The Right Honourable David Russell Lange (pron. Long-ee), CH, ONZ, was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1984 to 1989. He headed the Fourth Labour Government, one of the most radical governments in the history of New Zealand, as his ministers Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble rapidly dismantled the legacies of Robert Muldoon.
Lange entered parliament as the Member for Mangere in 1977 in a by-election. Prior to entering Parliament, he practised law in Northland and Auckland. He retired from Parliament in 1996. His successor in the Mangere electorate was Labour Party colleague Taito Phillip Field.
Upon coming to office Lange's government uncovered a skyrocketing public debt, a result of Muldoon's strict financial control of the enonomy, including a wage and price freeze and regulation of the exchange rate. Lange and Douglas engaged in a rapid programme of deregulation and asset sales, which brought criticism from Labour's traditional support base. The term Rogernomics was coined and connections were drawn to Reaganomics and Thatcherism. After the government's first term, divisions started to form in the caucus, with Lange becoming uncomfortable with extent of the reforms, while Douglas and Prebble wanted to push on.
Lange made his name on the international stage with a long-running campaign against nuclear weapons. Lange refused to allow New Zealand's allies to send nuclear ships into New Zealand waters, a policy that continues to this day. The United States refuses to confirm or deny whether its ships are nuclear armed, limiting its ability to maintain military relationships, such as ANZUS, with New Zealand.
Relations with France were strained when French agents bombed the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior on 10 July 1985, while it was moored in Auckland Harbour. One of the highlights of this period was a widely televised Oxford Union debate in 1985 where Lange, a skilled orator, argued for the proposition that "nuclear weapons are morally indefensible", in opposition to Jerry Falwell.
The stock market crash of October 19, 1987 showed that the financial bubble had little substance (similar to the Enron debacle of 2001) and many of the high-flying companies proved to be worthless. In 1988 consensus on economic policy amongst the Labour leadership finally broke down, with Lange dismissing finance minister Roger Douglas after Douglas proposed a radical flat income tax.
Lange also held office as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1984 to 1987) and Minister of Education (1987 to 1989). Upon his replacement as party leader and prime minister by Geoffrey Palmer in 1989, he was (from 1989 to 1990) Attorney-General, the Minister in Charge of the Serious Fraud Office and a Minister of State.
Lange was created a Companion of Honour in 1990 and was created an Ordinary Member of the Order of New Zealand on 2 June 2003.
In 2002, Lange was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare and incurable blood plasma disorder. He has undergone extensive medical treatment for this condition. Although intitially told he had only four months to live, Lange has so far defied his doctors' expectations, and remains "optimistic" about his health.