Planktonic foraminiferal assemblages and artificial neural network estimates of sea-surface temperature (SST) at ODP Site 1123 (41?47.2'S, 171?29.9'W; 3290 m deep), east of New Zealand, reveal a high-resolution history of glacial-interglacial (G-I) variability at the Subtropical Front (STF) for the last 1.2 million years, including the Mid-Pleistocene climate transition (MPT). Most G-I cycles of ~100 kyr duration have short periods of cold glacial and warm deglacial climate centred on glacial terminations, followed by long temperate interglacial periods. During glacial-deglacial transitions, maximum abundances of subantarctic and subtropical taxa coincide with SST minima and maxima, and lead ice volume by up to 8 kyrs. Such relationships reflect the competing influence of subantarctic and subtropical surface inflows during glacial and deglacial periods, respectively, suggesting alternate polar and tropical forcing of southern mid-latitude ocean climate. The lead of SSTs and subtropical inflow over ice volume points to tropical forcing of southern mid-latitude ocean-climate during deglacial warming. This contrasts with the established hypothesis that southern hemisphere ocean climate is driven by the influence of continental glaciations. Based on wholesale changes in subantarctic and subtropical faunas, the last 1.2 million years are subdivided into 4-distinct periods of ocean climate. 1) The pre-MPT (1185-870 ka) has high amplitude 41-kyr fluctuations in SST, superimposed on a general cooling trend and heightened productivity, reflecting long-term strengthening of subantarctic inflow under an invigorated Antarctic Circumpolar Current. 2) The early MPT (870-620 ka) is marked by abrupt warming during MIS 21, followed by a period of unstable periodicities within the 40-100 kyr orbital bands, decreasing SST amplitudes, and long intervals of temperate interglacial climate punctuated by short glacial and deglacial phases, reflecting lower meridional temperature gradients. 3) The late MPT (620-435 ka) encompasses an abrupt decrease in the subantarctic inflow during MIS 15, followed by a period of warm equable climate. Poorly defined, low amplitude G-I variations in SSTs during this interval are consistent with a relatively stable STF and evenly balanced subantarctic and subtropical inflows, possibly in response to smaller, less dynamic polar icesheets. 4) The post-MPT (435-0 ka) is marked by a major climatic deterioration during MIS 12, and a return to higher amplitude 100 kyr-frequency SST variations, superimposed on a long term trend towards cooler SSTs and increased mixed-layer productivity as the subantarctic inflow strengthened and polar icesheets expanded.