After 33 years, one of Labour's most recognisable faces bows out

Annette King delivers her valedictory speech in the parliament while Jacinda Ardern cheers on.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Annette King delivers her valedictory speech in the parliament while Jacinda Ardern cheers on.

The mother figure of the Labour caucus, Annette King, has bowed out after 33 years.

King leaves as one of Labour's most recognisable faces during some of the party's most tumultuous periods in history including nine changes of leader and 11 elections.

King was a member of the fourth Labour Government that transformed New Zealand, both economically and socially, under David Lange - and a senior Cabinet minister in the Helen Clark-led Labour government  that won three elections.

Labour MP Annette King in 1984.
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Labour MP Annette King in 1984.

But King signed off with a special tribute to new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern: "I have a feeling you will lead the party for years to come and you are going to be one of our most loved and effective leaders and  prime ministers."

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Annette King arrives at a meeting with local mayors in 2003.
ANDREW GORRIE/STUFF

Annette King arrives at a meeting with local mayors in 2003.

King announced her retirement after stepping down to make way for Ardern as deputy to former leader Andrew Little but told Parliament during her valedictory speech that after 15 years in opposition and 15 years in Government  it was time for me to go."

Kings speech was watched by a who's who of the Labour party including former finance minister Sir Michael Cullen and Auckland mayor and former Labour MP Phil Goff.  

King joined Labour after Norman Kirk led the party to victory in 1972 and was a key figure in both the 1984 Lange Government and the fifth Labour government a decade later led by Helen Clark.

Wellington Cup Day, former prime minister Helen Clark and Annette King in the stands at Trentham Racecourse.

Wellington Cup Day, former prime minister Helen Clark and Annette King in the stands at Trentham Racecourse.

She stood for a seat in 1984 out of a determination to see more women in Parliament.

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"We were sick of being the tea ladies. We wanted to make policy and make decisions."

Women made up only 8 per cent of MPs before that election and that increased to 15 per cent on election night.

But decades on women still only made up 31 per cent of MPs.

"That is not good enough. All political parties need to commit to making this place truly a house of representatives."

MMP had helped but "we've still got a long way to go". Parliament had also failed women over pay equity.

"Women have waited long enough.......it is time for us to lead once again on women's issues."

The fourth Labour government embarked on ambitious reforms, both economically and socially - abolishing subsidies, removing currency controls, introducing gst, and selling off or closing down government run agencies.

King said some of the changes were necessary - but acknowledged the hurt they caused to some.

"Not enough thought was given to the consequences on families and communities and some of the consequences are still with us today."

King also confessed some lesser known facts about her time in Parliament - including being dispatched to Paris as a junior undersecretary to mend diplomatic relations over the Rainbow Warrior bombing.

She was also dispatched on an equally delicate mission by former prime minister Helen Clark - to tell the late Maori Affairs minister, Parekura Horomia that he had to lose weight.

King admitted, meanwhile, that she regretted the way the 2007 Urewera raids were carried out while she was police minister. 

The police raids saw a number of people arrested and later cleared of terrorism charges.

 "I have gone to Tuhoe and made my peace," King told Parliament.

 - Stuff

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