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Robert Muldoon

Robert David Muldoon (1921 - 1992) served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984. An accountant by training, he shook of his youthful socialist family background and rose to leadership positions in the New Zealand National Party[?] from a career mainly spent as Minister of Finance (he oversaw the introduction of decimal currency into New Zealand). He ousted Jack Marshall as party leader, then won a landslide electoral victory in November 1975.

The "Muldoon years" now seem like the last gasp of the paternalistic welfare state in New Zealand, with dirigist fine-tuning of the economy by "Mr Muldoon" himself, specialist in mini-budgets. The economy was in bad shape after the oil crises of the 1970s and loss of exports after Britain's entry to the European Economic Community. Muldoon's solution to rampant inflation was to call wage and/or price freezes. His solution to low investment and increasing unemployment was "Think Big", in which the government, "picking winners", borrowed large amounts from overseas to finance large-scale industrial projects, few of which were ultimately profitable. Further overseas borrowing propped up the exchange rate or contributed to the welfare state and high farm subsidies.

Towards the end he was accused of persecuting journalists and wanting to set up a one party state following the model of Robert Mugabe, with whom he was on friendly terms. His reputation for autocratic domination of his cabinet eventually told: following the defection of Marilyn Waring[?], Muldoon called the snap election of winter 1984 and lost to David Lange[?]'s resurgent Labour Party. The final controversy occurred when Muldoon disputed the date at which power should be handed over to the new government - in the meantime, with a devaluation of the New Zealand dollar expected after the handover, the central bank was forced to spend hundreds or thousands of millions of dollars supporting the currency.

Muldoon became "Sir Robert" but faded from the political scene. He had a short stage career in a New Zealand production of the Rocky Horror Show. Jim Bolger[?] succeeded him as party head.

Few New Zealand political figures have polarised public opinion more. To opponents, "Spotty Muldoon" or "Piggy Muldoon" appeared as an overbearing execrable bully. But from his supporters, the so-called "Rob's Mob", he garnered fanatical devotion. Traditional National Party members ("True-blue" Nats) harboured more ambivalent attitudes to this non-traditionalist figure.

External link

  • Sir Robert Muldoon (http://www.primeminister.govt.nz/oldpms/1975muldoon), New Zealand Prime Minister's Office

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