Parliament's culture and traditions

Page 2 – Parliament in cartoons

For centuries, politics and Parliament have been the subject of public comment, satire and humour. Almost since the beginning, New Zealand's Parliament has been portrayed through the eyes of cartoonists whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines. Cartoons poked fun at politicians and the political system, but humour was not always the main aim. There was frequently a sharp edge of irony or a deliberate attempt to shock or provoke a reaction. Looking at cartoons tells us a lot about public opinion towards Parliament.

Today's cartoons are very different from those produced prior to the 1920s. Then, cartoons could be detailed and have long captions. They were run in weekly publications such as the Weekly News or in the weekend editions of daily papers, so cartoonists had time to create detailed drawings. Many of the cartoonists used stock figures, often based on British models, as symbols. The British Lion, Britannia and John Bull were instantly recognisable to New Zealand readers as symbols for Britain.

After the 1920s, the daily papers picked up cartoons, and the style of drawing became less detailed. The old weeklies faded away after the Second World War, and since then, cartoons have mainly appeared in the dailies. From the 1970s, cartoonists set out more deliberately to offer social commentary and to provoke, as well as to entertain.

parliamentary cartoon

Choate, New Zealand Herald, 19 November 1951

parliamentary cartoon

J.C. Hill, Christchurch Times, 21 February 1935

parliamentary cartoon

New Zealand Observer and Free Lance, 12 July 1890

parliamentary cartoon

Alfred Domett, 1856. 'Scene, St Georges Bay – Time 1/2 past 2 a.m. (N.B. the house rose at Nine). "The honneblemember will resumehizzat."' Alexander Turnbull Library, A-090-023

parliamentary cartoon

New Zealand Free Lance, 30 September 1911

parliamentary cartoon

J.C. Hill, Auckland Star, 23 September 1933

parliamentary cartoon

New Zealand Graphic, 16 September 1893

parliamentary cartoon

New Zealand Graphic, 5 August 1893

parliamentary cartoon

Stuart Peterson, Free Lance, 2 October 1929

parliamentary cartoon

Armed combat during question time under the Labour government. Trace Hodgson, New Zealand Listener, 8–14 September 1984

parliamentary cartoon

Tom Scott, Evening Post, 21 October 1992