History, Third Period of Reform
ANZUS treaty, Geoffrey Palmer, French tests, Waitangi Tribunal, David Lange
In 1978 and 1981 the Muldoon government was narrowly returned to power, but when Muldoon called an early election in 1984, the Labour Party under David Lange defeated him. Growing support for social, political, and economic reforms as well as frustration over a depressed economy contributed to the National Partyís downfall. As prime minister, Lange initiated the third period of intense reform in New Zealandís modern history. Reversing its traditional position, the Labour Party set out to deregulate economy and society and to disengage the state from both. The policies, often referred to as ďRogernomics,Ē were masterminded more by Finance Minister Roger Douglas than by Lange, who eventually came to oppose them and removed Douglas in 1988. However, economic restructuring was continued by succeeding governments, both National and Labour, until 1999.
The new Labour government also set the precedent of making the first real attempt to address Maori grievances. Since 1975 Maori had been able to submit grievances to the Waitangi Tribunal, but only for claims of recent breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. The tribunal was largely ineffectual until 1985, when the government enabled it to consider Maori grievances from as far back as 1840. Since then there have been several major settlements, under which the state paid compensation to Maori tribal groups for breaches of the treaty. Although the settlements met with a mixed reception from some Maori claimants, the tribunal process does suggest that at least some reconciliation is possible.
Under Lange the Labour government also adopted an antinuclear policy, which led to the suspension of the ANZUS treaty. After the Labour election victory in 1984, a strong section of the party and of the public advocated an uncompromising antinuclear policy, directed against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and visits to New Zealandís coastal waters by nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships of the U.S. Navy. Protests against French tests were led by the environmental organization Greenpeace. In 1985, before planned Greenpeace protests at the nuclear test site of Mururoa, an atoll in French Polynesia, the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior was blown up and sunk in Aucklandís harbor. One person died as a result of the bombing. Investigations revealed that the ship had been deliberately sabotaged with explosives planted by undercover agents of the French military. This incident broadened and strengthened public support in New Zealand for an antinuclear stance. New Zealandís military alliance with the United States, effectively the cornerstone of foreign policy since 1942, lapsed. In 1986 the United States suspended its ANZUS security guarantees to New Zealand. (Separate defense agreements with Australia remained in force.) In June 1987 New Zealandís ban on nuclear-carrying vessels in its territorial waters became law with the enactment of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Bill.
The Labour government won reelection in 1987. Citing ill health, Lange resigned in 1989 and was replaced by Geoffrey Palmer. Internal disputes within the party and the declining popularity of the government caused Palmer to resign in favor of Michael Moore in September 1990. The national election held the following month was fought mainly over economic issues. Labour was ousted by the National Party, then headed by James (Jim) Brendan Bolger.
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