New Zealand Party

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New Zealand Party
Founder Bob Jones
Founded 1983
Dissolved 1990;28 years ago (1990)
Ideology Classical liberalism
Libertarianism
SloganFreedom and Prosperity

The New Zealand Party operated as a political party in New Zealand from 1983 to about 1986. Established by millionaire property tycoon Bob Jones, the party promoted economic liberalisation—it was the first political party to promote free market reforms. [1] It failed to win any seats in Parliament, but it purportedly played a role in causing the defeat of Robert Muldoon's National government in the 1984 election by splitting the vote (as a spoiler).

A political party is an organized group of people, often with common views, who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters' interests.

Sir Robert Edward Jones, known as Sir Bob Jones, is a property investor, author and former politician in New Zealand.

In economics, a free market is a system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and by consumers. In a free market, the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government or other authority and from all forms of economic privilege, monopolies and artificial scarcities. Proponents of the concept of free market contrast it with a regulated market in which a government intervenes in supply and demand through various methods, such as tariffs, used to restrict trade and to protect the local economy. In an idealized free-market economy, prices for goods and services are set freely by the forces of supply and demand and are allowed to reach their point of equilibrium without intervention by government policy.

Contents

History

Foundation

At the time of the New Zealand Party's foundation in 1983, [2] the Prime Minister was Robert Muldoon. Muldoon was a social conservative but also a strong believer in the need for state intervention in the economy, claiming that only with government involvement could New Zealand be prosperous. In accordance with his economic theories, Muldoon introduced the so-called "Think Big" program, which saw massive overseas borrowing to finance large government construction projects. Later, as New Zealand's economy declined and its deficit increased, Muldoon introduced wage and price controls.

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.

Think Big

Think Big was an interventionist state economic strategy of the Third National Government of New Zealand, promoted by the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (1975–1984) and his National government in the early 1980s. The Think Big schemes saw the government borrow heavily overseas, running up a large external deficit, and using the funds for large-scale industrial projects. Petrochemical- and energy-related projects figured prominently, designed to utilize New Zealand's abundant natural gas to produce ammonia, urea fertilizer, methanol and petrol.

Bob Jones, a self-made millionaire and author, strongly opposed these policies, comparing them to what he had recently observed in the Soviet bloc. In a number of newspaper opinion pieces, Jones spoke out against the government, claiming that the National Party had betrayed its principles of individual liberty and free enterprise. For example, Jones advocated a flat tax, while the top rate at the time was 66%. Since Jones had previously been a strong supporter of the National Party and a personal friend of Muldoon, his attacks on the government marked an end to both associations.

Newspaper scheduled publication containing news of events, articles, features, editorials, and advertising

A newspaper is a periodical publication containing written information about current events and is often typed in black ink with a white or gray background.

A flat tax is a tax system with a constant marginal rate, usually applied to individual or corporate income. A true flat tax would be a proportional tax, but implementations are often progressive and sometimes regressive depending on deductions and exemptions in the tax base. There are various tax systems that are labeled "flat tax" even though they are significantly different.

Jones attracted considerable attention with his comments. Although he had not originally considered it, a number of people encouraged him to start a new political party. Jones himself believed that a new party could conceivably split the National Party's vote, bringing the government down. Jones appears to have hoped that losing an election would help to purge the National Party of "Muldoonism". Along with some of the people who had contacted him about the matter, Jones began to lay the foundations for a new organization. The party's name and motto were chosen, and its primary policies were set out.

When Muldoon heard of Jones's plans, he initially dismissed them as a hoax, saying that the rumours were a publicity stunt by Jones. The comments galvanized Jones and his supporters into action, and it was decided to officially launch the new party on 22 August. The launch, which coincided with the release of the party's manifesto, was well covered by the media, and the New Zealand Party gained considerable public recognition. Not long after it was founded, some polls showed the party with nearly 20% of the vote.

Manifesto published declaration of principles and intentions of an individual or group

A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual's life stance. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds.

Early days

The policies established by the New Zealand Party differed substantially from those of most of the country's other parties. Perhaps its most well-known views related to economic matters, particularly the liberalization of the economy and the adoption of laissez-faire principles. The party also, however, put forward a number of other significant proposals. One example was the party's unorthodox defence policy, which advocated a large reduction in military expenditure and the abandonment of New Zealand's defence links with Australia and the United States (particularly the ANZUS alliance). Jones himself favoured the total abolition of New Zealand's armed forces, but that was considered too radical to be adopted as New Zealand Party policy.

Liberalization is any process whereby a state lifts restrictions on some private individual activities. Liberalization occurs when something which used to be banned is no longer banned, or when government regulations are relaxed.

Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government intervention such as regulation, privileges, tariffs and subsidies. The phrase laissez-faire is part of a larger French phrase and literally translates to "let (it/them) do", but in this context usually means "let go".

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

While the New Zealand Party attracted considerable support, it also attracted a considerable amount of criticism Muldoon labeled the party "greedies", pointing to Jones's personal wealth and to the fact that much of the party's support came from the richer sections of society. The party was also attacked by left-wing groups, which objected to its support of free market economics. Both Muldoon and left-wing groups claimed that the New Zealand Party was out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders. In addition, the party also struggled to shake off the perception that it was "the Bob Jones Party" and not a full-fledged political movement. Jones himself was sometimes criticised for his blunt and "politically incorrect" style, but others found it refreshing.

Other prominent figures within the New Zealand Party included Janie Pearce (the deputy leader), Josephine Grierson (an economic policy specialist), and Gordon Dryden. Dryden, whose views often clashed with those of other party members, was highly charismatic, and gained a substantial following within the party. In May 1984, he left the party after a major disagreement with Jones.

1984 election

When Muldoon unexpectedly called an early election, the New Zealand Party was caught by surprise and had only a month to prepare its campaign. Opinion polls gave a mixed view of the party's strength. Some gave it up to 20% of the vote, but others gave it only around 2-3%. Perhaps unwisely, the party did not decide to focus on specific seats, but instead spread its efforts equally across the country.

On election day, the New Zealand Party failed to win any seats. New Zealand then used the plurality voting system, which made it hard for third parties to gain representation in Parliament. The party gained second place in several electorates,and gained third place in many more. However, its votes were dispersed, rather than concentrated in any one area, so it was unable to enter Parliament. In total, the New Zealand Party gained 12.2% of the vote, putting it in third place. The Social Credit Party, although winning only 7.6% of the vote, won two seats, probably as the result of having specifically focused its attention on them since the 1950s.

While its failure to win seats was a major disappointment to the New Zealand Party, it took comfort in the fact that it likely caused the defeat of the government. The opposition Labour Party soundly defeated Muldoon and the National Party, and many commentators believe that the New Zealand Party played a major role in drawing voters away from National. Once in power, the Labour Party (prompted by Finance Minister Roger Douglas) actually adopted many of the New Zealand Party's economic policies, much to the resentment of traditional Labour supporters. Indeed, Douglas even wanted a flat tax, but was stymied by the Labour Prime Minister David Lange. Shortly after the election, the National Party dropped Muldoon as leader and eventually came to embrace free market economics as well.

Decline

After the election, the New Zealand Party quickly deteriorated as a significant political force. Jones, his primary objective of ending the Muldoon government having been accomplished, and disappointed by the Party's electoral performance in the 1985 Timaru by-election, unilaterally made a decision to put the Party into recess. He later said that with the "Rogernomics" reforms being undertaken by the new administration, he considered his party to be redundant. A few other prominent figures, most notably Party President Malcolm McDonald, also left the party at this stage. Not surprisingly, many in the Party's ranks considered Jones' move to put the party into recess without reference to Party Members to be undemocratic and, despite Jones' opposition, proceeded to hold the scheduled annual conference in July 1985. At that conference, delegates elected John Galvin, a dairy farmer from Matamata, as Party Leader. In 1986, with its policy platform largely implemented by a reforming Labour Government, beset by funding problems and falling support, the New Zealand Party opted to "merge" into the National Party as an attempt to keep its strong free enterprise and libertarian philosophy alive. However, the name "New Zealand Party" continued to be used by some individuals beyond that point as a Rump party. Stephen Greenfield ( who stood in North Shore) became the new leader and led the remaining New Zealand Party in the 1987 election which saw a huge drop in support. [3] Eventually some former members of the party ended up as part of a supposedly centrist coalition led by Bruce Beetham.

Some commentators see the modern ACT New Zealand party as being the successor of the New Zealand Party, and Bob Jones is counted among ACT's supporters. Not everyone would agree with the link, however, and there are a number of notable differences in policy between the two. For example, ACT's foreign and defence policies are directly contrary to New Zealand Party policy, with ACT advocating increased defence expenditure and the strengthening of traditional alliances. ACT has never won as many votes as the New Zealand Party gained in 1984.

Electoral results

Electioncandidatesseats wonvotespercentage
1984 950 236,38512.25
1987 320 5,3810.29
1990 40 4770.02

Further reading

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References

  1. Jesson, Bruce. Fragments of labour: the story behind the labour government. Penguin Books. p. 34.
  2. Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years: A History of the New Zealand National Party. Reed Methuen Publishers. p. 149. ISBN   0-474-00177-6.
  3. "Collapse is Not End - NZ Party". The New Zealand Herald . 17 August 1987. p. 3.