Leader of the Opposition (New Zealand)
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The Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition in New Zealand is the politician who, at least in theory, commands the support of the non-government bloc of members in the Parliament of New Zealand. In the debating chamber the Leader of the Opposition sits directly opposite the Prime Minister. The current Leader of the Opposition is David Cunliffe, the Leader of the Labour Party.
By convention, the Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest party of the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition does not have a large official role, as most of the post's functions are ceremonial. Nevertheless, there are several ways in which the Leader of the Opposition participates directly in affairs of state. Often, these relate to national security matters, which are supposed to transcend party politics - the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, for example, is required to brief the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Prime Minister on certain matters.
For much of the country's early history, the role was not a formal one. For most of the 19th century, there was rarely any one person who could be considered Leader of the Opposition — those figures who took leading roles in opposing the government of the day were merely "first among equals", and had no formal office. It was only when the Liberal Party was formed that any unified leadership appeared in Parliament, and the role of Leader of the Opposition is generally traced from this point. John Ballance, leader of the Liberals (and later Premier) is usually considered the first Leader of the Opposition in the modern sense.
When Ballance led the Liberals into government in 1891, they faced no formal opposition in a party sense, though certain MPs were styled Leader of the Opposition. However, their opponents gradually coalesced around a leader, William Massey, who became Opposition leader in 1903, and in 1909 became the first leader of the new Reform Party. After this, the Leader of the Opposition would always be the parliamentary leader of the largest party in the House of Representatives that had not undertaken to support the Government of the day.
During the 1910s and 1920s, the role of Opposition alternated between the Liberal and Reform parties. However, the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s, together with a gradual weakening in support for the Liberals, led to a three-party situation by the mid-1920s, with the Labour and Liberal parties having a similar number of seats. After the 1925 Election there was no official Leader of the Opposition until Rex Mason of Labour won the seat of Eden in the by-election held on 15 April 1926.
The 1928 General Election put United (formerly the Liberals) in government for the last time. Reform then became the Opposition, however in 1931 Reform entered into coalition with the Liberals, and Labour then became the Opposition, despite being the third party. The unity of the Coalition, culminating in the formation of the National Party in 1936, created a stable two-party system, with National and Labour alternating between Government and Opposition for much of the remainder of the century.
With the introduction of the MMP voting system, first used in 1996, the nature of opposition has changed. Now, though the leader of the largest non-Government party still becomes the Leader of the Opposition, there will usually be several parties who are "in opposition". An example of this arose after the 2002 elections, when the National Party gained only 27 seats, less than half the 58 seats held by opposition parties. This prompted calls from a number of parties, notably New Zealand First and the Greens, for the abolition or reform of the post. It was argued by these parties that the position had become an "anachronism" in the modern multi-party environment, and that the days of a united opposition bloc were gone. However, with the resurrection of the National Party in the recent 2005 general election, a more traditional relationship between Government and Opposition has been restored.
List of Leaders of the Opposition
A table of Leaders of the Opposition is below. The table begins in 1891, when the first real political party (the Liberals) was founded. Those who also served as Prime Minister, either before or after being Leader of the Opposition, are indicated.
|Took office||Left office||Party|
|1||John Ballance||Yes||2 July 1889||23 January 1891||Liberal|
|2||John Bryce||23 January 1891||31 August 1891||None|
|3||William Rolleston||31 August 1891||8 November 1893||None|
|4||William Russell||26 June 1894||3 July 1901||None|
|5||William Massey||Yes||11 September 1903||February 1909||None|
|William Massey, continued||Yes||February 1909||10 July 1912||Reform|
|6||Joseph Ward*, first time||Yes||11 September 1913||27 November 1919||Liberal|
|7||William MacDonald||21 January 1920||31 August 1920||Liberal|
|8||Thomas Wilford||8 September 1920||13 August 1925||Liberal|
|9||George Forbes, first time||Yes||13 August 1925||4 November 1925||Liberal|
|Interregnum from 1925 election until after
1926 Eden by-election
|4 November 1925||16 June 1926|
|10||Harry Holland, first time||16 June 1926||18 October 1928||Labour|
|Joseph Ward, second time||Yes||4 December 1928||10 December 1928||United (Liberal)|
|11||Gordon Coates||Yes||10 December 1928||22 September 1931||Reform|
|Harry Holland, second time||22 September 1931||8 October 1933||Labour|
|12||Michael Joseph Savage||Yes||12 October 1933||6 December 1935||Labour|
|George Forbes, second time||Yes||6 December 1935||2 November 1936||United & Reform / National|
|13||Adam Hamilton||2 November 1936||26 November 1940||National|
|14||Sidney Holland||Yes||26 November 1940||13 December 1949||National|
|15||Peter Fraser||Yes||13 December 1949||12 December 1950||Labour|
|16||Walter Nash, first time||Yes||17 January 1951||12 December 1957||Labour|
|17||Keith Holyoake||Yes||12 December 1957||12 December 1960||National|
|Walter Nash, second time||Yes||12 December 1960||31 March 1963||Labour|
|18||Arnold Nordmeyer||1 April 1963||16 December 1965||Labour|
|19||Norman Kirk||Yes||16 December 1965||8 December 1972||Labour|
|20||Jack Marshall||Yes||8 December 1972||4 July 1974||National|
|21||Robert Muldoon, first time||Yes||4 July 1974||12 December 1975||National|
|22||Bill Rowling||Yes||12 December 1975||3 February 1983||Labour|
|23||David Lange||Yes||3 February 1983||26 July 1984||Labour|
|Robert Muldoon, second time||Yes||26 July 1984||29 November 1984||National|
|24||Jim McLay||29 November 1984||26 March 1986||National|
|25||Jim Bolger||Yes||26 March 1986||2 November 1990||National|
|26||Mike Moore||Yes||2 November 1990||1 December 1993||Labour|
|27||Helen Clark||Yes||1 December 1993||5 December 1999||Labour|
|28||Jenny Shipley||Yes||5 December 1999||8 October 2001||National|
|29||Bill English||8 October 2001||28 October 2003||National|
|30||Don Brash||28 October 2003||27 November 2006||National|
|31||John Key||Yes||27 November 2006||19 November 2008||National|
|32||Phil Goff||19 November 2008||13 December 2011||Labour|
|33||David Shearer||13 December 2011||15 September 2013||Labour|
|34||David Cunliffe||15 September 2013||Present||Labour|
* From 4 August 1915 to 21 August 1919, the Reform Party and the Liberal Party formed a joint wartime coalition. Joseph Ward of the Liberals officially remained "Leader of the Opposition", even though he was actually part of the government.
- "People in Parliament". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- "Cunliffe wins Labour leadership". Stuff.co.nz. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "Overview". NZSIS. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- "Bill English admits pay rise 'a bit embarrassing'". New Zealand Herald. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-21.