Politics of New Zealand
The politics of New Zealand function within a framework of a unitary parliamentary representative democracy. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy in which a hereditary monarch—since 6 February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II—is the sovereign and head of state; the New Zealand Parliament holds legislative power and consists of the Queen and the House of Representatives. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General of New Zealand. Members are elected to the House of Representatives every three years. Executive power in New Zealand is based on the principle that "The Queen reigns, but the government rules". Although an integral part of the process of government, the Queen and her governor-general remain politically neutral and are not involved in the everyday aspects of governing. Ministers are selected from among the democratically elected members of the House of Representatives. Most ministers are members of the Cabinet, the main decision-making body of the New Zealand Government; the prime minister is the most senior minister, chair of the Cabinet, thus head of government.
Other ministers are appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the prime minister, are all accountable to Parliament. The country has a multi-party system in which many of its legislative practices derive from the unwritten conventions of and precedents set by the United Kingdom's Westminster Parliament. However, New Zealand has evolved variations; the dominant political parties in New Zealand have been the Labour Party and the National Party. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated New Zealand as a "full democracy" in 2016; the country ranks for government transparency, has the lowest perceived level of corruption in the world. New Zealand is a unitary parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, it has no formal codified constitution. The Constitution Act in 1852 established the system of government and these were consolidated in 1986. Constitutional rights are protected under common law and are strengthened by the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and Human Rights Act 1993, although these are not entrenched and can be overturned by Parliament with a simple majority.
The Constitution Act 1986 describes the three branches of government in New Zealand: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Parliament is responsible for passing laws, adopting the state's budgets, exercising control of the Government, it has a single chamber, the House of Representatives. Before 1951 there was the Legislative Council. Suffrage is extended to everyone over the age of 18 years, women having gained the vote in 1893. Members of Parliament are elected for a maximum term of three years, although an election may be called earlier in exceptional circumstances; the House of Representatives meets in Wellington. All parliamentary general elections between 1853 and 1996 were held under the first past the post electoral system. Under FPP the candidate in a given electorate that received the most votes was elected to parliament; the only deviation from the FPP system during this time occurred in the 1908 election when a second ballot system was tried. Under this system the elections since 1935 have been dominated by two political parties and Labour.
Criticism of the FPP system began in the 1950s and intensified after Labour lost the 1978 and 1981 elections despite having more overall votes than National. An indicative referendum to change the voting system was held in 1992, which led to a binding referendum during the 1993 election; as a result, New Zealand has used the mixed-member proportional system since 1996. Under MMP, each member of Parliament is either elected by voters in a single-member constituency via FPP or appointed from his or her party's list; the New Zealand Parliament has 120 seats, however some elections have resulted in overhangs and there is the potential for underhangs. Seven seats are reserved for MPs elected on a separate Māori roll. However, Māori may choose to vote in and to run for the non-reserved seats and for the party list, as a result many have now entered Parliament outside of the reserved seats. Queen Elizabeth II is New Zealand's head of state; the New Zealand monarchy has been distinct from the British monarchy since the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947, all Elizabeth II's official business in New Zealand is conducted in the name of the "Queen of New Zealand".
The Queen's role is ceremonial, her residual powers—the "Royal Prerogative"—are exercised through the government of the day. These include the power to sign treaties and to declare war. Since the Queen is not resident in New Zealand, the functions of the monarchy are conducted by her representative, the Governor-General; as of 2017, the Governor-General is Dame Patsy Reddy. The Governor-General formally has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers and to dissolve Parliament; the Governor-General chairs the Executive Council, a formal committee consisting of all ministers. Members of the Executive Council are required to be members of Parliament, most are in the Cabinet. Cabinet is the most senior policy-making body and is led by the Prime M
A political party is an organized group of people with common views, who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters' interests. While there is some international commonality in the way political parties are recognized and in how they operate, there are many differences, some are significant. Many political parties have an ideological core, but some do not, many represent ideologies different from their ideology at the time the party was founded. Many countries, such as Germany and India, have several significant political parties, some nations have one-party systems, such as China and Cuba; the United States is in practice a two-party system but with many smaller parties participating and a high degree of autonomy for individual candidates. Political factions have existed in democratic societies since ancient times. Plato writes in his Republic on the formation of political cliques in Classical Athens, the tendency of Athenian citizens to vote according to factional loyalty rather than for the public good.
In the Roman Republic, Polybius coined the term ochlocracy to describe the tendency of politicians to mobilise popular factionalist sentiment against their political rivals. Factional politics remained a part of Roman political life through the Imperial period and beyond, the poet Juvenal coined the phrase "bread and circuses" to describe the political class pandering to the citizenry through diversionary entertainments rather than through arguments about policy. "Bread and circuses" survived as part of Byzantine political life - for example, the Nika revolt during the reign of Justinian was a riot between the "Blues" and the "Greens"—two chariot racing factions at the Hippodrome, who received patronage from different Senatorial factions and religious sects. The patricians who sponsored the Blues and the Greens competed with each other to hold grander games and public entertainments during electoral campaigns, in order to appeal to the citizenry of Constantinople; the first modern political factions, can be said to have originated in early modern Britain.
The first political factions, cohering around a basic, if fluid, set of principles, emerged from the Exclusion Crisis and Glorious Revolution in late 17th century England. The Whigs supported Protestant constitutional monarchy against absolute rule, they were interested in the citizens of United Kingdom being free from the aristocracy and opposed to any tyranny, however they supported the constitutional aristocracy and does not consider the British nobility abusive because of its limits; the leader of the Whigs was Robert Walpole, who maintained control of the government in the period 1721–1742. As the century wore on, the factions began to adopt more coherent political tendencies as the interests of their power bases began to diverge; the Whig party's initial base of support from the great aristocratic families widened to include the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants. As well as championing constitutional monarchy with strict limits on the monarch's power, the Whigs adamantly opposed a Catholic king as a threat to liberty, believed in extending toleration to nonconformist Protestants, or dissenters.
A major influence on the Whigs were the liberal political ideas of John Locke, the concepts of universal rights employed by Locke and Algernon Sidney. Although the Tories were out of office for half a century, for most of this period the Tories retained party cohesion, with occasional hopes of regaining office at the accession of George II and the downfall of the ministry of Sir Robert Walpole in 1742, they acted as a united, though unavailing, opposition to Whig corruption and scandals. At times they cooperated with the "Opposition Whigs", Whigs who were in opposition to the Whig government, they regained power with the accession of George III in 1760 under Lord Bute. When they lost power, the old Whig leadership dissolved into a decade of factional chaos with distinct "Grenvillite", "Bedfordite", "Rockinghamite", "Chathamite" factions successively in power, all referring to themselves as "Whigs". Out of this chaos, the first distinctive parties emerged; the first such party was the Rockingham Whigs under the leadership of Charles Watson-Wentworth and the intellectual guidance of the political philosopher Edmund Burke.
Burke laid out a philosophy that described the basic framework of the political party as "a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed". As opposed to the instability of the earlier factions, which were tied to a particular leader and could disintegrate if removed from power, the party was centred around a set of core principles and remained out of power as a united opposition to government. A coalition including the Rockingham Whigs, led by the Earl of She
Sir Frederick Whitaker was an English-born New Zealand politician who served twice as the Prime Minister of New Zealand and six times as Attorney-General. Whitaker was born at the Deanery Manor House, Oxfordshire, England on 23 April 1812, the son of Frederick Whitaker and Susanna Whitaker. Frederick junior undertook a legal education and became a solicitor and attorney at the age of 27. A year he sailed to Australia and New Zealand, he married Jane Augusta Griffith, stepdaughter of Alexander Shepherd at St. Paul's Church in Auckland on 4 March 1843. Whitaker lived in Auckland and was appointed a County Court judge until this position was abolished in 1844, at which time he returned to work as a lawyer, he was appointed to the General Legislative Council on 3 March 1845 until 22 December of that year. He was appointed to the Legislative Council of New Ulster Province, but that Council had not met when the new Constitution arrived, he transferred to the new Legislative Council on 26 May 1853 and remained a member until his resignation on 19 December 1864.
He remained a member until his death 12 years later. He served as a major in the militia, he was elected onto the Auckland Provincial Council on 19 October 1854 for the Suburbs of Auckland electorate, he served until 25 September 1855. He was appointed to the Auckland Executive Council from 14 March 1854 to 22 January 1855 and was the provincial law officer. Whitaker became the first Attorney-General of New Zealand in the Sewell Ministry led by Henry Sewell in 1856, he did not serve as Attorney-General in the subsequent Fox Ministry, in power for a fortnight, but was again appointed to this position in the Stafford Ministry from 2 June 1856 onwards. He served as Attorney-General until the defeat of the Stafford Ministry on 12 July 1861 and went back to the law. In October 1863 Whitaker was called upon to form a government to replace Premier Domett following his defeat at a vote of no-confidence. Whitaker's term as Premier lasted just over a year until November 1864, his term ended due to differences between himself and Governor Grey over the conduct of the New Zealand Wars.
Whitaker resigned as a member of the Legislative Council. He served as the member of Parliament for Parnell from 1866 to 1867. In October 1865 he was elected Superintendent of Auckland Province, which office he held until 1867. For nine years he stayed away from public office. In 1876 he became MP for Waikato and Attorney-General again in Atkinson's government. Whitaker lost his seat in the House in 1879. However, when Premier Hall wanted him to serve as Attorney-General again, he was appointed once more to the Legislative Council in 1879; when Hall resigned in April 1882, Whitaker became Premier for the second time, serving until September 1883. Whitaker was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1884 and served again as Attorney-General, as leader of the Legislative Council from 1887 to 1890. By his health was failing, he died in Auckland on 4 December 1891, he was buried at St Stephen's Cemetery in Parnell. Burke, Edmund. Annual Register. Longmans, Green and Co. p. 209.
Scholefield, Guy. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949. Wellington: Govt. Printer; the New Zealand Official Year-book. 1905. P. 25
Francis Bell (New Zealand politician)
Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell was a New Zealand lawyer and politician who served as the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 10 to 30 May 1925. He was the first New Zealand-born prime minister, holding office in a caretaker capacity following the death of William Massey. Bell was born in Nelson, his father, Sir Dillon Bell, was a politician. Bell attended Auckland Grammar School and Otago Boys' High School before going on to St John's College, Cambridge, he returned to New Zealand to practise law, settling in Wellington and becoming president of the New Zealand Law Society. Bell served as Mayor of Wellington from 1891 to 1893 and from 1896 to 1897, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1893, after two previous defeats, but served only a single term before retiring in 1896 to return to the legal profession. In 1912, Bell was appointed to the Legislative Council as a representative of the Reform Party. In the Reform Government under William Massey, he served as Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Immigration, Attorney-General, Minister of Health, Minister of External Affairs.
When Massey died in office in 1925, Bell – aged 74 – was commissioned as his replacement for 16 days while the party elected a new leader. Bell retired from politics the following year. Only Henry Sewell served a shorter term as prime minister, only Walter Nash served as prime minister at a greater age. Bell was born in the eldest son of Sir Dillon Bell, his mother was Margaret Hort. Arthur Bell was a younger brother, he attended Otago Boys' High School. At Otago Boys he was the Dux. After finishing high school, he travelled to England where he attended St John's College, receiving a BA in 1873. On returning to New Zealand, he began practising law in Wellington, being involved in Bell, MacKenzie and Evans; as a youth in the 1870s, he played two first-class cricket matches for Wellington. Bell served as Crown Solicitor in Wellington from 1878 to 1890, from 1902 to 1910, he was a prominent member of both the national law societies. He served as the latter's president from 1901 to 1918, he married Caroline Robinson on 24 April 1878 at St John's Church in Christchurch.
She was the third daughter of William Robinson. They had four sons, his son William Henry Dillon Bell was a Member of Parliament, but resigned and volunteered for service in World War I. He was killed in 1917. Another son Cheviot Wellington Dillon Bell was appointed to the Legislative Council as a member of the suicide squad by the First National Government on 27 July 1950 to vote for the abolition of the Council, so served to 31 December 1950; the two children of his brother Alfred and Frank Bell, became notable radio pioneers. His political career began with being elected Mayor of Wellington in 1891, 1892 and 1896. In his first general election in 1890, he was defeated running as an independent for the City of Wellington electorate, he was narrowly defeated by William McLean in an 1892 by-election by 3388 votes to 3245. He entered Parliament in the 1893 election, serving for one term. In 1912, the Reform Party came to power, on 10 July 1912 Bell was appointed to the Legislative Council, he became Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Immigration.
He was Attorney-General. He was the first Commissioner of State Forests, from 1923 he would serve as the Minister of External Affairs, he represented New Zealand at the League of Nations in 1922. He would attend the allied conferences at Genoa and the Hague. Having been appointed Knight Commander on 3 June 1915, on 1 January 1923 he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George and was appointed to the Privy Council on 1 February 1926. On returning to New Zealand, Bell became Acting Prime Minister. Massey's health began to fail, Bell took over most of his roles, he became prime minister on 14 May 1925 after Massey's death on 10 May. He served as prime minister for the next 16 days. Bell was replaced by Gordon Coates. After giving up his portfolios in 1926, he returned to the League of Nations with Coates. In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, his wife, died in Wellington on 8 September 1935. Bell died in Wellington on 13 March 1936. Gardner, William James, "Bell, Sir Francis Henry Dillon, P.
C. G. C. M. C. K. C.", in McLintock, A. H. An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, retrieved 28 April 2008 Stewart, William Downie, The Right Honourable Sir Francis H. D. Bell, P. C. G. C. M. G. K. C.: his life and times, Wellington,: Butterworth Wilson, James Oakley. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984. Wellington: V. R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103. Biography of his father, Sir Francis Dillon Bell
Sir Harry Albert Atkinson served as the tenth Premier of New Zealand on four separate occasions in the late 19th century, was Colonial Treasurer for a total of ten years. He was responsible for guiding the country during a time of economic depression, was known as a cautious and prudent manager of government finances, though distrusted for some radical policies such as his 1882 National Insurance scheme and leasehold land schemes, he participated in the formation of voluntary military units to fight in the New Zealand Wars, was noted for his strong belief in the need for seizure of Māori land. Atkinson, born in 1831 in the English village of Broxton, received his education in England, but chose at the age of 22 to follow his elder brother William to New Zealand, he was accompanied by his brother Arthur together with members of the Richmond family. On arriving in New Zealand and Arthur bought farmland in Taranaki, as did the Richmonds. James and William Richmond later entered politics. Atkinson's correspondence shows that he was satisfied with his decision to move to New Zealand, seeing it as an opportunity to prosper.
He named his small farmhouse Hurworth after a village in England where he had lived as a boy, although—as his father worked as an itinerant builder and architect—the family did not settle anywhere. Atkinson first became involved as a member of the Taranaki provincial council, he represented the Grey and Bell electorate from 1857 to 1865, again from 1873 to 1874. He was a member of the Executive Council from 1868 and again in 1874, he was Deputy Superintendent in 1861–1862 to Charles Brown, again in 1863. Of particular interest to him was policy regarding Māori-owned land, which he wished to see taken over by the British settlers. Continued Māori ownership, prevented economic development for the colony. Atkinson and his Richmond relations regarded the Māori as "savages", believed in war as a reasonable option for ensuring Māori co-operation with British land-acquisition; when fighting broke out in Taranaki between Māori and the settlers in 1860, Atkinson helped to organise a number of volunteer units to fight the Māori.
He himself fought in a number of battles. The importance of Atkinson's contribution is debated, but his endeavours earned him respect from like-minded politicians; the death of William Cutfield King in February 1861 caused a by-election in the Grey and Bell electorate. Atkinson was elected to Parliament unopposed. In 1864, he was made Defence Minister in the government of Frederick Weld, he was active in this portfolio, advocating a policy of self-reliance in the conduct of the war. In 1866, however, he retired due to the death of his wife Amelia; the following year, he married his cousin Annie. He returned to parliament from 1867 to 1869 for the Town of New Plymouth electorate, but in April 1869 he resigned to concentrate on maintaining his farm. In 1872, Atkinson returned to politics for the Egmont electorate. Atkinson declared that he would "not see a Foxite get in", narrowly defeated the candidate. Once in parliament, Atkinson soon became involved in economic matters, opposing the policies of Julius Vogel.
Vogel, who supported extensive borrowing to finance public works, was attacked by Atkinson as reckless. Vogel's response was that Atkinson was overly cautious, would delay economic progress. Atkinson and Vogel both agreed, that borrowing by provincial government was indeed out of control; the two believed that provincial politicians were petty and self-interested, that more co-operation was needed between provinces and the state. It was this shared view of provincial government that enabled Vogel and Atkinson to co-operate, although they never resolved their differences on borrowing by the central government or on dealings with the Māori. Atkinson became part of Vogel's cabinet, but not with portfolios related to negotiations with Māori or to finance, he did continue to express his opinions on these matters, but found it harder to convince people of his views. In 1876, Vogel retired, Atkinson managed to secure the Premiership. One of his first acts was to abolish the provinces, he took over direct responsibility for financial policy, implemented a less aggressive strategy for borrowing.
He attempted to reform the system by which money was handled, placing all responsibility for borrowing with the government while increasing control of spending at a district or municipal level. However, growing economic problems caused his plan to encounter difficulties; as the economy declined, Atkinson became more unpopular. Atkinson lost power in 1877, only over a year after he gained it, he entered opposition. He proposed a number of other measures, including national insurance. In 1883, he managed to make a comeback, gaining the Premiership for eleven months before losing it to Robert Stout; the two engaged in a protracted struggle for the leadership. A strong counter-offensive by Atkinson enabled him to unseat Stout again after only twelve days. Stout, was not so defeated, took the Premiership again after seven days; this time, Stout held his position for three years. There was confusion in Wellington in September 1887. John Bryce, Robert Stout and William Rolleston had all lost their seats.
Sir John Hall said
A political spectrum is a system of classifying different political positions upon one or more geometric axes that represent independent political dimensions. Most long-standing spectra include a left wing, which referred to seating arrangements in the French parliament after the Revolution. On a left–right spectrum and socialism are regarded internationally as being on the left, Liberalism can mean different things in different contexts: sometimes on the left; those with an intermediate outlook are sometimes classified as centrists. That said and neoliberals are called centrists too. Politics that rejects the conventional left–right spectrum is known as syncretic politics, though the label tends to mischaracterize positions that have a logical location on a two-axis spectrum because they seem randomly brought together on a one-axis left-right spectrum. Political scientists have noted that a single left–right axis is insufficient for describing the existing variation in political beliefs and include other axes.
Though the descriptive words at polar opposites may vary in popular biaxial spectra the axes are split between socio-cultural issues and economic issues, each scaling from some form of individualism to some form of communitarianism. The terms right and left refer to political affiliations originating early in the French Revolutionary era of 1789–1799 and referred to the seating arrangements in the various legislative bodies of France; as seen from the Speaker's seat at the front of the Assembly, the aristocracy sat on the right and the commoners sat on the left, hence the terms right-wing politics and left-wing politics. The defining point on the ideological spectrum was the Ancien Régime. "The Right" thus implied support for aristocratic or royal interests and the church, while "The Left" implied support for republicanism and civil liberties. Because the political franchise at the start of the revolution was narrow, the original "Left" represented the interests of the bourgeoisie, the rising capitalist class.
Support for laissez-faire commerce and free markets were expressed by politicians sitting on the left because these represented policies favorable to capitalists rather than to the aristocracy, but outside parliamentary politics these views are characterized as being on the Right. The reason for this apparent contradiction lies in the fact that those "to the left" of the parliamentary left, outside official parliamentary structures represent much of the working class, poor peasantry and the unemployed, their political interests in the French Revolution lay with opposition to the aristocracy and so they found themselves allied with the early capitalists. However, this did not mean that their economic interests lay with the laissez-faire policies of those representing them politically; as capitalist economies developed, the aristocracy became less relevant and were replaced by capitalist representatives. The size of the working class increased as capitalism expanded and began to find expression through trade unionist, socialist and communist politics rather than being confined to the capitalist policies expressed by the original "left".
This evolution has pulled parliamentary politicians away from laissez-faire economic policies, although this has happened to different degrees in different countries those with a history of issues with more authoritarian-left countries, such as the Soviet Union or China under Mao Zedong. Thus the word "Left" in American political parlance may refer to "liberalism" and be identified with the Democratic Party, whereas in a country such as France these positions would be regarded as more right-wing, or centrist overall, "left" is more to refer to "socialist" or "social-democratic" positions rather than "liberal" ones. For a century, social scientists have considered the problem of how best to describe political variation. In 1950, Leonard W. Ferguson analyzed political values using ten scales measuring attitudes toward: birth control, capital punishment, communism, law, theism, treatment of criminals and war. Submitting the results to factor analysis, he was able to identify three factors, which he named religionism and nationalism.
He defined religionism as belief in God and negative attitudes toward birth control. This system was derived empirically, as rather than devising a political model on purely theoretical grounds and testing it, Ferguson's research was exploratory; as a result of this method, care must be taken in the interpretation of Ferguson's three factors, as factor analysis will output an abstract factor whether an objectively real factor exists or not. Although replication of the nationalism factor was inconsistent, the finding of religionism and humanitarianism had a number of replications by Ferguson and others. Shortly afterward, Hans Eysenck began researching political attitudes in Great Britain, he believed that there was something similar about the National Socialists on the one hand and the communists on the other, despite their opposite positions on the left–right axis. As Hans Eysenck described in his 1956 book Sense and
Sir John Phillip Key is a former New Zealand politician who served as the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand and Leader of the New Zealand National Party. He was elected leader of the party in November 2006 and appointed Prime Minister in November 2008, resigning from both posts in December 2016. After leaving politics, Key was appointed to board of director and chairmanship roles in New Zealand corporations. Born in Auckland before moving to Christchurch when he was a child, Key attended the University of Canterbury and graduated in 1981 with a bachelor of commerce, he began a career in the foreign exchange market in New Zealand before moving overseas to work for Merrill Lynch, in which he became head of global foreign exchange in 1995, a position he would hold for six years. In 1999 he was appointed a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York until leaving in 2001. Key entered the New Zealand Parliament representing the Auckland electorate of Helensville as one of the few new National members of parliament in the election of 2002 following National's significant defeat of that year.
In 2004, he was appointed Finance Spokesman for National and succeeded Don Brash as the National Party leader in 2006. After two years as Leader of the Opposition, Key led his party to victory at the November 2008 general election, he was subsequently sworn in as Prime Minister on 19 November 2008. The National government went on to win two more general elections under his leadership: in November 2011 and September 2014. Key was expected to contest for a fourth term of office at the 2017 general election, but on 5 December 2016 he resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, he was succeeded by Bill English on 12 December 2016. As Prime Minister, Key led the Fifth National Government of New Zealand which entered government at the beginning of the late-2000s recession in 2008. In his first term, Key's government implemented a GST rise and personal tax cuts. In February 2011, a major earthquake in Christchurch, the nation's second largest city affected the national economy and the government formed the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority in response.
In its second term, Key's government implemented a policy of partial privatisation of five state-owned enterprises, while voters in a citizens-initiated referendum on the issue were 2 to 1 opposed to the policy. In foreign policy, Key withdrew New Zealand Defence Force personnel from their deployment in the war in Afghanistan, signed the Wellington Declaration with the United States and pushed for more nations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Key was born in Auckland, New Zealand, to George Key and Ruth Key, on 9 August 1961, his father was an English immigrant and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Key and his two sisters were raised in a state house in the Christchurch suburb of Bryndwr, by his mother, an Austrian Jewish immigrant. Key is the third prime minister or premier of New Zealand to have Jewish ancestry, after Julius Vogel and Francis Bell, he attended Aorangi School, Burnside High School from 1975 to 1979, where he met his wife, Bronagh. He went on to attend the University of Canterbury and earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting in 1981.
He attended management studies courses at Harvard University. Key's first job was in 1982, as an auditor at McCulloch Menzies, he moved to be a project manager at Christchurch-based clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin for two years. Key began working as a foreign exchange dealer at Elders Finance in Wellington, rose to the position of head foreign exchange trader two years then moved to Auckland-based Bankers Trust in 1988. In 1995, he joined Merrill Lynch as head of Asian foreign exchange in Singapore; that same year he was promoted to Merrill's global head of foreign exchange, based in London, where he may have earned around US$2.25 million a year including bonuses, about NZ$5 million at 2001 exchange rates. Some co-workers called him "the smiling assassin" for maintaining his usual cheerfulness while sacking dozens of staff after heavy losses from the 1998 Russian financial crisis, he was a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 1999 to 2001.
In 1998, on learning of his interest in pursuing a political career, the National Party president John Slater began working to recruit him. Former party leader Jenny Shipley describes him as one of the people she "deliberately sought out and put my head on the line–either or publicly–to get them in there". Auckland's population growth led to the formation for the 2002 general election of a new electorate called Helensville, which covered the north-western corner of the Auckland urban area. Key beat long-serving National MP Brian Neeson for the National Party Helensville selection. At the 2002 general election Key won the seat with a majority of 1,705, ahead of Labour's Gary Russell, with Neeson, now standing as an independent, coming third; the National Party was defeated in the 2002 election, receiving only 20.9% of the party vote – the party's worst-ever election result. Following the fallout a leadership coup against the incumbent Bill English was launched by Don Brash, another of the 2002 recruits, in October 2003.
English and his supporters offered Key the finance spokesman position for his vote and were confident they had the numbers with him on their side. Brash narrowly won 14 votes to 12 and at the time it was thought Key had changed his support to Brash; the votes were confidential, although Key stated that he did vote for English. Key won re-election at the