The Prime Minister of Australia is the head of government and the most powerful political position in the country. The Prime Minister must be an elected member of parliament, but is not directly elected to the position by the people. Instead, the Prime Minister is the leader of the political party or coalition that holds the majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives. The position was first held on January 1, 1901 when the six British colonies of Australia joined together to form one nation. Let’s find out who was the first to take on this important role.
Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
The first Prime Minister of Australia was Sir Edmund Barton. He was a leading campaigner for the federation of Australia and he was considered to be the frontrunner to be appointed as the temporary Prime Minister until elections were held later in the year. However, the new Governor General Lord Hopetoun invited Sir William Lyne, the premier of New South Wales, to form government. This was not a popular decision because Lyne had been an opponent of federation and some ministers refused to serve under him. Tense negotiations followed and on January 1, 1901, Edmund Barton was sworn in as the first Prime Minister. He contested the first federal election in 1901, but no political party won a majority. However, his Protectionist Party was supported by the Australian Labor Party to form a coalition government and he continued as Prime Minister. He resigned from the position on September 24, 1903 and became the founding Justice of the High Court of Australia until his death in 1920.
Did you know?
Along with the role as the Prime Minister, Barton was also the inaugural Minister for External Affairs, which is now known as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.