Richard Shallcrass

Family Silver

ISBN: 9780864735331

Family Silver braids together two stories: the author’s personal life and career, and the major economic reforms of the 1980s.

Richard Shallcrass joined the New Zealand Treasury in 1977 at the height of the Muldoon era. Having previously served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he became a member of the team of government officials who advised Cabinet on economic and trade policy. Debate over the need for New Zealand to open its economy to international competition laid the groundwork for the political struggles that in 1984 saw the Muldoon Government swept from office. A key player in Treasury as David Lange and Roger Douglas restructured the New Zealand economy, Richard managed the government’s overseas borrowing, and the privatisation programme that saw Air New Zealand, the Bank of New Zealand, Telecom, and NZ Rail pass out of public ownership, and DFC vanish into history.

Family Silver offers unique insights into bitter debate over economic policy that marked the closing years of the Muldoon administration, the tumultuous changes effected by the Lange Government, and the consequences for the National administration elected in 1990. Recounting his experience, Richard offers an intimate record of relations between ministers and officials, revealing a world rarely glimpsed by outsiders. Reflecting on the actions and motives of players on the Wellington stage, or analysing issues that underlie the country’s economic performance, he draws on an account of his earlier years, growing up on the South Island’s West Coast, and serving overseas for over a decade as a diplomat.

His story of family tragedy and personal adjustment underscores decades when New Zealand was exploring its place in the world, coming to terms with Britain’s new role in Europe, and a problematic relationship with the US. Tales of Indonesia during the rise of President Suharto, Hong Kong during China’s Cultural Revolution, and Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, bring to life events that have changed history. His accounts of the sale of iconic state owned businesses illuminate issues that continue to excite interest and speculation, and impact on the economic welfare of all New Zealanders.

Praise for Family Silver

It is hard to think of anyone better qualified to set the record straight on events and controversies surrounding [privatisation in the 1980s and 90s]. ...he also writes with sensitivity and grace...
Roger Kerr THE PRESS

What makes Family Silver different from other books covering the same period is that Shallcrass was both a participant and an acute observer. Shallcrass’s ability to detach himself from events in which he is deeply involved seems to have stemmed from his childhood. Certainly, this ability makes his insider’s account of the events summarised in the title a valuable addition to the history of the 1980s and the fourth Labour Government. It also provides a useful antidote for the disease described by George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” A dose might be helpful to current policy makers who seem set on the course of repetition. But, unlike the medicine of tradition, this one is far from unpleasant: Shallcrass’s uses tight but richly expressive language which makes the stories flow. Family Silver is a good read.

[Family Silver] offers a fascinating look at the way this country has been run in the recent past. NORTH & SOUTH

...likeable and engagingly candid. NEW ZEALAND BOOKS

Family Silver was launched on 12 July 2007 at Unity Books Wellington
by Hon David Caygill. Here is an excerpt from his speech -

It is a privilege tonight to be asked to help launch this book. I greatly enjoyed reading it. It illuminates the past and has added to my own knowledge even of actions in which I played a part. More than that, it provides an accessible explanation of events that perplexed many and continue to influence our course as a country. All this while telling one man’s story in a deeply personal way. But perhaps that is the real secret here: we at all times understand Richard’s values, what he stood for, how he had been shaped. So we understand his reactions and ideals. We even get to share his idiosyncrasies. For example his enthusiasm for exotic cars. I marvel at his ability to recall the make if not the model he was travelling in at all important occasions.

Please click here for the full text of David's thoughtful and encouraging remarks.


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