Grant Robertson

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Grant Robertson
MP
Grant - Aro Valley candidates meeting crop.JPG
Grant speaking at the 2014 Aro Valley candidates meeting
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
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 November 2008
Preceded by Marian Hobbs
Majority 6,376
Personal details
Born (1971-10-30) 30 October 1971 (age 43)
Palmerston North,  New Zealand
Political party Labour
Residence Northland, Wellington, New Zealand
Website www.grantrobertson.co.nz

Grant Robertson (born 30 October 1971) is a New Zealand politician and Member of Parliament. He has represented the Labour Party in the seat of Wellington Central since the 2008 general election.[1] Robertson was elected Labour's deputy leader in 2011, under leader David Shearer. He contested the leadership of the party in a 2013 leadership election that was won by David Cunliffe,[2][3] and was replaced as deputy leader by David Parker.

Early life[edit]

Robertson was born in Palmerston North, the youngest of three boys. His Presbyterian family also lived in Hastings before settling in South Dunedin. His father was an accountant, and his mother initially stayed at home, later becoming a teacher. In 1991, his father was imprisoned after stealing around $120,000 from the law firm where he worked.[4] His grandfather Bob Wilkie ran unsuccessfully for Labour in the Wairarapa electorate in 1954 and 1957.[4]

Robertson attended King's High School in Dunedin, where he was head boy.[4] He later studied political studies at the University of Otago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours in 1995.[5] His honours dissertation studied the restructuring of the New Zealand University Students' Association in the 1980s.[6] Robertson served as President of the Otago University Students' Association in 1993 and as Co-President of the New Zealand University Students' Association in 1996.[7][4]

Professional life[edit]

Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1997 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.[citation needed] He left MFAT in 2001.[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).[8]

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.[9]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Campaign for Wellington Central: 2008[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–2011 49th Wellington Central 46 Labour
2011–2014 50th Wellington Central 14 Labour
2014–present 51st Wellington Central 3 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[10] and was subsequently selected unopposed.[11] 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.[12]

On 1 September 2008, the Labour Party published its list for the 2008 general election and ranked Robertson at number 46.[13]

In the Wellington Central electorate, Robertson defeated National candidate, Stephen Franks by 1,904 votes.[14] Robertson's plurality, although far less than the 6,180 vote difference held by his predecessor from the previous election,[15] 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.

First term in Parliament: 2008–2011[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17][18][19] 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".[20] Although the Bill gained support from MPs in the Green and Maori parties, the Bill was defeated at its first reading.[21]

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.[22] In the election year reshuffle, on 2 February 2011, Robertson was further promoted to the front bench to take the Health portfolio.[23] 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".[24]

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.[25]

Second term: 2011–2014[edit]

Robertson speaking to a rally opposing the National Government's changes to University Councils, at the University of Otago, October 2013

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]

Throughout 2014, Robertson was critical of National Party minister Judith Collins, after she was accused of having a conflict of interest in regards to her visiting the dairy products company Oravida in China. He repeatedly called for her to resign during the Oravida saga, and when Collins later released information to the media about One News journalist Katie Bradford, he reiterated his call for her to resign, claiming she had "lost all perspective".[26]

Third term: 2014–[edit]

Robertson was re-elected in the Wellington Central electorate in the September 2014 general election. Immediately following the election Labour leader David Cunliffe came under pressure to resign following the party's poor performance in the election. He was seen by some in the party as taking insufficient blame for the defeat. The leading challengers for the leadership are Robertson and David Shearer. Media reports suggest that some of the Labour caucus were trying to get Cunliffe to resign so Robertson and Jacinda Ardern could replace the current leadership unopposed.[27] On 26 September, the voting record in the previous leadership race of unions affiliated to Labour was released, showing Cunliffe had won very strong union support in the previous race, and highlighting the challenge for Robertson's bid.[28]

On 28 September, after Cunliffe had signalled his intention to resign, Robertson put his name forward to run for the Labour Party leadership. Robertson pointed to Labour's poor performance in the election as leading him to run: "I couldn't stand by and see the party poll at 24 per cent and not do something now that David's triggered the contest. That's why I've put my name forward". He also argued that the Labour Party need unity, and he would be a unifying figure, with the support of most of the Labour caucus. Because there were four candidates for the leadership, the Labour Party held a leadership election.[29]

Robertson lost the leadership election to Andrew Little by a small margin, Little receiving 50.52 per cent of the vote to Robertson's 49.48 per cent (after the votes from the other unsuccessful candidates had been reallocated) despite Robertson once again winning the support of most of the caucus, as well as a majority of the membership. After the results were announced, Robertson said he would not seek the Labour Party leadership again in the future.[30]

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[31] N/A/10 Another former Beehive Staffer. Lazy campaign against Stephen Franks, should have held a safe seat with a bigger majority.
2009[32] 4.5/10 Took it to the Government over state sector cuts and Labour relations. Going up.
2010[33] 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.
2013[34] 6/10 Weak leadership campaign – failure has not led to any bitterness. One of Parliament’s best speakers needs to develop some policy and attack points to take on Joyce more.

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.[35] After 10 years in a relationship, they held a civil union ceremony in January 2009.[36]

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."[35][37][38]

In a 2012 interview with Guyon Espiner, he hit out at the suggestion that being gay could prevent him from understanding the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders:

"That’s one of the things that irritates me the most. How can you say that? That someone won’t understand New Zealanders because they’re gay. I understand all sorts of things about being a New Zealander. I understand what happens when your dad goes to prison. I understand what it’s like when the All Blacks lose. You know? I understand what it’s like when you’re trying to work out if you’ve got enough money to do [renovation] to the house? It’s bullshit."[4]

References[edit]

  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". Stuff.co.nz. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Espiner, Guyon (3 March 2012). "Profile: Labour deputy Grant Robertson". New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Gibb, John (13 April 2010). "Concern over archives restructuring". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "'A step to the right': the restructuring of the New Zealand University Students Association in 1986". University of Otago Library catalogue. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "History". Students Aotearoa. New Zealand Union of Students' Associations. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Clifton, Jane (1 November 2008). "Street party central". New Zealand Listener. 
  9. ^ ""Ground-breaking" Appointment to Otago University". 
  10. ^ "Marian Hobbs retires". 
  11. ^ "Grant Robertson Labour's pick for Wellington Central". Stuff. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  12. ^ "Grant Robertson in the Media". 
  13. ^ "Labour Party list for 2008 election announced". Scoop NZ. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  14. ^ "Elections NZ 2008: Official Count Results – Wellington Central". 
  15. ^ "Official Count Results – Wellington Central". Electionresults.govt.nz. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  16. ^ "Five newcomers to Labour's frontbench". 
  17. ^ "Ethical Investment (Crown Financial Institutions) Bill". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  18. ^ "Ethical investment Bill drawn from ballot". New Zealand Labour Party. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  19. ^ Michael Dickison (6 May 2010). "'Bah! Humbug!' – Sheppard slams ethical spending Bill". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  20. ^ "Govt shoots down member's bill for ethical investment". goodreturns.co.nz. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  21. ^ "Ethical investment bill fails". Radio New Zealand. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  22. ^ "Fresh look for Labour's shadow Cabinet". stuff.co.nz. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  23. ^ "Labour Caucus – 2011". Scoop.co.nz. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  24. ^ "Labour Leader reveals new caucus line-up". Scoop.co.nz. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  25. ^ "Wellington Central results, 2011". Electoral Commission. 10 December 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Judith Collins has 'lost all perspective' - Robertson". TVNZ. 5 May 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  27. ^ Banas, Liz (26 September 2014). "Labour leader weighing up his future". Radio New Zealand (Wellington). Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  28. ^ Rutherford, Hamish (26 September 2014). "Does Grant Robertson have the numbers?". Stuff. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  29. ^ "Labour out of options, Robertson says". Stuff. 28 September 2014. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  30. ^ Small, Vernon and Gulliver, Aimee (18 November 2014). "Andrew Little new Labour Party leader - by a whisker". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  31. ^ Trans-Tasman (8 December 2008), "ROLL CALL – How Our MPs Performed In 2008", transtamsan.co.nz 
  32. ^ Trans-Tasman (7 December 2009). "Key Pipped At The Post In Trans Tasman’s Roll Call". transtamsan.co.nz (Press release). 
  33. ^ Trans-Tasman (29 November 2010). "Key Pipped Again As Trans Tasman’s Politician Of The Year" (Press release). 
  34. ^ Trans-Tasman (2 December 2013). "9TH ANNUAL ROLL CALL – How Our MPs Performed In 2013" (Press release). 
  35. ^ a b "Robertson, Grant: Maiden Statements". 
  36. ^ "No 8 and halfback tie the knot". 
  37. ^ "MP stands up for bureaucrats". 
  38. ^ "New gay MPs debut in Parliament". 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Marian Hobbs
Member of Parliament for Wellington Central
2008–present
Incumbent
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