Prime Ministers Of Australia Throughout History

Tony Abott, former prime minister of Australia. Editorial credit: Drop of Light /
Tony Abott, former prime minister of Australia. Editorial credit: Drop of Light /

The government of Australia, also known as the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, is run through a federal parliamentary constitution monarchy. It is divided into the executive arm, legislative arm, and the judicial arm. The queen is head of state of Australia and she is represented by the governor general with executive powers as authorized by the constitutional convention. The governor general heads the executive branch and authorizes powers to the Australian cabinet which is headed by the prime minister. The premier is the head of the government. He also chairs the National Security Council. The article below highlights some people who have held the title of the Prime Minister of Australia.

Prominent Prime Ministers of Australia

Edmund Barton

Edmund Barton was a member of parliament in New South Wales before his appointment as Australia’s first premier. He was a political leader and a judge who was part of the federation movement whose aim was to form the Commonwealth states of Australia which was achieved in the 1890s. He was appointed the prime minister and was sworn in together with his ministers on January 1, 1901. The first mandate of his government was to conduct the first federal election which was held in March 1901. He was a moderate conservative which made him less popular with his Labor Party members. In 1903, he quit the position of prime minister to pursue his career as a judge of the High Court of Australia where he served until his death in 1920.

Joseph Cook

Joseph Cook was the sixth prime minister of Australia and one of the founding members of the Australian Labor party. He was first elected to the parliament of New South Wales in 1891 as MP to represent Hartley. In 1913, the Commonwealth Liberal Party, led by Cook, won the majority seat in the house. However, he could not govern effectively due to a hostile senate that had a Labor Party majority. He triggered a double dissolution after his frustration by the senate which rejected most of his bills resulting in an election in 1914. Cook was defeated during the September 1914 elections by Andrew Fisher’s Labor Party who also succeeded him as the prime minister. Cook served as Australian High Commissioner in London from 1921 to 1927 after his resignation from parliament. He died in 1947.

Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull was the 29th Australian prime minister. He joined politics in 1981 but his attempt to enter the Australian Parliament was not successful as he was defeated in a 1981 election. He first served as the parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party of Australia and later as the opposition leader. He was elected the parliamentary leader and prime minister in 2015. His government was re-elected in 2016. In 2016, Turnbull oversaw the agreement between Australia and the US to swap about 1,250 refugees on Nauru with thousands of refugees originating from Central America. His energy policy has included the wholesale dismissal of the renewable energy target. Turnbull is married to Lucy Hughes and together they have two children.

Appointment and Replacement of the Prime Minister

Despite the significance of the prime minister’s office, the constitution of Australia does not mention the office. The position only exists through longstanding tradition and political convention. However, it is the most powerful parliamentary position in the country. The prime minister is appointed and sworn in by the governor general. The premier is appointed from among the members of the house of representatives or senate. Traditionally the premier has always been appointed from the house although the constitution does not have such requirement. If a prime minister resigns or dies, the governor general will appoint the person elected as leader by the governing party as the new prime minister.

Prime Ministers Of Australia Through History

RankPrime MinisterTime in Office
1Edmund Barton1901-1903
2Alred Deakin1903-1904, 1905-1908, 1909-1910
3Chris Watson1,904
4George Reid1904-1905
5Andrew Fisher1908-1909, 1910-1913, 1914-1915
6Joseph Cook1913-1914
7Billy Hughes1915-1923
8Stanley Bruce1923-1929
9James Scullin1929-1932
10Joseph Lyons1932-1939
11Earle Page1,939
12Robert Menzies1939-1941, 1949-1966
13Arthur Fadden1,941
14John Curtin1941-1945
15Frank Fore1,945
16Ben Chifley1945-1949
17Harold Holt1966-1967
18John McEwen1967-1968
19John Gorton1968-1971
20William McMahon1971-1972
21Gough Whitlam1972-1975
22Malcolm Fraser1975-1983
23Bob Hawke1983-1991
24Paul Keating1991-1996
25John Howard1996-2007
26Kevin Rudd2007-2010, 2013
27Julia Gillard2010-2013
28Tony Abbot2013-2015
29Malcolm Turnbull2015-2018
30Scott Morrison2018-

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