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tuesday, august 24, 2010




Prime ministers PART II


I ... do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia, her land and her people in the office of Prime Minister

27 Julia Gillard 1961—

Time in office: 2010 Party: Labor

The Oath of Office taken by Julia Gillard in June 2010

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard held the position for only a few weeks before calling the 2010 election, after a leadership challenge that forced Kevin Rudd to abdicate his position. Prior to taking office, Gillard was Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion. As Prime Minister, her policies continue to be strongly based around strengthening Australia’s education system and managing the economy carefully in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. She attracted criticism from some quarters for being unmarried and an atheist.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard with Governor-General Quentin Bryce after being sworn into office in June


John Curtin was prime minister during the time of Japan’s attack on Darwin in February 1942

John Curtin

Harold Holt diving at Portsea, Victoria, the beach where he drowned in 1967

Public servant David Smith addresses the media following Gough Whitlam’s dismissal in 1975

John Gorton with 1st Australian Taskforce troops in Nui Dat during the Vietnam War in 1968


Time in office: 1941–45 Party: Labor


Regarded by many as one of Australia’s greatest leaders, John Curtin held office during the gripping and tempestuous wartime period, the first in history where our shores had been under direct attack from a foreign enemy. He was credited with the bravery of standing up to Mother England during the war and demanding that 46,000 Australian troops based in the Indian Ocean be returned to Australia to protect the country as it was being bombed by the Japanese. His health deteriorated under the strain of the war and in July 1945, he died of a heart attack, the only prime minister to die while in residence at the Lodge.


Frank Forde 1890–1983


Ben Chifley 1885—1951

Kevin Rudd 1957—

Time in office: 2007-10 Party: Labor Embracing the power of the internet and social media, the Kevin07 political campaign tore through Australia like a wildfire, winning the election and catapulting Labor back into office. Kevin Rudd’s time in office was marked by his apology to the Aboriginal Australian community for the Stolen Generation, the ratifying of the Kyoto Protocol, and his commitment to securing and strengthening ties with China.


Harold Holt 1908—1967


John McEwen 1900—80


John Gorton 1911—2002


William McMahon 1908—1988


Gough Whitlam 1916—


Malcolm Fraser 1930—


Bob Hawke 1929—


Paul Keating 1944—


John Howard 1939—

Time in office: 1945 Party: Labor

Time in office: 1945–49 Party: Labor

Time in office: 1966–67 Party: Liberal

Time in office: 1967–68 Party: Country

Time in office: 1968–71 Party: Liberal

Time in office: 1971–72 Party: Liberal

Time in office: 1972–75 Party: Labor

Time in office: 1975-83 Party: Liberal

Time in office: 1983-91 Party: Labor

Time in office: 1991-96 Party: Labor

Time in office: 1996-2007 Party: Liberal

Frank Forde is not often remembered for serving as prime minister, given he still holds the record for shortest tenure in the position at only eight days. He was a caretaker PM after John Curtin’s heart attack. However brief his time as PM, it gave him the chance to land a second record in Australian political history as he lived to be a greater age, 93, than any other prime minister, until Gough Whitlam.

Taking office towards the end of World War II, this Bathurst-born prime minister was charged with the difficult task of guiding Australia through its post-war reconstruction, both economically and in infrastructure. In 1949 three factors lead to the defeat of his government: his attempts to nationalise the banking scheme, his use of government troops to end a miners’ strike, and his policy of petrol rationing.

When Robert Menzies finally stood down from his second term in office (1949-66), Harold Holt was elected to take his place by his parliamentary party colleagues. His term as PM was dominated by the Vietnam War. Holt backed Menzies’ commitment to send Australian troops in 1965, declaring “go all the way with LBJ” (US president Lyndon Johnson). Holt disappeared while swimming in Victoria in 1967.

As the country grappled with the crisis of Harold Holt’s disappearance, leader of the Country Party and deputy leader of the coalition holding government John McEwen was sworn in. Another short-term prime minister, McEwen at 68 was the oldest person ever to take the office which he held for just 23 days. He was known to be an extremely frugal man. His primary focus was rural matters.

Throughout John Gorton’s tenure he was subject to speculation about his drinking and relationships with women. He entered federal parliament through the senate in 1949 and held several ministries. Taking over the prime ministership in 1968, he won Harold Holt’s seat of Higgins a month later. In 1971, a vote of No Confidence in his leadership resulted in a tie. He broke the deadlock by voting against himself, thereby voting himself out of office.

Elected to Parliament in 1949, William McMahon progressed steadily through several senior ministries. Chosen for the leadership by the Liberal Party when John Gorton effectively resigned, McMahon was anxious to show how different a leader he would be. As a minister, McMahon proved himself an organisational leader, who worked hard even if he lacked the flair of some other politicians.

Gough Whitlam is remembered for both being one of the most revolutionary prime ministers that the nation has ever had in terms of policy changes and for the dramatic manner in which he was dismissed from government by governor-general John Kerr, who used a power which had never before been executed and has not since. In his time in power, Whitlam set an ambitious social agenda.

Malcolm Fraser won the controversial 1975 election that followed Gough Whitlam’s dismissal, with the largest margin in the nation’s history of federal elections. In his tenure, Fraser extended the processes of reform begun under the previous ALP government. Included were the establishment of the Family and Federal Courts of Australia and the granting of self-government for the Northern Territory.

Bob Hawke was a charismatic prime minister, regarded as a genuine “man of the people”. Despite his larrikin persona, Hawke also proved to be a determined and focused leader who possessed fine judgement under pressure. The one-time head of the ACTU was Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister, responsible for reforms to the taxation system and deregulating the financial system.

In 1991, Australian unemployment was at its highest levels since the Great Depression. Paul Keating, then deputy prime minister, argued to the nation that the recession itself was an economic lever that would correct problematic trends, “the recession we had to have”. In a caucus leadership spill that year Keating won the prime minister’s position, the first of only two Labor ministers do so.

The second longest-serving prime minister after Robert Menzies, John Howard was active in Liberal party politics from age 18. His time in office was dedicated to a careful management of Australia’s economy. He is credited with passing the Goods and Services Tax through parliament. Howard was the second Australian prime minister to lose his seat in an election, the first being Stanley Bruce in 1929.

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Sources and further study


Series 10 he close contest at the August 21, 2010, federal election shows how electing a government is not always a simple matter. Ordinarily at the end of polling day, the public knows or has a good idea of who the prime minister will be but the results of this election may not be known for days. It was a similar situation that brought John Curtin to power in 1941 with neither party having a clear majority in parliament. Since then we have had some notable prime ministers including the longest-serving, Sir Robert Menzies (see last week’s Classmate). By the end of this week Australia should either be swearing in a new leader or renewing the term of the present one.

tuesday, august 24, 2010

■ Australia’s Prime Ministers, by Brian Carroll (Rosenberg) ■ Australia’s Government Leaders: Prime Ministers, by Nicolas Brasch (Macmillan) ■ Australia’s Prime Ministers

■ Australian Dictionary Of Biography online ■ Australian Electoral Commission ■ National Library of Australia

Correction: Due to a production error the birth and

death dates for Joseph Cook and Arthur Fadden were incorrect on last week’s page. An amended version of the page can be downloaded from



Email: Phone: 9288 2542 Editor: Troy Lennon Words: Will Longfield Graphics: Paul Leigh and Will Pearce

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Daily Telegraph PM Spread 2/2  

Cl@ssmate - An educational tool for students. Editor: Troy Lennon Words: Will Longfield (c) The Daily Telegraph 2010