1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Contents >> Government >> Australian Government

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.


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. 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.
Image: Rt Hon Sir Edmund Barton
Image: Hon Alfred Deakin
Image: John Christian Watson
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
Image: Rt Hon Sir George Houstoun Reid
Image: Rt Hon Andrew Fisher
Image: Rt Hon Sir Joseph Cook
Rt Hon Sir George Houstoun Reid,

Free Trade politician, Premier of NSW
Rt Hon Andrew Fisher,
Labor politician
Rt Hon Sir Joseph Cook,

Conservative and Nationalist politician
1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15
Image: Rt Hon William Morris (Billy) Hughes
Image: Rt Hon Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne
Image: Rt Hon James Henry Scullin
Rt Hon William Morris (Billy) Hughes,

Labor and Nationalist politician
Rt Hon Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne,

Nationalist politician
Rt Hon James Henry Scullin,
Labor politician
Image: Rt Hon Joseph Aloysius Lyons
Image: Rt Hon Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page
Image: The Rt Hon Sir Robert Gordon Menzies
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,

United Party of Australia, later Liberal Party politician
1939–41, 1949–66
Image: Rt Hon Sir Arthur William Fadden
Image: Rt Hon John Joseph Curtin
Image: Rt Hon Francis Michael (Frank) Forde
Rt Hon Sir Arthur William Fadden,
Country Party politician
Rt Hon John Joseph Curtin,
Labor politician
Rt Hon Francis Michael (Frank) Forde,
Labor politician, Caretaker Prime Minister in July
Image: Rt Hon Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley
Image: Rt Hon Harold Edward Holt
Image: Rt Hon Sir John (Jack) McEwen
Rt Hon Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley,
Labor politician
Rt Hon Harold Edward Holt,

Liberal politician
Rt Hon Sir John (Jack) McEwen,

Country Party politician, Deputy Prime Minister 195871 and Caretaker Prime Minister for three weeks
Image: Rt Hon Sir John Grey Gorton
Image: Rt Hon Sir William McMahon
Image: The Hon Edward Gough Whitlam
Rt Hon Sir John Grey Gorton,

Liberal politician
Rt Hon Sir William McMahon,

Liberal politician
The Hon Edward Gough Whitlam,

Labor politician
Image: Rt Hon John Malcolm Fraser
Image: Hon Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke
Image: The Hon Paul John Keating
Rt Hon John Malcolm Fraser,

Liberal politician
Hon Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke,

Labor politician
The Hon Paul John Keating,
Labor politician
Image: Hon John Winston Howard
Hon John Winston Howard,
Liberal politician
    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
    Kings Council
    Knight of the Thistle
    Military Cross
    Privy Councillor
    Queens Council

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 - September 2007

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 Liberal-Nationals

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 Fourth Howard Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers and the outer ministry, are shown in table 4.2.

4.2 FOURTH HOWARD MINISTRY - September 2007

Cabinet ministers

Prime Minister The Hon. John Howard MP
Minister for Transport and Regional Services (Deputy Prime Minister) The Hon. Mark Vaile MP
Treasurer The Hon. Peter Costello MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon. Alexander Downer MP
Minister for Trade The Hon. Warren Truss MP
Minister for Finance and Administration Senator the Hon. Nick Minchin MP
Minister for Health and Ageing The Hon. Tony Abbott MP
Attorney-General The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan
Minister for Defence The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson MP
Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources The Hon. Ian Macfarlane MP
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship The Hon. Kevin Andrews MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry The Hon. Peter McGauran MP
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs The Hon. Mal Brough MP
Minister for Education, Science and Training and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women's Issues The Hon. Julie Bishop MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations The Hon. Joe Hockey MP
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Minister for Human Services Senator the Hon. Chris Ellison


Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads The Hon. Jim Lloyd MP
Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer The Hon. Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence The Hon. Bruce Billson MP
Special Minister of State The Hon. Gary Nairn MP
Minister for Ageing The Hon. Christopher Pyne MP
Minister for Justice and Customs Senator the Hon. David Johnston
Minister for the Arts and Sport Senator the Hon. George Brandis
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz
Minister for Community Services Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion
Minister for Small Business and Tourism The Hon. Fran Bailey MP
Minister for Workforce Participation The Hon. Dr Sharman Stone MP
Minister for Vocational and Further Education The Hon. Andrew Robb AO 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 KM Rudd MP (Australian Labor Party) has been Leader of the Opposition since 4 December 2006.

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