Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand

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Fifth Labour Government
ministries of New Zealand
Date formed 10 December 1999
Date dissolved 19 November 2008
People and organisations
Head of state Elizabeth II
Head of government Helen Clark
Deputy head of government Jim Anderton (1999–2002)
Michael Cullen (2002–2008)
Member party Labour Party
Opposition party National Party
Opposition leader
Predecessor Fourth National Government of New Zealand
Successor Fifth National Government of New Zealand

The Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand between 10 December 1999 and 19 November 2008. Labour leader Helen Clark negotiated a coalition with Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance Party and later the Progressive Party. While undertaking a number of substantial reforms, it was not particularly radical when compared to previous Labour governments.


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 The controversial Employment Contracts Act was repealed, replaced by an Employment Relations Act more friendly to unions and collective bargaining; a state-owned bank, Kiwibank, was created at the behest of the Alliance; a majority stake in the national airline, Air New Zealand was purchased; and the public health sector was reorganised with the re-establishment of partly elected 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[edit]

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



Treaty of Waitangi[edit]

Social policy[edit]

  • 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.[4]
  • The Working for Families package was introduced in 2004, which significantly improved social welfare assistance for low-income families and contributed to a reduction in child poverty from 28% in 2004 to 22% in 2007.[5]
  • The wage-related floor of the state pension was restored.[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • Equity Funding was introduced (2002), which provided additional funding to community-based ECE services most in need.[7]
  • Research funding was increased.[7]
  • The New Zealand Transport Strategy (released in December 2002) provided increased funding for initiatives to promote the use of buses, trains, cycling and walking.[7]
  • 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.[7]
  • The Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act (2002) served to make the principal Act more comprehensive by covering more industries and more conditions.[7]
  • 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.[7]
  • ICT was expanded to students in remote areas so they could receive specialist teaching.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • 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).[9]
  • A Parental Tax Credit was introduced (2000).[9]
  • A Child Tax Credit (which replaced the independent Family Tax Credit) was introduced (2000).[9]
  • A Family Tax Credit (which was formerly the Guaranteed Minimum Family income) was introduced (2000).[9]
  • A Modern Apprentices initiative was introduced to develop technological skills (2000).[9]
  • The Family Start programme was expanded (2000).[9]
  • Annual inflation to benefits was introduced (2000).[9]
  • 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”.[9]
  • 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.[10]
  • Income-related rents for state-owned housing were restored (2000).[9]
  • A social allocation system was introduced and implemented with the income-related rents scheme(2000).[9]
  • Vacant sales were frozen and the Home Buy programme was ended (2000).
  • Bulk funding for schools was ended (2000).[9]
  • 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).[9]
  • 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).[9]
  • Expenditure for early childhood education was increased (2001).[9]
  • Tertiary student fees were kept stable (2001).[9]
  • The National Certificate of Educational Achievement was established (2001).[9]
  • New funding was provided for principals’ leadership and professional development (2001).[9]
  • An In Work Payment was introduced to replace the Child Tax Credit.[10]
  • The ministries that handled work and income and those that did social policy were merged to create a new Ministry of Social Development (2001).[10]



National identity[edit]

Foreign affairs[edit]


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


Supreme Court[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

The 2005 election[edit]


Electoral results[edit]

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 United Future. The Greens also entered into a formal agreement with the government, but it was not as strong as the agreements covering confidence and supply it made in the preceding and following parliaments.[12]
  • Following the 2005 election, Labour formed a coalition with the Progressive Party, and gained support on matters of confidence and supply from New Zealand First 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[edit]

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[edit]

Party key Labour
New Zealand First
United Future
Ministry Minister Term(s)
Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton 5 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Michael Cullen 15 August 2002 – 19 November 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 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Education Trevor Mallard 5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Steve Maharey 19 October 2005 – 31 October 2007
Chris Carter 31 October 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Finance Michael Cullen 5 December 1999 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff 5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Winston Peters 19 October 2005 – 29 August 2008
Helen Clark 29 August 2008 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Internal Affairs Mark Burton 5 December 1999 – 13 November 2000
George Hawkins 13 November 2000 – 19 October 2005
Rick Barker 19 October 2005 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Health Annette King 5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Pete Hodgson 19 October 2005 – 5 November 2007
David Cunliffe 5 November 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Justice Phil Goff 5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Mark Burton 19 October 2005 – 31 October 2007
Rick Barker 31 October 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister for Women's Affairs Laila Harré 5 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Ruth Dyson 15 August 2002 – 19 October 2005
Lianne Dalziel 19 October 2005 – 5 November 2007
Stephanie Chadwick 5 November 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee-Vercoe 5 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Chris Carter 15 August 2002 – 31 October 2007
Stephanie Chadwick 31 October 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Māori Affairs Dover Samuels 10 December 1999 – 28 June 2000
Parekura Horomia 28 June 2000 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton 10 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Jim Anderton 19 October 2005 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Social Development Steve Maharey 10 December 1999 – 31 October 2007
Ruth Dyson 31 October 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Corrections Matt Robson 5 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Paul Swain 15 August 2002 – 19 October 2005
Damien O'Connor 19 October 2005 – 5 November 2007
Phil Goff 5 November 2007 – 19 November 2008
Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen 10 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Peter Dunne 19 October 2005 – 19 November 2008

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The state of our nation 1999–2007 – some facts" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 30 January 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Budget 2008 – Tax Changes". 22 May 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Keith Sinclair (1959). A History of New Zealand. 
  5. ^ "Child Poverty Monitor: Technical Report". Child Poverty Monitor. 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  6. ^ Alison McClelland & Susan St. John. "Social policy responses to globalisation in Australia and New Zealand, 1980–2005" (PDF). Australian Journal of Political Science. 41 (2): 177–191. doi:10.1080/10361140600672428. 
  7. ^ 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 (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). University of Canterbury. 
  8. ^ "Timeline". Labour History Project. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  9. ^ 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" (PDF). Occasional Paper Series, Resource Report 1. Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee (SPEAR). 
  10. ^ a b c Jane Silloway Smith (1 August 2010). "Looking Back to Look Forward: How welfare in New Zealand has evolved". Maxim Institute. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  11. ^ "The Kyoto Protocol". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  12. ^ "Government and Greens sign formal co-operation agreement". New Zealand Government. 2002-08-26. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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