Board minutes, that used to be published, are locked away in Steve Johns’ keeping, hidden from the membership. The clear assumption of the SNZ Board is that the organisation belongs to them. The membership is secondary, objects to be kept in the dark. I have a dozen letters and emails that in one way or another tell me SNZ’s views on an issue and add the qualification that the letter or email is confidential, not to be published under any circumstances. And to reinforce their paranoia for secrecy, I am threatened with having my membership suspended if I dare let anyone know what SNZ has said.

The contradiction between my belief in the rights of the membership to know and the Board of SNZ’s demand for secrecy is as frustrating as all can be. What does SNZ have to hide? What are they scared of SNZ’s membership finding out?

Take, for example, the decision of the Privacy Commission to find SNZ guilty of interfering in my privacy and their recommendation that SNZ undertake a course of privacy training. That is important news. The membership has a right to know that the agency responsible for their children’s sport has been found guilty of mismanaging privacy issues. Parents will be rightly concerned that their children’s information is being handled by an organisation that a government agency is recommending undertake a course in privacy.

Why weren’t those circumstances posted on the SNZ website? Why did SNZ revert to the secrecy that caused them their problems in the first place? What an ideal opportunity the current dispute would have been to turn a new leaf, to display a new openness. But instead SNZ reverted to type. They said nothing and threatened anyone who told the truth to the membership. It is disgusting.

I have published as much as I can about the Marris Report dispute. But believe me the amount I have been able to tell you, the members, is far less than I would like, far less than you should be told. My hope is that the proceedings of the HRRT together with the tradition of open justice will force SNZ’s hand. Hopefully a by-product of this dispute will result in a more democratic, a more open sport; a better place for New Zealanders to play.

After all what are SNZ so scared of? This is the sport of swimming. It is not the Five Eyes spying cartel or the secret files of the SIS. I’d love to know the policy behind the Board’s decision to hide almost everything from the membership. Are they so insecure in their ability to govern? Do they make too many mistakes? Are they up to no good? The point is we just don’t know. When our leaders hide everything, when they won’t reveal what’s in the Marris Report, we are entitled to believe the worst. Does Marris question SNZ’s handling of the investigation? Does he find incompetence? Again we just don’t know.

But be assured as far as I am able Swimwatch will report on the progress of the Marris Report dispute. I want to avoid losing my SNZ membership, although for the life of me I don’t know why. So I couldn’t get onto the pool deck at the National Championships. So what? You get a better view from the stands anyway. The last thing Eyad needs at the Nationals, is me bagging on into his ear while he warms up. Eyad would probably send SNZ a thankyou letter if I was banished into the stands.

But back to the Marris Report. No posts on Swimwatch does not necessarily mean nothing is happening. It maybe just that I have been threatened by SNZ. But fear not the truth will be told. Eventually the full story will see the light of day. If you see me sitting in the stands at a future Nationals read Swimwatch. It will probably tell you why.