Joseph Savage was born in Australia, but emigrated to New
Zealand in 1907. He was very involved in unionism, and in
1910 became elected president of the Auckland Trades and
Savage stood as Socialist Party candidate during the parliamentary
elections of 1911. He came second of four candidates. He
had always been influenced by radical political theories,
and in 1915 he concluded that social exclusion existed in
the midst of plenty because of unfair distribution.
During the First World War, Michael Savage was an advocate
for anti-conscription, saying that equal distribution of
wealth should take precedence over war efforts. At the same
time he became the leading spokesman for increased pensions
and a totally free health service.
The Family Allowances Act in 1926 was largely due to the
efforts of Michael Savage.
The depression of the late 20's and early 30's marked Savage
by the suffering he saw, and due to his canvassing efforts
Labour came to power in 1935. Michael Savage, or "Mickey"
as he became affectionately known, was now New Zealand's
first Labour Prime Minister. Immediately, a Christmas bonus
was paid to the unemployed and poor, and a programme of
state housing commenced.
In 1938 Savage began drawing up plans for his Social Security
system, terming it "applied Christianity". This provided
for a universal free health system and an old-age pension
of 30 shillings a week for men and women at age 60, with
a general pension payment at the age of 65.
Savage died in Wellington at the age of 65 years. Thousands
of New Zealanders mourned his passing.
Michael Joseph Savage was one of this country's best-loved
Prime Ministers. For two generations he had spearheaded
the social security structure of New Zealand.