Ministerial Resignations and Dismissals Since 1901

This is a complete list of ministers who have resigned or were dismissed from Federal Governments since 1901 under the conventions of collective or individual ministerial responsibility.

It does not include ministers who resigned because of retirement or appointment to other offices, or ministers who were demoted or sacked in reshuffles.

Note: It is not unusual to read inaccurate statements about the reasons why ministers resign. For example, it is often claimed that ministers used to resign for misleading parliament, but only three have done so since 1901. Many more resignations have taken place due to conflict of interest allegations, disagreements over policy matters, disputes with the prime minister, or personal behaviour.

Ministerial Resignations & Dismissals Since 1901
Name Date Reason
Barton Ministry (Protectionist)
Charles Kingston
(MHR, SA)
24 July 1903
Policy disagreement. Minister for Trade and Customs resigned over opposition to his proposal to apply conciliation and arbitration on foreign seamen engaged in Australian trade.
Deakin Ministry (Protectionist)
John Forrest
(Swan, WA)
30 July 1907
Policy disagreement. Treasurer resigned after failing to convince Prime Minister Deakin to form and lead an anti-Labor coalition. Following the Fusion of 1909 and the formation of the Commonwealth Liberal Party, Forrest returned as Treasurer in the Third Deakin ministry.
Hughes Ministry (Labor)
Frank Tudor
(Yarra, Vic)
14 Sept 1916
Disagreement over conscription. Minister for Trade and Customs resigned over opposition to Prime Minister Hughes’ conscription policy. Following the ALP split in November 1916, Tudor became Leader of the Opposition and died in office in 1922.
William Higgs
(Capricornia, Qld)
27 Oct 1916
Disagreement over conscription. Treasurer resigned over opposition to Prime Minister Hughes’ conscription policy. In 1919, Higgs was expelled from the ALP because of his support for Hughes’ proposals for federal industry and commerce powers. He subsequently joined the Nationalists but lost his seat to Labor’s Frank Forde in 1922.
Senator Albert Gardiner
(NSW)
27 Oct 1916
Disagreement over conscription. Vice-President of the Executive Council resigned over opposition to Prime Minister Hughes’ conscription policy.
Senator Edward Russell
(Vic)
27 Oct 1916
Disagreement over conscription. Assistant Minister resigned over opposition to Prime Minister Hughes’ conscription policy. Despite this, Russell left the ALP when it split the following month. Hughes returned Russell to the ministry where he served until 1921.
Hughes Ministry (Nationalist)
William Morris Hughes
(Bendigo, Vic)
8 Jan 1918
Token resignation by Prime Minister was followed by his immediate recommissioning. Hughes fulfilled his commitment to resign if the second conscription plebiscite was not carried.
Jens Jensen
(Bass, Tas)
13 Dec 1918
Minister for the Navy resigned following Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration. The Commission found that Jensen had incurred costly and unauthorised expenditures. Jensen, a former Labor member, left the Nationalists and was defeated as an independent at the 1919 election.
Bruce-Page Ministry (Nationalist-Country Party Coalition
Percy Stewart
(Wimmera, Vic)
5 Aug 1924
Protest over electoral pact. Minister for Works and Railways objected to Prime Minister Bruce’s agreement with Earle Page to protect sitting members of the coalition from electoral competition. Subsequently instrumental in formation of the Victorian Country Progressive Party.
Littleton Groom
(Darling Downs, Qld)
18 Dec 1925
Ministry failure. Attorney-General resigned over attempts to deport ‘foreign agitators’ and his conduct at the League of Nations. Subsequently served as Speaker of the House.
Scullin Ministry (Labor)
Edward Theodore
(Dalley, Qld)
9 July 1930
Found guilty by Queensland Royal Commission into Mungana business dealings.
Joseph Lyons
(Wilmot, Tas)
4 Feb 1931
Protest at Theodore reinstatement.
James Fenton
(Maribyrnong, Vic)
4 Feb 1931
Protest at Theodore reinstatement.
Edward Holloway
(Flinders, Vic)
12 June 1931
Protest over Premiers’ Plan.
Charles Culley
(Denison, Tas)
24 June 1931
Protest over Premiers’ Plan.
Lyons Ministry (United Australia Party)
Charles Hawker
(Wakefield, SA)
23 Sep 1932
Policy disagreement. Resigned over government refusal to reduce parliamentary salaries.
James Fenton
(Maribyrnong, Vic)
13 Oct 1932
Policy disagreement. Resigned after voting against a bill ratifying the Ottawa Agreement, establishing Imperial Preference.
Lyons Ministry (UAP-CP Coalition)
William Morris Hughes
(North Sydney, UAP)
6 Nov 1935
Policy disagreement. Resigned after publication of his book, Australia and the War Today, which alleged a lack of war preparation.
Henry Gullett
(Henty, Vic)
11 Mar 1937
Policy disagreement. Resigned over disagreement with trade policy.
Senator Alexander McLachlan
(SA)
7 Nov 1938
Conflict of interest.
Thomas White
(Balaclava, Vic)
8 Nov 1938
Policy disagreement.
Robert Menzies
Kooyong, Vic
20 Mar 1939
Policy disagreement.
Menzies Ministry (United Australia Party)
John Lawson
(Macquarie, NSW)
23 Feb 1940
Conflict of interest.
Menzies Ministry (Liberal-CP Coalition)
Leslie Bury
(Wentworth, NSW)
27 July 1962
Policy disagreement.
Gorton Ministry (Liberal-CP Coalition)
David Fairbairn
(Farrer, NSW)
12 Nov 1969
Dispute with Prime Minister.
Malcolm Fraser
(Wannon, Vic)
8 Mar 1971
Dispute with Prime Minister.
McMahon Ministry (Liberal-CP Coalition)
Leslie Bury
(Wentworth, NSW)
2 Aug 1971
Dispute with Prime Minister.
John Gorton
(Higgins, Vic)
13 Aug 1971
Dispute with Prime Minister.
Whitlam Ministry (Labor)
Clyde Cameron
(Hindmarsh, SA)
6 Jun 1975
Refused reshuffle offer.
Dr. Jim Cairns
(Lalor, Vic)
6 Jun 1975
Ministerial irregularities relating to overseas loans. Treasurer Cairns authorised George Harris to seek overseas loans on behalf of the government. Prime Minister Whitlam argued that Cairns’ action was taken without his knowledge and without advice from the Treasury. Cairns accepted demotion to Minister for the Environment.
Dr. Jim Cairns
(Lalor, Vic)
2 Jul 1975
Misleading parliament in relation to overseas loans. Cairns denied signing a letter agreeing to pay George Harris a 2.5% commission on overseas loans. He later claimed not to remember signing the letter. Cairns refused to tender his resignation, so Prime Minister Whitlam advised Governor-General Sir John Kerr to withdraw Cairns’ commission.
Rex Connor
(Cunningham, NSW)
14 Oct 1975
Misleading parliament in relation to dealings with Tirath Khemlani in connection with overseas loans.
Fraser Ministry (Liberal-National Coalition)
Victor Garland
(Curtin, WA)
6 Feb 1976
Electoral irregularities.
Robert Ellicott
(Wentworth, NSW)
6 Sep 1977
Cabinet decision protest. Attorney-General resigned over a Cabinet decision concerning the payment of costs in the Sankey v Whitlam case. Ellicott argued Sankey’s costs should have been paid. Ellicott returned to the ministry following the 1977 election.
Philip Lynch
(Flinders, Vic)
19 Nov 1977
Alleged irregularity in relation to land deals.
Senator Glen Sheil
(Qld)
21 Dec 1977
Sheil took the oath as an Executive Councillor on December 20, preparatory to his swearing-in as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. That same day, he gave an interview expressing support for South African apartheid. The following day, Prime Minister Fraser advised Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen to terminate Sheil’s Executive Council appointment. Sheil never became a minister.
Senator Reg Withers
(WA)
7 Aug 1978
Dismissed after Royal Commission finding into electoral redistribution allegations.
Eric Robinson
(McPherson, Qld)
23 Feb 1979
Dispute with Prime Minister.
Ian Sinclair
(New England, NSW)
27 Sep 1979
Alleged criminal offences.
Andrew Peacock
(Kooyong, Vic)
16 Apr 1981
Dispute with Prime Minister.
Michael MacKellar
(Warringhah, NSW)
20 Apr 1982
Ministerial impropriety in relation to importation of a colour television set.
John Moore
(Ryan, Qld)
20 Apr 1982
Ministerial impropriety in relation to importation of a colour television set.
Hawke Ministry (Labor)
Mick Young
(Port Adelaide, SA)
14 Jul 1983
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Ivanov affair. Young resigned as Special Minister of State over allegations he had leaked Cabinet discussions. He was cleared by the Hope Royal Commission and was reinstated as Special Minister of State in January 1984.
Stewart West
(Cunningham, NSW)
04 Nov 1983
Disagreed with Cabinet decision on uranium mining. West was Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He left the Cabinet but remained in the Ministry. He returned to the Cabinet on April 3, 1984
Mick Young
(Port Adelaide, SA)
26 July 1984
Accused of making a false Customs Declaration regarding a Paddington Bear and $1093.00 of duty. Young stood aside but did not resign. He resumed his duties a few weeks later, following an investigation by Michael Black QC. Black said Young should have exercised greater care but had no intention to evade the duty.
John Brown
(Parramatta, NSW)
18 Dec 1987
Misleading Parliament. Brown resigned over remarks he made over the tendering process for a theatre within the Australian Pavilion at Brisbane’s Expo ’88.
Gary Punch
(Barton, NSW)
28 Mar 1989
Policy protest over Sydney Airport.
Paul Keating
(Blaxland, NSW)
3 Jun 1991
Dispute with Prime Minister.
John Kerin
(Werriwa, NSW)
9 Dec 1991
Inability to explain policy.
Keating Ministry (Labor)
Senator Graham Richardson
(NSW)
18 May 1992
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Marshall Islands affair.
Alan Griffiths
(Maribyrnong, Vic)
22 Jan 1994
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Sandwich Shop affair.
Ros Kelly
(Canberra, ACT)
27 Feb 1994
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Sports Rorts affair.
Howard Ministry (Liberal-Nationals Coalition)
Senator Jim Short
(Vic)
14 Oct 1996
Ministerial impropriety in relation to conflict of interest concerning bank licences.
Senator Brian Gibson
(Tas)
15 Oct 1996
Ministerial impropriety in relation to conflict of interest concerning bank licences.
Senator Bob Woods
(NSW)
3 Feb 1997
Alleged improprieties in relation to expenses claims.
Geoff Prosser
(Forrest, WA)
11 Jul 1997
Ministerial impropriety in relation to conflict of interest.
David Jull
(Fadden, Qld)
24 Sept 1997
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Travel Rorts affair.
John Sharp
(Hume, NSW)
24 Sept 1997
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Travel Rorts affair.
Peter McGauran
(Gippsland, Vic)
26 Sept 1997
Ministerial impropriety in relation to Travel Rorts affair.
Sen. Ian Campbell
(WA)
3 Mar 2007
Ministerial impropriety in relation to dealings with Brian Burke.
Sen. Santo Santoro
(Qld)
16 Mar 2007
Conflict of interest and ministerial impropriety in relation to private share dealings.
Rudd Ministry (Labor)
Joel Fitzgibbon
(Hunter, NSW)
4 Jun 2009
Ministerial impropriety in relation to conflict of interest concerning brother’s company’s dealings with Defence Department.
Gillard Ministry (Labor)
Kevin Rudd
(Griffith, Qld)
22 Feb 2012
Minister for Foreign Affairs resigned alleging prime minister did not repudiate attack on him by ministerial colleague.
Simon Crean
(Hotham, Vic)
21 Mar 2013
Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, and Minister for the Arts dismissed after privately and publicly demanding prime minister call a leadership spill.
Richard Marles
(Corio, Vic)
21 Mar 2013
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs resigned after supporting prime minister’s opponent, Kevin Rudd, in leadership spill.
Chris Bowen
(McMahon, NSW)
22 Mar 2013
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, and Minister for Small Business resigned after supporting prime minister’s opponent, Kevin Rudd, in leadership spill.
Martin Ferguson
(Batman, Vic)
22 Mar 2013
Minister for Resources and Energy, and Minister for Tourism resigned after supporting prime minister’s opponent, Kevin Rudd, in leadership spill.
Senator Kim Carr
(Vic)
22 Mar 2013
Minister for Human Services resigned after supporting prime minister’s opponent, Kevin Rudd, in leadership spill.
Rudd Ministry (Labor)
Wayne Swan
(Lilley, Qld)
26 Jun 2013
Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Greg Combet
(Charlton, NSW)
26 Jun 2013
Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Craig Emerson
(Rankin, Qld)
26 Jun 2013
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, and Minister for Trade and Competitiveness refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Peter Garrett
(Kingsford Smith, NSW)
26 Jun 2013
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Senator Stephen Conroy
(Vic)
26 Jun 2013
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and Leader of the Government in the Senate refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Senator Joe Ludwig
(Qld)
26 Jun 2013
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry refused to serve in Rudd ministry following overthrow of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Abbott Ministry (Liberal-Nationals Coalition)
Senator Arthur Sinodinos
(NSW)
19 Mar 2014
Assistant Treasurer stood aside pending investigations by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. Sinodinos returned to the ministry on September 21, 2015 as Cabinet Secretary under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Malcolm Turnbull
(Wentworth, NSW)
14 Sep 2015
Dispute with prime minister. Minister for Communications resigned and informed Prime Minister Tony Abbott that he was launching a challenge for the Liberal Party leadership. Turnbull was elected leader of the Liberal Party on the evening of September 14 and was sworn in as prime minister on September 15.
Turnbull Ministry (Liberal-Nationals Coalition)
Jamie Briggs
(Mayo, SA)
29 Dec 2015
Minister for Cities and the Built Environment resigned over allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving a female public servant during an official visit to Hong Kong in November 2015. Briggs lost his seat to the Nick Xenophon Team at the 2016 election.
Mal Brough
(Fisher, Qld)
29 Dec 2015
Special Minister of State and Minister for Defence Materiel and Science stood aside pending the outcome of a police investigation into allegations about his behaviour in relation to former Speaker Peter Slipper and James Ashby. Brough announced his retirement from parliament on February 13, 2016 and did not contest the 2016 election. In 2017, the Federal Police investigation was concluded without any charges being laid.
Stuart Robert
(Fadden, Qld)
12 Feb 2016
Minister for Human Services, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC was forced to resign for being in breach of ministerial standards because of an indirect financial stake in a company he helped in Beijing.
Sussan Ley
(Farrer, NSW)
13 Jan 2017
Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Minister for Sport, resigned, in the wake of departmental investigations into her travel expenses, particularly concerning visits to the Gold Coast. Ley purchased an investment property during one visit. Ley had stood aside on January 9 but political reaction continued to be adverse.

 

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