Political History of New Zealand/Political Policies in the Twentieth Century

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Political Policies in the Twentieth Century


At the turn of the century, the Liberals, New Zealand's first modern political party, were in power as the Government. The Liberals created a 'family farm' economy, by subdividing large estates and buying more Maori land in the North Island. New Zealand gained strong economic ties with Britain, exporting farm produce and other goods. Under Liberal, New Zealand started to form its own identity, and due to this, New Zealand declined to join the Australian Federation of 1901.

The Liberals were defeated in the 1912 election by the Reform Party, and never fully recovered. William Massey, the leader of the Reform Party, had promised state leaseholders they could freehold their land, which proved to be a good promise in winning the election. Under the Reform Party, New Zealand entered World War I, aiding Britain.

New Zealand had prosperous years at the end of the 1920s, and so was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Conservative coalition Government failed to get New Zealand out of the Depression, which led to the rise of the Labour Party in 1935.

Under Labour, New Zealand's economy slowly recovered. The Reserve Bank was taken over by the state in 1936, spending on public works increased, and the State Housing Programme began. The Social Security Act 1938 increased the state of welfare dramatically.

With the outbreak of World War II in the 1940s, the New Zealand Government again chose to support Britain with troops. New Zealand also chose to fight in Korea in the early 1950s.

In 1945, Peter Fraser played a signifiant role in the conference that set up the United Nations, but the Labour Government was losing support. In 1949, the National Party became the Government of New Zealand. In the 1960s, the National Government sent troops to Vietnam to keep on side with the United States, despite protests, but this didn't hinder New Zealand's support of the National Party, and National ruled New Zealand until 1984 with only two exceptions.

New Zealand's culture remained based on Britain's through the 1960s, and the economy was still mainly made up of exporting farm produce to Britain. However, when Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973, New Zealand no longer had an assured market for farm products.

After the second oil shock of 1978, the National Government tried to fix the problem with new industrial and energy initiatives and farm subsidies. The economy faltered in the 1980s when the fall of oil prices made these schemes unsound. Inflation and unemployment went up as a result.

The National Government of 1990-99 passed the controversial Employment Contracts Act which opened up the labour market, but diminished the power of trade unions.

In 1996, a new voting system was introduced, Mixed Member Proportional Representation, which allowed minority or coalition Governments to become the norm, but the National and Labour parties still remained dominant.

Prime Ministers of the Twentieth Century

Name Term in Office Party
Joseph Ward 6 August 1906 - 28 March 1912 Liberal
Thomas Mackenzie 28 March 1912 - 10 July 1912 Liberal
William Massey 10 July 1912 - 10 May 1925 Reform
Francis Bell 10 May 1925 - 30 May 1925 Reform
Gordon Coates 30 May 1925 - 10 December 1928 Reform
Joseph Ward (2nd time) 10 December 1928 - 28 May 1930 United (Liberal)
George Forbes 28 May 1930 - 6 December 1935 United (Liberal)
Michael Joseph Savage 6 December 1935 - 27 March 1940 Labour
Peter Fraser 27 March 1940 - 13 December 1949 Labour
Sidney Holland 13 December 1949 - 20 September 1957 National
Keith Holyoake 20 September 1957 - 12 December 1957 National
Walter Nash 12 December 1957 - 12 December 1960 Labour
Keith Holyoake (2nd time) 12 December 1960 - 7 February 1972 National
Jack Marshall 7 February 1972 - 8 December 1972 National
Norman Kirk 8 December 1972 - 31 August 1974 Labour
Hugh Watt (Acting) 31 August 1974 - 6 September 1974 Labour
Bill Rowling 6 September 1974 - 12 December 1975 Labour
Robert Muldoon 12 December 1975 - 26 July 1984 National
David Lange 26 July 1984 - 8 August 1989 Labour
Geoffrey Palmer 8 August 1989 - 4 September 1990 Labour
Mike Moore 4 September 1990 - 2 November 1990 Labour
Jim Bolger 2 November 1990 - 8 December 1997 National
Jenny Shipley 8 December 1997 - 5 December 1999 National
Helen Clark 5 December 1999 - 8 November 2008 Labour
John Key 8 November 2008 - present National

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