Over at Scoop, Gordon Campbell takes Theresa Gattung to task for her revisionist history of Telecom in the Dominion Post this morning.
One hates to kick someone when they’re down but when it is former Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung and she is peddling a book in which she professes herself to be shocked (shocked!) by the size of the remuneration packages currently being paid at Telecom, the urge is irresistible. Gattung, like David Lange before her, seems more than willing to criticize the organization she once headed, as if she bore no residual responsibility whatsoever for its current condition.
On her complaint that the “$7 million salary and incentives package for current CEO Paul Reynolds is intolerable, but her own $3 million package was OK and the $5.4 million payout she received in 2007 was also value for money”,
Once you get to seven figure salary and incentives packages, I would have thought the little number at the front becomes almost irrelevant. Both her and Reynolds’ remuneration packages are and were obscene. I’d have thought it would be quite hard to pocket $35 million remuneration packages every year and still claim that you were being discriminated against on the basis of your gender. Apparently not. Put it this way: did Gattung do a really good job of positioning the company for the more competitive environment in which Telecom now finds itself? Did she manage to negotiate productively with a Labour government that was intent on reform, and on ending Telecom’s capacity to screw consumers and the economy for the greater benefit of Telecom shareholders? Hardly.
On accusations that David Cunliffe was devious and dishonest in his regulation of Telecom:
The reality is that Telecom had wielded its power without compunction for at least 15 years, ever since Richard Prebble turned a state monopoly over to the tender mercies of Telecom’s new owners for peanuts, and without putting any safeguards for consumers (or for business) in place. It was a situation that couldn’t last. The Lange government had created a monster, and National’s Maurice Williamson sat by idly watching this out of control corporate beast pile up the profits at everyone else’s expense, for the entire 1990s.
Yet ultimately, and by her own account, Gattung was finally outfoxed by David Cunliffe and his Boy Scout wiles, for goodness sake.
And good bloody job too. If Labour did anything wrong it was in not going far enough. Telecom’s disgraceful treatment of its engineers followed by the current shambles with XT suggests Labour would have been better off bringing it back into public ownership and running it properly.
On the claim that Mike Williams offered her a spot as a Labour MP:
Gattung’s clanging naivete is best illustrated by her anecdote about then Labour Party President Mike Williams supposedly sounding her out on becoming a Labour MP. Memo to TG: this is a negotiating tactic called messing with your mind. I’d wager that it is her particularly blunt set of personal sensors rather than gender discrimination that explains why a local firm recently thought twice about taking her on in a leadership role.
Like most of the would-be Atlases who dominate New Zealand’s business elite, Gattung is unable to admit her own failures and face up to the fact that a large part of the responsibility for Telecom’s current position comes back to her failures of management.
Remember that next time you hear a business executive preaching “personal responsibility” to the poor.
[John Minto’s recent piece on Telecom as an example of the failure of privatisation is also worth a read.]