1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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Contents >> Government >> Australian Government


Prime Minister

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 Kevin Rudd MP (Australian Labor Party) has been Prime Minister since 3 December 2007.


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.
4.1 MINISTRIES SINCE 1901– November 2009

Number of ministry Ministry Period of office Party

1 Barton 1 January 1901 to 24 September 1903 Protectionist
2 Deakin 24 September 1903 to 27 April 1904 Protectionist
3 Watson 27 April 1904 to 17 August 1904 Australian Labor Party
4 Reid-McLean 18 August 1904 to 5 July 1905 Free Trade-Protectionist
5 Deakin 5 July 1905 to 13 November 1908 Protectionist
6 Fisher 13 November 1908 to 2 June 1909 Australian Labor Party
7 Deakin 2 June 1909 to 29 April 1910 Protectionist-Free Trade-Tariff Reform
8 Fisher 29 April 1910 to 24 June 1913 Australian Labor Party
9 Cook 24 June 1913 to 17 September 1914 Liberal
10 Fisher 17 September 1914 to 27 October 1915 Australian Labor Party
11 Hughes 27 October 1915 to 14 November 1916 Australian Labor Party
12 Hughes 14 November 1916 to 17 February 1917 Nationalist Labour
13-14 Hughes 17 February 1917 to 9 February 1923 Nationalist
15 Bruce-Page 9 February 1923 to 22 October 1929 Nationalist-Country Party
16 Scullin 22 October 1929 to 6 January 1932 Australian Labor Party
17-18 Lyons 6 January 1932 to 7 April 1939 United Australia Party
19 Page 7 April 1939 to 26 April 1939 Country Party-United Australia Party
20 Menzies 26 April 1939 to 14 March 1940 United Australia Party
21-22 Menzies 14 March 1940 to 29 August 1941 United Australia Party-Country Party
23 Fadden 29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941 Country Party-United Australia Party
24-25 Curtin 7 October 1941 to 6 July 1945 Australian Labor Party
26 Forde 6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945 Australian Labor Party
27-28 Chifley 13 July 1945 to 19 December 1949 Australian Labor Party
29-33 Menzies 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966 Liberal-Country Party
34-35 Holt 26 January 1966 to 19 December 1967 Liberal-Country Party
36 McEwen 19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968 Liberal-Country Party
37-39 Gorton 10 January 1968 to 10 March 1971 Liberal-Country Party
40 McMahon 10 March 1971 to 5 December 1972 Liberal-Country Party
41-43 Whitlam 5 December 1972 to 11 November 1975 Australian Labor Party
44-48 Fraser 11 November 1975 to 11 March 1983 Liberal-National Country Party
49-52 Hawke 11 March 1983 to 20 December 1991 Australian Labor Party
53-55 Keating 20 December 1991 to 11 March 1996 Australian Labor Party
56-59 Howard 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007 Liberal-Nationals
60 Rudd 3 December 2007 to Australian Labor Party

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.


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 First Rudd Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers and the outer ministry, are shown in table 4.2.



Prime Minister The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion (Deputy Prime Minister) The Hon. Julia Gillard MP
Treasurer The Hon. Wayne Swan MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon. Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Trade The Hon. Simon Crean MP
Minister for Finance and Administration The Hon. Lindsay Tanner MP
Minister for Health and Ageing The Hon. Nicola Roxon MP
Attorney-General The Hon. Robert McClelland MP
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy
Minister for Defence Senator the Hon. John Faulkner
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Senator the Hon. Kim Carr
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator the Hon. Chris Evans
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry The Hon. Tony Burke MP
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP
Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts The Hon. Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government The Hon. Anthony Albanese MP
Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig
Minister for Climate Change and Water Senator the Hon. Penny Wong
Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism The Hon. Martin Ferguson MP
Minister for Human Services The Hon. Chris Bowen MP


Minister for Home Affairs The Hon. Brendan O'Connor MP
Assistant Treasurer Senator the Hon. Nick Sherry
Minister for Veterans' Affairs The Hon. Alan Griffin MP
Minister for Ageing The Hon. Justine Elliott MP
Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP
Minister for Sport and Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth The Hon. Kate Ellis MP
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister assisting the Minister for Climate Change The Hon. Greg Combet MP
Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law The Hon. Chris Bowen MP
Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs The Hon. Craig Emerson MP
Minister for Employment Participation and Minister assisting the Prime MInister for Government Service Delivery Senator the Hon. Mark Arbib
Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Service Delivery The Hon. Warren Snowdon MP

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

The Opposition

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 Tony Abbott MP (Liberal Party of Australia) has been Leader of the Opposition since 1 December 2009.

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