New Zealand Parliament Pāremata Aotearoa


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Published date: 28 Jul 2006

Cartoons by politicians, 1850s

New Zealand politicians drew some of the earliest political cartoons, recording them in their sketchbooks or even printing them privately. Here, member of Parliament Alfred Domett shows one of his (unnamed) colleagues staggering home drunk alongside two Auckland policemen.

First political cartoonist, 1850s

James Brown is considered New Zealand’s first political cartoonist. His drawings appeared in the early 1850s. Here, he suggests that Otago member William Cargill get to Parliament by broomstick, given the difficulties of travel by sea. (The Otago members took two months to reach Auckland for Parliament’s first session in 1854.)

New Zealand Punch, 1860s

The earliest published cartoons appeared in the short-lived New Zealand versions of Punch in the 1860s. This cartoon shows people gathering around a circus ring in front of Parliament Buildings, with Mr Punch as ringmaster.

Cartoon style, 1860s–1880s

In the early days caricature was not well developed. Cartoonists drew politicians’ faces realistically, stuck photographs over drawings or drew the politicians as animals. In 1881, William Gisborne was fined 20 pounds for obstructing business in Parliament.

Cartoon popularity, 1890s

Political cartoons became extremely popular in the 1890s as women gained the vote and political parties appealed to the public. Professional cartoonists emerged in weekly papers — W Blomfield (Blo), J C Blomfield, Ashley Hunter, and E F Hiscocks among them. Blo continued working for the Observer for 50 years.

Caricature, 1890s–1900s

Cartoonists began to exaggerate politicians’ features and relied less on words to get their point across. Weight, noses, beards, hairstyles, and dress styles were all rich material. The tradition of cartoons focusing on our political leaders began with Premier Richard John Seddon (King Dick) and Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward — both of whom had high public profiles.

Sketch series, 1890s–1900s

Series of political sketches became popular in New Zealand from the 1890s. Those by celebrated artists like W A Bowring and David Low featured in competing newspapers. A Hansard reporter, Walter Leslie, produced his own parliamentary sketches, which were popular with members.

Daily cartoons, early 1900s

The New Zealand Herald was the first daily newspaper to feature cartoons. Cartoons developed a harder political edge as conflict grew between trade unions, employers, and the Government. But most cartoonists were more interested in humour than political comment, and their views often reflected public prejudices.

Women in Parliament, 1930s

When Elizabeth McCombs became the first female member of New Zealand’s Parliament in 1933, cartoonists let loose. (Women getting the vote in the 1890s had produced a similar avalanche of cartoons.) 

Popular cartoonists, 1930s—1950s

Gordon Minhinnick, the best-known New Zealand cartoonist of his time, joined the daily New Zealand Herald by the 1930s. Other daily newspapers began publishing cartoonists like J C Hill and A S Paterson. The cartoon style became visually simpler, with shorter captions. Minhinnick continued creating cartoons for the Herald for 50 years.

Members’ salaries, 1950s

Cartoonists have often focused on the salaries of members of Parliament. Neville Colvin was a cartoonist for the Evening Post who became well-known in New Zealand in the 1950s. Here, he comments on the Prime Minister appointing a Royal Commission to consider improving members’ pay.

Graphic style, 1970s–1990s

Cartoonists like Peter Bromhead, Bob Brockie, and Tom Scott injected more political and social comment into New Zealand cartoons. Their simple, graphic style sometimes carried caricature into the grotesque. The work of Trace Hodgson exemplifies this shift.

Cartoon treasures, 1980s

Politicians sometimes treasure the cartoons that feature them, even those that show them in a bad light. Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon usually hated Peter Bromhead’s cartoons — but this caricature appealed to him. He even hung it in his home.

Caricature today

Today, cartoonists offer varying views on politicians and political events. Murray Webb has refined the art of political caricature. Here, Opposition leaders Bill English and Richard Prebble trip up Labour member Harry Duynhoven as he takes Dutch nationality, which puts his parliamentary membership into question. (The Government passed a law to let him stay in Parliament.)