Premiers of the Australian states

Premiers of the Australian states

The Premiers of the Australian states are the de facto heads of the executive governments in the six states of the Commonwealth of Australia. They perform the same function at the state level as the Prime Minister of Australia performs at the national level. The Queen and Governors are the formal repositories of executive power, however, in practice they act only on the advice of State Premiers and Ministers.

Each of the Australian states is governed under the Westminster system of parliamentary government. Each state has an elected legislature. Following a General Election, the State Governor appoints as Premier the Member of the lower house of the State legislature who can command a simple majority of votes on the floor of the house. The Governor is the head of Government, but in practice acts only on the advice of the Premier. The Premier must resign his or her commission and seals of office to the Governor if he or she loses the confidence of the Legislative Assembly, either because his or her party is defeated at a General Election or because he or she loses a vote of confidence in the house. (Premiers may also resign for other reasons, such as losing the confidence of their own party).

The Australian states were originally founded as British colonies, and executive power was held by a Governor (or sometimes a Lieutenant-Governor) appointed by the British Government (see Governors of the Australian states). From the 1820s the power of the Governors was gradually transferred to legislative bodies, at first appointed, later partly elected, and finally fully elected. Victoria gained full responsible parliamentary government in 1855, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania in 1856, Queensland in 1859 and Western Australia (owing to its much smaller population) in 1890.

In the 19th century the heads of the colonial ministries were commonly called Prime Ministers, since this was the term used in Britain (see Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), although the term Premier was also used. When the six colonies federated in 1901, it was realised that it would be confusing to have seven Prime Ministers in one country, and the term Premier became standardised. This practice may have been influenced by the example of Canada, which became a federation in 1867 and used the title of Premier for the heads of its provincial governments.

Until the rise of the Australian Labor Party in the 1890s, the Australian colonies did not have formal party systems, although many colonial politicians called themselves Liberals or Conservatives. Ministries were usually formed on the basis of personal or factional loyalties, and rose and fell with great frequency as loyalties changed. Colonial politics were commonly regarded as parochial, corrupt and cynical, and in many cases they were. Victorian Premier James Munro, for example, fled the colony to escape his creditors in 1890, and Queensland Premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith was notoriously corrupt.

The rise of Labor forced the colonies to move towards a two-party system of Labor versus non-Labor, although state politics remained more personalised and less ideological than national politics for many years. The first minority Labor government was formed by Anderson Dawson in Queensland in 1899, and the first majority Labor government was led by James McGowen in New South Wales in 1910. Since about 1910 state politics have followed much the same party pattern as Australian national politics (see Politics of Australia).

thumb|left|Political parties in government since 1945.">legend|#DCDCDC|No governmentAlthough the legislative powers of the states are defined in the Constitution, the real power of the Australian Premiers has been declining steadily ever since Federation in 1901, as the power and responsibility of the national government has expanded at the expense of the states. The most important transfer of power came in 1943, when in the interests of national unity during World War II the states gave up their power to levy their own income taxes to the Commonwealth. Since then the states' finances have essentially been controlled by the Commonwealth.

Women premiers

The only women premiers of Australian states have all represented the Australian Labor Party. They are:
*Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia (12 February 1990 ndash 16 February 1993)
*Joan Kirner, Premier of Victoria (10 August 1990 ndash 6 October 1992)
*Anna Bligh, who became Premier of Queensland on 13 September 2007. All of them succeeded male Premiers of their own party who had resigned mid-term. The governments led by Lawrence and Kirner were defeated at subsequent elections. Bligh is currently in office as the only female leader of government in Australia.

No woman has yet received a popular mandate as Premier of an Australian state. However, women have been elected to the almost-equivalent posts of Chief Ministers of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT). Rosemary Follett (Labor) was elected as the inaugural Chief Minister of the ACT in 1989, nine months before any woman became premier of a state. Kate Carnell (Liberal) and Clare Martin (Labor) also received popular mandates as Chief Ministers of the ACT and the NT respectively.

Party dominance

Between 6 March 2002 (when Mike Rann (Labor) succeeded Rob Kerin (Liberal) as Premier of South Australia) and 23 September 2008, when Colin Barnett succeeded Alan Carpenter as Premier of Western Australia, there were Labor Premiers in all six of the Australian states; this was the only time a single party has ever achieved this. A comparable feat was achieved by the Coalition between 26 May 1969 (when the Liberals' Angus Bethune succeeded Labor's Eric Reece as Premier of Tasmania) and 2 June 1970 (when the Liberals' Steele Hall was succeeded by Labor's Don Dunstan as Premier of South Australia).

From the swearing in of the First Rudd Ministry on 3 December 2007, following the 2007 Australian federal election, to the end of the Carpenter Government in Western Australia on 23 September 2008, the Labor Party was in power in every state, both territories, and federally. This was a first for any party or coalition, although in 1969 a coalition government was in power both federally and in every state but not the territories as they had not yet attained self government. Currently Western Australia is the only state that is run by a non-Labor government - a Liberal government in coalition with the Nationals.

On 21 July 2006, South Australian Premier Mike Rann was appointed Chairman of a new Australian Federation Council, a council which aims to improve state-federal ties. []

Current Premiers of the Australian states

*Premier of New South Walesndash Nathan Rees
*Premier of Victoriandash John Brumby
*Premier of Queenslandndash Anna Bligh
*Premier of South Australiandash Mike Rann
*Premier of Western Australiandash Colin Barnett
*Premier of Tasmaniandash David Bartlett

Current Chief Ministers of the Australian self-governing territories

*Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territoryndash Jon Stanhope
*Chief Minister of the Northern Territoryndash Paul Henderson
*Chief Minister of Norfolk Islandndash Andre Nobbs

Lists of Premiers of the Australian states

*Premiers of New South Wales
*Premiers of Victoria
*Premiers of Queensland
*Premiers of Western Australia
*Premiers of South Australia
*Premiers of Tasmania


ee also

*Chief Ministers of the Northern Territory
*Chief Ministers of the Australian Capital Territory

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