Honourable Members: What To Call Politicians

M.P. (Member of Parliament)

A member of the House of Representatives should be designated MP and not MHR. This was a decision of the Federal Cabinet in 1901 and has been reaffirmed twice since.

Honourable

Originally, all members of the first Parliament in 1901 were granted the privilege by the King to use the title “Honourable” for life.

Since then, members have chosen not to hold this title except in these cases:

  • Members of the Executive Council have the title “Honourable” while they remain Executive Councillors. A Member who becomes a Minister is appointed to the Executive Council. Hence, all the current ministers in the Government are known as “Honourable”. Traditionally, ministers remain members of the Executive Council, even after they have creased to be ministers. Hence, former prime ministers such as Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and John Howard, and ministers in their governments, remain members of the Executive Council, even though they are no longer in government.

  • It is also a tradition that the MP elected Speaker has the title “Honourable” both during their time in office and for life if he or she has been Speaker for three or more years. Former Speakers Jim Cope, Harry Jenkins snr and Bob Halverson were given the title, even though they each served less than three years as Speaker.

Honourable Members

One of the conventions of parliamentary behaviour is that a member must not be referred to by name. Instead, a member is referred to by the name of the electoral division he or she represents. Most commonly, a member is referred to as “the Honourable Member for …” or “the Member for …”

Right Honourable Members

This title is granted to members of the Sovereign’s Privy Council in Britain. Until the 1970s, Prime Ministers and senior Ministers were appointed to the Privy Council. Since appeals to the Privy Council have been abolished, Australian ministers no longer use this title.

Senators

The President of the Senate, members of the Executive Council (current and former federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries) also enjoy the title “Honourable”.

A minister in the Senate is called “Senator the Honourable…”

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