Andrew Little (New Zealand politician)

Last updated


Andrew Little

MP
Andrew Little 2019 (cropped).jpg
Little in 2019
49th Minister of Justice
Minister for Courts
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by Amy Adams
6th Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by Christopher Finlayson
Minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by Christopher Finlayson
Minister for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by Christopher Finlayson
Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded byOffice created
35th Leader of the Opposition
In office
18 November 2014 1 August 2017
Deputy Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by David Cunliffe
Succeeded by Jacinda Ardern
16th Leader of the Labour Party
In office
18 November 2014 1 August 2017
Deputy Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by David Cunliffe
Succeeded by Jacinda Ardern
President of the Labour Party
In office
2 March 2009 2 April 2011
Vice President Moira Coatsworth
Preceded by Mike Williams
Succeeded by Moira Coatsworth
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for the Labour Party List
Assumed office
26 November 2011
Personal details
Born
Andrew James Little

(1965-05-07) 7 May 1965 (age 55)
New Plymouth, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)Leigh Fitzgerald (2008–present)
Children1
Alma mater Victoria University of Wellington
Website Party profile

Andrew James Little (born 7 May 1965) is a New Zealand politician and former trade union official serving as Minister of Justice and Courts and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations since 2017. He is also the Minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. Little was previously Labour Leader and Leader of the Opposition from 2014 to 2017.

Contents

Little was the national secretary of New Zealand's largest trade union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), and he was President of the Labour Party from 2009 to 2011. He entered Parliament in 2011 as a list MP. Little served as the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 2014 until 2017, when he resigned to make way for Jacinda Ardern.

With the formation of a Labour-led coalition government in October 2017, Little was appointed as Minister of Justice, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, and Minister in charge of the Government Communications Security Bureau and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. [1]

Early life

Born in New Plymouth on 7 May 1965, [2] Little was educated at New Plymouth Boys' High School. His father was a devout National Party supporter and Little recalls delivering National pamphlets under his father's direction when he was younger. [3] When he was 17, Little got his first job as a labourer digging the main cable trench for a new methanol plant in Waitara Valley as part of the "Think Big" project. During his time there he noticed that the contractor he was working for was deliberately using a less than adequate amount of concrete than the work required. He finished work there at the beginning of 1984 and left upon being accepted to enter university. [4]

In the 1980s he studied law, philosophy and public policy at Victoria University of Wellington, where he became active in the campaign against New Zealand's student loan scheme. He was elected president of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association and later served as New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) president in 1988 and 1989. [5]

Career with trade unions

After graduating he took a job as a lawyer with the Engineers' Union (a forerunner of the EPMU), with his work including Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and employment law issues. [6] In 1997 he was appointed the union's general counsel (chief lawyer). Two years later, he was appointed assistant national secretary, and was elected national secretary when Rex Jones stood down from the position in 2000. [7]

In 2007 Little was ranked at number 40 on the New Zealand Listener Power List. [8]

Little became an important extra-parliamentary figure within the Labour Party and was one of the main advisors from the trade unions. Little was a representative on Labour's national council as Affiliates Vice-President, responsible for liaison between the Labour Party and affiliated trade unions. [9] On 2 March 2009 it was announced that Little was elected unopposed as President of the New Zealand Labour Party. [10] He held that post until 2 April 2011. [11]

Member of Parliament (2011–present)

New Zealand Parliament
YearsTermElectorateListParty
2011 2014 50th List 15 Labour
2014 2017 51st List 11 Labour
2017 present 52nd List 3 Labour

Little stood for Parliament in the 2011 general election; despite a loss in the New Plymouth electorate to the National Party incumbent Jonathan Young, he was elected as a list MP owing to his ranking of 15 on the Labour Party list. [12] [13]

He took on the ACC portfolio and gained profile during the National Party's restructuring of the organisation. [6] Together with Trevor Mallard, he launched attacks against ACC Minister Judith Collins, who eventually responded with issuing a defamation claim. The affair resulted in the resignations of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) chairman John Judge, and the ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart. [14]

At the 2014 election he again stood and lost in the New Plymouth electorate. Young was returned with a much increased margin, but this was partially explained by boundary changes. [6] [15] Little was elected as list MP because of his ranking of 11 on the Labour Party list. [16]

Little introduced a member's bill in the ballot that, if passed, would create a new criminal offence of corporate manslaughter. [17] The bill was drafted in the wake of the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster and the CTV Building collapse during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. [18] The bill is modelled on the United Kingdom's Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Little believes the bill is needed as "the track record of prosecutions under the Health and Safety Act is that they tend to focus on lower level failures because getting the evidence and securing the conviction are easier, but personal responsibility for fatalities goes unchecked." [19] A 2012 3News poll found that seventy-four percent of respondents would like to see a charge of corporate manslaughter introduced. [20]

Leader of the Opposition (2014–2017)

Little's 'State of the Nation' speech, January 2016 Andrew Little gives State of the Nation speech 06.JPG
Little's 'State of the Nation' speech, January 2016

Following Labour's defeat at the general election in September 2014, David Cunliffe resigned as leader of the Labour Party. [21] Little announced his bid for the 2014 Labour Party leadership election on 9 October 2014 and was nominated by Poto Williams and Iain Lees-Galloway. [22] [23] He won the election, which was held on 18 November 2014, and defeated Grant Robertson, David Parker, and Nanaia Mahuta. [24] The public media focused on his trade union background. [25]

As Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, Little sought to challenge the Government with a strong alternative narrative. In a 2015 conference speech he introduced a new "Kiwi dream" theme (the New Zealand dream). [25] In 2015 Labour introduced a new slogan, "Backing the Kiwi Dream". [26] Little largely focused on issues and concerns such as rising house prices in urban areas, a 'brain drain', unemployment and job security and the growing wage gap between baby boomers and millennials—the "Kiwi dream" narrative was particularly designed to engage young voters. [27]

On 30 November 2015 Little reshuffled his shadow cabinet. He appointed 22 MPs and formally ranked the first 12, including several promotions. He also promoted a Maori MP, Nanaia Mahuta, as shadow spokesperson Treaty of Waitangi negotiations. Little said he saw the line-up as a "blueprint" for a Labour cabinet after 2017. [28]

Little was criticised by some for perceived poor performance in television interviews, his low profile and poor name recognition with the general public. [29] A Dominion Post assessment said "he has little charisma and a lack of new ideas" and criticised Labour's "bare platform". [30] He was praised by political commentators early in his leadership for uniting the party caucus and averting the infighting that characterised David Cunliffe's tenure as leader, though at the expense of dropping many of the party's former policy proposals. [29]

In October 2016 Labour floated the idea of a levy on employers who imported offshore skilled labour rather than upskilled their domestic workers. Little responded to criticisms that it amounted to a "tax on immigrants", saying "If we want to make sure we've got the skills for the future ... for those employers who don't take on apprentices, don't invest in training, you can contribute a levy and that'll help to defray the cost of those who are doing the training". [31] Little also criticised the number of travel visas granted to semi-skilled workers, citing statistics. Kirk Hope, Chief executive of Business New Zealand, criticised the proposal policy and warned that it would affect smaller businesses who are unable to recruit enough local workers. [31]

Little (as Labour leader) meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in June 2017 Secretary Tillerson Meets With New Zealand Labour Party Leader Little (34742408490).jpg
Little (as Labour leader) meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in June 2017

Little was sued for defamation by Lani and Earl Hagaman after he made statements linking a contract awarded to their company with donations they had made to the National Party. In April 2017, a jury cleared him of some of the charges, and were unable to reach a verdict on others. [32]

On 1 August 2017, Little resigned as Leader of the Labour Party due to the party's history of low results in polls, and was succeeded by deputy leader Jacinda Ardern. [33] Little was later lauded by party supporters for putting aside his personal ambition to allow Ardern to lead the party, which saw a swift reversal of fortune for Labour. His decision has been labelled a "selfless masterstroke" and was praised for his integrity and selflessness. [34]

Cabinet Minister (2017–present)

The Labour Party increased its share of the vote in the 2017 election. Little was elected as a Cabinet Minister by the Labour Party caucus following Labour's formation of a government with New Zealand First and the Greens. [35] In late October 2017, Little assumed several portfolios including Minister of Justice, Minister of Courts, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, and Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry. [1]

On 20 November 2017, Little announced the creation of the Pike River Recovery Agency to plan a manned re-entry of the Pike River Mine in order to recover the bodies of the 29 miners who perished during the Pike River Mine disaster in September 2010. [36] [37] On 19 April 2018, Little entered the Pike River mine portal with victims' family representatives Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse to demonstrate that a safe re-entry was possible. He also promised that the Government would re-enter the drift to recover evidence and the remains of deceased miners. [38]

In December 2017, Little announced plans to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent over the next 15 years. [39] The prison population at the time was 10,394. [40] Towards this goal, in May 2018, he announced the Government would repeal the contentious 'three strikes' law – the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 [41] – which had been introduced by the previous National Government. [42] NZ First refused to back this proposal forcing Little to announce on 11 June 2018 that the coalition Government had abandoned the plan. [43] [44]

Little later voiced criticism of Australia's deportation of New Zealanders in Australia during a controversial Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary entitled "Don't Call Australia Home", that was released on 17 July 2018. Under changes to the Australian Migration Act, any foreigners with a criminal record or who do not meet a "character test" are subject to deportation. Little remarked that Australia's deportation policy would damage the sibling relationship between the two countries. [45] Little's remarks drew criticism from the Australian Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke, who defended the deportations on law and order grounds and criticized Little for not urging New Zealand citizens to obey Australian law. [46] [47] In response, Little criticized Australia's deportation laws for lacking "humanitarian ideals" and described the removal of New Zealand citizens who identified as Australian residents as a human rights violation. [48] In response, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton defended his government's deportation policy and called on Little to reflect "a little more" on the Trans-Tasman relationship. Little countered by expressing concern about what he perceived as a growing "venality" in Australia's treatment of foreigners. [49]

On 24 July 2018, Little rejected a call by the United Nations committee on women's rights for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand's Family Court system, saying the New Zealand Government already has a fair idea of what the problems were. Little had already ordered a Ministerial Review of the Family Court. [50]

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, Little told Radio New Zealand, “I have given authority to the agencies to do intrusive activities under warrant, the number of those (warrants) I’m not at liberty to disclose". He said that the intelligence services usually put 30 to 40 people under monitoring at a time. Although more people than usual were being monitored, he was not willing to reveal how many. He also stated that the operations could be anything from physical surveillance to watching telecommunications activity. [51]

On 5 August 2019, as Justice Minister, Little announced abortion law reform legislation that would permit abortion without restrictions for the first 20 weeks of a woman's pregnancy. While later-term abortions will still require testing by medical experts, Little announced that abortion would also be removed from the Crimes Act 1961. Other changes include allowing women to self-refer to an abortion service, ensuring that health practitioners advise women about counselling services, establishing safe areas around abortion facilities, and ensuring that conscientious objecting doctors inform women about their stance and alternative services. [52] [53] [54] Labour had negotiated with New Zealand First cabinet minister Tracey Martin for several months to ensure support for the legislation. Though Martin ruled out a referendum, she was overruled by NZ First party leader Winston Peters, who demanded a binding referendum. Little rejected Peters' call for a referendum, stating that the Government would seek the support of MPs from all parties to pass the legislation. [55] On 18 March 2020, he voted for the bill at its third reading, and it became law as the Abortion Legislation Act 2020. [56]

Personal life

Little currently lives in Island Bay, Wellington with his wife Leigh and their son. [6] [57]

He was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in 2009; but after receiving treatment, he was given a clean bill of health. He has subsequently had annual check-ups. [58]

See also

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References

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Party political offices
Preceded by
Mike Williams
President of the Labour Party
2009–2011
Succeeded by
Moira Coatsworth
Preceded by
David Cunliffe
Leader of the Labour Party
2014–2017
Succeeded by
Jacinda Ardern
Political offices
Preceded by
David Cunliffe
Leader of the Opposition
2014–2017
Succeeded by
Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by
Amy Adams
Minister of Justice
2017–present
Incumbent
Minister for Courts
2017–present
Preceded by
Christopher Finlayson
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
2017–present
Minister Responsible for GCSB
2017–present
Minister Responsible for NZSIS
2017–present