Friday, November 28, 2008

Vale Mike Minogue

Mike Minogue has died at age 85.

As I understand it, he was one of the two National MPs that threatened to cross the floor to support Prebble's anti-nuclear Members Bill Mr Minogue was a regular and vocal critic of Muldoon whose persistent dissent thus precipitating no doubt contributed to the calling of the '84 snap election. I know little about Minogue but I have read All Honourable Men: Inside The Muldoon Cabinet 1975-84 in which Hugh Templeton tells of the near total control exercised by the then PM (this google extract includes discussion of Minogue's role). It would have been tough being a Liberal in that caustic environment.

History rightly records Marilyn Waring's role as the critical vote in Caucus, with Mr Minogue's passing he is being appropriately recognised too.

Update: I've been a little frustrated at being unable to verify whether or not Mike Minogue crossed the floor to support Prebble's anti-nuclear bill in 1983. NZ's online Hansard records don't go back beyond 2000.

I've checked the half dozen books I have on this period in NZ's political history (sadly I don't have Gustafson's various publications) but haven't found anything definitive and have had to resort to Google. Fortunately, Google turned up this source (Masters thesis from Otago University Doctoral student, Andreas Rietzig) which includes the following paragraph confirming that Minogue did in fact cross the floor (thanks also to Poneke for his piece on Minogue which also said he'd crossed the floor).
The following year, Richard Prebble launched his third attempt to make New Zealand nuclear-free. On 12 June 1984, Prebble introduced the Nuclear Free New Zealand Bill. This time, also Prebble’s bill called for the exclusion of nuclear-powered ships from New Zealand. As Prebble explained, the bill ‘prohibits the entry of nuclear powered ships and nuclear weapons into New Zealand and further prohibits the building of nuclear reactors within New Zealand.’ Prebble almost succeeded to introduce this bill because National Party MP Marilyn Waring threatened Prime Minister Muldoon to cross the floor and vote for Prebble’s bill against her own party caucus.

As a result, National Party MPs prevented Waring from speaking in Parliament that day by raising numerous points of order until Waring’s time to speak had expired. On the following day, Prebble’s bill was defeated by 40 to 39 votes just like Beetham’s bill one year earlier. Nevertheless, Waring did vote for the bill together with her colleague Mike Minogue. Prebble’s bill was only defeated because two alienated Labour MPs had voted with the government. Since National had a majority of only one person in Parliament, Waring’s decision seriously called Muldoon’s leadership into question. Consequently, Muldoon announced on 14 June 1984 that he would call a snap election because he could no longer rely on Marilyn Waring’s support and could not govern effectively anymore.
[emphasis added]


Unknown said...

I've done a comment at Poneke now awaiting moderaiton so I'll add here...

The main difference between Minogue and Waring in June 1984 was Waring resigned from caucus. She did say she would still support National on confidence and supply but Muldoon said he didn't believe her.

Minogue himself believed the snap election wasn't necessary because of Waring's assurances.

(Source: Gustafson's book on Muldoon)

My own take on it is Muldoon was looking for an excuse. I remember the time well: he was frequently threatening a snap election between 1982-84, usually over various strikes. He wanted to do a Sid Holland, I think.

One other point on Minogue: this is from memory but I think he was one of the main MPs behind getting the Official Information Act on the books. One had been proposed by the Danks committee but if my memory has not pulled a line fault Minogue was the MP who pushed hard for it.

For that alone - assuming my recall is accurate - we're in his debt.

backin15 said...

Rob, thanks very much for this information. I don't have any of Gustafson's books (an ommission I need to remedy). I'm also indebted to your knowledge of the formation of the OIA - such a vital piece of legislation, so fundamental to the good functioning of our democracy (incidentally, whereas the OIA process is largely free in NZ, you're automatically charged at lodgment in NSW under the Freedom of Information Act...).

Regards, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Paul. Not being in NZ, I missed this news. Mike Minogue was of the Jack Marshall tendency, a well-meaning, liberal-leaning, man of integrity, totally out of place and very much in the minority in the National Party.

Although Muldoon in his drunken fit of hubris tried to blame Waring for the snap election when he called it, Minogue's crossing the floor with Waring had contributed to the air of instability. Even so, I can't recall that anybody bought Muldoon's story. Therefore, although these are matters (instability, etc) that cannot be measured objectively we should go with the majority sentiment that Muldoon's response was (mis)calculated opportunism, but continue to salute Minogue for having the fortitude to stand up to the tyranical old bully.