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Cullen Draws The Curtain On A 27-Year Long Parliamentary Career

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Michael Cullen. Pic: NZPA
Michael Cullen. Pic: NZPA

Wellington, April 7 NZPA - The curtain will fall on Michael Cullen's 27-year-long parliamentary career at the end of the month.

The former deputy prime minister and finance minister confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in politics today saying he was moving on to the board of New Zealand Post and other roles.

Dr Cullen himself noted that his career change was full of ironies.

His appointment to NZ Post, where he will become deputy chairman in October, was made by a National Government that he had bitterly opposed, saying it secretly planned to privatise State-owned enterprises.

Dr Cullen will also become principal adviser to Waikato-Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan.

Mr Morgan was a New Zealand First MP who was the subject of a sustained political campaign by Dr Cullen and his colleagues over his spending habits at Maori Television.

Dr Cullen will also work with Ngati Tuwharetoa and the Ahuriri claimant group in Napier on their treaty claims.

He used to be responsible for treaty negotiations as a minister and was also the architect of the foreshore and seabed legislation.

"The time has come for me to move on," Dr Cullen said.

Even if Labour had won last year's election, Dr Cullen said he would have stood down from Parliament next February when he turns 65.

Labour's loss and his decision to return to the backbenches had left him with time on his hands and feeling unsatisfied.

Prime Minister John Key had approached him before Christmas to discuss what role he would like outside Parliament.

A place on the board of the state owned power company Mighty River Power had been his initial preference, but this had fallen by the wayside when the Government decided this could have created conflicts of interest over his desire to take up a treaty negotiations role.

During Dr Cullen's 27-year tenure, he served 17 years as Labour's finance spokesman, 12 years as deputy leader and nine years as finance minister and deputy prime minister.

He did not regret leaving Parliament, but this did not mean he had regrets that something had not turned out differently.

He said his proudest achievement was to help lead Labour into becoming a coherent, modern social democratic party with a credible economic policy

Child welfare laws, KiwiSaver and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund -- dubbed the Cullen fund -- he also noted as achievements, though whether they were a lasting legacy would be up to future governments.

A "seminal" moment had been when former prime minister Helen Clark stared down his attempt to talk her into standing down as Labour leader.

After this they formed a leadership bond that led Labour into government in 1999 and three successive election victories.

His attempt to roll Miss Clark had been pretty good "if you look at the outcome".

Mr Key said there was no bad blood between himself and Dr Cullen.

"We wish him the best for his retirement," Mr Key told reporters.

"We think he's a man with tremendous skills and we're now looking forward to him deploying those at NZ Post."

Finance Minister Bill English said he had not agreed with all the decisions Dr Cullen had made when the previous government was in power but he was one of the few people in the Labour Party who understood the economy.

"He is a capable person and he has put his services at the disposal of the Government and we are going to use them," Mr English said.

Labour leader Phil Goff said Dr Cullen would be missed as "father of the House" and as a friend and colleague.

"In this case they (the Government) have acknowledged the high skills, the experience and the competency of Michael Cullen," Mr Goff said.

Dr Cullen will give his valedictory speech on April 29.

Miss Clark gives hers tomorrow and Dr Cullen said it was fitting he left a few paces behind her.

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