Peter Dunne suggests our new government ought to study the lessons of the Third Labour Government to avoid its fate and becoming just another 'what if' footnote in history

Peter Dunne suggests our new government ought to study the lessons of the Third Labour Government to avoid its fate and becoming just another 'what if' footnote in history

By Peter Dunne*

Our new government has taken office and comparisons are already being made about the circumstances of its accession. Some are saying that the public mood is similar in terms of enthusiasm and response to the advent of the Lange Government in 1984.

That government came to office after the grim and increasingly repressive Muldoon Government, and its election was greeted more with a sense of relief that the long national nightmare was finally over, than a sense of excitement about what lay ahead. That is clearly not the mood today. There is no sense that either the country is on its knees and facing imminent economic collapse, or that the outgoing government had become more and more intrusive in people's lives and virtually every aspect of the economy, as was the case in 1984.

A more accurate comparison is 1972, when the Kirk Labour Government swept to power. There was at that time a palpable feeling of "It's Time for a Change", not too far removed from this year's "Let's Do It" slogan now being reprised in so many different ways, as Kirk capitalised on a mood that the long-term National Government had run out of steam and ideas.

Like today, the economy was in reasonably good shape - the impacts of the 1974 Oil Shock and Britain's joining Europe in 1973 were yet to come - and there was a growing sense of optimism about the country's future and emerging identity. The "climate change" issues of the early 1970s were French nuclear testing in the Pacific, and apartheid in South Africa (both of which the new government had strong positions on) and there was a housing shortage, in Auckland in particular. All in all, circumstances far more akin to today than to 1984.

But herein lies the challenge for the new government. Leaving aside the particulars of managing a coalition with the serially erratic New Zealand First (the Greens will be far less difficult - they, after all, are just happy to finally be there after 27 years of failure), the new government would do well to study the lessons of the Third Labour Government, lest it similarly succumb in 2020 or earlier and end up just another "what if" footnote in history.

First, it should be careful about promoting and believing in its own invincibility too much. When Kirk was elected in 1972, no-one imagined he would be dead within two years, with his government left wallowing in the wake of his demise. This is most certainly not suggesting nor wishing a similar fate for our new Prime Minister, but using the drama of the most unexpected circumstance of all to highlight the priority need to establish a credible, broad based, competent leadership team. 

Next, no-one also envisaged in 1972 the economic shocks that lay ahead, with the dramatic oil price increases and supply limitations after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the catastrophic impact they were to have on fortress economies like ours. The domestic cocoon of complacency always shatters quickly in a crisis. In the 1970s New Zealand was clearly caught short by not only the Oil Crisis but also the impact on our trading patterns and the need to develop markets and diversify products that British entry to the Common Market had caused.

So, the government needs to be wary of trying to shelter New Zealand too much from global influences, over which it has no control. A cautious embrace of globalism, rather than a wholesale rejection would be prudent. We are part of, not apart from, an increasingly interdependent world.

And finally, the government needs to know and understand the value of flexibility and pragmatism. It will not always be right, no matter how much it will wish to be. Kirk's refusal to budge from costly manifesto commitments, despite the international economic shocks, was short-sighted and blinkered, and allowed Muldoon, aided by the Dancing Cossacks, to storm to victory in 1975 on the promise to "Rebuild New Zealand's Shattered Economy".

Last week, one Australian newspaper stupidly and wrongly labelled our new Prime Minister a "commie", which clearly she is not. But, as an educated and literate person, she will be well aware of Karl Marx's observation that the thing to learn from history is that people do not. So I wish her well as she sets out to disprove that dictum.   


*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister.

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Dunne advocates the new government not indulge in a "wholesale rejection" of globalism. I see no sign it intends any such rejection.
But clearly globalism has not produced for New Zealand citizens and they are seeking a change. We should be seeing policy that puts New Zealanders first.
New Zealanders also have just rejected Stephen Joyce's approach where incomes had to be kept down, in order to boost GDP. I would be all for increased GDP if it led to increased incomes, but that was not the Stephen Joyce plan. Low incomes for New Zealanders as an economic target made no sense at all.

It wasn’t Globalism that hurt NZers it was lack of policies in a fast changing world that hurt kiwis
NZ inc can’t even manage itself to produce pre packaged ready for sale dairy exports
Meat ditto
As a mainly agricultural ecenonmy it can’t be allowed to go on The bulk shipping of product,
Value added isn’t a buzzword it’s a necessity to trading profitably in global markets
Even NZ wines are poorly promoted overseas yet you would believe everything is wonderful listening to a few of the better wine producers
Globalism provides access to world markets where billions live
NZ must merely tune its products to sell in each market
Zespri is such a success story NZ Dairy & Meat must improve their act

Yes Kirk had the measure of Muldoon & could hold him off. But no one else in Labour could & when Kirk was lost, well Muldoon aided by the media & the satire, sort of, by Bob Jones, simply demolished what was left of Labour, wholesale personal attacks being his speciality. Ugly patch in our history actually as was the last half of Muldoon's government.

"the Greens will be far less difficult - they, after all, are just happy to finally be there after 27 years of failure" - ouch.


"A man whose life is so boring that if it flashed past he wouldn't be in it." - David Lange on Peter Dunne.

LOL, and true.

If Mr Lange did indeed say that, then I must think worse of him for doing so.

Geoffrey Palmer’s insight on Lange a few weeks ago was enlightening. Apart from the famous line prepared for him on the Nuclear debate, what did he achieve? Maybe Naomi could tell us what he was like as a person? I bet she’d have a few choice words.

At least Lange fronted a team which reformed the economy and removed privilege. Palmer gave the poorly thought out RMA which has resulted in the most massive transfer of wealth away from working people and the young.

When I’m back in the Country, I will stream the program again to get some more insights. My impression is that Douglas filled the vacuum of policy, took the party in a direction that the core labour voters detested (Remuera was voting Labour in droves) and eventually two bulls in the paddock made the Lange/Douglas relationship untenable.

SONJA DAVIES was only in Parliament for six years. But, she could hardly have chosen a worse six-year period to be a Labour MP. Her time as MP for the Wellington seat of Pencarrow (1987-1993) coincided with the crescendo of Rogernomics and the splitting of the Labour Party. It was not a happy time for the celebrated feminist and trade union fighter, and she was only too happy to hand her seat over to Trevor Mallard and get out.

It wasn’t just the awfulness of life in the Labour Party in the late-1980s and early-90s that depressed Sonja Davies. As a shrewd observer of both local and international politics, she rapidly became aware that New Zealand was passing through a period of fundamental cultural and economic re-orientation. What concerned her most was how little New Zealanders were being told and, therefore, how little they knew, about the changes that were radically reshaping what it means to be a New Zealander.

“If people had any idea about the scale of these changes,” she confided to me early in her first term as MP for Pencarrow,” they’d be horrified. It’s been decided that New Zealand’s future lies in Asia. That’s got massive implications – but most people haven’t a clue. No one asked them and certainly no one’s telling them.”
New Zealand’s embrace of Asia (remember Jim Bolger’s startling comment that “New Zealand is an Asian country”?) was a policy driven by the same elite group of bureaucrats and businesspeople that had sponsored Roger Douglas’s “Quiet Revolution”. New Zealand’s once heavily-protected economy had been thrown open to the world in anticipation of the world’s major economies doing the same.

Significantly, the corollary of the free movement of capital, goods and services across international borders – the free movement of peoples – remained largely unexamined. Most New Zealanders simply did not realise that if their country was determined to trade freely with the whole world, then, more and more, its population would come to resemble the people with whom it was trading. If most of those people hailed from Asia, then New Zealand would, indeed, become “an Asian country”.

Which is ironic coming from him considering just how viable United Future is/was as a party.


Who cares what Peter Dunne says. he was the casting vote that allowed ALL KIWIS to be spied on, just so he could stay on longer in Parliament and milk the system for more money.
His party basically died & National bailed him out and then 'owned him'.
IMHO He is EVERYTHING that is wrong with Politicians.
IMHO he and Key should be up on Treason charges, re: OBR, TPPA, Spying, etc etc
Editor....sorry if you think this is a personal is MY and MANY many others opinion of Dunne and why we object to articles quoting him as if he is some important sage person with helpful insight.

personally ive always confused these two images of Peter Dunne
I must say I got more sense out of the first,_Northern_Rockhopper...

Factboy, it is the very nature of free speech that even those we disagree with are allowed a voice.

A new world order will emerge in 2020.

Please explain as a red headed Australian was known to ask.

A global Cultural Revolution under Mao Jr.?

Now here is a thought from the left field. Has National gotten off side with the USA/CIA with its pro China policies. It is perhaps noteworthy that President Trump telephoned and congratulated Jacinda Adern.

(Inappropriate comment deleted, Ed).

Ok. I will rephrase.

Ppl right now are focusing on the current govt's housing, immigration and education polices, and may forget its refugee policy on increasing the quota from 1k to 5k.

Given the sudden increase in volume, I sincerely hope that NZ will screen refugees carefully so that the horrible news such as terrorists attacks seen in EU, AUS, and USA would never be seen in NZ.


This account should be banned.


Freedom of speech is not allowed when you hear a voice that you disagree with?

When it's hate speech, yes.

It is more of an extreme version of truth speech.

I have rephrased myself and hope that will pass the political correctness test.

Kate. I expect xingmowang's comment does represent a concern of many New Zealanders and is a subject that should not be suppressed. Conversely, I am concerned that our Chinese community seems, I repeat seems, not to be very supportive of policies that improve the welfare of most New Zealanders and not primarily those with capital. Of course, we have only a few possibly Chinese commentators so ?????

Most residents and citizens live in NZ, apart from superannuates, have one or multiple jobs, own small to medium size businesses, pay taxes, and raise family without or with 2 to 3 kids, and receive minimum benefits.

Policies that benefit them are more than welcome.

I remember IRD noting a distinct lack of income from the Asian restaurants etc?

More than 94 per cent of Chinese permanent residents and more than half of those with NZ citizenship told University of Auckland researchers that they felt a greater sense of belonging and identified more with their country of origin than New Zealand.

The study also found that Chinese migrants aged 15 to 44 felt significantly more attached to their homeland identity than those aged 45 and over.

Manying Ip, the professor of Asian studies who led the project, described this as "surprising" and said the finding contradicted earlier assumptions that older Chinese migrants were more conservative and therefore felt more attached to their homelands.

Clearly they took their affirmation (or whatever) when they obtained their citizenship quite seriously.

I have no concerns with 5k refugees a year.. I like kebabs and more uber drivers!

Auckland might even get its very own madrassa.

5,000 + family.
It isn't over to the politicians. The politicians are public servants.

I don't have a problem with taking a few thousand more refugees in need of a humanitarian response, while reducing numbers through our dodgy PTE sector by more than this - which is looking highly likely. I have too many friends who have been maltreated by the PTE sector, while having at the same time to watch fraudulent behaviour from both schools and students.

Agreed about PTE sector: proven corruption, rorts and exploitation of sometimes naive forgeigners ~ the worry is that it is the most successfully dishonest who will become permanent residents and then fellow citizens.
I'd be happy to increase my tax contribution to the governments charitable approach to refugees. It would be good if we had reassurance that our taxes were spent wisely (evidence based policy rather than simple virtue signaling with numbers). Clearly some refugees are more in need than others but we are not told how they distinguish a refugee suitabl .

The observation/dictum was Hegel, not Marx, and this statement - "the Greens will be far less difficult - they, after all, are just happy to finally be there after 27 years of failure is lacking in knowledge of NZ history. Far from "failure", the Green political movement (commencing with the Values Party in 1972) is credited by NZ political scientists and historians as having produced a "bandwagon effect" whereby all parties contesting national elections thereafter were forced to include consideration of specific environmental policies in their election manifestos.

If this were a Wikipedia article, then next to the phrase; "is credited by NZ political scientists" would be one of those little "who?" things.

I for one would not put on much store on the opinion of anyone whose job title rested on the assumption that politics is a science.

Nit picking. You excluded historians.

If there are historians then list them. Its only nit picking to someone who is interested I whether statements are facts or opinions.

If one is being driven by confirmation bias then there need be no such interest.

I'd have to re-read to be more certain but I'm thinking the discussion of the influence of Green politics in our environmental landscape is likely from one of these:

Making a new land : environmental histories of New Zealand / edited by Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking (2013)

Environmental law in New Zealand / general editors, Peter Salmon, David Grinlinton (2015)

Environmental politics : a greenprint for New Zealand / Geoffrey Palmer ; cartoons by Tom Scott (1990)

Beyond today : a look at a sustainable economy, resource management and control and a history of environmental politics in New Zealand / by Mike Moore (1981)

My goodness - is it only me or is does 100 pounds for a paperback copy of Geoffrey Palmers book seem a bit excessive?

Ha ha, well I knew he was a good writer, but obviously even better than my memory gave him credit for!

P.S. I have just now moved my old battered copy of "Unbridled Power" into a more prominent place in the bookcase behind me. Clearly, it may have greater value than I previously thought.

Does your objection extend to all disciplines in the social sciences?

Not in this instance Kate, as nobody is claiming any social scientists made any statements on the matter.

Well if its the scientific study of politics it might have a hope. Sadly almost everyone I've met with a degree (or higher in politics / political studies a cant say I didnt thought much of....except maybe Gareth Hughes.

For myself, I have always thought of politics as the art of the possible. A definition being such as to preclude any possibility of the scientific method or process.

You're running quite contrary to our esteemed former PM John Key there, who seemed to believe that folk who make a life writing on the human condition having nothing to add to political discussion while only those who specialise in politics may credibly comment on it.

He obviously forgot the likes of Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Václav Havel et al.

The risk in using a phrase such as, "who seemed to believe" without links to such views, is you might appear you are simply putting words in another mans mouth.

And then shooting those down.

Boardering on straw man tactics Rick? (wink)

You might be reaching, Ralph.

John Key:

"She has no particular great insights into politics, she is a fictional writer. I have great respect for her as a fictional writer [sic]."


"I mean, if it's Corin Dann, and he's the chief political reporter, then his comments carry more weight because that's what he does for a job."

In what way do you think I've misrepresented John Key's own words by saying he seems to think writers have nothing much to add to discussion of politics, vs. specialists in politics?

Searching rather than reaching Rick. I don't think it's reaching to question phrases like "seems to believe" when no evidence is offered for the claim. It's simply asking if what you claim is true.

As for the particulars; one could point out what Mr Key said is that he holds the political insights of a chief political reporter higher than a fictional writer. Even more specifically he is talking about particular and specific people and not making general judgments on all writers (a reporter is also a writer).

But the main reason for my post was mischievous, knowing how you love the straw man.

Fair enough, all in good fun. I see my haranguing you earlier is fondly remembered :p

He's still much more enamored of the political wisdom of specialists in politics than you yourself sound, which was my initial point.

I still find it's a bit of a shallow piece of dismissiveness from Key, missing the fact many of the most influential and longstanding insights on politics have come from fictional writers. Animal Farm springs to mind...I hope he's aware that's not a book on lifestyle block farming.

P.S., I hope you enjoyed your election result Kate.

P.P.S. Good catch on the Hegel quote origin.

Delighted with the outcome - now want results.

"is credited by NZ political scientists and historians as having produced a "bandwagon effect" whereby all parties contesting national elections thereafter were forced to include consideration of specific environmental policies in their election manifestos." Yes, one must ask the question of how much more would our environment be degraded if the Green's had less influence.

It's dubious indeed to attribute public interest in the environment to the Greens. My observation is that they are not really interested in it themselves. They do seem to want to be social justice warriors, like Turei.
The public are very interested in the environment, and all parties are responding, which will leave the Greens out of luck. We probably saw the start of that in their last recent result. Bye Greens.

"The public are very interested in the environment..."

They may say theyre interested, but not interested enough to change /downgrade their resource burning proliferate lifestyles in any way ...

eg Why exactly are we all now driving big SUV's to the mall and back / why are we screaming for more roading funding, for more (insert anything here).... why are we flying everywhere on a whim ... why are we covering soil with more houses and tarseal, why are we demanding farmers de intensify while intensifying our cities ...

Whats that? Someone started another feel good facebook campaign? Hallelujah we're saved.

I read a UK study decades ago that reported that we richer humans use more fuel with our car trips to the local dairy, mall or whatever than the fuel used to get products to the retailers. And much of the goods we purchase come from overseas.

".. but not interested enough to change"

At the very least this is not entirely true. New World just held a nationwide vote where their customers chose to discontinue the use of plastic bags and start using reusable bags instead.

".. why are we covering soil with more houses"

We tried building the house on sand but there were some tragic consequences when the storm came. There were some well publicised studies where it was proposed rock was the best material on which to place the house but due to lack of rock in all locations it was decided that soil was an acceptable alternative.

Although there have been a few sad recent examples in Christchurch where failure to adhere to these established principles led to regrettable outcomes and relocation of some groups from sand to soil.

Ralph - there's stuff in those bags. Im amazed people dont appear to be aware of this. It takes a squillion resources to get that stuff there. The bags are a sideshow. A meaningful change? Nope.
And soil is actually useful for growing stuff - houses not so much. Again, its difficult to see how this isn't widely known.

People are aware Mr Eggs, I am not sure why you conclude otherwise.

And they are changing. that's a fact. What particular meaning you choose to place on that change is a subjective question and open to various lines of argumentation.

As for growing stuff, food is so plentiful there are only small profits in growing more of it.

i should add in your defence, the Greens are also unaware of these facts.

I wish I had the brains to read and write. There’s definitely some very intelligent focks on here . Thanks

Now that my sort of movie

There are some dumb "focks" on here too.

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