Sunday, October 9, 2016

Stephen Franks: The Rugby Union’s clerical duties

Have I lost touch with my country? Where am I?

When did it become an obligation on an employer to discipline an employee for what could be a fleeting airport toilet shag with a woman not his ‘partner’, thousands of miles from the ‘workplace’ with no evidence (so far) that it could affect workplace performance.

I’m especially baffled when the nation’s most economically illiterate lawyers (employment specialists) have created rules that block and reverse the most simple and efficient measures by employers to uphold honesty and other ethical standards, and even basic courtesy.  These idiots will expensively second guess the natural disciplinary steps  that have for generations made workplaces civilised (and civilising) places for association among non-kin of disparate cultures and backgrounds.

Yet today our media have been reporting the the Rugby Union’s latest venture into controlling off field conduct without a hint of irony or criticism. I feel for the rugby bosses. Last week the media rage focused on them for failing to give the justice to victims which the justice system denied. Media castigation should have been exclusively on the judging class who think they are therapists for criminals, freed from their duty to do justice by their superior compassion. Instead it turned into a witch-hunt on rugby.

And even better directed would be a spotlight on the politicians who make the rules that allow the lawyer elite to pervert justice in secret. The government was about to announce that 17 year olds would come under the Youth Court. That court is a secret court. It could not survive without secrecy. If that change had been made last year it would have been illegal for TV 3 to break last week’s story of the unpunished rugby thug. It would have suppressed the subsequent public debate. The four victims would have been gagged, lest their complaints identify the thug.

Instead of more secrecy, we need less. We only know about the two rugby cases because of the high profile of the protagonists. How many hundreds of other court cases (or “Family” Group Conferences) are telling youngish thugs they get a free hand until they are 18?

So will the media ask why that government announcement has been mysteriously delayed? Do they not care that they will be effectively confined to reporting the official pap they get on the Youth Justice system’s woeful performance?  Respectfully parroting St Andrew Becroft that the Youth Court is not a milk and milo court is not journalism. It does not defend the free speech right of the people to know who is beating up who, and getting away laughing, and which judges are too gullible for their work?

So it is perhaps not surprising that the Rugby Union is struggling to work out how it should respond to demands that it accept responsibility for the morals of its players. The neo-witchhunters now demand tangible denunciations for offences that are not even unlawful. The courts can only punish law-breaking (so far). I guess that means the clerical class must hound others to display their virtue (and to enforce their hypocritical morality).

Maybe there is more to come. One suggestion in my office is that it is relevant that it was a disabled toilet. What about the responsibility of the airport company for not supervising access to it? Will we see demands for precautionary modifications of all toilets? Welfare offices must all now be rebuilt because a judge has decided the bosses are responsible for the actions of a mad and bad shooter. Are disabled toilets too inviting? I must confess to liking all that space. Strategically located spikes like those that deter pigeons on statues might help discourage misuse.

In this new country anything is possible.

Stephen Franks is a principal of Wellington law firm Franks & Ogilvie and a former MP. He blogs at


Brian said...

Another one here Stephen. Who has also lost touch with this country, or rather with those we trusted to keep a democracy. We should have re-called the Earl of Stafford’s maxim “Put not your trust in Princes”!
I just wonder why our media have to assume that to grab our attention daily they must come forward with something so socially sensational and earth shattering as this sordid affair in a public toilet. It is of course real gutter type journalism at its worst; although perhaps satisfying the crude demands of a bored society!

Hypocrisy seems rampant in New Zealand, although it has existed through the centuries from Moliere and writers to the present day, even Hogarth’s “Chairing the Candidate” has more than an air of hypocrisy, especially with his genius inclusion of the “Blind Fiddler”!.

Our present humanitarianism has stretched over the boundaries of common sense, especially in our courts, but one cannot blame the judges entirely when Parliament “requests” them to exercise such restraints as to the effect on culture, privacy, rather than exposure to the public eye of those in the dock.
Politicians write the law, but are influenced these days by minorities holding the spectre of elections, culture etc over their heads. Perhaps the time is right for some checks and balances on the laws; those framed firstly to suit a political reality, rather than for the governing of New Zealand.

Sam Esler said...

All I can say is, God help us if we ever become a republic and decisions on how this country runs is decided by a supreme court. Dont believe me, check out the decisions made by the supreme court of Canada, they have just as many lily livered asinine law administrators as we have.

Unknown said...

No need to wonder why the media does what it does. It is all foreign owned like our banks and they will do what they want regardless of what kiwi interests are . The direct result of an ignorant,apathetic , naive, gutless , addicted to 15 men chasing an oval ball around a paddock and mindless un reality TV ,electorate.
I agree with all you say Stephen but you must understand we live in the land of the long white silent majority where common sense flew out the window years ago. Even if many kiwis agree with you most of them are too gutless to say so in public.
Sad but we ,I am sure, will continue to lose friends trying to wake them up to what is being done to them by the smiling assassin and the media in this pathetic PC culture.

Russell said...

Absolutely agree Peter, I have been waiting for the spineless majority to start moving for most of my life. There is little passion, if this Country was a colour it would have to be drab grey. North Korea looks absolutely vibrant.