|Appointed By:||Michael Jeffery|
|Governor:||Governor-General of Australia|
|First Minister:||Sir Edmund Barton|
|Date:||1 January 1901|
The Prime Minister of Australia is the head of government of the Commonwealth of Australia, holding office on commission from the Governor-General. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful political office in Australia. Despite being at the apex of executive government in the country, the Prime Minister is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia and exists through an unwritten constitutional convention.
Barring exceptional circumstances, the Prime Minister is always the leader of the political party or coalition with majority support in the House of Representatives. The only case where a Senator was appointed Prime Minister was that of John Gorton, who subsequently resigned his Senate position and was elected as a member of the House of Representatives. (Senator George Pearce was Acting Prime Minister for seven months in 1916 while Billy Hughes was overseas.)
The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General under section 64 of the Australian Constitution. This empowers the Governor-General to appoint Ministers of the Crown, and requires such ministers to be members of the House of Representatives or the Senate, or become members within three months of the appointment. Before being sworn in as a minister, a person must first be sworn in as a member of the Federal Executive Council if they are not already a member. Membership of the Federal Executive Council entitles the member to the title "the Honourable" (usually abbreviated to "the Hon") for life, barring exceptional circumstances. The senior members of the Executive Council constitute the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister is, like other ministers, normally sworn in by the Governor-General and then presented with the commission (Letters patent) of office. When defeated in an election, or on resigning, the Prime Minister is said to "hand in the commission" and actually does so by returning it to the Governor-General. In the event of a Prime Minister dying in office, or becoming incapacitated, the Governor-General can terminate the commission. Ministers hold office "during the pleasure of the Governor-General" (s. 64 of the Constitution), so theoretically, the Governor-General can dismiss a minister at any time, by notifying them in writing of the termination of their commission; however, his or her power to do so except on the advice of the Prime Minister is heavily circumscribed by convention.
Despite the importance of the office of Prime Minister, the Constitution does not mention the office by name. The conventions of the Westminster system were thought to be sufficiently entrenched in Australia by the authors of the Constitution that it was deemed unnecessary to detail them.
If a government cannot get its appropriation (budget) legislation passed by the House of Representatives, or the House passes a vote of "no confidence" in the government, the Prime Minister is bound by convention to resign immediately. The Governor-General's choice of replacement Prime Minister will be dictated by the circumstances.
Following a resignation in other circumstances, or the death of a Prime Minister, the Governor-General will generally appoint as Prime Minister the person voted by the governing party as their new leader. There have been four notable exceptions to this:
There were only five other cases where someone other than the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives was Prime Minister:
Most of the Prime Minister's powers derive from his or her position as the head of the Cabinet. In practice, the Federal Executive Council will act to ratify all decisions made by the Cabinet, and in practice, decisions of the Cabinet will always require the support of the Prime Minister. The powers of the Governor-General to grant Royal Assent to legislation, to dissolve and prorogue Parliament, to call elections, and to make appointments are exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The power of the Prime Minister is subject to a number of limitations. If the Prime Minister is removed as leader of his or her party, or if the government they lead loses a vote of no-confidence in the House of Representatives, they must resign the office or be dismissed by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister's party will normally have a majority in the House of Representatives, and party discipline is exceptionally strong in Australian politics, so the passage of government-proposed legislation through the House is mostly a formality. Attaining the support of the Senate can be more difficult, since there the government will often lack an absolute majority.
|2 June 1999||$289,270|
|6 September 2006||$309,270|
|1 July 2007||$330,300|
The Prime Minister is the highest-paid member of parliament.
Ministerial salary is expressed as an additional percentage on top of the basic parliamentary salary. The Remuneration Tribunal's Report Number 1 of 2006 confirms the Prime Minister's additional salary as 160% of his parliamentary salary, ie. he earns in total 260% of the salary of an ordinary parliamentarian.
The Royal Australian Air Force's 34 Squadron transports the Prime Minister within Australia and overseas by specially converted Boeing Business Jets and smaller Challenger aircraft. The aircraft contain secure communications equipment as well as office, conference room and sleeping compartments. The call-sign for the aircraft is "Envoy".
The Prime Minister's official residence is The Lodge in Canberra, but not all Prime Ministers choose to make use of it. Jim Scullin preferred to live at the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt Hotel); Ben Chifley lived in the Kurrajong Hotel; and John Howard made Kirribilli House in Sydney his primary residence, using The Lodge when in Canberra on official business. The official residences are fully staffed and catered for both the Prime Minister and his family. A considerable amount of official entertaining is conducted at these residences.
The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has a staff at the Lodge consisting of a senior chef and an assistant chef, a child carer, one senior house attendant, and two junior house attendants. At Kirribilli House in Sydney, there is one full-time chef and one full-time house attendant.
In June 2007, businessman and former President of the Liberal Party in Victoria, Michael Kroger, announced that he and other Australian businessmen, a group dubbed the "Melbourne Lodgers", were examining properties in Melbourne for the Prime Minister to use as a residence while in that city. Despite Kroger's political affiliation, he maintained that if bought, the residence would be offered for the use of all Prime Ministers regardless of party affiliation. Chief on the list was Stonnington Mansion in the suburb of Malvern.
Prime Ministers continue to have benefits after leaving office, such as free office space, the right to hold a Life Gold Pass and budgets for office help and staff assistance. The Life Gold Pass entitles the holder to travel within Australia for "non-commercial" purposes at government expense.
Former Prime Ministers continue to be important national figures, and in some cases go on to successful post-prime ministerial careers. Some notable examples have included: Edmund Barton, who was a justice of the High Court; George Reid, who was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; and Arthur Fadden, who was Treasurer under another Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.
Below is a list of Prime Ministers of Australia by name, date assumed office, date left office, political party, total time in office and state represented in Parliament. The state(s) represented in parliament is not necessarily the one with which the person had the strongest association; the most extreme example being Bob Hawke who was born in South Australia, spent his formative years in Western Australia, worked in and represented Victoria and retired to New South Wales.
The parties shown are those to which the Prime Ministers belonged at the time they held office. Several Prime Ministers belonged to parties other than those given before and after their prime ministerships.
For a list showing further details, see List of Prime Ministers of Australia.
|Name||Took office||Left office||Party||Total Time In Office||State Represented|
|1||Edmund Barton||Protectionist||New South Wales|
|3||Chris Watson||Labor||New South Wales|
|4||George Reid||Free Trade||New South Wales|
|Alfred Deakin||Commonwealth Liberal||Victoria|
|6||Joseph Cook||Commonwealth Liberal||New South Wales|
|7||Billy Hughes||Labor/Nationalist||New South Wales, Victoria|
|10||Joseph Lyons||United Australia||Tasmania|
|11||Sir Earle Page||Country||New South Wales|
|12||Robert Menzies||United Australia||Victoria|
|14||John Curtin||Labor||Western Australia|
|16||Ben Chifley||Labor||New South Wales|
|Sir Robert Menzies||Liberal||Victoria|
|20||William McMahon||Liberal||New South Wales|
|21||Gough Whitlam||Labor||New South Wales|
|24||Paul Keating||Labor||New South Wales|
|25||John Howard||Liberal||New South Wales|
There are five living former Prime Ministers: Gough Whitlam (1972-75), Malcolm Fraser (1975-83), Bob Hawke (1983-91), Paul Keating (1991-96) and John Howard (1996-2007). Gough Whitlam is the oldest living former Prime Minister, and Paul Keating is the youngest. (As of 22 January 2009, Whitlam has achieved a greater age than any other person who was Prime Minister of Australia.)
The most recently deceased Prime Minister is Sir John Gorton, who died on 19 May 2002.
The greatest number of living former Prime Ministers at any one time was eight. This has occurred twice:
Seven former Prime Ministers were alive during the periods 18 November 1941 13 July 1945, and 30 July 1947 13 June 1951.
The first person born after Federation to serve as Prime Minister was Harold Holt, born 5 August 1908. (Sir William McMahon, who was later Prime Minister, was born 23 February 1908, and is the earliest-born of the Prime Ministers born after Federation.)
The first person born after the First World War to serve as Prime Minister was Malcolm Fraser, born 21 May 1930. (Bob Hawke, who succeeded Fraser, was born 9 December 1929, and is the earliest-born of the Prime Ministers born after WWI.)
The only two pairs of Prime Ministers who were born in the same year are:
Six Prime Ministers were born in the month of September, two more than the next most popular month August. The six were: John Gorton (9 September), Joseph Lyons (15th), James Scullin (18th), Kevin Rudd (21st), Ben Chifley (22nd) and Billy Hughes (25th). None were born in June, October or November.
The only two Prime Ministers who shared the same death day are James Scullin and Frank Forde both died 28 January (1953 and 1983 respectively).
The only two Prime Ministers who were born and died in the same month of the calendar were: Sir Edmund Barton (18 January 1849-7 January 1920), and Sir Arthur Fadden (13 April 1895-21 April 1973).
Three Prime Ministers died in office Joseph Lyons (1939), John Curtin (1945) and Harold Holt (1967). Holt's was a most unusual case he disappeared while swimming, was declared presumed dead two days later, and his body was never recovered. It was not until almost 38 years later, in 2005, that he was officially declared by the Victorian Coroner to have drowned at the time of his disappearance.
No two former Prime Ministers have died in the same year. The former Prime Minister Stanley Bruce died in August 1967, the same year as the then-incumbent Harold Holt drowned.
The three youngest people when they first became Prime Minister were:
The three oldest people when they first became Prime Minister were:
The three youngest people to last leave the office of Prime Minister were:
The three oldest people to last leave the office of Prime Minister were:
Nine ex-Prime Ministers (Bruce, Cook, Fadden, Forde, Fraser, Gorton, Hughes, Watson, and Whitlam) have lived more than 25 years after leaving the office, and all but two of these survived longer than 30 years (Hughes lasted 29 years and 8 months; Fraser has lasted 25 years but is still living).
The longest-surviving was Stanley Bruce, who died 37 years and 10 months after leaving the Prime Ministership. Should Gough Whitlam live till 25 September 2013, he will exceed Bruce's record (he would then be 97 years old).
At the other extreme, excluding the three Prime Ministers who died in office and the most recent ex-incumbent John Howard, all but two ex-Prime Ministers survived more than ten years. The two exceptions were Ben Chifley 1 year 6 months; and Alfred Deakin 9 years 5 months.