1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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Contents >> Chapter 2 - Government >> The Australian Government



The office of Prime Minister is not recognised by the Constitution, being a conventional part of the governmental arrangements. It is 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 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 2.1.


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.


Number of
MinistryPeriod 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
13-14Hughes17 February 1917 to 9 February 1923Nationalist
15Bruce -Page9 February 1923 to 22 October 1929Nationalist -Country Party
16Scullin22 October 1929 to 6 January 1932Australian Labor Party
17-18Lyons6 January 1932 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
21-22Menzies14 March 1940 to 29 August 1941United Australia Party -Country Party
23Fadden29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941Country Party -United Australia Party
24-25Curtin7 October 1941 to 6 July 1945Australian Labor Party
26Forde6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945Australian Labor Party
27-28Chifley13 July 1945 to 19 December 1949Australian Labor Party
29-33Menzies19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966Liberal -Country Party
34-35Holt26 January 1966 to 19 December 1967Liberal -Country Party
36McEwen19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968Liberal -Country Party
37-39Gorton10 January 1968 to 10 March 1971Liberal -Country Party
40McMahon10 March 1971 to 5 December 1972Liberal -Country Party
41-43Whitlam5 December 1972 to 11 November 1975Australian Labor Party
44-48Fraser11 November 1975 to 11 March 1983Liberal -Country Party
49-52Hawke11 March 1983 to 20 December 1991Australian Labor Party
53-55Keating20 December 1991 to 11 March 1996Australian Labor Party
56-59Howard11 March 1996 Liberal -Nationals

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Particulars of the Fourth Howard Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers, other ministers and parliamentary secretaries are shown in table 2.2.



Prime MinisterThe Hon. John Howard, MP
Minister for Trade (Deputy Prime Minister)The Hon. Mark Vaile, MP
TreasurerThe Hon. Peter Costello, MP
Minister for Foreign AffairsThe Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
Minister for DefenceSenator the Hon. Robert Hill
Minister for Finance and AdministrationSenator the Hon. Nick Minchin, MP
Minister for Health and AgeingThe Hon. Tony Abbott, MP
Attorney-GeneralThe Hon. Philip Ruddock, MP
Minister for the Environment and HeritageSenator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Minister for Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts
Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan
Minister for Transport and Regional ServicesThe Hon. Warren Truss, MP
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and
Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the
Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone
Minister for Education, Science and TrainingThe Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson, MP
Minister for Family and Community Services
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for
Women's Issues
Senator the Hon. Kay Patterson
Minister for Industry, Tourism and ResourcesThe Hon. Ian Macfarlane, MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the
Public Service
The Hon. Kevin Andrews, MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestryThe Hon. Peter McGauran, MP


Minister for Vocational and Technical Education
and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister
The Hon. Gary Hardgrave, MP
Minister for Local Government, Territories and
The Hon. Jim Lloyd, MP
Minister for Revenue and Assistant TreasurerThe Hon. Mal Brough, MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister
Assisting the Minister for Defence
The Hon. De-Anne Kelly MP
Minister for Human ServicesThe Hon. Joe Hockey, MP
Special Minister of StateSenator the Hon. Eric Abetz
Minister for AgeingThe Hon. Julie Bishop, MP
Minister for Justice and CustomsSenator the Hon. Chris Ellison
Minister for the Arts and SportSenator the Hon. Rod Kemp
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and ConservationSenator the Hon. Ian Macdonald
Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural AffairsThe Hon. John Cobb, MP
Minister for Small Business and TourismThe Hon. Fran Bailey, MP
Minister for Workforce ParticipationThe Hon. Peter Dutton, MP


Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime MinisterThe Hon. Gary Nairn, MP
Parliamentary Secretary (Trade)Senator the Hon Sandy Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the TreasurerThe Hon. Chris Pearce, MP
Parliamentary Secretary (Foreign Affairs) and
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for
Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
The Hon. Bruce Billson, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for DefenceThe Hon. Teresa Gambaro, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance
and Administration
The Hon. Dr Sharman Stone, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health
and Ageing
The Hon. Christopher Pyne, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the
Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry
Senator The Hon. Richard Colbeck
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education,
Science and Training
The Hon. Pat Farmer, MP
Parliamentary Secretary (Children and Youth Affairs)The Hon. Sussan Ley, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry,
Tourism and Resources
The Hon. Warren Entsch, MP

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

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