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Prime Minister

Fact Sheet – Prime Minister [PDF 313kb, 2 pages]

The Prime Minister is the leader of the Australian Government and the leader of the nation. By convention, the Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives who leads the parliamentary party, or coalition of parties, with the support of the majority of members in the House.

Choosing the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is chosen by a vote of the members of the government. The Prime Minister can keep their job as long as they are a member of parliament and retain the support of the government.

Australia has no maximum period of service for a Prime Minister, unlike countries such as the United States, where the President can only serve for two four-year terms.

Role

The Prime Minister is the most powerful person in Parliament. They have many tasks, including:

  • chairing meetings in which the government discusses policies and examines bills (proposed laws)
  • selecting members of the government to be ministers
  • leading Cabinet (Prime Minister and ministers) in deciding government policy
  • acting as the chief government spokesperson
  • representing the Australian Government overseas
  • advising the Governor-General about important issues such as the appointment of ambassadors and heads of government departments
  • advising the Governor-General about constitutional matters
  • deciding when to call a federal election and leading the government in the election.

House of Representatives

When in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister sits at the central table in front of the government and directly opposite the Leader of the Opposition. As the head of the Australian Government, they take the lead in presenting major speeches to Parliament about government policy and answering many questions directed to the government during Question Time (see Question Time).

The Australian Constitution

Although the Prime Minister is often seen as the most important person in the Parliament, the role is not mentioned in the Australian Constitution. The Prime Minister works according to practices and customs that developed over hundreds of years in the British Parliament and were then adopted by the Australian Parliament.

The Prime Minister's residences

There are two official residences that can be used by the Prime Minister and their family:

  • The Lodge, in Canberra
  • Kirribilli House, in Sydney.

History

The Hon Tony Abbott MP is the current Prime Minister.

Australia has had 28 prime ministers.
NAMEPARTYTERM
Sir Edmund Barton Protectionist 01.01.1901 – 24.09.1903
Alfred Deakin (1st time) Protectionist 24.09.1903 – 27.04.1904
John Watson Australian Labor Party 27.04.1904 – 17.08.1904
Sir George Reid Free Trade* 18.08.1904 – 05.07.1905
Alfred Deakin (2nd time) Protectionist* 05.07.1905 – 13.11.1908
Andrew Fisher (1st time) Australian Labor Party 13.11.1908 – 02.06.1909
Alfred Deakin (3rd time) Protectionist 02.06.1909 – 29.04.1910
Andrew Fisher (2nd time) Australian Labor Party 29.04.1910 – 24.06.1913
Sir Joseph Cook The Liberal Party 24.06.1913 – 17.09.1914
Andrew Fisher (3rd time) Australian Labor Party 17.09.1914 – 27.10.1915
William (Billy) Hughes Australian Labor Party
National Labor
Nationalist Party
27.10.1915 – 14.11.1916
14.11.1916 – 17.02.1917
17.02.1917 – 09.02.1923
Stanley Bruce Nationalist Party* 09.02.1923 – 22.10.1929
James Scullin Australian Labor Party 22.10.1929 – 06.01.1932
Joseph Lyons United Australia Party
United Australia Party *
06.01.1932 – 09.11.1934
09.11.1934 – 07.04.1939
Earle Page Country Party* 07.04.1939 – 26.04.1939
Sir Robert Menzies (1st time) United Australia Party
United Australia Party *
26.04.1939 – 14.03.1940
14.03.1940 – 29.08.1941
Sir Arthur Fadden Country Party* 29.08.1941 – 07.10.1941
John Curtin Australian Labor Party 07.10.1941 – 05.07.1945
Francis (Frank) Forde Australian Labor Party 06.07.1945 – 13.07.1945
Joseph (Ben) Chifley Australian Labor Party 13.07.1945 – 19.12.1949
Sir Robert Menzies (2nd time) Liberal Party of Australia* 19.12.1949 – 26.01.1966
Harold Holt Liberal Party of Australia* 26.01.1966 – 19.12.1967
John McEwen Country Party* 19.12.1967 – 10.01.1968
John Gorton Liberal Party of Australia* 10.01.1968 – 10.03.1971
Sir William (Billy) McMahon Liberal Party of Australia* 10.03.1971 – 05.12.1972
Edward (Gough) Whitlam Australian Labor Party 05.12.1972 – 11.11.1975
John (Malcolm) Fraser Liberal Party of Australia* 11.11.1975 – 11.03.1983
Robert (Bob) Hawke Australian Labor Party 11.03.1983 – 20.12.1991
Paul Keating Australian Labor Party 20.12.1991 – 11.03.1996
John Howard Liberal Party of Australia* 11.03.1996 – 3.12.2007
Kevin Rudd (1st time) Australian Labor Party 03.12.2007 – 24.06.2010
Julia Gillard Australian Labor Party 24.06.2010 – 27.06.2013
Kevin Rudd (2nd time) Australian Labor Party 27.06.2013 – 18.09.2013
Tony Abbott Liberal Party of Australia* 18.09.2013 – Present

*Coalition government

Note: The Liberal Party is a different party to the Liberal Party of Australia.

Source: Australian Electoral Commission website

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