Monday, February 20, 2006

10 Worst New Zealanders

A month or so back a lot of American bloggers put together a list of their ten worst Americans. The lists are varied, and often partisan, but it was a fun thing to do. So I thought I'd start a New Zealand version. I'm encouraging all other New Zealand bloggers to join in and name your worst (if you don't have a blog it'd be cool if you could leave a list in the comments).

Maia's List of 10 Worst New Zealanders (in chronological order):

Just by way of introduction, I've focused on people with power, because they can do so much more damage. I've also tried not to cover the same historical period more than once. I'll probably think of better people tomorrow, I also know more about twentieth century New Zealand history than 19th, so it's a little unbalanced.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield Colonist: I've spent most of my life in Wellington, he could make the list just because he decreed a grid system for Wellington's roads, from London, when he'd never seen our hills.

But no he's on this list for his aim to create a better Britain. With all the classes (someone has to do the work), but without the pesky class antagonism. He wanted to ensure that poor people weren't able to live off the land, so there'd be enough workers for the capitalists to exploit. He didn't seem to mind much that there were people already living there.

John Bryce There is an element of randomness that means that I choose this particular MP, cabinet minister, and military commander to represent the MPs, cabinet ministers, and military commanders that colonised this country. But he showed such bravery defending his home in Wanganui when he attacked a group of unarmed Maori children, and killed two of them, that I had to include him.

As minister of Native Affairs his focus was on strengthening government power and alienating Maori land. In 1880, when he was governer, resistance was primarily from Te Whiti and Parihaka. He was all about crushing this dangerous non-violence movement that was occupying land, so crush it he did. He threatened to resign when parliament wouldn't pass repressive enough laws, and then, when he did resign, he went off to personally supervise the invasion.

Robert Logan, Military Leader: When World War I broke out Britain asked New Zealand to annexe Western Samoa, which was currently colonised by Germany. We thought that a miny empire seemed like a good idea the project was described as 'a great and urgent Imperial Service' and Robert Logan was the man to do the job. Now if all he'd done was invade a country, I'd probably blame his political masters who ordered it. It was the way he administered the country once he'd has his invading fun that earns him a place on this list (and when I put him on this list I didn't know about his appalling treatment of Chinese indentured labourers - or slaves as they're more commonly known).

Most specifically in November 1918 there was a world-wide flu pandemic, which had already hit New Zealand. The Talune sailed from New Zealand to Samoa, and it was obvious that some people on board were sick with influenza, but it wasn't put into quarantine. Three weeks later 7,542 Samoans - 20% of the population - had died.

Those who made Gallipoli a myth The myth of the ANZACs as the creators of some great (and important) national identity is so pervasive, that I have no idea who started making it.

Those kids did not earn anything with their deaths, they ordered to slaughter and be slaughtered, plain and simple. Much as I hate those who gave the orders, the vultures who came after and used the carcases of those boys to maintain their power are worse.

The McMillan inquiry A government inquiry into illegal abortion (it's a bit of a cheat, but if I have to choose an individual I'll choose Dr Paget, who I quote): In the 1930s there was an increase in illegal abortion in New Zealand. A fact that should surprise no-one who knew there was a depression at this time. A lot of the women who have written about their life in the 1930s have talked about illegal abortions, and women who died from them.

The inquiry wasn't exactly made up of feminists, one member asked an advocate of birth control: "You think a woman could be considered to have done her duty to the state if she had three children?" But women came forward and described their lives. It doesn't take much to listen to stories of depression and poverty, and abortion to joina few dots.

The inquiry's response wasn't so big on the dot joining:

"The report identified two main strategies aimed at reducing the incidence of abortion - controlling the flow of birth control information by constraining it to medical channels, and imploring women to be less selfish. The role of the state would be "to appeal to the womanhood of New Zealand, in so far as selfish and unworthy motives have entered into our family life, to consider the grave phsyical and moral dangers, not to speak of the dangers of race suicide, which are involved
If they were going to be such racist, sexist assholes, the least they could have done was provide some serious money, because the actual women were having abortions, was because they couldn't afford to have children.

Peter Fraser Labour Prime Minister 1940-1949: I think he'd earn this just by being jailed for sedition for criticising conscription during World War One, and then jailing conscientious objectors in World War One, who went on to jail conscientious objectors in World War Two. "That war was a nasty imperialist war, but this war is hugs and puppies."

But he was also New Zealand's representative to the United Nations, where we advocated putting a man's right to a family wage into the declaration of human rights. He thought paying women less than men was a human right.

Finton Patrick Walsh Trade Union Leader: I distrust anyone who holds that much power, particularly a trade union leader. Maintaining your own power often runs contrary to the needs of building a movement. But having and maintaing a lot of power (and making a ton of money for himself in the process), isn't why he's on my list.

He's on my list because of 1951. I just wrote about it, he sold out the waterside workers, there isn't much more to say (he is also a stand-in for Ken Douglas, as I didn't think I could have both Ken Douglas and David Lange).

Robert Muldoon National Party Prime Minister 1975-1984: It feels a little bit cheap - he is, after all, the easy shot. But I loathe and detest him with such a fiery passion, that I once kicked the "opened by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon" plaque at the National Library (I'd been doing some research about abortion legislation - you'd kick him too). You could hate him for being anti-abortion on Monday, attacking the DPB on Tuesday, wage and price freezes on Wednesday, Health & Education cuts on Thursday, Dawn Raids on Friday, Bastion Point on Saturday and extending the powers of the SIS on Sunday. And that's without even getting into the tour.

I know it's easy to make fun of him (after all I grew up thinking his first name was 'piggy'); I know that there is a concerted effort to use his policies as an excuse for what the following Labour government did. That doesn't make him any less awful.

David Lange Labour Party Prime Minister 1984-1988: I chose him, of all the 4th Labour government fuckwits, because he tries to weasel his way out of responsibility. He was always the right-wing candidate within Labour, and he rose to power with the support of Douglas and Prebble. That government is his responsibility.

He gets all the credit for the anti-nuclear legislation (which he had to be dragged by his caucus kicking and screaming), but doesn't get blamed for the poverty and misery and economic havoc his government caused. I hold him repsonsible for every railway worker who has died since our railways have been privatised.

Names Suppressed occupation suppressed: Four rapists are currently appealing their conviction for raping a woman some years ago. Two of them have name suppression. They represent all the men who have raped, beaten and murdered women, for their own personal gratification, and to maintain their power.

All material or quotes are from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, except the McMillan Commission which is from Helen Smythe's Rocking the Cradle: Contraception, Sex and Politics in New Zealand


  1. Anonymous10:59 am

    Muldoon was PM from '75-84, not '75-81.

  2. Damn, beat me to it.

    Logan is a good addition. I've just read Mau: Samoa's Struggle Against New Zealand Oppression, and the guy really was an arsehole. His order nullifying all marriages between Samoans and Chinese (to prevent "pollution" of their race) and jailing any chinese person found in a Samoan's home (and vice versa) is a piece of sadistic, racist cruelty. And his handling of the spidemic ("I do not care if they are going to die. let them die and go to hell") simply beggars belief.

    Still, there's a few people missing. Roger Douglas being an obvious example. Yes, he's recent - but I think that throwing a hundred thousand kiwis out of work qualifies. Though Ruth Richardson was crueller...

    And what about "nullity" Prendergast?

  3. Everyone in there is standing for other people as well - I think Lange is as responsible for those jobs lost as Douglas is. But you're right, there are at least another 20 people I wanted on the list. Jenny Shipley was next on the list - but if I was going to take someone off the list it would be Muldoon, and I couldn't do it.

    Everyone who has people of themselves put a list on your blog - or in the comments if you don't have a blog.

  4. I agree mostly with your version (particularly Bryce and Wakefield), but I've suggested some others here.

  5. Anonymous7:45 pm

    What about Millie (or is it Mollie) Dean the baby farmer and mrderer.

  6. Anonymous9:13 pm

    I believe that the evidence against Millie Dean was dubious, I'd be very wary of adding her name.
    Gallipoli was made famous not so much for what the soldiers did, though that in itself was heroic and certainly gained the eternal respect of the Turks ( Ataturk's role helps there, but it's not the sole reason ), but it's fame surely is in that whilst not only exposing Churchill's bad side ( treatment of the colonials, the long term benefits are being fought out in Iraq as we speak ), it provoked NZ and Australias departure from the shirt tails of England and given the circumstances, for how they fought the ANZACS deserve our never ending respect I believe.
    A very good list BTW, Wakefield is definitely No.1, I'd call Muldoon No.2 his role in allowing the Springbok tour of '81 is worth a mention.
    I'd swap out Lange for David Gray, I'll never forget that day & Lange did enough good to make up for the bad IMHO.

  7. Anonymous9:33 pm

    Minnie Dean was a poor woman, whose powerlessness would rule her out of this list.

    An alternative for that era might be Dr Duncan McGregor, Chief Inspector of Charitable Aid, who railed in parliament about the fecklessness of single mothers, in much the same bigoted way as Muriel Newman does today.

  8. Anonymous9:42 pm

    I would say Helen Clark - she right up there with Muldon of holding onto power for the sake of being in government.

    She has over the last six years run one of the most corrupt and incompetent governments.

    The list of misdeeds by this government is awful:

    Peter Doone, Christine Rankin, Shane Jones at the FEC, Official Information Act requests being ignored, Closing the gaps, Interest free loans, "Ideological burps", Benson-Pope prima facie, Taito Philip Field, Mallards Bagman allegations, campaigning with leaders fund cash, Margeret Wilson as Speaker, contrived public apologies to the Chinese & Samoans, James Buwalda as CEO of Dept Of Labour, NCEA, home detention, fart taxes, Jims Job Machine, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson's 'tart' comments during a select committee, Winston Peters, Jo Jo Hunt, Sanrda Lee, yelling & screaming over the top of opposition members trying to address the house.... and this is not a complete list (nb: I pinched this from a blog a read the other day).

    She was also in the Lange government during Rogernomics but tries to blame others for her time in that government as a Minister.

  9. Anonymous10:11 pm

    Christine Rankin belongs in a list of the ten most attention-seeking idiotic New Zealanders.

    However, despite her long legs, she's a long way short - in terms of attention-seeking idiocy - of Lady Michele Renouf, a flamboyant supporter of David Irving who turned up at his trial.

    In front of camera crews and reporters, Renouf called for the bodies of "so-called Holocaust victims to be exhumed to see whether they died from typhoid or gas".

  10. Anonymous10:33 pm

    Connie Purdue would have to be in the running for the most spectacular about face. After many years in the Communist Party, she ended up telling tales on communists to Muldoon, in true McCarthyite fashion. A conservative Catholic, she single-handedly blocked the National Organisation for Women from having a policy on abortion law reform, and nearly succeeded in blocking the first United Women’s Convention from having a vote about the abortion issue. She posed as a women’s rights campaigner while actively working against women’s reproductive rights.

  11. Frida - I'm kind of thinking of putting together a list of worst New Zealnders without any power. I'd definately put Connie Purdue on the list (and it'd be kind of tempting to make the list up entirely of anti-abortionists). Graham Capill would also go on that list, he'd be number one.

    Anonymous I've got far more substantial issues with Helen Clark than those, but we may be coming from different directions.

    I'd encourage people to have something more substantial say than that you'd shit on someone graves and they achieved nothing as prime minister.

  12. Anonymous11:19 pm

    Suzanne Paul must rank, well she is rank, she is just aweful but didn't she manage to sell shite to us all. And she is back! Argh, get my gun Annie.

  13. Didnt the Nats sell the rail?

  14. Anonymous4:44 am

    Yes, didnt the national vampires sell off the rail, water, electricity, communications(telecom)just to name a few.I dont agree with your view on David Lange as I think he was a realist and an idealist that got the only good thing to come out of his slippery slope to getting kicked out because he was an honest politician for a change and at least he got us our anti nuclear stance in the world as that is really the only thing we proud kiwis can say thats good about our country any more as the roundtable of corporates has seen to that.000.1% own it all and the rest of us looking for a couple of shitty crumbs under the table that might fall down in that so called trickle down economy that was suppose to be the pay off from selling our ass ests to the highest bidder. We all know who got the good deal out of that one.I smell revolution on a grand scale.

  15. Anonymous2:34 pm

    Capill had power alright, ar least as far as his victims were concerned.
    Ken Douglas helped nail the ECA inplace ( among other shitty things )
    I'd include Andrew Little, Paul Tolich
    Paul Swain, every overpaid self satisfied academic industrial relations expert as a job lot, Theresa Gatting, Angela Foulkes,Kerry Prenderghast, Alec Shaw, Bob Jones, Johanthan Hunt,The Preston family, the Todd family and the bastard down the road from us who has his ghettoblaster out on the footpath while he's washing his car.

  16. Adventures in Histomat has an interesting variation on the top ten:

  17. Anonymous2:34 pm

    On John Bryce:

    'But he showed such bravery defending his home in Wanganui when he attacked a group of unarmed Maori children, and killed two of them, that I had to include him.'

    You be careful what you say about John Bryce, it's accusations like that that got a certain historian into a lot of trouble in the 1880s.

    See Bryce v. Rusden : in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Royal Courts of Justice, Thursday, 4th March, 1886, before Baron Huddleston and a special jury

    Apparently, it was only Bryce's men that killed the boys.

  18. Anonymous12:50 pm

    May I belatedly add Helen Clark to my list for being "delighted" that Air New Zealand engineering workers have been bullied into wearing job losses, wages cuts and worsening of conditions.

    National may as well pack it in and go fishing, what more could they offer the bosses.

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  20. Definitely the worst living New Zealander is Mike Henry:

    Where is the Serious Fraud Office when you need them??

  21. I think Bryce was awarded a military honour for the killing of those Maori children. So much for those who insist child abuse is a Maori problem - here is state sanctioned abuse in extremis.