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New Zealand in History
Michael Joseph Savage - Prime Minister
1872 - 1940

Michael 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 Labour Council.

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.














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