Richard Prebble

Richard Prebble

name=Hon. Richard Prebble

order=Minister of State-Owned Enterprises
term_start=2 November 1987
predecessor="New office"
primeminister=David Lange
Geoffrey Palmer
Mike Moore
birth_date=Birth date and age|1948|2|07|df=yes
birth_place=Kent, GBR
party=Labour (1975-96)
ACT New Zealand (1996-present)
constituency=Auckland Central (1975-93)
Wellington Central (1996-99)
List (1999-2005)

Richard William Prebble CBE, born 7 February 1948, was for many years a member of the New Zealand Parliament. Initially a member of the Labour Party, he joined the newly formed ACT New Zealand party under Roger Douglas in 1996.

Early life

Prebble was born in Kent, England, and raised in Auckland. His father, Ken Prebble, was an Anglican priest, and a leader in the Charismatic movement as archdeacon at St. Pauls. Richard attended the University of Auckland, gaining a BA degree in 1970 and an LLB (Hons.) degree in 1972. He was admitted to the Bar in 1971, and practised law in both New Zealand and Fiji.

Member of Parliament

Labour in opposition

Prebble was originally a member of the Labour Party, and stood as its candidate for the Auckland Central electorate in the 1975 election. His candidacy was successful. Once inside Parliament, Prebble became aligned with Roger Douglas, leader of the right-wing faction within the Labour Party. Douglas supported the privatization of state assets, the deregulation of the economy, and the removal of trade barriers such as tariffs and subsidies. The party's traditional left-wing faction strongly opposed all these policies.

Cabinet minister

When Labour Party won the 1984 election, Douglas became Minister of Finance, and began implementing his economic policy. Prebble, along with David Caygill, proved one of his greatest supporters, Douglas, Prebble, and Caygill becoming sometimes known as "the Troika".

Prebble's ministerial roles granted him significant opportunities to pursue his policies - from 1984 to 1987, he served as Minister of Transport and Minister of Railways. In these roles he promoted the privatization of state-owned transport infrastructure. He also served as Associate Minister of Finance during this period, allowing him to support Douglas more closely. In 1987, he became Minister for State-owned Enterprises, Postmaster General, Minister of Works, and Minister of Broadcasting, portfolios in which he continued to advance Douglas's policies. During his ministerial career, Prebble was effectively placed in charge of the ongoing privatisation of government assets.

Prebble's position became troubled, however, because of growing tensions between Douglas and the Prime Minister, David Lange. While Lange had supported Douglas's reforms in the beginning, believing that they were necessary to end the economic problems that the government inherited, he became increasingly hostile to the scale and pace that Douglas demanded - Lange tended to see the reforms as a means to an end, while Douglas considered deregulation and privatisation as important goals in and of themselves. In November 1988, after a long period of bitter dispute, Prebble was fired from Cabinet, and Douglas was forced to resign.

Labour in opposition

Prebble retained his Auckland Central seat in the 1990 election, which Labour lost, arguably because of public dissatisfaction with the reforms. In the 1993 election, however, Prebble lost his seat to Sandra Lee-Vercoe, deputy leader of the left-wing Alliance. For the next three years, he worked as a consultant.

ACT New Zealand

New Zealand's switch to the MMP electoral system, which made it easier for smaller parties to enter Parliament, provided the means for Prebble to return to national politics. When Douglas established the ACT New Zealand party, dedicated to the same "laissez-faire" economic policies he had promoted while in power, Prebble quickly became involved. In March 1996, Douglas stepped down as the new party's leader, and Prebble took over.

1996 campaign

In the 1996 election, the first to be held under MMP, ACT won eight seats in Parliament. Prebble won the Wellington Central electorate after a hotly contested campaign.

Views vary over whether he won Wellington Central on his own merits or because of an implied endorsement from National Prime Minister Jim Bolger. ACT had by this time started billing itself as a natural coalition partner for National, and if Prebble won Wellington Central, it would be able to enter Parliament regardless of its party vote.

Two days before the election Jim Bolger admitted in an interview with Paul Holmes that the polls pointed to a Prebble victory in Wellington Central although he thought it a pity because he liked the National candidate, Mark Thomas. Some argue that Prebble won because of this implied endorsement. Others argue that Prebble had already won, independent media polls already having put him in the lead a week out from the election. In the end, it proved to be moot, as ACT won 6.1% of the vote of the nationwide party vote, above the 5% threshold necessary to have seats in parliament.

1999 campaign

Prebble lost his Wellington Central seat (the boundaries of which were significantly changed by the Electoral Commission, to Prebble's disfavour) to Labour's Marian Hobbs in the 1999 election, but remained in Parliament as a list MP and leader of ACT. After the 2002 election, speculation grew that Prebble would be replaced as leader, but a challenge failed to eventuate.


In February 2004, after a particularly poor poll result, speculation about Prebble's position appeared once again, with second-ranked Rodney Hide cited as a potential challenger. No challenge eventuated. On 27 April 2004, however, Prebble announced his voluntary retirement from the leadership, saying that "there comes a point in politics when there's a time for a change, when there's time for a fresh face". After a so-called "primary" contest, Hide took over as ACT leader on 13 June 2004.

Prebble initially made no announcement about whether he would remain in Parliament beyond the following election but indicated that he was "leaning towards" leaving. In mid-July 2004, however, he announced that he would seek the office of Speaker upon the retirement of Jonathan Hunt. However, he did not stand for election when the new Speakerwas elected in March 2005 as he had decided to retire at the next election.

He delivered his valedictory speech to a full gallery on 28 July 2005, a copy of which can be read at []

Since the 2005 election Prebble has increasingly been involved in print media and on television as a political commentator. He continues to hold directorships with a number of New Zealand companies, including freight transport firm Mainfreight.

Prebble's latest book, "Out of the Red", was released on October 23rd (Labour Day), 2006.

Books & party political publications

:*citation |authorlink = ACT New Zealand |title = Values not politics: ACT New Zealand campaign manifesto: general election 1996 |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = ACT New Zealand |year = 1996 |isbn = 0-477-01901-3

:*citation |authorlink = ACT New Zealand |title = Values not politics: the first 1000 days |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office |year = 2000 |isbn = 0-477-01901-3

:*citation |authorlink = ACT New Zealand |title = Closing the gaps: policy papers |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office |year = 2001 |isbn = 0-958-21781-5

:*"Prebble's contribution was the paper:" "New Zealand: tenth by 2010."

:*citation |authorlink = ACT New Zealand |title = Old values: new ideas |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office |year = 2002 |isbn = 0-477-01964-1

:*"Prebble's contribution was the paper:" "Old values, new ideas." :*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = Labour's views on Transport Amendment Bill (no. 5) and future transport policy |place = n.p. |publisher = n.p. |year = 1983

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = Muldoon vs. Bolger |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = R. Prebble |year = 1987

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = I've been thinking |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = Seaview Publishing |year = 1996 |isbn = 1-86958-170-9

:*"The second edition of this book is entitled" Now it's time to act " - [note the ISBN] ."

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = What happens next |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = Seascape Press |year = 1997 |isbn = 0-473-04859-0

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = I've been writing |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = Fraser Holland Publishers |year = 1999 |isbn = 0-473-06031-0

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = Now it's time to act |place = Auckland, [N.Z.] |publisher = Seaview Press |year = 2006 |isbn = 1-86958-170-9

:*"This is the second edition of " I've been thinking " - [note the ISBN] containing additional material."

:*citation |first = Richard |last = Prebble |title = Out of the red |place = Rotorua, [N.Z.] |publisher = The Letter Ltd. |year = 2006 |isbn = 0-473-11249-3

:*citation |first1 = Richard |last1 = Prebble |first2 = Michael |last2 = Bassett |first3 = Peter |last3 = Harris |title = Environment, energy, forestry: Labour's 1978 manifesto |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = Labour |year = 1978

:*citation |first1 = Richard et al. |last1 = Prebble |title = National's promises, promises, promises-- : or, how to buy an election with other people's money: or, the world's longest political suicide note |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = N.Z. Labour Party |year = 1987

:*citation |first1 = Richard et al. |last1 = Prebble |title = Liberal thinking |place = Wellington, [N.Z.] |publisher = ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office |year = 2003 |isbn = 0-477-01979-X

:*"Prebble's contributions are the papers:" "Why I do not vote National"; "and (co-authored with" Deborah Coddington) "Lessons of freedom and choice."


*Prebble's older brother, John Prebble, is a Professor of Law at Victoria University of Wellington. His younger brother, Mark Prebble is the State Services Commissioner, and head of New Zealand's public service. John's daughter Antonia Prebble is an actor with a number of television roles.

*When fired from Cabinet in 1988, Prebble held a "State House Ejection Party" before leaving his Cabinet minister's house.

*Prebble's wife Doreen, from whom he is separated, is a Solomon Islander and a former Honorary Consul for the Solomon Islands in New Zealand.

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