Roger Douglas

Roger Douglas


honorific-prefix = The Honourable
name=Sir Roger Owen Douglas
order=33rd Minister of Finance
term_start=26 July 1984
term_end=14 December 1988
predecessor=Robert Muldoon
successor=David Caygill
primeminister=David Lange
parliament2=New Zealand
predecessor2=Merv Wellington
successor2=George Hawkins
birth_date=birth date and age|1937|12|5
birth_place=Auckland, New Zealand
party=Labour (1969–1990)
ACT (1993 - present)

Sir Roger Owen Douglas (born 5 December 1937), a New Zealand politician, formerly served as a senior Cabinet minister. He became arguably best-known for his prominent role in the radical economic restructuring undertaken by the Fourth Labour Government during the 1980s ("Rogernomics"). In 1993 he founded the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (the forerunner of the ACT New Zealand party) with Derek Quigley.

Early life

Douglas was born on 5 December 1937. His family had strong ties with the trade-union movement, and actively engaged in politics. His father Norman Douglas and a brother Malcolm Douglas both became Labour politicians.

Douglas received his secondary education at Auckland Grammar School, and gained a degree in accountancy from the University of Auckland.

Member of Parliament

After some experience in local-body politics as a member of the Manukau City Council, Douglas began his career in national politics in 1969 when he won election to parliament as the Labour Member of Parliament for Manukau. He became involved in the party's policies on industry and economics. He served as the MP for Manukau from 1969 to 1978, and then for Manurewa from 1978 to 1990.

Labour under Norman Kirk won the 1972 election, and the Labour parliamentary caucus elevated Douglas to Cabinet rank. During the Third Labour Government, he served as Postmaster-General, Minister of Broadcasting, Minister of Housing, and Minister of Customs. However, Kirk's unexpected death in 1974 (and his replacement by Bill Rowling) became factors in Labour's defeat by the National Party under Robert Muldoon in the 1975. Douglas became Labour's spokesperson on housing until 1980, when he acquired responsibility for the trade and industry portfolio. In informal Labour caucus politics, Douglas became a member of the " [ Fish and Chip Brigade] ", which grouped him with David Lange, Mike Moore, and Michael Bassett. In 1983, when David Lange became leader of the Labour Party, he made Douglas the Labour spokesperson for finance.

Minister of Finance

Labour returned to power in the election of 1984, forming the Fourth Labour Government. Lange became Prime Minister and gave the Minister of Finance role to Douglas. Douglas began to implement revolutionary policies. Known as "Rogernomics" (a coinage based on the term "Reaganomics", used to describe the economic policies of US President Ronald Reagan), the measures involved monetarist measures to control inflation, the slashing of subsidies and trade tariffs, and the privatisation of public assets. Traditionalists regarded all of these policies as a betrayal of Labour's left-wing stance, and Rogernomics became deeply unpopular with those who supported the political left in New Zealand. Douglas's supporters defended the reforms as necessary to revive the economy, which National's Muldoon had kept under tight regulation. "Euromoney" magazine chose Douglas as its "Finance Minister of the year" for 1985.

Federated Farmers had proposed most of these reforms. For example, they supported the removal of farm subsidies as well as all the other trade barriers. However, becauseFact|date=March 2008 farmers traditionally supported the National Party, the Labour Government applied the reforms to farmers first, in such a manner that the subsidies disappeared while farmers still had to pay for the protected machinery they needed, so many farmers felt hit hard.

Despite implementing substantial reforms which made it unpopular amongst many sections of the community, the Labour government won re-election in 1987, with a substantial majority in the legislature (58.8% of the seats). SomeWho|date=March 2008 argue that Labour's re-election stemmed primarily from the weakness of the opposition National Party and from public support for Labour's other policies (such as its stand against nuclear weapons). Douglas, along with his supporters Richard Prebble and David Caygill, maintained majority backing from the Cabinet to continue with their reforms, up until the conflict between Lange and Douglas. Shortly after the election and the "Black Monday" stock-market crash, Prime Minister Lange moved to stop the changes. A protracted conflict between Lange and Douglas broke out in Cabinet. Eventually Lange dismissed Richard Prebble in November 1988 and, following Douglas' announcement of a new flat-tax system and a Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme, forced Douglas to resign his ministerial positions at the end of 1988.

The Labour Party caucus, however, voted to return Douglas to Cabinet in July the following year. While Lange had perforce to accept the decision of caucus, he did not have to reappoint Douglas to his old post. Douglas became Minister of Police and Minister of Immigration, much more junior positions than his old role of Minister of Finance. The rejection by caucus of Douglas's original dismissal, however, had weakened Lange's position, and the Prime Minister himself resigned the month after Douglas returned. Lange's successors (Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore) did not, however, restore Douglas to his former position, and Douglas proved unable to pursue his economic programme. Douglas did not stand for Parliament at the 1990 election, which Labour lost. His policies, however, continued under the aegis of Ruth Richardson, the Minister of Finance in the new Fourth National Government of New Zealand (see Ruthanasia).

Roger Douglas became a Knight Bachelor as The Honorable Sir Roger Douglas in 1990. [ [ New Zealand Honours Secretariat listing] , retrieved 2008-03-25]

By and large, subsequent governments have retained or re-inforced the policies promoted by Douglas in the years 1984 to 1987 — including low levels of import-protection, "credible" monetary and fiscal policies, deregulated financial markets and limited subsidies and other interventions in the economy. The Heritage Foundation / Wall Street Journal 2006 Index of Economic Freedom ranks New Zealand 9th-highest in the world, (equal with the United States and Australia).

ACT New Zealand

In 1993 Sir Roger Douglas co-founded the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers with Derek Quigley. Sir Roger and Quigley intended the Association to serve as a pressure-group promoting the Douglas economic policies. Shortly afterwards, in 1996, the country switched to using the MMP electoral system. (Some commentators Who|date=March 2008 attribute this change in part to public perceptions about betrayal by the "established" parties, with Labour's pursuit of non-leftist policies figuring as the most major of those perceived betrayals). MMP gave smaller groups a much better chance of entering Parliament, and encouraged the new Association to establish the ACT New Zealand Party. Sir Roger served as the new group's first leader, but soon stood aside for Richard Prebble (his old ally from their days in the Labour caucus).

Sir Roger has remained a strong supporter of the ACT party, although he has become somewhat unhappy with the party's alleged lack of focus on pure economic policy. In particular, Sir Roger has criticised what he sees as populism within the party, claiming that some of its MPs seem more committed to grabbing headlines than to developing policy-frameworks. When in April 2004 Richard Prebble announced his decision to retire, Sir Roger spoke out in favour of Stephen Franks and Ken Shirley as possible successors — the other main contender in the leadership race, Rodney Hide, generally had a reputation for advocating the style that Sir Roger condemns. Rodney Hide won the leadership and currently heads the ACT party.

On 2 December 2004, both Sir Roger and Derek Quigley announced that they would step down as patrons of ACT. They stated as the reason for this action that they wished to have more freedom to disagree with the party publicly.

On 21 February 2008 Sir Roger renewed his involvement with the ACT party by signing a letter inviting supporters to the 2008 ACT conference, and appearing in television and newspaper interviews endorsing ACT for 2008. [cite news|title=Sir Roger makes his peace with Act |url=
publisher = "The New Zealand Herald"
date=27 February 2008

At ACT's 2008 Annual Conference in Auckland, Sir Roger announced his intention to stand for Parliament once again, as an ACT candidate in an unidentified South Auckland electorate. An announcement on 8 June 2008 associated Sir Roger's candidacy with the newly-created electorate of Hunua. [cite news
first = Audrey
last = Young
title = Douglas to take high position on Act list
url =
work = The New Zealand Herald
publisher =
location = Auckland
date = 2008-06-09
accessdate = 2008-07-12
quote = The announcement about Sir Roger's decision was made by Mr Hide yesterday at a barbecue at Karaka in the Hunua electorate, where Sir Roger will stand.
] He is third on the ACT party list for the 2008 election. [ cite news
first = Maggie
last = Tait
title = ACT party announces list
url =
work = The New Zealand Herald
publisher =
location = Auckland
date = 2008-08-20
accessdate = 2008-09-01

The Roger Award

In a back-handed compliment, the founders in 1997 of the annual award for "The Worst Transnational Corporation operating in New Zealand" - as voted by left-wing groups - named it the "Roger Award" after Sir Roger Douglas.

Outside politics

Since leaving politics when he retired from the leadership of ACT, Sir Roger has held senior positions at a number of prominent companies. He currently serves as the managing director of his own group, Roger Douglas Associates.


Further reading


External links


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