Grant Robertson

Grant Murray Robertson (born 30 October 1971) is a New Zealand politician and member of the Labour Party who has served as Minister of Finance since 2017. He has served as Member of Parliament for Wellington Central since 2008.

Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson 2015 (cropped).jpg
Robertson at Government House, Wellington, in 2015
42nd Minister of Finance
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern
Preceded bySteven Joyce
11th Minister for Sport and Recreation
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern
Preceded byJonathan Coleman
Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
Assumed office
27 June 2019
Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern
Preceded byMegan Woods
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
In office
13 December 2011 – 17 September 2013
LeaderDavid Shearer
Preceded byAnnette King
Succeeded byDavid Parker
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
In office
13 December 2011 – 17 September 2013
LeaderDavid Shearer
Preceded byAnnette King
Succeeded byDavid Parker
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wellington Central
Assumed office
8 November 2008
Preceded byMarian Hobbs
Personal details
Born (1971-10-30) 30 October 1971 (age 48)
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Alf Kaiwai
ResidenceNorthland, Wellington
Alma materUniversity of Otago

Robertson maintained and competed for several leadership positions during the party's stint in opposition following the end of the Fifth Labour Government. He was elected Labour's deputy leader in 2011, under leader David Shearer but also contested the leadership of the party in both the 2013 leadership election,[1][2] and the 2014 leadership election. Subsequently, Robertson was named the party's Finance spokesperson and given a number 3 ranking in the party list. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appointed him to the Finance portfolio in the Sixth Labour Government.

Early lifeEdit

Robertson was born in Palmerston North, the youngest of three boys. His Presbyterian family also lived in Hastings before settling in South Dunedin. His father was an accountant, and his mother initially stayed at home, later becoming a teacher. In 1991, his father was imprisoned after stealing around $120,000 from the law firm where he worked.[3] His grandfather Bob Wilkie ran unsuccessfully for Labour in the Wairarapa electorate in 1954 and 1957.[3]

Robertson attended King's High School in Dunedin, where he was head boy.[3] He later studied political studies at the University of Otago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with honours in 1995.[4] His honours dissertation studied the restructuring of the New Zealand University Students' Association in the 1980s.[5] Robertson served as President of the Otago University Students' Association in 1993 and as Co-President of the New Zealand University Students' Association in 1996.[3][6]

Professional lifeEdit

Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1997 after leaving university. His overseas postings included the United Nations in New York. Robertson also managed the NZ Overseas Aid Programme to Samoa – a $7.7 million fund with projects in diverse areas such as basic education, healthcare, public sector capacity building, small business development and the empowerment of women.[citation needed] He left MFAT in 2001.[3]

Robertson returned to New Zealand during the first term of the Fifth Labour Government to work as a Ministerial advisor to Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs and later Prime Minister Helen Clark. During his time in Clark's office, Robertson was rumoured to have the nickname "H3" during the 2005 general election (H1 being Clark, and H2 being Clark's Chief of Staff Heather Simpson).[7]

After the 2005 election, Robertson left the Prime Minister's office to work as the Senior Research Marketing Manager for the University of Otago based at the Wellington School of Medicine.[8]

Member of ParliamentEdit

Campaign for Wellington Central: 2008Edit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–2011 49th Wellington Central 46 Labour
2011–2014 50th Wellington Central 14 Labour
2014–2017 51st Wellington Central 3 Labour
2017–present 52nd Wellington Central 4 Labour

In late 2006, sitting MP for Wellington Central, Marian Hobbs announced that she would be retiring at the 2008 general election. Robertson was considered to be a front runner[9] and was subsequently selected unopposed.[10] Robertson ran a well-staffed campaign, based on local issues like the closure of the Crossways Community Centre and threats to the Public Service. He was also involved in the formation of a Wellington inner-city residents' association.[11]

On 1 September 2008, the Labour Party published its list for the 2008 general election and ranked Robertson at number 46.[12]

In the Wellington Central electorate, Robertson defeated National candidate, Stephen Franks by 1,904 votes.[13] Robertson's plurality, although far less than the 6,180 vote difference held by his predecessor from the previous election,[14] was a reflection of a large swing in party votes to the National Party from Labour in the electorate, and Robertson's status as a non-incumbent candidate.

First term in Parliament: 2008–2011Edit

Robertson was appointed Labour's spokesperson for State Services, and associate spokesperson for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Foreign Affairs by Labour leader Phil Goff.[15]

Robertson at post-budget meeting in 2011.

In May 2010 Robertson's Ethical Investment (Crown Financial Institutions) Bill was drawn from the member's ballot.[16][17][18] According to Robertson, the Bill "sought to have clear and consistent criteria for ethical investment in the legislation that govern our major investment funds such as the Super Fund and ACC".[19] Although the Bill gained support from MPs in the Green and Maori parties, the Bill was defeated at its first reading.[20]

On 15 June 2010, Opposition Leader Phil Goff appointed Robertson to be Portfolio Spokesperson for Tertiary Education, in addition to taking the parliamentary second row and being promoted to number 20 in the line-up, the highest of the 2008 intake of Labour MPs to be promoted at that point. This was the first shadow cabinet reshuffle since Labour had lost the 2008 general election to National, as a result of the Ministerial Credit Card scandal involving three Labour MPs.[21] In the election year reshuffle, on 2 February 2011, Robertson was further promoted to the front bench to take the Health portfolio.[22] Commenting on the promotion, Phil Goff said that Robertson has "made a very strong impact in a very short time" and that he "has a promising future ahead of him".[23]

At the 2011 general election, Robertson re-contested Wellington Central against eleven other candidates. He subsequently was re-elected with 49.2 percent of the electorate vote, increasing his majority to 6,376 over National Party candidate Paul Foster-Bell.[24]

Second term: 2011–2014Edit

Robertson speaking to a rally opposing the National Government's changes to University Councils, at the University of Otago, October 2013

Following the election and Annette King's resignation as party deputy leader, Robertson was elected by the Labour caucus as the new deputy leader under David Shearer. In Shearer's shadow Cabinet, Robertson also served as Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training, and Arts, Culture and Heritage. Following Shearer's resignation from the leadership in 2013, Robertson contested the party-wide leadership election. Although Robertson achieved the plurality support from his colleagues in Caucus, David Cunliffe garnered more support from party members and affiliates to win the overall vote.[2]

Throughout 2014, Robertson was critical of National Party minister Judith Collins, after she was accused of having a conflict of interest in regards to her visiting the dairy products company Oravida in China. He repeatedly called for her to resign during the Oravida saga, and when Collins later released information to the media about One News journalist Katie Bradford, he reiterated his call for her to resign, claiming she had "lost all perspective".[25]

Third term: 2014–2017Edit

Robertson was re-elected in the Wellington Central electorate in the September 2014 general election. Immediately following the election Labour leader David Cunliffe came under pressure to resign following the party's poor performance in the election. He was seen by some in the party as taking insufficient blame for the defeat. The leading challengers for the leadership were Robertson and David Shearer. Media reports suggest that some of the Labour caucus were trying to get Cunliffe to resign so Robertson and Jacinda Ardern could replace the current leadership unopposed.[26] On 26 September, the voting record in the previous leadership race of unions affiliated to Labour was released, showing Cunliffe had won very strong union support in the previous race, and highlighting the challenge for Robertson's bid.[27]

On 28 September, after Cunliffe had signalled his intention to resign, Robertson put his name forward to run for the Labour Party leadership. Robertson pointed to Labour's poor performance in the election as leading him to run: "I couldn't stand by and see the party poll at 24 per cent and not do something now that David's triggered the contest. That's why I've put my name forward". He also argued that the Labour Party need unity, and he would be a unifying figure, with the support of most of the Labour caucus. Because there were four candidates for the leadership, the Labour Party held a leadership election.[28]

Robertson lost the leadership election to Andrew Little by a small margin, Little receiving 50.52 per cent of the vote to Robertson's 49.48 per cent (after the votes from the other unsuccessful candidates had been reallocated) despite Robertson once again winning the support of most of the caucus, as well as a majority of the membership. After the results were announced, Robertson said he would not seek the Labour Party leadership again in the future.[29]

In Andrew Little's shadow cabinet reshuffle of November 2014, Robertson received the Finance portfolio, and was ranked number 3 on the Labour list.[30]

As part of his Finance portfolio, he was engaged in researching international economic policy, and was also responsible for the Labour Party's "Future of Work Commission".[31] His aims for the portfolio were to cut down on the number of policies, and "humanise" the policy.[32]

Fourth term: 2017–presentEdit

Robertson was elected as a Cabinet Minister by the Labour Party caucus following Labour's formation of a government with New Zealand First and the Greens.[33] He was given the key role of Minister of Finance by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and was also assigned the portfolio of Minister for Sport and Recreation, and appointed Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.[34]

On 27 June 2019, Robertson was appointed as Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, replacing Megan Woods who assumed the Minister of Housing portfolio.[35][36]

Personal lifeEdit

Robertson lives in Northland, Wellington, with his partner Alf, whom he met through playing rugby together for the Wellington-based Krazy Knights, New Zealand's first gay rugby team.[37] After 10 years in a relationship, they held a civil union ceremony in January 2009.[38]

In his maiden statement (given on 9 December 2008), Robertson alluded to his sexuality as a part, but not the whole, of his identity:

I am proud and comfortable with who I am. Being gay is part of who I am, just as is being a former diplomat, a fan of the mighty ... Wellington Lions, and a fan of New Zealand music and New Zealand literature. My political view is defined by my sexuality only inasmuch as it has given me an insight into how people can be marginalised and discriminated against, and how much I abhor that. I am lucky that I have largely grown up in a generation that is not fixated on issues such as sexual orientation. I am not—and neither should others be.[37][39][40]

In a 2012 interview with Guyon Espiner, he hit out at the suggestion that being gay could prevent him from understanding the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders:

That’s one of the things that irritates me the most. How can you say that? That someone won’t understand New Zealanders because they’re gay. I understand all sorts of things about being a New Zealander. I understand what happens when your dad goes to prison. I understand what it’s like when the All Blacks lose. You know? I understand what it’s like when you’re trying to work out if you’ve got enough money to do [renovation] to the house? It’s bullshit.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Grant Robertson to contest leadership". New Zealand Herald. 25 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Cunliffe wins Labour leadership". 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Espiner, Guyon (3 March 2012). "Profile: Labour deputy Grant Robertson". New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  4. ^ Gibb, John (13 April 2010). "Concern over archives restructuring". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  5. ^ "'A step to the right': the restructuring of the New Zealand University Students Association in 1986". University of Otago Library catalogue. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  6. ^ "History". Students Aotearoa. New Zealand Union of Students' Associations. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  7. ^ Clifton, Jane (1 November 2008). "Street party central". New Zealand Listener. Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  8. ^ ""Ground-breaking" Appointment to Otago University". Archived from the original on 27 September 2006.
  9. ^ "Marian Hobbs retires".
  10. ^ "Grant Robertson Labour's pick for Wellington Central". Stuff. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  11. ^ "Grant Robertson in the Media". Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  12. ^ "Labour Party list for 2008 election announced". Scoop NZ. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Elections NZ 2008: Official Count Results – Wellington Central".
  14. ^ "Official Count Results – Wellington Central". Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  15. ^ "Five newcomers to Labour's frontbench". Archived from the original on 25 December 2008.
  16. ^ "Ethical Investment (Crown Financial Institutions) Bill". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  17. ^ "Ethical investment Bill drawn from ballot". New Zealand Labour Party. 6 May 2010. Archived from the original on 21 May 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  18. ^ Michael Dickison (6 May 2010). "'Bah! Humbug!' – Sheppard slams ethical spending Bill". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  19. ^ "Govt shoots down member's bill for ethical investment". 6 August 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  20. ^ "Ethical investment bill fails". Radio New Zealand. 5 August 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  21. ^ "Fresh look for Labour's shadow Cabinet". 10 June 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  22. ^ "Labour Caucus – 2011". 3 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  23. ^ "Labour Leader reveals new caucus line-up". 3 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Wellington Central results, 2011". Electoral Commission. 10 December 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Judith Collins has 'lost all perspective' – Robertson". TVNZ. 5 May 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  26. ^ Banas, Liz (26 September 2014). "Labour leader weighing up his future". Radio New Zealand. Wellington. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  27. ^ Rutherford, Hamish (26 September 2014). "Does Grant Robertson have the numbers?". Stuff. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  28. ^ "Labour out of options, Robertson says". Stuff. Fairfax. 28 September 2014. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  29. ^ Small, Vernon; Gulliver, Aimee (18 November 2014). "Andrew Little new Labour Party leader – by a whisker". Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  30. ^ Davidson, Isaac (24 November 2014). "Winners, losers in Labour reshuffle". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  31. ^ "Future of Work Commission". NZ Labour Party.
  32. ^ Young, Audrey (4 May 2015). "Battling Bill: Grant Robertson's big job – creating an economic policy". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  33. ^ "Who's in? Who's out?". Radio New Zealand. 20 October 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  34. ^ "Ministerial List for Announcement (for appointment on 26 October 2017)" (PDF). Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  35. ^ "Winners and losers - PM reveals first substantive Cabinet reshuffle". Radio New Zealand. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  36. ^ Small, Zane (27 June 2019). "Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet reshuffle: Phil Twyford's Housing portfolio split into three". Newshub. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  37. ^ a b "Robertson, Grant: Maiden Statements".
  38. ^ "No 8 and halfback tie the knot".
  39. ^ "MP stands up for bureaucrats". The Dominion Post. 11 December 2008.
  40. ^ "New gay MPs debut in Parliament". Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2009.

External linksEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Marian Hobbs
Member of Parliament for Wellington Central
Party political offices
Preceded by
Annette King
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
David Parker
Political offices
Preceded by
Steven Joyce
Minister of Finance
Preceded by
Jonathan Coleman
Minister for Sport and Recreation
Preceded by
Annette King
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
David Parker