Gerry Brownlee

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Gerard Anthony Brownlee (born 1956), generally known as Gerry Brownlee, is a New Zealand politician. He currently serves as deputy leader of the National Party, the largest opposition group.

Brownlee was born in Christchurch, and has lived there for his entire life. After leaving high school, he worked in his family's timber business, and received training in carpentry. Later, he qualified as a teacher, and taught woodwork and crafts at the high school level.

In the 1993 elections, Brownlee was the National Party's candidate for the Sydenham electorate, where he campaigned against Jim Anderton of the newly formed Alliance. He was unsuccessful. In the 1996 elections, he contested the seat of Ilam, and won by a comfortable margin. He has remained the MP for Ilam since that point, although his majority has declined steadily.

In Parliament, Brownlee has served as the National Party's Junior Whip and as its spokesperson on superannuation, energy, transport, local government, and the ACC. Brownlee came into the spotlight on a number of occasions, mostly as the result of his somewhat aggressive style of politics. He is considered by most to be a powerful performer in Parliamentary debate. In early 2002, a court ordered Brownlee to pay damages to a protestor whom Brownlee had threatened.

Brownlee was sometimes described as a potential challenger to the party leadership of Bill English. Eventually, however, English was toppled by Don Brash, a former governor of the Reserve Bank. Brownlee was then seen as being high on the list of potential deputy leaders, but declined to pursue the position. The contest was eventually won by Nick Smith.

Shortly after being elected, however, Smith opted to take several weeks of stress leave, saying that he was exhausted from the protracted leadership disputes. When Smith returned to parliament, Brownlee challenged him for the deputy leadership. Smith alleges that Brownlee took unfair advantage of his absence to undermine him. When Smith was informed of the challenge, he resigned, and Brownlee was elected unopposed.

Since being elected deputy leader, Brownlee has continued his confrontational style of political debate. He has been particularly critical over the government's policies regarding alleged special treatment for Maori, something which the National Party has recently campaigned on. He has also called for an end to New Zealand's ban on visits by nuclear powered ships.


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