New Zealand History/Prime Ministers of the Twenty First Century
New Zealand Prime Ministers at the Start of the Twenty First Century (1999-2008)
Helen Clark (born on the 26th of February 1950) was the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the turn of the Twenty First Century, entering the role after the 1999 elections and serving until Labour's defeat in the 2008 elections.
Clark was the second female Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three terms as Prime Minister, and being the leader of the Labour Party from 1993.
Clark's Government brought in significant changes to New Zealand's welfare system, most notably the Working for Families package. Her Government also changed the industrial-relations law, and raised the minimum wage six times. Other changes included the abolition of interest on student loans (after the 2005 election), and the introduction of 14 weeks paid parental leave. Helen Clark's Government also supported some highly controversial laws such as legal provision for civil-unions. Laws such as these somewhat shook the faith that the New Zealand public had in the Government.
Under the Helen Clark Government, New Zealand maintained a nuclear-free policy, thought to be at the cost of a free trade agreement with the United States of America. Clark and the Labour Party also refused to assist the United States in the Iraq invasion.
In March 2003, referring to the U.S. led coalition's actions in the Iraq War, Clark told the newspaper Sunday Star Times; "I don't think that September 11 under a Gore presidency would have had this consequence for Iraq." She subsequently sent a letter to Washington apologising for any offence that her comment may have caused.
John Key (born on the 9th of August 1961) was elected as the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand on the 8th of November 2008, as the leader of the National Government.
National formed a coalition with the ACT party, Maori Party and United Future to make up the Government. The Labour Party (led by Phil Goff), the Green Party and the Progressives made the new Opposition.
John Key was the first male Prime Minister of New Zealand in more than a decade, succeeding Jenny Shipley (1997-1999) and Helen Clark (1999-2008).