Carrick Graham: Without Apologies

by Peter Newport / 18 June, 2015
Peter Newport explores the dark arts of persuasion with the master, Carrick Graham.

This story first appeared in the June 2015 issue of North & South. Photographs by Adrian Malloch.

 

He was probably the darkest character in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. A man who was paid to attack anyone who stood up to his wealthy inter­national sugar, tobacco and alcohol clients. A shadowy figure who fought behind the anonymity of social media and wrote some of the more virulent posts on his friend Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog site.

And yet, Carrick Graham isn’t about to become a reformed man. He’s not retreating from anything he’s done. In fact, he’s proudly announcing things are about to get a whole lot dirtier in the future – not for any reason other than this bloody battlefield is, in his view, the new reality of commerce, news and politics in New Zealand.

Taking a journey deep into Graham’s world reveals things most of us would rather avoid – conflict, innuendo, abuse. Not the stuff of a quiet life. He gets paid well to do it and his targets often can’t readily defend themselves.

And speaking with two public health scientists frequently on the receiving end of Graham’s vitriolic attacks, there is one key point on which they both agree. This game is indeed about to get more combative.

At stake is not only how we are informed about what’s good for us and what’s bad for us, but how the close relationship between Big Business and government is moderated. Who’s really in charge, did we vote for them, and can we trust them?

 

Carrick Graham graduated from Auckland University in 1994 with a degree in politics and anthropology. He quite fancied the idea of travelling around the world Indiana Jones-style looking for chests of golden treasure – but not “digging for Maori middens outside Tauranga”. His father, former Justice Minister Sir Douglas Graham, introduced a family friend into the equation, a careers adviser who said simply, “Follow the money – go into sales.” The idea, however, was not to stick to a sales career but stay close to the money and therefore the power. “It was a different world then,” says Graham, explaining why he lost no sleep over his decision to join W.D. and H.O. Wills, later to become British American Tobacco.

He sold cigarettes as a sales rep for the first two years, driving around Auckland and Waiheke Island building relationships with the small shops, the dairies, the petrol stations. He says it was all about trust. He sold enough cigarettes and, more important, the people upstairs in corporate affairs liked the cut of his jib.

His next assignment was a big jump from peddling cartons of smokes out of the back of the car. He was sent off to Cambodia, not to sell cigarettes, but to make them. There he dealt with the tobacco growers and the Royal Government of Cambodia. He was involved with developing the factories that made cigarettes, reforestation programmes, employing local staff and, in his words, trying to keep the whole operation ethical and free of corruption. Graham had graduated from local sales rep to Master of the Universe – in one leap. He remembers at the age of 27 being on the 64th floor of a Hong Kong hotel watching helicopters fly below his windows and thinking, “I could get used to this.”

He did. Climbing up the corporate ladder, Graham was soon travelling the globe for Big Tobacco. Parties in red-velvet Budapest cocktail bars, summit meetings in oak-panelled London boardrooms. In one year, he counted 22 international trips in his passport.

But then it all came crashing to the ground. The travel had damaged his marriage and he flew back to New Zealand after one of his trips into a difficult divorce that involved his first two children, then aged five and seven. “I’d seen too many corporate emails where X or Y was leaving to spend more time with their families – after 30 years with the company,” he says. “By then it’s too late, and the kids have already left home.”

He quit British American Tobacco to spend at least some time with his children, now under a separate roof, and to set up his own business. The aim was simple – to control outcomes for his clients. Grown-up stuff. Not vanilla PR but engineering serious results between politicians and business people. Like Cambodia, but back here in New Zealand.

His first client was the group he’d sold cigarettes to when he left university – the convenience stores. In fact the Association of Convenience Stores is just about the only client, apart from property developer Mark Hotchin, that Graham will admit to. The rest are in the background, ready to deny they have anything to do with him. And that’s the way both Graham and his clients like it.

Carrick Graham

 

We’re sitting in Graham’s white, modern Parnell offices. There are some big-screen Mac computers, framed political cartoons, a set of vintage water skis and just around one corner an array of passport-sized photographs, stuck to the wall like a TV cop show operations room, linked by coloured thread. These are his current targets, complete with their affiliated organisations and their available budgets. Currently most of the photos relate to people linked to the HRC, the Health Research Council. This is the major funder on behalf of central govern­ment of biomedical, public health, Maori health and Pacific health research.

These are the people Graham is currently being paid to attack. But at the top of the mosaic is a single photograph with no organisation or budget attached. The man is Boyd Swinburn, Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health at Auckland University. It depends which side you’re on, but this feels to me a little like James Bond and Dr Evil, locked in a battle for the hearts and minds of people like us – both literally and metaphorically.

Graham says Swinburn is a worthy adversary – and in this twisted world, that’s high praise indeed. Most of the other people stuck to the wall are, in Cameron Slater’s view, “troughers”, feeding off the public purse.

 

I meet Boyd Swinburn at his comfortable house in an expensive suburb of central Auckland, full of visiting baby grandchildren and their parents, usually resident in Spain. There’s a boat and a BMW in the driveway. Swinburn is on a week’s leave from his job at Auckland University and just back from a series of public health conferences in the United States.

We chat in his home study, crammed with dog-eared medical journals; it’s slightly shambolic, but comfortable; something you might expect of a country GP. Swinburn is smart and personable. He’s the super-smart uncle that we’d all like to have.

Swinburn is one of 33 eminent New Zealand public health scientists who wrote to John Key, the Minister of Health and the Auditor-General in the wake of the publication of Dirty Politics. The scientists were incandescent at Hager’s revelation of the well-oiled machinery used to systematically attack them and their work.

In particular, they were calling for immediate action relating to one of Graham’s closest contacts, the former National MP Katherine Rich. Dirty Politics claimed a series of emails showed numerous attacks on public health scientists initiated by Rich as CEO of the Food and Grocery Council, the trade body for tobacco, alcohol and “Big Food” companies. The emails to Graham appeared to show “hits” being ordered by Rich against opponents of her members. These hits were, according to the book, turned into toxic words by Graham and then published, often unchanged, by Slater on his Whale Oil blog site.

Hager claims the money flowed from Graham’s clients, via his company, to Slater, allowing Rich to deny she paid for the attacks. Graham’s mystery clients are, according to Dirty Politics, also members of the Food and Grocery Council.

But the scientists argued in their letter to the Prime Minister that there was an even more serious aspect to Rich’s attempts to damage public health scientists opposed to sugar, alcohol and tobacco. She also sits on the board of the government’s Health Promotion Agency, which decides how New Zealanders should make decisions about leading a healthy life. For these scientists, “conflict of interest” was too mild a term. This was outrageous.

“We shouldn’t have been surprised,” says Swinburn. “Those of us who have worked with Big Tobacco and Big Food overseas know how dirty they play, but what was helpful with this book is it specifically articulated how this happened. That’s been quite revealing and it’s a bit of a shame. I’d have hoped we were more civilised than that. But it’s not a total surprise because we’re working from the book the tobacco industry first wrote – how to make money and prevent healthier societies.

“We [scientists and public health advocates] don’t have the tools to play dirty; we can only keep putting these issues to the New Zealand public and government.”

So far, putting those issues to government, at least, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. There’s been no substantial reply to the letter sent to Key, and Rich remains on the board of the Health Promotion Agency. In addition, the damage done to many of our public health scientists by the Carrick Graham/Whale Oil attacks seems to be serious and potentially long lasting.

Professor Doug Sellman is based at Otago University; he’s a formidable opponent of alcohol in society in his role as head of the National Addiction Centre. He’s now noticeably less hungry for publicity and maintains a lower profile since being labelled “mad” in a Slater post linked to the misuse of alcoholic hand cleanser at a Waikato Hospital. It was not the only piece to appear and, according to Dirty Politics, Graham was the author. The bottom line is that scientists are not used to the cut and thrust of aggressive social media and the universities who employ them don’t appreciate the negative publicity.

“Seeing the words in black and white and knowing they had been written deliberately to try and hurt and ridicule me is very unpleasant,” says Sellman. “Alcohol is causing enormous harm to fellow New Zealanders, while alcohol companies make huge profits. I knew when I got into advocating for change to the way alcohol is regulated in New Zealand – for stronger alcohol reform – I’d come up against people with vested interests, who want the status quo. However, I didn’t think the abuse would become so nasty and be undertaken in such a covert and creepy manner as has been revealed in Dirty Politics.”

Sellman is not only nursing his own wounds from the bruising scrap with Graham and Slater, but he believes this new, adversarial landscape will stop talented graduates from becoming public health scientists in the first place.

“I think it’s had a chilling effect on public health practitioners and scientists who speak out on issues that might upset big business, like Carrick Graham’s clients, and current government policy,” he says. “I’m most concerned about the way the revelations in Dirty Politics might put off bright, enthusiastic young health practitioners and scientists from getting involved in alcohol [reform] advocacy, but also from entering the field of population health. Remember, I’m a psych­iatrist who has come to alcohol advocacy later on in my career.

“The most important thing is the public comes to understand that personal attacks on health professionals who speak out against vested interests are a deliberate tactic of these people to maintain their power and fortunes.

“Current economic models are not sufficiently accounting for the harm to ordinary people from certain big businesses – ‘addictionogenic’ big businesses, including the alcohol, tobacco and gambling industries. They’re headed up by people who hide behind the mantra we so often hear: ‘It’s all about individual responsibility.’ However, they know very well how risky their products are to ordinary people, how much harm is being caused, and how deviously clever their marketing and government lobbying is to maintain their grip on the New Zealand population and their profit flow.”

It’s at this point we started to get into the real guts of the issue. Sellman and Swinburn had hoped the government would step in at some stage last year and say “Enough.” These were, after all, publicly paid and highly qualified scientists being personally attacked by a branch of Big Business with strong government links via Katherine Rich.

“The government did nothing about the fact [Rich] was sitting on the board of the Health Promotion Agency while undertaking these covert activities,” says Sellman. “This sends a signal that the government doesn’t care about smears on public health professionals by Big Business. The silence from the government could be interpreted as indicating they’re quite relaxed about their public servants, who are just doing their jobs, being attacked like this.”

So, we decided to test the scientists’ claim of government indifference by asking for a detailed response from the Health Minister, the Health Promotion Agency and the Auditor-General. This involved entering the black hole of the capital’s government communications machine, rumoured now to employ as many people as the entire journalist population of New Zealand.

From the office of Health Minister Jonathan Coleman came this: “Debate on public health issues in New Zealand is robust. I do not condone personal attacks on social media.” This statement was embellished with a bunch of impressive-looking statistics on how well the battle against alcohol abuse, obesity and smoking was going, but there was nothing that answered our detailed questions about the letter from the scientists or the role of Rich and the HPA.

What about the Auditor-General? Surely she must have concerns about the scientists’ detailed claims of conflicts of interest and undue influence by big business on public health. “No comment,” said her communications team.

Next stop – the HPA. It took almost a week to get one sentence from their chair, Dr Lee Mathias, who, according to her website, is “an expert in healthcare governance”.

“The HPA manages all elements of its governance in accordance with the provisions of the Crown Entities Act 2004 and I have complete confidence in the integrity of board members.”

And that’s it.

“Has the chairman read the scientists’ letter?” I asked the senior communications manager for the Health Promotion Agency, Lynne Walsh. She replied, “I don’t know.”

But surely that’s fundamental, I pressed. Walsh replied that Mathias was in Auckland and she was in Wellington, as if this answered the question. “What about the detailed points in the scientists’ letter about a conflict of interest?” I persisted.

Walsh pointed out we had received the HPA’s official “single sentence statement” and hung up.

Swinburn and Sellman seem to have little cause for optimism in terms of government support. The word “indifferent” to describe the government’s position doesn’t seem strong enough. I can’t help but reflect on something Carrick Graham said to me during our interview – that Wellington was becoming more and more insular and that the real action was in Auckland. It feels true – as if the only accessible people left in Wellington might soon be the government communications people. Thousands of them.

 

Physics professor Shaun Hendy works with the New Zealand Association of Scientists. He is hosting a number of seminars designed to examine the issue of how our scientists could be better protected from attacks by Big Business.

He uses the example of the Japanese nuclear power station at Fukushima being disabled and then exploding following the 2013 earthquake and tsunami. “The outcome was catastrophic, but scientists who had accurately predicted the power station was unsafe were silenced because the atomic energy industry was closely linked to the Japanese government. The scientists feared for their funding and their jobs.

“Reputation is very important to scientists… we rely on our reputation and our integrity. If your integrity is attacked that’s quite a frightening thing for a scientist. Also your career progression is an issue. If you start to become a problem for your university, you might worry about that. There’s also access to funding; we all need that, and if you miss out on funding it’s often very hard to find out the reason.”

Hendy says New Zealand’s situation has parallels with what happened in Japan. He expresses grave concern that Big Food, Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol are all dangerously close to the government. He even claims that the recent Fonterra botulism scare was partly due to our scientific resources being ignored or underutilised. “With the botulism incident, we got away with it in the end. Sadly, in the case of Fukushima, the Japanese didn’t.”

Kiwi scientists are getting the clear message that making a public fuss over public health issues is not welcome. Even Key’s own chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has weighed into the debate, indicating that scientists should stick to their knitting and be careful not to stray outside their areas of expertise – something that Hendy believes is code for “Stay silent.”

And yet New Zealand law actually requires our publicly funded scientists to be “the critics and conscience of society”. That’s written into the 1989 Education Act, which states that when a university is established the education minister has to be satisfied the institution accepts this role.

But that’s not going to weigh on the conscience of Graham and his clients. “We do our best to keep people informed, to communicate, contribute to awareness,” he says. “But that’s not enough for some people, who seem to be against all Big Business, saying they’re all about profit and the shareholders. Those people keep lobbing grenades into Big Business. And that’s when somebody like me has to get involved.”

And when Graham gets involved, the people on the other side have good reason to be afraid. “They should be scared,” he says. “Their comments are often outrageous, designed just to get what they want – to get more laws, restrictions and bans on certain products.” He claims Doug Sellman gives as good as he gets and is no “shrinking violet”.

Here, Boyd Swinburn brings some useful focus to what at times looks like a full-on street brawl. “We’re not about regulating what people eat or how they exercise. All we want is for the government to control how food is marketed. For instance, how junk food is marketed to school children.”

He argues we do need some regulations to keep society civil – like speed limits on the road or gun-control laws. So what exactly are Big Tobacco and Food doing that needs regulating? “Marketing to school kids when they are young and vulnerable, getting them hooked on high-fat foods and sugar, which they will carry through life. Young children need protecting from this.”

Swinburn reckons he and his fellow public health scientists are tracking along the road made famous by Mahatma Gandhi. “First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you… and then you win.”

But to win at this level, they have to figure out how to play Graham at his own game.

“We’re neophytes at this,” says Swinburn. “We don’t have the disposition to fight dirty. It’s against all of the reasons we became scientists. It explains why it’s taken decades to do something about child obesity. But the tide is turning. Soda taxes are being introduced in Mexico and California and will soon spread throughout the United Sates and the rest of the world.”

Shaun Hendy agrees there is light at the end of the tunnel. “We’re not going to fight fire with fire, and we’re not going to rely on celebrity scientists to make popular, potentially inexpert appeals to the public.”

Reason and logic, according to Hendy, can win this battle. Part of that strategy is agreeing with some of the principles Graham is fighting for. “Scientists acknowledge that business and industry should have a voice at the table, but what worries us about this [Dirty Politics] situation is that it wasn’t declared. It was a mechanism to fund what appeared to be a public voice, but scientists are very careful about declaring their interests. Industry should do the same. If they’re putting money into a particular conversation and enabling particular voices to be active in a debate, they’ve got to be clear, so the public knows where that messaging is coming from.”

This could be the Achilles heel for Graham and his clients. It’s linked to New Zealanders’ love of fair play – something he’s aware of and happy to acknowledge. “Whatever tactics you use, it’s all about taking people with you, perhaps not on a specific issue, but overall you have to have people on your side. So they’re saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t realise that’ or ‘So that company isn’t as bad as I thought.’ It’s a dichotomy in terms of what we’re talking about, but it’s true.”

A dichotomy indeed – to fight dirty and maintain fair play at the same time. Like going to Cambodia to manufacture cigarettes, but doing it without getting involved in local corruption. Possible, but difficult.

Carrick Graham

 

It’s worth sharing a little of the journey here. Why did Carrick Graham agree to be interviewed in the first place? Surely he has nothing to gain? Maybe some extra profile, some more work? But he claims Dirty Politics has produced even more clients for him, and that he was busy enough before the book was published. So, if not for a bit of free advertising – why?

It took six months of drinking coffee with Graham in the comfortable, slightly self-conscious cafes of Parnell Rise to push him across the line. Graham loves talking, and not always about himself. I expected to dislike him, but I didn’t. He’s very good company. Like his “worthy adversary” Swinburn, he has an engaging smile and quick wit. He’s fascinated by where New Zealand is heading, the “national character”, politics with a small “p”. He seems to love life and his new family – including a 21-month-old daughter. He’s 43, married to Brooke Graham, who’s in real estate. They’re often seen on the society pages at various sparkling social events, frequently with his good mate, business partner and potential Auckland mayoral candidate, Cameron Brewer.

“The state of the nation?” I ask him in one early session. “Maybe we all need to grow up a bit,” he says, “grow a thicker skin, stop trying to be so innocent.” He might have a point. The world is no longer at a comfortable arm’s length from New Zealand. Instead it’s in our face, thanks to ever-faster digital connections and our insatiable desire for a proper place at the big table.

So why does he want to tell his side of the story? I get the impression he’s not quite as tough as he likes to make out. It might get a bit lonely fighting hard battles for invisible clients. And any praise is limited to getting his invoices paid – there’s no chance of public accolades or glittering prizes. I think he wants to be seen as being like the rest of us – ultimately vulnerable and human. Or maybe that’s part of his strategic persona. It’s hard to know in this shadowy world where nothing is quite as it seems. It’s all very House of Cards.

One of Graham’s favourite film characters is Nick Naylor, the shameless tobacco lobbyist in the 2005 movie Thank You for Smoking. He says it’s a coincidence that many of the anonymous comments on the Whale Oil site supporting attacks on public health issues were signed nicknaylorPR@gmail.com.

He talks about Naylor with some humour and irony, some affection. But the bottom line is Graham admires the character for supporting cigarettes and tobacco “openly and honestly” in the movie. He and his two on-screen friends, who work for the alcohol and gun industries, call themselves the “Merchants of Death”.

But can’t he see the contradiction? That Nick Naylor put himself out there publicly as a proponent of Big Tobacco, but Carrick Graham is rarely visible, a shadow boxer, with clients who are never named and targets who can’t really tell who’s attacking them?

“Things have got much faster,” he says. “For a business, traditional means of communicating have now ended and you have a whole lot of new platforms to utilise in terms of hearing what the consumer or the customer has to say. And if there’s a conflict, we need to find out, what is it that has pissed off these people so much?” So does he want to be the master of these new media channels? “Absolutely… yes.”

Graham and Slater have both pretty much refused to confirm or deny the chain of events that’s detailed in Dirty Politics. They say the emails used by Nicky Hager were stolen, so they won’t comment on what they claim is a criminal project. Here’s what Graham will say about his friends Slater and Rich, and Hager’s book.

Does he pay Cameron Slater? “He sends me invoices for social media consultations,” says Graham. “His knowledge of social media is at the cutting edge of New Zealand and he’s done exceedingly well over the last 10 to 15 years to develop Whale Oil into the medium it is.”

But what does he really think of Slater, the public battles over ethics and his widely publicised mental health problems? “I think he has done extraordinarily well in terms of dealing with his depression. He’s also pioneered social media in New Zealand. He’s controversial, without a doubt, and he takes no prisoners. He has very strong views on things. I think some of the things he does are very antagonistic in terms of shock and awe, but there is an audience for that, hence more and more traffic is going to his site.

Dirty Politics created even more traffic. If Nicky Hager thought he was taking down Cameron Slater, then that’s backfired horrendously on him. It’s fantastic, because Cameron pushes the boundaries on all sorts of issues. And he fills that gap where people want to hear another side to the story rather than getting the outdated stuff on the six o’clock news or the boring stuff in the morning newspaper.”

All of which sounds wonderful, except for the fact Slater is hurting real people and has been known to get things wrong. “I think he’s getting better.”

I suggest it might be dangerous and unfair to be practising on real people. Graham pauses, then laughs. “Well, there are moderation policies on the site that have evolved so you don’t get the mad rants you used to get. And things have been toned down – some people would disagree – but you have to look at who’s doing the criticising. There’s far more abuse and vitriol from the left and it is far more intense than you’d ever get from the right. At least the right respects the fact people have different views, but the left – if you don’t agree with their views – you’re evil incarnate.”

I wonder if this is all because Slater and Graham don’t trust mainstream journalists to get it right.

“No. The internet has made everything faster; people want all sides of a story. Not just one. The traditional media model is broken; now whoever is first out with news is going to win.”

 

A danger is that Graham is in love with the fight itself, not just the strategy of achieving outcomes for his client. When he smells blood, the adrenaline starts to flow. He claims he can still keep a level head in the heat of battle. But talking to him it becomes clear there is something of a personal element to some of the battles he starts. A score to settle or a lack of respect for the individual being targeted. Victory, according to the Carrick Graham Battle Bible, is when the other side starts to use his language and gets forced onto an agenda he wrote.

Graham wants to point out it’s not just Big Food, Alcohol and Tobacco that he’s representing; he’ll also fight for construction, property and trade associations, plus small and medium-sized businesses wanting to oppose  government regulation and get laws changed. He says he’ll work for the left – assuming they have the cash.

Greenpeace? “No! Greenpeace is just a big corporate anyway! These people waving clipboards in your face on street corners are delusional, and quite sad.”

There’s a special place in Graham’s world for Hager. “Look who’s telling the story. Stolen emails. He’s taken them to flog them off and make some money. He never approached me, or other people who were attacked, for their comment. They’re committed lefties, so they hate the right.

“They don’t like John Key, they don’t like the National Party and they don’t like the Cabinet. They think it’s all part of some Illuminati global conspiracy to keep the people down.”

He pauses and laughs to himself at the folly of all this.

“People are entitled to their views, but the left is loopy and the media will criticise anything. They paint my work of helping business with government as being underhand. Well, no it’s not. There’s nothing we do that’s underhand. We engage with the regulators, we engage with the political process. It’s all about balancing a debate. If it ends up achieving fair play, then that’s great.”

 

On the subject of fair play, I make one last attempt to get him to admit that Dirty Politics was, in fact, an accurate account of his business. He bounces that one back. Yes – he’s good mates with Katherine Rich and they email each other a lot about lots of different things. He stops and smiles. That’s it.

So back to Wellington for a final go at the communications flaks. This time it’s Brent Webling, the comms person for the Food and Grocery Council and for Rich. After three days, I get excited because he tells me I’m going to get something from Rich. “We’re not going to ignore you,” he says engagingly.

Two days later, I get an email from Webling. Not an invitation for a two-hour fireside interview with Rich in a quiet room off the corridors of power. It’s the dreaded single sentence statement.

“As I’ve said before, this is a repeat of last year’s conspiracy theories, and it’s wrong on multiple levels.”

And that’s it. At least I’m assured it’s actually from Rich.

In the meantime, Graham and Rich are facing some slightly stiffer opposition. The scientists are getting tooled up with some tricks of their own – not dirty, but clever. Like getting on board with the Science Media Centre, which gives scientists a media-savvy voice and brings finely honed social media skills into the equation. The centre provides advanced training to individual scientists on how to handle the media, in all of its modern shapes and forms. On another front, Hendy hints that future New Zealand research grants may include a budget for PR – which is already the case in the US with the National Science Foundation’s grants.

To Graham, it’s all Game On. Good stuff to keep the money rolling in.

But can he carry on forever, cutting and thrusting on behalf of his hidden clients? There’s no sign of fatigue; it looks more like a limbering up for a main act still in the future. Does he worry that this media war machine he’s part of could be used to make covert attacks on individuals – ordinary citizens – who have done nothing wrong apart from annoy the government?

He pauses before answering. It’s a long pause. “That’s always gone on,” he says. “The Labour government did it. Muldoon did it. There have always been people like me. Back then, they were mainly lawyers.”

So, a final question, on behalf of all of his adversaries and the public health scientists, and a reprise from his favourite movie, in which Nick Naylor asks himself exactly this. “How does it feel to be truly despised?”

“Well… they haven’t met me,” says Graham, looking slightly hurt. “I’ve had enormous abuse from people, but it’s fantastic to stimulate debate, to get people talking and to tell both sides. New Zealanders are all about being able to sit down and have a coffee or beer together – and that’s what I’m about.”

Maybe we do have to grow up, and grow a thicker skin. Maybe this is the new reality we all have to get used to. Maybe the phalanx of communications people in Wellington will eventually explain to us how it all works and why it’s good for us.

In any case, it’s a fair bet that Graham, Rich, Swinburn and Sellman will be slugging it out for a few years yet, with our government firmly entrenched on the sidelines. Game on.

 
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage