World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand

The Cabinet of the Fifth Labour Government in 2005, with the Governor General seated at centre.

The Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand between 10 December 1999 and 19 November 2008.


  • Overview 1
  • Significant policies 2
    • Economic 2.1
    • Constitutional 2.2
    • Treaty of Waitangi 2.3
    • Social policy 2.4
    • Health 2.5
    • Environment 2.6
    • National identity 2.7
    • Foreign affairs 2.8
  • Appointments 3
    • Governor-General 3.1
    • Supreme Court 3.2
    • Court of Appeal 3.3
  • Formation 4
  • The 2002 election 5
  • The 2005 election 6
  • Defeat 7
  • Electoral results 8
    • Notes 8.1
  • Prime minister 9
  • Cabinet Ministers 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13


The fourth National government, in power since 1990, was widely unpopular by 1999, with much of the public antagonised by a series of free-market economic reforms, and was bedevilled by weakness and instability. In the general election of that year, the Labour Party led by Helen Clark defeated National easily, becoming the largest single party in the House of Representatives. Labour formed a minority coalition government with the left-leaning Alliance, supported by the Green Party.

During this first term, the government pursued a number of reforms. The controversial Employment Contracts Act was repealed, replaced by an District Health Boards. More controversial was "Closing the Gaps", an affirmative action strategy pitched at Māori, which was widely criticised as showing favouritism to Māori at the expense of other equally disadvantaged groups.

With the disintegration of the Alliance in 2002, Helen Clark called a snap election, even though she still had the confidence of the House. Labour handily won the election. The Alliance failed to return to parliament, although a rump returned as Jim Anderton's Progressives. Labour formed a coalition with the Progressives, and turned to the centrist party United Future for confidence and supply. This second term was notable largely for its social and constitutional legislation, with the Government establishing a Supreme Court and ending appeals to the Privy Council, decriminalising prostitution, and providing for civil unions, the latter two changes in particular supported by the Green Party and opposed by United Future. The Government was also faced in this term with the foreshore and seabed controversy. While Labour, in cooperation with the New Zealand First party, eventually resolved the legal dispute by vesting foreshore and seabed title in the Crown, a dissident Labour minister, Tariana Turia, formed the Māori Party, while on the other side of the spectrum a resurgent National Party, now under former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash, became considerably more popular. Going into the 2005 election, the Government was returned with a slim margin on the strength of the Working for Families assistance package and financial assistance to students, benefiting also from mistakes in National's campaign.

Helen Clark was obliged to move even more to the centre, enlisting support for her Government from both New Zealand First and United Future. Almost immediately, the Government parties became involved in a protracted funding scandal, having apparently used public money for party political purposes during the election campaign. A heavy-handed attempt at campaign finance reform later in this term also harmed the Government, which by now appeared tired and at a loss for direction, although it did succeed in implementing a wide range of social and economic reforms during its time in office.[1][2] In the 2008 election, the Labour Party lost convincingly to National, and the government was succeeded by the National Party led by John Key as Prime Minister.

Significant policies



Treaty of Waitangi

Social policy

  • Within 3 weeks of taking office, the govt. had announced an increase in the minimum wage, removed the interest on student loans for full-time and low-income students while they were still studying, announced the reversal of accident compensation deregulation, and introduced legislation to increase taxation for those on higher incomes.[3]
  • The Working for Families package was introduced in 2004, which significantly improved social welfare assistance for low-income families and reduced child poverty by 70% between 2004 and 2008.[4]
  • The wage-related floor of the state pension was restored.[5]
  • The Housing Restructuring Amendment Bill (2000) provided for income-related rents and set them at 25% of household income making community housing much more affordable than it had become under the previous Government’s market rental strategy.[6]
  • Equity Funding was introduced (2002), which provided additional funding to community-based ECE services most in need.[6]
  • Research funding was increased.[6]
  • The New Zealand Transport Strategy (released in December 2002) provided increased funding for initiatives to promote the use of buses, trains, cycling and walking.[6]
  • The minimum wage was increased by more than 5% each year (well above the rate of inflation) during the labour-led government’s second term.[6]
  • The Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act (2002) served to make the principal Act more comprehensive by covering more industries and more conditions.[6]
  • The ring-fencing of mental health money and the creation of more than 800 FTE mental health staff positions see this promise coded as fulfilled representing a 100% fulfilment rate for this policy area.[6]
  • ICT was expanded to students in remote areas so they could receive specialist teaching.[6]
  • The Holidays Act (2003) entitled employees to receive "time and a half" for working on any statutory holiday from 2004 onwards and provided for four weeks' annual leave from 2007 onwards.[7]
  • Passed the Prostitution Reform Act 2003
  • Passed the Property (Relationships) Act: treats de facto relationships the same as after the breakup of legal marriages, unless the individuals in the relationship contract out of the Act;
  • Civil Union Act 2004
  • Supported the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, which repealed and replaced section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, which allowed "reasonable force" in the discipline of children.
  • National Statement on Religious Diversity
  • National Superannuation payments for married couples were increased (2000).[8]
  • A Parental Tax Credit was introduced (2000).[8]
  • A Child Tax Credit (which replaced the independent Family Tax Credit) was introduced (2000).[8]
  • A Family Tax Credit (which was formerly the Guaranteed Minimum Family income) was introduced (2000).[8]
  • A Modern Apprentices initiative was introduced to develop technological skills (2000).[8]
  • The Family Start programme was expanded (2000).[8]
  • Annual inflation to benefits was introduced (2000).[8]
  • The Social Security Amendment Act of 2001 introduced various changes such as “disestablishment of the Community Wage, re-establishment of an unemployment benefit and non-work-tested sickness benefit, and the abolition of the work capacity assessment process”.[8]
  • The Social Security Amendment Act (2006) established three streams for reintegrating beneficiaries into the larger community. These included a work support stream for the unemployed, a work support development stream for most other beneficiaries, and a community support stream for a small group to be exempted from work, training or planning requirements.[9]
  • Income-related rents for state-owned housing were restored (2000).[8]
  • A social allocation system was introduced and implemented with the income-related rents scheme(2000).[8]
  • Vacant sales were frozen and the Home Buy programme was ended (2000).
  • Bulk funding for schools was ended (2000).[8]
  • Expenditure was increased, or newly allocated, for the reduction of attrition of students from school, tertiary education subsidies, Maori and Pacific peoples’ teacher recruitment, and Homework Centres (2000).[8]
  • Interest on student loans while students are studying was abolished, while the decision of the Fourth National Government to increase the student loan repayment rate was reversed (2000).[8]
  • Expenditure for early childhood education was increased (2001).[8]
  • Tertiary student fees were kept stable (2001).[8]
  • The National Certificate of Educational Achievement was established (2001).[8]
  • New funding was provided for principals’ leadership and professional development (2001).[8]
  • An In Work Payment was introduced to replace the Child Tax Credit.[9]
  • The ministries that handled work and income and those that did social policy were merged to create a new Ministry of Social Development (2001).[9]



National identity

Foreign affairs


The following positions were appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Government:


Supreme Court

With the creation of the Supreme Court of New Zealand in 2003, the government appointed the first full bench of the Court.

Acting judges were also appointed from the retired judges of the Court of Appeal:

Court of Appeal

The government has appointed three presidents of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand:


The Fifth Labour government was elected in at the 1999 general election, winning nearly half the popular vote and more than two-thirds of the electorate seats in parliament.

The 2002 election

The 2005 election


Electoral results

The following table shows the total votes* for Labour, plus parties supporting the Labour-led government. For more details of electoral results, see the relevant election articles.

Election Parliament Seats* Total votes* Percentage Gain (loss) Seats won* Change Majority
1999 46th 120 1,066,618 51.64% - 66 - 6
2002 47th 120 1,150,911 56.65% +5.01% 69 +3 9
2005 48th 121 1,152,735 50.65% -6.00% 61 -8 1*

* 'Votes' means party votes only. 'Seats' means both list and electorate seats.


  • Following the 1999 election, Labour formed a coalition with the Alliance Party, and gained support on matters of confidence and supply from the Greens.
  • Following the 2002 election, Labour formed a coalition with the Progressive Party, and gained support on matters of confidence and supply from the Greens, and United Future.
  • Following the 2005 election, Labour formed a coalition with the Progressive Party, and gained support on matters of confidence and supply from the New Zealand First Party and United Future. The Greens signed an agreement to abstain on votes of confidence and supply, giving the Labour-led Government a majority. The Māori Party also abstained on confidence and supply votes but had no formal agreement with the Government.

Prime minister

Helen Clark was Prime Minister from when the government was elected in 1999 until it was defeated by the National Party in the 2008 elections.

Cabinet Ministers

Ministry Minister Term(s)
Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton 1999–2002
Michael Cullen 2002–2008
Attorney-General Margaret Wilson 5 December 1999 – 28 February 2005
Michael Cullen 28 February 2005 – 19 October 2005
David Parker 19 October 2005 – 20 March 2006
Michael Cullen 21 March 2006 - 2008
Minister of Education Trevor Mallard 1999 - 19 October 2005
Steve Maharey 19 October 2005 – 31 October 2007
Chris Carter 31 October 2007 - 2008
Minister of Finance Michael Cullen 1999–2008
Minister of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff 1999–2005
Winston Peters 2005 - 29 August 2008
Helen Clark 29 August 2008 - 2008
Minister of Health Annette King 1999–2005
Pete Hodgson 2005–2007
David Cunliffe 2007–2008
Minister of Justice Phil Goff 1999–2005
Mark Burton 2005–2007
Annette King 2007–2008
Minister of Māori Affairs Dover Samuels 1999–2002
Parekura Horomia 2002–2008
Minister of Social Development Steve Maharey 1999–2007
Ruth Dyson 2007–2008

See also


  1. ^ "The state of our nation 1999–2007 – some facts" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 30 January 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  2. ^
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Steve Pierson (29 April 2008). "On child poverty". The Standard. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Alison McClelland & Susan St. John. "Social policy responses to globalisation in Australia and New Zealand, 1980–2005" ( 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Nathan P. McClusky (2008). A Policy of Honesty: Election Manifesto Pledge Fulfilment in New Zealand 1972–2005 ( 
  7. ^ "Timeline".  
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Stephen McTaggart (December 2005). "Monitoring the Impact of Social Policy, 1980–2001: Report on Significant Policy Events" ( 
  9. ^ a b c Jane Silloway Smith (1 August 2010). "Looking Back to Look Forward: How welfare in New Zealand has evolved".  
  10. ^ "The Kyoto Protocol". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 

Further reading

  • Boston, Jonathan. Left Turn: The New Zealand general election of 1999 (Victoria U.P, 2000)
  • Boston, Jonathan , et al. (2004). New Zealand Votes: The 2002 General Election. Victoria University Press. 
  • Levine, Stephen and Nigel S. Roberts, eds. The Baubles of Office: The New Zealand General Election of 2005 (Victoria U.P, 2007)
  • Levine, Stephen and Nigel S. Roberts, eds. Key to Victory: The New Zealand General Election of 2008 (Victoria U.P, 2010)
  • Welch, Denis. Helen Clark: A Political Life (2009) 240pp
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.