|Leader of the Opposition of New Zealand|
|Official Opposition of New Zealand|
Shadow Cabinet of Simon Bridges
Leader of the Opposition
|Term length||While leader of the largest political party not in government|
|Inaugural holder||John Ballance[a]|
|Formation||2 July 1889[b]|
|Salary||$288,900 (As at 2016)[update]|
|^ a. As the first parliamentary leader of an Opposition party.|
^ b. The date Ballance was officially named Leader of the Opposition.
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In New Zealand, the leader of the Opposition (or Opposition leader) is a senior politician who commands the support of the Official Opposition. The leader of the Opposition by convention heads the largest party not supporting the government: usually this is the parliamentary leader of the second-largest caucus in the House of Representatives. When in the debating chamber the Opposition leader sits on the left-hand side of the centre table, in front of the Opposition and opposite the prime minister.
The role of the leader of the Opposition dates to the late 19th century, with the first political parties, and the office was formally recognised by statute in 1933. Although currently mentioned in a number of statutes, the office is not established by any Act (nor is that of the prime minister); it is simply a product of the conventions of the Westminster-style parliamentary system. The leader of the Opposition is paid a special salary by virtue of the office.
Typically the leader of the Opposition is elected by his or her party according to its rules. A new leader may be elected when the incumbent dies, resigns, or is challenged for the leadership. The current Leader of the Opposition is Simon Bridges, who was elected by the National Party caucus on 27 February 2018.
The term "opposition" has a specific meaning in the parliamentary sense; it is an important component of the Westminster system, with the Official Opposition directing criticism at the Government. The leader of the Opposition leads a Shadow Cabinet, which scrutinises the policies and actions of the Cabinet led by the prime minister, as well as offer alternative policies. The Opposition leader may be viewed as an alternative prime minister. He or she is expected to be ready to form a new government if the incumbent government is unable to continue in office.
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 of national security.
The leader of the Opposition receives a higher salary than other members of the Opposition, being paid the same amount as a Cabinet Minister. As at 2016[update] the Leader of the Opposition's salary is NZ$288,900. In addition, like all other members of parliament, the leader of the Opposition receives annual allowances for travel and lodging.
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 identified as the leader of the Opposition. Prominent members were sometimes informally dubbed as "Leader of the Opposition" – often facetiously by rival politicians. It was only when the Liberal Party was formed that any unified leadership appeared in Parliament, and the role of Opposition leader 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. Their opponents gradually coalesced around a leader, William Massey, who became Opposition leader in 1903, and in 1909 became the first parliamentary leader of the new Reform Party. For the first time, an Opposition party came forward as an alternative government. 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.
One notable exception to this was during World War I, when the opposition Liberal Party accepted the governing Reform Party's offer to form a wartime coalition. Prime Minister Massey also extended the offer to the new Labour Party who rejected it. This made Labour the largest party not in government, however their leader Alfred Hindmarsh was not officially recognised as the leader of the Opposition. Joseph Ward, who became deputy prime minister in the wartime cabinet, still retained the title, albeit in name only.
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. Labour superseded the Liberals as the official opposition and their leader Harry Holland became Opposition leader.
The 1928 general election put the United Party (a remnant of 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 Official 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 mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system, first used in the 1996 general election, the nature of parliamentary 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 general election, 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 revival of the National Party in the 2005 general election, a more traditional relationship between Government and Opposition has been restored. According to Parliamentary Services, the leader of the Opposition formally represents and speaks for all parties that are outside Government.
A table of leaders is below. Those who also served as prime minister, either before or after being leader of the Opposition, are indicated.
|Portrait||Term of office||Party||Prime Minister|
MP for Wanganui
|2 July 1889||23 January 1891||Liberal||Atkinson 1887–91|
MP for Waikato
|23 January 1891||31 August 1891||Conservative||Ballance 1891–93|
MP for Halswell
|31 August 1891||8 November 1893||Conservative|
MP for Hawkes Bay
|26 June 1894||3 July 1901||Conservative|
MP for Franklin
|11 September 1903||February 1909||Conservative|
|February 1909||10 July 1912||Reform|
MP for Awarua
|11 September 1913||27 November 1919||Liberal||Massey 1912–25|
MP for Bay of Plenty
|21 January 1920||31 August 1920†||Liberal|
MP for Hutt
|8 September 1920||13 August 1925||Liberal|
MP for Hurunui
|13 August 1925||4 November 1925||Liberal|
from 1925 general election until after 1926 Eden by-election
|4 November 1925||16 June 1926||—|
MP for Buller
|16 June 1926||18 October 1928||Labour|
MP for Invercargill
|4 December 1928||10 December 1928||United|
MP for Kaipara
|10 December 1928||22 September 1931||Reform||Ward 1928–30|
MP for Buller
|22 September 1931||8 October 1933†||Labour|
|12||Michael Joseph Savage
MP for Auckland West
|12 October 1933||6 December 1935||Labour|
MP for Hurunui
|6 December 1935||May 1936||United||Savage 1935–40|
|May 1936||2 November 1936||National|
MP for Wallace
|2 November 1936||26 November 1940||National|
MP for Christchurch North until 1946
MP for Fendalton from 1946
|26 November 1940||13 December 1949||National||Fraser 1940–49|
MP for Brooklyn
|13 December 1949||12 December 1950†||Labour||Holland 1949–57|
MP for Hutt
|17 January 1951||12 December 1957||Labour|
MP for Pahiatua
|12 December 1957||12 December 1960||National||Nash 1957–60|
MP for Hutt
|12 December 1960||31 March 1963||Labour||Holyoake 1960–72|
MP for Island Bay
|1 April 1963||16 December 1965||Labour|
MP for Lyttelton until 1969
MP for Sydenham from 1969
|16 December 1965||8 December 1972||Labour|
MP for Karori
|8 December 1972||4 July 1974||National||Kirk 1972–74|
MP for Tāmaki
|4 July 1974||12 December 1975||National|
MP for Tasman
|12 December 1975||3 February 1983||Labour||Muldoon 1975–84|
MP for Māngere
|3 February 1983||26 July 1984||Labour|
MP for Tāmaki
|26 July 1984||29 November 1984||National||Lange 1984–89|
MP for Birkenhead
|29 November 1984||26 March 1986||National|
MP for King Country
|26 March 1986||2 November 1990||National|
MP for Christchurch North
|2 November 1990||1 December 1993||Labour||Bolger 1990–97|
MP for Mount Albert
|1 December 1993||5 December 1999||Labour|
MP for Rakaia
|5 December 1999||8 October 2001||National||Clark 1999–2008|
MP for Clutha-Southland
|8 October 2001||28 October 2003||National|
|28 October 2003||27 November 2006||National|
MP for Helensville
|27 November 2006||19 November 2008||National|
MP for Mount Roskill
|19 November 2008||13 December 2011||Labour||Key 2008–16|
MP for Mount Albert
|13 December 2011||15 September 2013||Labour|
MP for New Lynn
|15 September 2013||27 September 2014||Labour|
|18 November 2014||1 August 2017||Labour|
MP for Mount Albert
|1 August 2017||26 October 2017||Labour|
|26 October 2017||27 February 2018||National||Ardern 2017–present|
MP for Tauranga
|27 February 2018||Incumbent||National|
1 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.
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