Prime Minister of Australia

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File:Ac.bartonministry.jpg
The first Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton (sitting second from left), with his Cabinet, 1901

The office of Prime Minister is in practice the most powerful political office in the Commonwealth of Australia.

By convention, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party or coalition which has the most seats in the lower house of the Federal Parliament, the House of Representatives. In times of constitutional crisis, however, this convention can be broken if necessary; this has occurred twice. At the time of Federation, no parliament had yet been established, so Edmund Barton was temporarily appointed as Prime Minister until elections were held. More controversially, during the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975, Malcolm Fraser was appointed to replace Gough Whitlam.

The formal holder of executive power in the Commonwealth is the Governor-General. However, by convention the Governor-General can only act on the Prime Minister's advice. The Governor-General appoints and can dismiss the Prime Minister and the other ministers, though his power to do so is heavily circumscribed by convention.

The office of Prime Minister is nowhere mentioned in the Australian Constitution, although it does provide for the Governor-General to be advised by ministers. However, since the framers of the Australian constitution from the beginning intended it to largely follow the Westminster system, the office of Prime Minister has existed since the inauguration of the Commonwealth.

The Prime Minister chairs the Cabinet, a council of ministers where executive decision-making occurs. Like the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is nowhere explicitly provided for in the Australian Constitution. The intention nonetheless was for it always to exist, again following the Westminster model.

File:Ac.howardministry.jpg
The current (25th) Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard (sitting, fifth from left), with his Cabinet, 1999

The Australian Constitution does explicitly provide for the Executive Council, which is composed of the Governor-General and the Ministers. (Former Ministers are also technically members, although only current members are invited to attend its meetings.) The Executive Council makes no real decisions, serving mainly to give formal approval to decisions of Cabinet. This separation between the Executive Council and the Cabinet is similar to that existing between the Privy Council and Cabinet in the United Kingdom, or between the Canadian Privy Council and the Cabinet in Canada.

The power of the Prime Minister is subject to a number of limitations. A Prime Minister may be removed as leader of his party and thus lose the support of the lower house. If this occurs, he must resign the office or be dismissed by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister must receive the support of both houses of Parliament to pass any legislation (though secondary legislation, called Regulations, can be made by ministerial decree). While the Prime Minister normally will have a majority in the House of Representatives, attaining the support of the Senate can be more difficult, since there the Government will often be in a minority.

So, while the Prime Minister's formal powers are minimal, his practical powers as chief spokesperson for the government and leader of the strongest party in parliament in the relatively rigid Australian party system are very considerable.

The Prime Minister's official residence is The Lodge in Canberra.

List of Prime Ministers of Australia

The parties shown are those to which the Prime Ministers belonged at the time they held office, and the electorates shown are those they represented at the time they held office. Several Prime Ministers belonged to other parties and represented other electorates before and after their Prime Ministerships.

Note: the Electoral Division of Ballaarat was spelled with a double A until 1977.

NoNameBornFirst
elected
PartyElectorateAssumed
office
Left
office
Left
Parliament
Died
1 Edmund Barton 18 January 184929 March 1901 Protectionist Hunter, NSW 1 January 190124 September 1903resigned
30 September 1903
7 January 1920
2 Alfred Deakin 3 August 1856 29 March 1901 ProtectionistBallaarat, Vic24 September 190327 April 1904(see below)(see below)
3 Chris Watson 9 April 186729 March 1901 LaborBland, NSW27 April 190418 August 1904retired
19 February 1910
11 November 1941
4 Sir George Reid 25 February 184529 March 1901 Free TradeEast Sydney, NSW18 August 1904 5 July 1905resigned
24 November 1909
13 September 1918
- Alfred Deakin (see above)(see above)(see above)(see above) 5 July 1905 13 November 1908 (see below)(see below)
5 Andrew Fisher 29 August 186229 March 1901 LaborWide Bay, Qld13 November 1908 2 June 1909(see below)(see below)
- Alfred Deakin (see above)(see above) Comwlth Liberal(see above) 2 June 1909 29 April 1910retired
23 April 1913
7 October 1919
- Andrew Fisher (see above)(see above)(see above)(see above)29 April 191024 June 1913(see below)(see below)
6 Joseph Cook 7 December 186029 March 1901 Comwlth LiberalParramatta, NSW 24 June 191317 September 1914resigned
11 November 1921
30 July 1947
- Andrew Fisher (see above)(see above)(see above)(see above)17 September 191427 October 1915resigned
26 October 1915
22 October 1928
7 Billy Hughes 25 September 186229 March 1901 LaborWest Sydney, NSW27 October 191514 November 1916(see below)(see below)
- Billy Hughes(see above)(see above) National Labor (see above) 14 November 191617 February 1917(see below)(see below)
- Billy Hughes(see above)(see above) NationalistBendigo, Vic17 February 19179 February 1923died
28 October 1952
28 October 1952
8 Stanley Bruce 15 April 188311 May 1918 NationalistFlinders, Vic9 February 192322 October 1929resigned
6 October 1933
25 August 1967
9 James Scullin 18 September 187613 April 1910 LaborYarra, Vic22 October 19296 January 1932retired
31 October 1949
28 January 1953
10 Joseph Lyons 15 September 1879 12 October 1929 United AustraliaWilmot, Tas6 January 19327 April 1939died
7 April 1939
7 April 1939
11 Sir Earle Page 8 August 1880 12 December 1919 CountryCowper, NSW7 April 193926 April 1939defeated
9 December 1961
20 December 1961
12 Robert Menzies 20 December 1894 15 September 1934 United AustraliaKooyong, Vic26 April 193928 August 1941(see below)(see below)
13 Arthur Fadden 13 April 1895 19 December 1936 CountryDarling Downs, Qld28 August 19417 October 1941retired
14 October 1958
21 April 1973
14 John Curtin 8 January 1885 17 November 1928 Labor Fremantle, WA7 October 19415 July 1945died
5 July 1945
5 July 1945
15 Frank Forde 18 July 1890 16 December 1922 LaborCapricornia, Qld6 July 194513 July 1945defeated
28 September 1946
28 January 1983
16 Ben Chifley 22 September 1885 17 November 1928 LaborMacquarie, NSW13 July 194519 December 1949died
13 June 1951
13 June 1951
- Sir Robert Menzies (see above) (see above) Liberal (see above)19 December 194926 January 1966resigned
17 February 1966
15 May 1978
17 Harold Holt 5 August 1908 17 August 1935 LiberalHiggins, Vic26 January 196619 December 1967presumed
dead
19 December 1967
19 December 1967
18 John McEwen 29 March 1900 15 September 1934 Country Murray, Vic19 December 196710 January 1968resigned
1 February 1971
20 November 1980
19 John Gorton 9 September 1911 22 February 1950 Liberal Higgins, Vic10 January 196810 March 1971retired
11 November 1975
19 May 2002
20 William McMahon 23 February 1908 10 December 1949 LiberalLowe, NSW10 March 19715 December 1972resigned
4 January 1982
31 March 1988
21 Gough Whitlam 11 July 1916 29 November 1952 LaborWerriwa, NSW5 December 197211 November 1975dismissed
31 July 1978
-
22 Malcolm Fraser 21 May 1930 10 December 1955 Liberal Wannon, Vic11 November 197511 March 1983resigned
31 March 1983
-
23 Bob Hawke 9 December 1929 18 October 1980 LaborWills, Vic11 March 198320 December 1991resigned
20 February 1992
-
24 Paul Keating 18 January 1944 25 October 1969 Labor Blaxland, NSW20 December 199111 March 1996resigned
23 April 1996
-
25 John Howard 26 July 1939 18 May 1974 LiberalBennelong, NSW11 March 1996---

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