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Allan "Martyn" Finlay QC (1 January 1912 – 20 January 1999) was a New Zealand lawyer and politician of the Labour Party.

Martyn Finlay

Martyn Finlay, 1945.jpg
22nd Attorney-General of New Zealand
In office
8 December 1972 – 12 December 1975
Preceded byRoy Jack
Succeeded byPeter Wilkinson
36th Minister of Justice of New Zealand
In office
8 December 1972 – 12 December 1975
Preceded byRoy Jack
Succeeded byDavid Thomson
19th President of the Labour Party
In office
Vice PresidentJim Bateman
LeaderWalter Nash
Arnold Nordmeyer
Preceded byMick Moohan
Succeeded byNorman Kirk
Personal details
Born1 January 1912 (1912-01)
Died20 January 1999 (1999-01-21) (aged 87)
Political partyLabour Party


Early lifeEdit

Martyn was born in Dunedin to Baptist missionaries who had worked in India. His father died when he was two and his mother was forced by economic circumstances to take in boarders. He used to push his brother Harold, ten years older and with polio, two miles to Otago University in his wheelchair. With the oncoming depression, Martyn had to leave school to get a job at the end of fifth form - he had wanted to be a doctor. With a job as an office boy in a law firm at the age of 16, he was able to study law part-time at Otago University for eight years before getting his LLM with First Class Honours.[1]

He got a scholarship to the London School of Economics and got a PhD in 1938 before becoming a Resident Fellow at Harvard. He returned to NZ in 1939 and was employed as a private secretary to Cabinet Ministers Rex Mason and Arnold Nordmeyer. [1]

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1946–1949 28th North Shore Labour
1963–1966 34th Waitakere Labour
1966–1969 35th Waitakere Labour
1969–1972 36th Henderson Labour
1972–1975 37th Henderson Labour
1975–1978 38th Henderson Labour

Martyn Finlay stood unsuccessfully for Remuera in 1943. He then represented the North Shore electorate from 1946 to 1949, when he was defeated. Later he represented the Waitakere electorate from 1963 to 1969, then the Henderson electorate from 1969 to 1978, when he retired.[2]

Vietnam WarEdit

Martyn Finlay was also one of the Labour Party's most active opponents of New Zealand's military involvement in the Vietnam War and questioned the New Zealand government's support for South Vietnam. In 1964, he argued during a parliamentary speech that the Viet Cong were the only effective opposition in South Vietnam, but still accepted the general consensus within New Zealand government circles that the Viet Cong were being supported by North Vietnam and the People's Republic of China.[3] On 6 June 1965, Finlay chaired an anti-war meeting in Auckland which was sponsored by the Auckland Trades Council, the Auckland Labour Representation Committee, and the Auckland Peace For Vietnam Committee (PFVC). A prominent speaker at that meeting was the trade unionist Jim Knox.[4] He also participated in a teach-in at the University of Auckland on 12 September 1966, which drew about 600 people.[5]

During a Labour Party conference in 1966, Martyn Finlay, at the instigation of the Labour Party leader and future Prime Minister Norman Kirk, proposed an amendment which advocated replacing New Zealand's artillery battery with a non-combatant force.[6] Despite his opposition to the Vietnam War, Finlay argued that New Zealand troops should not be withdrawn from Vietnam too quickly to avoid interfering with the Paris peace talks in 1969.[7] When the United States Vice President Spiro Agnew visited the capital Wellington in mid-January 1970, Finlay along with several other Labour Members of Parliament including Arthur Faulkner, Jonathan Hunt, and Bob Tizard boycotted the state dinner to protest American policy in Vietnam. However, other Labour MPs including the Opposition Leader Norman Kirk attended the function which dealt with the Nixon Doctrine.[8] Later, he lost a notable 1969 election TV debate (on the NZBC's Gallery programme) against Robert Muldoon.

Cabinet MinisterEdit

Finlay (centre) at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, 1973.

Finlay was a Cabinet Minister, and was the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice from 1972 to 1975 and Minister of Civil Aviation and Meteorological Services from 1973 to 1975 in the Third Labour Government.[9][10] He was President of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1964.

He was made a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1973.[11]

Personal viewsEdit

Michael Bassett has said Finlay was "essentially a man of peace throughout his life" who "found Peter Fraser’s crusade to introduce Compulsory Military Training personally distasteful." [2]

Bassett also said: "To his dying day Finlay was an opponent of capital punishment, a cause to which he added divorce law reform (his own divorce in the 1950s was particularly fraught), homosexual, and abortion law reform. Finlay’s reputation as an advanced liberal on social issues attracted the support of younger party idealists as much as it repelled Labour’s more conservative wing, especially Catholics. Finlay’s marital complications irked the puritanical Walter Nash, who did nothing to advance his return to Parliament, and seems not to have welcomed his election as party president in 1960." [3]


Martyn died at the age of 87. Christine Cole Catley says: "He wrote two most moving letters to his wife, a year apart. She read them for the first time after he died ... He wrote of what he saw as his degeneration and his fear of becoming a burden on her and others. ... Two days later he ended his life." (Fairburn and friends / edited by Dinah Holman and Christine Cole Catley, Devonport, North Shore City : Cape Catley Ltd., 2004. p. 204)


  1. ^ Fairburn and friends, edited by Dinah Holman and Christine Cole Catley, Devonport, North Shore City : Cape Catley Ltd., 2004. p196]
  2. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 196.
  3. ^ Rabel 2005, p. 76-78.
  4. ^ Rabel 2005, p. 120.
  5. ^ Rabel 2005, p. 162.
  6. ^ Rabel & 2005 180.
  7. ^ Rabel 2005, p. 287.
  8. ^ Rabel, 2005 & 299-300.
  9. ^ "Obituary—Hon. Dr Allan Martyn Finlay QC". New Zealand Hansard. 16 February 1999. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  10. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 92–93.
  11. ^ "Queen's Counsel appointments since 1907 as at July 2013" (PDF). Crown Law Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Rabel, Roberto (2005). New Zealand and the Vietnam War: Politics and Diplomacy. Auckland: Auckland University Press. ISBN 1-86940-340-1.
Political offices
Preceded by
Roy Jack
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
David Thomson
Attorney-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Peter Wilkinson
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for North Shore
Succeeded by
Dean Eyre
Preceded by
Rex Mason
Member of Parliament for Waitakere
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1978
Title next held by
Ralph Maxwell
New constituency Member of Parliament for Henderson
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1993
Title next held by
Jack Elder
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mick Moohan
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Norman Kirk