Note: This web page was updated on 4/3/2008 to correct an error in the name of 'Alfred Deakin'. No other changes were made.
The office of Prime Minister is not recognised by the Constitution, being a conventional part of the governmental arrangements. It is also a matter of convention that the Prime Minister is always a member of the House of Representatives.
After an election, the Governor-General sends for the leader of the party, or coalition, which has secured a majority in the House of Representatives, and commissions that person to assume the office of Prime Minister and to form a government.
The Prime Minister has the following powers:
- advising the Sovereign on the appointment of the Governor-General
- acting as the sole source of formal advice for the Governor-General
- advising the Governor-General as to when Parliament should be dissolved
- setting the date for House of Representatives elections
- allocating positions in the Cabinet
- chairing Cabinet meetings.
The Hon. JW Howard MP (Liberal Party of Australia) has been Prime Minister since 11 March 1996.
Pictures of all holders of the office of Prime Minister of Australia can be found below.
Rt Hon Sir Edmund Barton,
First Prime Minister of Australia
Hon Alfred Deakin
John Christian Watson,
1st Labor Party Prime Minister
1903–04, 1905–08, 1909–10
Rt Hon Sir George Houstoun Reid,
Free Trade politician, Premier of NSW
Rt Hon Andrew Fisher,
Rt Hon Sir Joseph Cook,
Conservative and Nationalist politician
1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15
Rt Hon William Morris (Billy) Hughes,
Labor and Nationalist politician
Rt Hon Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne,
CH, MC, FRS, PC
Rt Hon James Henry Scullin,
Rt Hon Joseph Aloysius Lyons,
United Australia Party politician
Rt Hon Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page,
Country Party politician, Caretaker Prime Minister
The Rt Hon Sir Robert Gordon Menzies,
KT, AK, CH, FRS, QC
United Party of Australia, later Liberal Party politician
Rt Hon Sir Arthur William Fadden,
Country Party politician
Rt Hon John Joseph Curtin,
Rt Hon Francis Michael (Frank) Forde,
Labor politician, Caretaker Prime Minister in July
Rt Hon Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley,
Rt Hon Harold Edward Holt,
Rt Hon Sir John (Jack) McEwen,
Country Party politician, Deputy Prime Minister 1958–71 and Caretaker Prime Minister for three weeks
Rt Hon Sir John Grey Gorton,
GCMG, AC, CH
Rt Hon Sir William McMahon,
The Hon Edward Gough Whitlam,
Rt Hon John Malcolm Fraser,
Hon Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke,
The Hon Paul John Keating,
Hon John Winston Howard,
LIST OF HONOURS, AND QUALIFICATIONS AWARDED TO AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTERS
||Companion of the Order of Australia|
||Knight of the Order of Australia|
||Companion of Honour|
||Fellow of the Royal Society|
||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath|
||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George|
||Knight of the Thistle|
The Prime Minister nominates members of his or her parliamentary party or coalition to serve as ministers, responsible for administering government departments such as the Treasury, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Department of Defence. The Constitution requires that all ministers be either a member of the House of Representatives or a Senator. If a new minister is not an MP, it is obligatory for that minister to become an MP within three months of his/her appointment. Ministers may be appointed or replaced at any time between elections.
From time to time certain members of the Commonwealth Parliament have been appointed by governments to assist ministers in their work. Such persons have been known by a variety of designations, including parliamentary under-secretary and assistant minister; the current term is parliamentary secretary.
The ministries since Federation are listed in table 4.1.
Senior ministers are members of the Cabinet, the meetings of which are chaired by the Prime Minister. Cabinet is not a body that is recognised by the Constitution, being a conventional part of the governmental arrangements. Despite this, Cabinet effectively controls not only a government's legislative program, but also government departments of state. In effect, therefore, Cabinet is the dominant political and administrative element in Australia's national government. The Governor-General does not attend Cabinet meetings.
Particulars of the Fourth Howard Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers and the outer ministry, are shown in table 4.2.
In Westminster-derived governments, such as Australia's, the Opposition has a recognised and formal status, being recognised in the Standing Orders of the Parliament and in legislation. The Opposition is seen as the alternative government and typically forms a 'shadow Cabinet' of MPs who prepare themselves to take on the reins of government. The Opposition also has the role of acting as the main critic of the government and of offering to the community an alternative set of policies.
Mr KM Rudd MP (Australian Labor Party) has been Leader of the Opposition since 4 December 2006.