During the 1970s and 1980s, our progressive thinking came to be increasingly influenced by environmentalism, the human rights movement, and reactions against government authoritarianism. These influences were reflected in the achievements of the Fourth Labour Government between 1984 and 1990. We enacted a Constitution Act and a Bill of Rights Act, as well as measures to promote open government, and paved the way for the reform of the electoral system. We enacted an Environment Act and a Conservation Act, laid the groundwork for the passage of the Resource Management Act, and took the first steps toward a climate change response. We repealed anti-worker legislation and created a modern industrial relations system. Homosexual law reform took place, parental leave entitlements were created, and significant extensions of housing, educational, social and health entitlements occurred. The Waitangi Tribunal’s jurisdiction to consider historical Treaty grievances was extended back to 1840, te reo Maori became an official language, New Zealand went nuclear free, and we re-established diplomatic and trade representation with powers such as India.
But the Fourth Labour Government’s programme of extensive economic reform was in breach of Labour’s traditions and values. Without any specific mandate, this Labour government embarked on a wide-ranging programme of privatisation; abandoned the central policy goal of full employment and instead focussed the Reserve Bank on the reduction of inflation above all else; opened the economy suddenly to international forces; and gave up a large degree of regulatory control in favour of unrestrained market forces. As a result, short- and long-term unemployment soared, poverty and economic inequality grew, and trust and confidence in government in general – and Labour in particular - plummeted.
The Fifth Labour Government took office in 1999. We largely put behind us the economic legacy of the 1980s and 1990s, providing change across a range of areas in line with Labour’s values. Important achievements included restoring economic growth, and then sharing its gains through programmes such as interest-free student loans, Working for Families, and paid parental leave. We improved collective bargaining and other workplace rights after the 1991 assault on employment rights; made retirement more secure by founding KiwiSaver and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund; created KiwiBank and bought back control of KiwiRail and Air New Zealand. We began to put our economy on a sustainable basis, including by developing an Emissions Trading Scheme; speeded the pace of Treaty settlements; established final appeal rights within our own Court system; invested heavily in infrastructure; delivered the lowest unemployment in a generation; paid off almost all of the public debt; and kept New Zealand out of foreign military entanglements – particularly the Iraq war.
Labour left office in 2008 with more people in work and a stronger economy than had been seen for a generation. Inequalities were reducing and New Zealand was moving in the right direction.
Several points for transparency of document release. Minus several million points for historical fiction. The curse of Helen Clark endures.