I The Home Page  IV Articles & Publications
II Books by Bassett  V The Bassett Archives
III Newspaper columns  VI A Brief Biography

Does Anyone Care About New Zealand's Economic Future?

Speech delivered to the Institute of Economic Research AGM
Thursday 30 August 2007

Sir Joseph Ward

Text of the British Dictionary of National Biography entry prepared in 1995.

Joseph Gordon Coates

Text of the British Dictionary of National Biography entry prepared in 1997.

“How Ideal was the Savage Ideal”

M.J. Savage Memorial Lecture, La Trobe University, 4 September 1998.

Peter Fraser

"The Political Context of the Prime Ministerial Years", conference paper August 1997.

"Politics versus the Economy 1940-1975"

Speech given at the Stout Centre conference in April 1999 at Parliament Buildings.

"An Overview of the War History Branch",

Lecture to Department of Internal Affairs seminar, Wellington, 1997.

"Unofficial Channels"

Review published in International History Review, vol.22, 2000.

Jock Barnes

Obituary for Barnes published in the Dominion, Wellington, on 6 June 2000.

Sir Apirana Ngata

Review of He Tipua: The Life and Times of Sir Apirana Ngata.

Sir Keith Holyoake

Review of Sir Keith Holyoake: Towards a Political Biography, in the Dominion, 18 April 1997.

Norman Eric Kirk (1923-1974)

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 5, Wellington, 2000.

"Martyn Finlay"

Obituary for Martyn Finlay published in the National Business Review, February 1999.

"His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon"

Review of His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon, in the Dominion, 21 August 2000.

"The Collapse of New Zealand’s Military Ties with the United States"

This Fulbright lecture was first delivered at Georgetown University on 2 December 2002.

"James Brendan Bolger: An Early Assessment"

Dominion, December 1997.

"The State Sector"

Paper given at the Legal Research Foundation's conference "Shaping the Future State Sector", Parliament Buildings, 21 September 2000.

The National Years 1949-1999

Published in the Dominion, December 1999

The Conflict of Visions about New Zealand.

Paper given at ACT's Northern Regional Conference, November 2001

"Jim Anderton"

Published in the Dominion, 23 February 2002 after Anderton, the Deputy Prime Minister, fell out with yet another band of supporters and began his third political party.

John Banks: A Biography

Review of Paul Goldsmith's book, Auckland, 1997.

“Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind”

Welfare Reform Seminar: 14 August 2004

David Lange

Obituary for David Lange, August 2005

Norman Eric Kirk (1923-1974)

Stationary engine driver, politician and Prime Minister

by Michael Bassett

The Labour Party’s fourth prime minister, Norman Eric Kirk, was the first to be born and grow to maturity in New Zealand. He was born at Waimate in South Canterbury on 6 January 1923 of devoutly Salvation Army parents, Norman Kirk, a cabinet-maker, and his wife Vera Janet, nee Jury. Both parents were aged 21 at the time of his birth. Kirk’s paternal grandfather had arrived as a small boy at Port Chalmers in 1869 from Monkland, Lanarkshire, a few miles east of Glasgow. Another grandparent came from near Dalmellington in Ayrshire. Two of Kirk’s mother’s grandparents had come from Cornwall to Kaiapoi in North Canterbury about 1850, the others arriving from Sussex and also settling in Kaiapoi. The Kirks were initially Presbyterian but joined the Salvation Army, the faith which the Jurys had shared for many years. Wearing their Army uniforms, Norman Eric’s parents were married in 1922. There was to be another son as well as a daughter who were younger than Norman. Persistent rumours during his lifetime and since, have claimed that Norman Kirk had some Ngai Tahu blood in his veins. If so, he seems not to have acknowledged it.(1)

Norman Kirk senior’s cabinet-making and his considerable skills as an odd-job man (he taught his son how to make concrete building blocks and how to convert old cars into pick-up trucks) produced irregular income. The family left Waimate for Christchurch and Norman became a foundation pupil at Linwood Avenue School when it opened on 11 April 1928.(2) Kirk senior had only intermittent work before he joined the ranks of the unemployed during the Great Depression, where he worked on Scheme 13, building a stopbank at Coutts Island. Young Kirk would detail in later life a series of indignities he believed had been visited on his family by bureaucrats, such as a five weeks’ stand-down from unemployment relief because his father had accepted a few days of privately paid work. However, the Kirk family always had food, even if there was no spare money or a radio or newspaper in the home.(3) But there was an elderly widow in the street who would invite the local children into her home to listen to the Children’s Hour. Kirk recalled having heard at her place the commentary accompanying Kingsford Smith’s flight across the Tasman in September 1928.

At school Kirk quickly learned to read. He developed a lifelong passion for libraries and books and acquired an extensive vocabulary, even if he mispronounced occasional words. The seeds of the New Zealand Authors’ Fund, which he was to introduce in 1973, and of his own considerable collection of books, can be traced back to school.(4) Geography and history were his favourite subjects. Sundays were special days when Kirk and his family spent much of their time at the Salvation Army Citadel. Kirk senior was band master at the citadel; young Norman became second baritone. In time, his adherence to the Salvation Army faltered; no other religion replaced it, although Kirk respected several, particularly Catholicism, mainly because of contact with colleagues and bishops whom he met and liked. Kirk’s habit of baring his soul and discussing intimate matters - especially his own health - helped him to develop an ecumenical circle of friends.

Kirk’s love of the outdoors developed during regular visits to relatives in Waimate. Open spaces, he claimed, reduced him to “proper proportions”.(5) Milking cows, rabbit and opossum hunting (Kirk would talk about it in later life, and often used shooting similes) as well as swimming which was his passion when he was Prime Minister (he would use the Thorndon pool in Wellington) were part of Waimate life. Many a Labour caucus was entertained in later years by his ruminations about the hills behind the town; the point of the stories was not always clear, although Kirk told them with great conviction and humorous asides.(6) Trips to visit his Kaiapoi relatives were more frequent. There he liked to ride his bicycle into the flood-prone Waimakariri River bed, for which he developed a special passion. The last letter he wrote before his death was to a young colleague reflecting on the inherent problems of the river.(7)

Kirk did not shine academically at school, although in later life he revealed considerable intellectual gifts and a formidable memory. Like so many children from poor homes, he left school when nearly 13 with his Proficiency Certificate; he sought work, which he was lucky to find in 1935 as an assistant roof painter in Lichfield Street, Christchurch. Kirk was still a boy, and was often asked to clean out gutterings because his hands were small, something which his colleagues who remembered his enormous fists in later life had difficulty believing. By chance, Kirk picked up the rudiments of gas welding. More important for his future, he was beginning to take an interest in politics: on 27 November 1935 Kirk’s parents voted for the incoming Labour Government of M.J. Savage.(8)

Seeking advancement, Kirk first worked as an apprentice fitter and turner (he did not complete the course) then applied to the Railways Department winning a job at Frankton Junction in the Waikato in October 1940 as a cleaner. He soon became an acting fireman working with boilers. Much of his work was done at night.(9) By 1940 he was becoming a large man. When fully grown Kirk topped 6 feet 1 inch, and carried more and more weight, reaching 21 stone in later years. His extra-long arms reached well past his knees. However, Kirk’s health fluctuated. A problem with his goitre caused him to be laid off on sick pay in 1941, and made him unfit for military service when called up.(10) On 19 October 1941 he began work at the New Zealand Dairy Company at Ngatea as a boiler assistant. From there the restless youth moved on to the Martha goldmine in Waihi in August 1942, having passed by correspondence his engine driver’s certificate, second class. He shifted to Devonport for six months in 1943 to work on the SS Toroa, securing his River Engineer’s Certificate in February 1944 and joining the Ferry Workers’ Union, where he was briefly vice-president. It would be his only significant position within a union.

At the Devonport Anglican Church on 17 July 1943 the 20 year-old Kirk married 21 year old Ruth Miller, daughter of a Post Office supervisor. They had met on a blind date in Paeroa and she was his first girl friend. Kirk told journalists in later years that he possessed £7-10-0 when he married. They rented accommodation in Devonport and their first child, Robert, was born there.(11) In February 1944 the Kirks returned to the Bay of Plenty where Norman worked as a boiler engineer at the Katikati Dairy Company on a wage of £4-14-0 per week, plus a Stabilisation Bonus of 14/7d. For a brief time they inhabited a Public Works hut. Over the next sixteen years Norman and Ruth Kirk built a family of five children, three sons and two daughters, but it was not a particularly happy marriage.

The Kirks stayed in Katikati until 1948. They then moved south to Kaiapoi where they bought a section in Carew Street for £40. Norman worked as an engine driver at the Firestone tyre factory in Papanui, cycling back and forth to save money. He passed his engine driver’s certificate, first class, after more night study.(12) To raise the cash to build his house from concrete blocks he made himself, Kirk occasionally cut scrub and revived old cars, turning some into half ton trucks like his father had done. In 1950 he joined the Kaiapoi Branch of the New Zealand Labour Party and set about building its membership. Kirk was soon chairman of the branch and in 1951 became President of the Hurunui Labour Representation Committee.(13)

As recently as 1946 the area had been part of a Labour-held electorate. There is little doubt that Kirk aimed to win Hurunui back for the Labour Party when it lost office in the 1949 general election. Meantime he was establishing his credentials and reading widely about politics. Initially he concentrated on local government; with the former Labour MP, Morgan Williams, he approached people to stand for the Kaiapoi Borough Council. In October 1953 after a campaign involving an unprecedented series of household meetings, Kirk led a team of Labour candidates to office in the town of 2,500 people, defeating the sitting mayor and several councillors.(14) At 30 he was the youngest mayor in the country. For the first time there was a Labour majority on the Kaiapoi Council.

All his life Kirk had faith in the ability of public authorities to improve the lives of lower income people. His first objective was to replace the system of night soil collection and septic tanks in Kaiapoi with a sewerage system which council staff built. With books from the library which he read while watching his machine at the tyre factory, Kirk absorbed information and became involved in many of the technical issues, somewhat to the dismay of his Town Clerk.(15) The council stepped up its roading and footpath programme and rehabilitated the small port on the river. Anxious to see more houses and industries in the town, Kirk promoted a switch from capital to unimproved value rating. He was a hard taskmaster. Councillors had to do their homework, and staff had difficulty standing up to their mayor. He lacked social graces and could sometimes be rude; at meetings with local businessmen, he would tongue lash them, then smooth ruffled feathers - a technique that he used to good effect throughout the rest of his life. He was unopposed as mayor in 1956.(16)

Kaiapoi Borough Council was too small to contain its ebullient first citizen. In 1954 Kirk stood for Parliament in the Hurunui electorate. He improved Labour’s share of the vote, but lost. Kirk unsuccessfully sought the Labour nomination at the Riccarton by-election in October 1956 but won nomination for Lyttelton for the 1957 general election. A seat with a long Labour tradition, it had slipped narrowly from Labour’s grasp in 1951 and was marginal. Kirk took time off from work and waged an energetic campaign, visiting most homes in the Lyttelton electorate and holding a series of house meetings - a campaign style that he urged on all future Labour candidates fighting marginal seats. On 30 November 1957 Kirk was elected to the New Zealand Parliament with a majority of 567 votes. He won comfortably in the port town of Lyttelton, and in Opawa and Woolston, but trailed at most other polling booths.(17) Kirk resigned as Mayor of Kaiapoi on 15 January 1958; he and his family shifted across Christchurch to live at 19 Hillsborough Terrace.(18)

At 35 Kirk was huge. Sir Bernard Fergusson, who was Governor General 1962-67, described him as having “a resolute chin, a twinkling eye, a charming smile, and an impish wit”. Kirk ate big meals and loved meat.(19) However, illnesses in youth had left him with an enlarged heart,(20) and he was prone to blackouts, collapsing on one occasion at a parliamentary gathering.(21) But he soon emerged as one of the best debaters in Walter Nash’s three-year Labour government. Kirk’s voice could range between the stentorian and the quietly persuasive, and he commanded attention whenever he was on his feet. In his maiden speech on 17 June 1958 he surprised by speaking for some time about New Zealand’s place in the world; just as he had outgrown Kaiapoi, there were to be times in his political life when he seemed to have outgrown New Zealand. The affairs of his electorate and of the downtrodden were never far from his mind; yet, where others became bogged down in the minutiae of their electorates, Kirk demonstrated a capacity to put local issues within a wider context. The need to expand facilities at the Lyttelton wharf led him to support a road tunnel through the port hills to facilitate the carriage of goods to the Canterbury hinterland: “the heart of the South Island’s transport system is within the boundaries of the electorate”, he declared.(22) Nor did Kirk neglect the Chatham Islands that were attached to his Lyttelton electorate. Indeed, so fervent did his efforts on behalf of them become, that thirty years later Chatham Islanders still talked about Kirk in reverential tones. He reminded his backbenchers in later years that no music sounded so sweet to voters as the squeak of the parish pump.(23)

Norman Kirk seldom used the word “socialism” and summed up his, and the Labour Government’s political philosophy as “a social programme which will promote the housing of our people, protect their health, and ensure full employment and equal opportunity for all”.(24) Kirk constantly reverted to these themes. He shone in debates on the Land and Income Tax Bills of 1958 and 1959, and Prime Minister Nash confided to his Chief Whip, Henry May, that Kirk would “one day be Prime Minister”.(25) In the meantime, however, Kirk devoted his efforts to retaining his seat, which he succeeded in doing on 26 November 1960 by the even narrower margin of 260 votes, even although the Labour Party was beaten by Keith Holyoake’s National Party.(26)

Between 1960 and 1965 Kirk consolidated his position within the Labour hierarchy, first with substantial contributions in Parliament and caucus, and secondly by moving up the ranks of the party organisation. Aided by the conference votes of several large trade unions, he was elected Vice-President of the Labour Party in 1963; in May 1964 he became President, holding the position until 1966. This put him first amongst equals. He was soon planning to challenge Arnold Nordmeyer for the leadership of the Labour Party when the post came up for election at the last caucus of 1965. In a quiet but determined campaign, Kirk revealed considerable guile, seeking amongst other things the support of caucus members’ wives.(27) On 16 December 1965, by the unexpectedly wide margin of 25:10, the 42 year-old Kirk became Leader of the parliamentary Labour Party, and Leader of the Opposition. His victory seemed the more astounding because under Fraser, Nash and Nordmeyer, Labour had seemed to be declining into a gerontocracy.

The baton had passed from the old guard to the new. Yet, because of the stealth he had used, Kirk was paranoid about others’ intentions. For the rest of his life he suspected plots against him where none existed.(28) He distrusted those with formal education.(29) This uneasiness affected party activists’ attitudes towards him. It took several years before he established hegemony over the wider party, and this retarded progress in the 1966 election where victory would have been difficult in any event because of the party’s opposition to New Zealand’s (small) involvement in the Vietnam war.(30) Moreover, the downturn in the economy in 1967 widened the gap between the parliamentary and union wings of the labour movement, especially when some unions embarked on a campaign of direct action over wages in 1968.(31)

In the 1969 election campaign Kirk finally succeeded in placing his stamp on the Labour movement. Using the slogan “Make Things Happen” he campaigned tirelessly for planned development which, with new financial incentives, he hoped would produce faster economic growth. Further price controls and a generous package of spending promises in education, housing and health were also high on his list. However, the two major parties’ ideas for the planned economy were not sufficiently far apart at any stage in the 1960s for campaigns to generate much economic debate. The young were more absorbed with foreign policy and race relations. Still no television star, Kirk was slightly more adept with its use than Prime Minister Holyoake. At his campaign opening, he raised his arms to illustrate how small was the average room in a new State house, and neither of his hands could be seen on small TV screens! Kirk’s propensity for extravagant language, his bold gestures, and appeals to a sense of nationhood, coupled with an uncompromising stand against racial discrimination attracted attention.(33) But victory narrowly eluded him; Holyoake retained office.

Kirk was even more determined to win government. He lost weight, let his hair grow and bought several new suits. A large, distinguished, rather than fat man emerged, this one with a shock of curly silver hair. He worked even harder, and was merciless with his colleagues who were expected to keep the tired National Government on its toes. A detailed policy document was drawn up. The promises had price tags running to hundreds of millions.(34) Kirk’s belief that central government could fashion an environment of equal opportunities became inspirational. Like an evangelist, he carried the policy document everywhere, thumping it vigorously and using an occasionally savage wit on opponents who questioned its practicality. However, continued slow economic growth led to increasing union unrest. In 1971 Kirk appealed to them to “cool it”, and to create collaborative campaign teams of union and party workers to fight the 1972 election.(35)

Not even the change to Jack Marshall as Prime Minister in February 1972 could blunt Labour’s campaign slogan: “It’s Time for a Change”. On 25 November 1972 Kirk led Labour to victory with a majority of 23 seats. It was very much his personal triumph; Kirk dominated the campaign, and gave his government a presidential stamp of authority that caught the public imagination during its first year of office. The conservative Dominion bestowed their “Man of the Year” prize on him for “outstanding personal potential for leadership”. A few weeks later, on 6 February 1973, Kirk was photographed at Waitangi holding the hand of a small Maori boy. It seemed to symbolise a new era of racial partnership.

Capable of rambling at cabinet meetings and sometimes speaking in parables as he edged the process of decision-making forward, Kirk nonetheless gave the public appearance of a man in a hurry.(36) Repeating Savage’s gesture, pensioners were given a Christmas bonus; home-building was stepped up; diplomatic relations were established between New Zealand and the Peoples’ Republic of China; and a grant was made to the United Nations Trust Fund on South Africa. “We want New Zealand’s foreign policy to express New Zealand’s national ideals as well as reflect our national interests”, he declared.(37). On 10 April 1973 the government refused to grant visas to a South African rugby team because the sport was not racially integrated. He applied pressure to the French to stop testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, and when this failed, a frigate was sent to the test area “to provide a focus for international opinion against the tests”.(38) Kirk was heading an activist government the like of which had not been seen in New Zealand for nearly 40 years.

The new government enjoyed a record surplus in its first year and revalued the currency. However, the slowing world economy, an unprecedented rise in oil prices, and a rapid rise in government expenditure fuelled inflation. By the early part of 1974 the country’s economic prospects were less rosy. Kirk’s determination didn’t falter; he kept reminding the Labour caucus of the sanctity of its election promises, no matter what the state of the economy. Inflation kept rising. Large wage increases became necessary, and a complex - and ill-fated - system of price justification called Maximum Retail Prices(MRP) was devised.

Kirk followed a gruelling schedule; while others were at the beach over Christmas 1973, he, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, toured New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Bangladesh. In New Delhi on 28 December 1973 he had a serious heart turn but bounced back.(39) He then contracted dysentery. After the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in February 1974 and a series of visits from heads of state including the Queen, Kirk decided to have his painful varicose veins attended to. His recovery from the operation on his legs on 10 April 1974 was slow; blood clots developed, and his heart gave further trouble. Flights in an unpressurised aircraft to the Bay of Islands and back exacerbated his discomfort. Kirk lost weight and sweated constantly. Yet he continued to work and attended the Labour Party conference on 16 May. Delegates were shocked by his gaunt appearance.(40) His private behaviour became erratic; he spent time on small issues, neglecting substantial matters requiring attention.(41)

Kirk returned to Parliament in June, spoke and handled questions, occasionally with his old flare. However, July brought a steadily worsening industrial scene with strikes and soaring inflation. Abortion and homosexual law reform, both of which Kirk opposed, began getting media attention. Polls showed that Kirk himself retained voter loyalty, but the Government’s stocks were sagging. The aggressive Robert Muldoon toppled Marshall as leader of the National Party; Kirk, his health no better, and lacking sleep, was sustained by sheer willpower during the chaotic parliamentary wrangles that followed. The old warhorse appeared on occasions. When Muldoon accused him of cowardice over a minor matter, Kirk delighted his followers by shooting back that “cowardly” was an odd word for someone to use “who has just crept through the political shrubbery and struck the fox down”.(42)

In the second week of August Kirk insisted on attending crucial debates on Labour’s superannuation scheme. Sometimes he had trouble breathing and his staff knew that he suffered from fluid retention. After cabinet on 19 August 1974 he went home to his ministerial house in Seatoun with flu. He couldn’t sleep and kept ringing colleagues and staff. On 28 August a heart specialist, Professor Tom O’Donnell, persuaded Kirk to enter the Island Bay Home of Compassion where the Prime Minister was attached to a monitor and his doseage of digoxin increased.(43) At about 8pm on Saturday 31 August 1974 Norman Eric Kirk’s heart stopped beating. His cause of death was given as “congestive cardiac failure” and “thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease”.(44) He was 51. Kirk was survived by his wife and family. Ruth Kirk died in March 2000.

New Zealanders awoke on the Sunday to the news that their Prime Minister was dead. There followed an outpouring of grief paralleled only by that which had followed M.J. Savage’s death in 1940. People who had been slow to embrace Kirk as a leader could not believe that he had been snatched away, seemingly in his prime. As the Labour Party slid towards defeat at the 1975 election, legends grew about the man who might have saved the country from Muldoon. Princes, prime ministers and potentates with whom Kirk had established friendships also mourned his passing; most thought him an extraordinary individual, and the “log cabin to White House” metaphor was on many lips. He will be seen as Labour’s last passionate believer in big government, someone who camouflaged any doubts he might have had with a commanding presence and extravagant rhetoric that introduced a new moral tone to political debate in New Zealand.

Further reading:

John Dunmore, Norman Kirk: A Portrait, Palmerston North, 1972.

Margaret Hayward, Diary of the Kirk Years, Wellington, 1981.

Michael Bassett, The Third Labour Government: A Personal History, Palmerston North, 1976

Footnotes:

1. Birth certificate 1923/1451. The precise place of birth was Nathan Home, Waimate. There is detail about Kirk’s antecedents, obviously from Kirk himself, in John Dunmore, Norman Kirk: A Portrait, Palmerston North, 1972, pp.11-13. Lord Ballantrae assisted Kirk to trace his Ayrshire connections. See The Times, (London), 5 September 1974. A photograph of Norman Kirk’s parents’ wedding is in the New Zealand Herald (NZH), 2 December 1972, section 2. An historian, Dr R.T.M. Tau of Ngai Tahu, drew my attention to the persistent rumours.

2. Dunmore, p.16. Linwood Avenue School was the only school Kirk ever attended. See Register of Admission provided to the author in March 1998 by Chris Reece of Linwood School. Kirk was pupil No. 220.

3. Dunmore, pp.18-19. See also New Zealand Listener, 16 October 1972.

4. Kirk announced Labour’s intention to introduce an authors’ fund at the Booksellers’ Association annual conference in April 1972. See Press, 26 April 1972; Auckland Star, 27 April 1972. Some of Kirk’s personal library is to be found in the Norman Kirk Memorial Collection in the Kaiapoi Public Library. It includes How to be a Fix-it Genius, The Amateur’s Workshop, and The Complete Home Carpenter.

5. Dunmore, p.24.

6. The author who was MP for Waitemata in the Kirk and Rowling Governments 1972-75 has caucus notes with some of Kirk’s hunting stories.

7. The author possesses a zerox copy of the letter to Kerry Burke MP written just before Kirk died.

8. Dunmore, p.25.

9. Bert Roth checked a variety of files and concludes that the year was 1940 when Kirk went to Frankton. See Roth Collection, MS Papers, 6164-047, Alexander Turnbull Library(ATL). Dunmore suggests pp.27-28 that it was 1938.

10. Waihi Gazette, Interview with Norman Kirk, 20 January 1966.

11. Margaret Hayward, Diary of the Kirk Years, Wellington, 1981, p.26. The author as Labour Candidate for North Shore in 1966 visited the Maternity Hospital with Kirk and was shown the room where his son was born.

12. Additional information about the Kirks in Kaiapoi was gleened from Athol Cattermole, a Kaiapoi butcher and close friend of Kirk’s, who was interviewed by the author in Kaiapoi in May 1977.

13. Switzer Hudson, “Biographical Index” of Labour MPs; copy in the hands of the author.

14. The North Canterbury Gazette, 6 November 1953 says that Kirk polled 621 votes against Mayor Owen Hills’ 511 votes. Labour won five out of nine council seats.

15. Cattermole to the author. He was elected to the Kaiapoi Council on Kirk’s ticket in October 1953. See also statement by the Town Clerk of Kaiapoi, 1950-59, a copy of which is held by the author. The Town Clerk believed that Kirk’s preferred method of construction cost the Kaiapoi Council about $60,000 more than the original tender price received before the 1953 election.

16. See Margaret Hayward, p.25. Also Cattermole interview. David Tom who was the council’s book-keeper in the 1950s was interviewed by the author in May 1977 and confirmed Cattermole’s comments. The author himself on two occasions was given this “treatment” by Kirk, in both 1972 and 1973.

17. AJHR, 1958, H-33, p.14. Kirk won only 16 of 47 polling places.

18. North Canterbury Gazette, 17 December 1957. The announcement of Kirk’s intention to resign was made at the council meeting on 16 December 1957.

19. Fergusson, later Lord Ballantrae, wrote about Kirk in The Times (London), 5 September 1974. The author recalls eating with Kirk and a group of young parliamentarians in Wellington’s renowned Green Parrot Restaurant and watching as Kirk devoured two large steaks and two plates of french fries.

20. Kirk himself claimed that rheumatic fever in his youth contributed to an enlarged heart. Dr Rufus Rogers, MP for Hamilton East 1972-5, examined Kirk on one occasion and told the author about the size of Kirk’s heart. Several other doctors who attended Kirk in later years have confirmed these strories.

21. Information provided to the author by Dame Catherine Tizard on whom Kirk fell on one occasion. Margaret Hayward tells of seeing Kirk have turns between 1969 and 1974. p.200.

22. NZPD, 17 June 1958, p.88.

23. Lord Ballantrae accompanied the Kirks to the Chatham Islands in 1963 and commented on the visit in The Times (London), 5 September 1974. As Minister of Internal Affairs 1987-90 the author went to the Chatham Islands on three occasions and was always told by locals that the MP they most respected had been Norman Kirk.

24. NZPD, 17 June 1958, p.93. The 1969 election pamphlet entitled “This Man Kirk” which was delivered throughout the country, said of Kirk that he was “impatient with ‘isms’ and political doctrines, and had one “over-riding belief” that ‘people matter most’.

25. Diary of Henry May, 10 September 1959, in the author’s hands.

26. There were persistent rumours around Parliament that Kirk intended shifting away from marginal Lyttelton to the West Coast for the 1960 election. Kirk denied any intention of abandoning Lyttelton in April 1960. See NZH, 4 April 1960, p.19.

27. Kirk is said to have solicited the birthdays of all colleagues’ wives, and to have sent each one a telegram on the appropriate date.

28. Comment to the author by Rt Hon R.J. Tizard, formerly Labour MP for Tamaki, Otahuhu and Panmure. See also Richard Neville, “Party Leaders Appraised”: an interview with Hon Dr Martyn Finlay, Dominion, July 1977.

29. When the author was first introduced to Kirk in 1964, Kirk advised friends around him to watch the author “carefully, because he’s had an education”. Yet, at the same time, Kirk was very proud of his son Bob who earned his PhD in Geography at the University of Canterbury.

30. Newspaper clippings of election meetings in 1966 show that audience attendances at Labour meetings were low, and the enthusiasm level was slight.. There is a file of clippings on the 1966 campaign in 82-341-23 and 24, ATL.

31. In July 1968 Kirk appealed to unions, particularly the Freezing Workers’ Union, not to splinter the labour movement. Press, 11 July 1968.

32. Kirk’s speech to the National Development Conference is in Flashlight, 82-341-24, ATL. See also Otago Daily Times, 5 February 1969 where Kirk set out his case for concessional freight rates.

33. A new Levin hospital was promised in the Evening Post, 25 February 1969. A five point pamphlet entitled “Make Things Happen: Vote Labour” was delivered to every household in the country.

34. “1972 Election Manifesto: New Zealand Labour Party”, Wellington, 1972. Michael Connelly who was one of Labour's finance spokesmen at the time told me he estimated the promises at more than $700 million, a huge sum at that time.

35. Dominion, 9 September 1971. There is detail about Labour’s fight for office 1971-72 in Margaret Hayward, pp.1-93. The author sat on the Auckland Joint Council that set priorities for the election campaign in the Auckland region.

36.Comments by Martyn Finlay, Minister of Justice 1972-75 in the Dominion, July 1977. Roger Douglas, Postmaster General in Kirk’s government, confirmed this to the author.

37. Dominion, 29 December 1972. There is detail about Kirk’s prime ministership in Michael Bassett, The Third Labour Government: A Personal History, Palmerston North, 1976.

38. The words come from a letter of Kirk’s to H. Rainforth, 30 May 1973, 96-204-3/13, ATL.

39. Margaret Hayward, pp.199-200.

40. There is a photo of Kirk at the conference in Bassett, p.125.

41. Margaret Hayward, p.256.

42. Margaret Hayward, pp.269-279.

43. Margaret Hayward, pp.300-305.

44. Death Certificate 1974, 18659.



Websites by JAG Consultants Ltd