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.
First published July 2006.