Margaret Wilson

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Margaret Wilson

Margaret Wilson crop.jpg
Margaret Wilson in the Polish Senate (2008)
29th Attorney-General
In office
10 December 1999 – 28 February 2005
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byDoug Graham
Succeeded byMichael Cullen
27th Speaker of the House of Representatives
In office
3 March 2005 – 8 December 2008
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byJonathan Hunt
Succeeded byLockwood Smith
7th Minister of Commerce
In office
26 February – 21 December 2004
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byLianne Dalziel
Succeeded byPete Hodgson
26th President of the Labour Party
In office
Vice PresidentStu McCaffley
Preceded byJim Anderton
Succeeded byRex Jones
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Labour Party list
In office
27 November 1999 – 3 October 2008
Personal details
Born (1947-05-20) 20 May 1947 (age 73)
Gisborne, New Zealand
Political partyLabour

Margaret Anne Wilson DCNZM (born 20 May 1947) is a New Zealand academic and former politician. She was Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives during the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand. She is a member of the Labour Party.

Early life[edit]

Born in Gisborne, Wilson received her secondary education at St Dominic's College, Northcote. She had a leg amputated due to cancer at the age of 16, which cut short her plans to be a physical education teacher.[1] Instead, she studied law and graduated LLB(Honours) from the University of Auckland.

Wilson worked as a lawyer, a Professor of Law and Dean at the University of Waikato, and a trade unionist. From 1984 to 1987, she was president of the Labour Party, and from 1989 to 1990, she worked as chief political advisor to the Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer. She has also served on the Law Commission, and was appointed as a director of the Reserve Bank.

In both 1977 and 1980 she stood unsuccessfully for the Auckland City Council on a Labour Party ticket.[2][3]

In 1993, Wilson was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.[4]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1999–2002 46th List 9 Labour
2002–2005 47th List 9 Labour
2005–2008 48th List 3 Labour

Wilson contested the Tauranga electorate in the 1999 election, and although she was 64 votes shy of defeating incumbent Winston Peters, she entered Parliament as a list MP and immediately gained election to the Cabinet. Her portfolios included those of Attorney-General and Minister of Labour.

She remained a list MP after the 2002 election, serving as Attorney-General, Minister of Commerce, Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Associate Minister for Courts, and Associate Minister of Justice.

Speaker of the House[edit]

In December 2004, the Clark Labour Government announced that they would nominate Wilson for the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives, a position which would become vacant with the pending retirement of Jonathan Hunt. Previous speculation had focused on Mark Burton, the Minister of Defence. On 3 March 2005, Parliament elected Wilson as their new Speaker over candidacies by Clem Simich from the New Zealand National Party and Ken Shirley from the ACT Party. Wilson became New Zealand's first female speaker. After the 2005 election, she was re-elected to the position unopposed.[5]

Her style was noticeably different from her predecessor. In July 2006, National attempted a vote of no confidence in Wilson, after she refused to send a report on Labour MP Taito Phillip Field to the Privileges Committee, but Labour blocked the move.[6] The most serious challenge to her authority as speaker came on 26 August 2008, when Act leader Rodney Hide initially refused her order to leave the debating chamber, saying, "I actually won't go now, Madam Speaker." She told him to "think carefully", but did not apply to have Hide named after he left.[7]

Wilson announced in February 2008 that she would not be standing for re-election in 2008, and was considering "academia" rather than a diplomatic posting.[8] She finished her role by closing the 48th Parliament.[9]

In the 2009 New Year Honours, Wilson was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in recognition of her services as a Member of Parliament and as Speaker.[10]

Political views[edit]

Wilson strongly promotes various social causes such as feminism and multiculturalism, and opponents often painted her as Labour's most "politically correct" minister. She was the Minister responsible for the introduction of the new Supreme Court, which was controversial at the time, as well as changing the law on dividing property between partners after a separation, known now as relationship property law.

Return to academia[edit]

Wilson established the University of Waikato School of Law as New Zealand's fifth law school in 1990. She was its first Professor of law and founding Dean (1990–1999) before becoming a Member of Parliament. After leaving Parliament, she resumed her academic career at the Waikato University law school, being appointed Professor of Law and Public Policy (2009).[11]


  1. ^ Sandra Simpson (23 May 2016). "Event: Critical eye over state of our society". Bay of Plenty Times. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Declaration of Result of Election". The New Zealand Herald. 24 October 1977. p. 11.
  3. ^ "Declaration of Result of Election". The New Zealand Herald. 29 October 1980. p. 9.
  4. ^ "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  5. ^ "The 48th Parliament formally opened". TVNZ. 7 November 2005. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  6. ^ "National targets Wilson in Field saga". TVNZ. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  7. ^ "When the jousting turns nasty". The New Zealand Herald. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  8. ^ Dominion Post, 23 February 2008 (page A8)
  9. ^ "Parliament ends with small bangs and whimpers". The New Zealand Herald. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  10. ^ "New Year honours list 2009". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  11. ^ Founding dean returns to waikato Archived 13 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, January 2009 (accessed 20 March 2009)

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilson, Margaret (1986) Working for Change In Clark, Margaret (ed). Beyond Expectations: fourteen New Zealand women write about their lives. Allen & Unwin. pp. 155–166.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Doug Graham
Succeeded by
Michael Cullen
Preceded by
Lianne Dalziel
Minister of Commerce
Succeeded by
Pete Hodgson
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Jonathan Hunt
Speaker of the House
Succeeded by
Lockwood Smith
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Anderton
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Rex Jones