Longest serving parliamentarians: a quick guide

18 June 2021

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Nathan Church
Politics and Public Administration

This publication provides details the longest serving[1] parliamentarians in the following categories:

  • Members of the House of Representatives
  • Senators
  • Office Holders and ministers

A brief summary of parliamentarian service is provided but further detail is available by the link to their biographical information in the Parliamentary Handbook.

Longest serving members of the House of Representatives


William ‘Billy’ Hughes (51 years, 7 months, 1 day)

Hughes was elected as the member for West Sydney on 29 March 1901 and continued in the parliament until his death on 28 October 1952. Over his career he also represented the New South Wales electorates of North Sydney and Bradfield and the Victorian electorate of Bendigo. He held multiple ministerial portfolios, including more than seven years as Prime Minister (October 1915–February 1923), and represented the Australian Labor Party, Nationalist Party, United Australia Party and Liberal Party.

New South Wales

William ‘Billy’ Hughes (45 years, 11 months, 20 days)

As described above, Hughes spent the predominant part of his parliamentary career representing the New South Wales electorates of West Sydney, North Sydney and Bradfield.


William Maloney (36 years, 4 months, 29 days)

Elected for the Labor Party at the by-election for the Victorian electorate of Melbourne on 30 March 1904, Maloney remained its member until his retirement on 27 August 1940. Accordingly, he holds the record for the longest continuously serving member of an electorate.

South Australia

Norman Makin (36 years, 4 days)

Makin was first elected on 13 December 1919 as the Labor member for Hindmarsh and continued in this role until he resigned on 14 August 1946 to become Australia’s first Ambassador to the United States of America. As a Cabinet Minister for much of the Second World War, he had                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          responsibility for the Navy, Munitions and Aircraft Production. He returned to the federal parliament on 29 May 1954 as the member for Sturt before a boundary redistribution led him to become the member for Bonython, which he remained as until his retirement on 1 November 1963.


Littleton Groom (32 years, 11 months, 16 days)

Following the death of his father William, the sitting member for Darling Downs, Groom won the ensuing by-election held on 14 September 1901. Other than the period from 1929 to 1931 when he was defeated but then re-elected, he remained in that position until he died on 6 November 1936. Across this period he represented the Protectionist Party, Liberal (Commonwealth) Party[2], Nationalist Party and United Australia Party, and also sat as an Independent. A government minister across multiple portfolios (including two periods as Attorney-General), he also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1926 to 1929.

Western Australia

Kim Beazley snr. (32 years, 2 months, 22 days)

Elected for the Labor Party to represent Fremantle at the 18 August 1945 by-election, following the death of the sitting member Prime Minister John Curtin, Beazley served this constituency until his retirement on 10 November 1977. A former schoolteacher, Beazley served as Opposition Spokesperson for Education and later Minister for Education in the Whitlam Government 1972 to 1975.

Northern Territory

Warren Snowdon (31 years, 4 months, 6 days – as at 17 June 2021)

Entering parliament on 11 July 1987 as the Labor member for the Northern Territory, Snowdon was defeated in 1996 before being re-elected at the 1998 election. Becoming the member for Lingiari following an electoral redistribution in 2001, Snowdon has served as Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Veterans’ Affairs, Indigenous Health, Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery. On 10 December 2020 Snowdon announced that he would not recontest the next election.


Gilbert Duthie (29 years, 2 months, 14 days)  

Duthie was first elected on 28 September 1946 as the Labor member for Wilmot and continued in this role until defeated at the 13 December 1975 election. He was a longstanding Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives, spanning from 13 February 1956 to 19 December 1972.

Australian Capital Territory

James Fraser (18 years, 11 months, 4 days)

Elected to represent the Australian Capital Territory on 28 April 1951, Fraser served as its Labor member until his death on 1 April 1970. The federal electorate of Fraser (1974–2016) was subsequently named to commemorate his service[3].

Longest serving senators

Australia (and Western Australia)

George Pearce (37 years, 3 months, 3 days)

Elected as one of Australia’s first senators, Pearce represented Western Australia until electoral defeat ended his service on 30 June 1938. Through his career Pearce represented the Labor Party, the Nationalist Party and the United Australia Party[4]. A longstanding Minister across various portfolios and a government and opposition leader in the Senate, Pearce also acted as Prime Minister during Billy Hughes’ absence overseas in 1916.


Walter Cooper (36 years, 8 months, 2 days)

After an initial single term following his election as a Nationalist Senator for Queensland in 1928, Cooper returned to the Senate in 1935 representing the Country Party. He served as Minister for Repatriation for 11 years (from 1949 to 1960) before retiring from the Senate on 30 June 1968.


Justin O’Byrne (33 years, 11 months, 23 days)

O’Byrne was elected as a Labor senator on 1 July 1947 and continued in the Senate until he retired on 30 June 1981. He spent over a decade as an Opposition Whip in the Senate, and briefer periods as Government Whip and then President of the Senate from July 1974 to November 1975.


Kim Carr (28 years, 1 month, 20 days – as at 17 June 2021)

Upon filling a casual vacancy on 28 April 1993 caused by John Button’s resignation, Carr continues to represent the Labor Party in the Senate. He held many ministerial portfolios throughout his career including innovation, industry, science and research, manufacturing, defence materiel, human services and higher education as well as various shadow ministerial positions.

New South Wales

Stanley Amour (27 years)

Entering the Senate on 1 July 1938, Amour was re-elected a further five times before retiring on 30 June 1965. Amour represented the Labor Party throughout his parliamentary career, except for a brief period during the Second World War when he transitioned to the Labor Party (Non-Communist) group. He was also a long-serving Temporary Chair of Committees, from 28 September 1938 to 19 March 1951.

South Australia

Theophilus Nicholls (23 years, 11 months, 29 days)

Nicholls was elected to the Senate in 1943 and was sworn in the following year on 1 July. Representing the Labor Party, Nicholls served continuously until his retirement on 30 June 1968. His parliamentary career included 15 years as Chairman and Temporary Chairman of Committees.

Australian Capital Territory

Margaret Reid (21 years, 9 months, 11 days)

Appointed on 5 May 1981 to fill the casual vacancy created by the death of Liberal Senator John Knight, Reid remained in the Senate until she resigned on 14 February 2003. She is the fifth longest serving female senator, behind Dorothy Tangney, Marise Payne, Annabelle Rankin and Amanda Vanstone. Reid served as a Government and then Opposition Whip in the Senate, while later being appointed Deputy President of the Senate (1995 to 1996) and President of the Senate (1996 to 2002).

Northern Territory

Nigel Scullion (17 years, 7 months, 20 days)

Scullion was elected to the Senate on 10 November 2001, representing the Country Liberal Party (Northern Territory) and retired on 18 May 2019. He served as Minister for Community Services in 2007 as well as Minister for Indigenous Affairs from 2013 to 2019. He also held multiple leadership positions with the Nationals, including Whip, Deputy Leader in the Senate, Leader in the Senate and Deputy Party Leader.

Longest serving office holders and ministers

Prime Minister – Robert Menzies; 18 years, 5 months, 12 days (26.4.1939–29.8.1941; 19.12.1949–26.1.1966)

Deputy Prime Minister –  John McEwen[5]; 12 years, 11 months, 7 days (26.3.1958–5.3.1971)

Opposition Leader – Herbert ‘Doc’ Evatt, 8 years, 7 months, 20 days (20.6.1951–9.2.1960)

Deputy Opposition Leader – Francis Forde; 9 years, 7 months, 21 days (16.2.1932–7.10.1941)

President of the Senate – Henry Givens; 12 years, 11 months, 21 days (9.7.1913 to 30.6.1926)

Speaker of the House of Representatives – John McLeay; 10 years, 2 months, 2 days (28.8.1956–31.10.1966)

Minister for Trade – John McEwen; 15 years, 25 days (11.1.1956–5.2.1971)

Minister for Defence – George Pearce; 13 years, 8 months, 25 days (13.11.1908–2.6.1909; 29.4.1910–24.6.1913; 17.9.1914–21.12.1921; 6.1.1932–12.10.1934)

Attorney-General – William ‘Billy’ Hughes; 13 years, 6 months, 6 days (13.11.1908–2.6.1909; 29.4.1910–24.6.1913; 17.9.1914–21.12.1921; 29.11.1937–7.10.1941)

Treasurer – Peter Costello; 11 years, 8 months, 23 days (11.3.1996–3.12.2007)

Minister for External/Foreign Affairs – Alexander Downer; 11 years, 8 months, 23 days (11.3.1996–3.12.2007)

Minister for Repatriation/Veterans’ Affairs – Walter Cooper; 11 years, 10 days (19.12.1949–29.12.1960)

Minister for Industry – John Button; 10 years, 13 days (11.3.1983–24.3.1993)

Minister for Labour/Employment – Harold Holt; 9 years, 11 months, 1 day (28.10.1940–7.10.1941; 19.12.1949–10.12.1958)

Postmaster-General/Minister for Communications – Alan Hulme; 8 years, 11 months, 18 days (18.12.1963–5.12.1972)

Minister for Social/Human/Community Services or Social Security – Hugh Roberton; 8 years, 10 months, 24 days (28.2.1956–21.1.1965)

Minister for Agriculture/Primary Industry – Charles Adermann; 8 years, 10 months, 6 days (10.12.1958–16.10.1967)

Minister for Immigration – Philip Ruddock; 7 years, 6 months, 27 days (11.3.1996–7.10.2003)

Minister for Resources – John ‘Doug’ Anthony; 7 years, 3 months, 29 days (12.11.1975–11.3.1983)

Minister for Finance – Mathias Cormann; 7 years, 1 month, 7 days (18.9.2013–23.8.2018; 28.8.2018–30.10.2020)

Minister for Health – Neal Blewett; 7 years, 24 days (11.3.1983–4.4.1990)

Minister for Science – Barry Jones; 7 years, 24 days (11.3.1983–4.4.1990)

Minister for Transport – John Anderson; 6 years, 8 months, 30 days (25.9.1997–9.10.1997; 21.10.1998–6.7.2005)

Minister for Aboriginal/Indigenous Affairs – Robert Tickner; 5 years, 11 months, 7 days (4.4.1990–11.3.1996)

Minister for Works/Construction/Infrastructure – Anthony Albanese; 5 years, 9 months, 15 days (3.12.2007–18.9.2013)

Minister for Education – David Kemp; 5 years, 8 months, 15 days (11.3.1996–26.11.2001)

Minister for the Environment – Robert Hill; 5 years, 8 months, 15 days (11.3.1996–26.11.2001)

Minister for Industrial/Workplace Relations – Ralph Willis; 5 years, 5 months, 22 days (11.3.1983–2.9.1988)

Minister for Housing – Annabelle Rankin; 5 years, 1 month, 27 days (26.1.1966–22.3.1971)

Minister for Women – Susan Ryan; 4 years, 10 months, 8 days (11.3.1983–19.1.1988)

[1].    Longest serving incorporates total parliamentary service, not only continuous service.

[2].    The Liberal (Commonwealth) Party is distinct and separate to the current Liberal Party of Australia.

[3].    The current Victorian federal electorate of Fraser is named after former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

[4].    The United Australia Party (which formally dissolved in 1945) is separate and distinct from Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, which was registered with the Australian Electoral Commission in 2018.

[5].    Although the position of Deputy Prime Minister was not formally established as a ministerial portfolio until 1968, the role existed before this by informal convention.


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