Arise, Sir Ralph

BY MICHAEL EVANS
Last updated 12:20 11/03/2009

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There's nothing like a change in government to shake up the honours system.

And our cousins across the ditch have rejigged decorations for their favourite sons and daughters, allowing one of their most-decorated bankers, Commonwealth Bank of Australia boss Ralph Norris, to take the title of Sir Ralph.

And to think we knew him - the former ASB and Air New Zealand CEO - when he was plain ol' "Chuck" Norris.

Turns out New Zealand ditched the honorifics of Sir and Dame back in 2000 under Labour. But the blue-blood Prime Minister John Key has moved to reinstate them.

Norris, of course, picked up his gong, a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, under Labour.

Oh, the pressure on the boss of the people's bank to accept the title. Still, think of the preferential treatment at the Auckland Airport Chairman's Lounge.

CommBank has a proud history of being run by knights of the realm. Sir Ralph would, in fact, be the sixth to run Her Majesty's Commonwealth Bank and the first since Sir Ronald Elliott's reign ended in 1981.

No doubt the upgrade provides the opportunity for some pleasantries around the CommBank board table, including the chairman, John Schubert, addressing his lowly chief executive as Sir Ralph.

Sadly, the bank hasn't had a knight in the chairman's chair since since Sir Brian Massy-Greene left in 1988.

Also on the Kiwi upgrade list is Stephen Tindall. The Woolies boss Michael Luscombe will be delighted at the prospect of calling him Sir Stephen next time he tries to buy Tindall's Warehouse retail outfit.

The actor Sam Neill and 80-odd other Kiwis, including a fair number of All Blacks, awarded the top gong over the past nine years, can choose to upgrade their title to Sir or Dame.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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