Jump to content

Official Opposition (New Zealand)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Official Opposition (formally His Majesty's Loyal Opposition) in New Zealand is usually the largest political party or coalition which is not a member of the ruling government—it does not provide ministers. This is usually the second-largest party in the House of Representatives, although in certain unusual circumstances it may be the largest party (due to a larger government bloc) or even a third or fourth party.

The Official Opposition forms a shadow cabinet headed by the leader of the Opposition and comprising senior MPs with the same portfolio interests as the government's ministers. Unlike in the United Kingdom, where members of the shadow cabinet are called "shadow ministers," the members of New Zealand's shadow cabinet are called "opposition spokespeople."



The Opposition aims to hold the government accountable and to present itself to the national electorate as a credible government in waiting. For example, during Question Time, Opposition spokespersons will ask questions of ministers with the aim of highlighting a weakness or embarrassing the government. Oppositions also engage in parliamentary gestures such as refusal to grant confidence or voting down the budget.[1]

With the introduction of MMP in 1996 (after referendums in 1992 and 1993), there was consideration to remove the official role of the Opposition; with several parties outside the government, it was no longer clear which party, if any, was the Official Opposition.[2] This is complicated more by parties which occasionally act with the government and at other times vote against it. The unusual positioning that developed after the 2005 election – in which minor parties supported the government and received ministers but remained outside the Cabinet – further complicated the concept of 'opposition'. However, the continued dominance of the political scene by the National and Labour parties means that the Official Opposition has been retained, and inevitably the Official Opposition is whichever of the National and Labour parties is not leading a government at the time. Parties and members of parliament outside the government which do not work with the Official Opposition party are said to "sit on the cross-benches".[3]

Grand coalitions have been formed only twice in New Zealand, and on both occasions with the aim of forming a national response to a crisis. The first was the War Cabinet of 1915–1919, involving the Reform and Liberal Parties, under the leadership of Reform Prime Minister William Massey.[4] The second was the Coalition Government of 1931–1935 to combat the Great Depression, between the United Party (successor to the Liberal Party) and the Reform Party, and led by United leader George Forbes.[5] In both cases, Labour formed the official Opposition against these governments.[6] Before the Labour Party was formed in July 1916 there was a combined caucus of two parties (the United Labour Party and Social Democratic Party) as well as several labour aligned independents. The Labour caucus decided to maintain its independence by not joining the national ministry and its leader, Alfred Hindmarsh, declined a seat in the cabinet.[7]

The Labour Party currently form the Official Opposition.

Shadow Cabinet


List of Shadow Cabinets


Below is a list of the shadow cabinets of New Zealand from 1965 to the present date.

Date Leader of the Opposition Shadow Cabinet Government
1965 Norman Kirk Kirk Second National
1972 Jack Marshall Marshall Third Labour
1974 Robert Muldoon Muldoon I
1975 Bill Rowling Rowling Third National
1983 David Lange Lange
1984 Sir Robert Muldoon Muldoon II Fourth Labour
1984 Jim McLay McLay
1986 Jim Bolger Bolger
1990 Mike Moore Moore Fourth National
1993 Helen Clark Clark
1999 Jenny Shipley Shipley Fifth Labour
2001 Bill English English I
2003 Don Brash Brash
2006 John Key Key
2008 Phil Goff Goff Fifth National
2011 David Shearer Shearer
2013 David Cunliffe Cunliffe
2014 Andrew Little Little
2017 Jacinda Ardern Ardern
2017 Bill English English II Sixth Labour
2018 Simon Bridges Bridges
2020 Todd Muller Muller
2020 Judith Collins Collins
2021 Christopher Luxon Luxon
2023 Chris Hipkins Hipkins Sixth National


  1. ^ Schmitz, Gerald (December 1988). "The opposition in a Parliamentary system". Political and Social Affairs Division, Government of Canada. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Role of the Opposition in government". decisionmaker.co.nz. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  3. ^ "John Armstrong: What does sitting on cross benches actually mean?". The New Zealand Herald. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  4. ^ Bassett 1982, p. 20.
  5. ^ Bassett 1982, p. 57.
  6. ^ Bassett 1982, pp. 20, 57.
  7. ^ "National Cabinet - Personnel Still Unknown". The Evening Post. Vol. XC, no. 31. 5 August 1915. p. 8.