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The Rugby Union apologises - John Bishop

The Rugby Union apologises


The Rugby Union released its review of its conduct of its world cup campaign at 11 am this morning. Here is an advance copy of the remarks of the Rugby Union’s spokesman.

“I’d like to start this discussion with an apology. We’re sorry. There I’ve said it and now we can move on to more important matters.

What am I sorry for? Now that you mention it I suppose we are sorry for not winning the world cup. We didn’t win, well of course you know that, but it wasn’t our fault. You can’t trust the French you know, unreliable race, that’s why we have to keep on helping them out in world wars.

Oh that’s over sixty years ago. Well, true, but it’s the best excuse the PR department could find for the debacle at Cardiff. We blamed the ref for a while, but you guys were clever enough to see that we weren’t playing that well anyway.

Not fit, not focused and too complacent. Us?  Hardly. Oh you mean the players. I thought you were talking about the management for a moment.

Look we took the best players we had, wrapped  them in cotton wool, told them they were going to win, pampered them to the extremes of their own egos, and they let us down.

Oh, you don’t buy that? Well, perhaps the coaches did have a role in who was selected and how the games were played. You’re right to pick up on that. But everyone in New Zealand knew that Graham Henry was his own boss and he’d do things his way, and his way was a winning way as we all know.

Oh, he didn’t win the one series that counted? Well winning’s not everything. I mean look at his track record.

Oh you don’t care about his track record?  The World Cup was the one that counted, and you know that because we told you so over and over. Well that was the PR department’s idea really. Consistent messaging they called it. Sounded good, so we did it.

Oh, you’d sooner have had some losses so the players got tougher and hungrier to win. Well it might have been a good idea, but who would you have had us lose to? And besides it’s not in Graham’s nature to lose willingly. That’s why he fought so hard to keep his job after the World Cup.

Oh, you thought we should have let him go like we did with John Mitchell and Wayne Smith and John Hart and Grizz Wylie, like all the previous coaches who failed to win the World Cup?  Well let me tell you New Zealand, Graham Henry isn’t the sort of guy you push round easily.

Oh, you think we should have sacked ourselves as well, because we let him run the show and gave him everything he wanted even when we had doubts about his strategies and management policies? Well, that’s just not the rugby way.

Apologise to the country, you say. I did that at the beginning, and that’s all you are getting. Now move on. We have.

If this were Japan or Korea, the boss of an organisation that failed so badly would have disemboweled himself by now (or resigned at least.) But not in New Zealand. The Rugby Union has let down the players, the fans and the country. So the fans have done what Kiwis do, they have grumbled into their beer and stayed away from the Super 14 games, muttered darkly about the union’s bosses and disengaged in huge numbers. I think the Rugby Union is the author of its own misfortunes and now has to win back the trust and respect of New Zealanders. The exodus of players also continues leading this week to the remarkable suggestion of tax breaks for the name players to keep them in the country. Didn’t we finish with special favours for privileged groups last century?

Lower GST


It’s already been officially denied, so this is just speculation. It was the headline in the DomPost on Monday that got me thinking. “Cullen works at winning look for tax”, and the first paragraph of Tracey Watkin’s story referred to the government coming “under pressure to ease the strain on household budgets.” There have been more stories since. So here’s a solution. Cut GST. It’s bold, audacious and the appeal is political more than financial.

A reduction from 12.5% to 10% would cost about $1, 950 million (using the net take for 2006/07 of $9 769 million and leaving aside whatever might come back through extra spending generated by the cut.) But consider the political advantages:

• Cutting GST would eat up all the available “surplus” (and more) for personal tax cuts so that National couldn’t outbid Labour and still look fiscally responsible

• Cutting GST looks fair because everyone benefits, but arguably those who spend all or most of their income on living costs get the most direct help

• Labour reduces the burden of a regressive tax and challenges National to say whether it will increase GST again (to fund bigger personal tax cuts for the “rich”). Vote National and get a tax increase is not a good slogan.

For Labour to win, (à la Nick Naylor in Thank You for Smoking) it is not necessary for them to show that they are right; just that National is wrong. Here is a way that it could squeeze National and once more see what their leaders are made of.  Peter Dunne, as Minister of Revenue, says changing GST isn’t being considered. Budget Day is Thursday 22 May. Then we will know more about the shape of the tax battleground for the election.

Top tax numbers rise

IRD figures show there’s nearly 400 000 more people in the top tax bracket than there were seven years ago. 384 720 people paid 39 cents in the dollar on incomes over $60 000 in 2006/07 up from 193 620 in 2000/01. See http://johnbishop.co.nz/writer/articles/040408.shtml

Plaudits for print media

I have just finished the lengthy but hugely enjoyable task of judging with two colleagues a section of the QANTAS Media awards for print journalism. I was delighted and impressed by the quality of the stories. Virtually all were to a good standard, well written, entertaining and lively. Many were on subjects that trouble the soul, like crime, violence, abuse, and desolation either physical or spiritual. Others extolled the triumph of the human spirit through achievement, sacrifice, and reward, and still more just informed or entertained.

The best were very good indeed, and there were some outstanding examples of patient investigation, careful research, meticulous vetting and of clear explanation of what had happened and why it was important. Part of the journalist’s job, it has always seemed to me, is to show the reader, listener or viewer, how and why the story being presented has had or will have an impact on their lives. The very best of what I and my fellow judges read over the past three weeks did just that. The awards will be announced on 9 May.

Listen up; the army does interesting stuff

There are interesting things happening in the NZ Army right now with Susie Hall (ex MinEd and some other places) in there leading the charge with a reputation management approach to communications. Her job title is “Reputation Manager”. The RM approach makes effective communications and appropriate behaviour the very essence of what the organisation does. She presented to the Public Sector Communicators Network last week. Some key points were:

• The Army is well regarded according to survey research, but the public generally doesn’t understand what the modern army does (

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