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Don Brash

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Donald Thomas Brash (born 1940) leads the National Party, currently the largest Opposition party in New Zealand. Formerly Brash served as Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Born in Wanganui, Brash moved with his family to Christchurch at the age of six. He attended the Christchurch Boys' High School and Canterbury University where he achieved a BA in economics, history and political science. He then continued his studies in economics, receiving his MA in 1961. The following year he began working towards a Ph.D. at the Australian National University.

In 1966, Brash went to Washington to work as an economist for the World Bank. In 1971, however, he returned to New Zealand to serve as the general manager of Broadbank Corporation, a merchant bank.

Contents

East Coast Bays candidate

Brash's first entry into politics came in 1980, when the National Party selected him to stand as its candidate in a by-election in the East Coast Bays electorate. Brash's attempt at the seat, however, failed - some believe that this resulted from the decision by Robert Muldoon, National Party Prime Minister, to raise tolls on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, an important route for East Coast Bays residents. The seat went to Gary Knapp of the Social Credit Party.

Brash contested the same seat in the general election of 1981, again without success.

Business career

In 1982 Brash became managing director at the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority, which oversaw the export of New Zealand kiwifruit (he still grows kiwifruit as a hobby). Later, in 1986, he became general manager of Trust Bank, a newly-established banking group.

Reserve Bank Governorship

In 1988 Brash became Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, a position which he held for the next 14 years. Opinions differ regarding his performance there - supporters speak highly of his competence, while critics complain that he paid too much attention to strict inflation controls.

National party MP

In April 2002, shortly before the general election, Brash resigned from his position to become a National Party candidate once again. Instead of contesting a electorate, however, Brash became a list candidate, relying on MMP's proportional representation. Brash gained the fifth slot on National's list, a remarkable ranking for someone not already in parliament.

Though National performed poorly in the election, Brash's high position on the party list enabled him to enter Parliament. He became National's spokesperson for financial issues, placing him opposite the Labour Party's Michael Cullen, the Minister of Finance. While some commentators have praised Brash for his knowledge of economics, some critics say that he has failed to develop any instinct for politics, and believe that he will not perform well until he has gained more experience.

National Party leader

In October 2003 Brash publicly challenged Bill English for leadership of the National Party. English, whom many blamed for the party's poor performance since the election and for a number of policy gaffes, lacked popularity in the party to some extent, but Brash, as a newcomer often criticised for lacking political talent, could not expect an automatic win because of this. In particular, Brash's decision to make his challenge public caused considerable criticism, as party supporters perceived an open leadership dispute as highly damaging to the party's image. The challenge also appeared as a break with tradition, and (according to critics) an indication of Brash's "political naivety". Eventually, however, dissatisfaction with English coupled with the perceived policy-making competence of Brash enabled Brash to emerge the winner. Brash won a caucus vote on 28 October 2003, making him head of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition. He remained National's finance spokesperson for some time, but surrendered that role to newcomer John Key in August 2004.

On 27 January 2004 Brash made a speech at the Orewa Rotary Club on "Nationhood", and expressed opposition to Maori racial separatism in New Zealand. Excerpt: "the topic I will focus on today is the dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand, and the development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry. We are one country with many peoples, not simply a society of Pakeha and Maori where the minority has a birthright to the upper hand, as the Labour Government seems to believe".

Though the sentiments expressed in the Orewa speech differed little from established National Party views as expounded previously by Bill English, timing and spin quickly gave the Party a fillip in the polls and apparently indirectly provoked changes of emphasis in Labour's policy agenda.

National then suffered a fall in the polls, leaving it 10 to 15 points behind Labour at the end of 2004. Many commentators put this down to Brash's lack of policy and his 'flip-flops'.

On 25 January 2005 Brash made another speech to the Orewa Rotary Club, where he focused on welfare dependency. He pledged to reduce the number of working-age beneficiaries from the current figure of 300,000 to 200,000 over ten years. His particular target was the 109,000 solo parents on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB). Brash suggested a greater role for adoption in reducing this number, and also hinted that mothers who did not name the father, or who had another child while already on the DPB, may be penalised. Shortly after this speech his welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich was removed from the position due to a conflict of policy ideals.

Five Main Priorities

Shortly after become leader of the National Party Brash outlined five main policy areas:

  • Dealing with decline in New Zealand Incomes
  • Education - dealing with to many people leaving school with poor literacy and numeracy
  • Welfare Dependancy
  • Security - law and order
  • The Drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand

See also

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