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United cabinet, 1928.

The United Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1928 to 1931, defeating the long-lived Reform Government. The United Party had been formed in 1927 from the remnants of the Liberal Party under Sir Joseph Ward, who had made a political comeback. They did not manage an outright win, but formed a government with Labour Party support. However, Ward was in poor health and was eventually succeeded by George Forbes. The new cabinet was notable for its inexperience, with four ministers not having sat in the House of Representatives previously.[1]

Significant policiesEdit


During the election campaign, Ward startled both his supporters and his audience by promising to borrow £70 million in a year to revive the economy; while this is believed to have been a mistake caused by Ward's failing eyesight, or was intended to be £70 million over eight to ten years, borrowed at £6 to £8 million per year (possibly a sympathetic amendment by the newspaper),[2]:100–101 it was popular with the electorate. Labour lost two urban seats: Auckland East (John A. Lee) and Grey Lynn (Fred Bartram), and many town workers and unionists must have heard "the musical chink of the seventy million". ... More by accident than design United seems to have manage to recreate to some extent the old Liberal combination of urban worker and rural support. In the circumstances it was epheremal.[2]:103 Chapman says that it is now clear that Ward inadvertently substituted 'seventy' for 'seven' when reading out the amount he would borrow in the first twelve months, and the correction to seventy millions spread over ten or eight years actually represented a shade less than Reform had already raised. But Reform's tactic of emphasising the larger amount backfired as many voters did not share Reform's financial orthodoxy. Ward amended the loan scheme in his final address in Dunedin to raise the sixty million portion for settlers by issuing bonds over the counter like packets of tea, and said that United would vote with Labour to oust the (Reform) Government. The resulting three-party vote astounded everyone, and was similar to 1919.[3]



Electoral resultsEdit

Election Parliament Seats Total votes Percentage Gain (loss) Seats won Change Majority
1928 23rd 80 228,438 30.20% 27 +16
1931 24th 80 396,004 55.4% 51 -3 11

Prime ministersEdit

The government was led by Sir Joseph Ward from 1928 to 1930, and then George Forbes from 1930 to 1931. Wilson gives the dates of office-holding as 10 December 1928 to 28 May 1930 for the Ward Ministry, and 28 May 1930 to 22 September 1931 for the Forbes Ministry.

Cabinet ministersEdit

Ministry Minister Term(s)
Attorney-General Thomas Sidey 1928–1931
Minister of Agriculture George Forbes 1928–1930
Alfred Murdoch 1930–1931
Minister of Customs William Taverner 1928–1930
George Forbes 1930–1931
Minister of Defence Thomas Wilford 1928–1929
John Cobbe 1929–1931
Minister of Education Harry Atmore 1928–1931
Minister of Finance Joseph Ward 1928–1930
George Forbes 1930–1931
Minister of External Affairs Joseph Ward 1928–1930
George Forbes 1930–1931
Minister of Health Arthur Stallworthy 1928–1931
Minister of Immigration John Cobbe 1928–1930
Sydney George Smith 1930–1931
Minister of Industries and Commerce John Cobbe 1928–1929
James Bell Donald 1929–1930
Philip De La Perrelle 1930–1931
Minister of Internal Affairs Philip De La Perrelle 1928–1931
Minister of Justice Thomas Wilford 1928–1929
Thomas Sidey 1929–1930
John Cobbe 1930–1931
Minister of Labour Bill Veitch 1928–1930
Sydney George Smith 1930–1931
Minister of Lands George Forbes 1928–1930
Alfred Ransom 1930–1931
Minister of Marine John Cobbe 1928–1930
James Bell Donald 1930–1931
Minister of Mines Bill Veitch 1928–1930
Alfred James Murdoch 1930–1931
Minister of Native Affairs and of Cook Islands Āpirana Ngata 1928–1931
Postmaster-General and Minister of Telegraphs James Bell Donald 1928–1931
Minister of Public Works Alfred Ransom 1928–1930
William Tavener 1930–1931
Minister of Railways William Taverner 1928–1930
Bill Veitch 1930–1931
Minister of Stamp Duties Joseph Ward 1928–1930
George Forbes 1930–1931

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.


  1. ^ Undiplomatic Dialogue: Letters between Carl Berendsen and Alister McIntosh 1943–52 edited by Ian McGibbon page 219 note 2 (1993, Auckland University Press) ISBN 1-86940-095-X
  2. ^ a b Brown, Bruce The Rise of New Zealand Labour (1962, Price Milburn, Wellington).
  3. ^ Chapman R. M. The Political Scene 1919–1931 (1969, New Zealand History Topic Book by Heinemann), pp. 50–54.