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Matt Robson

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Matt Robson
4th Minister of Corrections
In office
10 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byClem Simich
Succeeded byMark Gosche
4th Minister for Courts
In office
10 December 1999 – 15 August 2002
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byGeorgina te Heuheu
Succeeded byMargaret Wilson
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Progressive Party list
In office
27 July 2002 – 17 September 2005
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Alliance list
In office
12 October 1996 – 27 July 2002
Personal details
Born (1950-01-05) 5 January 1950 (age 74)
Brisbane, Australia
New Zealand
Political partyProgressive (2002–2012)
Alliance (1991–2002)
Labour (before 1989)
SpousePetronella Townsend

Matthew Peter Robson (born 5 January 1950) is a New Zealand politician. He was deputy leader of the Progressive Party, and served in the Parliament from 1996 to 2005, first as a member of the Alliance, then as a Progressive.


Early life[edit]

Robson was born in Brisbane, Australia. He attained an MA (Hons) in Political Studies and later studied law, and worked both as a lawyer and a teacher. He also spent three years in the Netherlands as a technical editor.

Robson was originally a member of the Labour Party, holding several positions within the party organisation. In 1981 he became chairman of Labour's Otara electorate committee and was campaign manager to Colin Moyle in the seat at the 1984 election before resigning as chairman and from the party itself in 1989, taking almost 300 members with him.[1] He was deeply opposed to the neo-liberal economic policies of Roger Douglas, the Labour Party's Minister of Finance, and when Jim Anderton, a Labour MP, quit the party, Robson followed him. Robson was heavily involved in the establishment of Anderton's NewLabour Party (NLP), which later became the core of the Alliance. He was NLP spokesperson for industrial relations and immigration.[2] He contested the Otara electorate for NewLabour in the 1990 election. At the 1992 local-body elections he put himself forward as a candidate for the Maungakiekie ward of the Auckland City Council. Standing as an Alliance candidate (the NLP was a component party of the Alliance) he was unsuccessful.[3]

In December 1992, following the Wellington Central by-election, Robson was designated NLP spokesperson for defence to replace Keith Locke whom Anderton considered too left-wing.[4] Later he was the Alliance candidate for Onehunga in the 1993 election.[5] In 1994 when Anderton briefly resigned as Alliance leader, and co-deputy leader Sandra Lee was temporarily elevated to the leadership, Robson was elected her temporary replacement co-deputy leader beating Democrats leader John Wright for the position.[6] He also became acting president of NewLabour during Anderton's absence between May and August 1995.[7]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1996–1999 45th List 7 Alliance
1999–2002 46th List 3 Alliance
2002–2005 47th List 2 Progressive

Robson was elected to Parliament as an Alliance list MP in the 1996 election, and again in the 1999 election, having stood in Maungakiekie, and coming in third place at both elections. In the Labour-Alliance coalition government (1999–2002), Robson was Minister of Corrections, Minister for Courts, Minister for Land Information, and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (with responsibility for foreign aid). Towards the end of 1999, however, the Alliance began to collapse, with a rift opening between the party organisation and its parliamentary leadership. In this dispute, Robson sided with the parliamentary leader, Anderton. When Anderton finally left the Alliance and established the Progressive Coalition (later renamed as the Progressive Party), Robson followed him and became the new party's deputy leader. In the 2002 election, the Progressives only won 1.7% of the vote. However, Anderton easily held onto his seat, allowing Robson (standing in Manukau East, where he came fifth), as the 2nd-ranked person on the Progressive list, to return to Parliament. However, the Progressives' strength was considerably weaker compared to that of the Alliance in 1999, so Robson lost his cabinet posts.

Robson has a relatively high public profile, compared to the size of his party, and is known for his views on foreign affairs and justice. Along with the Green Party's Keith Locke, Robson campaigned on behalf of detained asylum-seeker Ahmed Zaoui. In 2002, Robson introduced a Private Member's bill providing for four weeks of paid annual leave for all workers, a proposal that the Labour Party initially opposed. Robson's legislation, however, ultimately forced Labour to either vote in favour of the bill or risk alienating its trade union supporters, who vociferously advocated it. The legislation was passed into law with Labour's support and took effect in 2007. Robson also introduced legislation to raise the minimum alcohol purchasing age to 20, and in Parliament espoused policies to combat drug and alcohol abuse.

In the 2005 election, the Progressive vote collapsed further, and this time was not enough for Robson to remain in Parliament. He returned to practising law. In the 2008 election he was again a candidate in Maungakiekie, but did poorly, finishing fifth, with 2.22% of the vote.[8] The Progressives received just under one percent of the party vote, not enough for Robson to be returned to Parliament.[9] At the 2009 Mount Albert by-election Robson campaigned for Labour candidate David Shearer.[10]

On 14 July 2022, Robson had the rare distinction of appearing twice, in positions 47 and 72, in the list of politicians, academics, activists promoting Russian propaganda published by the Ukraine Government.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Despite having achieved high political office in New Zealand, Robson did not become a naturalised citizen until 2000. Under the terms of New Zealand's Electoral Act 1993, anyone permanently resident before August 1975 has the right to vote and stand for election.[12]

Robson is married to Petronella Townsend who was an influential organisational figure in the Alliance and Progressive parties.[7] At the 2005 election she was a Progressive list candidate and stood in the seat of Auckland Central.[13]


  1. ^ Ualesi, Fue (22 October 1990). "Otara". The New Zealand Herald. p. 7, section 3.
  2. ^ Collins, Simon (23 April 1990). "Anderton in finance role". New Zealand Herald. p. 3.
  3. ^ "Where the votes went in the local polls". The New Zealand Herald. 12 October 1992. p. 8, section 2.
  4. ^ Grant 2022, p. 452.
  5. ^ Part 1: Votes recorded at each polling place (Technical report). New Zealand Chief Electoral Office. 1993.
  6. ^ Grant 2022, p. 255.
  7. ^ a b Grant 2022, p. 259.
  8. ^ Maungakiekie results 2008. Archived 12 November 2008 at archive.today
  9. ^ Party results, 2008. Archived 9 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Grant 2022, p. 419.
  11. ^ "Спікери, які просувають співзвучні російській пропаганді наративи". Archived from the original on 4 August 2022.
  12. ^ Bingham, Eugene (5 April 2000). "No longer a 'foreign' minister". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  13. ^ "Official Count Results -- Auckland Central". Electoral Commission. 1 October 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2020.


  • Grant, David (2022). Anderton: His Life and Times. Wellington: Te Herenga Waka University Press. ISBN 9781776920563.
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Corrections
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Courts
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Land Information
Succeeded by
Party political offices
New political party Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party
Party dissolved
Preceded by Deputy Leader of the Alliance
Served alongside: Jeanette Fitzsimons
Succeeded by