It’s our birthday! Today, 105 years ago, the New Zealand Labour Party was founded. And we haven’t stopped moving since: fighting for workers’ rights, expanding protections to boost equality, and upholding democratic socialist ideals.
We’re now the oldest political party in New Zealand and, as we celebrate our 105 years, we’re taking a look back at some of the moments that have defined us.
Here are 15 of them.
1. In 1936, the first Labour Government signed the 40-hour working week into law for most workers in factories and workshops. Over the next decade, with more law changes, this working week became near universal.
2. In 1937, Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage opened the first state house. A classic picture shows Savage helping to move a table into 12 Fife Lane, Miramar, Wellington – which saw 300 visitors come through on opening day. This was the start of an ongoing legacy of state housing. Now, as we work to help more Kiwis into homes, we’ve delivered 7,863 new public housing places since taking office in November 2017 and are on track to deliver more than 18,000 public and transitional housing places by 2024.
3. In 1939, the Labour Government brought in free maternity and hospital care for New Zealanders. Now, we’re working to uphold our strong record of supporting public health, with a massive rebuild campaign of our health infrastructure and major reforms to our health system that will make quality care accessible to all New Zealanders. We’ve also made doctors’ visits cheaper for more than half a million people.
4. In 1944, we introduced two weeks of paid annual leave for all employees. In 1974, also under Labour, this was bumped up to three weeks. And in 2007, we ensured New Zealander workers got even more time with their families, increasing minimum annual holidays to four weeks.
5. In 1984, Labour Prime Minister David Lange took a strong nuclear-free stance – making clear his intention to ban nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering our waters. Three years later, in 1987, we passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act, making our sea, land, and airspace nuclear-free zones. This built on the legacy of Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk, who, years earlier, had sent a boat to protest French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Our nuclear-free stance has been a crucial part of our foreign policy and our national identity ever since.
6. In 1986, the Labour Government took a big step forward for LGBTQ+ rights, passing the Homosexual Law Reform Act. The Act paved the way toward tackling stigma and prejudice against gay men. We’ve continued to work to support our Rainbow whānau, passing the Civil Unions Act in 2004 and supporting legislation that allows men to have historic homosexual offences wiped from their criminal record. Now, we’re working to ban harmful conversion practices.
7. In 1987, we doubled parental leave and made it gender neutral, with the passage of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act. We also introduced paid parental leave, in 2002. Then we extended it – from 18 weeks to 22 weeks in 2018, and to 26 weeks in 2020.
8. In 2004, Helen Clark’s Labour Government announced Working for Families, a programme that 17 years later, still helps working parents with income support, accommodation allowances, and childcare subsidies. It’s part of our work to tackle child poverty and improve the lives of thousands of New Zealanders.
9. In 2006, our interest-free student loans came into effect, reducing the cost of tertiary education for hundreds of thousands of people. The change made loans interest-free for all borrowers living in New Zealand, increasing access to education. More recently, we’ve doubled down on these efforts to reduce barriers to education and help Kiwis to upskill, making the first year of study fees-free from 2018 and rolling out free trades training in targeted areas as part of our COVID recovery.
10. In 2006, the fifth Labour Government introduced KiwiSaver, a savings scheme to help Kiwi workers put aside money for their first home and retirement. Not only does this system help you to put away a little bit each pay, but the Government chips in, too – up to around $520 a year.
11. In 2017, Jacinda Ardern’s Government announced the Families Package, which has gone on to provide the biggest boost in household income in a decade for thousands of whānau . A year later, the Child Poverty Reduction Act passed into law, making sure that improving child wellbeing remains a priority for successive governments.
12. In 2019, our first Wellbeing Budget placed Kiwis’ wellbeing at the heart of our financial approach – investing in mental health, child wellbeing, and family violence prevention, while working to address inequality.
13. In 2020, our COVID-19 response prioritised keeping Kiwis safe, while supporting businesses and workers. This approach has protected lives and livelihoods, setting up the New Zealand economy to recover faster.
14. Also in 2020, the Government’s declaration of a climate emergency and commitment to make the Government carbon neutral signalled a new urgency in our fight against climate change. This built on our 2018 ban on new oil and gas exploration permits and is part of our extensive work to protect our environment.
15. Budget 2021 invested in historic benefit increases, among other initiatives, making sure we secure our recovery from COVID-19 while also tackling long-term challenges like housing, climate change, and child poverty. Increases to main benefits, some of which have already taken effect, will lift up to 33,000 children out of poverty. And Budget 2021, as a whole, is predicted to support more than 200,000 people into employment over the next four years while injecting an extra $15.1 billion into infrastructure projects.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done since the Party was founded, but we know there’s always more to do. Here’s to the next 105 years!
If you want to read more about some of our more recent achievements, check out our record. Stay in the loop with the latest announcements by signing up to our mailing list and following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Header image: First state house in Miramar | Licensed under CC BY 2.0