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Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Australia)

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is a party office held by the Opposition's most senior member of the Shadow Cabinet in the Australian Senate, elected to lead the opposition party (or parties) in the body.[1] Though the leader in the Senate does not have the power of the office of Leader of the Opposition (i.e. the leader in the House of Representatives and overall party leader), there are some parallels between the latter's status in the lower house and the former's in the Senate.[1] In addition to his or her own shadow ministerial portfolio, the leader has overarching responsibility for all policy areas and acts as the opposition's principal spokesperson in the upper house. The leader is entitled to sit at the table of the Senate,[1] and has priority in gaining recognition from the President of the Senate to speak in debate. Another similarity is that the leader typically announces changes to opposition officeholders in the Senate, including shadow ministers, party leadership and whips.[2] The leader also has some responsibility for appointing opposition senators to committees, a role filled by the Manager of Opposition Business and whips in the lower house. The current leader is Simon Birmingham. He is assisted by a Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, currently Michaelia Cash.

List of leaders of the opposition in the Senate

Senate opposition
Term began Term ended Party Leader of the Opposition
  Josiah Symon 6 June 1901[n 1] 18 August 1904 Free Trade George Reid
Gregor McGregor 18 August 1904[n 2] 5 July 1905 Labor Chris Watson
Josiah Symon 5 July 1905[n 1] 21 November 1907 Free Trade George Reid
Edward Millen 21 November 1907[n 3] 2 June 1909 Anti-Socialist
Joseph Cook
Alfred Deakin
Gregor McGregor 2 June 1909[n 2] 29 April 1910 Labor Andrew Fisher
Edward Millen 29 April 1910[n 3] 24 June 1913 Commonwealth
Alfred Deakin
Joseph Cook
Gregor McGregor 24 June 1913[n 2] 30 July 1914 Labor Andrew Fisher
Edward Millen 30 July 1914[n 3] 14 February 1917[n 4] Commonwealth
Joseph Cook
Albert Gardiner[n 5] 17 February 1917[n 4] 30 June 1926 Labor Frank Tudor
Matthew Charlton
Ted Needham 9 July 1926[25] 25 June 1929 Labor
James Scullin
John Daly 25 June 1929[26] 22 October 1929 Labor
George Pearce 22 October 1929[n 6] 6 January 1932 Nationalist John Latham
Joseph Lyons
John Barnes 6 January 1932[n 7] 30 June 1935 Labor James Scullin
Joe Collings 1 July 1935[31] 7 October 1941 Labor
John Curtin
George McLeay 7 October 1941[n 8] 31 May 1947 UAP Arthur Fadden
Robert Menzies[n 9]
Walter Cooper 1 June 1947[34] 19 November 1949 Country
Bill Ashley 19 December 1949[n 10] 11 June 1951 Labor Chifley
Nick McKenna 11 June 1951[37] 17 August 1966 Labor
H. V. Evatt
Arthur Calwell
Don Willesee 17 August 1966[38] 8 February 1967 Labor
Gough Whitlam
Lionel Murphy 8 February 1967[39] 5 December 1972 Labor
Reg Withers 20 December 1972[40] 11 November 1975 Liberal Billy Snedden
Malcolm Fraser
Ken Wriedt 11 November 1975[n 11] 28 September 1980[n 12] Labor Gough Whitlam
Bill Hayden
John Button 7 November 1980[43] 11 March 1983 Labor
Bob Hawke
Fred Chaney 11 March 1983[44] 27 February 1990[n 12] Liberal Andrew Peacock
John Howard
Andrew Peacock
Robert Hill 3 April 1990[45] 11 March 1996 Liberal John Hewson
Alexander Downer
John Howard
John Faulkner 19 March 1996[46] 22 October 2004 Labor Kim Beazley
Simon Crean
Mark Latham
Chris Evans 22 October 2004[47] 3 December 2007 Labor
Kim Beazley
Kevin Rudd
Nick Minchin 3 December 2007[48] 3 May 2010 Liberal Brendan Nelson
Malcolm Turnbull
Tony Abbott
Eric Abetz 3 May 2010[49][50] 18 September 2013 Liberal
Penny Wong 18 September 2013 23 May 2022 Labor Chris Bowen
Bill Shorten
Anthony Albanese
Simon Birmingham 23 May 2022[51] Incumbent Liberal Peter Dutton

See also


  1. ^ a b Symon was elected the party's leader in the Senate in 1901, when the party was in Opposition.[3] He remained leader when the party was in Government from 1904 to 1905[4] and when the party again found itself on the Opposition benches.[5]
  2. ^ a b c McGregor was the Labor Party's leader in the Senate (and Deputy Leader of the federal Labor Party) from Federation until the double dissolution that triggered the 1914 election. As such, he held the title Leader of the Senate when in Government,[6][7][8] and that of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate whenever Labor formed the Official Opposition[9][10] during that period.
  3. ^ a b c Millen succeeded Symon as Leader of the Opposition on 21 November 1907[11] and became Senate leader of the new Commonwealth Liberal Party, taking up the office of Leader of the Senate upon when the party entered Government on 2 June 1909.[12] He continued as leader of the party in the Senate as it alternated between Government[13][14][15] and Opposition.[16][17]
  4. ^ a b After Billy Hughes, the Prime Minister, split with the Labor Party in November 1916, his new National Labor Party Government survived with the help of the Commonwealth Liberal Party. The latter remained, technically, in Opposition for the time being. Therefore, until National Labor and the Liberals formed a coalition government on 14 February 1017,[18] Millen remained Leader of the Opposition.[19] Gardiner was Leader of the Opposition from 14 February and was referred to as such in the Senate that day.[20]
  5. ^ Gardiner's tenure includes a period from 1 July 1920 to 26 May 1922 in which he was Labor's sole senator, but he was still considered Leader of the Opposition.[21][22][23][24]
  6. ^ Pearce was leader of the Nationalist Party in the Senate while it was in Government, and he continued in the role after the party entered Opposition.[27] He was elected Senate leader of the new United Australia Party when it was created as a merger of the Nationalists, other anti-Labor parties, and some Labor MPs.[28]
  7. ^ Barnes was Labor's Senate leader before it left Government,[29] and he continued as leader afterwards.[30]
  8. ^ McLeay was the UAP leader in the Senate in Government,[32] and continued as leader after the UAP–Country coalition fell.[33]
  9. ^ The UAP/Liberals and Country Party did not form a coalition opposition from 1943 to 1949 in the House of Representatives. However, from 1 July 1947 until the parties won government in 1949, the Senate parties formed a combined opposition because the Country senator and two Liberal senators were the only non-Labor members of the upper house. Cooper served as leader, Neil O'Sullivan as deputy, and Annabelle Rankin as whip.
  10. ^ Ashley was Leader of the Government in the Senate until the Menzies Government took power.[35] He continued as Labor's leader in the Senate.[36]
  11. ^ Wriedt was Leader of the Government prior to the Dismissal,[41] and continued as Labor's leader thereafter.[42]
  12. ^ a b Resigned from the Senate while leader to seek a seat in the House of Representatives.


  1. ^ a b c "Leadership in Parliament". Fact Sheets. Parliamentary Education Office. Archived from the original on 17 September 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  2. ^ "6. Senators: Parties and party leaders". Odger's Australian Senate Practice (13th ed.). Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Opposition Senate Caucus: Sir J. H. Symon Selected Leader". The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times. Devonport and Burnie, Tas. 7 June 1901. p. 2. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Latest Messages—Federal Parliament: The New Ministry". Western Star and Roma Advertiser. Toowoomba, Qld. 20 August 1904. p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Federal Parliament". Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, NSW. 29 July 1905. p. 8. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Federal Politics: Mr. Watson Forms a Cabinet". The West Australian. 27 April 1904. p. 7. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Members of New Cabinet: Representation of States". Kalgoorlie Miner. Kalgoorlie, WA. 13 November 1908. p. 5. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Federal Land Tax: The Property Owners". Daily Herald. Adelaide. 17 October 1910. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  9. ^ "The Tariff Commission". The Register. Adelaide. 3 December 1909. p. 8. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  10. ^ "Federal Crisis, The Senate Adjourns to Harass the Government". Northern Times. Carnarvon, WA. 22 November 1913. p. 5. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  11. ^ "The Senate Opposition: Senator Millen Elected Leader". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 November 1907. p. 5. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  12. ^ "The New Cabinet". The Argus. Melbourne. 3 June 1909. p. 7. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Formation of the Cabinet: The New Ministers". Kalgoorlie Western Argus. Kalgoorlie, WA. 8 June 1909. p. 36. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  14. ^ "The Cook Cabinet: Personnel of the New Team". Forbes Advocate. Forbes, NSW. 18 September 1913. p. 3. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  15. ^ ""Win-the-War" Ministry: Portfolios Allotted". The Argus. Melbourne. 19 February 1917. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  16. ^ "The Opposition Party". Examiner. Launceston, Tas. 2 July 1910. p. 8. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  17. ^ Rutledge, Martha (1986). "Millen, Edward Davis (1860–1923)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  18. ^ "The Coalition". The Bathurst Times. Bathurst, NSW. 15 February 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  19. ^ Thomas GivensPresident of the Senate (9 February 1917).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1917-02-09%2F0007;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221910s%22%20Year%3A%221917%22%20Month%3A%2202%22%20Day%3A%2209%22;rec=2;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 10379. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  20. ^ Patrick LynchMinister for Works and Railways (14 February 1917).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1917-02-14%2F0053;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221910s%22%20Year%3A%221917%22%20Month%3A%2202%22%20Day%3A%2214%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 10490. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  21. ^ George Fairbairn (12 July 1920).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1920-07-21%2F0020;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221920s%22%20Year%3A%221920%22%20Month%3A%2207%22%20Day%3A%2221%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 2828. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  22. ^ Albert Gardiner, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (20 October 1920).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1920-10-20%2F0005;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221920s%22%20Year%3A%221920%22%20Month%3A%2210%22%20Day%3A%2220%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 5766. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  23. ^ Josiah Thomas (29 April 1921).;adv=yes;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221920s%22%20Year%3A%221921%22%20Month%3A%2204%22%20Day%3A%2229%22;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 7901. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  24. ^ Thomas Bakhap, Chairman of Committees (16 November 1921).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1921-11-16%2F0019;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221920s%22%20Year%3A%221921%22%20Month%3A%2211%22%20Day%3A%2216%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 12769. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  25. ^ "Federal Politics: Labour Leader in Senate, Needham Elected". The West Australian. Perth. 10 July 1926. p. 11. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  26. ^ "The Senate: Mr. Daly Opposition Leader". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 26 June 1929. p. 13.
  27. ^ Bert Hoare (29 November 1929).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1929-11-29%2F0029;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221920s%22%20Year%3A%221929%22%20Month%3A%2211%22%20Day%3A%2229%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 481. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  28. ^ "Unity Achieved". Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Qld. 8 May 1931. p. 7. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  29. ^ "Allocation of Federal Portfolios". Advocate. Burnie, Tas. 4 May 1931. p. 7. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  30. ^ "Labor in Senate, Senator Barnes Appointed Leader". Advocate. Burnie, Tas. 18 February 1932. p. 5. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  31. ^ Joe Collings, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (23 September 1935).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1935-09-23%2F0018;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221930s%22%20Year%3A%221935%22%20Month%3A%2209%22%20Day%3A%2223%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 5. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  32. ^ "Health Portfolio—Senator Foll". The Mercury. Hobart. 8 November 1938. p. 7. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  33. ^ "Senate Opposition, McLeay Elected Leader". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Townsville, Qld. 9 October 1941. p. 4. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  34. ^ Walter Cooper, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (15 October 1947).;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1947-10-15%2F0039;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221940s%22%20Year%3A%221947%22%20Month%3A%2210%22%20Day%3A%2215%22;rec=0;resCount=Default. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 727. ((cite book)): |chapter-url= missing title (help)
  35. ^ "Sen. McKenna Appointed to Fedl. Cabinet". The Courier-Mail. 18 June 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  36. ^ "Parliamentary Parties Appoint Former Leaders". The Canberra Times. 22 February 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  37. ^ "Party Meetings Choose Leaders and Nominees". The Canberra Times. 12 June 1951. p. 4. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  38. ^ "Caucus picks Senate leader". The Canberra Times. 18 August 1966. p. 8. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  39. ^ "Mr Whitlam leads ALP". The Canberra Times. 9 February 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  40. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Withers, Reg (1924–)". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  41. ^ "Mr Enderby Made Attorney-General". The Canberra Times. 11 February 1975. p. 1. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  42. ^ "Clear win to Whitlam". The Canberra Times. 28 January 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  43. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Button, John (1933–2008)". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  44. ^ "Peacock elected Opposition leader: Naming of shadow ministry next week". The Canberra Times. 12 March 1983. p. 3. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  45. ^ "Winner Hewson sets his agenda". The Canberra Times. 4 April 1990. p. 1.
  46. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Faulkner, John". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  47. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Evans, Chris, (Christopher Vaughan) (1958–)". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  48. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Minchin, Nick (1953–)". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  49. ^ Australian Parliamentary Library. "Abetz, Eric". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  50. ^ "Biography for Abetz, the Hon. Eric". Australian Parliamentary Library. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  51. ^ Simon Birmingham. "Thank you to my Liberal Senate colleagues for electing me as their leader today". Tweet. Twitter. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
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Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Australia)
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