8 October 2010
Martin Lumb and Rob Lundie
Politics and Public Administration Section
First Australian-born Governor-General
Parliament first opened
First President of the Senate
First Speaker of the House of Representatives
First Prime Minister
First Leader of the Opposition
First woman to become Prime Minister
Youngest person to become Prime Minister
Oldest person to become Prime Minister
Longest serving Prime Minister
Shortest serving Prime Minister
Oldest serving Prime Minister
Prime Ministers who lost their seats at a federal election
Prime Ministers who died in office
Prime Minister from the Senate
Youngest person to become Minister
Oldest person to become Minister
Longest serving Minister
Shortest serving Minister
First woman member of the Ministry/Cabinet
First Minister to resign because of a disagreement with Cabinet
Youngest person elected
Youngest person in the Senate
Oldest person first elected to the House of Representatives
Oldest person appointed or elected to the Senate
First woman political candidate
Women first eligible to vote and sit in the Commonwealth Parliament
First woman candidate for the House of Representatives
First woman candidate for the Senate
First women elected to Parliament
First Indigenous Members of Parliament
Oldest and longest serving Member of Parliament
Shortest serving Member of Parliament
Government with the largest majority
Governments with the smallest majority
First and only Member expelled from the House of Representatives
First Member suspended from the House of Representatives
First Senator suspended from the Senate
Member suspended from the House of Representatives most often
Senator suspended from the Senate most often
Speaker who has suspended the most Members
President who has suspended the most Senators
Member of Parliament who has crossed the floor most frequently
First private Members' bill passed into law
First private Senators' bill passed into law
Largest and smallest number of bills passed into law in one year
First broadcast of the proceedings of Parliament
This Background Note is designed to answer some of those frequently asked questions about who was the first, youngest, oldest, most often, etc. in Australian federal politics. The focus is on records for the Federal Parliament although a few significant records relate to members of State parliaments. The information is current as at October 2010 and has been compiled from sources including the Parliamentary Handbook, Hansard, the Australian Dictionary of Biography and State parliamentary handbooks. A key to the political party abbreviations can be found at the end of this publication.
Rt Hon John Adrian Louis Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun served from 1 January 1901 to 9 January 1903.
Rt Hon Sir Isaac Isaacs served from 22 January 1931 to 23 January 1936.
In Melbourne on 9 May 1901. It moved to Canberra to the provisional Parliament House on 9 May 1927 and then to the present Parliament House on 9 May 1988.
Sir Richard Baker (Free Trade, SA) served from 9 May 1901 to 31 December 1906.
Sir Frederick Holder (Free Trade, and later Protectionist and Anti-Socialist Party, South Australia and Wakefield, SA) served from 9 May 1901 until his death in the chamber on 23 July 1909. He is the only Speaker to die in office.
Sir Edmund Barton (Protectionist, Hunter, NSW) served from 1 January 1901 to 4 September 1903.
George Reid (Free Trade, East Sydney, NSW) served from May 1901 to 18 August 1904.
Julia Gillard (ALP, Lalor, Vic.) became the first female Prime Minister on 24 June 2010. She became the first elected female Prime Minister following the election on 21 August 2010.
John Watson (ALP, Bland, NSW) became Prime Minister aged 37 and served from 27 April 1904 to 17 August 1904.
Sir John McEwen (CP, Murray, Vic.) became Prime Minister aged 67 years eight months after Harold Holt's death and served from 19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968 when Senator John Gorton (LP, Vic.) was elected as Leader by the Liberal Party.
Sir Robert Menzies (LP, Kooyong, Vic.) was Prime Minister for 16 years one month eight days from 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966. He was also Prime Minister for two years four months four days from 26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941.
Frank Forde (ALP, Capricornia, Qld) was Prime Minister for eight days from 6 July 1945 to 13 July 1945 having been commissioned by the Governor-General upon the death of John Curtin. He then lost the leadership ballot to Ben Chifley.
Sir Robert Menzies (LP, Kooyong, Vic.) was 71 years one month when he resigned on 17 December 1966, having been in Parliament since 15 September 1934.
Stanley Bruce (Nationalist, Flinders, Vic.) lost his seat at the federal election on 12 October 1929.
John Howard (LP, Bennelong, NSW) lost his seat at the federal election on 24 November 2007.
Joseph Lyons (UAP, Wilmot, Tas.), Prime Minister from 6 January 1932, died on 7 April 1939.
John Curtin (ALP, Fremantle, WA), Prime Minister from 7 October 1941, died on 5 July 1945.
Harold Holt (LP, Higgins, Vic.), Prime Minister from 26 January 1966 to 19 December 1967, the day on which he is presumed to have died while swimming at Portsea, Victoria.
The only Senator to become Prime Minister was John Gorton (LP, Vic.). He was appointed Prime Minister while still a Senator on 10 January 1968, three weeks after the presumed death of Harold Holt (LP, Higgins, Vic.). Gorton resigned from the Senate on 1 February in order to contest a by-election for the House of Representatives seat held by Holt. From 1 to 24 February 1968 (the date of the by-election), the Prime Minister was not a member of the Parliament.
Katherine (Kate) Ellis (ALP, Adelaide, SA) was 30 years two months when appointed Minister for Youth on 3 December 2007.
Senator Joseph Collings (FLP and later ALP, Qld) was 76 years four months when he first became a Minister. He served as Minister for the Interior from 7 October 1941 to 13 July 1945, and subsequently became Vice-President of the Executive Council on 13 July 1945, stepping down on 1 November 1946, at the age of 81 years five months.
John McEwen (CP, Echuca, Indi and Murray, Vic.) served as a Minister for a total of 25 years, first from 29 November 1937 to 7 October 1941 and then from 19 December 1949 to 5 February 1971.
The longest unbroken period of service as Minister was that of William McMahon (LP, Lowe, NSW), who served as a Minister from 17 July 1951 to 5 December 1972, a total of 21 years four months.
Senator Glenister Sheil (CP and later NPA, Qld) is often described as the shortest serving Minister. He was sworn in as a Member of the Federal Executive Council on 20 December 1977. His appointment was terminated two days later, before his ministerial appointment (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) was actually gazetted.
James Robert Dickson (Qld) was appointed Minister for Defence in the first federal ministry on 1 January 1901, prior to the election of the first Federal Parliament. He died nine days later on 10 January 1901. He was the first federal Minister to die in office.
The first woman Cabinet member was Dame Enid Lyons (LP, Darwin, Tas.), Vice-President of the Executive Council from 19 December 1949 to 7 March 1951. In 1956, Prime Minister Robert Menzies instituted a two-tier ministry, with the Cabinet comprising the senior ministers, and the non-Cabinet ministers attending meetings only in cases directly involving their portfolios.
The first woman minister responsible for a government department was Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin (LP, Qld), Minister for Housing from 26 January 1966 to 22 March 1971.
The first woman to administer a government department and be a member of the Cabinet was Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle (LP, Vic.), who was appointed to Cabinet on 8 July 1976 during her term as Minister for Social Security from 22 December 1975 to 3 November 1980.
Charles Kingston (Protectionist, Adelaide, SA) resigned from the Barton Ministry as Minister for Trade and Customs on 24 July 1903 over a disagreement in Cabinet about whether the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1903 should cover seamen on all ships engaged in Australian coastal trade.
Wyatt Roy (LP, Longman, Qld) was elected to the House of Representatives on 21 August 2010 aged 20 years three months. He is the youngest person elected to any Australian parliament.
Previously the youngest person elected to the House of Representatives was Edwin Corboy (ALP, Swan, WA). He was elected at a by-election on 26 October 1918 aged 22 years two months and served until defeated at the next election on 13 December 1919. Corboy was elected when the qualifying age for candidates was 21, which remained the case until 1973 when it was lowered to 18.
The youngest woman elected to the House of Representatives is Katherine (Kate) Ellis (ALP, Adelaide, SA) elected on 9 October 2004, at the age of 27 years.
The youngest woman elected to any Australian parliament is Kelly Vincent (Dignity for Disability) who was elected to the South Australian Legislative Council on 20 March 2010, at the age of 21 years four months.
Senator Bill O'Chee (NPA, Qld) was appointed under section 15 of the Constitution to fill a casual vacancy on 8 May 1990 aged 24 years 10 months.
The youngest person actually elected was Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (GRN, SA) on 24 November 2007 aged 25 years 11 months. It should be noted, though, that Ms Hanson-Young’s term did not commence until 1 July 2008 when she was 26 years six months. Senator Natasha Stott Despoja (AD, SA) was appointed on 29 November 1995 at the age of 26 years two months, and her term commenced immediately from that date.
Sir Edward Braddon (Free Trade, Tas. and later Wilmot, Tas.) was elected at the age of 71 years nine months and served from 29 March 1901 until his death on 2 February 1904.
Senator John Verran (Nationalist, SA) was appointed under section 15 of the Constitution aged 71 years one month and served from 30 August 1927 to 16 November 1928.
Catherine Helen Spence in 1897 when she ran for the National Australasian Convention. She came 22nd out of 33 candidates and was not elected.
Women in SA and WA had been granted the right to vote before Federation and so were eligible to vote in the first Commonwealth election on 29–30 March 1901. Women (excluding Indigenous women) became eligible to vote through the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 which came into effect on 12 June 1902. Thus, the first election at which they could vote and stand for the Commonwealth Parliament was that of 16 December 1903.
Selina Anderson (Protectionist) for Dalley, NSW, at the 16 December 1903 election. Selina Anderson was also a candidate under her maiden name of Siggins for the Country Party in the seat of Calare at the federal election on 16 December 1922. She was unsuccessful on both occasions.
Vida Goldstein (IND) for Victoria, at the 16 December 1903 election. She stood for Parliament on four further occasions, but was unsuccessful.
Dame Enid Lyons (UAP and later LP, Darwin, Tas.) was elected to the House of Representatives on 21 August 1943 and retired on 19 March 1951.
On the same date Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney (ALP, WA) was elected to the Senate and served to 19 March 1951 and then from 28 April 1951 to 30 June 1968.
The first woman elected to any Australian parliament was Edith Cowan (Nationalist, West Perth, WA) who was elected to the WA Legislative Assembly on 12 March 1921 and served until 22 March 1924.
Senator Neville Bonner (LP and later IND, Qld) was the first Indigenous Senator. He was appointed on 11 June 1971 under section 15 of the Constitution and returned at the next election on 2 December 1972. He served until 4 February 1983.
Ken Wyatt (LP, Hasluck, WA), elected on 21 August 2010, is the first Indigenous Member of the House of Representatives.
William Morris Hughes entered Parliament aged 38 years six months on 29 March 1901 and died aged 90 years one month on 28 October 1952 while still a member. He served for 51 years seven months representing a number of electorates (West Sydney, North Sydney, Bradfield, NSW and Bendigo, Vic.) and various parties (ALP, Nationalist, UAP, LP).
Charles Howroyd (Nationalist, Darwin, Tas.) died on 10 May 1917 five days after being elected on 5 May 1917. He never sat in Parliament.
The Fraser LP/NCP Coalition Government had a majority of 55 after the 1975 election having won 91 seats to the ALP's 36.
The Cook Liberal Party Government had a one seat majority (38–37) after the 1913 election.
The Menzies UAP/CP Coalition retained Government after the 1940 election with 36 seats. Labor also won 36 seats (ALP-32 and Non-Communist Labor-4), and there were two Independents.
The Menzies LP/CP Coalition retained Government after the 1961 election, because although it had won the same number of seats (62) as the ALP, the ALP numbers included two Territory members (ACT and NT) who did not have full voting rights and therefore could not affect the outcome of divisions. They could only vote on bills affecting the territories.
The 2010 election produced the first hung parliament since 1940. Although the Coalition gained 73 seats, the Gillard Labor Government retained power with 72 seats and the support of three Independents and one Australian Greens MP.
Hugh Mahon (ALP, Kalgoorlie, WA) was expelled on 12 November 1920 ‘having by seditious and disloyal utterances ... been guilty of conduct unfitting for him to remain a Member ... and inconsistent with the oath of allegiance which he has taken as a Member’. This followed a speech he gave at a public meeting in Melbourne in which he criticised British policy in Ireland. His seat was declared vacant and although he contested the subsequent by-election, he was unsuccessful. Since the passing of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 the House no longer has the power to expel a Member.
Sir James Catts (ALP, Cook, NSW) was suspended for the remainder of the day’s sitting on 18 August 1910 for referring to a statement by Elliott Johnson (LP, Lang, NSW) as 'a dirty, skunky thing to say' and for going over to the other side of the House and saying 'you dirty skunks'.
On 21 February 1994 a new Standing Order (304A, later 94a) came into effect. This allows the Speaker to order the withdrawal of a member from the Chamber for one hour (‘sin bin’) for disorderly conduct without a question having to be put to the House. Wilson Tuckey (LP, O’Connor, WA) was the first member to be asked to withdraw from the Chamber under this standing order on 24 February 1994, just three days after it came into effect.
Senator Arthur Rae (ALP, NSW) was suspended on 1 November 1912 for describing a statement attributed to him by Senator Edward Millen (Anti-Socialist, NSW) as 'a deliberate falsehood' and then failing to withdraw it. He was suspended for the remainder of the day's sitting.
Eddie Ward (ALP, East Sydney, NSW) was suspended 15 times including five times for a period of seven days.
Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler, NSW) holds the record for the most number of times a member has been ejected from the Chamber. Overall, he has been ejected 34 times which includes four suspensions and 30 ejections for one hour.
Senator James Keeffe (ALP, Qld) was suspended six times during his term from 1 July 1965 to 4 February 1983.
Sir John McLeay (LP, Boothby, SA), Speaker from 29 August 1956 to 31 October 1966, suspended members 23 times.
Speaker Neil Andrew (LP, Wakefield, SA), Speaker from 10 November 1998 to 31 August 2004, suspended members or asked them to withdraw from the chamber on 190 occasions.
Sir Alister McMullin (LP, NSW), President from 8 September 1953 to 30 June 1971, and Sir Condor Laucke (LP, SA), President from 17 February 1976 to 30 June 1981, both suspended senators on six occasions.
Senator Reg Wright (LP, Tas.) crossed the floor 150 times from 22 February 1950 to 30 June 1978. Senator Ian Wood (LP, Qld) crossed the floor 130 times over the same period. This information covers the period from 1950 onwards.
The Life Assurance Companies Bill 1904 was initiated by Sir Littleton Groom (Protectionist, Darling Downs, Qld) and passed into law in 1905 as Act No. 12 of 1905.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1908 was initiated by Senator Edward Needham (ALP, WA) and passed into law as Act No. 28 of 1909.
A total of 264 bills passed into law in 1992, the largest number in one year. The smallest number of bills passed into law in one year was 12 in 1907.
Radio broadcasts began on 10 July 1946. Senate proceedings have been regularly televised from August 1990 and House proceedings from February 1991.
AD – Australian Democrats; ALP – Australian Labor Party; CP – Country Party; FLP – Federal Labor Party; GRN – Australian Greens; IND – Independent; LP – Liberal Party; NPA – National Party of Australia; UAP – United Australia Party
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