Fred Too

On May 11 2024 New Zealand lost Hon. Colin James Moyle CBE, a long-serving, well known former politician.

Born on July 18 1929 Moyle represented the Labour Party in various electorates. Moyle’s tenure in Parliament began with his election as MP for Manukau in 1963, transitioning to Mangere in 1969, where he served until his resignation in 1977.

This resignation, spurred by the infamous “Moyle Affair” involving allegations of homosexual activities, paved the way for David Lange, another Labour figure, who would later lead the party to government.

Moyle returned to Parliament in 1981, representing Hunua and subsequently Otara until his retirement in 1990. 

During his tenure in the 1960s and early 1970s, Moyle was instrumental in promoting policies that favoured extensive government control over agricultural practices. He sought to stabilise costs for farmers and promote market-oriented farming within the Labour Party’s interventionist framework. His efforts in opening New Zealand’s meat trade to the Middle East were notable.

Later, under the economic reforms of the Fourth Labour Government (1984–1990), often referred to as Rogernomics, the party shifted towards more market-driven policies. Moyle, again as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, had a road to Damascus change of heart, and wholeheartedly supported the Rogernomics market reforms in the primary sector.

The “Moyle Affair” began on November 4 1976 when, in parliament, Muldoon referred to Moyle “being picked up by the police for homosexual activities”. This effectively deflected attention from a question by Moyle about “dishonest dealings by Muldoon’s accountancy firm”. Moyle’s question had been provoked by Muldoon’s reference to his “effeminate giggles”, although it was actually Frank Rogers (Labour, Onehunga) who had been imitating Muldoon’s famous cackle.

Over the following weeks, Moyle provided multiple explanations for the event. He initially claimed he trailed the constable because he thought the officer might be a cat burglar. Later, he told Sir Alfred North that he was there to meet an unknown man to discuss security leaks. Opposition leader Bill Rowling allowed Muldoon to set the terms of reference for Sir Alfred’s inquiry, which naturally focused on Moyle rather than Muldoon. As a result of Sir Alfred’s report, Moyle resigned from Parliament in 1977.

The actual incident, which Muldoon somehow got wind of, occurred late one night in July 1975. Police spoke to Moyle on Harris Street in Wellington, near the old library toilets — a well-known beat. Moyle told the officer (at 11 o’clock) that he was waiting for a friend to come out of the library (which had closed at 9). However, the next morning he informed the Chief Superintendent that he was meeting homosexuals to gather information for debating the Venn Young Bill, which aimed to legalise private “homosexual acts” between consenting adults. Moyle did not actually speak in the debate and the Bill ultimately failed.

Interestingly, Moyle’s passing seems to have been largely overlooked by mainstream media, a silence that raises questions. The controversial nature of his political career may have contributed to this lack of coverage. Moyle never came out and always denied being gay, which may have led to the media’s “nothing to see here” attitude at his passing.

On May 21 2024 a period of silence was observed in parliament in his memory, a gesture acknowledging his long service.

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