Learning

Leader of the Opposition

Fact Sheet – Leader of the Opposition [PDF 322kb, 2 pages]

The Leader of the Opposition is a member of parliament who leads the largest party, or coalition of parties, that is not in government.

Choosing the Leader of the Opposition

The Leader of the Opposition is chosen by a vote of the largest non-government party. The Leader of the Opposition can keep their job as long as they are a member of parliament and retain the support of the opposition.

The Leader of the Opposition is sometimes called the alternative Prime Minister, as they may become Prime Minister if their party (or coalition) wins the support of the majority of members in the House of Representatives.

Role

The tasks of the Leader of the Opposition include:

  • chairing meetings in which the opposition discusses policies and examines bills (proposed laws)
  • presenting alternative policies to those of the government
  • selecting members of the opposition to be shadow ministers
  • leading the Shadow Cabinet (Leader of the Opposition and shadow ministers)
  • acting as the chief opposition spokesperson
  • leading the opposition in a federal election.

House of Representatives

When in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition sits at the central table in front of the opposition and directly opposite the Prime Minister. They take the lead in opposition debate on bills, directing questions to the government during Question Time and criticising government policy that the opposition disagrees with. If the Prime Minister makes a speech to the chamber, the Leader of the Opposition usually receives the right of reply, which means being given equal time to speak on the issue.

History

The current Leader of the Opposition is the Hon Bill Shorten MP.

Australia has had 31 Leaders of the Opposition.

NamePartyTerm
Sir George Reid Free Trade 09.05.1901 – 18.08.1904
John Watson Australian Labor Party 18.08.1904 – 05.07.1905
Sir George Reid Free Trade 07.07.1905 – 16.11.1908
Sir Joseph Cook ANTI-SOCIALIST 17.11.1908 – 26.05.1909
Alfred Deakin FUSION 26.05.1909 – 02.06.1909
Andrew Fisher Australian Labor Party 02.06.1909 – 29.04.1910
Alfred Deakin The Liberal Party 01.07.1910 – 20.01.1913
Sir Joseph Cook The Liberal Party 20.01.1913 – 24.06.1913
Andrew Fisher Australian Labor Party 08.07.1913 – 17.09.1914
Sir Joseph Cook The Liberal Party 08.10.1914 – 17.02.1917
Frank Tudor Australian Labor Party 17.02.1917 – 10.01.1922
Matthew Charlton Australian Labor Party 16.05.1922 – 29.03.1928
James Scullin Australian Labor Party 26.04.1928 – 22.10.1929
John Latham Nationalist 20.11.1929 – 07.05.1931
Joseph Lyons United Australia Party 07.05.1931 – 06.01.1932
James Scullin Australian Labor Party 07.01.1932 – 01.10.1935
John Curtin Australian Labor Party 01.10.1935 – 07.10.1941
Sir Arthur Fadden Country Party 08.10.1941 – 23.09.1943
Sir Robert Menzies United Australia Party/The Liberal Party of Australia* 23.09.1943 – 19.12.1949
Joseph (Ben) Chifley Australian Labor Party 21.02.1950 – 13.06.1951
Herbert Evatt Australian Labor Party 20.06.1951 – 09.02.1960
Arthur Calwell Australian Labor Party 07.03.1960 – 08.02.1967
Edward (Gough) Whitlam Australian Labor Party 08.02.1967 – 05.12.1972
Billy Snedden Liberal Party of Australia 20.12.1972 – 21.03.1975
John (Malcolm) Fraser Liberal Party of Australia 21.03.1975 – 11.11.1975
Edward (Gough) Whitlam Australian Labor Party 27.01.1976 – 22.12.1977
William (Bill) Hayden Australian Labor Party 22.12.1977 – 03.02.1983
Robert (Bob) Hawke Australian Labor Party 03.02.1983 – 11.03.1983
Andrew Peacock Liberal Party of Australia 11.03.1983 – 05.09.1985
John Howard Liberal Party of Australia 05.09.1985 – 09.05.1989
Andrew Peacock Liberal Party of Australia 09.05.1989 – 03.04.1990
John Hewson Liberal Party of Australia 03.04.1990 – 23.05.1994
Alexander Downer Liberal Party of Australia 23.05.1994 – 30.01.1995
John Howard Liberal Party of Australia 30.01.1995 – 11.03.1996
Kim Beazley Australian Labor Party 19.03.1996 – 22.11.2001
Simon Crean Australian Labor Party 22.11.2001 – 02.12.2003
Mark Latham Australian Labor Party 02.12.2003 – 18.01.2005
Kim Beazley Australian Labor Party 28.01.2005 – 04.12.2006
Kevin Rudd Australian Labor Party 04.12.2006 – 03.12.2007
Brendan Nelson Liberal Party of Australia 03.12.2007 – 16.09.2008
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal Party of Australia 16.09.2008 – 01.12.2009
Tony Abbott Liberal Party of Australia 01.12.2009 – 07.09.2013
Bill Shorten Australian Labor Party 13.10.2013 – Present

*Liberal Party of Australia from 16.10.1944

Note: The Liberal Party is a different party to the Liberal Party of Australia.

Source: Australian Electoral Commission website