Richard Prebble

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Photo of Richard Prebble
Parl. Electorate List Pos. Party
38th Auckland Central Labour
39th Auckland Central Labour
40th Auckland Central Labour
41st Auckland Central Labour
42nd Auckland Central Labour
43rd Auckland Central Labour
45th Wellington Central 1 ACT
46th List 1 ACT
47th List 1 ACT

Richard William Prebble (born 7 February 1948) is a member of the New Zealand Parliament. He was a member of Cabinet for several years, and later served as leader of the ACT New Zealand party.


1 References

Early life

Prebble was raised in Auckland, and attended Auckland University. He gained a BA degree in 1970 and an LLB (Hons) degree in 1972. He had been admitted to the Bar in 1971, and practised law in both New Zealand and Fiji.

Labour in opposition (1975-1984)

Prebble was originally a member of the Labour Party, and stood as its candidate for the Auckland Central electorate in the 1975 elections. 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.

Fourth Labour Government, first term (1984-1987)

When Labour won the 1984 elections, 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, including the railways (now the privately owned Tranz Rail company). 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 privatization of government assets.

Fourth Labour Government, second term (1987-1990)

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 privatization 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 (1990-1993)

Prebble retained his Auckland Central seat in the 1990 elections, which Labour lost (arguably because of public dissatisfaction with the reforms). In the 1993 elections, however, Prebble lost his seat to Sandra Lee, 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.

ACT, first campaign (1996)

In the 1996 elections, the first to be held under MMP, ACT won eight seats in Parliament. Prebble himself 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 who had an interest in ACT getting into Parliament either by gaining more than 5% of the list vote or by winning Wellington Central.

Two days before the election Bolger admitted in a 'Holmes' interview 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.

ACT, second campaign (1999)

Prebble lost his Wellington Central seat to Labour's Marian Hobbs in the 1999 elections, but remained in Parliament as a list MP and leader of ACT. After the 2002 elections, speculation grew that Prebble would be replaced as leader, but a challenge failed to eventuate.

Retirement from leadership

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 next election (expected in late 2005), but indicated that he is "leaning towards" leaving. In mid-July, however, he announced an intent to seek the office of Speaker upon the retirement of Jonathan Hunt. The Speaker is almost always appointed from the governing party, which would have put Prebble at a disadvantage, but his supporters claimed that his extensive knowledge of parliamentary procedure and standing orders would make him the best qualified for the role. Later, however, Prebble once again swung towards leaving Parliament, and his party colleague, Ken Shirley, contested the position instead unsuccessfully.

Prebble has now confirmed that he doesn't intend to seek another term in office, but will be staying until the end of the current term.


Prebble, Richard. I've Been Thinking, Seaview Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-86958-170-9


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