English favourite but not confirmed

Last night Patrick Gower called English as the next Prime Minister, citing a ‘senior MP’ claiming 45 MPs backed English.

I’m very sceptical about this – anonymous sources with vested interests in leadership contests, trying to push a majority five days before the caucus vote takes place, shoukld be viewed with extreme caution.

Yesterday afternoon:

Ok, no mucking around, Paddy Gower will name the new Prime Minister tonight on live at 6.

And Gower went full bore on his big scoop of 45 for English. Matthew Hooton has just called this ‘a big lie’.

RNZ is more factual and feet on the ground in Bill English appears front-runner in National leadership contest:

So far 14 MPs, including Mr Key, have publicly declared they are putting their weight behind the finance minister for the top job.

That’s about half what English needs – but there is no guarantee they will all stick with that public position.

National Party MPs will meet at Parliament on Monday to vote for a new leader and deputy.

It’s a secret vote.

Barry Soper remembers some history involving English in Support for English could easily become daggers of defeat:

Ironically it came when they were doing the numbers after his disastrous election defeat of 2002 when the dapper doctor Don Brash was sharpening his knife the following year.

Holmesy asked me if English was a dead man walking and I said no, more like a twitching corpse. Within minutes the phone was ringing and the invective flowed. When the torrent eased, he was told the numbers for him holding on to the leadership were stacked against him, but for a man who is obviously good with numbers, he insisted they weren’t telling him the same thing.

Later that day Don Brash was installed as leader and Bill English rightly felt cheated, he’d been lied to by some of his colleagues, and gave serious thought to calling it a day and going back to the farm.

The point is, those running for a political job determined by their colleagues can never know for sure of the support they’ve got until the scrutineers do the count, and even more so if the winner’s in the position to determine their future, like a Prime Minister contemplating his Cabinet.

More than half of National’s caucus are looking for favours, they haven’t had the call up for Cabinet and they’ll be sounding out the candidate who can offer them the most.

So it’s not a done deal until the votes are counted next Monday.

English is the front runner for sure, but there’s time for back bench discontent to grow, especially away from Parliament over the weekend.

There could be a backlash over what looks like a jack up – English as Prime Minister, Paula Bennett as deputy and Steven Joyce as Finance Minister looks like a small cabal at the top of National manipulating the leadership.

While they would probably be a competent rearrangement of the same old minus Key it is hardly a fresh new look.

And Brexit/.Trump – there is growing discontent with the political establishment in other parts of the world. Is there any chance of rebellion in the National caucus?

Monumental and colossal media

Containing the euphoria… my cartoon in today’s


This is something the media dreads. They rely on controversy and sensation. A boring Bill English led government would not be good for clicks, nor for journalist self-aggrandising.

Ironically Patrick Gower wrote on Monday: John Key resignation: Patrick Gower says ‘this changes everything’

John Key’s resignation is a colossal and monumental moment in New Zealand politics.

The enormity can be judged by its impact: it changes everything.

I guess a Boring Bill led government would mean that Gower would have to change how he exaggerates things so much.

Right now, a political reset button has been hit. The force that has driven New Zealand politics for ten years is gone.

Key is not even gone yet. He’s going. Next week he steps down from being Prime Minister. Next year he will resign from Parliament.

But the other 58 National MPs remain, until next year’s election at least.

Especially if English takes over the Government is likely to continue steady-as-she-goes, which has been a characteristic English’s influence as much as Key’s for the last eight years.

It is a monumental and colossal way for John Key to exit. It was a monumental and colossal political career.

Key’s political career was successful, but it was most noted for that lack of monumental and colossal change.

The only monumental and colossal change in politics in New Zealand over the last decade was when Gower took over as 3 News political editor from Duncan Garner in 2012.

This was emphasised in a video clip in 2014 where Gower asserted his colossal and monumental importance:

Back to Gower on Monday:

And now, there will be monumental and colossal change in New Zealand politics.

Perhaps post-Key, especially if Boring Bill takes over, journalists will have to dig out and report on actual news of importance rather making sensation and themselves the focus of their stories in places like libraries and parliaments.

Now that would be a monumental and colossal change.

If Paddy really wanted to be a media person who the masses noticed he should switch to advertising fast food, cars and Christmas/Boxing Day/New years Day/Next day sales.

“We are the reporters…this camera in my hand”

An interesting article about the new power of social media in politics that features Patrick Gower.

“It was social media wot won it”

Trump bypassed mainstream media and won and there’s no coming back

By Peter Bale, President of the Global Editors Network

Donald Trump’s insurgent victory upends the media business and journalism as much as it does politics.

We were already worried about what Silicon Valley types call “disintermediation” — the destruction of traditional media networks and models by new technology — but he has shown that break is far deeper and dangerous than anyone realized.

At least half the American population chose not to listen to what the media was telling them: no matter how factual, passionate or full of the warnings of history.

It wasn’t a failure to get the message out. It was that the audience didn’t want to hear it.

The man was the message and the message was the man.

And this is illustrated with a story about Patrick Gower.

For me the determination of the audience to ignore the medias powerfully illustrated in a bizarre confrontation between a group of Trump supporters at a rally and a New Zealand television journalist who tried to interview them.

Paddy Gower, the unassuming and pleasant host of the Newshub show tries gamely to ask a couple of Trumpists what they think only to get this shouted reply: “I’m not talking to the Clinton media, you guys are sellouts. You’re part of the lying media.”

I’m not sure that everyone in New Zealand sees Gower as “unassuming and pleasant”.

Paddy vainly explains he is from New Zealand.“What’s Zealand?” one guy replies.

In the background, a Trumpist with a “The Deplorables” T-shirt on to mock Hillary Clinton’s unwise attack on those who hitched themselves to Trump, videos the whole incident on his iPhone declaring: “Social media is the future, the mainstream media is going downhill. You guys are like the newspapers of the 1980s. It’s almost over for you. We are the reporters…this camera in my hand.”

That is the reality of the failure this election.

What we don’t know is whether the social media revolution, something that has been predicted for years, will work the same in New Zealand.

Facebook is a dominant medium for sure here. And that presumably has the same flaws in feeding people news and false information that they want to hear – confirmation bias.

But we will have to wait until next year’s election to see how much effect this will have here.

Facebook is under increasing pressure to limit the use of ‘fake news’ as a deliberate campaign tool.

And as far as I’m aware New Zealand doesn’t have anything like the fake news sites that have become a major thing in the US. No doubt some will try, but New Zealand is a much smaller place and dirt and lie propagators may find it harder to gain traction.

The most prominent New Zealand website dabbling with Breitbart style bull and bluster to try mangle the message had it’s fins clipped in our 2014 election campaign thanks to Nicky Hager and his ‘Dirty Politics’ book.

That failed to swing the election, but it significantly diminished the influence of Whale Oil, and that will struggle to recover.

There was some dabbling in social media in this year’s local body elections, but the only candidate to get any traction, Chlöe Swarbrick, benefited when she was picked up and promoted by main stream media as a novelty in an otherwise boring Auckland mayoral election.

The current by-election in Mt Roskill seems to be attracting little public attention. It’s possible Facebook is flaming away but the main contenders there seem fairly old school with the back of traditional old parties.

And ordinary New Zealanders seem to be far less passionate about politics than Americans. Politicians are far more likely to be ignored than adored.

A political force may emerge in social media next year but it’s yet to be seen.

TPP a victim of US election?

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may be a victim of the presidential campaign in the US.

If the US doesn’t ratify the TPPA it fails.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both speaking strongly against the TPP in their campaign rhetoric.

President Obama’s hopes of slipping it through ratification in the lame duck session between the election on November 8 and the inauguration of the incoming president on 20 January 2017.

Patrick Gower has been attending both the Republican and Democrat conventions and writes: Opinion: The TPP is dead and gone

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is dead and gone and it is thanks to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Trump is dead against it.

Sanders is dead against it.

I’ve actually been really surprised at the level of visceral opposition towards the TPP from both sides here.

Each time both Trump and Sanders have bagged the TPP, there have been huge roars from the Republican and Democratic Convention crowds. 

And the power of both the Trump and Bernie movements mean it would be political suicide for United States politicians to go against them right now and ratify the TPP.

Powerful sectors of both sides of politics are against it – and you never, ever hear anything from its supporters in either the Republicans or the Democrats.

The TPP has been burned on the political firestorm that is raging here.

Big numbers of Republicans are dead against the TPP.

And I can tell you that huge numbers of Democrats are against the TPP.

If Hillary wins, she won’t want to deepen the divisions with her party by passing it.

As for a Trump win, well – say no more.

TPP supporters will bang on about all the possible machinations but the simple fact is this: The politics in America is against the TPP – and politics always wins in the end.

Maybe an ‘adjusted’ deal will re-emerge but the TPP as we know it is dead and gone.

Perhaps the other eleven countries will have to do it without the US. It was always going to be difficult getting it ratified there due to huge commercial lobbying interests trying to protect their markets and subsidies.

But that will take a lot of time, if there is any appetite to restart negotiations.

It looks like the TPPA could be a dead duck, blasted by a double barreled election shootout.

Government ‘incompetent on housing’

There has been a lot of over the top and unsubstantiated nonsense spouted about the ongoing housing issues – property prices, state housing and homelessness – and there are complex issues involved, but regardless of that the Government handling of various aspects has been very  poor.

Patrick Gower calls them incompetent: ‘Diddly squat’ – Govt incompetent on housing

The Government is now officially politically incompetent when it comes to dealing with housing.

Its response to the crisis/challenge has been useless for a while now, but it has reached all new levels with Nick Smith’s claim there is “diddly squat” evidence that foreign buyers are a problem.

Today the BNZ joined ANZ and Westpac in putting restrictions on lending to foreign property buyers.

To use Nick Smith’s own bizarre language, the Government looks as if it is doing diddly squat on housing.

Its response is chaotic, and it appears out of ideas.

I have never seen this Government so out of sorts.

Nick Smith in particular and the Government in general have had difficult issues to deal with but they have looked incapable and incoherent. It’s not hard to see how it may look like incompetence.

We all know the housing issue is big and complicated. But instead of being honest with the New Zealand public and accepting there is a problem, the Government instead fudges and parries and denies. It looks dishonest — it looks as if it is making things up.

I agree with the Government that there is no silver bullet on housing.

So let’s forget about the philosophical issues about what exactly it should be doing, and look purely at the political approach where the Government’s normally slick communication is failing abysmally.

It appears to have a siege mentality when it comes to housing. It looks under siege and it acts as if it is under siege. It looks as if it has no plan; it acts as if it has no plan.

I agree to an extent at least with Gower.

I think housing issues are a much bigger threat to the popularity of the Government than a vague and impotent Memorandum of Understanding amongst a couple of opposition parties.

I think that national have to replace Nick Smith in the Housing portfolio, but there probably isn’t anyone else willing to volunteer.

Paddy’s flag crisis

Patrick Gower and Newshub seem to have concocted a flag crisis, claiming that the National Party is divided over it. It’s been obvious since the beginning and publicly known for months that National MPs have a variety of views on whether to change the flag or not.

Newshub ‘broke’ the news in dribs and drabs on Twitter.

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National MPs hold crisis meeting over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National Party leak about crisis meeting shows internal division over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 3m3 minutes ago
BREAKING – National Party leak shows numbers of MPs in support of flag change – and it is not good for John Key. More soon at Newshub

Newshub Breaking ‏@NewshubBreaking
#LEAKED: @maggiebarrynz’s emailed @NZNationalParty MPs urging them to join her for a meeting about a campaign to support changing the flag

Newshub ‏@NewshubNZ
.@patrickgowernz: Are @NZNationalParty MPs divided over @johnkeypm’s NZ flag change? http://bit.ly/249bIcI

That got a response:

Audrey Young ‏@audreyNZH
@NewshubNZ @patrickgowernz Yes, they are. See Isaac Davison’s poll on it. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11581277 …

That links to a January Herald article that details flag preferences of a number of MPs, including various preferences by National MPs.

After about twenty minutes Newshub linked to a news item:

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 24s24 seconds ago
National Party flag crisis meeting leak http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/leaked-nationals-flag-change-crisis-meeting-2016021714 …

This was initially very brief and was gradually added to.

Leaked: National’s flag change crisis meeting

Leaked National Party emails show its MPs are divided over John Key’s flag change and that a crisis meeting of MPs has been held to give the campaign a boost.

Of course key, Barry and other National MPs have denied there is any crisis, and it’s hard to see how it could be seen as a crisis.

An email obtained by Newshub shows that only 32 out of 59 National MPs were invited to a meeting about changing the flag today — meaning about 54 percent of Mr Key’s Caucus is in support.

It seems that most MPs were initially emailed and this email was to those who expressed an interest. Wow.

The email follows a Caucus meeting yesterday where the flag was discussed.d_maggie_email_17_02_new4


The meeting was later moved to Ms Barry’s office at the last minute.


(A 9.00 pm email for a 7.30 am meeting is hardly last minute).

Is it of public interest that some National MPs are having meetings about the flag? Slightly perhaps?

Is it a crisis? It’s very hard to see that. Ok, as Gower said on the 6 pm Newshub news it’s a bit newsy to political wonks that someone within the National caucus seems to have leaked him a couple of emails but he’s overdoing things somewhat.

The National caucus doesn’t even make any decision over the flag, MPs have no more voting power in the referendum than any of the rest of us.

Sure Key has a bit or a problem getting his flag change over the line with any sort of credibility. It was at best going to be close, neither he nor the flag panel have done great jobs, and opponents chose to make it a political shit fight rather than a genuine contest over flag change.

How can the National caucus be divided when there was never any claim or requirement for them to be united on the flag anyway?

Without a major shift in sentiment I think we will be stuck with drab old rag for another few decades at least, giving an important decision to people to decide has been hobbled by self interested parties and trashed by political activists. So those interested in a genuine democratic flag retention/selection opportunity have been shat on by those with political interests.

My take on this is that more direct democracy and power for the people is doomed due to the lack of responsibility and maturity of politicians and social media warriors.

People don’t deserve more power if they choose to trash opportunities to decide like adults like this.

The Herald have followed up Gower’s story with I don’t know what all this nonsense is about’ – John Key shoots down claims flag referendum is dividing caucus

Little still mixed on TPPA

Andrew Little still seems to have mixed positions on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Patrick Gower:

So Little is loudly saying he is opposed to the TPP one minute, and then the next minute he’s quietly admitting he’d vote for the good bits. It is a Jekyll and Hyde show where Little is Jane Kelsey one minute and Phil Goff the next.

He tried to gloss over the Goff/Shearer/Helen Clark/et al elephant in Labour’s TPPA room in his ‘State of the nation’ speech yesterday:

I’d also like to acknowledge Phil Goff.

It’s funny, Phil seems to be at every gathering in Auckland with more than three people for some reason. Phil, this is going to be a big year for Auckland, and I know you’ll do a fantastic job as Mayor.

Little  may be looking forward to Goff resigning from Parliament if he wins the mayoralty, so he doesn’t figure in next year’s election lead up.

He addressed the TPPA directly later in his speech.

The truth is, this government has given up on the future.

They’ve been selling us short.

There’s no better example of this than the TPP agreement the government will sign next week at Sky City.

You know, over the summer, I managed to work my way through large parts of that agreement.

It wasn’t the breeziest of summer reading, I’ll say that much.

But what the text of the TPP makes very clear is that this Government has traded away our democratic rights.

Under the TPP, our democracy is under threat.

New Zealand’s parliament will be constrained in its ability to pass laws in our — your, mine, our kids’ interests.

In fact, on issues like labour laws, and environmental laws, our government is now obliged to give the governments of eleven other countries — and their big corporate players — a say on the laws we make.

New Zealand MPs will no longer be solely responsible to the people who elect them.

And I cannot accept that.

Labour has been a champion of free trade for decades. But we have never been asked to pay the price of the erosion of our democratic institutions.

Binding future parliaments, making our government accountable to politicians and corporations overseas instead of voters here at home?

That’s not free trade.

That’s special rules for the powerful and privileged at the expense of the voters of New Zealand.

Last week Goff and David Shearer made it clear that they have quite different views on the TPPA, publicly confirming their support. Shearer will have to apologise to the Labour caucus for breaking their collective responsibility. Goff had been given a pass by Little.

However after the speech journalists asked Little about the TPPA and he revealed that he was still not totally against it.

Patrick Gower reports:

In his speech, he talked up Labour’s opposition to the TPP to cheers from the party faithful. Then he came over to journalists and admitted Labour would support certain laws that put some parts of of the TPP into action, confirming Labour would vote for legislation that reduced tariffs for Kiwi exporters, which the official advice shows will be required.

So Little is loudly saying he is opposed to the TPP one minute, and then the next minute he’s quietly admitting he’d vote for the good bits. It is a Jekyll and Hyde show where Little is Jane Kelsey one minute and Phil Goff the next. It is a political con-job aimed at keeping his own supporters on side by opposing it while emotions are running high with the signing next week, but not wanting to get caught out as being against New Zealand exporters when the benefits kick in down the track.

If Little really opposed the TPP, he would refuse point-blank to vote for any legislation that enables it. Until he does that his position lacks credibility, and that means the TPP is quickly becoming a big problem for Little. He’s got MPs Goff and David Shearer going rogue with their public support but — unlike him at least they are up-front and easy to understand.

Little and Labour still have a big problem over their mixed messages and clash of support on the TPPA.



Little’s legacy the retention of the Union Jack?

Josie Pagani made an interesting point in a RadioLive interview with Duncan garner about Labour’s and Andrew Little’s stance on opposing everything about the flag change despite it being contrary to party policy.

Patrick Gower had just talked about it being Key’s legacy policy followed by Garner suggesting yesterday Key almost seemed to be conceding on flag change..

Yeah he’ll be worried about cause you’re right Paddy, this is his legacy policy, and he can’t just be stuck with his war on weeds or his cycle pathway, you know he’s gotta have something a bit more iconic so he’ll be really worried.

Key’s known little for those things and far more for other achievements but that’s a side issue.

Personally I think he’s made a really good case for the change in the flag, and I think it’s a shame that the politics, the sort of gotcha politics between Labour and the Nats has sort of got in the way of this.

And Labour will be worried too, cause they don’t want their biggest achievement in Opposition to be preserving the Union Jack.

Both Garner and Gower agreed that that was a really good point.

If Labour succeed in helping retain the current flag it may be a long time before they can credibly try carry out their own policy to change the flag.

The Nation – David Seymour interview

ACT MP David Seymour was interviewed on The Nation yesterday.

While he has more freedom and time to rebuikld ACT at the moment as Under-Secretary he said it would be difficult to turn down a Ministry if offered one by John Key.

Edited interview:

What does David Seymour see as National’s weakness?

ACT’s David Seymour says his party can push National to drop company taxes, build more infrastructure and reform RMA.

Full interview:  ACT Party leader David Seymour


David Seymour, you know, you’re here as a wild card, but it has been a hell of a year for you, I will admit that. But let’s face it — ACT’s been a cop case; Epsom’s been a joke. How did you fix it all up?

Well, look, let’s just say we started with a defensive five metre scrum, and now we’re probably up to having a 22 drop out. We’ve got a lot of work to do from where we’ve come from, but I just try to show up every day and show that I can actually be a useful politician that represents voters’ views, and hopefully over the next couple of years, that will actually grow ACT’s support while I’m a good MP in Epsom and they will re-elect me too.

Now, rather populous views, really, because the Red Peak, pubs opening for the footy, these aren’t core ACT policies. I mean, it’s populist headline hunting, isn’t it? It’s getting yourself on the news.

Well, that’s what your channel chooses to cover. However, the most important thing in my daily work is actually Partnership Schools Kura Hourua. We’re going to open more of those. I visit those schools, and I see them innovating and actually allowing kids to feel good about themselves to get skills, qualifications, jobs, careers and so-on. That’s the most important thing. And we’re achieving more of Roger Douglas’ original ACT vision with Partnership Schools than ACT ever achieved, and I’m very proud of that.

Sure, and so will Sir Roger. Now, here is a hypothetical scenario for you about these pubs. Someone wants the pubs to sell them extra booze. There’s some big problem, something bad happens — will you take responsibility for that?

No, I won’t, because your question assumes that the state is responsible for everybody, and that if somebody does something stupid, it’s because the government didn’t make a rule to stop them. My view is that New Zealanders are free and responsible people on the whole, and we shouldn’t constantly be punished for the misdemeanours of the minority. Having said that, I hope that it’s going to be a joyous festival and that New Zealanders will show that the nanny staters and the naysayers were wrong. We can enjoy ourselves responsibly. I saw the Edinburgh pub just up the road opening earlier. It’s been fantastic.

Sure. You’re Under Secretary now. Do you want to be a minister this term? Because John Key’s kind of offered that. Would you take that up? Do you want to be a minister this term?

In a sense, it’s something, if you get offered, you can’t really refuse.

You can.

But I— Well, I’m not sure what the convention is. I enjoy being an under-secretary, because it allows me to get my hands on the tools of Partnership Schools and regular—

So if he offers you being a minister, you won’t refuse it?

It’d be difficult to refuse it. I understand that’s the convention.

All right. Now, where in your mind — and coming back to that drop-goal, that 22 metre drop-goal you’re talking about — where is National weak? Where can ACT take votes off National?

You saw Steven Joyce this morning ducking and diving around the economic figures, and I think that this Government actually needs to be more robust on the economy. I think that it can help National. So why can’t we drop company taxes when we have the highest taxes and capital in the OECD almost? Where has RMA reform gone? It’s missing in action. What about infrastructure, particularly around the top half of the North Island? What about indexing tax rates to inflation for families who are paying more and more every year as they stealthily creep into higher tax brackets? But also for younger generations. John Key said he’s not going to move on Super. Well, I’m sorry, but for our generation, you’re looking at five workers per retiree now; two workers per retiree by the time current university students retire.

You think there’s a genuine weakness around superannuation?

I believe that for our generation, there certainly is.

Steven Hansen on The Nation

A top inteview of All Black coach Steve Hansen by Patrick Gower this morning on The Nation (replayed Sunday at 10 am).

This has interest and relevance much wider than the All Blacks and rugby and sport, what Hansen discusses is also applicable to family, relationships and business.

Steve Hansen talks to Patrick Gower about love, leadership and not losing a week out from the start of the Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks coach talks about the goal the team has set of trying to be one of the most dominant sides in the history of the game and how it would “destroy” him to not do the right thing.

Video: Interview: All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen

One interesting comment came when Gower asked Hansen how he motivated the players. Hansen responded that it wasn’t his job to motivate them, he needed to create an environment in which motivated players could perform.

How do you motivate yourself? You spend a lot of time motivating the team, obviously, but what’s motivating you?

Interestingly enough, I don’t think my job is to motivate the team. My job is to create an environment where motivated athletes can perform.

This has a similarity to the Government’s aim with business development – it isn’t up to Government to motivate businesses financially or otherwise, the Government’s job is to create an environment in which motivated businesses can thrive.

Patrick Gower: Steve Hansen, thank you for joining us.

Steve Hansen: A pleasure.

The All Blacks – a great team, a great history, a great heritage. I want to ask you first what, in your opinion, makes the All Blacks the All Blacks?

Well, a lot of what you’ve just said. I think the history and what’s gone before. You know, we’re a little nation, and we started playing a game that was invented in England and looked down their noses at us over that, and it was something we were good at, and it suited the farmers of the day and the physical workers of the day. And as time’s gone on, we’ve built a legacy, a story that now has a massive expectation that goes with it, and it’s something we can all be proud of as New Zealanders.

Yeah, we’ll get into a lot of that, but I guess to pick up on the legacy, obviously every All Black team is different. What defines Steve Hansen’s All Blacks, in your mind?

It’s not Steve Hansen’s team, because I think the key thing is it’s about a collective group of men and women who – management, players – are trying to do something to enhance what’s happened beforehand. And to do that, we’ve been the number-one side in the world for a number of years now, and so we have to set ourselves some lofty goals, and some people may say that’s arrogant, but I think if you want to achieve something in life, you’ve got to set big goals. And whether you reach them or not is irrelevant; it’s the fact that you’re trying to reach them, and that’s all we’re doing at the moment. We’ve set ourselves a goal of trying to be one of the most dominant sides in the history of the game, and it’s not for us to judge whether we’ve done that. It’s about that’s what we want to achieve. And to do that, we also want to be, you know, humble, grateful men and women for being part of it. It’s a special place to be in the All Blacks, and whilst it comes with a lot of responsibility, you know, it’s something that we all love and enjoy.

Sure. I want to pick up on that collective phrase that you used there, rather than being ‘your’ team, it’s ‘the’ team, I guess.


Is that one of the defining factors – the fact that is a collective?

I think it could be. I think it’s something that we’ve learned over time that for this team to really play well, we need to be as one and the team has to be greater than the individual. And in doing that, we need to make sure a few things happen. One is make sure we’re on the job with our game, so we’re looking to improve the style of game we’re playing all the time and better it. But we have to have a massive amount of alignment from, you know, the guy who’s seen to be at the top, which is me, to the guy who’s just having his first week in the team. And that comes through obviously the coaches being aligned on how we want to play, the management being aligned on how we want to live as a team, and then taking that alignment to the leaders – we have our leadership group – that has the opportunity to say, ‘Well, yeah, I agree with that,’ or, ‘Nah, I don’t agree with that,’ and we have some robust debates and discussions. And then everyone has to disagree and commit or agree and commit. And then it’s up to the players to actually drive it, because it’s their team and it’s their moment in the jersey, and that’s their opportunity to leave something behind for the next group.

Yeah, because you’ve talked about humility and you’ve talked about, you know, devolving leadership in some senses. I mean, that means you as the coach, the figurehead in many senses, what you have to give up – some authority. You have to give up some control. Is that right?

Well, it might seem like you have to give up some control, but, really, it’s not about control. It’s about everybody going in the same direction, trying to achieve the same thing, and so you’re not having to control anyone to do that. They want to be alongside you. And in some cases, you want them to be in front of you because they’re the people that are out there playing, and they’ve got to make the big decisions in the moment in the contest. And all we are is here to facilitate an environment and training and on and off the field an environment that is conducive to them being able to play on Saturday.

Yeah, and that means giving the players control in some senses.

Yeah, it is, but once you get in there and you start doing that, it’s not— looking at your face, you seem to think that that’s quite frightening, but it’s not. You know, it’s actually no different than a family. We see ourselves as a big family, and, you know, there comes a time when the young children in the family have to start taking some responsibility. And as they get a little wiser and a little older, you give them more and more responsibility to the point where, you know, they’re capable of running it themselves and Mum and Dad can sit back and actually enjoy it.

So you actually see this team as like a family, like a real family?

I do, and I think most of the people in it at the moment feel like that. You know, it’s a group of people trying to achieve a common goal, which is, put simply, to win every game we play, to make people proud of us. And to do that, we have to be all on, as I said, the same page. But there’s certain dynamics that happen within a family that happen within a team, and those dynamics sometimes can be positives or they can be negatives, and there’s always consequences either way. You know, you’re getting a pat on the back if you’re doing something positive or maybe a kick in the bum if you’re not doing what’s right. But you love the people that you work with, but sometimes you don’t like their behaviours, and that’s no different than your family too. You love your children and your partner and your wives and et cetera, but sometimes you don’t like their behaviour, and it’s a matter of saying, ‘Righto, well, that standard doesn’t live in this house,’ and it’s no different here. We’ve got standards and expectations. Don’t have a lot of rules, but those standards and expectations are driven every day and driven by the people from the top down and the bottom up, and no one has any right not to be living them, including myself, so…

I mean, how do you fit into that, you know, into this family concept? I mean, obviously you can’t be everybody’s mate; you’re the coach.

Look, again, I think when we first started out, as a leader you’ve got to decide, ‘Right, how am I going to live as a leader? What are the things that I’m going to negotiate on, and what are the things I’m not going to negotiate on?’ And when I presented those to the team, the number-one thing, the expectation I had, was the team would always come first. So every decision we make about and around the team is about what’s right for the team. So whilst you can be great mates, there’s always going to be a time when you have to make a decision, and then what’s stronger – your loyalty to that person or the team? And as much as I love everybody in the group, I love the team too. And my job is to make sure that the team is left better than what we found it. So, yeah, there are some tough decisions you have to make, but when you go back to, ‘Well, is this right for the team? Yes,’ then it’s an easy decision and even though there can be some tough moments within that decision.

You’re using the term ‘love’ there. You’re talking about loving these guys. I mean, you know, using that word to old-school All Blacks or old-school New Zealanders might seem a little namby-pamby in some senses. It’s fine by you, obviously?

Oh, it may seem namby-pamby to some people, but I know that to get the best out of these people and, again, I refer back to your family, like is it namby-pamby to love your own children and love your wife? I don’t think so, so why would it be any different when you spend a lot of time together and some of those times are heart-wrenching, some of them are great experiences, and I just see it as just a natural progression of being together, and they’re a group of brothers, and it’s about sharing those intimate moments from a sporting environment and you become closer because of that.

We talked before about getting a pat on the back, as you said, or a kick up the bum.


How do you, Steve Hansen… how do you see, how do you get the feel for what a player needs? How do you read a player as to whether they need that?

Well, once we’ve talked about the team coming first, the team’s made up of a whole lot of individuals, so you try and do your best to get to understand the individuals and what makes him or her tick and particularly the players. You’re really looking at them, ‘How am I going to get the best out of that person?’ along with the other guys that are helping you do that. And it’s just about watching them every day. You know, ‘Okay, well, he’s come in for breakfast today, and he don’t look happy, so something’s happening in his life or…’ It’s a feel. I don’t know. You just know after a while when you’re rubbing shoulders with them all the time what individuals need and what they don’t, and I guess that’s the art of coaching.

I mean, some people— it is the art of coaching, of course, or emotional intelligence, or EQ, I guess. You know, have people said that to you before, ‘You’ve obviously got a high EQ – high emotional intelligence’? Is that something you’ve got?

Oh, not sure. My wife would probably tell you I don’t, but, look, I think if you take the time to get to know yourself first. Like, self-awareness is massive, you know, ‘What’s the thing that I know about myself when I’m under pressure?’ and then you can actually look at others and say, ‘Well, that’s how he reacts. That’s how she reacts,’ and good, bad or indifferent. And when you know those things, then you can help them be better.

How do you motivate yourself? You spend a lot of time motivating the team, obviously, but what’s motivating you?

Interestingly enough, I don’t think my job is to motivate the team. My job is to create an environment where motivated athletes can perform. So how do I motivate myself? I guess it’s, one, I love winning – really love it. I’m a very, very competitive person. You know, I love debating and having discussions. And when I was younger, I was probably an average human being because of that, because I’d lose sight of, actually, this is just a discussion; it’s not a competition. That took a while for me to learn that and probably hurt some people along the way, but… So I love winning.

How did you hurt people? By…?

Well, New Zealanders are great at putting other people down. You know, some of us are quite sharp with our tongues, and you hurt people’s feelings by smacking them when— I don’t mean physically but verbally because you’ve outwitted them, but you walk away feeling pretty good about yourself because you’ve won that argument, but really you didn’t. You lost. You know, you lost somebody. So once you learn those sorts of things, I think that’s a little easier to understand compassion, I guess. But going back to your question of how do I motivate myself? Well, one, as I said, I’m competitive. Two, I have a massive amount of respect for the All Black jersey. I think, you know, I was never good enough to play for the All Blacks. I’m very, very grateful for the fact that I’ve been given the opportunity to even be the assistant coach, let alone the head coach. I’ve spent a lot of time in here now, and I understand the identity of who we are and what we want to be, and the mere thought of not doing what was right would, you know, destroy me, I think. I really desperately want to make sure when you walk away it’s been done right. So that motivates you. Then you’ve got your family, who make a massive sacrifice. And people say, ‘Oh, you sacrifice a lot to be here.’ We don’t sacrifice anything. We get to tour the world, we get to stay in lovely hotels and we get to play great arenas, and you’re doing something that a lot of people would chop their arm off to do. But the people who do sacrifice are your family, so you don’t want to let them down. If you’re going to be away from them, you need to be great, so that motivates you. And I think they’re probably the three key things that get me up in the morning and want me to be good at what I do.

You know, there’s also the bad feeling or the fear that New Zealand has of losing or that anger that comes out when the All Blacks do lose, and, you know, you’ve obviously thought a lot about this. It’s that weight of expectation that is on you from the country. How do you deal with that?

The key thing you’ve got to deal with first and foremost is understanding that in the All Blacks there’s a constant pressure. It’s constant. It’s just there all the time. There’s an expectation. And once you understand that and you accept it, it’s a lot easier to deal with it, because it’s just there, so, ‘Okay, what am I—? Am I going to run away from it, or am I going to walk towards it and take this on?’ And one of the reasons why the All Blacks have been as good as they’ve become over many many years I think is that expectation externally – our fans, our ex-rugby players – all expecting to front up and play well and win. Internally, the expectations have to be greater than that, and they have to meet those expectations and even be higher, so I think it’s driven the All Blacks. For a long time I think the All Blacks were driven by a fear of losing. You know, over time I think we’ve changed that to really not fear losing, because when you fear something, you stop taking risks, and if you don’t take risks, you don’t get the big rewards. And I think winning the World Cup in 2011 took a big monkey off a lot of people’s backs, and we could say, ‘Well, okay, people can stop calling us chokers now.’ And not only just the players, I think the whole country – it was just a big sigh of relief. And, you know, I’m a great believer that you’ve got to keep challenging the boundaries and you’ve got to be courageous enough to, you know, step off the cliff and jump into the unknown. And, you know, if you’ve got talent when you do that, then anything can happen. You can go to places that people can’t dream of.

What sort of things do you do to get out of the comfort zone – is what you’re talking about here, isn’t it? Get yourself out of the comfort zone, get the team out of the comfort zone. You know, what’s a sort of practical example of a risk that you’ve taken to get this team ready for the World Cup?

Well, probably our selections for this World Cup. We could have easily stayed with the tried and true, you know, a 53-capper in Cory Jane and a 49-capper in Israel Dagg, but we chose two guys who, one’s had 40 minutes and broke a leg and the other guy’s played two Test matches. But when we weighed it up from a selection point of view, we just thought, ‘These two guys are bringing something that we haven’t had that could really open up our game, and we really need it to be opened up. So is the reward worthy of a risk?’ and the three selectors said, ‘Yes, it is, so let’s go for it.’

You know, do you personally worry about losing at the World Cup? I mean, do you think about it? Do you block that out or, you know…?

I don’t worry about it, because worry is, for my mind, a wasted emotion. It’s either hasn’t happened or it has happened. So if it hasn’t happened, work towards it not – making sure it doesn’t happen – and if it has happened, then you’ve got to fix up what’s happening right now, the aftermath of it happening. So is it a possibility? Of course it is. You know, what we’re going to try and do, no one’s done before. No one’s won back-to-back World Cups. The All Blacks haven’t even been in a final in the UK or a European World Cup. So we would be very naïve and very foolish not to be thinking, you know, this could happen. And if we become fearful in that, then that’s what will happen. But if we can understand that those things are just in… they’re facts that maybe we don’t as a nation or maybe as past teams don’t want to actually— inconvenient facts that we don’t want to acknowledge. Well, we have to acknowledge them because that allows us to move back over to this side and say, ‘Righto, what are we going to do about that? How are we going to plan so it doesn’t happen? Why has it happened before?’ You know, I’ve been in All Black teams in 2007. We had the best team at that tournament, but we made massive mistakes. We’ve got to learn from those mistakes, otherwise the mistake was…. You know, it kills you. It hurts like hell to lose, but it’s even worse if you don’t learn from it and you’ve got nothing out of it. You’ve got to get something out of a loss.

So what’s the one thing that you’ve learned in all that time coaching that can stop us from losing this World Cup?

That we can’t just turn up there as the defenders of this Cup and expect to win it. We’re contenders like everybody else and there’s 20 teams there, so there’s another 19 teams, and we have to earn the right to even get to the play-offs. And then once we get to the play-offs, we have to earn the right to take the next step. So everything we do, we have to earn it.

How do you do that, though? Because, of course, everyone will say we can’t turn up like we expect to win. We’ve got to turn up, as you say, like contenders. But how do you actually create that mind shift so it’s real?

I think—

Because everyone would grapple with this. Everyone wants to get better. I mean, how do you actually do it?

I think it’s about living it every day. You create an environment where you’re living every day trying to get better and you’re not accepting that what you’re doing today’s good enough. And I think if you keep pushing and pushing that and everyone’s bought in to it first and foremost and then you keep pushing it and driving it, it’s achievable. But the minute you decide that, ‘Okay, well, we’ve arrived,’ someone’s just going to draw straight past you. So whilst we’re in front, how hard are the people behind us working? They’re working extremely hard because they want to be in front, so therefore we have to work just as hard in the front. And I think that’s the mistake sometimes we can make in sporting and even in business, I reckon. You know, you go in really well, but you’re not looking at all the inconvenient facts that are out there saying, ‘Well, you know, if you don’t sort that out, that’s going to be a problem. If you don’t sort that out, that’s going to be a problem.’ And if you’re not real with yourself, then, you know, you’re not going to get any better, so… It doesn’t mean to say we’ll win the World Cup because we know these things. We’ve still got to drive them, and there’s still going to be some really, really good— I think it’s probably the best World Cup of the four that I’ve been to because anyone can win it. You know, and the number-two side at the moment in the world is Ireland. It might have slipped after losing the other day, I’m not sure, but currently I think they’re number two. We could play them in a quarter-final. And the number-one side and the number-two side ranked in the world – one of us is not going to go forward. Now, so just because you’ve got a ranking that says you’re one or two or three or four doesn’t give you the right to be in the top four for the semi-finals, and it certainly doesn’t give you a right to be in the final.

That’s a good place to leave it. Steve Hansen, thank you for your time.

Thank you. Cheers.

Transcript provided by Able. http://www.able.co.nz