New Zealand History 1993

By | December 1, 2021

The new government (1975) of the National Party led by R. Muldoon drastically reduced state assistance, adopting a liberal and deflationary policy (strong contraction of public spending, strict measures to control prices and wages and devaluation of the New Zealand dollar in November 1976), while in 1976 the annual number of immigrants decreased (from 30,000 to 5,000), following a campaign against illegal immigration.

The explosion of ethnic tensions due to the emergence of a Maori movement, accompanied by the persistence of economic difficulties – low economic growth rate and high unemployment – led to a decline in support for the ruling party, which in the November general elections 1978 lost more than 7% of the votes (going from 47.2% in 1975 to 39.5) while the opposition Labor Party obtained 40.5% and the Social Credit Political League 17.0 (against 7.4 of previous consultations). Despite the electoral defeat, the National Party, however, thanks to the electoral system in force in the country – single-member in a single round -, obtained the majority of seats and the leadership of the new cabinet (December 1978). The political picture remained substantially unchanged even in the subsequent parliamentary elections of November 1981 (the National Party took 29.2%, Labor 38.5% and the Social Credit Political League 20.8%), which brought Muldoon back to the government. The credibility crisis of the nationalist cabinet, however, worsened in the following years (despite the control over inflation, unemployment reached 5% of the active population in 1984), so that, in the political elections of July 1984, the National Party was defeated by the Labor. The latter won 43% of the votes against 36% of the nationalists and 8% of the Social Credit, while a part of the traditionally nationalist votes went to the advantage of the new Conservative Party (New Zealand Party) which, born in August 1983 and led by R. Jones. For New Zealand 2002, please check

While Labor formed the new government, led by D. Lange (leader of the party since February 1983), the National Party, following the electoral defeat, faced a serious internal crisis that led to the resignation of the old secretary Muldoon and his replacement by J. McLay (November 1984), who was in turn replaced in March 1986 by J. Bolger. The Lange government faced the economic crisis with extreme decision, unexpectedly adopting the same liberal line of Muldoon and starting the privatization of important public enterprises. The successes obtained (especially as regards the reduction of the serious state deficit), combined with the consensus that the country received the firm anti-nuclear line, contributed to the electoral victory of Labor in the consultations of August 1987 (they obtained 47.0% of the votes against 45.0% of the National Party).

Confirmed in this way at the helm of the new government, Labor continued on the traditional economic line of deregulation and privatization; but the difficulties that had already emerged in the previous legislature – high inflation rate (which reached a maximum of 19% in 1987) and worsening of unemployment (6% in the same year) – worsened, causing a rapid collapse of consensus in the country, strong tensions with the trade unions and a serious internal crisis in the Labor Party and in the government itself. In May 1989, in fact, there was a split of the Labor Party, with the formation of the New Labor Party, led by J. Anderton, and the replacement, in August, of Lange’s party and executive leader by G. Palmer.

The election results (October 1990) were therefore in favor of the National Party (48% of the votes), while the Labor Party got 35% and the New Labor Party only 5.2%. The new government, led by the leader of the National Party Bolger (October 1990), substantially continued the Labor policy, with the adoption of a series of economic measures, including the repeal of the law that provided for equal pay between men and women, the reduction of social spending and the deregulation of the labor market. In December, a plan to privatize the health system and a cut in contributions for the unemployed was announced.

Despite the positive result in the fight against inflation, which fell to 2.7% from 7.6% the previous year, strong opposition in the country to the government’s economic plan and tensions within the National Party itself forced Bolger to withdraw (November 1991) part of the measures announced for pensions, while in December on the general political front a new group was formed, in opposition to the two major parties, called Alleanza, formed by the New Labor Party, the Social Credit Political League, the Party green of Aotearoa (founded in 1972 as the New Zealand Values ​​Party) and the Maori Party of the Mana Motuhake. The Alliance program envisaged the return to public hands of the privatized sectors and a new system, both education and health, national and free.

In September 1992, a referendum was held, promoted by the Alliance Against Nationalist and Labor Parties, which abolished the current electoral system (single-member in one-turn) and replaced it with a correct proportional system on the German model.

As for foreign policy, Muldoon’s traditional pro-Western choice, aimed above all at maintaining a privileged relationship with the United States and Great Britain, was abandoned in the second half of the 1980s by Lange’s Labor government. The latter adopted a line intended on the one hand to strengthen the unity of the countries of the Pacific area in the framework of an anti-nuclear and ecological choice, and on the other to intensify relations with neighboring countries (Japan, Korea, China, India, Philippines). Commercial relations with Australia were also increased with the agreement of the CER (Closer Economic Relations) which, started in 1983, was effectively applied starting from July 1990. The military ties between the two countries instead suffered a serious crisis due to the New Zealand anti-nuclear choice. Only with the return to power of the National Party, the tension in relations with Australia and the United States eased thanks to a less rigid policy, led by the new foreign minister, D. McKinnon.

An internal issue of great importance, especially in the last decade, has been that relating to the Aboriginal minority of the Maori (equal to 13% of the population according to the data of the 1986 census). The demand for compliance with the Waitangi treaty, concluded in 1840 between the British government and the Maori leaders (with which Great Britain had obtained sovereignty over the country in exchange for a series of guarantees regarding land rights and the protection of forests and traditional fishing areas, as well as the recognition of a status of the Maori people), re-emerged in 1975 with the request to return the promontory of the port of Auckland to the aboriginal population. After a decade of negotiations and the birth of a Maori movement (Kotahitanga), which gave rise to a major pacifist demonstration in February 1984, in 1985 the Lange government established the Waitangi Tribunal to address the issue as a whole, starting with the official recognition of the Maori language. Between 1987 and 1988, the protests of the aboriginal peoples became wider and more pressing, to the point of claiming the rights to about 70% of the land. These claims split white public opinion between those who were beginning to become aware of the problems of the Maori and those who, on the other hand, considered their claims unreasonable. In this climate, the government sought an agreement with the Maori, introducing, in 1988, a law that provided for the Aboriginal community a 2% quota of annual fishing for a period of 19 years. The Maori, for their part, accused the government of having passed a substantially racist law, since it effectively ruled out any further claims by Maori on other fishing rights for 19 years. Even exponents of the New Zealand white community attacked the law proposing as an alternative to raise the annual fishing share due to the Maori to 50% (again until 2008). But the matter has not yet been resolved.

A second issue has marked the history of the country over the last twenty years: that relating to nuclear policy. Since 1984, with the Lange government, NZ has in fact opted for a radically anti-nuclear policy (which reaffirmed the traditional Labor option, already expressed in the years 1973-74, of opposition to the French experiments in the Pacific), prohibiting the passage in its waters to any nuclear-armed ship. This choice has led to considerable tensions in relations between NZ and its two partners of the ANZUS (trilateral military pact), the United States and Australia, until, in 1987, the United States announced the decision not to renew the agreement signed in 1982 which provided for the sale of US arms to NZ at favorable prices. The decision of the Lange government to strengthen the country’s military resources and to confirm the defensive agreement linking NZ to Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Great Britain (February 1987) as part of an anti-nuclear option was ratified in the June 1987 by the parliamentary vote, with the opposition of the National Party only. But in 1990 this party also took sides on the anti-nuclear front, maintaining this position even after entering the government. Association of South-East Asian Nations) on the other, and, following the US decision to remove nuclear weapons from warships (September 1991), with a revision of the ban on passage to any nuclear-powered vessel, considered a serious obstacle to the resumption of military relations with the USA and Australia.

New Zealand History 1993