The Australian Prime Ministership: Origins and Evolution

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The Australian prime ministership has seldom seemed so confounding as in recent years. We have seen a higher rate of turnover in the office than at any time since the first decade of the Commonwealth. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott each confidently entered the office only to be broken by it in swift succession and now, in less than 12 months, the buoyant hopes that accompanied the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull have dissipated. Yet despite the tribulations of recent incumbents, there is little question that the prime ministership is still the main prize in Australian politics. It is also the most closely observed office in the land; indeed, relentlessly so. Political scientists use the term ‘personalisation’ to describe the modern phenomenon of leader centred politics.1 They postulate that as the hold the established parties exercise over voters has waned leaders are taking their place. Leaders are ‘standing in’ for the party and are increasingly important in providing the cues for the public to interpret and make decisions about politics. Whether this phenomenon is as pronounced in Australia as it is in some other comparable democracies is arguable, but there is little question that in our intensely mediatised age leaders are more prominent than ever before. This is a paradox of the contemporary prime ministership: never has it loomed so omnipotent in the nation’s life and yet been so apparently brittle in the experience of incumbents.
Original languageEnglish
TypeThe Australian Prime Ministership: Origns and Evolution
PublisherDepartment of the Senate
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationCanberra
ISBN (Print)1031-976X
ISBN (Electronic)2206-3579
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Prime Minister, Constitution, Federal Politics

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