As the leader of the Australian Government, the Prime Minister of Australia is also the leader of the country.
The most powerful role in Australian parliament, the position of Prime Minister involves a number of important tasks that are vital to the smooth running of the nation.
These include but are not limited to:
- Giving advice to the Governor-General regarding constitutional matters and other prominent issues such as appointing heads of government departments and ambassadors;
- Representing the Australian government and people overseas;
- Chairing meetings during which policies and bills are discussed and analysed;
- Leading Cabinet (Prime Minister and other ministers) in consolidating policies;
- Electing government members into minister positions;
- Deciding to call federal elections and leading them;
- And acting as the chief government spokesperson.
The role of Prime Minister is evidently crucial to the Australian political climate, so how is he or she chosen? The process is a little more complex than most people would initially expect!
Contrary to other political systems, the Australian Prime Minister is not elected by the Australian people in a direct way. Rather, the Prime Minister is decided by a vote cast by the members of the government.
A political party, or coalition of political parties must win the majority of 150 seats within the Federal House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament, which is effectively known as the Lower House.
In order to make up the House of Representatives, members of the Federal Government (which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate), State Government, Territory and Local Governments are elected by voting.
Once a political party has won government, it chooses an internal member to become the Australian Prime Minister.
This is traditionally the Leader of the party.
What happens after the election?
Unlike other countries, namely the United States, where the President is limited in the amount of time they’re allowed to serve, there is no fixed limit in the Australian political landscape. As long as the Prime Minister holds their position as a member of parliament and maintains the support of the government, they have the ability to stay in the role for many years.
Any serving Australian Prime Minister is open to having their position challenged by members of their party or coalition of parties, and having their position taken away from them. A recent example of this is with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was challenged and then resigned knowing he would not be able to hold his position in 2010.
While the role of Prime Minister is extremely important, he or she is still bound by the customs and practices outlined in the Australian Constitution. These were carried out for centuries under British Parliament before being adopted by the Australian system, and must be considered.
Parliament House may be where the national laws are made and discussed, but the Prime Minister has two residences in Australia. These are Kirribilli House, in Sydney, and The Lodge, which is located in the Australian capital city of Canberra.
Edited and updated by Sarah Megginson.