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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Government >> The Commonwealth Government

Prime Minister

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 incoming Prime Minister then goes about the process of finding members of his or her parliamentary party or coalition to serve as ministers in the Government.

The office of Prime Minister is not recognised by the formal Constitution, being a conventional part of the constitutional arrangements.

The Prime Minister has the following powers:

  • nominates the Governor-General
  • is the sole source of formal advice for the Governor-General
  • advises the Governor-General when Parliament should be dissolved
  • has responsibility for setting the date for House of Representatives elections
  • allocates positions in the Cabinet
  • is chairperson of Cabinet.


It is customary for all ministers to be members of parliament, and if a minister is not, it is obligatory for that minister to become an MP within three months of his/her appointment. Reshuffles of the ministry may occur at any time between elections. Ministers are invariably members of the same party or coalition as the Prime Minister.

The 56 Commonwealth ministries since Federation are listed in table 2.1.

In most cases, new governments are formed after general elections have been held to determine the composition of the House. A new government could also be formed on any occasion between elections if the majority party changes its leader, or loses its majority (e.g. as a result of a by-election), or is defeated in an important vote in the House.


In practice, government policy is determined by the most senior ministers meeting in a body known as Cabinet. Such meetings are chaired by the Prime Minister. The Governor-General does not attend such meetings. Cabinet is not a body that is recognised by the formal Constitution, being a conventional part of the constitutional arrangements. Despite this, Cabinet effectively controls not only the legislative program, but also the departments of state. In effect, therefore, Cabinet is the dominant political and administrative element in Australia's national government. Ministers not included in Cabinet are referred to collectively as the Outer Ministry.


Number of ministryMinistryPeriod of officeParty

1Barton1 January 1901 to 24 September 1903Protectionist
2Deakin24 September 1903 to 27 April 1904Protectionist
3Watson27 April 1904 to 17 August 1904Australian Labor Party
4Reid-McLean18 August 1904 to 5 July 1905Free Trade-Protectionist
5Deakin5 July 1905 to 13 November 1908Protectionist
6Fisher13 November 1908 to 2 June 1909Australian Labor Party
7Deakin2 June 1909 to 29 April 1910Protectionist-Free Trade-Tariff Reform
8Fisher29 April 1910 to 24 June 1913Australian Labor Party
9Cook24 June 1913 to 17 September 1914Liberal
10Fisher17 September 1914 to 27 October 1915Australian Labor Party
11Hughes27 October 1915 to 14 November 1916Australian Labor Party
12Hughes14 November 1916 to 17 February 1917Nationalist Labour
13Hughes17 February 1917 to 8 January 1918Nationalist
14Hughes10 January 1918 to 9 February 1923Nationalist
15Bruce-Page9 February 1923 to 22 October 1929Nationalist-Country Party
16Scullin22 October 1929 to 6 January 1932Australian Labor Party
17Lyons6 January 1932 to 7 November 1938United Australia Party
18Lyons7 November 1938 to 7 April 1939United Australia Party
19Page7 April 1939 to 26 April 1939Country Party-United Australia Party
20Menzies26 April 1939 to 14 March 1940United Australia Party
21Menzies14 March 1940 to 28 October 1940United Australia Party-Country Party
22Menzies28 October 1940 to 29 August 1941United Australia Party-Country Party
23Fadden29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941Country Party-United Australia Party
24Curtin7 October 1941 to 21 September 1943Australian Labor Party
25Curtin21 September 1943 to 6 July 1945Australian Labor Party
26Forde6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945Australian Labor Party
27Chifley13 July 1945 to 1 November 1946Australian Labor Party
28Chifley1 November 1946 to 19 December 1949Australian Labor Party
29Menzies19 December 1949 to 11 May 1951Liberal-Country Party
30Menzies11 May 1951 to 11 January 1956Liberal-Country Party
31Menzies11 January 1956 to 10 December 1958Liberal-Country Party
32Menzies10 December 1958 to 18 December 1963Liberal-Country Party
33Menzies18 December 1963 to 26 January 1966Liberal-Country Party
34Holt26 January 1966 to 14 December 1966Liberal-Country Party
35Holt14 December 1966 to 19 December 1967Liberal-Country Party
36McEwen19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968Liberal-Country Party
37Gorton10 January 1968 to 28 February 1968Liberal-Country Party
38Gorton28 February 1968 to 12 November 1969Liberal-Country Party
39Gorton12 November 1969 to 10 March 1971Liberal-Country Party
40McMahon10 March 1971 to 5 December 1972Liberal-Country Party
41Whitlam5 December 1972 to 19 December 1972Australian Labor Party
42Whitlam19 December 1972 to 11 November 1975Australian Labor Party
43Fraser11 November 1975 to 22 December 1975Liberal-Country Party
44Fraser22 December 1975 to 20 December 1977Liberal-Country Party
45Fraser20 December 1977 to 3 November 1980Liberal-Country Party
46Fraser3 November 1980 to 7 May 1982Liberal-Country Party
47Fraser7 May 1982 to 11 March 1983Liberal-Country Party
48Hawke11 March 1983 to 13 December 1984Australian Labor Party
49Hawke13 December 1984 to 24 July 1987Australian Labor Party
50Hawke24 July 1987 to 4 April 1990Australian Labor Party
51Hawke4 April 1990 to 20 December 1991Australian Labor Party
52Keating20 December 1991 to 24 March 1993Australian Labor Party
53Keating24 March 1993 to 11 March 1996Australian Labor Party
54Howard11 March 1996 to 21 October 1998Liberal-National Party of Australia
55Howard21 October 1998 to 26 November 2001Liberal-National Party of Australia
56Howard26 November 2001Liberal-National Party of Australia

Source: Department of the Parliamentary Library.

Particulars of the Third Howard Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers and the Outer Ministry, are shown in table 2.2.



Prime MinisterThe Hon. J W Howard, MP
Minister for Transport and Regional Services and Deputy Prime MinisterThe Hon. JD Anderson, MP
TreasurerThe Hon. PH Costello, MP
Minister for TradeThe Hon. MA Vaile, MP
Minister for Foreign AffairsThe Hon. AJG Downer, MP
Minister for Defence and Leader of the Government in the SenateSenator the Hon. RM Hill
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, and Deputy Leader of the Government in the SenateSenator the Hon. RKR Alston
Minister for Employment and Workplace RelationsThe Hon. AJ Abbott, MP
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous AffairsThe Hon. PM Ruddock, MP
Minister for the Environment and Heritage (Vice-President of the Executive Council)The Hon. Dr DA Kemp, MP
Attorney-GeneralThe Hon. DR Williams, AM, QC, MP
Minister for Finance and AdministrationThe Hon. NH Minchin, MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestryThe Hon. WE Truss, MP
Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of WomenSenator the Hon. AE Vanstone
Minister for Education, Science and TrainingThe Hon. Dr BJ Nelson, MP
Minister for Health and AgeingSenator the Hon. KCL Patterson
Minister for Industry, Tourism and ResourcesThe Hon. IE Macfarlane, MP


Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local GovernmentThe Hon. CW Tuckey, MP
Minister for Revenue and Assistant TreasurerSenator the Hon. HL Coonan
Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for DefenceThe Hon. DS Vale, MP
Minister for the Arts and SportsSenator the Hon. CR Kemp
Minister for Employment ServicesThe Hon. MT Brough, MP
Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural AffairsThe Hon. GD Hargrave, MP
Minister for Justice and CustomsSenator the Hon. CM Ellison
Special Minister of StateSenator the Hon. E Abetz
Minister for Forestry and ConservationSenator the Hon. ID Macdonald
Minister for Children and Youth AffairsThe Hon. LJ Anthony, MP
Minister for Science (Deputy Leader of the House)The Hon. PJ McGauran, MP
Minister for AgeingThe Hon. KJ Andrews, MP
Minister for Small Business and TourismThe Hon. JB Hockey, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime MinisterThe Hon. JM Kelly, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the CabinetThe Hon. PN Slipper, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional ServicesSenator the Hon. RLD Boswell
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer (Manager of Government Business in the Senate)Senator the Hon. IG Campbell
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign AffairsThe Hon. CA Gallus, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for DefenceThe Hon. FE Bailey, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and HeritageThe Hon. Dr SN Stone, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and AdministrationThe Hon. PN Slipper, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestrySenator the Hon. JM Troeth
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Family and Community ServicesThe Hon. RA Cameron, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and AgeingThe Hon. PM Worth, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and ResourcesMr WG Entsch, MP

Source: Department of the Parliamentary Library.

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