Who is Malcolm Turnbull? The demographics of Australian Prime Ministers
They say a week is a long time in politics. Indeed, just over a week ago Malcolm Turnbull became the 29th Prime Minister of Australia. Over the weekend he announced his new cabinet. As passionate advocates for liveable cities, we were pleased to see Jamie Briggs appointed as Australia’s first Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. But who is Malcolm Turnbull, and is there a typical demographic profile of Australian leaders?
My son is three and a half. Turnbull is the fourth prime minister he has had in his lifetime. To put this in context, as a child of the 80s, I had to wait until I was 16 before seeing off three Prime Ministers. Looking back in history though, the stability of the Fraser/Hawke/Keating/Howard era was somewhat uncharacteristic – between September 1903 and July 1905 we also had four Prime Ministers (Deakin, Watson, Reid and Deakin again).
These changes got us thinking about the demographics of our leaders:
* Malcolm joins the ranks of eight Liberal PMs, 11 Labor leaders and 3 Country Party PMs. Since federation, there have also been two Protectionist PMs, one Free Trade PM, two Nationalist PMs and two United Australia PMs.
* The largest number of PMs have represented NSW (45% or 13 leaders), followed by Victoria (35% or 10) and Queensland (14% or 4). John Curtin overcame the tyranny of distance to be the only PM to hail from WA. Tasmania has had only one representative in Joseph Lyons.
* Australia has had just one female prime minister in Julia Gillard (3%).
* Just over three quarters of PMs have been Australian born (76%), followed by England (10%), Scotland (7%), Wales (3%). Our third PM, Chris Watson, was born in Chile.
* Much has been made of the rise of Roman Catholics (and in particular those educated by Jesuits) in Canberra in recent times (Abbott, Turnbull, Hockey, Pyne, Shorten, Joyce). The majority of our Prime Ministers can be classified as believers, with the largest numbers either Roman Catholics (7) or Anglicans (6). Presbyterians (5), Methodists (2), Baptists (1), Spiritualists (1) and Unitarians (1).
* The legal profession continues to be a training ground for future prime ministers with 11 having been either a lawyer or barrister before entering politics. Two prime ministers Ben Chifley (16th PM) and Andrew Fisher (5th PM) came to the role having worked as engine drivers.
* At 61, Malcolm Turnbull is one of the older prime ministerial appointees (only Billy McMahon at 63 and John McEwen at 67 were older). The youngest was Chris Watson who became PM in 1904 at the age of 37. The median age for becoming a PM is 53.
* While Australia doesn’t have the political dynasties seen in the US, our PMs do seem to have lots of children with the median sitting at 3. Joseph Lyons had the largest brood with 12 kids. His wife Enid is worth a mention who, having mothered 12 children, in 1943 became the first woman appointed to the House of Representatives, and the first woman in cabinet.
Thanks to Georgia Allan who did the research for this blog.