Michael Bassett

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For the British screenwriter and director, see Michael J. Bassett.
Michael Bassett
QSO
Personal details
Born (1938-08-28) 28 August 1938 (age 77)
Nationality New Zealander
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Judith Bassett
Children 2
Alma mater University of Auckland, Duke University
Occupation Politician, historian
Website michaelbassett.co.nz

Michael Edward Rainton Bassett QSO (born 28 August 1938) is a former Labour Party member of the New Zealand House of Representatives and cabinet minister in the reformist fourth Labour government. He is also a noted New Zealand historian, and has published a number of books on New Zealand politics, including biographies of Prime Ministers Peter Fraser, Gordon Coates and Joseph Ward.

Life before politics[edit]

Bassett was born in 1938 in Auckland and educated at Owairaka School, Dilworth School, Mt Albert Grammar, and the University of Auckland.[1] He completed BA and MA degrees in history at the University of Auckland before winning a fellowship to Duke University in the United States in 1961. He completed a PhD in American history there, completing a dissertation entitled The Socialist Party of America, 1912-1919: Years of Decline.[2]

In 1964, Bassett returned to New Zealand and became a senior lecturer in history at the University of Auckland. During this time he was a member of the Princes Street Labour branch.[3]

Political career[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1972–1975 37th Waitemata Labour
1978–1981 39th Te Atatu Labour
1981–1984 40th Te Atatu Labour
1984–1987 41st Te Atatu Labour
1987–1990 42nd Te Atatu Labour

Bassett stood unsucessfully for the Labour Party in the 1966 election for North Shore and in the 1969 election for Waitemata.

In 1971 Bassett was elected to the Auckland City Council. In the following year, he was elected as a Labour MP for Waitemata in the 1972 election,[4] and the Labour Party became the government for the first time since 1960. Following the death of Prime Minister Norman Kirk the party (and Bassett) were defeated in the following (1975) election.[4] In his account on the Third Labour Government, Bassett described it as one of "the most active and socially responsible governments of the twentieth century."[5]

Bassett was elected to the Te Atatu electorate in the 1978 election,[4] and held it to 1990.

In 1984, a landslide to Labour resulted in New Zealand's fourth Labour government. Bassett was appointed as Minister of Health and Local Government (1984–1987),[6] and Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government, Civil Defence and Arts and Culture (1987–1990). He was chairman of the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board and of the 1990 Commission, tasked with the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. In his capacity as Minister of Internal Affairs he also helped reorganise Waitangi Day celebrations and encourage them around New Zealand.

The Fourth Labour government enacted a major programme of economic and social reform, the economic arm of which is known as Rogernomics. Major social reforms included the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986. Bassett was a wholehearted supporter of the reforms, and when the government and party schismed over issues of economic reform, Bassett took the side of finance minister Roger Douglas, the main architect of the reforms. In 1990, Labour was defeated in another landslide election. Bassett did not contest the 1990 election, and retired from active politics.

He continued occasionally to be involved at an advisory level, for example unofficially advising Don Brash during his term as National Party leader.[7] Bassett's switch of sides reflects the present-day Labour Party's semi-repudiation of Rogernomics.

Career after politics[edit]

Bassett resumed his academic career, publishing several books on New Zealand political history, and contributing to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and the British Dictionary of National Biography. He was a Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario on and off from 1992 to 1996, taught at the Auckland University Medical School from 1997 to 2000, and was a Fulbright Professor of New Zealand Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

From 1994 to 2004 Bassett was a member of the Waitangi Tribunal, which investigates breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.[8]

He was a columnist for The Dominion Post in Wellington (until late 2006)[7][9] and The Press in Christchurch.

Personal life[edit]

Bassett is married to Judith Bassett, a historian at the University of Auckland and a member of the Auckland Regional Council. They have two children and one grandchild.

Bassett is a third cousin of late Prime Minister, David Lange. Bassett had suggested that Lange should stand on the Labour ticket for the Auckland City Council in 1974. The Council was dominated by conservative interests and the only Labour candidates elected were Jim Anderton and Catherine Tizard; Lange was "halfway down the field .... which was better than I expected".[citation needed] Lange's father, who was a doctor, had delivered Bassett. Lange wrote (presumably jokingly referring to Bassett's appointment to Cabinet and their later disagreements): "My father had delivered him, and it became plain in later days that he must have dropped him ...."[10]

Published works[edit]

  • Bassett, Confrontation '51: the 1951 Waterfront Dispute (1972)
  • Bassett, The Third Labour Government (1976)
  • Bassett, Michael (1982). Three Party Politics in New Zealand 1911–1931. Auckland: Historical Publications. 
  • Bassett, Sir Joseph Ward (1993);
  • Bassett, Michael (1995). Coates of Kaipara. 
  • Bassett, The Mother of All Departments: A History of the Department of Internal Affairs (1997)
  • Bassett, The State in New Zealand 1840-1984: Socialism Without Doctrines? (1998)
  • Bassett and Michael King, Tomorrow Comes the Song: A life of Peter Fraser (2001)
  • Bassett and Judith Bassett, Roderick Deane: His Life & Times (2006)
  • Bassett and Paul Goldsmith, The Myers (2007)
  • Bassett, Working with David (2008)
  • Bassett and Paul Goldsmith, Puketutu and its People (2008)
  • Bassett, City of Sails: The History of Auckland City Council, 1989–2010 (2013)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Traue 1978, p. 54.
  2. ^ Michael E.R. Bassett, The Socialist Party of America, 1912-1919: Years of Decline. Department of History, Duke University, 1963. Available through University Microfilms International, a division of ProQuest.
  3. ^ Bassett, Michael (3 April 2002). "Self Help". michaelbassett.co.nz. 
  4. ^ a b c Wilson 1985, p. 182.
  5. ^ Bassett, Michael. The Third Labour Government. 
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 98.
  7. ^ a b Young, Audrey (15 December 2006). "Police extend Brash emails inquiry". NZ Herald. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Berry, Ruth (21 September 2004). "I'm out, Bassett tells Waitangi Tribunal". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Correspondence between Michael Bassett and Tim Pankurst, editor Dominion Post". 13 December 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  10. ^ David Lange My Life p98 (2005, Viking/Penguin, Auckland) ISBN 0 67 004556 X

References[edit]

  • Traue, James Edward, ed. (1978). Who's Who in New Zealand (11th ed.). Wellington: Reed. 
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103. 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Frank Gill
Member of Parliament for Waitemata
1972–1975
Succeeded by
Dail Jones
New constituency Member of Parliament for Te Atatu
1978–1990
Succeeded by
Brian Neeson
Political offices
Preceded by
Aussie Malcolm
Minister of Health
1984–1987
Succeeded by
David Caygill