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New Zealand's dim new world

By Cecily McNeill - posted Tuesday, 11 November 2008

As America looks forward to a bright future with its first black president Barack Obama at the helm, its tiny, South Pacific anti-nuclear challenger, New Zealand, reversed out of Obama's hope for a better life for all over the weekend and elected a centre-right government led by a political newcomer.

After just six years in parliament, John Key is New Zealand's new prime minister following the nine-year reign of Helen Clark, the country's first elected woman PM and her Labour-led coalition government (the first woman PM, Jenny Shipley, won the role in a leadership coup backlash against Jim Bolger's leadership of the National party in 1997).

The 47-year-old former merchant banker, John Key, made his millions trading in foreign currency.


Key campaigned on his ability to manage the economy, trading on his international experience on the money market.

But, in a bid to appeal to a wider voting pool, Key liked to talk about his beginnings in a government-owned state house where his widowed mother raised her three children in the '60s and '70s.

Key's other campaign plank has been tax cuts which translate into more money for the rich. On Saturday night he reaffirmed that legislation to enact these would be in place by Christmas along with a raft of reforms including a review of public service spending and resource management, a policy likely to buy a fight with the Greens who see it as allowing a charter for development without enough protection for the environment.

A strong law and order focus will see parole and bail laws toughened, a clamp down on gangs and DNA testing for everyone arrested for an imprisonable offence.

Meanwhile, outgoing prime minister, Helen Clark, has accepted responsibility for her party's election defeat and she and Labour's deputy leader, Michael Cullen, have stepped down.

During three terms in office, Helen Clark has made her mark as a steady manager rather than a charismatic leader.


Economist Brian Easton says the Clark government saw as its job to reverse the extremism of Rogernomics instituted by the Labour finance minister in 1984. Roger Douglas's policies included cutting agricultural subsidies and trade barriers, privatising public assets and the control of inflation through measures rooted in monetarism.

Rogernomics was seen by some Labourites as a betrayal of traditional Labour ideals.

“In a sense having done that, it was unable to offer anything other than a sense of competence,” said Easton.

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First published in Eureka Street on November 10, 2008.

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About the Author

Cecily McNeill is a former Radio New Zealand broadcaster who is currently editor of the Wellington Catholic newspaper Wel-com.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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