Which Former Prime Minister Made The Quickest Departure From Parliament?

On September 1, The Weekend Australian published this list of prime ministers ordered by the time they remained in parliament after leaving the prime ministership.

Unfortunately, the newspaper has made a number of mistakes in the table.

The Australian

 

The most important error in ordering this list is the misunderstanding about the correct dates for the terms of members of parliament. A member’s term begins on their date of election. A member’s term ends on the day they resign or die. The term of a retiring member, or one who has lost pre-selection, ends when the parliament is dissolved ahead of an election. Only members re-elected at general elections are deemed to have continuous service. Election day is the final day for members who recontest and are defeated.

The lesson here, which I also learned the hard way, is not to rely on Wikipedia when checking dates. It is mostly correct for Australian MPs but there are crucial errors. The most reliable source is the current 45th edition of the Parliamentary Handbook.

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1. Andrew Fisher Should Be First

Andrew Fisher resigned from parliament on October 26, 1915. He resigned his third, and final, term as prime minister the following day, October 27. He is the only prime minister to have resigned his seat before resigning the prime ministership, and should be listed first on the table.

Note: Under Section 64 of the Constitution, an individual can spend three months as a minister before they need to become a member of parliament. Fisher’s position on October 27, 1915, was completely constitutional.

Fisher left to become Australia’s second High Commissioner to London, succeeding former PM George Reid. The table says Fisher departed parliament on December 11, but this was the date of the by-election for his Queensland seat of Wide Bay. Fisher’s three listings on the table should each be reduced by 46 days.

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2. Edmund Barton Beat Malcolm Turnbull

The table places Turnbull in first position, since he resigned from parliament seven days after losing the prime ministership.

Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, is listed in eighth position, having resigned from parliament on December 16, 1903, ninety-three days after he left the prime ministership. However, December 16 was the date of the general election that year, not the day Barton resigned. Barton had stood down from the prime ministership on September 24. He resigned his NSW seat of Hunter six days later, on September 30. Barton, therefore, should be listed second on the table, ahead of Turnbull.

Barton’s resignation was necessitated by his appointment as one of the three inaugural justices of the High Court. He was sworn in on October 5, 1903. Richard O’Connor resigned from the Senate on September 27 and was also appointed to the High Court on October 5. The Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, also took office on October 5, having resigned as Chief Justice of Queensland the day before.

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3. Fraser Moved Fast

Malcolm Fraser resigned from parliament on March 31, 1983, having lost the March 5 election. The table lists his departure as May 7, but this was the date of the by-election to fill his seat of Wannon.

Fraser left parliament twenty days after relinquishing the prime ministership on March 11. Accordingly, he belongs in fourth place on the table, behind Barton and Turnbull.

Thanks to @theredandblue for alerting me to this one, which led me to examine all the dates.

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4. Sir Robert Menzies Had A Second Term And Departed Quite Quickly

The table shows Menzies’ first term – notating it as (1) – and points out that he remained in parliament for another 8,938 days.

However, the table omits his long second term of 16 years, 1 month, 7 days. Menzies relinquished the prime ministership on January 26, 1966 and resigned his Victorian seat of Kooyong on February 17, twenty-two days later.

Menzies, therefore, should be listed in fifth position on the table, after Fraser.

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5. George Reid Was Already In London

George Reid resigned from parliament on December 24, 1909. This was to enable him to become Australia’s first High Commissioner to London on January 22, 1910. The table says he left parliament on April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Reid’s 1,773 days should be reduced by 110 days, moving him up one place on the list, ahead of Gorton.

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6. What Have They Done With Bruce?

Stanley Melbourne Bruce poses a singular problem for placement on this list. Having lost the 1929 election and his Victorian seat of Flinders, Bruce was returned as the member for Flinders at the 1931 election. Given that he did not serve a second term as prime minister, should he even be on the list? Like John Howard, who lost the 2007 election and his seat of Bennelong, the decision about when to leave was made for him.

Bruce retired from his second term in parliament on October 6, 1933. The table says he left parliament on November 11, 1933, but this was the date of the Flinders by-election. The 693 days shown on the table is the [incorrect] totality of his second term as a member of parliament. His prime ministership ended two years previously. It really makes no sense at all.

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7. Deakin Should Be Moved Up

Alfred Deakin retired from parliament on April 23, 1913. In three places, the table lists his departure as May 31, 1913, but this was the date of the general election. Deakin should have 38 days deducted from each of his entries on the table. His first term should be moved up one place to just ahead of McMahon.

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8. Five Dating Errors That Don’t Affect Anyone’s Position

James Scullin retired from parliament on October 31, 1949. The table lists his departure as December 10 but this was the election date and a retiring member ceases to be a member when the parliament is dissolved. Scullin left parliament forty days before the general election of December 10, 1949, so forty days should be shaved off the table’s 6,548 days.

Arthur Fadden retired from parliament on October 14, 1958, the day the parliament was dissolved ahead of the November 22 election. The table lists his departure as March 26, 1958, but this was the date he relinquished the leadership of the Country Party. His 6014 days should have another 202 added. Fadden continued as Treasurer until December 10, 1958, as permitted under Section 64 of the Constitution.

Joseph Cook retired from parliament on November 11, 1921. The table says it was December 10, but this was the date of the Parramatta by-election. Cook’s 2,641 days should be reduced by 29.

Chris Watson ceased to be a member of parliament when the Third Parliament expired on February 19, 1910. It is the only parliament to have expired by effluxion of time. The table says Watson served until April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Watson’s 2,064 days should be reduced by 53 days.

John McEwen retired from parliament on February 1, 1971. The table says it was March 20, 1971, but this was the date of the Murray by-election. McEwen’s 1,165 days should be reduced by 47 days.

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My Revised List

The list shows prime ministers as I have reordered them. The number in brackets shows the days each PM remained in parliament after ceasing to be PM.

  1. Andrew Fisher (third term – 0)
  2. Edmund Barton (6)
  3. Malcolm Turnbull (7)
  4. Malcolm Fraser (20)
  5. Robert Menzies (second term – 22)
  6. Julia Gillard (39)
  7. Paul Keating (43)
  8. Bob Hawke (62)
  9. Kevin Rudd (second term – 65)
  10. Frank Forde (443)
  11. Ben Chifley (551)
  12. Stanley Bruce (657 ??)
  13. Andrew Fisher (second term – 854)
  14. Gough Whitlam (992)
  15. Tony Abbott (1082)
  16. Alfred Deakin (third term – 1090)
  17. John McEwen (1118)
  18. Kevin Rudd (first term – 1247)
  19. Alfred Deakin (second term – 1662)
  20. George Reid (1663)
  21. John Gorton (1707)
  22. Chris Watson (2011)
  23. Joseph Cook (2612)
  24. Alfred Deakin (first term – 3283)
  25. William McMahon (3317)
  26. Arthur Fadden (6216)
  27. James Scullin (6508)
  28. Earle Page (8263)
  29. Robert Menzies (first term – 8938)
  30. Billy Hughes (10,854)

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A Quibble on Methodology

There is undoubtedly an internal logic to the table’s listing of prime ministers by their separate terms. They are clearly noted.

However, the contest between Fisher and Deakin was between two men in the prime of their political lives. The combat that led to their six separate terms is instructive of the emerging two-party system post-Federation. Neither man was going to leave parliament after his short first term. For each, their second term was their most significant, and their third was a coda to their main body of work. Which to list?

Similarly, in 1941 Menzies was young enough – 46 – to believe he could return to the prime minister’s office at a future date. Retirement wasn’t under consideration. Placing him second behind the aged Hughes as a prime minister who hung around for a quarter of a century after losing office presents a somewhat misleading picture.

Likewise with Rudd. He was just 52 when he was deposed in June 2010. He correctly believed he could in time return to the leadership of his party. Even when he finally left in 2013, he was only 56.

And is there any point in even listing Page, Forde and McEwen, let alone describing them as “defeated” PMs? All three were stop-gap leaders who temporarily filled the position following the death of their predecessor. As deputy leader of the ALP, Forde faced the possibility of becoming leader after Curtin died but he was defeated by Chifley. The two Country Party leaders had no realistic prospect of becoming prime minister, even though attempts were apparently made to conscript McEwen.

As always, tables, lists and dates need to be accompanied by some contextual and historical knowledge, and even psychological insight. It’s not that difficult to get the numbers right, but they never tell you everything.


Speaker Sets July 28 As Date For Five By-Elections; Opposition Outraged

The Speaker, Tony Smith, advised the House of Representatives this afternoon that he had set July 28 as the date for the five by-elections caused by recent resignations relating to dual citizenship.

Smith

Smith told the House that because of new regulations to refine the nomination process and because of imminent schools holidays, July 28 was the “optimal” date for the by-elections in Longman, Braddon, Mayo, Fremantle and Perth.

The ALP opposition accused the Speaker of inordinate delay and said the by-elections coincided with the ALP National Conference in Adelaide.

  • Listen to Speaker’s statement to the House (21m)
  • Watch the House proceedings (21m)

Hansard transcript of House of Representatives proceedings relating to the calling of five by-elections on July 28.

The SPEAKER (15:12): If members could cease interjecting, could I please have the attention of the House on this important matter: I’d like to read a fairly lengthy statement, and then I’ll be tabling some documents. Earlier in the week, I advised the House I would provide an update on possible dates for by-elections in the seats of Braddon, Fremantle, Longman, Mayo and Perth. This update follows further consultation with the Australian Electoral Commissioner and party leaders. Under the Constitution, it is my responsibility alone to issue a writ for a by-election when a vacancy occurs, and generally it has not been the practice to provide an explanation for the exercise of this responsibility. I have varied from the usual practice because of the quite unusual—quite unique—circumstances surrounding these by-elections. [Read more…]


Turnbull And Shorten Pay Moving Tribute To Sir John Carrick

Moving tribute was paid to the late Senator Sir John Carrick in the House of Representatives today. The former Fraser government minister died on May 18, aged 99.

CarrickCarrick, shown here in 1971, was a NSW Liberal senator from 1971 until 1987. He became Minister for Education on November 12, 1975, following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. In 1979, he became Minister for National Development and Energy, holding the portfolio until the government’s defeat in 1983. He was Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1978 until 1983.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of Carrick’s wartime experiences, including three years as a prisoner-of-war in Changi. He spoke of Carrick’s service as General Secretary of the NSW division of the Liberal Party and his time as a minister in the Fraser government. Turnbull’s voice broke as he told how Carrick died in his family’s arms, just as Changi prisoners ensured that none of their number died alone.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said some regarded Carrick as “the soul of the Liberal Party”, which “he took from a fledgling amateur operation to a national political force”. Shorten said that “giants of our movement across the generations knew and admired John Carrick not just as a worthy foe and an opponent of great civility and courtesy but also as a person of substance, someone always prepared to argue sincerely held differences in principle, philosophy and the convictions that underpinned policy”. [Read more…]


The Second Turnbull Ministry Reshuffled – Statistical Analysis

This page provides statistical data on the revised Second Turnbull Ministry, as announced on December 19, 2017.

The 42-member executive includes 23 Cabinet ministers (up from 22), 7 members of the Outer Ministry (down from 8) and 12 Assistant Ministers/Parliamentary Secretaries.

There are five new Cabinet members, three of whom – Sen. Bridget McKenzie, John McVeigh and David Littleproud – have moved directly from the backbench. Two members of the outer ministry – Michael Keenan and Dan Tehan – have moved into Cabinet.

One Cabinet minister, Darren Chester, and one assistant minister, Keith Pitt, have been dumped to the backbench.

Other features of the reshuffle:

  • The Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, has been appointed High Commissioner to the UK. Brandis will resign from the Senate in the new year. Christian Porter becomes Attorney-General, a post he previously held in the Western Australian state government. Senator Mathias Cormann becomes Leader of the Government in the Senate.
  • The National Party’s deputy leader, Senator Fiona Nash, resigned due to dual citizenship. Her replacement as deputy leader, Senator Bridget McKenzie, moves from the backbench into Cabinet, displacing fellow Victorian Darren Chester.
  • Following the resignation of Senator Stephen Parry, due to dual citizenship, his position as President of the Senate was taken by Senator Scott Ryan. Ryan’s duties as Special Minister of State will be taken on by Senator Cormann.
  • Senator Arthur Sinodinos removed himself from consideration for the ministry, due to his cancer treatment. He has indicated he will be able to resume duties in mid-2018.
  • Craig Laundy has been promoted from Assistant Minister to the Outer Ministry.
  • There are three new assistant ministers: David Coleman, Damian Drum and Melissa Price. Drum served as a minister in the Victorian Napthine government in 2014.
  • Peter Dutton has become Minister for Home Affairs, the enlarged portfolio dealing with immigration, security, border control and law enforcement. Dutton will oversee the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
  • Sen. Michaelia Cash takes on the enlarged portfolio of Jobs and Innovation. Industrial Relations moves from the cabinet level to Craig Laundy’s outer ministry.

The first table shows the ministry by party, age, sex, state and parliamentary chamber.

The second table lists each member of the executive and gives their birthdays, ages, electorates, states, date when first elected to parliament, and portfolio. The lists are ordered by age. [Read more…]


Government Announces Banking Royal Commission Following Request From Big Four

The federal government has announced a royal commission into the banks and the financial sector, reversing its previous opposition to such a move.

The announcement came at a press conference at 9.00am this morning, following a Cabinet meeting. The decision was preceded by a request from the major banks for a royal commission. In a letter to the government, the chairmen and chief executives of CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac said:

“In light of the latest wave of speculation about a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the banking and finance sector, we believe it is now imperative for the Australian Government to act decisively to deliver certainty to Australian’s financial services sector, our customers and the community.”

Recent days have seen increasing calls for a royal commission, especially from elements in the National Party. The House of Representatives resumes sitting next week. With two members down and facing by-elections, the government risked embarrassment in the chamber.

  • Listen to Turnbull and Morrison (33m)
  • Watch Turnbull’s press conference (33m)

The Letter from the Banks

17-11-30_banks-royal-commission-letter


Senate Refers Nash And Xenophon To High Court; Hinch And Gallagher Safe; Hanson Audit Motion Defeated

The Senate today voted to refer Senators Fiona Nash and Nick Xenophon to the High Court. The court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, will rule on their eligibility to nominate at the 2016 election.

The government leader, Senator George Brandis, moved that Senator Nash be referred, in order to determine whether she was a British dual citizen in breach of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

Senator Xenophon moved to refer himself to the High Court. He delivered a statement explaining that he was born in Australia to Greek and Cypriot parents. He said that “out of an abundance of caution” he had renounced any rights to Greek or Cypriot citizenship but had been advised that he might hold British “overseas citizenship” on account of his father having been a British subject before he migrated to Australia.

The Senate heard a statement from Senator Derryn Hinch (DHJP-Vic). Hinch explained the circumstances in which he was eligible to receive a United States government pension. The government and the ALP have agreed that Hinch’s circumstances do not warrant a referral to the High Court.

The Senate also heard a statement from Senator Katy Gallagher (ALP-ACT). She explained the circumstances which gave rise to the possibility of her holding Ecuadorian and British citizenship. No attempt was made to refer Gallagher to the court.

Senator Pauline Hanson (One Nation-Qld) moved to establish an audit of all members of parliament to clarify their eligibility. The government and the ALP both opposed the motion and it was defeated by 43 votes to 13.

The High Court will hear the dual citizenship cases next month. In addition to Nash and Xenophon, it will hear the cases concerning Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters, Matthew Canavan, Malcolm Roberts and Barnaby Joyce.

  • Watch the Senate proceedings (39m)
  • Listen to the Senate proceedings (39m)

Hansard transcript of Senate proceedings to refer members to the High Court.

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Attorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (10:07): by leave—I move:

That pursuant to section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Senate refers to the Court of Disputed Returns the following questions— [Read more…]


George Williams On Dual Citizenship And Same Sex Marriage Survey

Professor George Williams, Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales, has addressed the National Press Club on the dual citizenship issue and the same sex marriage postal survey.

Williams suggested that the Turnbull government is “running against the grain of existing High Court authority” in relation to the marriage survey and the seven dual citizenship cases currently before the court.

In his address, Williams called for a range of constitutional reforms.

Williams, 48, has been Dean of Law since 2016. He was admitted to practice in 1993 and served as an associate to Justice Michael McHugh in the High Court. He has worked as a solicitor and barrister and has extensive academic experience at a number of universities.

A member of the ALP, Williams has unsuccessfully contested preselection on two occasions.

  • Watch Williams’ Address in full (59m)
  • Listen to Williams’ speech (33m)
  • Listen to the Question and Answer session (25m)

Transcript of Address to the National Press Club by Professor George Williams.

The Constitution is not normally front-page news in Australia. Despite the profound impact it has on our politics and society, it is easy to see why.

The United States Constitution reflects its revolutionary origins in beginning with the famous call “We the people.” By contrast, our Constitution is contained in a British Act of Parliament that opens with:

Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania…

“Whereas” is hardly the sort of beginning that gets the heart racing. In addition, these words are not even complete. They fail to mention Western Australia, which joined the Federation just before the commencement of the Constitution in 1901. [Read more…]