In the words of the old poem, I am both surprised and pleased to have been inducted into the NBR Business Hall of Fame.
"Surprised" because I have always thought of the Business Hall of Fame as something into which great captains of industry are admitted – James Wattie, James Fletcher, Maurice Paykel, Lawrie Stevens and the like. I have spent many years of my career in the private sector, in Broadbank, in Trust Bank, and as a director of several companies, and I feel good about what I was able to achieve in those roles. But I never achieved in the private sector the kind of things which those great captains of industry achieved.
"Pleased" because, despite that, I have been recognised for my involvement in some of the public policy areas which have contributed to the development of business in New Zealand.
The citation makes particular reference to my role over the last 14 years as Governor of the Reserve Bank, and I feel a sense of real satisfaction about that. Supported by some extremely able directors and key staff, several of whom are here this evening, I helped to reduce inflation from well above the average of other developed countries in the seventies and eighties to almost exactly the developed country average in the nineties, with the attendant benefits of that in terms of business planning and very much lower interest rates. As Governor, I was able to pioneer an altogether new approach to monetary policy, an approach which has now been adopted in a great many other countries. And I led a big improvement in the efficiency of the Bank, reducing total staff from some 550 when I first became Governor in 1988 to fewer than 200 currently.
But I also look back with real satisfaction at what I was able to do for New Zealand business in some of my other, earlier, roles, including in particular my work as Chairman of the committee which designed the GST.
May I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me over the years. This is not an Oscar award, so I won’t thank my wardrobe adviser, my hair-dresser, or my personal psychiatrist. But I do want to thank my family, close friends and work colleagues who, over many years, have encouraged me – and criticised me, and criticism is a crucially important role for all family, close friends and colleagues!
While I realise that those inducted into the Business Hall of Fame are being recognised for what they have done, past tense, I very much hope that I can make at least as big a contribution to New Zealand business, and to New Zealand more generally, over the next decade. The reforms of the last 15 years have been hugely beneficial, but there is still much that needs to be done if New Zealand is again to enjoy the kind of living standards that Australians take for granted. I am absolutely committed to that goal.