Parliament

Parliament is an assembly of elected representatives who make laws on behalf of all citizens. It is derived from the French word parlement, meaning ‘speaking’.

The Australian federal parliament was created as a result of legislation enacted in the British Parliament in 1900 to unify the separate colonies and establish a federal Constitution. It provided for a lower house called the House of Representatives and an upper house called the Senate. The Constitution divided power among the Legislature (Parliament), the Executive (Government), and the Judiciary (High Court). This separation of powers was designed to prevent one person or group having all the power to govern Australia.

Sir Douglas Mawson taking possession of Antarctic territory at Proclamation Island, 13 January 1930.
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Parliament is an assembly of elected representatives who make laws on behalf of all citizens. It is derived from the French word parlement, meaning ‘speaking’.

The Australian federal parliament was created as a result of legislation enacted in the British Parliament in 1900 to unify the separate colonies and establish a federal Constitution. It provided for a lower house called the House of Representatives and an upper house called the Senate. The Constitution divided power among the Legislature (Parliament), the Executive (Government), and the Judiciary (High Court). This separation of powers was designed to prevent one person or group having all the power to govern Australia.

Sir Douglas Mawson taking possession of Antarctic territory at Proclamation Island, 13 January 1930.
1823

Foundations of democracy

Foundations of democracy

The Charter of Justice 13 October 1823 (UK) establishes a system of justice for Van Diemen’s Land and provides for the appointment of John Lewes Pedder to preside over it as Chief Justice. The New South Wales Act 1823 (UK) authorises the establishment of a legislative council in New South Wales and Australia’s first supreme courts in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, as well as providing for Van Diemen’s Land to become a separate colony. The Legislative Council conducts its first meeting in August 1824. These new laws follow criticisms of the administration and justice system in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land by Commissioner John Thomas Bigge.


1830

Demands for representative government

Demands for representative government

At a public meeting in Sydney, colonists demand a government whereby the elected representatives of the colony are accountable to parliament and ultimately to the people. This a first step towards colonial independence from British authority.


1842

Debating republicanism

Debating republicanism

At a public meeting in Sydney, Henry McDermott angers anti-republicans when he claims that the ‘rights of man’ entitle all men to be enfranchised, and accuses the colony’s conservative politicians of marginalising skilled workers. The Australian newspaper devotes an editorial to the dangers of republicanism promoted by Thomas Paine and Voltaire, and represented in the French republic — a ‘nation which got drunk with blood to vomit crime’.


First responsible government

First responsible government

The New South Wales Constitution Act 1842 (UK) creates Australia’s first semi-representative legislature and lays the groundwork for the parliamentary system. It does not grant full responsible government, but it enables the first election to be held for the two-thirds elected NSW Legislative Council. Ex-convicts are eligible to vote and stand.


1843

First parliamentary election

First parliamentary election

Voting begins in the first election for the NSW Legislative Council. Created by the New South Wales Constitution Act 1842 (UK), the Council is Australia’s first semi-representative legislature and lays the groundwork for the parliamentary system. It does not grant full responsible government, but it enables the first election to be held for the two-thirds elected NSW Legislative Council. Ex-convicts are eligible to vote and stand.


1850

Fitzroy appointed Governor-General of the Australian colonies

Fitzroy appointed Governor-General of the Australian colonies

With the passing of the Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 New South Wales receives a new constitution providing for an elected lower house in a bicameral legislature. Sir Charles FitzRoy, who was Governor of New South Wales at the time, becomes Governor of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land, South Australia and Victoria, and Governor-General of all Australian possessions including Western Australia.


The Australian League

The Australian League

John Dunmore Lang, with aid from Henry Parkes, James Wilshire and other radicals, establishes the Australian League to encourage a sense of national identity, to resist any further convict transportation and to promote, by moral means exclusively, the entire freedom of the Australian colonies and their incorporation into one political federation. The League collapses after two meetings.


John Dunmore Lang’s republicanism

John Dunmore Lang’s republicanism

In a series of lectures in Sydney, John Dunmore Lang promotes republicanism, including the end of convict transportation, and independence and federation for the Australian colonies. He promotes his ideas in The Coming Event; Or, the United Provinces of Australia published in 1850, and Freedom and Independence for the Golden Lands of Australia published in 1852.


Self-government in the colonies

Self-government in the colonies

From the 1840s the British Government introduces laws that allow for the election of municipal councils in each colony, then partially elected legislative councils. They invite each legislative council to draft constitutions that will give each colony representative self-government and their own parliament. The Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 (formerly Act for the Better Government of Her Majesty’s Australian Colonies) recognises the colonists’ desire for self-government and provides for a similar limited self-government in South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land.


1854

Federation Movement begins

Federation Movement begins

The first of Rev. John West’s 16 articles about a federation of the Australian colonies is published in The Sydney Morning Herald. West, a Congregational minister, journalist and leader of the anti-transportation movement in Van Diemens Land, becomes an influential advocate for federation. He is convinced the colonies must form a federal union if they are to have any influence in London. West publishes his articles under the pseudonym John Adams.


Ballarat Reform League

Ballarat Reform League

A meeting of miners is held at Bakery Hill on the Ballarat goldfields, and the Ballarat Reform League is formed with a former British Chartist, JB Humffray, as secretary. George Black (also a Chartist), Peter Lalor, Frederic Vern, Raffaello Carboni and Timothy Hayes are leading members. The aims of the League are similar to those of the Chartists — manhood suffrage, voting by ballot, annual parliaments and payment of members. In addition, they seek the abolition of the licensing system, reforms in the administration of the goldfields, and a revision of laws relating to Crown land.


Eureka Rebellion

Eureka Rebellion

On 3 December a group of miners led by Peter Lalor clash with government troops over the system of mining licences on the Ballarat goldfields in Victoria. The 13 miners brought to trial for high treason are found not guilty by a jury. In the aftermath of the Rebellion, the government introduces a system of annual licensing called the Miner’s Right. It is hailed as a watershed in Australian democracy, replacing the hated monthly licensing system and effectively giving the right to vote to those holding a Miner’s Right. In the following year an eyewitness account of the Rebellion is published by Raffaello Carboni.


1855

Colonial parliaments established

Colonial parliaments established

Between 1855 and 1857, the constitutions of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are drawn up by the respective legislative councils and approved by the British Parliament. Bicameral parliaments (based on two legislative chambers) are established.


1856

Responsible government

Responsible government

The Australian colonies become self-governing — all adult (21 years and over) male British subjects are entitled to vote in South Australia from 1856, in Victoria from 1857, New South Wales from 1858, and Tasmania from 1896. This includes Indigenous men, although they are not encouraged to enrol. Queensland and Western Australia introduce responsible government in 1890 but deny Indigenous people the vote.


South Australian Constitution

South Australian Constitution

Adult male (including Indigenous) suffrage, a secret ballot and no property qualification for Members of the House of Assembly are some of the South Australian Constitution’s decrees, making it one of the most democratic in the world at the time.


1870

Paid Members of Parliament

Paid Members of Parliament

Victoria becomes the first of the Australian colonies to introduce payment of Members of Parliament. This is one of the reforms sought by supporters of the Chartist Movement, the popular British reform movement of the 1840s that influenced the evolution of democracy in the Australian colonies. Until the Act is passed in 1870, only the ministers and presiding officers of the parliament are paid. Democratic reformers argue that this works against popular representation. Although all men can vote, only wealthy men can afford to sit in parliament. Payments are resisted by the conservative Legislative Council, and are initially introduced for a three-year trial period.


1882

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

A branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is established in Sydney, and becomes the first mass organisation of women in Australia. It was founded in the American West in 1874. The organisation fights for a range of social reforms, advocating temperance and actively supporting Australian Federation. It claims 7400 members by 1894, and is a key supporter of women’s suffrage in Australia.


1889

Tenterfield Oration by Henry Parkes

Tenterfield Oration by Henry Parkes

The Federation movement gathers momentum when Henry Parkes writes to other colonial premiers and proposes a meeting to develop a federal constitution. In the same year he delivers his Federation speech, urging colonial governments ‘to unite and create a great National Government for all Australia’.


1890

Australasian Federation Conference

Australasian Federation Conference

The landmark Australasian Federation Conference, held in Melbourne, unites the 13 leaders of all colonial and New Zealand governments, who debate the union of the colonies and a national convention to consider a federal constitution.


Last colony becomes self-governing

Last colony becomes self-governing

Western Australia is the last of the Australian colonies to become self-governing.


1891

First constitutional convention

First constitutional convention

At the Australasian Federation Conference held in Melbourne from 6 to 14 February 1890, leading politicians from the six Australian colonies and New Zealand agree on the concept of ‘an early union under the crown’ and commit themselves to persuading their governments to send delegates to a convention that would ‘consider and report’ on a scheme for a federal constitution. The National Australasian Convention of 1891 meets in Sydney from 2 March to 9 April, but does not debate whether the colonies should federate but how. They are concerned with finding a draft constitution that they can take back to their legislatures for discussion and endorsement. When the Australasian Federal Convention meets in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in 1897 and early 1898, the delegates modify the draft produced in 1891. The Australian Constitution is subsequently contained in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, which is endorsed by the voters of each Australian colony at referendums in 1898, 1899 and 1900, passed by the British Parliament and given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900.


1892

Queensland pioneers the preferential voting system

Queensland pioneers the preferential voting system

Queensland is the first state to introduce preferential voting, a system later adopted by other states and the federal parliament in 1918.


1893

Corowa — the ‘people’s convention’

Corowa — the ‘people’s convention’

A conference at Corowa is hailed as the first significant expression of community support for Federation outside the major cities. It is organised in response to growing resentment of inter-colonial tariffs in the Riverina. It leads to a decision by premiers in 1895 to enact legislation providing for the election of representatives to a federal convention, where they will adopt a Bill for a federal constitution to be put to a referendum held in 1898.


1897

Hare–Clark proportional representation

Hare–Clark proportional representation

Tasmanians are granted proportional representation in the Legislative Assembly seats of Hobart and Launceston, followed by the whole state in 1907. Andrew Inglis Clark, Tasmania’s Attorney General, seeks to reform the colony’s electoral system during the 1890s. Clark was a promoter of the single transferable vote.


Federal conciliation and arbitration power

Federal conciliation and arbitration power

Justice HB Higgins proposes a power to make laws with respect to ‘conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State’. The proposal is finally accepted at the 1898 Convention, providing the basis for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.


1898

Constitution referendums

Constitution referendums

The Australian Constitution is endorsed by the voters of each Australian colony at referendums in 1898, 1899 and 1900, passed by the British Parliament and given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. About 45.4 per cent of electors in four colonies (Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia) vote at the 1898 poll, increasing to 60.71 per cent of eligible voters in all six colonies at the 1899 poll. The first draft of the Australian Constitution is usually attributed to Sir Samuel Griffith, although some argue that Griffith rewrote Andrew Inglis Clark’s version.


1899

Western Australian Petition to Secede

Western Australian Petition to Secede

As the Western Australian Government wavers over its support for Federation, residents on the goldfields present a petition to the Queen via the Western Australian Governor, arguing the case for their region’s separation from the Western Australian colony. The other colonies use the petition to pressure the Western Australian Government to support Federation.


1900

Australasian Women’s League

Australasian Women’s League

The first conference of the Women’s Progressive Leagues is held in Melbourne. A branch of the United Council for Woman Suffrage, the Leagues aim to secure civil and political rights for women equal to those of men, the general emancipation and advancement of women, and the right for women to enter architectural courses and proposed state agricultural colleges. General reforms include prison and factory legislation, health and the establishment of children’s courts. They run discussion courses on cookery, literature and health, conduct house-to-house canvassing, deputations, petitioning and public meetings, and publish suffrage literature. By the end of 1900, there are 32 societies in the Leagues, with strong connections with the labour movement.


Commonwealth Bill presented in Britain

Commonwealth Bill presented in Britain

On 25 June Edmund Barton communicates to Sir William Lyne that Commonwealth of Australia bill read thrice House of Commons. Cheers. Please inform other governments. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 is passed by the British Parliament on 5 July and Queen Victoria gives her Royal Assent to the Act on 9 July, proclaiming that the Commonwealth of Australia comprising all six colonies will come into existence on 1 January 1901. The choice of the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ isinfluenced by James Bryce’s The American Commonwealth, the ‘bible’ of the founding fathers. However, Queen Victoria is uneasy with the term Commonwealth, mindful of its association with Oliver Cromwell’s republican government established after the English Civil Wars in the 17th century and the execution of her ancestor King Charles I in 1649. A copy of the Act and the pen, inkstand and table used are presented to the delegates. An original copy of the Act, returned to Australia in 1988, is displayed at the National Archives of Australia.


Western Australia votes ‘yes’

Western Australia votes ‘yes’

On 31 July, Western Australia is the last colony to vote yes in a referendum to determine whether it should become part of the Federation.


First Governor-General and Prime Minister

First Governor-General and Prime Minister

On 21 September, Queen Victoria appoints Lord Hopetoun as the Commonwealth of Australia’s first Governor-General. He arrives from England ill with typhoid fever, so the Queen invites the NSW Premier, William Lyne, to form a government. Most politicians refuse to work with Lyne who had opposed Federation, and Hopetoun is forced to appoint Edmund Barton as Australia’s first Prime Minister.


1901

Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed

Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed

On 1 January the Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed in Centennial Park, Sydney. The Proclamation and Letters Patent of the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, are read out and the nine members of the interim federal Ministry are sworn in. The Ministry includes Edmund Barton (Prime Minister, Department of External Affairs), Alfred Deakin (Attorney-General’s Department), Sir William Lyne (Department of Home Affairs), Charles Cameron Kingston (Department of Trade and Customs), Sir James Robert Dickson (Department of Defence), Sir John Forrest (Postmaster-General’s Department), Sir George Turner (Department of the Treasury), Sir Neil Elliot Lewis and Richard O’Connor. Edmund Barton is Prime Minister from 1901 to 1903. Sir Robert Randolph Garran is appointed as the first, and briefly, the only Commonwealth public servant on 1 January 1901 as Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department and parliamentary draftsman. Their roles in the first Commonwealth government are commemorated in the names of Canberra’s early suburbs.


Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister

Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister

Edmund Barton, leader of the Federation movement, is appointed as Australia’s first Prime Minister for an interim period pending national elections, which he later wins. During Barton’s term, he introduces legislation to establish the High Court of Australia, sets the first national customs duties and excises, and establishes the White Australia Policy. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Federation

Federation

The Federation of Australia is formed from the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. When the Constitution of Australia comes into force on 1 January, the colonies collectively become states of the Commonwealth of Australia.


A national defence force

A national defence force

The Commonwealth’s Constitutional powers include the power to legislate for national defence. The new Commonwealth government takes control of the former colonial military forces and creates a small regular army and Citizen Military Forces comprised of reservists who cannot be deployed overseas. The first Australian Imperial Force (AIF) is formed in 1914 as the main expeditionary force of the Australian Army during World War I, and the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) is formed in 1939 from volunteer units of the Australian Army to fight in World War II. The modern Australian Army is formed in 1947.


First federal parliament

First federal parliament

On 9 May, the Duke of York (later King George V) opens the first federal parliament in the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Federal parliament meets in Melbourne’s Parliament House until Provisional Parliament House is completed in Canberra.


1903

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister

Attorney-General Alfred Deakin is sworn in as Prime Minister when Edmund Barton resigns to take a seat on the first Bench of the High Court. During Deakin’s first term as Prime Minister, parliament passes no legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1904

First Labor government

First Labor government

John Christian Watson is the first federal Labour (renamed Labor in 1912) Party leader and Labour Prime Minister. His government lasts just four months. Watson is expelled from the Party in 1916 for supporting military conscription.


Chris Watson becomes Prime Minister

Chris Watson becomes Prime Minister

Labour Party leader John Christian Watson replaces Alfred Deakin as Prime Minister when Deakin’s Protectionist government falls due to Labour’s refusal to support the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Watson, at 37, is Australia’s youngest prime minister to date. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


George Reid becomes Prime Minister

George Reid becomes Prime Minister

George Reid, Leader of the Opposition, becomes Prime Minister after the Watson Labour government falls due to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (ironically, the same Bill’s defeat months earlier had brought Watson to power). Reid’s government finally passes the legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1905

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for a second time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for a second time

Protectionist leader Alfred Deakin forms a government with Labour support when George Reid resigns after the Governor-General rejects his request for a double dissolution election. Deakin’s second government is productive, establishing the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and the Bureau of Meteorology, increasing the number of High Court judges from three to five, and establishing Australian control over Papua. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1906

Australia’s first referendum

Australia’s first referendum

Australia’s first national referendum succeeds, allowing concurrent elections for both Houses. During the 20th century, 19 constitutional referendums are held, containing 44 questions relating to a variety of issues. Only eight are carried.


1908

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister

Labour Party leader Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister when the Deakin government falls after Labour withdraws its support. Fisher’s first government establishes the Canberra region as the site for Australia’s new capital city. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1909

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time after the Fisher Labour government is defeated in the House of Representatives. After losing office to Fisher’s Labour Party in 1908, Deakin had arranged a merger of his followers in May 1909 (some were still known as Protectionists, while others were calling themselves Deakinites) with his former political foes, the Free Traders (now led by Joseph Cook, who had succeeded GH Reid as leader of the group in November 1908). The new grouping is known as the ‘Fusion’, and it represents the beginning of Australia’s two-party system. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Site chosen for federal capital — Canberra

Site chosen for federal capital — Canberra

In October, the Senate finally agrees to the site of the new national capital. Two years later, the government launches an international design competition and, in 1913, Lady Denman announces the name for the new city will be ‘Canberra’. The choice of the site is the subject of considerable debate. In 1899, however, the premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania propose that the site should be in New South Wales, but at least 100 miles from Sydney. This is finally accepted in a second round of referendums. It is also agreed that, like Washington, DC, the new capital should have a territory with a minimum area of 100 square miles.


1910

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the second time

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the second time

At the 1910 federal election, Fisher’s Labour Party wins a convincing majority of seats in the House of Representatives and Fisher becomes Prime Minister leading Australia’s first-ever majority government. Labour gains seventeen additional seats to hold a total of forty-three of the seventy-five House of Representative seats, and all eighteen Senate seats up for election to hold a total of twenty-two out of thirty-six seats. In addition to being Australia’s majority government, the election results in Australia’s first Senate majority and the world’s first Labour Party majority government. During Fisher’s second term, the Royal Australian Navy is established, the first Commonwealth bank notes are printed, the size of the High Court Bench is again increased (to seven judges), and the nation’s new capital, Canberra, is formally proclaimed by the Governor-General. The Party changes the spelling of its name to ‘Labor’ in 1912. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1911

Commonwealth Northern Territory Acceptance Act, 1910

Commonwealth Northern Territory Acceptance Act, 1910

The control of the Northern Territory shifts from South Australia to the Commonwealth, and becomes the Northern Territory of Australia.


Referendum to extend Commonwealth powers

Referendum to extend Commonwealth powers

The Fisher Labour government seeks to extend Commonwealth powers over trade, commerce, laws regarding corporations and monopolies, and labour and employment. This referendum and another in 1919 both fail.


Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

The Commonwealth government introduces a law in 1911 to introduce public banking services in competition with private banks. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia commences operating in Melbourne in 1912. It begins printing Australia’s paper money from 1920 when the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank is created by an Act, which proclaims that on 14 December the note issue is removed from the Treasury and placed in the hands of the Bank.


1912

Design for the national capital

Design for the national capital

An American architect, Walter Burley Griffin (in collaboration with his wife Marion Mahoney), wins an international competition to design the new national capital, Canberra. While Griffin and his winning design generate prolonged and bitter controversies, the Griffin Plan provides an enduring legacy for the development of Canberra.


1913

Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister

Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister

At the 1913 election, Joseph Cook’s Commonwealth Liberal Party wins a one-seat majority and Cook replaces Fisher as Prime Minister. World War I breaks out in Europe during Cook’s term in office, and he commits Australian forces to fight for the British Empire. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1914

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the third time

In Australia’s first double dissolution election, Andrew Fisher and the re-christened Australian Labor Party are returned to power, ousting the Cook government. Fisher is Prime Minister during the now-legendary Anzac landing at Gallipoli. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1915

Billy Hughes becomes Prime Minister

Billy Hughes becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Andrew Fisher resigns, due largely to his failing health. His deputy, Billy Hughes, replaces him. During Hughes’ term in office, Australia holds two separate referendums on the introduction of conscription, both of which are rejected. Hughes splits from the Australian Labor Party and establishes his own Nationalist Party in 1917. He represents Australia at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference and establishes the Commonwealth Police Force. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1917

Commonwealth Police Force

Commonwealth Police Force

Prime Minister Billy Hughes establishes Australia’s first Commonwealth Police Force comprising, at its peak, 50 plain-clothed police based mainly in Queensland. Hughes takes action following increasing tension over a range of issues, including conscription, with the anti-conscription Queensland Premier. Hughes is reputedly enraged by the lack of response by the Queensland police when he is hit by an egg during a public rally over conscription. The new force has full police powers for federal offences, but its main task is to report on subversive activities of those opposed to the war and the Commonwealth government. It is disbanded in 1919 when the threat of subversion is deemed to be not as serious as first thought.


1919

Preferential voting introduced

Preferential voting introduced

Departing from the first past the post voting system, the federal parliament introduces a preferential voting system in the 1919 general election following the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Sometimes described as the alternate vote, preferential voting is a uniquely Australian system of voting. Based on the principle that the winner should have more than 50 per cent support, it allows voters to number the candidates in order of preference. This system is used in the House of Representatives and the lower house of every Australian state parliament, except the ACT and Tasmania, which use the Hare Clark system of voting.


1920

Engineers’ Case defines Commonwealth powers

Engineers’ Case defines Commonwealth powers

In a landmark decision that sees a shift in federal power towards the Commonwealth, the High Court rules that the Commonwealth can use its powers under Section 51(xxxv) of the Constitution to authorise an industrial award for engineers employed by the state public service. The case overturns an earlier interpretation that neither the Commonwealth nor state governments can interfere in each others’ powers, and implies that it is possible for the Commonwealth to use the full scope of any of its powers under Section 51 to make laws to bind states.


1921

First woman in an Australian parliament

First woman in an Australian parliament

Edith Cowan is elected to the Western Australian state parliament, becoming Australia’s first female parliamentarian.


1922

Queensland abolishes its upper house

Queensland abolishes its upper house

Queensland departs from the bicameral system of parliament by abolishing its Legislative Council, leaving a single-chamber parliament. The other states retain two houses.


1923

Stanley Melbourne Bruce becomes Prime Minister

Stanley Melbourne Bruce becomes Prime Minister

Following the 1922 election, Country Party leader Earle Page, whose party holds the balance of power in the House of Representatives, refuses to form a coalition with the Nationalists unless Billy Hughes resigns as Prime Minister. Hughes eventually does so and the party elects 40-year-old Treasurer Stanley Bruce as the new Prime Minister, governing in coalition with Page. The Bruce–Page government formalises Cabinet as a decision-making body and is the first government to sit at what is now Old Parliament House, on 9 May 1927, when the federal government formally moves to Canberra. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1924

First Cabinet meeting in Canberra

First Cabinet meeting in Canberra

Prime Minister Stanley Bruce holds the first federal Cabinet meeting in the national capital, at Yarralumla House. In 1931, at the depth of the Great Depression, Cabinet begins meeting in the federal parliament building (now Old Parliament House). The location of Cabinet within the parliament signifies the growing power of the Executive branch of government over the elected parliament during the 20th century.


Compulsory voting introduced

Compulsory voting introduced

The 1924 federal election is the first in which voting is compulsory. Those eligible to vote are required by law to be enrolled on the Electoral Roll and to vote in federal elections.


1926

Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration (Imperial Conference) represents an important step in Australia’s path to independent nationhood. It declares the United Kingdom and its dominions equal in status in all matters of internal and external affairs. This replaces the principle of a hierarchical relationship with one of ‘autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status…and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations’. It affirms the international recognition of the free and equal status of the dominion members of the League of Nations within the British Commonwealth. The law enacting these principles is the Statute of Westminster in 1931, adopted by Australia in 1942.


1927

A parliament house for Canberra

A parliament house for Canberra

The Provisional Parliament House is opened by the Duke of York in Canberra on 9 May, with 36 Senators (six per state) and 76 Members of the House of Representatives. The building is opened one year after the Balfour Declaration, which decrees that Australia is an autonomous community within the British Empire, ‘equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.


1929

James Scullin becomes Prime Minister

James Scullin becomes Prime Minister

At the 1929 federal election, the Bruce government is heavily defeated by Labor, led by James Scullin. Bruce loses his own parliamentary seat, the first prime minister to do so. During Scullin’s term as Prime Minister, the Wall Street Crash begins the Great Depression and Sir Isaac Isaacs is appointed Governor-General, the first Australian to hold the position. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1931

Australia’s first native-born Governor-General

Australia’s first native-born Governor-General

Sir Isaac Isaacs is appointed Australia’s first native-born Governor-General, despite King George V’s opposition to a ‘local’ appointment. A former Member of Parliament for Bogong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and a High Court Judge, Isaacs serves as Australia’s ninth Governor-General until 1936.


Premiers’ Plan addresses the Great Depression

Premiers’ Plan addresses the Great Depression

Responding to the economic crisis, Commonwealth and state premiers produce the Premiers’ Plan — cutting government expenditure by 20 per cent, reducing bank interest and increasing taxation.


1932

Joe Lyons becomes Prime Minister

Joe Lyons becomes Prime Minister

The Scullin Labor government is defeated after a single term at the 1931 election. Former Tasmanian Premier Joe Lyons had resigned from the government earlier that year and with the Nationalists formed a new party — the United Australia Party — and won the federal election. Lyons becomes Prime Minister and establishes the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and reduces government spending in an attempt to bolster recovery from the Depression. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


NSW Premier dismissed

NSW Premier dismissed

To fight the economic depression, NSW Premier Jack Lang defies the federal government by refusing to pay interest on foreign loans in favour of domestic dole support, and instructing government departments not to pay debts to the federal Treasury. In an unprecedented move, Lang and his Cabinet are dismissed by the NSW Governor Sir Philip Game for defying the Commonwealth government’s financial agreements legislation.


1933

Australia claims Antarctic territory

Australia claims Antarctic territory

Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition is the first of a series of polar expeditions seeking a share of whaling and mineral wealth in Antarctica. It culminates in Australia claiming possession of Antarctic territory in 1933.


Western Australia votes to secede

Western Australia votes to secede

Western Australian business, political and community leaders are critical of their treatment due to their distance from the east coast. They vote in a referendum to secede from the Commonwealth, but the British House of Commons rejects the Secession Act 1934 (WA).


Wealth redistribution among states

Wealth redistribution among states

Following complaints from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania that they are suffering as a result of Federation, the federal government passes the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933, redistributing revenue from wealthier to poorer states via the new Commonwealth Grants Commission.


1938

Lilian Fowler — a pioneer

Lilian Fowler — a pioneer

Lilian Fowler is the first female alderman and mayor, and one of the first female NSW Members of Parliament and Justices of the Peace. She works for women and the underprivileged, including lobbying for widows’ pensions and child endowment. A year earlier, in 1937, Ivy Weber became the first woman to be elected in a Victorian general election, and the second woman to join the Victorian Parliament as the Independent Member for Nunawading.


1939

Earle Page becomes Prime Minister

Earle Page becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Joe Lyons becomes the first Australian prime minister to die in office. The government’s second-ranked member, Country Party leader Earle Page, becomes Prime Minister for 19 days while the United Australia Party elects a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister

The United Australia Party elects former Attorney-General Robert Menzies as its new leader and Prime Minister. Menzies is Prime Minister when World War II begins and announces that Australia is at war with Germany. He represents Australia in the British War Cabinet and leads Australia during the early part of the war. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1941

Arthur Fadden becomes Prime Minister

Arthur Fadden becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies, his government having become unstable, resigns as Prime Minister. A joint meeting of the United Australia and Country parties chooses, Country party leader, Arthur Fadden, as Menzies’ successor as Prime Minister. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


John Curtin becomes Prime Minister

John Curtin becomes Prime Minister

The Fadden government falls when two Independent Members of Parliament vote with the Labor opposition. Opposition Leader John Curtin is sworn in as Prime Minister. During Curtin’s term of office, Australia declares war on Japan following the Japanese bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbour. Darwin is attacked by Japanese bombers, and Curtin engages in a fierce cable war with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the use of Australian forces in the Pacific. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1942

Statute of Westminster

Statute of Westminster

Most political and legal ties between Australia and Britain are severed with the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 (Cth), adopted 10 years after Britain formally recognised the independence of the dominions within the British Commonwealth. In accepting the provisions of the Statute in 1942, Australia ratifies the free and equal status of its government in relation to the government of Britain and is no longer required to reserve certain Bills for the assent of the sovereign. Nine Bills reserved since Federation, mostly related to shipping and navigation, finally receive the Royal Assent.


1943

First women in federal parliament

First women in federal parliament

Dorothy Tangney (Australian Labor Party, later Dame Dorothy) and Dame Enid Lyons (United Australia Party and later Liberal Party) become the first women to be elected to federal parliament, in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. In 1949 Enid Lyons becomes the first woman to hold a rank in the federal Cabinet.


1945

Frank Forde becomes Prime Minister

Frank Forde becomes Prime Minister

John Curtin dies in office, six weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific. Labor’s deputy leader, Frank Forde, replaces him as Prime Minister for just eight days while the Labor Party elects a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Ben Chifley becomes Prime Minister

Ben Chifley becomes Prime Minister

Joseph Benedict ‘Ben’ Chifley is elected by the Labor Caucus to formally succeed John Curtin, replacing Frank Forde as Prime Minister. The Chifley government establishes the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, presides over increased migration, and establishes the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), The Australian National University and the Commonwealth Bank. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1947

Senate Opposition Whip

Senate Opposition Whip

Dame Florence Cardell-Oliver is the first female Cabinet Minister in an Australian parliament (Western Australia), while Senator Annabelle Rankin (Liberal Party) becomes the Opposition Whip in the Senate. Two years later, Dame Enid Lyons becomes the first woman to hold a rank in the federal Cabinet.


1948

Expansion of the Senate

Expansion of the Senate

The Representation Act 1948 (Cth) increases the size of the House of Representatives from 75 to 122 seats, including one seat for the ACT, which is previously unrepresented. The Act also expands the Senate from six senators from each state to 10. This representation ratio is now closer to the proportion at Federation.


1949

Proportional representation in the Senate

Proportional representation in the Senate

Proportional representation is introduced in the 1949 Senate elections via the Electoral Act 1948 (Cth). It ensures that seats are awarded in proportion to each political party’s share of the vote. Previous ‘first past the post’ and group preference systems had meant all Senate seats in a state could potentially be held by the same party. Proportional representation was proposed at Federation, but rejected by the Senate on the basis that it would undermine strong party government. Advocates of proportional representation, however, saw it as a way of promoting wider community representation.


Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister for the second time

Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister for the second time

The newly formed Liberal Party of Australia wins a substantial victory in the 1949 federal election and its leader, Robert Menzies, replaces Ben Chifley as Prime Minister. The ‘Menzies era’ begins, and Menzies will serve a record term as Prime Minister. During his long period in office, television begins operating in Australia, Melbourne hosts the 1956 Olympic Games, Australia participates in the Korean War, the government attempts and ultimately fails to ban the Communist Party, the Department of Trade is created and Canberra rapidly develops as the national capital. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1954

Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Tour

Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Tour

Queen Elizabeth II is made monarch ‘of the UK, Australia and her other realms and territories’ by virtue of the Royal Style and Titles Act 1953 (Cth), and her visit is the first by a reigning monarch to Australia.


1957

National capital expands

National capital expands

The National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 ushers in a new phase of expansion and development in Canberra. Prime Minister Robert Menzies initiates a review of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for the nation’s capital, and the new National Capital Development Commission oversees a program of construction to accommodate a growing federal public service.


1958

Acts Interpretation Act 1958

Acts Interpretation Act 1958

The Acts Interpretation Act 1958 states that words referring to the masculine gender are deemed to include females unless otherwise stated.


1960

Reserve Bank of Australia

Reserve Bank of Australia

The Reserve Bank of Australia replaces the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank, which continues its other banking services.


1966

Harold Holt becomes Prime Minister

Harold Holt becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies retires after 16 years in power and the Liberal Party selects Treasurer Harold Holt as its leader and Prime Minister. The Holt government increases Australian troop numbers in the Vietnam War, introduces decimal currency, and supports a referendum granting Indigenous Australians the right to be counted in the census and for the government to legislate on Indigenous affairs. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1967

More secession movements

More secession movements

A referendum in northern New South Wales seeks to establish a break-away state of New England but is defeated by strong opposition in the Hunter region. This is a revival of agitation by the New England New State Movement in 1961 when it launches Operation Seventh State. The North Queensland Secessionist Movement, also revived in this period, receives additional impetus from a representative popular convention held at Mareeba in 1955 when a New State for North Queensland is officially launched. Agitation for a new state persists into the 1970s.


John McEwen becomes Prime Minister

John McEwen becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Harold Holt disappears while swimming at Portsea, Victoria. Although his body is never found, he is presumed dead and Country Party leader, John McEwen, is appointed caretaker Prime Minister while the Liberal Party chooses a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1968

John Gorton becomes Prime Minister

John Gorton becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal Party chooses its leader in the Senate, John Gorton, to formally succeed Harold Holt as Prime Minister and he replaces John McEwen. Although he is elected to the Lower House shortly afterwards, Gorton is the first Senator to become Prime Minister. The Gorton government increases funding to the arts through the Australia Council and begins Australian withdrawal from the Vietnam War. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1971

William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

Faced with a vote of no confidence in the party room that results in a 33–33 tie, John Gorton steps down as Prime Minister, and the Minister External Affairs William McMahon is elected to succeed him. The McMahon government further accelerates Australian withdrawal from Vietnam, grants self-government to Papua New Guinea and is the first to appoint a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1972

Women’s Electoral Lobby forms

Women’s Electoral Lobby forms

Formed as a national women’s political lobby group, the Women’s Electoral Lobby aims to achieve legislative changes to ensure equality for women and to educate public opinion on a wide range of issues affecting women. Through regular conferences and lobbying, the Women’s Electoral Lobby succeeds in raising public awareness of women’s issues in Australia.


Gough Whitlam becomes Prime Minister

Gough Whitlam becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party wins the 1972 general election and its leader, Gough Whitlam, replaces William McMahon as Prime Minister. The Whitlam government embarks on a program of reform. It establishes the Family Court and Medibank, abolishes university tuition fees, replaces the Imperial Honours system with the Order of Australia, establishes diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and introduces the first federal legislation on the environment and human rights. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


New federalism

New federalism

In a move labelled ‘new federalism’, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s Labor government seeks to establish Commonwealth authorities to formulate national priorities in policy areas under state control since Federation. New federalism refers to this attempt to shift the balance of policy-making and financial responsibilities towards the federal government.


1973

Australian citizenship

Australian citizenship

With the passing of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, Australians were finally citizens of their own country, although they remained British subjects as in other Commonwealth countries. With an amendment in 1973, however, the concept of ‘British subject’ is removed from the Act and British nationals in Australia lose their privileges, including the right to vote in Australian elections.


1975

Malcolm Fraser becomes Prime Minister

Malcolm Fraser becomes Prime Minister

In a controversial sequence of events, the government of Gough Whitlam is dismissed from office by Governor-General Sir John Kerr when the Liberal–Country Party opposition rejects supply bills in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, is appointed as caretaker Prime Minister pending a double dissolution election, which he wins. The Fraser government introduces the development of Australia’s uranium industry, grants self-government to the Northern Territory, creates the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, establishes the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), supports independence movements in Africa, and opposes apartheid in South Africa. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


First female Cabinet Minister

First female Cabinet Minister

Senator Margaret Guilfoyle is the first woman to be appointed to a Cabinet portfolio following her appointment as Minister for Education in the first Fraser government in 1975 and subsequently as Minister for Social Security. In 1979 she is appointed to the Order of the British Empire (Dame Commander) for her services to public and parliamentary life, and in 1980 she is appointed Finance Minister — the first female Member of Parliament in Australia to hold a major economic portfolio.


The Dismissal

The Dismissal

In the greatest constitutional crisis in Australia’s history, the opposition parties in the Senate block supply for 27 days in an attempt to force Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to call an election for the House of Representatives. He refuses, and the resulting crisis becomes a bitter contest for political power. Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, accepts the opposition argument and the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, acts on his advice by dismissing the Prime Minister. He commissions Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister on the assurance that Fraser will call a general election. He grants Fraser a double dissolution of both Houses, and Fraser’s Liberal–National Party Coalition wins a landslide victory at the general election held in December. This issue remains contentious in Australia. The question remains as to whether the exercise of the Governor-General’s reserve powers under the Constitution are compatible with Australia’s system of parliamentary democracy.


1983

Bob Hawke becomes Prime Minister

Bob Hawke becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party led by Bob Hawke decisively wins the 1983 election and Hawke replaces Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister. The Hawke government produces a Wages Accord with the trade unions, intervenes to prevent the damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River, deregulates major industries, privatises the Commonwealth Bank, establishes the Medicare health scheme, re-introduces university fees through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and establishes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1986

First female Speaker

First female Speaker

On 11 February, Joan Child becomes the first woman to be elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the federal parliament. She is unanimously nominated by the Australian Labor Party, and her appointment is not opposed by the Liberal opposition. Child is liked and respected by Members from both sides of the Chamber. She resigns as Speaker in 1989.


Right of appeal to Privy Council ends

Right of appeal to Privy Council ends

Australia adopts the Australia Act 1986 that provides for the High Court in Australia, rather than the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, to become the final court of appeal for Australian legal cases.


1988

Australian Parliament House opens

Australian Parliament House opens

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opens the new Australian Parliament House on 9 May, as Australia commemorates 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove. The new Parliament House is designed by Romaldo Giurgola of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects. It replaces Provisional Parliament House, which had become over-crowded during the 1960s and 1970s. The new building is the result of an international design competition announced in 1979, attracting 329 entries from 28 countries.


Referendum on rights

Referendum on rights

Following two unsuccessful attempts to enact a bill of rights, the Hawke government establishes a Constitutional Commission in 1985. Before the Commission completes its report, the Hawke government calls a referendum putting four proposals for constitutional change to the Australian people. These include four-year maximum terms for the federal parliament, recognition of local government, guarantee of the right to vote and ‘one vote one value’, and a guarantee of basic freedoms by extending the operation of existing guarantees in the Constitution. All four proposals are defeated nationally. Some critics argue that the best defence of civil liberties lies in the common law rather than in a specific legal instrument.


1990

First female premier

First female premier

Carmen Lawrence becomes Australia’s first woman State Premier on 12 February 1990 after being chosen by the state Labor Party in Western Australia as its new leader following Premier Peter Dowding’s resignation. She subsequently enters Federal politics on 12 March 1994, as the Member for Fremantle, and is appointed Minister for Human Services and Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women on 25 March 1994 until 11 March 1996. On 23 November 2001, Lawrence is appointed Shadow Minister for Reconciliation, Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the Arts, and the Status of Women.


First woman Premier for Victoria

First woman Premier for Victoria

Joan Kirner is elected the first woman Premier for the State of Victoria. She holds the position for two years. Kirner had entered the Victorian Parliament in 1982 as an MLC (ALP) for the Province of Melbourne West. Between 1985 and 1988 she was Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. In 1988 she moved to the Lower House as the member for Williamstown and was appointed Minister for Education (1988-1990) and Minister for Ethnic Affairs (1990-1991). She served as Deputy Premier from 1989-1990. In October 1992 Kirner faces an election which the opinion polls indicate she has no chance of winning. She remains personally more popular than the Opposition Leader, Jeff Kennett, but the electorate accepts Kennett’s campaign theme that Labor is responsible for Victoria’s financial woes, and the Liberals win a huge majority. Kirner stays on as Opposition Leader for a short period, then resigns and retires from Parliament in 1994.


1991

Australian Republican Movement

Australian Republican Movement

The Australian Republican Movement is launched at The Rocks in Sydney. The movement gains momentum through a media campaign by influential individuals including author Thomas Keneally and former NSW Premier Neville Wran. It is successful in bringing the issue of whether Australia should change from a constitutional monarchy to a republican form of government into mainstream politics. The Australian Republican Movement promotes the bipartisan republic model, which would result in a president elected by the parliament of Australia with the powers currently held by the Queen and the Governor-General.


Paul Keating becomes Prime Minister

Paul Keating becomes Prime Minister

Former Treasurer Paul Keating successfully challenges Bob Hawke for leadership of the Labor Party and replaces Hawke as Prime Minister. The Keating government floats the Australian dollar, is a driving force behind the creation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, establishes the Republic Advisory Committee to examine options to make Australia a republic, and reacts to the High Court’s 1992 Mabo Decision by enacting Australia’s first native title legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1994

Main Committee established

Main Committee established

The House of Representatives creates an auxiliary chamber called the Main Committee to allow an increasing number of Bills to be debated concurrently and to speed up the passage of non-contentious Bills through the Lower House.


1996

John Howard becomes Prime Minister

John Howard becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal–National coalition defeats the Labor government of Paul Keating at the federal election and its leader John Howard becomes Prime Minister. The Howard government introduces strong gun control legislation following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, gradually privatises Telstra, institutes significant industrial relations reforms including Australian Workplace Agreements, commits Australian forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, and introduces a federal goods and services tax (GST). For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1999

No to an Australian republic

No to an Australian republic

Following a constitutional convention in February 1998 at which members resolve in favour of Australia becoming a republic, the Howard government invites the people of Australia to vote at a referendum. The first question asks Australians whether they approve of altering the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The second question seeks approval to change the Constitution by inserting a preamble. About 55 per cent of Australian voters vote no, and Australia remains a constitutional monarchy.


Parliament goes live

Parliament goes live

Live video broadcasts of federal parliamentary proceedings commence via the internet. The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, responsible for arranging parliamentary broadcasting, aims to help people to understand and become involved in the workings of the House of Representatives and its committees. Hansard is also made available on the internet via the Australian Parliament House website.


2001

Centenary of Federation

Centenary of Federation

Australians celebrate the first 100 years of Federation with a year of events and activities. The celebrations aim to broaden community awareness of Australia’s history and acknowledge the achievement of forming the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. It also aims to generate debate about contemporary and future issues facing Australia.


2007

Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister

Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, wins the 2007 federal election and Rudd replaces John Howard as Prime Minister. The Rudd government ratifies the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, hosts the 2020 Summit on Australia’s future, repeals much of the Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation, and issues a national apology to the indigenous Stolen Generations. Rudd’s first term as prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party ends on 24 June 2010 following a leadership challenge from his deputy, Julia Gillard. He is subsequently appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Gillard government after the election of 21 August which returns a minority Labor government with the support of Independent and Greens members, producing Australia’s first hung parliament since 1940.

On 26 June 2013 the Australian Labor Party holds a ballot in which Kevin Rudd defeats Julia Gillard by 57 votes to 45 to again become the leader of the Australian Labor Party. Mr Rudd is sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time by the Governor-General on 27 June.

On 7 September 2013 Kevin Rudd is defeated as Prime Minister by the Liberal/National coalition, led by Tony Abbott, at the federal election. He retains his seat of Griffith, but stands down from the leadership of the Australian Labor Party.


First female Deputy Prime Minister

First female Deputy Prime Minister

Following the federal election on 24 November, Julia Gillard is sworn in as Australia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister. She also holds the portfolios of Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and Minister for Social Inclusion.


2009

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament is held at Old Parliament House. One hundred and fifty people, randomly selected from across Australia, spend four days discussing and deliberating on Australian democracy and how it could be improved.


2013

Most politically diverse parliament in history

Most politically diverse parliament in history

The federal election sees voters elect more parties to the Commonwealth Parliament than ever before. The Palmer United Party, led by billionaire Clive Palmer, wins three seats in the Senate, and Palmer himself the House of Representatives seat of Fairfax. Along with the Liberal Democrats, Family First, Motoring Enthusiasts and Democratic Labor Party, the new minor parties hold a balance of power with the Greens. In total there are eleven parties represented in parliament.


Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister

Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal/National Party coalition wins the 2013 federal election and Tony Abbott replaces Kevin Rudd as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister. Tony Abbott was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, having previously been a journalist and later Press Secretary to Liberal leader John Hewson. In 1996 he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, and in 1998 was made Minister for Employment Services and presided over the development of Job Network. He entered Cabinet in 2001 as Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, at the same time becoming Leader of the House. In 2003 he became Minister for Health, and in that role introduced the Medicare Safety Net and the capping of annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for Medicare cardholders. Upon the Coalition’s defeat in 2007 he became Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, resigning in 2009 in protest over Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the Rudd government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. He challenged Turnbull for party leadership and won, and led the Coalition to a narrow defeat in 2010.

On 14 September 2015, Tony Abbott was defeated in a leadership challenge by Malcolm Turnbull with 44 votes to Turnbull’s 54. Abbott resigned as prime minister the following day and Turnbull was appointed to succeed him by the Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove.


2015

Malcolm Turnbull becomes Prime Minister

Malcolm Turnbull becomes Prime Minister

Malcolm Turnbull was a lawyer, journalist and businessman who rose to national prominence as head of the Australian Republican Movement, and played a leading role in the campaign for a republic at the 1999 referendum. In 2004 he was elected to the House of Representatives for the inner-Sydney seat of Wentworth, and entered the ministry as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with Special Responsibility for Water Policy in 2006. In 2007 he was promoted directly into Cabinet as Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. When the Coalition lost office in November 2007, Turnbull stood for the leadership of the Liberal Party but was defeated by Brendan Nelson. He became Shadow Treasurer until 2008, when he challenged Nelson for the leadership and won. As Opposition Leader he supported the Rudd government’s Emissions Trading Scheme, a move which saw his Families spokesman Tony Abbott resign, and then defeat Turnbull in a leadership challenge. Turnbull became Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, and then when the Abbott government took office in September 2013 he became Minister for Communications, with responsibility for the National Broadband Network.