Friday, September 14, 2007

Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Muldoon in 1977.
For the fictional character in Jurassic Park, see List of characters in Jurassic Park.
Sir Robert David ("Rob") Muldoon, GCMG, CH (25 September 19215 August 1992) served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984.

Muldoon joined the army during the Second World War and served in the South Pacific and Italy. While in Italy he served in the same battalion as two other National Party colleagues, Duncan MacIntyre and Jack Marshall. He completed his training as an accountant, sitting his final exams to become an accountant whilst in Italy; when he returned to New Zealand after the war, he was the country's first fully qualified cost accountant.
In March 1947 he joined a newly-founded branch of the Junior Nationals, the youth wing of the conservative New Zealand National Party. He quickly became active in the party, making two sacrificial-lamb bids for Parliament against entrenched Labour incumbents in 1954 and 1957 before being elected MP for the suburban Auckland electorate of Tamaki in 1960 general election in the wave that brought Keith Holyoake to power as Prime Minister of the second National government. He would represent this constituency for the next 32 years.

Robert Muldoon Early career
He displayed a flair for debate and a diligence in his backbench work, and in 1963 he was made Under-Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Harry Lake. While holding this office, he was responsible for the successful introduction of decimal currency into New Zealand.

Entry into Cabinet
When Lake died in 1967, Muldoon was the natural (and only obvious) choice to replace him; at 45, he was the youngest Minister of Finance since the 1890s. However, because Holyoake believed Muldoon was too arrogant and ambitious for his own good, thus he was only ranked eighth in Cabinet (Traditionally Ministers of Finance are usually ranked second or third in seniority lists within Westminster Cabinets).
Muldoon believed that both abortion and capital punishment were wrong. He crossed the floor to vote with the Opposition for abolishing the death penalty, in 1961. Later, in 1977, he voted against abortion when the issue came up as a conscience vote.
From his early years as a Member of Parliament, Muldoon became known as Piggy; the epithet that was to remain with him throughout his life even amongst those who were his supporters. Muldoon himself seemed to relish his controversial public profile and later claimed that he thought that satirical critics were not hard enough on him.
Muldoon established a considerable national profile rapidly; many historians credit his image, rather than that of the Prime Minister, Holyoake, or his deputy, Jack Marshall, for the National Party's surprise victory in the 1969 election. He also displayed a flair for the new medium of television lacking in his senior colleagues; he is still considered one of New Zealand's most artful practitioners of media manipulation.

Deputy Prime Minister
Marshall fought the 1972 election on a slogan of "Man For Man, The Strongest Team" — an allusion to Marshall's own low-key style, particularly compared to his deputy. The party was badly defeated, ending 12 years in power. In the aftermath, Marshall resigned, and Muldoon took over, becoming Leader of the Opposition. Many members of the party caucus believed Marshall was not up to the task of taking on the formidable Labour Prime Minister, Norman Kirk.
Muldoon, on the other hand, relished the opportunity — but had it for only a short time, until Kirk's sudden death in August 1974. In the 1975 election, Muldoon overwhelmed Kirk's lacklustre successor, Bill Rowling, reversing the 32–55 Labour majority into a 55–32 National majority. His platform offered "New Zealand - The Way You Want It", promising a generous national superannuation scheme to replace Kirk and Rowling's employer-contribution superannuation scheme, and the promise to fix New Zealand's "shattered economy".

Leader of the Opposition

Main article: Third National Government of New Zealand Prime Minister

Main article: Think Big Think Big

Main article: 1981 Springbok Tour Springbok tour 1981
In 1982, Muldoon's government supported the British in the Falklands War. While New Zealand did not directly participate in the conflict, Muldoon ensured that the frigate HMNZS Canterbury was sent to the Indian Ocean to relieve a Royal Navy frigate, so that it could be deployed in the conflict. New Zealand also broke off its diplomatic relations with Argentina. In defence of his support for the war, Muldoon wrote an article that was published in The Times, entitled Why we Stand by our Mother Country.

Falklands' War
Muldoon initiated a Closer Economic Relations free-trade programme with Australia to liberalise trade, which came into effect from New Year's Day 1982. The aim of total free trade between the two countries was achieved in 1990, five years ahead of schedule.

Closer Economic Relations
Ultimately, the end of Muldoon's government came following a late-night clash with National backbencher Marilyn Waring over highly contentious Opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation, in which Waring told him she would cross the floor (giving the Opposition a victory). A visibly drunk Muldoon called a snap election for 14 July 1984 (Which most commentators noted was unfortunate, as it is Bastille Day). He was heavily defeated by David Lange's resurgent Labour Party, which won 56 seats to National's 37 with a massive vote division caused by the New Zealand Party in particular.
It has long been a political convention in New Zealand politics that a prime minister does not advise the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament prematurely unless he or she cannot govern, or unless they need to seek the electorate's endorsement on a matter of national importance (as was the case in 1951). Muldoon justified the snap election because he felt Waring's revolt impeded his ability to govern. Indeed, it was obvious that Muldoon was finding it hard to pass financial measures with neo-liberal rebels like Ruth Richardson and Derek Quigley voting against the Government on certain issues; however, some historians have been critical of this excuse, as Waring said that she would not have denied Muldoon confidence or supply, and would not have prevented him from governing, as the government still had the constitutional means to govern.

Nuclear ships policy and snap election

Main article: New Zealand constitutional crisis, 1984 Foreign exchange and constitutional crises
Muldoon was deposed as National Party leader shortly after the election by his deputy leader, Jim McLay. McLay lasted two years, with Muldoon and others actively undermining his leadership. In 1986, he was ousted in turn by his own deputy (and Muldoon's preferred candidate), Jim Bolger, who had served as Minister of Labour for the latter half of Muldoon's term as Prime Minister.
Muldoon remained in Parliament as the MP for Tamaki until shortly before his death. He lived through the Fourth Labour Government's neo-liberal reforms, known as Rogernomics, and to his horror — to see a National government led by his own man, Bolger, after being elected in the landslide of 1990, take up the baton with Ruthanasia, named after Finance Minister Ruth Richardson. Muldoon's conscience tormented him; he could not bring himself to vote with the Labour Party against the Bolger government's benefit cuts, and, looking miserable, abstained.
Muldoon also opposed the legalisation of homosexual behavior when Labour MP Fran Wilde introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1985, which was passed.
Although he remained iconic to particular segments of society, particularly the elderly, Muldoon faded quickly as a force on the political scene. His biographer, Barry Gustafson — who noted that he was not a Muldoon supporter — wrote that he still served as an active MP for his Tamaki electorate, dealing immediately with matters from all walks of life. He continued to write in international economic journals, arguing that the unemployment that had arisen as a result of the free-market reforms was worse than the gains that were made, a view that came to be popular by the time of the Fifth Labour Government in 1999.
He had a short stage career in a New Zealand production of The Rocky Horror Show, starring as the narrator, had minor television appearances on commercials for Panasonic (when it changed its name in New Zealand from National) and the TV series Terry and the Gunrunners (as Arnos Grove) and The Friday Frights (as the host), and hosted a talkback radio show entitled Lilies and Other Things, after his favourite flower.
It was on this show, on 17 November 1991, that he announced he would stand down from Parliament; he formally retired one month later, on 17 December. His retirement party featured taped speeches from Ronald Reagan (commenting that at Muldoon's age, he was only getting started) and Margaret Thatcher. He fell seriously ill almost immediately, and died in hospital on 5 August 1992, aged 70.

Later life
Muldoon remains one of the most complex, fascinating, and polarising figures in New Zealand history. He divided people into camps of those who loved him and those who hated him; very few people, except those born after his fall, were neutral. To his enemies, "Piggy" Muldoon was a dictatorial Prime Minister who nearly destroyed both New Zealand's economy and New Zealand society through his arrogance.
To those, known as "Rob's Mob", who revered him, he was an icon of the New Zealand national character, a supporter of the "ordinary bloke" (his own description of himself) and an international statesman. Curiously, he was also patron of the Mongrel Mob gang Some argue that he was responsible for much of the pain caused by the free-market reforms of 1984 – 1993, because by holding on for as long as he did he forced the inevitable reforms to be implemented with unusual speed and severity. However, this view is not universal, and many also argue that the free market reformers of the 1980s and 1990s used Muldoon as an excuse to embark on radical ideological programs.
Muldoon famously declared upon becoming Prime Minister that he hoped to leave New Zealand "no worse off than I found it". He dominated New Zealand politics for over a decade, and still influences the conduct of government today. Gustafson gives him the following epitaph: "By 1992 New Zealand had not become what Muldoon or many other New Zealanders wanted it to be but he was not prepared to take the blame for that. Muldoon died unrepentant and still convinced that his way, even if never perfect, had been a better way."

In 1951 Muldoon married Thea Flyger, by whom he would have three children, and who survives him. She was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993, and QSO.