The Honourable(Formal)Prime Minister(Spoken)
CabinetNational Security CommitteeFederal Executive Council
Governor-General of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the head of government of Australia. The individual who holds the office is the most senior Minister of the Crown, the leader of the Cabinet and the chairperson of the National Security Committee. The office is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia and exists only through longstanding political convention and tradition. Despite this, in practice it is the most powerful parliamentary position in Australia. The individual who holds the office is commissioned by the Governor-General of Australia.
- After office
- Acting and interim prime ministers
- Former prime ministers
- Rank by time in office
- Prime ministers parties by time in office
Almost always and according to convention, the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party or largest party in a coalition of parties in the House of Representatives. However, there is no constitutional requirement that the prime minister sit in the House of Representatives, though by convention this is always the case. The only case where a member of the Senate was appointed prime minister was 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).
Malcolm Turnbull has held the office of Prime Minister since 15 September 2015. He received his commission after replacing Tony Abbott as the leader of the Liberal Party, the dominant party in the Coalition government, following the outcome of the September 2015 Liberal leadership ballot.
The Prime Minister of Australia is appointed by the Governor-General of Australia under Section 64 of the Australian Constitution, which empowers the Governor-General to appoint government ministers and requires them to be members of the House of Representatives or the Senate, or become members within three months of the appointment. The Prime Minister and Treasurer are traditionally members of the House, but the Constitution does not have such a requirement. Before being sworn in as a Minister of the Crown, 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 style of The Honourable (usually abbreviated to The Hon) for life, barring exceptional circumstances. The senior members of the Executive Council constitute the Cabinet of Australia.
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 of Australia), 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. The formal title of the portfolio has always been simply "Prime Minister", except for the period of the Fourth Deakin Ministry (June 1909 to April 1910), when it was known as "Prime Minister (without portfolio)".
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 immediately advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives and hold a fresh election.
Following a resignation in other circumstances, or the death of a prime minister, the governor-general will generally appoint as prime minister the person elected as leader by the governing party or, in the case of a coalition, the senior party in the coalition. There have been four notable exceptions to this:
There were only three 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 being head of Government. 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 formal power to appoint the Governor-General lies with the Queen of Australia, but this appointment is done on the formal advice of the Prime Minister. By convention, this advice is provided by the Prime Minister alone, and thus the appointment is effectively the Prime Minister's personal choice. The Prime Minister may also advise the monarch to dismiss the Governor-General, though it remains unclear how quickly the monarch would act on such advice in a constitutional crisis. This uncertainty, and the possibility of a "race" between the Governor-General and Prime Minister to sack the other, was a key question in the 1975 constitutional crisis.
The power of the prime minister is subject to a number of limitations. Prime ministers removed as leader of his or her party, or whose government loses a vote of no-confidence in the House of Representatives, must advise an election of the lower house or 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 passage of the government's legislation through the House of Representatives is mostly a formality. Attaining the support of the Senate can be more difficult as government usually lacks an absolute majority because the Senate's representation is based on overall proportion of votes and often includes minor parties.
On 1 July 2013, the Australian Government's Remuneration Tribunal adjusted the Prime Ministerial salary, raising it to its current amount of $507,338.
Whilst in office, the prime minister has two official residences. The primary official residence is The Lodge in Canberra. Most prime ministers have chosen The Lodge as their primary residence because of its security facilities and close proximity to Parliament House. There have been some exceptions, however. Jim Scullin preferred to live at the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt Hotel) and Ben Chifley lived in the Hotel Kurrajong. More recently, John Howard used the Sydney prime ministerial residence, Kirribilli House, as his primary accommodation. On her appointment on 24 June 2010, Julia Gillard said she would not be living in The Lodge until such time as she was returned to office by popular vote at the next general election. (She became prime minister mid-term after replacing the incumbent, Kevin Rudd, who resigned in the face of an unwinnable party-room ballot.) During his first term, Rudd had 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. The official residences are fully staffed and catered for both the prime minister and his or her family. In addition, both have extensive security facilities. These residences are regularly used for official entertaining, such as receptions for Australian of the Year finalists.
The prime minister receives a number of transport amenities for official business. The Royal Australian Air Force's No. 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 an office, conference room and sleeping compartments. The call-sign for the aircraft is "Envoy". For ground travel, the prime minister is transported in an armoured BMW 7 Series model. It is referred to as "C-1", or Commonwealth One, because of its licence plate. It is escorted by police vehicles from state and federal authorities.
Prime ministers are usually granted certain privileges after leaving office, such as office accommodation, staff assistance, and a Life Gold Pass, which entitles the holder to travel within Australia for "non-commercial" purposes at government expense.
Only one prime minister who had left the Federal Parliament ever returned. Stanley Bruce was defeated in his own seat in 1929 while prime minister, but was re-elected to parliament in 1931. Other prime ministers were elected to parliaments other than the Australian federal parliament: Sir George Reid was elected to the UK House of Commons (after his term as High Commissioner to the UK); and Frank Forde was re-elected to the Queensland Parliament (after his term as High Commissioner to Canada, and a failed attempt to re-enter the Federal Parliament).
Acting and interim prime ministers
From time to time prime ministers are required to leave the country on government business and a deputy acts in their place during that time. In the days before jet aircraft, such absences could be for extended periods. For example, William Watt was acting prime minister for 16 months, from April 1918 until August 1919, when Prime Minister Billy Hughes was away at the Paris Peace Conference, and Senator George Pearce was acting Prime Minister for more than seven months in 1916. An acting Prime Minister is also appointed when the prime minister takes leave. The Deputy Prime Minister most commonly becomes acting Prime Minister in those circumstances.
Three prime ministers have died in office – Joseph Lyons (1939), John Curtin (1945) and Harold Holt (1967) – and Robert Menzies resigned as Prime Minister in 1941. In each of these cases the Deputy Prime Minister (an unofficial office at the time) became an interim Prime Minister, pending an election of a new leader of the government party. In none of these cases was the interim Prime Minister successful at the subsequent election, however, The United Party agreed to make Arthur Fadden the Prime Minister, and leader of the Coalition, despite the fact that he was leader of the Party of the Junior Members
The powers and duties of an acting or interim Prime Minister is analogous to that of a caretaker Prime Minister.
Former prime ministers
As of March 2017, there are six living former Australian Prime Ministers.
The greatest number of living former prime ministers at any one time was eight. This has occurred twice:
Of the other Prime Ministers, Ben Chifley died only one year and six months after leaving the prime ministership and Alfred Deakin lived another nine years and five months.
All the others who have left office have lived at least another 10 years. Nine of them (Bruce, Cook, Fadden, Forde, Fraser, Gorton, Hughes, Watson, and Whitlam) lived more than 25 years after leaving the office, and all but one of them have survived longer than 30 years (Hughes lived for 29 years and 8 months following service).
The longest-surviving was Gough Whitlam, who lived 38 years and 11 months after office, surpassing Stanley Bruce's previous record of 37 years and 10 months after leaving the office.
John Curtin is the only prime minister to serve time in prison (three days for failing to comply with an order for a compulsory medical examination for conscription, during World War I).
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:
Rank by time in office
The longest serving prime minister was Sir Robert Menzies, who served in office twice: from 26 April 1939 to 28 August 1941, and again from 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966. In total Robert Menzies spent 18 years, 5 months and 12 days in office. He served under the United Australia Party and the Liberal Party respectively.
The shortest-serving prime minister was Frank Forde, who was appointed to the position on 6 July 1945 after the death of John Curtin, and served until 13 July 1945 when Ben Chifley was elected leader of the Australian Labor Party.
This is a list of Prime Ministers of Australia by time in office. The basis of the list is the inclusive number of days from being sworn in until leaving office.
Australian Labor Party Liberal Party of Australia Australian Country Party Nationalist Party of Australia
United Australia Party Commonwealth Liberal Party National Labor Party Free Trade Party Protectionist Party