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The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia is the second-most senior officer in the Government of Australia. The office of Deputy Prime Minister was officially created as a ministerial portfolio in 1968, although the title had been used informally for many years previously. The Deputy Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. When Australia has a Labor Government, the deputy leader of the parliamentary party holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister. When Australia has a Coalition Government (as it does now), the Coalition Agreement mandates that all Coalition members support the leader of the Liberal Party becoming Prime Minister and mandates that the leader of the National Party be selected as Deputy Prime Minister.
The present office-holder, Michael McCormack, was elected Leader of the National Party on Monday 26 February 2018 at a meeting at which the resignations of his predecessor, Barnaby Joyce, became effective. Joyce resigned following controversies over his actions and returned to the back bench. McCormack was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister later the same day.
The 2017–18 Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis resulted in the position being made vacant for the first time since its official creation. Barnaby Joyce, the then-incumbent, was ruled ineligible to be a member of parliament by the High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns on 27 October 2017, as he held New Zealand citizenship at the time of his election in contravention of Section 44 of the Constitution of Australia. Joyce regained the position on 6 December 2017 after he won the by-election for the seat of New England several days earlier.
Originally the position of deputy Prime Minister was an unofficial or honorary position accorded to the second-highest ranking minister in the government. The unofficial position acquired more significance following the 1922 federal election, which saw the governing Nationalist Party lose its parliamentary majority. The Nationalists eventually reached a coalition agreement with the Country Party, which called for Country Party leader Earle Page to take the second rank in the Nationalist-led ministry of Stanley Bruce. While Page's only official title was Treasurer, he was considered as a deputy to Bruce.
From then until 1968, the Coalition agreement between the Liberals (and their predecessors) and Country Party called for the leader of the Country Party (subsequently the National Party) to rank second in Cabinet. That continues to be case when the Coalition is in government. In the case of Labor governments, the party's deputy leader ranks second in Cabinet.
On 19 December 1967, John McEwen, the long-serving leader of the Country Party in the Coalition government, was sworn in as interim Prime Minister following the sudden death in office of Prime Minister Harold Holt. (There was discussion that deputy Liberal leader and Treasurer William McMahon should assume the office. McMahon had planned a party room meeting on 20 December to elect a new leader, intending to stand for the position himself. However, this was pre-empted by McEwen who publicly declared on the morning of 18 December that he would not serve in a McMahon government.) McEwen was sworn in as Prime Minister on the understanding that his commission would continue only so long as it took for the Liberals to elect a new leader. Governor-General Lord Casey also accepted the view put to him by McEwen that to commission a Liberal temporarily as Prime Minister would give that person an unfair advantage in the forthcoming party room ballot for the permanent leader. McEwen's appointment was in keeping with the previous occasion when the main non-Labor party was without a leader; Earle Page of the Country Party was interim Prime Minister between 7 and 26 April 1939—the period between Joseph Lyons' sudden death and the United Australia Party naming Robert Menzies his successor.
The Liberal leadership ballot was rescheduled for 9 January 1968. As it turned out, McMahon did not stand, and Senator John Gorton was elected, replacing McEwen as Prime Minister on 10 January 1968. McEwen reverted to his previous status as the second-ranking member of the government, as per the Coalition agreement. He had unofficially been Deputy Prime Minister since becoming Country Party leader in 1958, and since 1966 had exercised an effective veto over government policy by virtue of being the longest-serving member of the government; he had been a member of the Coalition frontbench without interruption since 1937. To acknowledge McEwen's long service and his status as the second-ranking member of the government, Gorton formally created the post of Deputy Prime Minister, with McEwen as the first holder of the post.
Since 1968 only two Deputy Prime Ministers have gone on to become Prime Minister: Paul Keating and Julia Gillard. In both cases, they succeeded incumbent Prime Ministers who lost the support of their party caucus mid-term and their election as party leader preceded their predecessor's resignations and their subsequent appointments as Prime Minister. Frank Forde, who had been deputy Labor leader when John Curtin died, was interim Prime Minister between 6 and 13 July 1945, when a leadership ballot took place that elected Ben Chifley as Curtin's successor.
In November 2007, when the Australian Labor Party won government, Julia Gillard became Australia's first female, and first foreign-born, Deputy Prime Minister.
In 2017, the position became vacant for a period of 40 days, the only time in its history when it has been unoccupied. As part of the 2017–18 Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis, it emerged that the then-incumbent Barnaby Joyce was a citizen of New Zealand by descent (jus sanguinis – by right of blood) at the time of the 2016 federal election. Joyce told the House of Representatives that he was advised of his citizenship status on 10 August 2017 by the New Zealand High Commission and his renunciation of his dual citizenship became effective on 15 August 2017. Nevertheless, he asked for his case to be referred to the High Court of Australia (sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns) for adjudication, and they ruled that his election was invalid under section 44 of the Constitution of Australia. The government immediately issued writs for a by-election for the seat of New England to be held on 2 December 2017, which Joyce won easily. Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove re-appointed Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister on 6 December 2017.
In practice, only National party leaders or Labor Party deputy leaders have held the position.
The duties of the Deputy Prime Minister are to act on behalf of the Prime Minister in his or her absence overseas or on leave. The Deputy Prime Minister has always been a member of the Cabinet, and has always held at least one substantive portfolio. (It would be technically possible for a minister to hold only the portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister, but this has never happened).
If the Prime Minister were to die, become incapacitated or resign, the Governor-General would normally appoint the Deputy Prime Minister as Prime Minister on an interim basis until the governing party elects a new leader, but is not obligated to do so. This has not occurred since the office was created as a portfolio in 1968.
Members of parliament receive a base salary of $203,030, which is set by the Remuneration Tribunal (an independent statutory authority). Government ministers receive an additional amount, which is determined by the government itself based on the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal. The deputy prime minister receives an additional 105 percent of the base salary, making for a total salary of $416,212. The holder of the office also receives various other allowances and entitlements.
List of Deputy Prime Ministers of Australia
|#||Deputy Prime Minister||Party affiliation
|Portfolio(s)||Term start||Term end||Term in office||Prime Minister|
|Trade and Industry||10 January 1968||5 February 1971||3 years, 26 days||John Gorton|
|Trade and Industry||5 February 1971||10 March 1971||1 year, 304 days|
|10 March 1971||5 December 1972||William McMahon|
Deputy Leader 1967–74
|Defence||5 December 1972||12 June 1974||1 year, 189 days||Gough Whitlam|
Deputy Leader 1974–75
|Treasurer||12 June 1974||2 July 1975||1 year, 20 days|
Deputy Leader 1975
|Overseas Trade||2 July 1975||11 November 1975||132 days|
|(2)||Doug Anthony||Country National
|Trade and Industry||12 November 1975||11 March 1983||7 years, 119 days||Malcolm Fraser|
Deputy Leader 1977–90
|11 March 1983||4 April 1990||7 years, 24 days||Bob Hawke|
Deputy Leader 1990–91
|Treasurer||4 April 1990||3 June 1991||1 year, 60 days|
Deputy Leader 1991–95
|3 June 1991||20 December 1991||4 years, 17 days|
|20 December 1991||20 June 1995||Paul Keating|
Deputy Leader 1995–96
|Finance||20 June 1995||11 March 1996||265 days|
|Trade||11 March 1996||20 July 1999||3 years, 131 days||John Howard|
|Transport and Regional Development||20 July 1999||6 July 2005||5 years, 351 days|
|Minister for Trade
Transport and Regional Services
|6 July 2005||3 December 2007||2 years, 150 days|
Deputy Leader 2006–10
|Employment and Workplace Relations
|3 December 2007||24 June 2010||2 years, 203 days||Kevin Rudd|
Deputy Leader 2010–13
|Treasurer||24 June 2010||27 June 2013||3 years, 3 days||Julia Gillard|
Deputy Leader 2013
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Infrastructure and Transport
|27 June 2013||18 September 2013||83 days||Kevin Rudd|
|Infrastructure and Regional Development||18 September 2013||15 September 2015||2 years, 153 days||Tony Abbott|
|15 September 2015||18 February 2016||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Agriculture and Water Resources
Resources and Northern Australia
(25 July 2017 – 27 October 2017)
|18 February 2016||27 October 2017||2 years, 8 days|
|Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
(from 20 December 2017)
|6 December 2017||26 February 2018|
|Infrastructure and Transport
(until 5 March 2018)
Veterans' Affairs (until 5 March 2018)
|26 February 2018||24 August 2018||2 years, 96 days|
|24 August 2018||Incumbent||Scott Morrison|
Living former Deputy Prime Ministers
As of May 2020, there are 11 living former Deputy Prime Ministers of Australia, the oldest being Doug Anthony (born 1929). The most recent former deputy prime minister to die was Tim Fischer (1996–1999), on 22 August 2019.
- Doug Anthony (1971–72, 1975–83)
- Paul Keating (1990–91)
- Brian Howe (1991–95)
- Kim Beazley (1995–96)
- John Anderson (1999–2005)
- Mark Vaile (2005–07)
- Julia Gillard (2007–10)
- Wayne Swan (2010–13)
- Anthony Albanese (2013)
- Warren Truss (2013–16)
- Barnaby Joyce (2016–17, 2017–18)
Informal Deputy Prime Ministers
The office of Deputy Prime Minister was created in January 1968 but prior to that time the term was used unofficially for the second-highest ranking minister in the government.
|Name||Picture||Term of office||Political party and position||Ministerial Offices||Prime Minister|
|Alfred Deakin||1901||1903||Protectionist Party
Deputy Leader 1901–03
Acting Prime Minister 1902
|William Lyne||1903||1904||Protectionist Party
Deputy Leader 1901–09
|Minister for Trade and Customs||Alfred Deakin|
|Gregor McGregor||1904||1904||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1901–14
|Vice-President of the Executive Council||Chris Watson|
|Allan McLean||1904||1905||Protectionist Party||Minister for Trade and Customs||George Reid|
|William Lyne||1905||1908||Protectionist Party
Deputy Leader 1901–09
|Minister for Trade and Customs
|Gregor McGregor||1908||1909||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1901–14
|Vice-President of the Executive Council||Andrew Fisher|
|Joseph Cook||1909||1910||Commonwealth Liberal Party
Deputy Leader 1909–13
|Minister for Defence||Alfred Deakin|
|Gregor McGregor||1910||1913||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1901–14
|Vice-President of the Executive Council||Andrew Fisher|
|John Forrest||1913||1914||Commonwealth Liberal Party
Deputy Leader 1913–16
|Billy Hughes||1914||1915||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1914–15
Acting Prime Minister 1915
|George Pearce||1915||1916||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1915–16
|Minister for Defence
Acting Prime Minister 1916
|1916||1917||National Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1916–17
Deputy Leader 1918–20
Acting Prime Minister 1918–19
Deputy Leader 1920–21
|Minister for the Navy
acting Prime Minister May–September 1921
|Earle Page||1923||1929||Country Party
|Ted Theodore||1929||1932||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1929–32
|James Fenton||1930||1931||Australian Labor Party
Temporary Leader 1929–32
|Acting Prime Minister 1930–31||James Scullin|
|John Latham||1932||1934||United Australia Party
Deputy Leader 1932–34
Minister for External Affairs
Minister for Industry
|George Pearce||1934||1934||United Australia Party
Deputy Leader 1934
|Minister for External Affairs|
Minister in Charge of Territories
|Earle Page||1934||1939||Country Party
|Minister for Commerce|
Minister for Health
|Archie Cameron||1940||1940||Country Party
Minister for Commerce
Minister for the Navy
|Arthur Fadden||1940||1941||Country Party
|Minister for the Air|
Minister for Civil Aviation
Acting Prime Minister 1940
|Robert Menzies||1941||1941||United Australia Party
|Minister for Defence Co-ordination||Arthur Fadden|
|Frank Forde||1941||1946||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1932–46
|Minister for the Army
Minister for Defence
Acting Prime Minister April–July 1944, November 1944 – January 1945, Prime Minister for one week in 1945
|H. V. Evatt||1946||1949||Australian Labor Party
Deputy Leader 1946–51
|Minister for External Affairs
|Arthur Fadden||1949||1958||Country Party
|John McEwen||1958||1967||Country Party
|Minister for Trade and Industry
Acting Prime Minister June–July 1965
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- Green, Antony (2017). "2017 New England by-election – Guide". ABC News (Online). News and Current Affairs Division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
Green, Antony (15 January 2018). "2017 New England by-election – Commentary". ABC News (Online). News and Current Affairs Division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
- Murphy, Jamieson (6 December 2017). "Barnaby Joyce is once again the Deputy Prime Minister after being sworn in". Northern Daily Leader. Rural Press. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
- PrimeFacts: Deputy Prime Ministers of Australia
- Gartrell, Adam; Remeikis, Amy (14 August 2017). "Barnaby Joyce refers himself to High Court over potential dual citizenship". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
- Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister (14 August 2017). "Parliamentary Representation" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: House of Representatives. p. 8185. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
Last Thursday afternoon the New Zealand High Commission contacted me to advise that, on the basis of preliminary advice from their Department of Internal Affairs, which had received inquiries from the New Zealand Labour Party, they considered that I may be a citizen by descent of New Zealand.
- Vielleris, Renee (15 August 2017). "Documentary evidence Barnaby Joyce has renounced his NZ citizenship". news.com.au. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
- Determination 2017/23: Members of Parliament, Remuneration Tribunal. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
- Report on Ministers of State - Salaries Additional to the Basic Parliamentary Salary, Remuneration Tribunal. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
- "Ministries and Cabinets". 43rd Parliamentary Handbook: Historical information on the Australian Parliament. Parliament of Australia. 2010. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- "Deputy Prime Ministers of Australia" (PDF). Museum of Australian Democracy. Retrieved 27 July 2013.