Henry Greathead Rex Mason KC (3 June 1885 – 2 April 1975) was a New Zealand politician. He served as Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education, and Minister of Native Affairs, and had a significant influence on the direction of the Labour Party. He was one of New Zealand's longest-serving MPs.
Mason was born in Wellington, to a South African father and an Australian mother. He attended Wellington College (where he was dux) and Victoria University, from which he graduated with MA in mathematics and an LLB. Moving to Pukekohe, he became a lawyer.
|Parliament of New Zealand|
Mason was elected Mayor of Pukekohe in 1915. He was left-wing in his political outlook, and joined the Labour Party on its foundation in 1916. In the 1919 general election, he was Labour's candidate for the seat of Manukau, but was defeated. Later, he shifted his attention to the seat of Eden — he contested it in the 1922 election and 1925 election. He finally won Eden in a 1926 by-election, assisted by the fact that the Reform Party's vote was split by a defeated nominee, Ellen Melville.
Throughout his parliamentary career, Mason remained highly involved in the organisation of the Labour Party. He served as its president from 1931 to 1933, and played a major role in policy formulation. Mason was regarded as a social democrat rather than a socialist, and he played a part in moving the Labour Party closer to the political centre. He did, however, believe that the state should have exclusive control over the country's financial system, influenced by social credit monetary reform theories. Other causes supported by Mason include the establishment of a comprehensive old-age pension system and the granting of full state services to naturalised immigrants (the latter making him extremely popular with his electorate's substantial Yugoslavian community).
When Labour won the 1935 general election, Mason became Attorney General and Minister of Justice, reflecting his legal background. When disputes arose between the party leadership and John A. Lee's more radical faction, Mason remained on good terms with both sides — while he sympathised with some of Lee's points, particularly regarding monetary reform, he did not join Lee's breakaway Democratic Labour Party. Mason later served as Minister of Education (where he worked closely with C.E. Beeby to implement educational reforms) and as Minister of Native Affairs. In 1941 the Public Service Commissioner Thomas Mark died in (or just outside) the minister's office, during a confrontation with Mason who wanted the resignation of the head of a department.
He was not returned to Cabinet after the 1946 election, but returned to fill a vacancy the following year. After Labour lost office, he continued to agitate on a number of issues, notably decimal currency. After Labour won the 1957 election, Mason returned to his original roles of Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He was also made Minister of Health.
Rex Mason represented the seat of Eden in the 22nd parliament (1926–28), Auckland Suburbs in the 23rd to 27th parliaments (1928–46), Waitakere in the 28th to 33rd parliaments (1946–63), and New Lynn in the 34th parliament (1963–66).
Mason eventually retired from politics at the 1966 election, under a certain amount of pressure from colleagues who wished to "rejuvenate" the Labour Party. Mason was now in his eighties, and was one of the longest serving New Zealand MPs ever, with a career of 40 years from 15 April 1926 to 25 October 1966.
Mason married Dulcia Martina Rockell on 27 December 1912, and had three children. Through his wife's influence, Mason become interested in Indian religion and spirituality, and beliefs derived from it (particularly Theosophy). He was a vegetarian and a teetotaller.
Mason died in Wellington on 2 April 1975, aged 89.