The Prime Minister of Australia is the head of government. They are, as a rule, a sitting MP in the federal House of Representatives and the leader of the majority party in that chamber they are in charge of the Cabinet (which consists of Ministers drawn from the House or the Senate) and generally run the whole show. The current Prime Minister is Scott Morrison.
A note Brief Summary of Each Australian Prime Minister:
- Sir Edmund Barton (Protectionist Party) was Australia's first prime minister, from January 1901 to September 1903. A key member of the Federation movement in the 1890s, he was conservative, rich, and racist — the first law his government passed was the foundation of the White Australia Policy, which effectively banned non-white people from immigrating to Australia. Media nickname "Toby Tosspot", owing to his fondness of long dinners and the bottle. He actually didn't really achieve much as Prime Minister at all, as the main focus of the inaugural government was to organise the country's first federal elections — which the Protectionists ended up winning with support from the Labour Party. One thing the Barton Government did achieve was to give women the right to vote — which happened in 1902. In 1902 he became the first of two Prime Ministers to receive a knighthood in officenote ... and was also the first of two Prime Ministers to resign by his own free will — both distinctions he shares with Robert Menzies. Deciding he's had enough of front-line politics, Barton resigned in September 1903 to become one of the founding High Court judges. He was a pretty so-so High Court Judge too, and acted much the same way as he did as Prime Minister. Died in 1920.
- Alfred Deakin (Protectionist Party) succeeded Barton, and his first stint as Prime Minister lasted seven months between September 1903 and April 1904 — he would go on to serve as Prime Minister on three non-consecutive occasions between 1903 and 1910. Among people familiar with history, Deakin is remembered rather more favourably than Barton — and was in fact universally liked, only making actual enemies as a result of The Fusion. His policies were small-l liberal, and during his time in the Victorian Government before Federation, he was instrumental in bringing in liberal reforms, as well as helped introduce irrigation. Had he not focused his efforts on Federation, he may well have ended us as Premier of Victoria. Served as Attorney-General in the Barton Government, where he helped establish the High Court. Deakin is also known for believing he could commune with dead politicians, who advised him on tactics.
His first stint as Prime Minister, however, didn't really lead to many achievements of note. He led the Protectionists into the 1903 election, campaigning vehemently in support of the White Australia Policy. He succeeded in retaining government, but a swing to Labour gave all three major parties near-equal representation in the House, making it much harder to get anything done. In April 1904 the unofficial alliance between the Protectionists and Labour fell apart, and Deakin ended up resigning in frustration. Opposition Leader George Reid declined to form government, so the job of Prime Minister went to....
- John Christian Watson (Labour Party), Prime Minister for four months between April and August of 1904 after Deakin's resignation. He was the ALP's first ever Prime Minister, at 37 the youngest Prime Minister ever, and the first Prime Minister to come from a social democratic party in the entire world ... but he couldn't really achieve much in his brief tenure, generally having more success in wringing concessions out of Protectionist Party governments. He suffered the same problem that Deakin had due to the three major parties having about equal power, so couldn't accomplish much more than passing supply bills — though it is generally agreed that had it not been for these circumstances, he would have made a fine Prime Minister. When he couldn't persuade the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call an early election, he resigned as PM. Continued on as Labour leader until resigning in 1907 in favour of Andrew Fisher due to his wife's ill health. Was regarded as a moderate and pragmatist, and later in life defected to the Nationalist Party after being expelled from the Labor Party along with Billy Hughes and several others in 1916. Also noteworthy for having become Prime Minister without being an Australian citizen or even a British (Empire) subject: he was born in Valparaíso (Chile) to a German-Chilean father and a New Zealander mother, and was never naturalised. He grew up in New Zealand and first moved to Sydney at the age of 19. Died in 1941.
- George Houston Reid (Free Trade Party), Prime Minister from August 1904 to July 1905. He was the earliest-born of all Prime Ministers (in 1845) and the only Free Trade Prime Minister. In the event, he accomplished very little as PM, like Watson and Deakin before him. Aware that he would only be able to serve for a brief period of time, he waited until the unofficial Protectionist-Labour alliance was re-established which they did in July 1905, at which point he stepped down from the Prime Ministership gracefully. He spent a much longer period of time as Leader of the Opposition. Also served as Premier of New South Wales during the 1890's, where he is generally considered to have been more effective than as PM. Changed the name of the Free Trade Party to the Anti-Socialist Party in 1906 in order to remain relevant and to differentiate themselves from the other major parties. Opposed the idea of The Fusion, Reid stepped down as the Anti-Socialist leader in 1908 in favour of Joseph Cook, and retired from Parliament the following year. Later became Australia's first High Commissioner in London, where he proved to be extremely popular. As a result, he ended up joining the House of Commons as a member of the Conservative Party, and served until his death in 1918 — the first former Prime Minister to die.
Heckler: [Pointing out Reid's large belly] What are you going to call it, George?Reid: If it's a boy, I'll call it after myself. If it's a girl I'll call it Victoria. But if, as I strongly suspect, it's nothing but piss and wind, I'll name it after you!
- In his lifetime, Reid was also (in)famous for his wit, and was acclaimed as "perhaps the best platform speaker in the Empire". Much of his audience would attend his election meetings as entertainment, and Reid had the ability to amuse and at the same time inform the audiences. However, not everyone enjoyed his humour, with Alfred Deakin in particular disliking him as a result.
- Alfred Deakin again (Protectionist Party), this time serving from July 1905 to November 1908. Fifteen months and two prime ministers after first resigning the position, Deakin became PM again. Successfully passed protectionist legislation... after which there wasn't much left that distinguished his party from the Free Traders/Anti-Socialists, resulting in them losing supporters. Nevertheless, his second tenure in office is overwhelmingly considered his most successful, with achievements such as the establishment of an Australian administration in the territory of Papua; the Bureau of Census and Statistics; the Bureau of Meteorology; the Copyright Act; and began the process of organising an independent Australian Navy as well as Australia's own currency. Not the flashiest of reform administrations, but essential for the development of the Commonwealth in its first decade. Managed to hold onto minority government after the December 1906 election despite having won the least number of seats of the three parties, but was forced to resign in November 1908 after Labour finally withdrew support for the Protectionists.
- Andrew Fisher (Labour Party) replaced Deakin as Prime Minister, and served from November 1908 to June 1909 — like Deakin, he would ultimately serve three non-consecutive occasions between 1908 and 1915. Left-wing and reformist, he was one of Labour's most successful Prime Ministers in the early 20th century. Fisher first became PM of a minority government in November 1908 after forcing Deakin out, when the Protectionist-Labour alliance broke down again. This time around, he only lasted seven months before Deakin took back the government.
- Alfred Deakin yet again (Commonwealth Liberal Party).
- (1909-1910) With the Protectionist Party bleeding supporters to Labour and to the Anti-Socialists, and most of supporters being admirers of Deakin himself rather than the party, Deakin organised a merger of the Protectionists and the Anti-Socialists into the "Commonwealth Liberal Party" with himself as leader, giving them a majority and effectively creating Australia's modern two-party system. It backfired: a good deal of liberal Protectionists felt that Deakin had sold out his principles, and voted him out in the next election. Died in 1919.
- Andrew Fisher again (Labor Party — they dropped the "u" during his tenure, in 1912).
- (1910-1913) Won big in the 1910 election, becoming the first person to be elected the head of a majority government in Australia. Passed a huge number of reforms, only one of which was officially changing his party's name to a misspelling — on the advice of American-born King O'Malley. Lost the 1913 election by one seat.
- Joseph Cook (Commonwealth Liberal Party), Prime Minister from 1913 to 1914. Former member of the Labour Party who steadily moved to the Right. Understandably fed up with governing with a one-seat majority and a hostile Senate, he obtained a double-dissolution election, the first in Australia's history — right before the outbreak of World War I. Thrown into an accidental khaki election, Cook and the Commonwealth Liberals ended up losing to Fisher and Labor. Died in 1947.
- Andrew Fisher yet again (Labor Party).
- (1914-1915) Having won back the position of Prime Minister, he didn't keep it very long, resigning after a year due to ill health. Became Australia's new High Commissioner in London the following year, succeeding George Reid. Died in 1928.
- William Morris Hughes (Labor Party, then National Labor Party, then Nationalist Party) succeeded Fisher. The most xenophobic PM Australia has had (Former PM Malcolm Fraser even referred to his politics as 'evil'). He was kicked out of the Labor Party in 1916 over the issue of conscription (which he supported and most of the party didn't), but stayed Prime Minister by merging his small band of expelled supporters into the Commonwealth Liberal Party to form the Nationalist Party, which formed the new government and won a huge majority in 1917, although conscription failed to pass in a plebiscite. Hughes was re-elected as Prime Minister in 1919 (but came one seat short of a majority in the House, relying on cross-bencher support), and from 1920 onwards he steadily lost the support of right-wing Nationalists. The 1922 election returned a hung parliament, and the Nationalists formed an official coalition with the new Country Party to stay in governmentnote the price of the agreement was that Hughes was forced to resign as Prime Minister, as the Country Party didn't trust him due to his Labor background. Hughes spent his entire career jumping from party to party — Labor to National Labor to Nationalist to independent to Australian to United Australia to independent to Liberal.note He sat in Parliament for fifty-one years, a record that has yet to be surpassed. Died in 1952 as the last remaining serving MP from Federation as well as second-last surviving (King O'Malley outliving him by around a year).
- Hughes was extremely racist, and a vehement supporter of the White Australia Policy. At the Paris Peace Conference he was the most vocal opponent of Japan's Racial Equality Proposal (acting as a cat's paw for David Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson, who also opposed the proposal but less openly); the proposal's resultant defeat made Japan quite annoyed.
- Bizarrely, Hughes genuinely feared an ethnic German uprising in Australia in the midst of WWI, and even had the police draw him secret escape and counter-militia measures, for when the German hordes descended upon the government. Unsurprisingly, and as the police consistently told him, this was totally pointless. Most ethnic Germans had been in Australia for generations. On another note, Hughes also shot invective at Irish and Catholic Australians during his pro-conscription campaign, despite the fact that huge numbers of Irish Australians actively volunteered for service.
- Hughes was also instrumental in insisting that the Treaty of Versailles should oblige Germany to pay war reparations, ganging up with French PM Georges Clemenceau to browbeat Lloyd George into backing the measure. Reparations, of course, played a huge part in the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. If only Woodrow Wilson's style had been less Holier Than Thou professorial lecturing and more annoying politicking...
- In 1917, while Hughes was campaigning in Queensland, an anti-conscription protester lobbed an egg at him, hitting the PM square in the face. Hughes demanded that the man be arrested on the spot, and was furious when the police on the scene refused. So furious, in fact, that he subsequently founded the Commonwealth Police Force, the predecessor to today's Australian Federal Police.
- Hughes was one of few Prime Ministers who played himself in a movie, along with John Gorton and Gough Whitlam. Hughes appeared as his 28-year younger self in 1946's Smithy, where he is shown refusing to support Charles Kingsford Smith's attempt to enter the England to Australia Air Race.
- Stanley Melbourne Bruce (Nationalist Party), Prime Minister 1922 to 1929. When the Country Party forced Billy Hughes to resign as PM as a price for entering coalition with the Nationalists, Bruce was picked as his replacement. A veteran of the First World War, he was a conservative, stuck-up, condescending bastard who constantly wore an expression of deep disdain for those around him. His major political achievements were his "Men, Money, Markets" policies (increased immigration, increased government spending, more international trade) which had the cumulative result of driving the country to the ground in the Great Depression, thanks to enormous debt and a uniform economy. Bruce ended up being brought down by the man he replaced: in 1929, Hughes and a few other Nationalists crossed the floor on a crucial bill and were expelled from the Nationalists, forcing a federal election — an election which Bruce not only lost, but in which he became the first sitting Prime Minister to actually lose his own seat in Parliament (The only other sitting Prime Minister who lost his seat so far was John Howard in 2007). He was also infamously known for his irrational hatred of unions and the labour movement in general, and passed extremely harsh strike-breaking laws. Later went on to a distinguished, and highly successful diplomatic career, being an advocate for Australian interests in the United Kingdom, at the League of Nations and at the United Nations, entering the Churchill cabinet as Australia's representative during World War II, and defending international cooperation in economic and social affairs, especially those of the developing world, with a particular passion on improving global nutrition, being a key figure in the establishment of the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, although unfortunately much of his diplomatic career went unnoticed at home. Died in 1967.
- James Henry Scullin (Labor Party), Prime Minister 1929 to 1932, and the first Catholic and Redhead PM. Was sworn in two days before the Wall Street Crash, which made his entire tenure as Prime Minister all about the Great Depression. Ended up acting as Treasurer as well after the first one, Ted Theodore, was forced to resign in scandal. Spent the entire second half of 1930 in England begging for a loan; he left James Fenton as acting PM and Joseph Lyons as acting Treasurer, who drastically changed government policy to cut spending while he was away. After returning he tried to reinstate Theodore as Treasurer — as a result, his party suffered two splits at once: a faction of rightists (who included Fenton and Lyons) thought Theodore was too radical, and defected to the opposition; another faction (known as "Lang Labor", led by Jack Lang) thought Theodore wasn't radical enough. An early election was forced and Scullin lost in one of the worst landslides in Australian political history. Stayed on as Labor leader until 1935, upon which he stepped down in favour of John Curtin. Became an elder statesman in the Labor Party, whose members often turned to him for advice. Died in 1953.
- Joseph Aloysius Lyons (United Australia Party), Prime Minister from 1932 to 1939. A former Tasmanian Labor Premier who served as a minister under Scullin, he left the party along with four other MPs in 1931 — they combined with the Nationalist Party plus three other independent MPs to form the United Australia Party (the Liberal Party's immediate predecessor). Generally considered one of the more obscure Prime Ministers despite serving throughout most of the 1930s and the Great Depression - largely due to being disowned by the Labor Party as a rat, and not being embraced by the Liberals due to Lyons' strained relationship with Menzies. However, in his time Lyons was arguably among the most popular Prime Ministers, with his popularity among the public rivalled only by Hawke in the future. He was the first and so far only Tasmanian to become Prime Minister.... and also the first Australian PM to die in office, succumbing to a heart attack on Good Friday 1939.
- Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page (Country Party), served as caretaker Prime Minister for nineteen days in April 1939, taking over after Lyons' death. Only served as PM until the United Australia Party, as the dominant party in the Coalition, could elect a new leader — who turned out to be Robert Menzies, whom Sir Earle hated. His most enduring legacy was actually the Coalition itself - first forming a conservative coalition with Stanley Bruce in 1923 and becoming Bruce and later Lyons' de facto deputy. This partnership between the senior conservative party of the day with the junior rural party has more or less been in place since. Well-known for being strongly against government spending... unless it was directed at rural areas, in which case he was all for it. The third-longest serving federal MP in Australia, after Philip Ruddock (who served from 1974 until 2016) and fellow former PM Billy Hughes. Also the only sitting Prime Minister to have already been knighted (several others were also knighted, but with the exception of Barton and Menzies only after their time in office). Died in 1961, days after losing his seat in that year's election - though he was dying of cancer and in a coma when the results were declared, so he never knew that he lost his seat.
- Robert Gordon Menzies (United Australia Party), Prime Minister on two non-consecutive occasions between 1939 and 1966, and Australia's longest-serving PM. Hugely anti-communist, and massive Britphile — once proclaimed that Australians were "British to [their] bootstraps", and had ambitions to become Prime Minister of the UK someday (obviously, never fulfilled). He ended up founding the Liberal Party, and is regarded as a founding father of modern Australian conservatism.
- (1939-1941) His first time as Prime Minister, however, wasn't so successful. He first took over soon after Lyons died, but proved to be not very good as a wartime Prime Minister and was unpopular fairly quickly. Held onto government after the 1940 election returned a hung parliament, but was forced to resign the following year. His successor as party leader was none other than Billy Hughes, who was 78 years old at the time and mainly got the job because there was no one else remotely suitable.
- Menzies had the nickname "Pig Iron Bob" due to his promotions of iron exports to Japan in the thirties. The joke (and it says a lot about Australians that this is a joke) is that the Japanese gave it back soon after.
- (1939-1941) His first time as Prime Minister, however, wasn't so successful. He first took over soon after Lyons died, but proved to be not very good as a wartime Prime Minister and was unpopular fairly quickly. Held onto government after the 1940 election returned a hung parliament, but was forced to resign the following year. His successor as party leader was none other than Billy Hughes, who was 78 years old at the time and mainly got the job because there was no one else remotely suitable.
- Arthur William Fadden (Country Party), became Prime Minister in 1941 after Menzies' resignation, despite being from the Country Party and not the UAP (mainly because of Hughes's advanced age). Likewise, he was almost an accidental Country leader - chosen as a compromise caretaker due to the party unable to decide between Earle Page and John McEwen after Archie Cameron resigned as leader, he would end up serving as their leader for 18 years. As PM however, he only lasted 40 days before the independents who held the balance of power switched their support to Labor due to outrage over the treatment of Menzies - which may have been some small consolation to Menzies. Led the Coalition to a catastrophic defeat in the 1943 elections, where they lost all but one seat outside of the eastern states. He handed the Opposition leadership to Menzies after that, but stayed on as Country leader and became Treasurer after the Coalition returned to power, retiring in 1958 to be replaced by John McEwen. Died in 1973.
- John Curtin (Labor Party), Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945, and also the first agnostic PM. The first Prime Minister from Western Australia, though Curtin was actually born and raised in Victoria. Alcoholism prevented him from becoming a minister under Scullin, and he lost his seat in the 1931 landslide. He soon won back his seat, and then won the leadership after he kicked his alcoholism and Scullin retired. Led Australia during World War II, and is credited with starting Australia's close alliance with the US. Considered one of our greatest Prime Ministers, for his war-time leadership, great oratory and general sympathy for the poor guy. Had ill health all through his tenure owing to the consequences of past alcoholism and chain smoking, and ended up being the second Australian Prime Minister to die in office - from heart disease on the eve of victory in the Pacific, in July 1945. Ended up getting a TV film made about him, and was chosen as the Australian Leader when Australia finally became a playable Civ in Civilization VI.
- Francis Michael Forde (Labor Party), caretaker Prime Minister for seven days in July 1945 after Curtin's death, until losing a ballot for the Labor Leadership to Ben Chifley - the shortest tenure in the history of the country. After a brief career as a backbencher in the Queensland state Parliament, Forde switched to federal politics in 1922. After briefly serving as a minister in the Scullin Government, Forde became Deputy Labor leader in 1932 — a position he would hold for the next fourteen years. When Scullin retired over ill health in 1935, Forde lost the leadership vote to John Curtin by just one vote, but stayed on as Deputy. Well respected for his loyalty to his party, and gave his full support as Deputy to Curtin and Chifley. Carried on as Minister for the Army and Minister for Defence after his week-long Prime Ministership; however, backlash over the way he handled demobilisation saw Forde losing his own seat in the 1946 election even as the Government was returned comfortably. Replaced as Deputy Labor leader by H.V. Evatt, Forde was given the consolation post of High Commissioner to Canada; a post he served with distinction. He briefly returned to state politics and most likely would have become state Labor leader had he not lost his seat in the aftermath of the Split. Forde was also remembered for being the longest-lived Prime Minister (having lived to age 92 years, 194 days) until his record was surpassed by Gough Whitlam in 2009. Died in 1983.
- Joseph Benedict Chifley (Labor Party), Prime Minister from July 1945 to December 1949. Became Prime Minister one week after John Curtin died, and was re-elected with a handsome, though reduced majority the following year (defeating former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, the first leader of the Liberal Party). The last truly socialist Prime Minister of Australia, and one of the most influential. Is something of a hero of the Australian left, for introducing a large number of social programs — though was still a staunch supporter of White Australia, as was all Prime Ministers until Holt. The Snowy Mountain Scheme was initiated under Chifley's watch, as was the establishment of ASIO; the Commonwealth Employment Service; the nationalisation of Qantas; the establishment of an Australian citizenship distinct from Britain; and a post-war immigration scheme under the slogan "populate or perish". Though a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was established, an attempt to bring in universal healthcare modelled on the British NHS was unsuccessful — universal healthcare in Australia would have to wait until the Whitlam era.
Chifley ended up suffering a huge backlash in 1948 and 1949 for trying to nationalise the banks and for a crippling coal strike during the winter of 1949. Though the strike was crushed when Chifley brought in the troops to reopen the mines, Menzies managed to exploit the issue to portray Labor as soft on the Communists. The decision to reintroduce petrol rationing just before the 1949 election helped out a struggling Britain, but sealed Chifley's political fate. He lost the subsequent rematch election to Menzies in a landslide. Stayed on as Opposition leader, though divisions over the Communist issue within Labor that would ultimately lead to a major Split were starting to be sewn. Died in 1951 shortly after losing another election that year.
- Chifley is best remembered for his "light on the hill" speech, which is seen as encapsulating the Australian Labor movement's ideals and aspirations. The appropriate section is quoted below:Chifley: I try to think of the Labor movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody's pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective — the light on the hill — which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labor movement would not be worth fighting for. If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement will be completely justified.
- Before Chifley, Labor had generally been against immigration. By contrast, his government saw the beginning of a large wave of European immigration. This was the first mass-migration program to include non-British immigrants. This did not mark the end the White Australia Policy; both Labor and the Coalition favoured this policy until the 1960s. Still, it was a first step.
- Chifley's time in office, as well as the early years of the Menzies era leading up to the 1955 Labor Split, would end up being portrayed in True Believers, a 1988 TV miniseries.
- Chifley is best remembered for his "light on the hill" speech, which is seen as encapsulating the Australian Labor movement's ideals and aspirations. The appropriate section is quoted below:
- Sir Robert Gordon Menzies again (Liberal Party), for a long time this time — serving from December 1949 until January 1966. Founded the Liberal Party while out of power, merging the United Australia Party with several minor parties, and became its first leader. Lost the 1946 election against Chifley, and was widely regarded as unelectable until the whole debacle over bank nationalisation in 1948. The nationalisation issue, a crippling coal strike in 1949, and the re-introduction of a petrol tax helped ensure Menzies make his comeback, and he returned to the Prime Ministership after winning the election at the end of 1949. Though his second prime ministerial tenure went on to become by far longest in Australian history, it is not considered to have been particularly eventful, with many shorter prime ministerships providing more excitement. Menzies did however expand Australia's university system; instate the Colombo Plan; develop Canberra as a capital; give state aid to independent and Catholic schools; and in 1963 became the second sitting Prime Minister to get a knighthood — after Barton. He did also fail to have the Communist Party banned, presided over the Korean War and the Malayan Emergency, and took Australia into Vietnam — a decision that would haunt his Liberal successors.
Menzies more or less cruised through his time as PM without serious opposition due to the ALP-DLP split over the Communist issue in 1955 — though he did lose the popular vote several times, and relied on DLP preferences to remain in power. He lasted forever and ever and ever, governing for 17 years straight and finally not so much resigning as ascending to Camelot. His time after office were not filled with happiness; within a few years he suffered a stroke and his health went into decline, and he became so disillusioned with his Liberal successors and their "small l liberalism" that he ended up voting for the DLP several times. He returned to voting Liberal after Malcolm Fraser became leader, but even Fraser ended up disappointing Menzies. Died in 1978.
- Having a conservative founding and leading a 'Liberal' party might sound odd to American readers. Menzies said about the party he founded: "We took the name 'Liberal' because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his rights, and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea."
- On the other hand, he was a dedicated social conservative. He successfully exploited anti-communist sentiment on more than one occasion, even unsuccessfully trying to ban the Communist Party. Menzies was probably the last PM to consider himself to be British, saying in an Australia Day speech in 1950 that "You and I are Australians. We are also British. We do not and cannot think of the people of the other British nations as a foreign people". Menzies was a staunch supporter for the White Australia Policy. When in 1964 one of his ministers, Hubert Opperman, argued the policy was based on discrimination Menzies argued discrimination against non-Whites was 'the right sort of discrimination'. Menzies was essentially the last defender of for this rigid race-based ideology. During his government, restrictions that prevented Aboriginals from voting ended on both a federal and state level.
- He also made one of the classic heckler putdowns:Heckler: I wouldn't vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel!Menzies: Madam, if I were the Archangel Gabriel, I'm afraid you wouldn't be in my constituency.
- Menzies was well-known for his wit, so much that a collection titled The Wit of Robert Menzies was the best-selling non-fiction book in Australia for a period.
- He also made one of the classic heckler putdowns:
- Menzies, like his successor Malcolm Fraser was a life-long Carlton supporter, and was its number one ticket holder during his time in office. He was such a fan that after he suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair, the Carlton Football Club had a special ramp built at their home stadium so that Menzies could drive up in his Bentley and watch the game from his car.
- Harold Edward Holt (Liberal Party) — Prime Minister from 1966 to 1967, taking over after Menzies' retirement and winning re-election later that year. Didn't make much of a mark during his relatively short tenure: he was mainly known for winning the largest victory at an election during the Coalition rule in 1966, being a strong supporter of the Vietnam War (which was popular at the time), expanding Australia's troop commitment and coming up with the quote "All the way with LBJ." Vietnam aside, Holt and his successors were less conservative than Menzies, and began to further ease restrictions on Asians and other non-White people by effectively dismantling the White Australia Policy; supported a successful referendum recognising Aboriginals in the census; and dropped the inter-changeability of 'British' and 'Australian'. What Holt is most famous for nowadays is how he died — or rather, how he disappeared without a trace. One day in December 1967, after a few drinks and a tough day at the office, Harold Holt plunged into the surf at Portsea to impress a woman generally considered his mistress, and was never seen again.
- And in true Australian spirit, in Melbourne a council swimming pool was named after him.
- Harold Holt's death was the subject of many conspiracy theories that continue to this day. Theories range from him having deliberately committed suicide, to having faked his own death, to having been kidnapped in the water by a Chinese submarine.
- And some Aussies love mocking the conspiracy theories.
- Yes, haven't you heard? They're now looking for a dingo with a snorkel.
- John McEwen (Country Party), caretaker Prime Minister after Holt's disappearance from 1967 to 1968... well, actually it was only 23 days, but it lasted over the New Year. McEwen was leader of the Country Party, and is still revered by Nationals supporters for his leadership to this day. It was expected that the Liberals' deputy leader Billy McMahon would take over as PM in short order — but McEwen, who hated McMahon, officially said "No way in hell" and refused to let McMahon's candidacy even be considered, throwing the Coalition into crisis. The job inevitably went to the newly-elected Liberal leader John Gorton, who then made McEwen the first official Deputy Prime Minister. Due to his stature and the respect he commanded, it is widely speculated that had McEwen switched parties from his beloved Country Party to the Liberals, he would have easily stayed Prime Minister. Retired in 1971, with Doug Anthony replacing him as Country leader - by which time McEwen was the last serving parliamentarian to have been elected during the Depression. Tragically, he is the only Prime Minister to have committed suicide, starving himself to death in 1980 after a lifetime of battling severe dermatitis. Also the last surviving PM to have served in World War Inote .
- John Grey Gorton (Liberal Party), Prime Minister from 1968 to 1971, and the first openly non-religious PM. After Harold Holt disappeared, Gorton was plucked from the Senate to be his permanent replacement, being selected after a lot of factional in-fighting within the Coalition over who'd take over. Described by John Howard as a "Tory Larrikin" and "Australian to the boot-heels", Gorton was a proud nationalist who fought as a fighter pilot in World War II and was severely wounded several times (his face literally bearing the scars of war). He was also one of the Liberal Party's most progressive Prime Ministers, to the point that he alienated hardline conservatives and traditionalists, who railed against "Gortonism". The Gorton Government saved the Great Barrier Reef from oil drilling, supported equal pay and increased funding for Aboriginal affairs, provided free health care for 250,000 poor families, expanded the social services system, increased Commonwealth education spending, revitalised the Australian film industry, and gave vital government support to the arts.
Gorton ended up losing much of his initial popularity (largely due to the rise of Gough Whitlam and Coalition disunity), and was narrowly re-elected in 1969 (and only then due to DLP preferences). He resigned from the leadership in March 1971 after Malcolm Fraser - who until then had been one of Gorton's top supporters - resigned as Defence Minister and openly denounced him on the floor of Parliament; Billy McMahon replaced Gorton as Prime Minister. Gorton continued his progressive streak after office, co-sponsoring a successful motion to decriminalise homosexuality, supported legalising abortions and no-fault divorce, and as the 70s progressed he campaigned for decriminalising drugs and prostitution. In 1975 Gorton left the Liberal Party in disgust when Fraser replaced Billy Snedden as Liberal leader, and unsuccessfully ran as an independent ACT Senate candidate. He denounced "The Dismissal" and ultimately endorsed and voted for Labor in the subsequent election. Upon retirement from frontline politics, Gorton lent his support to Don Chipp's Democrats until he rejoined the Liberal Party in the 1990's. Died in 2002.
- Gorton was Prime Minister during the Lunar landings of 1969. He also presided over the greatest loosening of censorship laws Australia has ever seen (spear-headed by Minister for Communications and his good mate, Don Chipp). And as a youth, one of his schoolmates was Errol Flynn.
- Gorton was also the first and so far only member of the Upper House to become Prime Minister. By convention, the PM is supposed to be a member of the Lower House, so Gorton resigned his seat and ran in a by-election for Holts vacated Lower House seat, which he won. What this means is that, for a few weeks in February of 1968, Australia was in the peculiar position of having a Prime Minister who was not technically a member of parliament.
- Gorton was a heavy drinker, a heavy smoker and a heavy womaniser. Not uncommon among Australian PMs by any means (his predecessor, Harold Holt, drowned while showing off in front of his mistress); unfortunately, Gorton was rather determinedly indiscreet about it. He was so well-known for taking the odd day off Parliament that his go-to excuse of having a touch of the flu became a punch-line: around Canberra, the phrase "Gorton flu" became a popular euphemism for a hangover.
- Gorton was also infamous for appointing Ainsley Gotto, a young woman as his private secretary. He relied on her for advice and she was reviled for having too much power. When Dudley Erwin was sacked as Minister for Air, Erwin's famous excuse was that "It wiggles, its shapely, its cold-blooded and its name is Ainsley Gotto".
- Forty-odd years later, history would repeat itself — with Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin.
- Gorton also holds the distinction of being the only Prime Minister to vote himself out of office. Well, kind of. After Defence Minister Malcolm Fraser resigned over Gorton interfering with his portfolio and denouncing him as "unfit to hold the great office of Prime Minister", Gorton called for a motion of confidence in his leadership. Faced with an evenly-split confidence vote in the party room and realising that he could not credibly hold onto the leadership, Gorton announced that he was using his tie-breaking vote as chairman to kick himself out. Technically, the chairman didn't get a casting vote in these proceedings, but in the heat of the moment nobody was about to argue with him.
- After Billy McMahon was elected to replace him, Gorton successfully stood for McMahon's freshly vacated position of Deputy Liberal leader. It didn't last, and Gorton was sacked for disloyalty within six months by McMahon, who in any case was looking for any excuse to get rid of him.
- In stark contrast to Malcolm Fraser's later reconciliation and friendship with his one-time foe Gough Whitlam, Gorton never forgave Fraser for his role in Gorton's downfall. He resigned from the Liberal Party when Fraser became leader, and voted for Labor after "The Dismissal". When Fraser lost the 1983 election, Gorton went out of his way to congratulate Bob Hawke for "rolling that bastard Fraser". Even up to his death at the age of 90, he reportedly could not bear to be in the same room as him.
- Gorton was one of few Prime Ministers who played himself in a movie, along with Billy Hughes and Gough Whitlam. In recognition of Gorton's role in revitalising the Australian film industry, Gorton was cast to play himself in a cameo appearance at the start of 1976's Don's Party. Gorton is also known for appearing on the popular music television series Countdown — and wasn't the only Prime Minister to appear on the program, with both Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke appearing as well. There was also a song written about Gorton — "The Ballad Of John Grey Gorton" by John Vincent.
- William McMahon (Liberal Party), Prime Minister from 1971 to 1972. After being barred from becoming Prime Minister in 1967 and with John Gorton becoming increasingly divisive within the Liberals, McMahon finally seized his chance to become PM after McEwen retired and Malcolm Fraser fatally wounded Gorton politically. Never actually won an election: he became PM through a leadership challenge and lost the election the following year. Billy McMahon is generally remembered for being the father of actor Julian McMahon, for rumours that he was gay, and for being the guy who lost a federal election to Labor after 23 years in power. Generally considered to be the worst Prime Minister, and disliked by his colleagues and opponents alike. Also known for having the nickname "Billy Big Ears". Stayed on in Parliament until 1982, largely to spite Fraser, who he had fallen out with and who flatly refused to put McMahon in the ministry. Died in 1988.
- His wife, Sonia, is also remembered for wearing a scandalous (at the time) side-split dress to meet Richard Nixon at the White House.
- Edward Gough Whitlam (Labor Party), Prime Minister from 1972 to 1975, longest-lived former PM and last surviving PM to have served in World War II. After replacing Arthur Calwell as Labor leader in 1967, Whitlam reformed and rebuilt his party from within, and took the party to government within six years. Made an astonishing number of reforms during his brief tenure, and completely changed Australia as a result. Huge increases in education funding, universal health care, decriminalisation of homosexual acts, withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, opening relations with mainland China, abolished conscription, the final and public abandonment of the White Australia Policy, introducing the Racial Discrimination Act, granting Aboriginal land rights, ambitious new cultural policies, urban renewal projects for Australia's impoverished communities, free tertiary education, etc. Faced several scandals in government and severe inflation, owing partly to the fact that his ministers (none of whom had ever held government before) wanted to accomplish all their projects as quickly as possible and damn the consequences - in Whitlam's own words, "Crash or crash through". Though to be fair, the 1973 oil shock effectively ended the post-war economic boom, and sent much of the western world into recession - Australia under Whitlam actually avoided recession and performed better than their international counterparts.
In 1975, thanks to state Premiers replacing Labor senators who either retired from politics or died with conservative senators, the Opposition now led by Malcolm Fraser ended up refusing to pass the government supply bills (i.e. the budget) unless an early election was held. The ensuing stand-off ultimately ended on Remembrance Day when Governor-General John Kerr deceived Whitlam, dismissed his Government and appointed Fraser as caretaker PM. Though Whitlam advised supporters to "maintain the rage", Fraser won the election by a landslide a month later. Whitlam never recovered politically, and ultimately retired after losing a rematch election in 1977 by almost the same margin, handing the Labor leadership over to Bill Hayden. The left idolises Whitlam for his reforms (and despises John Kerr), while the right hate him with a passion. Not only did he live to the longest age (98 years) but he was the last Australian Prime Minister whose lifespan overlapped with that of every other PM to datenote . Died in 2014.
- Like Menzies, he's also remembered for his "zingers". In reply to persistent questioning about his views on abortion: "In your case, it should be retrospective".
- When an opposing politician stated "I am a Country member!" note , Whitlam slyly responded "I remember."
- While still Opposition Leader in 1976, Whitlam embarked on an official trip to China. While staying in Tianjin, the 7.6 magnitude Tangshan earthquake took place, which led to the deaths of more than a quarter million people; it damaged the hotel the Whitlam entourage were staying at, and Whitlam's wife Margaret was injured. Shortly afterwards, a newspaper cartoonist for The Age drew a cartoon of the Whitlams in bed, with Margaret asking Gough "Did the earth move for you too, dear...". Gough loved it, and had the original framed and hung over the Whitlam marital bed.
- Whitlam was one of few Prime Ministers who played himself in a movie, along with Billy Hughes and John Gorton - and the only one to do so as a sitting PM. Whitlam played himself in 1974's Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, where he bestowed a damehood to who would famously become Dame Edna - ironic, given Whitlam was against knighthoods and damehoods, and never awarded any during his time in office. Whitlam's Dismissal would also be turned into a 1983 TV miniseries by Mad Max and Happy Feet director George Miller.
- Whitlam also made a cameo appearance as an extra in the 1937 film The Broken Melody. At the time, Whitlam was a law student at the University of Sydney, and he was asked to appear as an extra because he owned a formal dinner suit. He appears in the background of a cabaret scene, wearing his dinner suit.
- Like Menzies, he's also remembered for his "zingers". In reply to persistent questioning about his views on abortion: "In your case, it should be retrospective".
- John Malcolm Fraser (Liberal Party), Prime Minister from 1975 to 1983, and also the only PM of Jewish descentnote . Instrumental in bringing down two Prime Ministers — Gorton and Whitlam, and won the Liberal leadership by knifing Billy Snedden. Won the 1975 election against Whitlam after getting media support from Rupert Murdoch's papers, economic problems, the numerous scandals by Whitlam government ministers, and giving the reassurance that, unlike Gough, you could trust him not to change too much too quickly. His time as PM isn't approved of by the left or right - though Fraser took in refugees, was opposed to apartheid, created SBS and supported multiculturalism, the left never forgave him for his role in "The Dismissal". The Right meanwhile regard his government as a wasted opportunity because he didn't roll back enough of Whitlam's program and he wasn't enough like Margaret Thatcher.
Fraser's final term in office saw his Government's economic record tarnished by its failure to modernise, and poorly handled the early 80s recession. The final term also saw Andrew Peacock resign as Industrial Relations Minister and then challenge Fraser for the leadership; though unsuccessful, the challenge damaged Fraser's political standing. As the economic situation deteriorated and a terrible drought took hold, Fraser decided to call an early election - only to have to face the freshly-minted Labor superstar Bob Hawke. The result was a landslide defeat that famously reduced Fraser's trademark "Easter Island Statue" facial expression to tears. Fraser immediately handed the Liberal leadership over to one-time rival Peacock and retired from politics. Over time, Fraser gradually became estranged from the Liberal Party, eventually leaving them altogether in 2009 when Tony Abbott became the Liberal Leader (saying that the Liberal Party was "no longer a liberal party but a conservative party"), and patched things up with Gough (the two campaigned together in support of a republic for the 1999 referendum). Died in 2015.
- He got respect from liberals (not Liberal party Liberals that is, the other kind, which isn't mutually exclusive) who respect his opposition to apartheid and for his humanitarianism, particularly his embrace of (following Vietnam) what is likely the largest single intake of Asian refugees the country has ever seen. Similar refugees in the modern day are locked up, often for years, while security goes through paperwork, while some governments have gone to great lengths to stop asylum seeker boats (purportedly to prevent the risk of deaths at sea, at least within Australian waters), policies that Fraser repeatedly criticised when he was alive.
- Ended his period as Prime Minister by rather spectacularly mis-judging the 1983 election date. He called it earlier than he needed to in order to catch the Labor Party off-guard, as he was hearing rumours that they were about to undergo a change in their leadership. Just before he visited the Governor-General, Labor replaced its leader, Bill Hayden, with the more popular Bob Hawke. Had he managed to visit the Governor-General just a couple of hours earlier, then Hayden would have likely remained Labor leader for the election period, and the outcome may have been less catastrophic.
- Like Menzies, Fraser was a die-hard Carlton supporter, and was its number one ticket holder during his time in office. When Carlton won two back to back Grand Finals in the early 1980s, Fraser invited the team to The Lodge on both occasions — and specifically said that football invitations to The Lodge were reserved for Carlton for every Grand Final they won. Fraser also recorded a tribute segment for Carlton legend Alex Jesaulenko, for the TV show This Is Your Life.
- Robert James Lee Hawke (Labor Party), Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991. Gained public fame and popularity during his decade as head of the ACTU, and within three years of entering Parliament he replaced Bill Hayden as Labor leader and then defeated Malcolm Fraser with a landslide majority in the elections held less than a month later. Famous for his blokeiness: he held the world record for drinking an entire yard glass of beer (eleven seconds, during his days at Oxford), and after Australia's win in the 1983 America's Cup he proclaimed "Any boss who sacks a bloke because he doesn't turn up for work today is a bum!" After decades of almost unbroken defeats, Hawke developed an innovative new strategy for the Labor Party: be the Liberal Party instead. Hawke (or more precisely, treasurer Paul Keating) actually presided over the most extensive and thorough regime of deregulation and privatisation the Australian economy has ever seen, before or since. Even centrist and leftist academic economists accept the benefits brought by his reforms, and these were combined with the establishment of Medicare (Fraser having previously watered down Whitlam's universal healthcare program), increased funding for schools, public housing, welfare funds, and the introduction of occupational superannuation. As of now Hawke remains the longest-served Labor Prime Minister, though his tenure ultimately ended when he was defeated in a leadership challenge by Keating in 1991. Died in 2019.
- Paul John Keating (Labor Party), Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996. Is remembered for being PM during the "recession we had to have", in his words, and for making the Redfern speech. Despite low popularity he won the "unwinnable" 1993 election often attributed to his small-l liberal Liberal (told you it was confusing) opponent Dr John Hewson being unable to explain the GST in Layman's Terms on national television, but lost the 1996 election due to John Howard taking out the lower-middle-class support base — "Howard's battlers". His time as PM polarises people to this day, though most agree that he was one of Australia's greatest treasurers when he served under Hawke. Has the honour of being the only Australian Prime Minister to have a musical dedicated to him: Keating! The Musical. Like Menzies and Whitlam, Keating is also notorious for his zingers — a good sampling appears on the page for the aforementioned musical.
- Keating gave arguably the best-ever response to the cliched "Why won't you call an election?" question. In responding to John Hewson, he simply stated "Because, mate, I want to do you slowly".
- John Winston Howard (Liberal Party), Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007. Famed for his huge eyebrows and ridiculous voice, loved by political cartoonists everywhere. After presiding over a deteriorating economy as Treasurer under Fraser, Howard spent the 1980s in leadership musical chairs with Andrew Peacock. By the early 1990s, Howard was considered a spent force, though after the dual failures of John Hewson and Alexander Downer in taking on Paul Keating, the Liberals took a gamble and put Howard back in the leadership. The gamble paid off, and a year after Howard replaced Downer, he managed to turn the spotlight on Keating's unpopularity and longevity, and won the 1996 election in a landslide. A friend of George W. Bush, Howard instituted the Pacific Solution to deal with asylum seekers which was rather controversial (later dismantled by Rudd, and re-introduced by Gillard). Won a narrow victory (losing the popular vote) in 1998, exploited voters' fears after 9/11 to win the 2001 election, and cruised to a victory in 2004 over the loud-mouthed and slightly unhinged Mark Latham. Actually had two ministers named Abbott and Costello (Health minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Peter Costello, who often give off the vibe of absolutely hating one another).
Howard was a divisive Prime Minister. Controversies include: switching back to supporting the GST before the 1998 election, the resignation of one of the Governor-Generals he appointed, support for Bush's foreign policy and denying climate change. The last straw was the introduction of his WorkChoices program in 2006, which gave huge amounts of power to employers in bargaining & contracting while massively undercutting workers' ability to collectively bargain — he lost the election the following year, and became the second ever sitting PM of Australia to lose his seat (the first being Stanley Bruce in 1929). Depicted in a negative light in Keating! The Musical, and generally despised by the Australian left. A whole lot of (anti) political music has been written about him (see Like A Dog by Powderfinger and The King is Dead by The Herd for some examples). Of particular note for enacting Australia's now-famous gun control laws following the Port Arthur Massacre of 1996, an act that is generally viewed in a positive light throughout the nation. Currently the oldest-living former Prime Minister, as Howard is five years older than his predecessor Keating.
- Kevin Michael Rudd (Labor Party), a.k.a. "Kevin07", "Kevin24/7", "Kevvie" or "K-Rudd"note , Prime Minister 2007 to 2010. Looks a lot like an overgrown schoolboy, speaks Mandarin. Presented himself as a moderate fiscal conservative. His Prime Ministership involved successfully guiding Australia through the recession, making the first official apology to Indigenous Australians, and abolishing overseas detention centres for asylum seekers note . Failed attempts at reform include a 40% profit tax on mining companies and a draconian attempt to set up a mandatory internet filter. He's in about as many rap songs as John Howard, usually in reference to replacing him.
Despite being highly popular throughout most of his first prime ministership, Rudd's policy decisions, to use his own words, caused a political shit-storm alienating several figures in his party and he was eventually ousted in a leadership challenge on 23-24 June, 2010 (when his own party pulled a Praetorian Guard on him), being replaced by then-Deputy PM Julia Gillard.
- Julia Eileen Gillard (Labor Party), Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013. Australia's first female Prime Minister — although interestingly, she is not the first atheist note or the first redhead.note She replaced Kevin Rudd after a leadership challenge and narrowly stayed in power after the 2010 election produced a hung parliament, thanks support of one Greens MP and three independents. She generally been portrayed by satirists, comedians, and the press in general as a backstabber for ousting Rudd (cartoonists also tend to drastically exaggerate her nose). Her government was overshadowed by infighting between the Rudd and Gillard supporters that led to a decline in the polls. Rudd quit the cabinet after failing to defeat her in a leadership challenge in February 2012, before he finally succeeded in June 2013.
Gillard's policies included some social conservatism (such as reducing immigration, attempts to follow Howard's offshore processing of asylum seekers and declining to support gay marriage until after she left office) but with less economic statism than Rudd tended to advocate. In 2012, she made the now-famous Misogyny speech that drew international attention. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had criticised her for defending the scandal-tainted and "misogynist" Speaker Pete Slipper. In her famous response, Gillard accusing Abbott of being a misogynist himself.
- Kevin Michael Rudd again (Labor Party), for three months in 2013, before his party was defeated. His most noteworthy action during this time was to become the first PM to support gay marriage.
- Anthony John Abbott (Liberal Party), served from 2013 to 2015. He was initially considered an unelectable budgie-smugglers-wearing Catholic firebrand when he became opposition leader in 2009. Yet Abbott won the 2013 election resoundingly, in part because voters were fed up with the fratricidal Labor government, and many voters thought that his would be able to avoid this.
After an unpopular budget in 2014 (to writ, one of the items included young people who lose their job to get no benefits for six months, then apply for forty a month to be entitled to them,) that cut spending Abbott's popularity — never strong — dropped and never recovered. Conservative even in relation to his own party, Abbott was mocked for being nostalgic for decisions such as reintroducing knighthoods and refusing to let his party members vote on gay marriage. Other controversies included trying to downplay the issue of climate change and (despite trying to fend off accusations of misogyny) appointing just one woman to the cabinet. He fulfilled his promise to abolish the carbon tax, in favour of a Suspiciously Similar Substitute. He also developed a reputation for being gaffe-prone and for engaging in rather odd and eccentric behaviour, such as when he famously ate a raw onion with skin on. In foreign policy, his government received praise for its handling of the downing of Flight MH17, which killed 38 Australians, and they entered Australia into combat operations in Iraq in response to the rise of ISIS.
Discontent grew against Abbott within his party, with his subordinates disliking his centralised leadership and the powerful role he gave to his chief of staff Peta Credlin.note History quickly repeated itself. Abbott was defeated in a leadership challenge by his predecessor as opposition leader (seen below). As he said over Australian deaths in Iraq, "shit happens." And the greatest irony of all? He destroyed two prime ministers, but failed to outlast either of them. His continued refusal to accept the science of climate change would eventually lead to his own constituents in his blue-ribbon Liberal seat turning against him, and voting him out in favour of the Independent former Olympian Zali Steggall in 2019.
- Malcolm Bligh Turnbull (Liberal Party), 2015 to 2018. When things were getting really bad for the government, Turnbull finally stepped in and ousted Abbott in a quick and relatively bloodless contest that was over by midnight the day he announced it, with Julie Bishop supporting him as deputy leader of the Liberals. Turnbull's coup was largely welcomed by the Australian public, although it was a nightmare for the hard right, to say the least. For the left, it was initially seen as a mixed blessing: Turnbull would be more moderate than Abbott, but probably harder to beat. However, it soon became apparent that Turnbull wasn't willing to change any Coalition policies, including those that he had publicly disagreed with Abbott on in the past (such as marriage equality and climate change).
As a result, by the time Turnbull called the 2016 election, his honeymoon was over and he and the Coalition were facing a knife-edged battle to stay in power. They ultimately won, but with only 76 seats out of 150 including the non-voting Speaker literally the smallest majority government possible. Plus, despite changes in Senate rules to avoid "preference gaming" which resulted a rather hostile Senate in 2013, the election returned an equally hostile Senate with an even larger cross-bench than before complete with two power blocs in the form of One Nation and the Nick Xenophon Team, both of whom hate each other and are likely much less inclined to capitulate to the government than Clive Palmer ever was, and the government needs both their support to pass anything not supported by Labor or the Greens. Barely a month after the election, Turnbull had already had to deal with plenty of party infighting and an emboldened right-wing who are still very bitter over the Abbott coup (hell, the election result hadn't even been called before right-wing figures started calling for Turnbull's head, forgetting that had Abbott taken his government to an election it would have been a bloodbath).
Another matter of note in Turnbull's administration is the same-sex marriage debate, which had been building throughout the 2000s and 2010s, eventually coming to a head. Although widely seen as in favour, Turnbull as noted was rather beholden to the significant hard-right faction of his party which was intractably opposed, thus preventing a debate in parliament on the issue — but a smaller but equally significant bloc of his party was threatening to "cross the floor" (namely, start voting against the government) in order to force a conscience vote on it. Eventually a compromise solution was reached — a voluntary postal survey conducted between September and November 2017, the result of which would determine whether the issue would be debated in parliament. This was widely seen as a cynical attempt at kicking the can down the road by trying to ensure that as few people would respond as possible, in the hopes that either few enough voters would respond to enable the government to ignore the survey or that the hardcore "No" voters would turn out in droves to ensure a No victory. If this was the real plan, however, then it backfired rather hilariously when 61% of the public ended up voting "Yes". Though the vote was not legally binding to the government, enough of the eligible population (about 80%) had responded to make it clear that it nevertheless would be political suicide for the government to either continue ignore the issue or whip votes against it, and so after a conscience vote in parliament an act legalising same-sex marriage in Australia was passed in December 2017.
Then the parliamentary eligibility crisis of of 2017 came out of nowhere and bit the government in the ass harder than anyone thought.note This put the Government in danger of losing the aforementioned one-seat majority, until both Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander were re-elected in late 2017. Nevertheless, the government still has limited crossbench support in the Lower House, and as of April 2018, have passed the threshold of Newspolls of the government trailing behind Labor Turnbull used to justify removing Abbott.
This eventually led to a leadership spill in August 2018, spearheaded by Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton in an attempt to claim the position for himself. While Malcolm Turnbull was successfully ousted, Dutton's overall lack of charisma (plus some other errors — his supporters were accused of bullying people into signing the Turnbull spill documentation, which cannot have made him any friends) saw him lose out to...
- Scott John Morrison (Liberal Party), since 24 August 2018. ScoMo, as he is so referred (also known as "Scummo" to those who particularly hate him, or "Scotty from Marketing" due to his marketing background and his primary talent being selling people on a line of bullshit), is the former Treasurer and current Prime Minister. While considered the Lesser of Two Evils compared to Dutton, he's still considered an absolute pillock by critics as a result of an incident during his time as Treasurer where he brought a lump of coal into parliament and passed it around as "proof" that fossil fuels can't hurt anyone. Oh, and Morrison has the spectacular dishonour of being the Prime Minister that has lost a vote on significant legislation in parliament for the first time since 1941, when, in Febuary 2019, Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers united to pass legislation involving the medical evacuation of asylum seekers in offshore detention. In the 2019 federal election, despite the Liberal Party's public blunders, Morrison defied the odds and managed to secure an even stronger victory than Turnbull did, gaining a majority government who no longer needed the help of the cross-bench to legislate. Will he be able to hold the position for a full term, unlike the last four Prime Ministers before him? Maybe, but he's got a hell of an image problem just 1 year after being elected.
- His promise to lower taxes and energy bills was compromised barely a week after winning and economists have been predicting that Australia will go into a recession if things don't change soon, which eventually was declared a reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic being the final nail in the coffin. His visible work ethic isn't doing him any favours either, as parliament has been noticably inactive for months on end and his decision to travel to Hawaii right when Australia suffered statewide bushfires outraged a lot of rural voters. Additionally, his initial insipid response to the pandemic was lambasted as the state premiers basically all decided to ignore the indecisive federal government and implement their own measures, even leading some people to idly question why we even need a Federation. And then word got out that some members of his cabinet were sexually assaulting young women, the stink of which managed to rub off on Morrison once word got out that he only started to empathise with the victims after his wife explained to him why he should take rape seriouslynote . Adding to this is that Morrison's target voters were largely retirees and there's been a rising number of post-millennials who are baying for a more progressive government that will turn 18 within the next three years, so even if he does make it a full term, his chances of securing a fourth consecutive term for his party are on the wane.
- Labor was predicted to win the 2019 election, and indeed every single published poll in the two years prior to the election had them ahead. In the event, the Coalition held onto government in a surprise victory, with a slight increase on its slender 2016 majority. Comparisons have been made between the 1993 and 2019 elections; both saw the incumbent government (with a relatively new prime minister) heading into the election with both the pollsters and pundits breaking a victory for the opposition. In both cases, the opposition presented to the nation a radical reform agenda that was met with fierce attack, enough to scare the public into re-electing the unpopular government. Most Australians blame the traditionally conservative Queensland, which swung hard to the Coalition's side. While Bill Shorten was absolutely lambasted for being unable to win an election against an opponent as inept as Morrison, as noted on the main page he had defied the Murdoch media machine, and crossing the shadow ruler of Australia turned out to be a death sentence for him.