Australian Prime Ministers Since 1901 – Chronological List

This table shows all of Australia’s 30 prime ministers in order of their terms in office.

Some interesting facts:

  • There have been 30 prime ministers and 45 elections up to 2018.
  • The 30 prime ministers have served 36 separate terms of office.
  • Just 8 prime ministers assumed the office for the first time through winning an election: Cook (1913), Scullin (1929), Lyons (1931), Whitlam (1972), Hawke (1983), Howard (1996), Rudd (2007), Abbott (2013).
  • Another two prime ministers – Andrew Fisher and Robert Menzies – assumed the office for the first time without an election, but both went on to take their parties from opposition into government at subsequent elections, Fisher in 1910 and again in 1914, Menzies in 1949. Fisher is the only PM to twice take his party into government from opposition.
  • There have been 13 prime ministers who assumed office other than at an election and subsequently won the next election: Barton (1901), Deakin (1903, 1906), Hughes (1917, 1919), Bruce (1925, 1928), Menzies (1940), Curtin (1943), Chifley (1946), Holt (1966), Gorton (1969), Fraser (1975), Keating (1993), Gillard (2010), Turnbull (2016).
  • There have been 11 prime ministers defeated at a general election: Deakin (1910), Fisher (1913), Cook (1914), Bruce (1929), Scullin (1931), Chifley (1949), McMahon (1972), Fraser (1983), Keating (1996), Howard (2007), Rudd (2013).
  • There have been 7 prime ministers who never won an election: Watson, Reid, Page, Fadden, Forde, McEwen, McMahon.
  • There have been 24 changes of prime minister without an election. Reasons include:
    • party-room coups, pressure or inter-party deals (8): Hughes to Bruce (1923), Menzies to Fadden (1941), Gorton to McMahon (1971), Hawke to Keating (1991), Rudd to Gillard (2010), Gillard to Rudd (2013), Abbott to Turnbull (2015), Turnbull to Morrison (2018).
    • defeat in Parliament (6): Deakin to Watson (1904), Watson to Reid (1904), Reid to Deakin (1905), Deakin to Fisher (1908), Fisher to Deakin (1909), Fadden to Curtin (1941).
    • retirement or appointment to other posts (3): Barton to Deakin (1903), Fisher to Hughes (1915), Menzies to Holt (1966). Barton became a High Court justice; Fisher became High Commissioner to London; Menzies retired.
    • death (3): Lyons to Page (1939), Curtin to Forde (1945), Holt to McEwen (1967).
    • stop-gap leaders following death of predecessor (3): Page to Menzies (1939), Forde to Chifley (1945), McEwen to Gorton (1967-68).
    • vice-regal intervention (1): Whitlam to Fraser (1975).
  • There have been four periods of extreme volatility in the prime ministership. Caution should be taken in over-interpreting this volatility. Death and shifts in parliamentary numbers can often obscure underlying stability. Historical context matters. If anything, the resilience of the Westminster parliamentary model is also illustrated.
    • 1901-1909 – Seven separate prime ministerships: Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Deakin, Fisher, Deakin.
    • 1939-1949 – Eight separate prime ministerships: Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Chifley, Menzies.
    • 1966-1975 – Seven separate prime ministerships: Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser.
    • 2008-2018 – Six separate prime ministerships: Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison.
  • The four prime ministers who governed for 32 years from 1975 to 2007 delivered a period of unprecedented longevity and stability. The second, third and fourth longest-serving PMs were in this period – Howard (1996-2007), Hawke (1983-1991) and Fraser (1975-1983). The fourth PM in this period was Paul Keating (1991-1996).
  • There have been 14 prime ministers from New South Wales, 10 from Victoria, 4 from Queensland, and one each from Western Australia and Tasmania. Note: Hughes became prime minister in 1915 as the member for West Sydney (NSW) but spent the bulk of his prime ministership (May 1917-Dec 1922) as the member for Bendigo (Vic). He represented North Sydney (NSW) for the last few weeks of his term.
  • Only the electorate of Higgins (Vic) has been represented by two prime ministers. Holt held the seat from 1949 until his death in 1967. John Gorton, a senator, became prime minister in January 1968 and was then elected as the member for Higgins.
  • There have been 10 Opposition Leaders who led their parties to 18 elections but never became Prime Minister: Tudor (1917, 1919), Charlton (1922, 1925), Evatt (1954, 1955, 1958), Calwell (1961, 1963, 1966), Snedden (1974), Hayden (1980), Peacock (1984, 1990), Hewson (1993), Beazley (1998, 2001), Latham (2004). Fourteen of these elections were ALP defeats.

 

Australian Prime Ministers Since 1901 – by order of term in office
No. Name Party Began Left Length Method of Departure
1.
Barton, Edmund
Prot
01-01-01
24-09-03
2 years, 8 months, 24 days
Appointed Justice of High Court
2.
Deakin, Alfred
Prot
24-09-03
27-04-04
7 months, 4 days
Resigned Following House Amendment of Conciliation and Arbitration Bill
3.
Watson, John Christian
ALP
27-04-04
17-08-04
3 months, 21 days
Resigned Following House Amendment of Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and Governor-General’s Refusal To Dissolve House
4.
Reid, George Houston
FT
18-08-04
05-07-05
10 months, 18 days
Resigned Following House Amendment of Address-In-Reply and Governor-General’s Refusal to Dissolve House
Deakin, Alfred
Prot
05-07-05
13-11-08
3 years, 4 months, 9 days
Defeated on Floor of House
5.
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
13-11-08
02-06-09
6 months, 21 days
Resigned Following Defeat on Floor of House and Governor-General’s Refusal to Dissolve House
Deakin, Alfred
Lib
02-06-09
29-04-10
10 months, 28 days
Defeated at General Election
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
29-04-10
24-06-13
3 years, 1 month, 26 days
Defeated at General Election
6.
Cook, Joseph
Lib
24-06-13
17-09-14
1 year, 2 months, 25 days
Defeated at General Election
Fisher, Andrew
ALP
17-09-14
27-10-15
1 year, 1 month, 11 days
Resigned, Appointed High Commissioner to London
7.
Hughes, William Morris
ALP
Nat
27-10-15
09-02-23
7 years, 3 months, 14 days
Country Party vetoed Hughes as PM in coalition
8.
Bruce, Stanley Melbourne
Nat
09-02-23
22-10-29
6 years, 8 months, 14 days
Defeated and Lost Seat at General Election
9.
Scullin, James Henry
ALP
22-10-29
06-01-32
2 years, 2 months, 16 days
Defeated at General Election Following Party Split
10.
Lyons, Joseph Aloysius
UAP
06-01-32
07-04-39
7 years, 3 months, 2 days
Died in Office
11.
Page, Earle Christmas Grafton
CP
07-04-39
26-04-39
20 days
Relinquished Position to new UAP Leader
12.
Menzies, Robert Gordon
UAP
26-04-39
29-08-41
2 years, 4 months, 4 days
Resigned
13.
Fadden, Arthur William
CP
29-08-41
07-10-41
1 month, 9 days
Defeated on Floor of House
14.
Curtin, John
ALP
07-10-41
05-07-45
3 years, 8 months, 29 days
Died in Office
15.
Forde, Francis Michael
ALP
06-07-45
13-07-45
8 days
Relinquished Position to New ALP Leader
16.
Chifley, Joseph Benedict
ALP
13-07-45
19-12-49
4 years, 5 months, 7 days
Defeated at General Election
Menzies, Robert Gordon
Lib
19-12-49
26-01-66
16 years, 1 month, 7 days
Retired
17.
Holt, Harold Edward
Lib
26-01-66
19-12-67
1 year, 10 months, 23 days
Missing, Presumed Drowned
18.
McEwen, John
CP
19-12-67
10-01-68
23 days
Relinquished Position to New Liberal Leader
19.
Gorton, John Grey
Lib
10-01-68
10-03-71
3 years, 2 months
Technically resigned as leader but effectively deposed
20.
McMahon, William
Lib
10-03-71
05-12-72
1 year, 8 months, 25 days
Defeated at General Election
21.
Whitlam, Edward Gough
ALP
05-12-72
11-11-75
2 years, 11 months, 7 days
Commission Terminated by Governor-General
22.
Fraser, John Malcolm
Lib
11-11-75
11-03-83
7 years, 4 months
Defeated at General Election
23.
Hawke, Robert James Lee
ALP
11-03-83
20-12-91
8 years, 9 months, 9 days
Deposed as Party Leader
24.
Keating, Paul John
ALP
20-12-91
11-03-96
4 years, 2 months, 20 days
Defeated at General Election
25.
Howard, John Winston
Lib
11-03-96
03-12-07
11 years, 8 months, 22 days
Defeated and Lost Seat at General Election
26.
Rudd, Kevin Michael
ALP
03-12-07
24-06-10
2 years, 6 months, 21 days
Deposed as Party Leader
27.
Gillard, Julia Eileen
ALP
24-06-10
27-06-13
3 years, 3 days
Deposed as Party Leader
Rudd, Kevin Michael
ALP
27-06-13
18-09-13
2 months, 22 days
Defeated at General Election
28.
Abbott, Anthony John
Lib
18-09-13
15-09-15
1 year, 11 months, 28 days
Deposed as Party Leader
29.
Turnbull, Malcolm Bligh
Lib
15-09-15
24-08-18
2 years, 11 months, 9 days
Deposed as Party Leader
30.
Morrison, Scott John
Lib
24-08-18
3 months, 22 days



Legend
ALP = Australian Labor Party
CP = Country Party
FT = Free Trade (fused with Protectionists to form Liberal Party in 1909)
LP = Liberal Party (first formed in 1909 from Free Traders & Protectionists; reformed in 1944 to replace UAP)
NAT = Nationalist (formed out of Liberal Party and ALP defectors in 1916)
PROT = Protectionist (fused with Free Traders to form Liberal Party in 1909)
UAP = United Australia Party (formed out of Nationalists and ALP defectors in 1931)

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