Old white man of the day



Sidney George Holland was born at Greendale, Canterbury, on 18 October 1893. […] He was educated at Christchurch West District High School, leaving when he was 15 to work first in a hardware store and then in his father’s transport business.  Sid and a brother founded the Midland Engineering Company in Christchurch; he became managing director in 1918. The firm manufactured spray pumps and operated a profit-sharing scheme with its employees.

Active in a range of organisations, Holland served as president of the Canterbury Employers’ Association, the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and the Christchurch Businessmen’s Club. He was for a time associated with the New Zealand Legion. Holland did not, like some urban businessmen and Legion supporters, rally to the right-wing Democrat Party at the 1935 election, but the following year he helped bring its supporters into the New Zealand National Party, formed from the remnants of Reform, United and the Democrats.

[…] Sid succeeded his father as MP for Christchurch North in 1935. He was to hold the seat, later renamed Fendalton, for 22 years.

One of only two new MPs on the opposition benches after Labour’s sweeping victory, Holland quickly proved himself a very effective MP. Determined, vigorous, with a good memory and naturally aggressive, he detested socialism, which he defined as equality of income, irrespective of capacity – ‘the very antithesis of private enterprise’. He was a formidable impromptu debater, whose bluff ebullience, arrogance, tenacity and use of ridicule against the Labour government stood out in a Parliament in which the opposition was weak and divided.[…]

Holland, who learnt by listening and doing rather than reading, was no theorist. But he knew what type of society he believed was best for New Zealand. In his speeches he stressed individual freedom, initiative, opportunity, enterprise, responsibility and reward. He disliked bureaucratic regulation and state ownership and, while not an uncaring man, feared that Labour’s social security system (which he once described as ‘applied lunacy’) would make people too dependent on welfare payments and would prove very costly to taxpayers. […]

Holland was also successful in consolidating National’s position as New Zealand’s dominant centre-right party. Other right-wing groups, such as the People’s Movement, the New Liberal Party and a proposed soldiers’ party, had emerged in 1939–40 because of dissatisfaction with National’s performance. In early 1941 Holland persuaded them to merge with National, both through personal negotiations and his much more aggressive attacks on Labour.[…]

When the government suspended court sentences on coal miners convicted of striking illegally at Huntly in September 1942, Holland accused Labour of abandoning the rule of law and interfering with the judicial process. […]

During the 1942–43 summer holidays Holland wrote a pamphlet in which he tried to explain more positively what he and National stood for, rather than what it opposed. Entitled Passwords to progress , it was launched early in 1943 as a speech in the Auckland Town Hall. He argued that with a National government people could have economic prosperity and social welfare, and in addition individual freedom and a minimum of bureaucratic intervention and restriction. He stressed that ‘the basis of New Zealand’s material future was a little word with big meaning – work’.

Holland was disappointed when Labour won the 1943 election and devastated when it again held on to power in 1946. But in 1949 he led National to victory, winning 46 seats to Labour’s 34, and ending 14 years of Labour rule. The fourth New Zealand-born prime minister, he was to hold office until 1957, when ill health forced his retirement; from 1949 until 1954 he was also minister of finance.

The outgoing Labour government had a huge majority in the ineffective, appointed upper house of the New Zealand Parliament, the Legislative Council. Holland saw no reason for an upper house and did not try to reform it. In 1947 he had introduced a private member’s bill to abolish the council and in 1950 he returned to the attack. He forced abolition through the House of Representatives and appointed a ‘suicide squad’ of 25 National supporters to the council, which then voted 26–16 to make New Zealand’s Parliament unicameral. Although he kept a promise to set up a constitutional reform committee, which recommended a senate of 32 members, Holland told a group of journalists that the committee’s report would get no further than his toilet. No action was ever taken to create a new upper house.

Holland did not move as decisively to keep another promise: to abolish compulsory unionism. This idea met predictably strong opposition from unions, but was also opposed by employer organisations, who feared that it could increase the power of militants in the labour movement. The government, however, did take a hard line against more militant, communist-influenced unions such as the New Zealand Waterside Workers’ Union. This resulted in a waterfront dispute which started in February 1951 and lasted for 151 days of industrial disruption, social hardship, economic loss, political division and hatred almost unparalleled in New Zealand history. The National government enacted harsh emergency regulations, including strict censorship, and used the courts, police and armed forces to break the unions. When the Labour opposition challenged his handling of the dispute, Holland, who was concerned about fighting an election the following year over the issue of rapidly rising inflation, seized the opportunity to call a snap election. National’s slogan was ‘Who is going to govern the country?’ The voters replied by giving the government 54 per cent of the votes cast and 50 of the 80 seats in Parliament.

Holland’s leadership of the National Party was at its peak in 1951. He had welded it together during the 1940s and at four successive elections significantly increased its share of both votes and seats. He earned a reputation as a tough, even autocratic leader, but he was capable of delegating power to his ministers, and beneath his gruff public persona was a man of considerable personal warmth and humour.

Between 1951 and 1954 Holland’s government gradually started to deregulate the economy. Rationing of petrol, butter and other commodities was ended, and import licensing was freed up. Controls on the price of land, houses and property were removed. Producer-controlled agricultural boards were established, and full employment and social security were maintained. In foreign policy, New Zealand signed the ANZUS treaty with the United States and Australia in 1951.[…]

Sidney Holland was one of New Zealand’s most significant politicians, not only because of his 22 years as an MP, 17 as party leader, and almost 8 as prime minister, or even because of the achievements of his government between 1949 and 1957. His major contribution was undoubtedly the role he played in the creation and establishment of the National Party, which was to dominate New Zealand politics during the latter half of the twentieth century.End quote:


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

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