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Leader of the Opposition (New Zealand)

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The Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand is the politician who, at least in theory, leads the Opposition bloc in the New Zealand Parliament.

Role

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.

The Leader of the Opposition also receives a higher salary than other members of the Opposition, being paid the same amount as a Cabinet Minister.

History

The office of Leader of the Opposition's in New Zealand developed gradually, and 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.

After Ballance led the Liberals into government, the various independents who opposed the Liberals organised themselves around a single leader, but did not establish their own party (as we would view it today). It was not until the creation of the Reform Party that a two-party system was established. From that point, the post of Leader of the Opposition alternated between the Liberal Party and the Reform Party, although the newly-founded Labour Party did manage to capture the position from 1926 to 1928. In 1935, the party dynamic changed, and the position has alternated between the Labour Party and the National Party.

After a poor showing in the 2002 elections, the National Party constituted less than half of what was (at least technically) the Opposition. As the largest party, however, its leader had still retained the title of Leader of the Opposition. This prompted a number of parties, notably New Zealand First and the Greens, to call 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.

The current Leader of the Opposition is Don Brash.

Past Leaders of the Opposition

A table of past 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.

Name Served
as PM
Took Office Left Office Party
1 John Ballance Yes 2 July 1889 23 June 1891 Liberal
2 John Bryce 23 June 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*, 1st 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 William Forbes, 1st time Yes 13 August 1925 14 October 1925 Liberal
10 Harry Holland, 1st time 16 June 1926 18 October 1928 Labour
Joseph Ward, 2nd time Yes 4 December 1928 10 December 1928 United (Liberal)
11 Gordon Coates Yes 10 December 1928 22 September 1931 Reform
Harry Holland, 2nd time 22 September 1931 8 October 1933 Labour
12 Michael Joseph Savage Yes 12 October 1933 6 December 1935 Labour
George William Forbes, 2nd 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, 1st time Yes 17 January 1951 12 December 1957 Labour
17 Keith Holyoake Yes 12 December 1957 12 December 1960 National
Walter Nash, 2nd 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, 1st time Yes 4 July 1974 12 December 1975 National
22 Bill Rowling Yes 12 December 1975 3 February 1982 Labour
23 David Lange Yes 3 February 1982 26 July 1984 Labour
Robert Muldoon, 2nd 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 (present) National

* From 4 August 1915 to 21 August 1919, the Reform Party and the Liberal Party formed a joint wartime coalition. However, Joseph Ward of the Liberals officially remained "Leader of the Opposition", even though he was actually part of the government.

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