Peter Dunne

The Honourable
Peter Dunne

Peter Dunne in 2009
Minister of Internal Affairs
Assumed office
28 January 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Chris Tremain
2nd Minister of Revenue
In office
17 October 2005  7 June 2013
Preceded by Michael Cullen
Succeeded by Todd McClay
Leader of United Future
Assumed office
Deputy Judy Turner
Preceded by Position established
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Ōhāriu
Assumed office
17 July 1984
Preceded by Hugh Templeton
Majority 710
Personal details
Born (1954-03-17) 17 March 1954
Christchurch, New Zealand
Political party United Future
Other political
United New Zealand (1995-2002)
Future (1994-1995)
Labour (until 1994)
Spouse(s) Jennifer Mackrell (1976-present); 2 sons
Relations Frank Smyth (grandfather)

Peter Francis Dunne (born 17 March 1954) is a New Zealand politician, Member of Parliament and leader of the United Future political party. He effectively was an Independent MP between 25 June 2013 and 13 August 2013 after his United Future political party was deregistered.[1] He has been an MP since 1984, representing the centre-left Labour Party in Parliament from 1984 to 1994, and a succession of minor centrist parties from 1994. He served as a Cabinet minister while in the Labour Party and has since done so in governments dominated by the centre-right National Party as well as by the Labour Party.

From 2005 to 2008 he held the posts of Minister of Revenue and Associate Minister of Health as a minister outside of Cabinet with the Labour-led government. After Labour suffered an election defeat in 2008 to the National Party, United Future was reduced to having Dunne as its sole MP. However, in a deal between United Future and National, Dunne retained his two portfolios outside cabinet.[2] On 7 June 2013 he resigned his warrant as a minister due to a purported leak from his office. However, on 28 January 2014 Dunne was reinstated as a minister and now holds the Internal Affairs, Associate Health, and Associate Conservation portfolios.[3]

Early life and family

Dunne was born in Christchurch in 1954. He attended St Bede's College and gained an MA in political science from Canterbury University before studying business administration at Massey University.[4]

In 1976, he married high school chemistry teacher Jennifer Mackrell, and they have two sons.[4] His brother, John Dunne, is a radio broadcaster.[5] A grandfather, Frank Smyth, played for the All Blacks.[6] He worked for the Department of Trade and Industry from 1977–78 and then for the Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council until 1984. He served as Deputy Chief Executive of the Council from 1980.

Member of Parliament

Labour MP

In the 1984 elections, Dunne successfully stood for Parliament as a candidate of the Labour Party, winning the seat of Ohariu, defeating sitting National MP Hugh Templeton. Bob Jones, leader of the New Zealand Party (not to be confused with New Zealand First), also stood in the seat, splitting the former National vote and enabling the Labour victory in the seat. Dunne retained the seat in the 1987 elections, after which he became a Parliamentary Undersecretary. In 1990, he became Minister of Regional Development, Associate Minister for the Environment, and Associate Minister of Justice. He won his seat again in the 1990 elections, but the Labour Party suffered defeat, and Dunne thus lost his ministerial posts.

In the 1993 elections, Dunne won the seat of Onslow, which covered much the same area as his former Ohariu seat. He found himself, however, increasingly at odds with the majority of the Labour Party  Dunne tended to support Labour's right-leaning faction rather than the party's more unionist wing. With the departure of leading right-wingers like Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and David Caygill he found himself isolated. In October 1994 Dunne resigned from the Labour Party, becoming an independent. A short time later, he established the Future New Zealand party (not to be confused with a later party of the same name).

United New Zealand party

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
19841987 41st Ohariu Labour
19871990 42nd Ohariu Labour
19901993 43rd Ohariu Labour
19931994 44th Onslow Labour
1994 Changed allegiance to: Independent
19941995 Changed allegiance to: Future
19951996 Changed allegiance to: United NZ
19961999 45th Ohariu-Belmont 3 United NZ
19992002 46th Ohariu-Belmont 1 United NZ
20022005 47th Ohariu-Belmont 1 United Future
20052008 48th Ohariu-Belmont 1 United Future
20082011 49th Ōhariu 1 United Future
20112014 50th Ōhariu 1 United Future
2014present 51st Ōhāriu 1 United Future

In 1995, a group of MPs from both Labour and National decided to band together and form a new centrist party. Dunne, who had already quit his party in a similar way, decided to join the larger group. Together, the defectors and Dunne established the United New Zealand party, with a total of seven MPs, led by Clive Matthewson. United eventually established a coalition with the National Party, with the deal seeing Dunne return to Cabinet as Minister of Internal Affairs and Inland Revenue.

The 1996 elections saw United New Zealand almost completely wiped out  Dunne, by virtue of his personal support, won the newly formed seat of Ohariu-Belmont, but all other United MPs suffered defeat. As the sole surviving United member in the House, Dunne became the party's leader. Towards the end of the parliamentary term, Dunne became part of a varied assortment of minor parties and independents who kept the National Party government in office after its coalition with New Zealand First collapsed in August 1998. Dunne retained his seat in the 1999 elections. In this contest, the National Party put up no candidate in his electorate.

United Future New Zealand party

Shortly before the 2002 elections, Dunne's United merged with the Future New Zealand party (not to be confused with Dunne's own earlier party of the same name). Dunne remained leader of the new group, called United Future New Zealand. In the 2002 elections, Dunne retained his seat despite challenges from both major parties. Mostly as a result of a strong performance by Dunne in a televised political debate, United Future surged unexpectedly in support, winning 6.69% of the nationwide party vote. In Parliament, United Future came to an agreement to support the governing Labour Party, although the two parties did not enter into a formal coalition arrangement. Dunne remained United Future's leader.

United Future New Zealand working with Outdoor Recreation

United Future, like other minor political parties working in coalition, suffered in the polls. The United Future entered an agreement to work formally with the Outdoor Recreation Party, a registered political party formed to represent the views of hunters, fishers, trampers and recreational users of the marine and natural environment.

Dunne retained his seat in the 2005 general election but his party's proportion of the nationwide vote diminished considerably, with a corresponding loss of seats in Parliament.

Fifth Labour Government

On 17 October 2005 Dunne gave his support to a Labour-led Government, along with Winston Peters' New Zealand First Party and Jim Anderton's Progressive Party. Dunne's decision to support a Labour-led Government disappointed some. During the election campaign Dunne and National Party leader Don Brash publicly sat outside an Epsom café over a cup of tea as a demonstration to the electorate that Dunne could co-operate with National. This demonstration saw the majority of National supporters in Ohariu-Belmont combine with United Future and other Dunne supporters to return Dunne with a comfortable majority. National won the party vote in his seat by 3.57% over Labour. Dunne's party received 5.55%, while the Green Party, which Dunne had criticised heavily in the campaign, received 5.84%.

Don Brash expressed a lack of amusement with Dunne's decision to support a Labour-led coalition government. Brash expressed astonishment at Dunne accepting the important ministerial portfolio of Revenue while remaining outside Cabinet. Asked if he considered Dunne guilty of dirty dealing, Brash said he would not use those words.[7] Representatives of business, however, welcomed the appointment.[8]

After the New Zealand general election, 2005, United Future retained only two list Members of Parliament, Judy Turner and Gordon Copeland. Copeland left the party in May 2007 to re-form the Future New Zealand Party, after opposing Dunne over Sue Bradford's private members bill against parental corporal punishment of children. After Copeland's departure, Judy Turner remained the only United Future List MP in Parliament. Dunne supported Bradford's Child Discipline Act.

Fifth National Government

Dunne receiving the New Zealand Internet Blackout petition in 2009

United Future's share of the party vote declined further in the 2008 election, to less than one percent.[9] However Dunne retained his electorate seat. The National Party won most seats overall and formed a minority government with support from Dunne, the Maori Party and Act New Zealand. Dunne retained his position of Minister of Revenue and also became an Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. However, like ministers from the other support parties, he remained outside Cabinet.[10]

Between December 2008 and August 2009, Dunne served as the chairman of the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee. Dunne described the Committee's report, which consisted of four minority reports, as a "middle road" through "complex and contentious" material.[11]

During the fifth National government's second term (2011- ), Dunne has held the balance of power for more than ten pieces of legislation[12] including the Government's asset-sales plan.[13]

Dunne has served as Associate Minister of Health (with particular responsibility for Drugs, Mental Health & Suicide Prevention) in both the recent Labour-led and National-led governments, and is the only minister who retained office after the change of government.

Resignation and reinstatement

In mid-2013 Dunne refused to hand over all 86 emails between himself and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance relating to the inquiry into the leaking of Rebecca Kitteridge's GCSB report following its illegal spying on Kim Dotcom. John Key told Dunne that if he would not co-operate with the inquiry he would have to resign his ministerial positions - which he did on 7 June.[14] In December 2013 Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee found that Dunne was entirely within his rights to decline the Henry Inquiry access to his emails. It further described the actions of the Henry Inquiry as "unacceptable", "mystifying" and "unprecedented". The committee found "failure at many levels", particularly as to why the Speaker of the House was not consulted, or at least informed, about the requests and information releases.[15]

On 28 January 2014, he was reinstated as Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health, and Associate Minister of Conservation. He retained his portfolios on 29 September 2014 after he signed his third confidence and supply agreement with National Party leader, John Key In December 2014 the Chief Ombudsman ruled that the emails did not contain official information and were therefore not required to be released.

Party registration status

On 31 May 2013 the New Zealand Electoral Commission de-registered the United Future Party at their request, following concerns the party no longer had the requisite 500 members.[16] This meant Dunne was no longer the leader of a political party and was denied more than $180,000 in funding he had previously been allocated as a party leader.[1] The Electoral Commission re-registered United Future as a political party on 13 August 2013. The Speaker of the House, David Carter, restored Dunne's position as leader of a recognised Parliamentary party and re-allocated party funding in late August 2013.

Political philosophy

Dunne strongly supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality when it became an issue in the mid 1980s, and has consistently favoured more liberal drinking laws. In a 2008 interview, he suggested it may be time to review New Zealand's abortion laws and leave the decision to a woman and her doctor, based on informed consent.[17]

Since 2007, Dunne has rebranded United Future as a modern centre party, based on promoting strong families and vibrant communities. He wants United Future to become New Zealand's version of Britain's Liberal Democrats. Dunne has summarised his political views in two books, Home is Where My Heart Is (2002) and In the Centre of Things (2005).

In 2010, Dunne, as Minister of Revenue he introduced the Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill to Parliament in September 2010, to give effect to United Future's policy of allowing couples raising dependent children up to the age of 18 years to share their incomes for tax purposes. The Bill was referred to a select committee and was reported back to Parliament in March 2011, and is currently awaiting its second reading. In April 2011, the government announced the establishment of a statutory Game Animal Council, another United Future initiative agreed to as part of the 2008 confidence and supply agreement.

Dunne has long argued for reform of the superannuation system, proposing a flexible system where people could retire earlier and receive less, or later and receive more.[18]


Dunne strongly supports a New Zealand republic, and holding an early referendum on the future of New Zealand's head of state is now part of United Future's policy programme.[19] In 2004, he chaired the Constitutional Arrangements Committee. Dunne also supports the creation of a New Zealand Day and has sponsored a members' Bill on the issue.

Political publications


  1. 1 2 "United Future loses party funding - National - NZ Herald News". 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  2. Martin Kay (17 November 2008). "New groups part of deals". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  3. "Dunne, Lotu-liga sworn in | Radio New Zealand News". 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  4. 1 2 Pryor, Nicole. "Rare stumble by political chameleon". The Press. p. A16. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  5. Tunnah, Helen (3 November 2003). "Art of compromise at coalition party conference". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  6. "Mr Boring? What about my bow-ties? - National". Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  7. "Brash: I had the 57 votes". The New Zealand Herald. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  8. "Dunne post lifts optimism". The New Zealand Herald. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  10. "Key's Government". The New Zealand Herald. 17 November 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  11. NZPA (31 August 2009). "Report on emissions trading scheme review released". 3 News. Retrieved 17 September 2012. Committee chair Peter Dunne today described the resulting report as a 'middle road' through some 'complex and contentious' material.
  12. "MP who often has the last word - National - NZ Herald News". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  13. "Labour blames Dunne for close vote". 3 News NZ. 27 June 2012.
  14. "Peter Dunne resigns as minister". 3 News NZ. 7 June 2013.
  15. "Dunne speaks out over 'unacceptable' Henry inquiry". TVNZ. 3 December 2013.
  16. "United Future's registration cancelled". 3 News NZ. 31 May 2013.
  17. "Gordon Campbell talks to Peter Dunne". Scoop (news website). 16 June 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  18. "Peter Dunne slams retirement report | Politics | Newshub". 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  19. "For Queen or Country?: New Zealand Listener - March 2005". Retrieved 2006-08-02.
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New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Hugh Templeton
Member of Parliament for Ohariu
Constituency recreated (as Ōhariu) in 2008
Constituency recreated after abolition in 1963
Title last held by
Henry May
Member of Parliament for Onslow
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Ohariu-Belmont
Constituency abolished (as Ohariu) in 1993
Member of Parliament for Ōhāriu
Party political offices
New political party Leader of Future New Zealand
Party merged into United New Zealand
Preceded by
Clive Matthewson
Leader of United New Zealand
Party merged with Future New Zealand into United Future New Zealand
New political party Leader of United Future New Zealand
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Cullen
Minister of Revenue
Succeeded by
Todd McClay
Preceded by
Amy Adams
Minister of Internal Affairs
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