Ruthanasia and Rogernomics can be viewed as complementary reform packages implemented by successive governments which were aimed at liberalising the New Zealand economy after a period of intense protectionism and fiscal control, particularly under the administration of Sir Robert Muldoon's National government between 1975 and 1984. Muldoon's protectionism had culminated in a three year wage and price freeze imposed by Muldoon, who simultaneously held the posts of Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, in an attempt to suppress rampant inflation.
Ruthanasia was controversial as the National Party had fought the 1990 election on a manifesto promising "The Decent Society" and implicitly repudiating the radicalism of the fourth Labour government. The Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, defended the move in his memoirs on the grounds that he had been badly misled in the runup to the 1990 election as to the actual state of the New Zealand economy. Upon winning the 1990 election, Bolger and Richardson quickly became aware of two unrelated financial crises: firstly, that the Bank of New Zealand required an immediate injection of capital to avoid insolvency as a result of the poor performance of a NZ$2.8bn loan portfolio in Australia, and secondly that the outgoing finance minister David Caygill's projection of a modest fiscal surplus was inaccurate, and that the country instead faced a fiscal deficit of NZ$5.2bn if action were not taken immediately.
Where Roger Douglas had deregulated the industrial, financial, fiscal and agricultural sectors of the New Zealand economy, Ruth Richardson, under the auspices of a National (predominantly conservative) administration, was able to focus on social services and labour relations, sensitive areas which the preceding Labour administration had not been willing to reform in light of its traditional working class constituency.
Richardson and the then Minister of Social Welfare, Jenny Shipley, immediately reformed Social Welfare programme by reducing available benefits and allowances across the board, and in 1993 the National government enacted the Employment Contracts Act (ECA), which effectively demolished New Zealand's post-war industrial relations framework, replacing collective bargaining and compulsory union membership in many sectors with the concept of the individual employment contract. Whilst the ECA did not directly address unions, the practical effect of removing the requirement for employees to be members, and allowing those employees who did want union membership to choose which union they wished to join dramatically reduced the bargaining position of the unions in the New Zealand economy. This reform of labour laws had already been outlined in the 1990 National manifesto.
Ken Douglas, then president of the Council of Trade Unions, said:
Roger Douglas, minister of finance in the preceding fourth Labour government, said (after his retirement from politics):
Fighting for a fairer society: nurses, as health care professionals and as part of an international community of trade unionists, must play their part in fighting for a fairer society for all.(INDUSTRIAL FOCUS)
Mar 13, 2012; "He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It...