Paula Bennett

Last updated

Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett in 2018.png
Bennett in 2018
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Leader Bill English
Simon Bridges
Preceded by Kelvin Davis
Deputy Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
12 December 2016
Leader Bill English
Simon Bridges
Preceded by Bill English
18th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
12 December 2016 26 October 2017
Preceded byBill English
Succeeded by Winston Peters
Minister of State Services
In office
8 October 2014 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Jonathan Coleman
Succeeded by Chris Hipkins
14th Minister for Women
In office
20 December 2016 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded by Louise Upston
Succeeded by Julie Anne Genter
17th Minister of Tourism
In office
20 December 2016 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded by John Key
Succeeded by Kelvin Davis
21st Minister of Police
In office
20 December 2016 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded by Judith Collins
Succeeded by Stuart Nash
Minister for Climate Change Issues
In office
14 December 2015 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Tim Groser
Succeeded by James Shaw
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Upper Harbour
Assumed office
21 September 2014
Preceded byconstituency established
Personal details
Born (1969-04-09) 9 April 1969 (age 50)
Auckland, New Zealand [1]
NationalityNew Zealand
Political party National Party
Spouse(s)Alan Philps [2]
Alma mater Massey University (BA)
OccupationRecruitment consultant

Paula Lee Bennett (born 9 April 1969) is a New Zealand politician who serves as the Deputy Leader of the National Party and MP for Upper Harbour. She served as the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand between December 2016 and October 2017.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.

Upper Harbour (New Zealand electorate) Current New Zealand electorate

Upper Harbour is a parliamentary electorate in Auckland that returns one member to the New Zealand House of Representatives. It was first formed for the 2014 election. The seat was won by National's Paula Bennett in both the 2014 and 2017 election.

Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand is the second-most senior minister in the Government of New Zealand, although this seniority does not necessarily translate into power. The office was created as a ministerial portfolio in 1954. The officeholder usually deputises for the prime minister at official functions. The current Deputy Prime Minister is Winston Peters, the Leader of New Zealand First.


Bennett previously represented the electorate of Waitakere, which was abolished prior to the 2014 general election. [3] [4] She held the Cabinet portfolios of State Services, Women, Tourism, Police, and Climate Change Issues before the National Party were replaced in government by a Labour/NZ First coalition in October 2017.

Waitakere (New Zealand electorate) former New Zealand parliamentary electorate

Waitakere was a parliamentary electorate, returning one Member of Parliament to the New Zealand House of Representatives. The electorate was first formed for the 1946 election and existed until 2014, with breaks from 1969 to 1978 and from 1987 to 1993. The last MP for Waitakere was Paula Bennett of the National Party, who had held this position since the 2008 election.

2014 New Zealand general election

The 2014 New Zealand general election took place on Saturday 20 September 2014 to determine the membership of the 51st New Zealand Parliament.

Cabinet of New Zealand

The Cabinet of New Zealand is the New Zealand Government's body of senior ministers, responsible to the New Zealand Parliament. Cabinet meetings, chaired by the prime minister, occur once a week; in them, vital issues are discussed and government policy is formulated. Though not established by any statute, Cabinet has significant power in the New Zealand political system and nearly all bills proposed by Cabinet in Parliament are enacted.

Early life and career

Bennett was born on 9 April 1969 in Auckland, New Zealand, the daughter of Bob Bennett and Lee Bennett. She has Tainui ancestry through her half-Māori paternal grandmother, Ailsa Bennett. [5] Her father had a flooring business in Auckland, then in 1974 bought the village store at Kinloch, near Taupo. Bennett attended Taupo-nui-a-Tia College in Taupo. At 17 she gave birth to a daughter, Ana, and raised her alone while working in hospitality and tourism-industry jobs or, at times, receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit. [1] [6]

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. A Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

Tainui is a tribal waka confederation of New Zealand Māori iwi. The Tainui confederation comprises four principal related Māori iwi of the central North Island of New Zealand: Hauraki, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa and Waikato. There are other Tainui iwi whose tribal areas lay outside the traditional Tainui boundaries - Ngāi Tai in the Bay of Plenty, Ngati Raukawa, and Ngāti Toa in the Horowhenua, Kapiti region and Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Koata in the northern South Island.

Māori people Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages somewhere between 1320 and 1350. Over several centuries in isolation, these settlers developed their own distinctive culture whose language, mythology, crafts and performing arts evolved independently from other eastern Polynesian cultures.

In 1992 Bennett moved to Auckland, [7] where she worked in a rest home, first as a kitchenhand and then as a nurse aide. She began studying social work at the Albany campus of Massey University in 1994. [6] She became the welfare officer of the Massey University at Albany Students' Association, then, in 1996, the president, which she said gave her a taste for politics. She discontinued the social work component of her course of study, leaving simply social policy, [6] and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.

Social work academic discipline and profession

Social work is an academic discipline and profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being. Social functioning is the way in which people perform their social roles, and the structural institutions that are provided to sustain them. Social work applies social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, political science, public health, community development, law, and economics, to engage with client systems, conduct assessments, and develop interventions to solve social and personal problems; and to bring about social change.

Albany, New Zealand Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Albany is one of the northernmost suburbs of the contiguous Auckland metropolitan area in New Zealand. It is located to the north of the Waitematā Harbour,

Massey University university in New Zealand

Massey University is a university based in Palmerston North, New Zealand, with significant campuses in Albany and Wellington. Massey University has approximately 30,883 students, 13,796 of whom are extramural or distance-learning students, making it New Zealand's second largest university when not counting international students. Research is undertaken on all three campuses, and more than 3,000 international students from over 100 countries study at the university.

After graduating, Bennett worked as an electorate secretary for Murray McCully, National Party member of Parliament for East Coast Bays, until the 1999 general election. She then worked as a recruitment consultant for several years and assisted McCully in the 2002 general election campaign.

Murray McCully New Zealand politician

Murray Stuart McCully, CF is a former New Zealand politician. He is a member of the National Party, and served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2008 to 2017.

East Coast Bays (New Zealand electorate)

East Coast Bays is a New Zealand parliamentary electorate. It was first formed in 1972 and has existed apart from a break lasting two parliamentary terms. The electorate has been held by Erica Stanford of the National Party since the 2017 general election.

1999 New Zealand general election

The 1999 New Zealand general election was held on 27 November 1999 to determine the composition of the 46th New Zealand Parliament. The governing National Party, led by Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, was defeated, being replaced by a coalition of Helen Clark's Labour Party and the smaller Alliance. This marked an end to nine years of the Fourth National Government, and the beginning of the Fifth Labour Government which would govern for nine years in turn, until its loss to the National Party in the 2008 general election.

Political career

Electoral history

New Zealand Parliament
2005 2008 48th List45 National
2008 2011 49th Waitakere 41 National
2011 2014 50th Waitakere14 National
2014 2017 51st Upper Harbour 9 National
2017 present 52nd Upper Harbour2 National

In the 2005 general election Bennett stood as the National Party candidate for the Waitakere seat, with a ranking of 45th on National's party list. She failed to win Waitakere, but entered Parliament as a list MP.

2005 New Zealand general election general election

The 2005 New Zealand general election on Saturday 17 September 2005 determined the membership of the 48th New Zealand Parliament. One hundred and twenty-one MPs were elected to the New Zealand House of Representatives: 69 from single-member electorates, including one overhang seat, and 52 from party lists.

A list MP is a member of parliament (MP) who is elected from a party list rather than from a geographical constituency. Their presence in Parliament is owed to the number of votes that their party won, not to votes received by the MP personally. This occurs only in countries which have an electoral system based on party-list proportional representation.

In the 2008 election, she unseated Waitakere MP Lynne Pillay, winning the seat with a majority of 632. [8] Bennett was appointed to several cabinet roles in the new National-led government.

In the 2011 election, Bennett again stood for the Waitakere seat, and secured an election night majority of 349 votes. [9] After the routine counting of special votes 10 days later, the result had swung towards Labour candidate Carmel Sepuloni. Bennett was subsequently declared the winner after a judicial recount. [10] Carmel Sepuloni was not placed high enough on Labour's list to remain an MP and was ousted from Parliament as a result of her loss. [11]

The 2013–14 electoral boundary review saw Bennett's Waitakere electorate abolished in favour of two new electorates in western Auckland, Kelston and Upper Harbour. At the 2014 election, Bennett stood for the Upper Harbour seat and won with a majority of 9,692 votes. [12]

During the 2017 election, Bennett contested the Upper Harbour seat and was re-elected with a majority of 9,556 votes. [13]

Cabinet and other appointed roles

Bennett as Deputy Prime Minister, with Prime Minister Bill English, 2016 Bill English and Paula Bennett.jpg
Bennett as Deputy Prime Minister, with Prime Minister Bill English, 2016

While in opposition (2005–2008), Bennett held three roles under National party leader Don Brash: Member of the Social Services Select Committee, Associate Spokesperson on Welfare, and Community and Voluntary Sector Liaison. When John Key became party leader in 2006, Bennett switched to membership of the Education and Science Select Committee and no longer held the Spokesperson and Liaison roles. [14]

Before becoming Deputy Prime Minister, Bennett was best known for leading social welfare reforms as Minister of Social Development and Employment (2008–2011) and Minister of Social Development (2011–14). During that time she was also Minister of Youth Affairs (2008–2013), Minister for Disability Issues (2008–2009), and Associate Minister of Housing (2013–14). [14]

After the 2014 election, Bennett became Minister of State Services (2014–2017), Minister of Social Housing (2014–2016), Associate Minister of Finance (2014–2016) and Minister of Local Government (2014–2015). She was Associate Minister of Tourism from 2014 to 12 December 2016, Acting Minister between 12 and 20 December 2016, then Minister of Tourism. She was the Minister for Climate Change Issues from 2015. On 20 December 2016 she also became Minister for Women, and Minister of Police. [15] [14]

Bennett became Deputy Leader of the National Party and was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister on 12 December 2016. She also held the State Services, Women, Tourism, Police and Climate Change Issues Cabinet portfolios during the third term of the Fifth National Government. [15]

Following the formation of a Labour-led coalition government in October 2017, Bennett remained Deputy Leader of the National Party. She also became the party's Spokesperson for the "social investment and social services", "tertiary education, skills, and employment", and the women portfolios. [16] After a cabinet reshuffle in January 2019, Bennett was appointed by Bridges as National's Spokesperson for "drug reform." Bennett has argued that the government's drug reform policy needs to consider health, education, and justice. [17] [18]

In mid-August 2019, it was announced that Bennett will be vacating her Upper Harbour seat in 2020 and move to the party list. She was also named as National's 2020 election campaign manager. [19] [20]

Activities outside Parliament

Television appearances

For several years Bennett appeared on TV One's Breakfast with friend Labour MP Darren Hughes.

Intervention in brawl among teenagers

In January 2009, Bennett was about to enter her local shopping mall in Henderson when she saw a group of around 30 teenagers fighting outside the mall. She intervened to break up the fighting before police arrived, earning praise as a "tough lady", and arranged community networking to address the underlying issues. [21]

Eisenhower Fellowship

In March 2010, Bennett accepted an Eisenhower fellowship. The prestigious six week fellowship in the United States was awarded to only 20 women around the world who were identified as outstanding leaders. [22]


Allegations of inconsistency

Bennett has been criticised by opponents for the inconsistency between her personal history of reliance on government social welfare benefits, including financial support for tertiary study, and a "hardline" approach to benefit policies when she became a minister. In particular, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) was abolished under her leadership, after she had received this allowance herself as a student. [23] [24]

Another policy change often cited has been the requirement for single parents in receipt of the Domestic Purposes Benefit to look for part-time work when their child turned six. Previously there was no work requirement until the youngest child turned 18 years old. Bennett also introduced a requirement for those on an Unemployment Benefit to reapply after one year. [25] [26]

Release of private information about beneficiaries

In July 2009, Bennett deliberately released the benefit details of two beneficiaries, Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston, who had criticised the Government's policy of abolishing the Training Initiative Allowance (TIA). [27] Bennett said she believed she had "implied consent" for the release of the information. [28]

The Privacy Commissioner investigated Bennett's actions after receiving a complaint, and later referred the matter to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings for the Human Rights Commission. On 15 August 2012, the director announced the resolution of the complaint, saying, "On the basis of the Minister’s letter to me, I have agreed to close my file. The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties." [29] [30]

Christine Rankin appointment

In May 2009, Bennett appointed the controversial Christine Rankin as Families Commissioner. [31]

Job numbers claims

In November 2012, a week after unemployment was reported at 7.3 percent – a 13-year high – Bennett read out job listings in Parliament, claiming there were "300 jobs" available at retailer The Warehouse, if anyone wanted them, as well as 40 jobs at retailer Bunnings. The Warehouse refuted this claim, saying it only had 30 jobs available, and Bunnings only had three advertised. [32]

Gun Control

In October 2017, prior to the Christchurch mosque shootings, Bennett rejected 12 of 20 recommendations from a select committee inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms. [33] This decision was criticised at the time by New Zealand's Police Association president Chris Cahill who lamented to that "the opportunity was missed and you know what it's going to take to bring it on the table again, and unfortunately that's a tragedy" [34]

Personal life

Bennett married Alan Philps in 2012. [35] Philps keeps a low public profile and was mentioned by Bennett in October 2016. [36] Philps did not appear in photographs from Bennett's swearing-in ceremony at Government House, Wellington, on 12 December 2016, but her daughter, granddaughter and stepdaughter did. [35] [37]

In late 2017 Bennett announced she had undergone gastric bypass surgery for weight loss. In November 2018 she stated she had lost 50 kilograms (110 lb) over the previous year. [38]

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  1. 1 2 Paula Bennett. "Address in reply". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . 628. New Zealand Parliament. p. 191. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  2. "MP Paula Bennett marries mystery man". 16 April 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  3. "Paula Bennett to seek Upper Harbour nomination". 3 News NZ. 21 November 2013.
  4. "Bennett to contest new seat". Radio NZ. 21 November 2013.
  5. Collins, Simon (21 November 2008). "Cabinet's new poster girl". New Zealand Herald.
  6. 1 2 3 Collins, Simon (22 November 2008). "Cabinet's new poster girl". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  7. "Hon. Paula Bennett – Biography". New Zealand National Party. 2008. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  8. "Election results – Waitakere". New Zealand Ministry of Justice, Chief Electoral Office. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  9. "Waitakere Electorate". Television New Zealand . 2 September 2008. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011.
  10. Vance, Andrea; Hartevelt, John (16 December 2011). "Bennett wins back Waitakere". Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  11. "Sepuloni mulls petition after Bennett regains Waitakere". New Zealand TV. Archived from the original on 10 January 2012.
  12. "Official Count Results – Upper Harbour". New Zealand Electoral Commission. 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  13. "Upper Harbour – Official Result". New Zealand Electoral Commission. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  14. 1 2 3 "Hon. Paula Bennett". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  15. 1 2 "Ministerial List". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet . 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  16. "Hon Paula Bennett". New Zealand Parliament . Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  17. "Bennett named drug reform spokesperson in shadow cabinet reshuffle". Radio New Zealand. 22 January 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  18. Coughlan, Thomas (22 January 2019). "Bridges begins year with a reshuffle". Newsroom . Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  19. Cheng, Derek (14 August 2019). "Paula Bennett to run National's 2020 campaign and vacate Upper Harbour seat". New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  20. Whyte, Anna (14 August 2019). "Paula Bennett will run National's 2020 election campaign, not stand for Upper Harbour seat". 1 News Now. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  21. Trevitte, Clare (20 January 2009). "'Tough lady' minister breaks up mall fight". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 January 2009.
  22. "New Zealand Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to join 2010 Women's Leadership Program". Eisenhower Fellowship. March 2010. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  23. Trevett, Claire (29 July 2009). "Minister accused of breaking privacy law". The New Zealand Herald .
  24. "The double-edged sword". Business Day. Fairfax New Zealand. 28 July 2009.
  25. "Bennett rejects 'hypocrite' claims". The New Zealand Herald. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  26. Kinnealy, Mellissa. "Beneficiaries Face Squeeze". The Dominion Post . Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  27. "Privacy issues stir Bennett welfare debate". ONE News/New Zealand Press Association . Television New Zealand. 29 July 2009. Archived from the original on 31 July 2009.
  28. Trevett, Claire (28 July 2009). "Bennett: I consulted website before releasing mums' benefits". The New Zealand Herald .
  29. "Privacy Commissioner confirms investigation into Paula Bennett". . Fairfax New Zealand. 11 August 2009.
  30. "Media statement on Paula Bennett privacy complaint". . Scoop Media. 15 August 2012.
  31. "Rankin appointed to Families Commission". TV New Zealand. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  32. "Bennett's job numbers don't add up – Ardern". 3 News NZ. 14 November 2012.
  35. 1 2 "Paula Bennett ties knot at Piha". The New Zealand Herald. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  36. Marwick, Felix; Trevett, Claire. "Bennett to serve as acting PM while Key, English are out of NZ". Newstalk ZB . Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  37. "L to R, Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, Sir David Gascoigne,..." Getty Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  38. "Paula Bennett answers the big questions about her 50kg weight loss". . 26 November 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Lynne Pillay
Member of Parliament for Waitakere
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Upper Harbour
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill English
Deputy Leader of the National Party
Political offices
Preceded by
Ruth Dyson
Minister for Disability Issues
Succeeded by
Tariana Turia
Minister of Social Development and Employment
Succeeded by
Anne Tolley
Preceded by
Nanaia Mahuta
Minister for Youth Affairs
Succeeded by
Nikki Kaye
Preceded by
Chris Tremain
Minister of Local Government
Succeeded by
Anne Tolley
Preceded by
Jonathan Coleman
Minister of State Services
Succeeded by
Chris Hipkins
Preceded by
Tim Groser
Minister for Climate Change Issues
Succeeded by
James Shaw
Preceded by
Bill English
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Winston Peters
Preceded by
Louise Upston
Minister for Women
Succeeded by
Julie Anne Genter
Preceded by
John Key
Minister of Tourism
Succeeded by
Kelvin Davis
Preceded by
Judith Collins
Minister of Police
Succeeded by
Stuart Nash
Preceded by
Kelvin Davis
Deputy Leader of the Opposition