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Kenneth Lex Shirley (born 12 August 1950), generally called Ken Shirley, is a former New Zealand politician. He was a member of the ACT New Zealand party, although was previously a member and Cabinet minister of the Labour Party.


Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1984–1987 41st Tasman Labour
1987–1990 42nd Tasman Labour
1996–1999 45th List 3 ACT
1999–2002 46th List 2 ACT
2002–2005 47th List 7 ACT

Shirley first entered Parliament in the 1984 election, when he stood as the Labour Party candidate in the Tasman electorate. At the time, there was considerable tension in the Labour Party over the policies of the Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas — the policies were based around economic deregulation and free trade, and traditionalists saw them as a betrayal of the party's left-wing roots. Shirley aligned himself with the faction that supported Douglas. Shirley was not a member of the faction's so-called "Troika" (consisting of Douglas, Richard Prebble, and David Caygill), but was nevertheless a notable supporter of the reforms Douglas promoted.

Cabinet ministerEdit

Eventually, the Prime Minister, David Lange, fired Douglas as finance minister and then himself resigned. In the re-arrangement that followed, Shirley briefly held Cabinet rank as Minister of Fisheries, Associate Minister of Agriculture, Associate Minister of Forestry, and Associate Minister of Health. He lost these positions when the Labour Party was defeated in the 1990 election. Shirley himself lost his Tasman seat to National's Nick Smith, leaving him outside Parliament.

ACT New ZealandEdit

When Douglas and his allies created the ACT New Zealand party, Shirley was involved. In ACT's first electoral campaign, the 1996 election, Shirley was ranked in third place on the ACT party list, and re-entered Parliament as a list MP.

He has previously served as ACT's deputy leader, and in 2004, he was one of four candidates to seek the party's leadership after the retirement of Richard Prebble.

On the retirement of Jonathan Hunt, he sought election as Speaker of the House of Representatives, but placed third behind Margaret Wilson and Clem Simich.

He remained a list MP until the 2005 election, in which only two ACT MPs were returned.

After ParliamentEdit

In May 2006, Shirley was appointed Executive Director of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ), the peak industry body representing the organic sector, which is charged with implementing a strategy to boost New Zealand's organic production to $1 billion by 2013.

In July 2007 the Researched Medicines Industry Association announced that Shirley was to be their new Chief Executive Officer, an appointment he took up in September 2007.

Since July 2010, he has been the chief executive of the Road Transport Forum (RTF), representing road transport interests.[1][2]

Further readingEdit

  • ACT Members of Parliament. (2001), Closing the gaps: policy papers, Wellington, [N.Z.]: ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office, ISBN 0-9582178-1-5
  • Shirley's contribution is a paper entitled: "Health and ACC."
  • from ACT Members of Parliament. (2002), Old values, new ideas, Wellington, [N.Z.]: ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office, ISBN 0-477-01964-1
  • Prebble, Richard; et al. (2003), Liberal thinking, Wellington, [N.Z.]: ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office
  • Shirley's contribution is a paper entitled: "New Zealand's no-nuke nonsense."
  • Shirley, Ken (chair) (1989), Report of the Committee on the Maori Fisheries Bill: interim report on the Maori Fisheries Bill, Wellington, [N.Z.]: Government Printer
  • Stein, Drew (chair) (1992), UNCED/WEC Congress Seminar: addresses given by speakers at the above seminar on Wednesday 2 December 1992 / organised and presented by the New Zealand National Committee World Energy Council [UNCED/WEC Congress Seminar (1992: Wellington, N.Z.)], Wellington, [N.Z.]: The Committee
  • Shirley's contribution is a paper entitled: "UNCED outcomes and energy use in New Zealand."


  1. ^ Hickman, John; Shirley, Ken (27 May 2010). "New Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Officer appointed" (Press release). Wellington: Road Transport Forum. Archived from the original on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ "Energy costs to fuel price rises". Stuff. 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Bill Rowling
Member of Parliament for Tasman
Succeeded by
Nick Smith