David Russell Lange


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(b. 4 Aug. 1942, d. 13 Aug. 2005).

Prime Minister of New Zealand 1984–9 A graduate of the University of Auckland, he was called to the Bar in 1966. Elected to the House of Representatives for the Labour Party in 1977, he became its deputy leader in 1979, and its leader in 1983. In addition to his office as Prime Minister, he was in charge of foreign affairs (1984–7) and education (1987–9). In foreign policy, he received worldwide attention through his tough implementation of Labour's non-nuclear policy. He thus banned nuclear vessels from entering New Zealand ports. Since this applied mostly to US warships, this aggravated US President Reagan, who duly declared the ANZUS inoperative (1985), in effect cancelling US military protection in the event of war (1986). Lange also (unsuccessfully) demanded firm French government action after French secret service agents sank Greenpeace's vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, while it was at anchor in Auckland harbour.

 Within New Zealand, he is probably best remembered for the economic policies of his Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas. Faced with the economic difficulties caused by the worldwide recession, his government pursued a relatively centrist economic policy, which stimulated demand through cutting taxes. He also shifted the tax burden from direct income tax to indirect taxation through the introduction of a goods and service tax. This ensured considerable support for his government, especially from centrist voters. Lange also privatized industries, and allowed the laying off of miners in unprofitable state-owned mines. Ever-mindful of his more radical labour constituency, he created a Ministry for Women, and introduced a Bill of Rights. He resigned in August 1989 after a quarrel with Douglas. He was succeeded by Geoffrey Palmer, and retired from the House of Representatives in 1996.

Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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