Now that the National government has chosen the Cabinet ministers, Phil Goff, Leader of the Opposition, has chosen his Shadow Cabinet. These are the people who shadow or mark the government Cabinet ministers. For each department, there is a minister from the government and a shadow minister from the opposition. The job of the shadow minister is to know what is happening in that department, to criticise what the government is doing and to suggest some other ideas. The shadow minister is the spokesperson for the opposition about a department, the person who speaks to the media about what he or she thinks is wrong with department policy. The Leader of the Opposition can not be expected to know everything; that is why there is a shadow cabinet.
Usually the shadow minister will become the cabinet minister when their party becomes the government but this does not always happen. Tony Ryall was the shadow minister of health before the election and now he is the Minister of Health. Likewise Anne Tolley was the shadow minister of Education and is now the Minister of Education. However, many of the new ministers were not shadow ministers or they have changed their interest to another department.
Like the new National government, the new Opposition has chosen many new faces and younger people for their Front Bench. Cabinet ministers and shadow ministers sit on the front seats in parliament. Each person is numbered with number 1 being the leader of the party, number 2 the deputy leader and so on. The person who is number 10 is more important than number 20. The MPs who are near the bottom, sit on the back benches.
However, back benchers still play an important part in parliament. For instance, they sit on committees. All bills go to a committee before going back to parliament for voting.
All MPs got a salary increase yesterday. Cabinet ministers now get $243,700 while back bench MPs get $131,000.