1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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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, that 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 and
  • chairing Cabinet meetings.

The Hon Julia Gillard MP (Australian Labor Party) has been Prime Minister since 24 June 2010.


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 and 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, 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 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. Particulars of the third Gillard Ministry, comprising Cabinet ministers and the outer ministry, are shown in table 4.2.

4.1 MINISTRIES SINCE 1901—March 2012
NumberMinistryPeriod 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-National 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 to 3 December 2007Liberal-Nationals
60Rudd3 December 2007 to 24 June 2010Australian Labor Party
61–Gillard24 June 2010 toAustralian Labor Party

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Prime MinisterThe Hon. Julia Gillard MP
Treasurer and Deputy Prime MinisterThe Hon. Wayne Swan MP
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and ResearchSenator the Hon. Chris Evans
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and YouthThe Hon. Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Foreign AffairsSenator the Hon. Robert Carr
Minister for Trade and CompetitivenessThe Hon. Dr Craig Emerson MP
Minister for Finance and DeregulationSenator the Hon. Penny Wong
Minister for Health The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP
Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency ManagementThe Hon. Nicola Roxon MP
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital ProductivitySenator the Hon. Stephen Conroy
Minister for DefenceThe Hon. Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Immigration and CitizenshipThe Hon. Chris Bowen MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods RecoverySenator the Hon. Joe Ludwig
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability ReformThe Hon. Jenny Macklin MP
Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small BusinessThe Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and CommunitiesThe Hon. Tony Burke MP
Minister for Infrastructure and TransportThe Hon. Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Minister for Industry and InnovationThe Hon. Greg Combet MP
Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for TourismThe Hon. Martin Ferguson MP
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Social Inclusion and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health ReformThe Hon. Mark Butler MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and SuperannuationThe Hon. Bill Shorten MP
Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the ArtsThe Hon. Simon Crean MP

Minister for Human Services Senator The Hon. Kim Carr
Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence MaterielThe Hon. Jason Clare MP
Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for DeregulationThe Hon. David Bradbury MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZACThe Hon. Warren Snowden MP
Minister for Community Services, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for the Status of WomenThe Hon. Julie Collins MP
Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting for Industry and InnovationSenator the Hon. Kate Lundy
Minister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare The Hon. Kate Ellis MP
Special Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and IntegrityThe Hon. Gary Gray MP

Source: Library of the Commonwealth Parliament.


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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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.