A bigger cabinet and more women in it

Parliament house flag post

A bigger cabinet and more women in it

Posted 14/12/2011 by Janet Wilson

The new ministry to be sworn in today, with 22 cabinet members, is the largest cabinet since the second and third Whitlam Ministries (1972–75). When the Second Whitlam Ministry was sworn in, all 27 members of the ministry sat as members of the cabinet. During this period, and also between 1901 and 1956, there was no ‘inner cabinet’. The inner cabinet system was formally adopted by the Menzies Government on 11 January 1956 and has characterised all Governments since, with the exception of the Whitlam Government.

The other notable feature of the new ministry is its record number of five female cabinet ministers.

The first woman to serve as a cabinet member was Enid Lyons (who was also the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1943, and created Dame in 1980). She did not have a portfolio, but rather served as Vice-President of the Executive Council in Menzies’ first ministry from December 1949 for a little over two years.

The first woman to hold a portfolio was Dame Annabelle Rankin, the Minister for Housing, who served in the Holt, McEwen and some of the Gorton ministries, from January 1966 to March 1971, but she was not a cabinet member.

Margaret Guilfoyle (later Dame) entered the Fraser outer ministry, as Minister for Education, and then Minister for Social Security from November 1975; she was promoted into cabinet in July 1976, thus becoming Australia’s first female cabinet minister with a portfolio. She remained the only female minister for the rest of the Fraser administrations.

When the Labor Party was elected in March 1983 Susan Ryan was in cabinet as Minister for Education, and was the only woman in the ministry until 1987. She remained in cabinet until she resigned from Parliament early in 1988.

The formation of Hawke’s third ministry in 1987 marked the start of the gradual increase in the number of women represented in ministries, when as well as Susan Ryan in cabinet, two women were appointed to the outer ministry (Margaret Reynolds and Ros Kelly), making a total of three female ministers.

Since then there have always been at least two women in ministries, rising to four (two in cabinet) in the first Howard ministry in 1996, then to a total of six, with three in cabinet in the 2004–2007 period.

In the first Rudd ministry the number of women in cabinet rose to four, and there were three women in the outer ministry. After the election in 2010 the number of female cabinet ministers remained at four, but there were only two women in the outer ministry.

The new ministry taking its place today has a record of five women in cabinet, and two women in the outer ministry, so there is still a total of seven.

For ministry lists from 1901 to the present see the Parliamentary Handbook, and details about the women serving in 43rd Parliament can be found on the Parliamentary website.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration parliament climate change Australian foreign policy elections social security women welfare reform Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education private health insurance Taxation Indigenous Australians health financing higher education emissions trading Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations Asia politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour transport aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health OECD Senate Australian Public Service constitution Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme leadership electoral reform Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking International Women's Day corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt parliamentary procedure Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers domestic violence military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population violence against women China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism Ireland election timetable citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top