The New Zealand Labour Party celebrates 100 years

  • 07/07/2016
Andrew Little (Simon Wong)
Andrew Little (Simon Wong)

On July 7, 1916, the Labour Party was born when workers got together after industrial unrest on the West Coast.

It celebrates its 100th birthday on Thursday. Newshub's political team got ten MPs to tell us what a century of Labour means to them, in ten words.

Celebrations start today with a party at Wellington Museum, and culminate on Sunday with a major housing policy announcement.

Party president Nigel Haworth says Labour is as relevant now as it was the day it was created.

"We vigorously debate how we will build a better New Zealand but the goal hasn't changed: economic security and social equality for all New Zealanders," he said.

Mr Haworth says one of Labour's first campaigns was its vehement opposition to conscription during World War I.

"It resulted in the expulsion from parliament and imprisonment of some of its leaders, including the future World War II prime minister, Peter Fraser."

In its first electoral test, the new party won eight seats in the 1919 election.

During the depression of the 1930s support for the party surged and it won the 1935 election.

Michael Joseph Savage became prime minister and the landslide victory gave Labour 53 seats against the United/Reform Coalition's 19.

The first Labour government introduced state housing and reformed social welfare.

Mr Haworth says each of the five Labour governments of the past 100 years introduced changes its political opponents came to accept.

They included workplace rights, the 40-hour week, the public health system, free education, state housing, public broadcasting, the Waitangi Tribunal, homosexual law reform and civil unions.

Centenary celebrations include the launch on Thursday of a new history of the party, an exhibition, seminars and a series of talks in Wellington.

Regional celebrations are being held around the country.

Newshub. / NZN