Leader of the Government in the Senate (Australia)

The Leader of the Government in the Senate (historically also known as the Leader of the Senate) is the most senior cabinet minister in the Australian Senate. The title is given to the leader of the governing party (or the largest party in a governing coalition), irrespective of whether the government has a majority or plurality in the Senate. His or her Opposition counterpart is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.[1]

The current Leader of the Government in the Senate is Mathias Cormann, in office since 20 December 2017. The current Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate is Simon Birmingham, who replaced Mitch Fifield in the position on 28 August 2018.

Role and history

According to constitutional convention, the government is formed in the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister is a member of that chamber. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has duties and privileges that parallel those of the Prime Minister, in that he or she has overarching responsibility for all policy areas and acts as the government's principal spokesperson in the upper house. He or she is also entitled to sit at the table of the Senate, and has priority in gaining recognition from the President of the Senate during debate.[1] Another similarity is that the leader typically announces changes to government officeholders in the Senate, including ministers, leadership and whips. The leader also has some responsibility for appointing government senators to committees, a role filled in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the House.[2]

The position of Leader of the Government in the Senate does not have a constitutional basis, but has existed since the first parliament in 1901 through longstanding parliamentary convention. Although it has similarities to the Senate Majority Leader in the United States and the Leader of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, it was not based on either of those, but rather on the position of Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council found in Australia's colonial parliaments. Because government is formed in the House rather than the Senate, there is no guarantee that the Leader of the Government will be drawn from the largest party in the Senate. Unlike the Prime Minister, there is no requirement for the Leader of the Government to command the confidence of the chamber. It is not a cabinet post in its own right, and the holder of the office has always held at least one ministerial portfolio (though sometimes only the mostly honorific Vice-Presidency of the Executive Council).

The longest-serving Leader of the Government in the Senate was George Pearce, who held the position for a cumulative total of 15 years in three separate terms between 1914 and 1937. Uniquely, from 10 January to 1 February 1968, the positions of Prime Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate were held by the same person, John Gorton. After the disappearance of Harold Holt, Gorton – a senator – was elected leader of the Liberal Party and thus ascended to the prime ministership. In line with constitutional convention, he resigned from the Senate to contest a by-election to the House of Representatives.

List of Leaders of the Government in the Senate

Leader Term began Term ended Portfolio[3] Party Prime Minister Term in office
  Richard O'Connor9 May 1901[4][5]24 September 1903 V-P Exec. Council ProtectionistBarton 2 years, 96 days
Tom Playford24 September 1903[6]27 April 1904 V-P Exec. Council ProtectionistDeakin 216 days
Gregor McGregor27 April 1904[7]18 August 1904 V-P Exec. Council LaborWatson 113 days
Josiah Symon18 August 1904[8]5 July 1905 Attorney-General Free TradeReid 321 days
Tom Playford5 July 1905[9][10]31 December 1906[n 1] Defence ProtectionistDeakin 1 year, 179 days
Robert Best20 February 1907[3][12]13 November 1908 V-P Exec. Council Protectionist 1 year, 267 days
Gregor McGregor13 November 1908[13][14]2 June 1909 V-P Exec. Council LaborFisher 201 days
Edward Millen2 June 1909[15]29 April 1910 V-P Exec. Council Commonwealth
Liberal
Deakin 331 days
Gregor McGregor29 April 1910[16][17]24 June 1913 V-P Exec. Council LaborFisher 3 years, 56 days
Edward Millen24 June 1913[18]17 September 1914 Defence Commonwealth
Liberal
Cook 1 year, 85 days
George Pearce17 September 1914[19][20]17 February 1917 Defence LaborFisher 2 years, 153 days
Hughes
National Labor
Edward Millen17 February 1917[21]9 February 1923 Nationalist 5 years, 357 days
George Pearce9 February 1923[22][23]19 October 1929
NationalistBruce 6 years, 252 days
John Daly22 October 1929[24]3 March 1931
LaborScullin 1 year, 132 days
John Barnes3 March 1931[25]6 January 1932 V-P Exec. Council Labor 309 days
George Pearce6 January 1932[26]29 November 1937
United
Australia
Lyons 5 years, 327 days
Alexander McLachlan29 November 1937[27]7 November 1938 Postmaster-General United
Australia
343 days
George McLeay8 November 1938[28]7 October 1941
United
Australia
2 years, 333 days
Page
Menzies
Fadden
  Joe Collings7 October 1941[29][30]20 September 1943 Interior Labor Curtin 1 year, 348 days
Richard Keane20 September 1943[31]26 April 1946 Trade and Customs Labor 2 years, 218 days
Forde
Chifley
Bill Ashley17 June 1946[32]19 December 1949 Labor 3 years, 185 days
Neil O'Sullivan21 February 1950[33]8 December 1958
Liberal Menzies 8 years, 290 days
Bill Spooner8 December 1958[34]2 June 1964[35] Liberal 5 years, 178 days
Shane Paltridge10 June 1964[36]19 January 1966[37] Defence Liberal 1 year, 230 days
Denham Henty26 January 1966[38]16 October 1967 Supply Liberal Holt 1 year, 263 days
John Gorton16 October 19671 February 1968 Liberal 108 days
McEwen
Himself
Ken Anderson28 February 1968[n 2]5 December 1972
Liberal Gorton 4 years, 281 days
McMahon
Lionel Murphy19 December 1972[40]9 February 1975 Labor Whitlam 2 years, 52 days
Ken Wriedt10 February 1975[41]11 November 1975
Labor 274 days
Reg Withers12 November 1975[42]7 August 1978[43] Liberal Fraser 2 years, 268 days
John Carrick7 August 1978[44]11 March 1983
Liberal 4 years, 216 days
John Button11 March 1983[45]24 March 1993 Industry, Technology and Commerce[n 4] Labor Hawke 10 years, 13 days
Keating
Gareth Evans24 March 1993[46]6 February 1996[n 5] Foreign Affairs Labor 2 years, 319 days
Robert Hill11 March 1996[47]20 January 2006 Liberal Howard 9 years, 315 days
Nick Minchin27 January 2006[48]3 December 2007 Liberal 1 year, 310 days
Chris Evans12 December 2007[49][50]4 February 2013 LaborRudd 5 years, 54 days
Gillard
Stephen Conroy4 February 2013[51][52]26 June 2013 Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Labor 142 days
Penny Wong26 June 2013[53][54]18 September 2013 Finance and Deregulation LaborRudd 84 days
Eric Abetz18 September 2013[55][56]21 September 2015 Employment Liberal Abbott 2 years, 2 days
George Brandis21 September 201520 December 2017 Attorney-General
V-P Exec. Council
Liberal Turnbull 2 years, 96 days
Mathias Cormann20 December 2017Incumbent Finance and the Public Service
V-P Exec. Council
Liberal 1 year, 351 days

See also

Notes

  1. Playford lost his seat at the federal election on 12 December. The year 1906 was the last in which terms ended in on the last day of December rather than June.[11]
  2. Anderson was appointed Leader of the Government before the second session of the 26th Parliament,[39] and Gorton made his appointments on 28 February 1968.[3]
  3. Withers was appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council the day after the Dismissal as part of Fraser's Caretaker Cabinet, but he continued in that office for his entire tenure as Leader of the Government. On the same date, he was appointed caretaker the Capital Territory, Special Minister of State, Minister for the Media, and Tourism and Recreation. He served in those offices until 22 December, when Fraser's first full Cabinet was sworn in. The Senate did not meet during the period 12 November to 22 December 1975 (indeed it was dissolved for most of that time). Withers gained the Administrative Services portfolio as part of 22 December reshuffle.
  4. Minister for Industry and Commerce 1983–1984.
  5. Resigned to contest (successfully) the lower house seat of Holt.
  6. Minister for Environment 1996–98.
  7. Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research 2011–13.

References

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  2. "6. Senators: Parties and party leaders". Odger's Australian Senate Practice (13th ed.). Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  3. Australian Parliamentary Library. "Ministries and Cabinets". Parliamentary Handbook (32nd ed.). Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  4. "The Commonwealth". The Register. Adelaide. 29 May 1901. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  5. Richard O'Connor, Leader of the Senate (13 August 1903). http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1903-08-13%2F0022;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221900s%22%20Year%3A%221903%22%20Month%3A%2208%22%20Day%3A%2213%22;rec=0;resCount=Default |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 3512.
  6. "Political Notes". Western Star and Roma Advertiser. Toowoomba, Qld. 2 September 1903. p. 3. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  7. "Federal Politics: Mr. Watson Forms a Cabinet". The West Australian. 27 April 1904. p. 7. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  8. "Latest Messages—Federal Parliament: The New Ministry". Western Star and Roma Advertiser. Toowoomba, Qld. 20 August 1904. p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  9. Henry Dobson (7 July 1905). http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;adv=yes;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansards80%2F1905-07-07%2F0001;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%221900s%22%20Year%3A%221905%22%20Month%3A%2207%22%20Day%3A%2207%22;rec=0;resCount=Default |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: Senate. p. 142.
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  11. Constitution Alteration (Senate Elections Act) 1906.
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  15. "Formation of the Cabinet: The New Ministers". Kalgoorlie Western Argus. Kalgoorlie, WA. 8 June 1909. p. 36. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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  17. "Federal Land Tax: The Property Owners". Daily Herald. Adelaide. 17 October 1910. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  18. "The Cook Cabinet: Personnel of the New Team". Forbes Advocate. Forbes, NSW. 18 September 1913. p. 3. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  19. "The New Ministry: Result of the Ballot". Examiner. Launceston, Tas. 18 September 1914. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  20. "Fourth Commonwealth Labour Government". Worker. Brisbane. 24 September 1914. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  21. ""Win-the-War" Ministry: Portfolios Allotted". The Argus. Melbourne. 19 February 1917. p. 6. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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  33. "Dr. Evatt Survives a Challenge, Mr. E. J. Ward Beaten For Labour Party Post". The West Australian. Perth. 22 February 1950. p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  34. "5 New Men in Federal Ministry, Dr. Allen Fairhall Omitted". The Canberra Times. 9 December 1958. p. 1. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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  37. "Paltridge Resigns Defence Portfoliio". The Canberra Times. 20 January 1966. p. 1. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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