Why Is Kevin Rudd Still Prime Minister?

The federal election was held ten days ago. The Labor government was defeated. Tony Abbott has announced his new ministry. But Kevin Rudd is still prime minister.

Rudd will remain prime minister until tomorrow morning.

At that time, Abbott will be sworn in as prime minister and his ministers will take the oath of office.

Rudd-Abbott

Until that moment, Kevin Rudd remains caretaker prime minister, as he has been since the beginning of the election campaign.

This is quite normal.

  • In 2007, Kevin Rudd won the election on November 24 but was not sworn in as prime minister until December 3. John Howard remained prime minister until that date.
  • In 1996, the election was held on March 2 but John Howard did not replace Paul Keating as prime minister until March 11.
  • In 1983, the election was held on March 5 but Bob Hawke was not sworn in to replace Malcolm Fraser until March 11.
  • In 1949, the election was held on December 10 but Robert Menzies was not sworn in to replace Ben Chifley until December 19.

Excluding the immediate installation of Malcolm Fraser as prime minister, following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, on November 11, 1975, the fastest transfer of the prime ministership in recent decades took place in 1972. Because Gough Whitlam wanted to get down to business immediately, he was sworn in as prime minister three days after the December 2 election in which he had defeated William McMahon and the Liberal-Country Party coalition. Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, served as a two-man government until December 19.

Transferring the Prime Ministership

The process followed this year by Rudd and Abbott is part of a long tradition.

On September 8, the day after the election, Rudd tendered his resignation to the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.

Rudd

In resigning, Rudd surrendered his commission to the Governor-General. Bryce accepted Rudd’s resignation but asked him to remain as caretaker prime minister until the swearing-in of the new ministry.

Bryce

Rudd’s resignation will take effect the second that Abbott is sworn in. In this way, there is always a prime minister in place. [Read more…]