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.


Doug Everingham Condolences

Three members of the House of Representatives offered condolences for Doug Everingham in the Federation Chamber today.

Everingham, the former ALP member for Capricornia (Qld) from 1967 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1984, died on August 24, aged 94. He was the Minister for Health in the Whitlam governments (1972-75).

Mike Freelander (ALP-Macarthur) spoke of the influence Everingham had on his medical career, particularly during the implementation of Medibank. He paid tribute to Everingham’s commitment to community health centres, mental health and his anti-smoking campaign.

The current Health Minister, Greg Hunt (Liberal-Flinders), spoke of Everingham’s contribution to Medibank and Medicare, and his work on behalf of Westmead hospital.

The current member for Everingham’s seat, Michelle Landry (LNP-Capricornia), spoke of her predecessor’s preselection at a time when Gough Whitlam was reforming the ALP and of Everingham’s commitment to spelling reform.

  • Watch the condolence speeches (15m – transcript below)
  • Listen to Mike Freelander’s speech (5m)
  • Listen to Greg Hunt’s speech (4m)
  • Listen to Michelle Landry’s speech (6m)

Hansard transcript of proceedings in the Federation Chamber.

Everingham, Hon. Douglas Nixon ‘Doug’

Consideration resumed of the motion:

That the House record its deep regret at the death, on 24 August 2017, of the Honourable Douglas Nixon Everingham, a former Minister and Member of this House for the Division of Capricornia from 1967 to 1975 and 1977 to 1984, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement. [Read more…]


Death Of John Bourchier, Former Liberal MP, Announced To House

The death of John Bourchier, a former member for Bendigo, was announced to the House of Representatives today.

BourchierThe Speaker, Tony Smith, announced that Bourchier died on August 31. He was 87.

Bourchier represented the Victorian division of Bendigo for the Liberal Party for five terms from 1972 until 1983. He was a backbencher throughout.

Bourchier’s arrival in the House coincided with the election of the Whitlam government. Bourchier defeated David Kennedy, who had held the seat for the ALP since 1969. A campaign against Kennedy over the abortion issue is widely regarded as contributing to his defeat. Whilst Kennedy topped the primary vote with 47.7% to Bourchier’s 26.7%, Bourchier was elected with the aid of Country Party (17.3%) and DLP (8.4%) preferences. He defeated Kennedy by 165 votes (50.2%). [Read more…]


Shorten Releases Proof Of Renunciation Of British Citizenship

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has provided proof that he renounced his dual British citizenship in 2006.

Making a personal explanation today, Shorten reiterated his argument that members should not have to respond to unsubstantiated allegations. Nevertheless, Shorten tabled a letter from the UK Home Office showing that he renounced his British dual citizenship before he was elected to parliament.

Shorten attacked the Turnbull government for a campaign of smear and called on Turnbull to insist that Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce stand aside until his eligibility to sit as a member of parliament is clarified.

  • Watch Shorten’s personal explanation (3m – transcript below)
  • Listen to Shorten (3m)

Hansard transcript of personal explanation by Bill Shorten.

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Leader of the Opposition) (15:15): I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER: Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented? [Read more…]


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…]


Women In The 45th Australian Parliament

Women make up one-third of the 45th Parliament of Australia.

There are now 75 women in both houses, representing 33.18% of the combined total of 226 members. It was 30.97% at the end of the 44th Parliament.

There are 43 women (28.66%) in the 150-member House of Representatives, and 32 (42.10%) in the 76-member Senate.

With 43 members in both chambers, the ALP has the largest number of women (45.26%) in the parliament. The Liberal Party and Nationals combined have 21 members (20%).

The Greens (10 members in both houses) and the Nick Xenophon Team (4 members in both houses) each have 50-50 male-female representation.

At the 2016 double dissolution election, 30 women were elected to the Senate. Following the resignation of the ALP’s Stephen Conroy, the Victorian casual vacancy was filled by Kimberley Kitching. Following the resignation of Family First’s Bob Day, the South Australian casual vacancy was filled by Lucy Gichuhi, who sits as an independent. [Read more…]


Who’s Left – The Surviving Members Of Every House Of Representatives Since 1949

*** CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATED VERSION OF THIS PAGE ***

Detailed information on the surviving members of the House of Representatives since 1949 is now available on this site. They include the members’ seats, parties, terms, dates of birth, ages and deaths.

All members of parliament who served in the first 18 parliaments from 1901 until the end of 1949 are now deceased.

There are two surviving members of the 19th Parliament that was elected on December 10, 1949. Both “forty-niners” are in their late 90s. One, Henry Pearce, will turn 100 in September this year.

Just four members of the House during the 1950s are still living.

For the entire Menzies era (1949-1972), there are 29 surviving members. All but four of them served together in the 27th Parliament between 1969 and 1972.

The table below provides a summary of how many members have served in the 19th to 45th parliaments. It shows how many are still living and what parties they belong to. There are links to more detailed information on each parliament since 1972.

Note: The data is structured around the parliaments since 1949. The numbers cannot be aggregated. Most surviving members served in more than one parliament.

Disclaimer: I am confident that the data shown here is correct. However, I rely on media reports and announcements in parliament for information on deaths of former members. I sincerely hope I haven’t killed or resurrected anyone. I am happy to receive corrections from readers.

House of Representatives – Members Still Living Since 1949
(Listed by Parliament No. and Years)
No. Years Size Members
Still
Living
% Oldest Surviving
Member
ALP Lib CP/
Nat
Oth
19th
1949-1951
121
2
1.65
Henry Pearce (99)
2
20th
1951-1954
131
2
1.52
Henry Pearce (99)
2
21st
1954-1955
122
1
0.81
Henry Pearce (99)
1
22nd
1955-1958
127
3
2.36
Henry Pearce (99)
2
1
23rd
1958-1961
128
3
2.34
Henry Pearce (99)
2
1
24th
1961-1963
125
5
4.00
Jim Forbes (93)
2
1
2
25th
1963-1966
129
9
6.97
Wylie Gibbs (94)
2
4
3
26th
1966-1969
130
17
13.07
Mervyn Lee (96)
5
9
3
27th
1969-1972
128
24
18.75
Doug Everingham (93)
11
9
4
28th
1972-1974
126
33
26.19
Doug Everingham (93)
17
10
6
29th
1974-1975
128
44
34.37
Doug Everingham (93)
18
17
9
30th
1975-1977
128
57
44.53
Clarrie Millar (91)
10
36
11
31st
1977-1980
126
66
52.38
Doug Everingham (93)
18
38
11
32nd
1980-1983
131
81
61.83
Doug Everingham (93)
33
35
13
33rd
1983-1984
131
90
68.70
Doug Everingham (93)
57
21
12
34th
1984-1987
149
111
74.49
Clarrie Millar (91)
64
31
16
35th
1987-1990
153
122
79.73
Clarrie Millar (91)
74
33
15
36th
1990-1993
150
131
87.33
Steele Hall (88)
72
44
13
37th
1993-1996
155
137
88.38
Steele Hall (88)
75
44
16
38th
1996-1998
150
139
92.66
Ian Sinclair (87)
49
69
18
39th
1998-2001
152
145
95.39
Garry Nehl (83)
68
61
16
40th
2001-2004
151
146
96.68
Frank Mossfield (81)
65
65
13
3
41st
2004-2007
151
147
97.35
Wilson Tuckey (81)
61
72
12
2
42nd
2007-2010
155
153
98.70
Wilson Tuckey (81)
83
56
11
3
43rd
2010-2013
150
148
98.66
Bronywyn Bishop (74)
72
59
12
5
44th
2013-2016
153
152
99.34
Bronwyn Bishop (74)
56
76
15
5
45th
2016-
150
150
100
Warren Snowdon (67)
69
60
16
5