Saturday, July 4, 2020

Henry Armstrong: Diversity Is No Substitute for Merit

The new National Party leadership of Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye has been roundly criticised, nay condemned, even attacked, for apparently not having sufficient “diversity” on their revised front bench. 

This follows the replacement of Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett, both, in my view, very able and sincere politicians (yes, some actually are). Both can and do claim significant Maori descent, but at one point were criticised by our pathetic media and other no-hopers, for “not being Maori-enough”!  

Apart from not being sufficiently ethnic, these very able people have been the victims of cruel social media attacks (perhaps initiated by their political opponents) and biased, leftist, journalists who continually slag the Opposition.

And now the irony of all ironies, we have the media complaining that Paula Bennett’s retirement from Parliament symbolizes a deliberate negation of diversity!

Hold on, you cannot have it both ways.

Henry Cooke, writing in the Dominion Post of 30 June, claims it untenable for National not to have Maori representation on its front bench when the proportion of Maori in the population is 16.5%. So what? He clearly is convinced that diversity is the paramount factor in a political party, not merit. One could argue, on that basis, that Asian representation at 15.1% of the population, should be equally represented? No mention of other ethnicities? And what about gender and LBGTIQ+ representation on National’s front bench too? Sure enough, an article in The Spinoff (Sam Brooks) demands that National include people from the Rainbow community, given that the Ardern-led government includes at least 11 openly gay MPs.

Surprise, surprise.  As this article was being finalised, David Clark resigns as Health Minister and Todd Muller announces two Maori MPs are elevated to National’s front bench. Whew! Now National can proceed with the blessing of the media.

Our sizeable (at 15.1%) Asian community declines to clamour about representation, preferring to get on with educating their children and achieving business and professional goals. We do not hear these contributors moaning about not being included in all manner of bodies - they get there on their merits, in spite of the overt racism they experience from politicians and other ethnic groups. Remember the Labour Party hunt for property owners with “Chinese- sounding” names?

Had Bridges and Bennett remained as the National Party leadership and won the election, can you imagine the headlines?

New Zealand’s first Maori Prime Ministerial duo!

 But then, some ignorant journalist or coalition politician would undoubtedly have raised the issue of their “not being Maori enough”.  The fact that they would have been there on merit alone would not even rate a mention.

Imposed diversity in all aspects of our society, but particularly in appointments to any governing body, including all aspects of government, demands that all governance structures faithfully reflect the make-up of our society. Why? It is called “Representational Democracy”, an oxymoron of ever there was one. The common reason claimed is that members of minorities are denied representation and are engulfed, apparently, by the majority - in New Zealand’s case, people of Western European descent. (The reality is that most of our Maori people for example, enjoy shared descent from both Western European and Maori ancestry).

In the pre-diversity days of First Past the Post (FPP) governments, members of minorities did achieve significant roles irrespective of their ethnicity or gender, as evidenced by representation of Maori, women and transgender people in all aspects of New Zealand society, ranging from Governors-General, Head of the Armed Forces, the judiciary, political office, academia, in Health, Education and Welfare, the Arts, music, local authorities, and of course sport. They were there, unequivocally, on their merits, their personal identity notwithstanding.

So, what, in essence, does our MMP society (or more specifically the media and the PC brigade) seek in our public figures?

 Is it primarily who and what they are individually, in terms of their ethnicity, gender or sexual preferences, etc, or is it actually what these people can contribute through their relevant and appropriate skills, qualifications, experience and ability? In other words, have we now as a society been conditioned to believe that diversity is far more important than individual and collective merit? It would certainly seem so.

Both the Ardern-led coalition government together with all agencies of state are committed to the principle of imposed diversity at the expense of merit. Of course, they will rapidly deny this, claiming that both are equally important and are reflected in their appointments and selection processes. Bunkum!

Reality proves them to be political hypocrites. To deny a person an opportunity based on merit by according another individual the same opportunity based on their ethnicity or gender, etc, is to create a further injustice. A good example is preferential entry for minorities into medical school and various other vocations, often by lowering entry standards.

A recent example of how diversity is being hoisted as an antidote for  more serious issues, such as racism, was provided by former Labour politician  and now Maori Party stalwart, John Tamihere. (Yes, the guy who continually made grossly-offensive comments about women when in government).

Tamihere claims “all Pakeha are asymptomatic racists”. Quite apart from insulting the vast majority of Kiwis who abhor any form of racism, he then subsequently tried to provide a contextual example using the Blues Rugby team and its new recruit, Beauden Barrett. He claimed the Blues had enough “brown guys” in his words, to continue their winning streak and did not need white ring-ins like Beauden.

He completely misses the point in his attempt to soften his original insult. ALL the guys in the Blues team are there on merit, not their ethnicity.

Well, this shows just how pathetic such people are and how they try to justify enforced diversity.

New Zealand rugby, indeed New Zealand sport in general, is an outstanding example of merit rather than imposed diversity or “quotas” as might be found for example, in South African rugby. Take our All Blacks team. If you were looking at the ABs from a diversity perspective, you might ask - “where are all the Pakeha fellas?”. The ABs comprise a squad which is overwhelmingly made up of “brown guys” to use Tamihere’s vernacular. But if we were truly diverse, should we not be seeing 70% of ABs of Pakeha descent, as per their proportion of the population? Plus at least 15% Asian ABs, and a smattering of other minorities including the LBGTIQ+ community-to ensure perfect “representation” in our national sporting kings?

Of course not! Those players, along with all their mates in the Super Rugby competition, are there because they are outstanding players who absolutely, bloody deserve, to be there. It is called MERIT, John.

And the same goes for a number of other aspects of today’s New Zealand society- music, the arts; film making; and yes, politics. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa achieved international stardom purely on her outstanding ability. Given the opportunity, anyone in New Zealand who has the ability, be it in sport, music, academia, or the professions can aspire to and achieve their goals. To impose diversity and in the process deny merit makes for a much weaker and less capable society, where individual incentive is diminished, and opportunities are denied worthy aspirants because they do not belong to a minority.

Prior to Bridges and Bennett being dumped, all of the  major political parties proudly exhibited a majority of Maori in their leadership line-ups- National, with Simon Bridges  and Paula Bennett; Labour with Kelvin Davis; NZ First with Winston Peters and Shane Jones; the Greens with Marama Davidson. Were they there because they were Maori, or because they deserved to be there on merit?

This raises the question yet again-why do we need imposed diversity when our ethnic minorities have every opportunity to achieve, and have shown they can achieve the very highest offices in the land on their own merits?

Finally, we need to discuss the concept of diversity in relation to governance and management, both in business and in our public and governmental arrangements. Does diversity at the expense of merit result in poorer results?

Let us take a business model as a means of exposing just what a fiasco imposed diversity poses for our future.

In the business model, shareholders(read the public of New Zealand, the electors if you like) appoint (elect) the  directors (read politicians )to  govern and oversee the performance of the company (read  the government).  The directors (MPs) after due process, always appoint the Chief Executive Officer, CEO (read heads of government departments), whose job it is to ensure the executive management team s/he in turn appoints, are competent and capable of carrying out the duties and activities which in turn will result in the achievement of performance objectives or outcomes.

In the COVID19 border bumbling, David Clark was quite correct to hold Dr Ashley Bloomfield responsible for the shortcomings of the Health Ministry. But like Jacinda Ardern, any criticism of Dr Bloomfield draws howls of protest from the media and the government-after all, this duo have been elevated to almost saintly status. But having said that, Ardern and Clark and the rest of the coalition government then  displayed a totally abject  failure to accept collective responsibility (not personal, which they were so very quick to avoid).

There are increasing demands from, particularly, feminists and social activists, that appointed directors, whether they be in business or parliamentarians in government, should reflect the make-up of our society in terms of gender, ethnicity and LBGTIQ+. In other words, governance bodies must reflect (compulsive) diversity.

However, in the business model, shareholders appoint directors on the basis of merit, not gender, ethnicity or sexual identity. This is because they seek to ensure that the directors are qualified, experienced and capable of exercising the highest level of competence to ensure the shareholder’s investments are in the best of hands. And why shouldn’t they?

The diversity brigade however claims that more diverse boards are more effective in their decision-making and that therefore more diverse boards result in superior business performance and outcomes.

This frankly is bunkum. As a practitioner and researcher in this area for many years, I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that more diverse boards, ipso facto, result in better business performance, specifically profitability. If indeed there was such evidence, would you not expect every board in the country to immediately adopt comprehensive diversity - not for PC reasons but because such boards would improve profitability?

 Labour governments are renowned for constructing their political line-ups along strictly diverse guidelines. Helen Clark made a political art form of aggregating minorities to form a majority-a smart strategy which National has struggled to emulate, given their ideological belief that New Zealand is a democracy embracing multiple minorities all working for the common good. (Hello, don’t we mean the team of five million?)

The Ardern-led government has made huge mileage on the basis that they are truly a diverse government and that such diversity automatically translates into superior performance.

This government has exhibited the worst example of abdication of collective responsibility in modern times. When COVID19 appeared to be beaten, Hallelujah!  Weren’t we clever? On its re-appearance, how quickly the key players, Ardern and Clark ducked for cover, proclaiming they were not responsible. If this is an example of the performance of a fully diverse government, then for goodness sake, let us can diversity in favour of merit. They have abjectly failed on multiple counts-Kiwibuild; Auckland Light Rail; bungled COVID19 border arrangement (ongoing); a paucity of poverty and inequity solutions; the list goes on and on.

Diversity in place of merit and real performance has been shown to be an absolute disaster.

Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.


Ray S said...

Sounds like we need to have quota system in all aspects of life, government and business. Hang on, that wont work, as soon as a quota is established and appointments made, complaints would come thick and fast that the appointees have no experience and are not qualified for the position. Can't win really. Come to think of it, many, many appointees lack merit these days, across the board.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

I have long maintained that democracy and meritocracy are inseparable. Any deviation from meritocracy weakens democracy.

Anonymous said...

The South African experience should be an object lesson for New Zealand. Any society that obsesses about ethnicity is doomed to failure. I predict we are not too far off the rise of the "hyphenated New Zealander" - Maori- New Zealander, Asian-New Zealander etc - all conveniently boxed for political and social engineers of the Left variety.

Anonymous said...

What a well written sound article,(possibly because it encapsulates what I have been saying and griping about for years.)I have told my three sons to just set their own goals and get on with life, to the very best of their ability. We qualified for 'diversity' by default. One son has a part Maori wife and lovely children. The other, a part Samoan with bright, getting on with life children, one on a scholarship to Epsom Girls and volunteers with Yachting NZ on merit.
That is N Z the way I want it. Too much to hope for?

Russ said...

A comment on the hyphenated "New Zealander" comment -


Anonymous said...

Good opinion piece, and likewise the comments - appreciated. I cannot quite fathom the degree to which NZ’s “obsession with ethnicity” has been allowed to develop as it has. I do worry that we are heading down a very fraught path, with cultural differences mixed up with racial ones, stirred up by activists, and we have very messy confusion as a result.
Surely our heroes of the recent past fought in two world wars to safeguard our freedom of speech and democracy, not to produce the muddle that we are experiencing today.

Arana Tamihana said...

Have you all forgotten, we have MAORI Seats in parliament.
No diversity there. And guess what? All of those seats are held by Labour.
So why should National even remotely consider having people of Maori descent on their front bench..