OPINION: Let cream float to the top

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By Jim Scott

It appears that political wisdom is swinging in favour of laws requiring various ethnic and gender balances within our business sector rather than the long-established procedure of employing only the best possible for each position.

When you go to your doctor or your dentist you want and expect to be getting the best possible medical assistance, irrespective of their gender or skin colour.

At school you expect your English or mathematics teachers to be best qualified and capable for your education levels.

Private sector businesses don’t want unqualified politicians to proactively prescribe certain minimum staffing quotas for their businesses. If politicians want to dumb down the public sector with artificial quotas and employment conditions, then that is their call.

Here in New Zealand, since World War 2, our rapidly improving lifestyle has come primarily from private sector businesses seeking out the most talented, specialist or internationally savvy staff available for each position.

The current open world trading environment provides competitive forces that mean only those riding the endless waves of change can prosper and survive. Any employment process that requires internationally competitive private sector businesses to limit their staff selections from directorships down to middle management roles is doomed to failure.

Dumbing down by introducing artificial staffing constraints that are less than optimum will quickly turn businesses into sub-optimal performers.

When the business sector is changing, growing and aspirational, our economy benefits, as do all New Zealanders. When our business sector is recognised for world-class products and services then all citizens enjoy the best possible opportunity to live a quality lifestyle.

Diversity in business is OK but not legislated religious, ethnic or gender allocations. Let the cream come to the top!

Dumbing down our business sector by politically driven, artificial constraints on who can fill key positions is just another form of communism – “nanny state knows best”.

These are policies that increase the risk of New Zealand becoming like Zimbabwe or Turkey.

Recently a major debate, based on population proportionality, over how many seats South Canterbury should have on the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan), was finally resolved in our favour.

This debate has again raised the question as to why Ngai Tahu has been allocated two special seats on the ECan council while the region’s representation is so strictly argued.

The Timaru District Council, which has just released its area representational allocations for candidates for the upcoming election, thankfully has no such apparent artificialities.

The central government coalition is struggling to find suitable replacement ministers while preferentially targeting to promote female or Maori candidates.

New Zealand needs the best candidates being put forward for all public and private enterprises irrespective of religion, ethnicity or gender.

Characteristics other than the best qualified is an unwanted disease that does nobody any good.

The sooner such sub-optimal arguments are purged out of our management and leadership systems the better.

Timaru resident Jim Scott is a former Air New Zealand chief executive officer and a strategic consultant for small-to-medium enterprises.