Titles accorded to Members
MP (Member of Parliament)
Members of the House of Representatives are designated MP and not MHR. This was the decision of the Federal Cabinet in 1901—a decision which has since been reaffirmed in 1951 and in 1965. The title is not retained by former Members.
A Member’s status as a Member does not depend on the meeting of the Parliament, nor on the Member taking his or her seat or making the oath or affirmation. A Member is technically regarded as a Member from the day of election—that is, when he or she is, in the words of the Constitution, ‘chosen by the people’. A new Member is entitled to use the title MP once this status is officially confirmed by the declaration of the poll.
All Members of the 1st Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia were granted the privilege by the King to use the title ‘Honourable’ for life within the Commonwealth of Australia. Members subsequently elected do not hold this title except in the instances described in the following paragraphs.
Members of the Executive Council have the title ‘Honourable’ while they remain Executive Councillors. A Member who becomes a Minister is appointed to the Executive Council. It rests with the Governor-General to continue or terminate membership of the Executive Council and consequently the right to the title. With one exception, Ministers appointed to the Executive Council have not in the past had their appointment to the Council terminated upon termination of their commission and hence have retained the title ‘Honourable’ for life. Parliamentary Secretaries also have the title ‘Honourable’ when, as has been the recent practice, they have been appointed to the Executive Council. A Member may also retain the title from previous service as a state Minister, or as a member of a Legislative Council in some States.
Speaker Harry Jenkins, elected in 2008, has not used the title ‘honourable’. However it was previously the custom for a Member elected Speaker to use the title ‘Honourable’ during his or her period of office and to be granted the privilege of retaining the title for life if he or she served in the office for three or more years.
Members of the House of Representatives are referred to in the Chamber as ‘honourable Members’. The use of the term ‘honourable’ in the Chamber originates in UK House of Commons’ practice.
The title ‘Right Honourable’ is granted to members of the Sovereign’s Privy Council. Formerly, Prime Ministers and senior Ministers were appointed to the Privy Council.
Academic and other titles
The use of academic and other titles, where appropriate, in House documents was also considered in the 1972 Standing Orders Committee report. The House agreed with the recommendation of the committee that the title ‘Doctor’ or ‘Reverend’ or a substantive military, academic or professional title could be used by Members in House documents.
Longest serving Member
Traditionally, the Member of the House with the longest continuous service was referred to as the ‘Father of the House’. This was a completely informal designation and had no functions attached to it. At the commencement of the 43rd Parliament the Hon. P. M. Ruddock was the longest serving Member, having been elected in 1973. A record term of 51 years, from 1901 to 1952, was served by the Right Honourable W. M. Hughes.