Paula Bennett

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The Honourable
Paula Bennett
Paula Bennett Official.png
18th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Assumed office
12 December 2016
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Bill English
Minister of State Services
Assumed office
8 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Jonathan Coleman
14th Minister for Women
Assumed office
20 December 2016
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Louise Upston
Minister of Tourism
Assumed office
20 December 2016
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by John Key
Minister of Police
Assumed office
20 December 2016
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Judith Collins
Minister for Climate Change Issues
Assumed office
14 December 2015
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Tim Groser
16th Deputy Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
12 December 2016
Leader Bill English
Preceded by Bill English
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Upper Harbour
Assumed office
21 September 2014
Preceded by constituency established
Majority 9,692
Personal details
Born (1969-04-09) April 9, 1969 (age 48)
Auckland, New Zealand[1]
Nationality New Zealand
Political party National Party
Spouse(s) Alan Philps[2]
Children 1
Alma mater Massey University (BA)
Occupation Recruitment consultant

Paula Lee Bennett (born 9 April 1969) is the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Deputy Leader of the National Party, and MP for Upper Harbour. Bennett holds the Cabinet portfolios of State Services, Women, Tourism, Police, and Climate Change Issues. Bennett previously represented the electorate of Waitakere, which was abolished prior to the 2014 general election.[3][4]

Early life and career[edit]

Bennett was born on 9 April 1969 in Auckland, New Zealand, the daughter of Bob Bennett and Lee Bennett.[5] She has Tainui ancestry through her half-Māori paternal grandmother, Ailsa Bennett.[6] Her father had a flooring business in Auckland, then in 1974 bought the village store at Kinloch, near Taupo. Bennett attended Taupo-nui-a-Tia College in Taupo. At 17 she gave birth to a daughter, Ana, and raised her alone while working in hospitality and tourism-industry jobs or, at times, receiving welfare payments from the New Zealand Government.[1][7]

In 1992 Bennett moved to Auckland,[8] where she worked in a rest home, first as a kitchenhand and then as a nurse aide. She began studying social work at the Albany campus of Massey University in 1994.[7] She became the welfare officer of the Massey University at Albany Students' Association, then, in 1996, the president, which she said gave her a taste for politics. She discontinued the social work component of her course of study, leaving simply social policy,[7] and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.

After graduating, Bennett worked as an electorate secretary for Murray McCully, National Party member of Parliament for East Coast Bays, until the 1999 general election. She then worked as a recruitment consultant for several years and assisted McCully in the 2002 general election campaign.

Political career[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2005–2008 48th List 45 National
2008–2011 49th Waitakere 41 National
2011–2014 50th Waitakere 14 National
2014 – present 51st Upper Harbour 9 National

In the 2005 general election Bennett stood as the National Party's candidate for the Waitakere seat and was unsuccessful. She entered Parliament, however, as a list MP after being ranked 45th on the National Party list.

In the 2008 election, she unseated Waitakere MP Lynne Pillay, winning the seat with a majority of 632.[9] Bennett was appointed to several cabinet roles in the new National-led government.

In the 2011 election, Bennett again stood for the Waitakere seat, and secured an election night majority of 349 votes.[10] After the routine counting of special votes 10 days later, the result had swung towards Labour candidate Carmel Sepuloni. Bennett was subsequently declared the winner after a judicial recount.[11] Carmel Sepuloni was not placed high enough on Labour's list to remain an MP and was ousted from Parliament as a result of her loss.[12]

The 2013-14 electoral boundary review saw Bennett's Waitakere electorate abolished in favour of two new electorates in western Auckland, Kelston and Upper Harbour. At the 2014 election, Bennett stood for the Upper Harbour seat and won with a majority of 9,692 votes.[13]

Cabinet and other appointed roles[edit]

Bennett became Deputy Leader of the National Party and was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister on 12 December 2016. As at 20 December 2016 she holds the State Services, Women, Tourism, Police and Climate Change Issues Cabinet portfolios.[14]

Before becoming Deputy Prime Minister, Bennett was best known for leading social welfare reforms as Minister of Social Development and Employment (2008–2011) and Minister of Social Development (2011–14). During that time she was also Minister of Youth Affairs (2008-2013), Minister for Disability Issues (2008–2009), and Associate Minister of Housing (2013–14).[15]

After the 2014 election, Bennett became Minister of State Services (2014–present), Minister of Social Housing (2014-2016), Associate Minister of Finance (2014–2016) and Minister of Local Government (2014–2015). She was Associate Minister of Tourism from 2014 to 12 December 2016, Acting Minister between 12 and 20 December 2016, then Minister of Tourism. She has been the Minister for Climate Change Issues since 2015. On 20 December 2016 she also became Minister for Women, and Minister of Police.[14][15]

While in opposition (2005-2008) Bennett held three roles under National party leader Don Brash: Member of the Social Services Select Committee, Associate Spokesperson on Welfare, and Community and Voluntary Sector Liaison. When John Key became party leader in 2006, Bennett switched to membership of the Education and Science Select Committee and no longer held the Spokesperson and Liaison roles.[15]

Activities outside Parliament[edit]

Television appearances[edit]

For several years Bennett appeared on TV One's Breakfast with friend Labour MP Darren Hughes.

Intervention in brawl among teenagers[edit]

In January 2009, Bennett was about to enter her local shopping mall in Henderson when she saw a group of around 30 teenagers fighting outside the mall. She intervened to break up the fighting before Police arrived, earning praise as a "tough lady", and arranged community networking to address the underlying issues.[16]

Eisenhower Fellowship[edit]

In March 2010, Bennett accepted an Eisenhower fellowship. The prestigious six week Fellowship in the United States was awarded to only 20 women around the world who were identified as outstanding leaders.[17]


Allegations of inconsistency[edit]

Bennett has been criticised by opponents for the inconsistency between her personal story of previous reliance on government social welfare benefits, including financial support for tertiary study, and a "hardline" approach to benefit policies when she became a Minister. In particular, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) was abolished under her leadership, after she had received this allowance herself as a student.[18][19]

Another policy change often cited has been the requirement for single parents in receipt of the Domestic Purposes Benefit to look for part time work when their child turned six. Previously there was no work requirement until the youngest child turned 18 years old. Bennett also introduce a requirement for those on an Unemployment Benefit to reapply after one year.[20][21]

Release of private information about beneficiaries[edit]

In July 2009, Bennett deliberately released the benefit details of two beneficiaries, Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston, who had criticised the Government's policy of abolishing the Training Initiative Allowance (TIA).[22] Bennett said she believed she had "implied consent" for the release of the information.[23]

The Privacy Commissioner investigated Bennett's actions after receiving a complaint, and later referred the matter to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings for the Human Rights Commission. On 15 August 2012, the Director announced the resolution of the complaint, saying, "On the basis of the Minister’s letter to me, I have agreed to close my file. The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties."[24][25]

Christine Rankin appointment[edit]

In May 2009, Bennett controversially appointed Christine Rankin as a Families Commissioner, prompting negative media publicity focused on Rankin’s relationship with a man whose wife committed suicide.[26]

Job numbers claims[edit]

In November 2012, a week after unemployment was reported at 7.3 percent – a 13-year high – Bennett read out job listings in Parliament, claiming there were "300 jobs" available at retailer The Warehouse, if anyone wanted them, as well as 40 jobs at retailer Bunnings. The Warehouse refuted this claim, saying it only had 30 jobs available, and Bunnings only had three advertised.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Bennett married Alan Philps in 2012.[28] Philps keeps a low public profile and was mentioned by Bennett in October 2016.[29] Philps did not appear in photographs from Bennett's swearing-in ceremony at Government House, Wellington, on 12 December 2016, but her daughter, granddaughter and stepdaughter did.[28][30]


  1. ^ a b Paula Bennett. "Address in reply". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 628. New Zealand Parliament. p. 191. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  2. ^ "MP Paula Bennett marries mystery man". 16 April 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Paula Bennett to seek Upper Harbour nomination". 3 News NZ. 21 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Bennett to contest new seat". Radio NZ. 21 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Hewitson, Michele (24 January 2009). "Michele Hewitson Interview: Paula Bennett". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  6. ^ Laugesen, Ruth (20 June 2009). "Outrageous Fortune". New Zealand Listener. 219 (3606): 16–20. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Collins, Simon (22 November 2008). "Cabinet's new poster girl". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  8. ^ "Hon. Paula Bennett – Biography". New Zealand National Party. 2008. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  9. ^ "Election results – Waitakere". New Zealand Ministry of Justice, Chief Electoral Office. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  10. ^ "Waitakere Electorate". Television New Zealand. 2 September 2008. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. 
  11. ^ Vance, Andrea; Hartevelt, John (16 December 2011). "Bennett wins back Waitakere". Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  12. ^ "Sepuloni mulls petition after Bennett regains Waitakere". New Zealand TV. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Official Count Results – Upper Harbour". New Zealand Electoral Commission. 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  14. ^ a b "Ministerial List". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  15. ^ a b c "Hon. Paula Bennett". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Trevitte, Clare (20 January 2009). "'Tough lady' minister breaks up mall fight". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  17. ^ "New Zealand Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to join 2010 Women's Leadership Program". Eisenhower Fellowship. March 2010. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Trevett, Claire (29 July 2009). "Minister accused of breaking privacy law". The New Zealand Herald. 
  19. ^ "The double-edged sword". Business Day. Fairfax New Zealand. 28 July 2009. 
  20. ^ "Bennett rejects 'hypocrite' claims". The New Zealand Herald. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  21. ^ Kinnealy, Mellissa. "Beneficiaries Face Squeeze". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Privacy issues stir Bennett welfare debate". ONE News/New Zealand Press Association. Television New Zealand. 29 July 2009. 
  23. ^ Trevett, Claire (28 July 2009). "Bennett: I consulted website before releasing mums' benefits". The New Zealand Herald. 
  24. ^ "Privacy Commissioner confirms investigation into Paula Bennett". Fairfax New Zealand. 11 August 2009. 
  25. ^ "Media statement on Paula Bennett privacy complaint". Scoop Media. 15 August 2012. 
  26. ^ "Rankin appointed to Families Commission". TV New Zealand. Retrieved 12 May 2009. 
  27. ^ "Bennett's job numbers don't add up - Ardern". 3 News NZ. 14 November 2012. 
  28. ^ a b "Paula Bennett ties knot at Piha". The New Zealand Herald. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  29. ^ Marwick, Felix; Trevett, Claire. "Bennett to serve as acting PM while Key, English are out of NZ". Newstalk ZB. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  30. ^ "L to R, Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, Sir David Gascoigne,...". Getty Retrieved 3 May 2017. 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Lynne Pillay
Member of Parliament for Waitakere
2008 – present
Political offices
Preceded by
Ruth Dyson
Minister for Disability Issues
Succeeded by
Tariana Turia
Minister of Social Development and Employment
Succeeded by
Anne Tolley
Preceded by
Chris Tremain
Minister of Local Government
2014 – present
Preceded by
Nanaia Mahuta
Minister for Youth Affairs
Succeeded by
Nikki Kaye