Grant Robertson

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Grant Robertson
Grant Robertson.jpg
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
In office
13 December 2011 – 17 September 2013
Leader David Shearer
Preceded by Annette King
Succeeded by David Parker
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
13 December 2011 – 17 September 2013
Leader David Shearer
Preceded by Annette King
Succeeded by David Parker
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wellington Central
Assumed office
8 November 2008
Preceded by Marian Hobbs
Majority 6,376
Personal details
Born (1971-10-30) 30 October 1971 (age 42)
Palmerston North,  New Zealand
Political party Labour
Residence Northland, Wellington, New Zealand

Grant Robertson (born 30 October 1971) is a New Zealand politician and Member of Parliament. He was elected to represent the Labour Party in the seat of Wellington Central at the 2008 general election.[1] Robertson replaced Marian Hobbs, who had retired. Robertson was elected Labour's Deputy Leader in 2011; he contested the leadership of the Labour Party in a 2013 leadership election but lost to rival David Cunliffe.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Robertson was born in Palmerston North. His family also lived in Hastings before settling in Dunedin. Robertson studied political studies at the University of Otago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours in 1995.[4] His honours thesis studied the restructuring of the New Zealand University Students' Association in the 1980s.[5] Robertson served as President of the Otago University Students' Association in 1993 and New Zealand University Students' Association in 1996.[4]

Professional life[edit]

Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade after leaving university. His overseas postings included the United Nations in New York. Robertson also managed the NZ Overseas Aid Programme to Samoa – a $7.7 million fund with projects in diverse areas such as basic education, healthcare, public sector capacity building, small business development and the empowerment of women.[4]

Robertson returned to New Zealand during the first term of the Fifth Labour Government to work as a Ministerial advisor to Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs and later Prime Minister Helen Clark. During his time in Clark's office, Robertson was rumoured to have the nickname "H3" during the 2005 general election (H1 being Clark, and H2 being Clark's Chief of Staff Heather Simpson).[6]

After the 2005 election, Robertson left the Prime Minister's office to work as the Senior Research Marketing Manager for the University of Otago based at the Wellington School of Medicine.[7]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–2011 49th Wellington Central 46 Labour
2011–present 50th Wellington Central 14 Labour

In late 2006, sitting MP for Wellington Central, Marian Hobbs announced that she would be retiring at the 2008 general election. Robertson was considered to be a front runner[8] and was subsequently selected unopposed.[9] Robertson ran a well-staffed campaign, based on local issues like the closure of the Crossways Community Centre and threats to the Public Service. He was also involved in the formation of a Wellington inner-city residents' association.[10]

On 1 September 2008, the Labour Party published its list for the 2008 general election and ranked Robertson at number 46.[11]

In the Wellington Central electorate, Robertson defeated National candidate, Stephen Franks by 1,904 votes.[12] Robertson's plurality, although far less than the 6,180 vote difference held by his predecessor from the previous election,[13] was a reflection of a large swing in party votes to the National Party from Labour in the electorate, and Robertson's status as a non-incumbent candidate.

In his maiden statement (given on 9 December 2008), Robertson alluded to his sexuality as a part, but not the whole, of his identity:

"I am proud and comfortable with who I am. Being gay is part of who I am, just as is being a former diplomat, a fan of the mighty...Wellington Lions, and a fan of New Zealand music and New Zealand literature. My political view is defined by my sexuality only inasmuch as it has given me an insight into how people can be marginalised and discriminated against, and how much I abhor that. I am lucky that I have largely grown up in a generation that is not fixated on issues such as sexual orientation. I am not—and neither should others be."[14][15][16]

Robertson was appointed Labour's spokesperson for State Services, and associate spokesperson for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Foreign Affairs by Labour leader Phil Goff.[17]

Robertson at post-budget meeting in 2011.

In May 2010 Robertson's Ethical Investment (Crown Financial Institutions) Bill was drawn from the member's ballot.[18][19][20] According to Robertson, the Bill "sought to have clear and consistent criteria for ethical investment in the legislation that govern our major investment funds such as the Super Fund and ACC".[21] Although the Bill gained support from MPs in the Green and Maori parties, the Bill was defeated at its first reading.[22]

On 15 June 2010, Opposition Leader Phil Goff appointed Robertson to be Portfolio Spokesperson for Tertiary Education, in addition to taking the parliamentary second row and being promoted to number 20 in the line-up, the highest of the 2008 intake of Labour MPs to be promoted at that point. This was the first shadow cabinet reshuffle since Labour had lost the 2008 general election to National, as a result of the Ministerial Credit Card scandal involving three Labour MPs.[23] In the election year reshuffle, on 2 February 2011, Robertson was further promoted to the front bench to take the Health portfolio.[24] Commenting on the promotion, Phil Goff said that Robertson has "made a very strong impact in a very short time" and that he "has a promising future ahead of him"[25]

At the 2011 general election, Robertson re-contested Wellington Central against eleven other candidates. He subsequently was re-elected with 49.2 percent of the electorate vote, increasing his majority to 6,376 over National Party candidate Paul Foster-Bell.[26]

Following the election and Annette King's resignation as party deputy leader, Robertson was elected by the Labour caucus as the new deputy leader under David Shearer. In Shearer's shadow Cabinet, Robertson also served as Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training, and Arts, Culture and Heritage. Following Shearer's resignation from the leadership in 2013, Robertson contested the party-wide leadership election. Although Robertson achieved the plurality support from his colleagues in Caucus, David Cunliffe garnered more support from party members and affiliates to win the overall vote.[3]

Trans-Tasman rankings[edit]

The political publication Trans-Tasman has reviewed Grant Robertson each year since he became an MP, as part of their annual review of Parliament (known as Roll Call). MPs are scored between one (lowest) and ten (highest) out of ten for their work during that year:

Year Score Comment
2008[27] N/A/10 Another former Beehive Staffer. Lazy campaign against Stephen Franks, should have held a safe seat with a bigger majority.
2009[28] 4.5/10 Took it to the Government over state sector cuts and Labour relations. Going up.
2010[29] 5/10 Streetwise MP knows weak points and exploits them. Uses the media well to get his points across. Must be on the priority promotion list.

Personal life[edit]

Robertson lives in Northland, Wellington, with his partner Alf, whom he met through playing rugby together for the Wellington-based Krazy Knights, New Zealand's first gay rugby team.[14] After 10 years in a relationship, they held a civil union ceremony in January 2009.[30]

Robertson is the grandson of Bob Wilkie, who ran unsuccessfully for Labour in the Wairarapa electorate in 1954 and 1957.[31]


  1. ^ "Wellington Central". Election results. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  2. ^ "Grant Robertson to contest leadership". New Zealand Herald. 25 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Cunliffe wins Labour leadership". 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "General History of NZUSA". 
  5. ^ ""A step to the right" Otago University Library". 
  6. ^ ""Street Party Central" NZ Listener". 
  7. ^ ""Ground-breaking" Appointment to Otago University". 
  8. ^ "Marian Hobbs retires". 
  9. ^ "Grant Robertson Labour's pick for Wellington Central". Stuff. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  10. ^ "Grant Robertson in the Media". 
  11. ^ "Labour Party list for 2008 election announced". Scoop NZ. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  12. ^ "Elections NZ 2008: Official Count Results – Wellington Central". 
  13. ^ "Official Count Results – Wellington Central". Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  14. ^ a b "Robertson, Grant: Maiden Statements". 
  15. ^ "MP stands up for bureaucrats". 
  16. ^ "New gay MPs debut in Parliament". 
  17. ^ "Five newcomers to Labour's frontbench". 
  18. ^ "Ethical Investment (Crown Financial Institutions) Bill". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  19. ^ "Ethical investment Bill drawn from ballot". New Zealand Labour Party. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  20. ^ Michael Dickison (6 May 2010). "'Bah! Humbug!' – Sheppard slams ethical spending Bill". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  21. ^ "Govt shoots down member's bill for ethical investment". 6 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  22. ^ "Ethical investment bill fails". Radio New Zealand. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  23. ^ "Fresh look for Labour's shadow Cabinet". 10 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  24. ^ "Labour Caucus – 2011". 3 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  25. ^ "Labour Leader reveals new caucus line-up". 3 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  26. ^ "Wellington Central results, 2011". Electoral Commission. 10 December 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "No 8 and halfback tie the knot". 
  31. ^ "New Voices: Grant Robertson". 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Marian Hobbs
Member of Parliament for Wellington Central
2008 – present
Political offices
Preceded by
Annette King
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
2011 - 2013
Succeeded by
David Parker
Party political offices
Preceded by
Annette King
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
2011 – 2013
Succeeded by
David Parker