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Bolger, James Brendan (1935–)

Subject History

Place Australasia » New Zealand

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Prime Minister of New Zealand (1990–7). The son of Irish Catholic immigrants, he left school at the age of 15 to work on the family farm. He entered parliament in 1972, held several posts in Muldoon's government and became leader of the National Party in 1986. In 1990 the National Party won an overwhelming election victory over the Labour government, so Jim Bolger became Prime Minister. He, and particularly his Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson, continued the policies of Robert Douglas in the lange Labour government which the electorate had rejected. As there was a large government deficit, public spending was slashed and the number of civil servants cut by more than half. The Employment Contracts Act of 1991 emasculated the trade unions by ending compulsory unionism and the right of collective bargaining and by limiting their ability to take industrial action. The welfare state , largely untouched by Douglas, still stood in the way of the free enterprise society, so Richardson proceeded to destroy it by what critics called ‘ruthena-sia’. Universal benefits were abolished, the automatic right to an old age pension being replaced by a means-tested pension. Unemployment, widows’, sickness and single parent allowances were cut by between 9 per cent and 25 per cent. Health care was ‘targeted’ so that only those on low incomes received free health care. Most people paid the full costs ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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