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Federal Government Caretaker Conventions – 2001

This is the official document containing Federal Government caretaker conventions prior to the 2001 Federal Election.

The document, titled “Guidance On Caretaker Conventions”, was issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. [Read more…]

Caretaker Government Arrangements – ACT 2001

This is the document issued by the government of the Australian Capital Territory, prior to the 2001 general election.

It is titled: “Guidelines on Arrangements to Apply in the Pre- and Post-Election Period.”


Federal Government Caretaker Conventions – 1998

This is the official document containing the Caretaker Conventions for the Federal Government, issued following the calling of the 1998 Federal Election.

The document was issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. [Read more…]

What Is the Executive Government?

The Executive Government in Australia is defined by Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

According to the Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General.

The Governor-General is provided with an Executive Council to advise him in the government of the Commonwealth. According to Section 64, the executive councillors hold office at the pleasure of the Governor-General.

In practice, the Governor-General simply acts on the advice of the ministers of the day who comprise the Executive Council, although on one notable occasion in 1975 this did not occur and the Whitlam Government was dismissed.

In practice, the executive power is exercised by the ministers in the government. These ministers are chosen by a Prime Minister who is the leader of the party or parties that command a majority in the House of Representatives, the lower house.

The Constitution makes no mention of a Cabinet as such, although it does refer to the Governor-General’s advisers and ministers of State. Much of the operation of the Cabinet derives from conventions that have developed over time and which arose from the British Westminster system of government.

The most important principles of Cabinet Government require the ministers to speak collectively with one voice and to accept responsibility for the actions of their departments.

The ministers are divided into two groups, with the most senior ministers taking responsibility for the major areas of government policy, such as Treasury, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Health, etc. These ministers comprise the Cabinet and are led by the Prime Minister.

There are 18 members of the Howard Cabinet, with a further 13 ministers making up what is often referred to as the outer ministry. All members of the ministry and cabinet must be members of parliament and may come from either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Ministers act as the political heads of government departments and are responsible for the administration of those departments, as well as the development and implementation of government policy. The ministers are bound by conventions of collective and individual ministerial responsibility.

Letters Patent 1984: Governor-General

This is the full text of the Letters Patent from Queen Elizabeth II in relation to the Governor-General of Australia.

Letters Patent are effectively a written order issued by the monarch. They are a legal instrument that grants an office, title or status.

Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II in relation to the office of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth,


WHEREAS, by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, certain powers, functions and authorities are vested in a Governor-General appointed by the Queen to be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth: [Read more…]

Andrew Peacock Resigns From Fraser Government

Following his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Fraser government, Andrew Peacock explained his decision to the House of Representatives.

PeacockPeacock accused Fraser of “fracturing Cabinet government and the parliamentary system as we know it”.

In remarks reminiscent of Fraser’s own resignation from John Gorton’s government in 1971, Peacock claimed there was an “erosion of the Cabinet system” arising from “reposing too much power in the Prime Minister”.

He said that concentration of power in the Prime Minister was at odds “with efficient management of the country”. Moreover, he said “the ever increasing centralising of power is striking at the heart and core of liberalism”.

Peacock spoke at length of policy differences over industrial relations and recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea (now Cambodia).

Three present and future prime ministers spoke in response to Peacock’s speech in the House: Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating and John Howard.

Hansard transcript of Andrew Peacock’s speech to the House of Representatives on April 28, 1981.

Mr PEACOCK —I rise to explain today why I have resigned from the Fraser Ministry. I resigned because of irreconcilable differences between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and me about his method of government. Before speaking further, I wish to stress a matter which is of fundamental importance if the reasons for my resignation are to be understood. My resignation is not based on rivalry, nor is it inspired by any personal ambition. Throughout the turbulent post-Menzies years of the Liberal Party of Australia I have never been associated with any group that has sought to overthrow the leader. This is the first time I have publicly called into question the elected leader. Accordingly, it will be obvious that the decision to resign from the Prime Minister’s Ministry was the most painful decision I have been forced to make in all of my 25 years working for the Liberal Party. [Read more…]

Malcolm Fraser’s Resignation Speech: “Disloyalty Intolerable And Not To Be Endured”

The Minister for Defence, Malcolm Fraser, resigned from Prime Minister John Gorton’s Cabinet on March 8, 1971.

FraserThe following day, Fraser explained his resignation to the House of Representatives. In his speech, he accused Gorton of disloyalty that was “intolerable and not to be endured”.

Fraser said of Gorton: “The Prime Minister, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way, his obstinacy, impetuous and emotional reactions, has imposed strains upon the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service. I do not believe he is fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister, and I cannot serve in his Government.”

The next day, March 10, 1971, the Liberal Party held a leadership ballot. Gorton was challenged by his Foreign Minister, William McMahon. The vote was tied and Gorton surrendered the leadership to McMahon. In a remarkable development, Gorton was then elected deputy leader to McMahon and became Defence Minister until he was sacked later in the year.

Fraser returned to the Cabinet as Minister for Education and Science in August 1971. He became leader of the Liberal Party in March 1975 and became Prime Minister on November 11, 1975, following the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Text of Malcolm Fraser’s speech to the House of Representatives.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)– Mr Speaker, I take it from what has been said by the mover of this motion that there is no need for me to ask for the leave of the House to make a statement concerning recent Press reports and concerning the office I held as Minister of State for Defence. I was surprised to learn on the morning of Tuesday, 2nd March, that a story had appeared in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ alleging principally that the Joint Intelligence Organisation had been ordered to report to me on Australian Army activities in Vietnam because I did not trust Army reports. Immediately I reached Canberra, on my own initiative and not at the direction of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), I drafted a reply denying the report and pointing out the function of the Joint Intelligence Organisation. I emphasised that JIO is not an intelligence gathering organisation. It assesses information given to it by the Services in Vietnam, principally by the Army, by the Department of Foreign Affairs and by South Vietnamese Government agencies. It has no officer or office in Vietnam. [Read more…]