BREAKING : The great architect of Labour, Sir Michael Cullen, has died


The great architect of Labour has passed – his acerbic wit, his decency and his intelligence is a benchmark to our liberal progressive democracy.

Rest In Peace Sir Michael Cullen.

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  1. Yes a great man.
    I had the pleasure of meeting him on 2 occasions and was overwhelmed by his knowledge.
    Thankyou Sir Michael.

  2. Michael Cullen was one senior NZ Labour Party figure that struggled with Rogernomics somewhat, and let people know that. And had a sense of humour.

    But really, Parliamentarians that are not into class struggle–99.9% of them–remain fundamentally mistaken if they really believe they can do good works for the many vs. the few under a neo liberal state.

    But really, despite that I would give most politicians their due, as humans, as family members etc. apart from the really bad ones like Margaret Thatcher!

  3. His recent columns in the Herald showed his great intellect and understanding was with him until the end. Go in peace Sir Michael.

  4. Paid $750mil for NZ Rail (rebranded Kiwirail) when it was worth less than half that…always sad when someone dies, but dont think he made no mistakes.

    • I’m Right
      Anything else you wanna say – now that he can’t defend himself? Well I will defend him. He was a class act. The politicians in this govt should take lessons from him. Especially how to use a god-given mandate. He would have NEVER wasted it like it’s being wasted by is lot.

    • Getting the rail network and corridor back in the govt hands had to be a priority. Unfortunately they were forced to pay a high price due to corporate greed.
      Rebuilding rail will take years after it was neglected by the profit striping private owners who treated their employees criminally.
      Rail will help to get the trucks off the roads. Rail may need to be expanded as we get better planning for transport of food and goods in a post fossil world.
      Rail can run on wood fuel and work is currently underway to develop/ modify high efficiency clean burning wood fire engines.
      Rail should never have been sold off.

      You have to look at the bigger picture not the immediate dollar cost and governments can do that if motivated.
      Michael took the first step out of a tragic mess of privatisation of rail.

  5. RIP Sir Michael. One of a dying breed (no pun intended) of honest, intelligent and practical politicians. We are unlikely to see his like again in our brave new millennial world.

  6. Jesus! What a bunch of sycophantic bullshit coming from some of you?
    He took free and easy farmer money and gave it to his rich neoliberal city mates and now we have poverty and homelessness in a rich country. He must have been a great economist alright. What a guy!

    Johnny Cash says it all as far as I’m concerned.
    God’s Gonna Cut You Down

  7. Sir Michael did me two big favours:

    His polices drove around 25,000 kiwis out of the country every year, thereby providing me better employment opportunities.

    My house price went up more under his regime than any other.

    Thank you Sire Michael, you will be missed!

  8. Michael Cullen taught me History at the University of Otago in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His lectures on the English Revolution were riveting. On the wall of his office he had tacked a huge Walter Crane poster showing a man digging and a woman spinning. Around the image trailed the words of John Ball, the defrocked priest whose impertinent theological and political question helped spark the Peasants Revolt of 1381: “When Adam delved, and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”

    That was the Michael Cullen whose entry into Parliament I celebrated.

    But then came Rogernomics, and Cullen trimmed his sails to the prevailing winds. He played a key role, as Whip, in getting GST through a succession of Labour regional conferences. Yes, he was formidably intelligent, and yes, his wit could lacerate the National Party like no other, but the reforms he will be remembered for: the Super Fund, KiwiSaver, Working For Families, were all inadequate workarounds that never seriously challenged the neoliberal orthodoxy which Cullen, in the end, accepted and consolidated. He fought KiwiBank to the bitter end, and refused to save public broadcasting.

    The final betrayal, from the point of view of the student who had thrilled to his lectures on the Levellers, the Diggers and the Fifth Monarchy Men, was when the onetime radical history lecturer accepted a knighthood.

    There have been many, many Labour MPs who were worse than Michael Cullen – much worse. But, equally, there were a number who were better. The tragedy, for me, is that Michael could have been one of them – but wasn’t.

      • If the death of a significant political figure is not the occasion for an honest appraisal of his life, and the contribution he has made to the life of their country, then when should such an appraisal be made?

        Those who admonish me for my honest assessment of the man I knew and admired make it clear that they did not know him, nor understood his contribution to the times in which we live.

        To speak plainly over the body of the departed is the very least that his spirit has the right to expect of those who knew him and respected him.

        • Absolutely agree.

          This idea that we have to wear rose tinted glasses and not accurately critique those who passed is how we get so many fallacies and inaccuracies.

          Many of my generation who were kids when Cullen was MOF will only hear if him right now at this moment and if all we hear are great rose tinted stories then that’s what they’ll pass on.

          To be perfectly honest Cullen seemed like a funny , intelligent man and he ran a neoliberal economy as good as anyone.

          However in 9 years with the most powerful portfolio in Nz and his legacy isn’t much more than 9 surpluses and whatever Jim Anderton had to fight tooth and nail for… Super is great I guess it could have been much more

          He’s not going to go down in the history books as anything great or groundbreaking just adequate and that’s a shame.

          His influence over our current MOF is also something I see as a negative.

          If the few things he did which were merely tinkering at best are considered highlights of the left in the last fourty years well we have a big problem.


    • Cullen went with the tide to a large extent but did have some wins for Kiwis
      Kirk’s superannuation was fought viciously by the off shore neoliberal bankers so it got ditched, Kirk’s scheme invested Kiwi’s money with the Govt and that guaranteed the contribution to the pension assisting personal account.

      Cullen / Clark’s Kiwisaver invest kiwi’s money with privately held investors organisations who charge administration to use kiwi money. If there is a banking slump that money may well disappear and will certainly take a haircut. You pay for administration with no guarantee as the administrators gamble with your dough.

      Kirk’s scheme was a Labour initiative where the Clark/Cullen Kiwisaver is a bankers dream with compulsory payments giving a rich money stream for them.

      Cullen’s govt contribution to an ongoing superannuation fund is good common sense. The present young workers will benefit in their later years.

    • Yet we got the super fund and kiwisaver when we might not have.
      How we will miss those beautifully flawed giants, the Jim Andertons , the Michael Cullens and the David Langes, they didn’t get everything right- who does- but I never suspected their motives, they cared for their country as the current crop do not.

    • He was taught by the also recently departed brainy Austin Mitchell MP, a huge loss to the contemporaneous NZ media, and Angus Ross, a man with a hell of a history, especially compared with today’s effete academia.

    • Well said. As my father often said, any man can tear a house down but it takes a master to build one. Pot shots from the cheap seats are ignored.

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