SOCIAL CREDIT POLITICAL LEAGUE
The first noteworthy proponent of Social Credit in New Zealand was H. M. Rushworth, Country Party Member of the House of Representatives for the Bay of Islands from 1928 to 1938. He was not Parliamentary representative of any Social Credit organisation but because he brought forward in the House the following major Social Credit arguments, namely, that credit and the monetary system should be controlled by the people through the Government; that a gap existed between purchasing power and production costs; that the gap could be bridged by the issue of credit; and that Parliamentary party control should not be unduly rigid, Rushworth may be considered a forerunner of the New Zealand Social Credit Political League.
The New Zealand Social Credit Association is prevented by its constitution from being a political organisation. But many members felt that the principles of Social Credit could best be put into practice by the formation of a political party. Thus, in May 1953, the New Zealand Social Credit Political League was formed, the first office holders being M. J. Hayes (President), C. W. Elvidge (Vice-President), R. G. Young (Secretary), and F. C. Jordan, S. H. C. Jones, A. J. Pascoe, W. B. Owen, A. R. Mackay, and Miss R. S. Andrew (members). The League contested 79 seats in the 1954 Parliamentary elections, polling 124,372 votes, 11·31 per cent of all votes cast, but did not win a seat. The points of election policy were similar to those put forward by Rushworth 20 years previously, but they also included pledges to reduce taxation progressively which would lead to falling costs of production and an increase in the purchasing power of incomes; to abolish social security tax without reducing benefits; to support private enterprise; and to enact legislation to eliminate unfair trade practices. In both the 1957 and 1960 Parliamentary elections all seats were unsuccessfully contested, 83,498 votes, 7·21 per cent of the total, being cast in 1957 and 100,905, or 8·62 per cent, in 1960. In the 1963 election 95,176 votes were cast for Social Credit candidates, which was 7·94 of the total votes cast.
The party leader for the 1954 and 1957 elections was W. B. Owen, whose 1957 policy was an elaboration of that of 1954. A national monetary authority to ensure a balance between production and income was to be set up; bureaucratic controls were to be reduced to a minimum; farming was to be encouraged; school classes were to be reduced; health services were to be improved and preventive medicine encouraged; and a Second Chamber was to be established. In May 1960 P. H. Matthews was elected party leader and his 1960 election policy included proposals to introduce a Bill of Rights limiting the powers of Government and safeguarding the rights of the individual; to allow pensioners to travel free on Government-owned services outside holiday periods; to rehabilitate the coal industry; to rationalise retail trading hours; and to hold a comprehensive referendum on the liquor licensing question.
The League has practically no central control. The electorates are autonomous and are able to use any methods and propagate any policy they wish, provided it is not repugnant to the policies approved by the League's annual conference. Election candidates are approved by regional executives and are referred to the Dominion Council for formal approval which is withheld only if the candidate is of doubtful character or a member of another party.
From December 1954 to August 1955 the League issued its own journal, the New Zealand Social Credit News, and from August 1959 it has issued the New Zealand Guardian. League news is now included in the New Zealand Social Crediter, which is issued by the New Zealand Social Credit Association.
The New Zealand Social Credit Political League has its largest following in the farming areas of Northland, Taranaki, and Bay of Plenty, and in Wanganui, and is supported by farmers, small-business men, and others in the medium-income group who are generally dissatisfied with Labour and National governments.
by John Sidney Gully, M.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Assistant Chief Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington.
- Political Science, Mar 1955, “The New Zealand Social Credit Political League”, Penfold, W. J.
- Dominion, 20 Jul 1933, 1 Oct 1957, 3 Nov 1960
- Evening Post, 20 May 1953, 11 Sep 1954, 15 Oct 1954.