Premier of Western Australia

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Premier of Western Australia
Incumbent
Roger Cook
since 8 June 2023
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
Style
StatusHead of Government
Member of
Reports toParliament
SeatDumas House, Perth
AppointerGovernor of Western Australia
by convention, based on appointee's ability to command confidence in the Legislative Assembly
Term lengthAt the Governor's pleasure
contingent on the premier's ability to command confidence in the lower house of Parliament
Constituting instrumentNone (constitutional convention)
Formation29 December 1890
First holderJohn Forrest
DeputyDeputy Premier of Western Australia
SalaryA$355,681[1][2]
Websitewww.premier.wa.gov.au

The premier of Western Australia is the head of government of the state of Western Australia.[3] The role of premier at a state level is similar to the role of the prime minister of Australia at a federal level. The premier leads the executive branch of the Government of Western Australia and is accountable to the Parliament of Western Australia. The premier is appointed by the governor of Western Australia. By convention, the governor appoints as premier whoever has the support of the majority of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the Parliament of Western Australia. In practice, this means that the premier is the leader of the political party or group of parties with a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. Since Western Australia achieved self-governance in 1890, there have been 31 premiers. Roger Cook is the current premier, having been appointed to the position on 8 June 2023.

History

The position of premier is not mentioned in the constitution of Western Australia. From 1890 to 1917, the premier was not an official position, rather, it was the title unofficially given, but widely used to refer, to the head of the government.[3][4] When Western Australia became a self-governing colony in 1890, Governor William Robinson initially indicated he would use the title prime minister to refer to the head of the government. However, after he appointed John Forrest, the title premier was used for consistency with the other Australian colonies.[3][5] The position was first officially mentioned when the governor appointed Henry Lefroy as premier on 28 June 1917. However, when the governor designated and declared the six executive offices of the government on 2 July 1917, the position of premier was not listed, creating an ambiguity.[3][4][6] It was not until 3 April 1947 that the premier became one of the executive offices of the government.[3][4][7]

The most common cause for a change of premier is an election. Since the 1990s, elections have occurred roughly every four years. Before then, elections were at most three years apart, except for during World War II. A less common cause for a change of premier is the ruling party changing its leader. This can occur as a result of a resignation, death or leadership spill. In this case, the new premier is whoever the party elects as its new leader. Another cause for a change of premier is a loss of majority support in the Legislative Assembly. This commonly occurred in the first three decades of self-governance, but has not occurred since 1916. If this occurs, the premier must either resign or be dismissed by the governor.[8]

Powers and function

The powers of the premier are set out by convention and by legislation. By convention, the premier advises the Monarch of Australia as to who to appoint as governor. The premier advises the governor as to who to appoint to cabinet and which portfolios should be given to each cabinet minister. The premier sets out the responsibilities of ministers and the acts that they would administer. The premier leads the cabinet and chairs cabinet meetings. They communicate with the governor, the cabinet, the state government, other state and territory governments, the federal government, and overseas governments. The premier advises the governor on when state elections should be held. They oversee the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. While premier, they stay as a member of parliament and they retain their responsibility for representing their electoral district.[3]

Characteristics

As of 2023, there have been 31 premiers of Western Australia.[9] Carmen Lawrence, who was appointed on 12 February 1990, is the first and only woman to be premier of Western Australia. She is also the first woman to be premier of an Australian state.[3][10] By convention, the premier is a member of the Legislative Assembly. However, the premier can be a member of either house of parliament. Hal Colebatch is the only premier to be a member of the Legislative Council (upper house). He served for 30 days in 1919, making him the shortest serving premier of Western Australia.[3][11] David Brand is the longest serving premier, serving for 11 years and 335 days between 1959 and 1971.[3][12] The youngest premier is John Scaddan, who was 35 years, 2 months and 3 days old when he was sworn in in 1911.[3][13] The oldest premier is John Tonkin, who was 69 years, 1 month and 1 day old when he was sworn in in 1971.[3][14] Newton Moore became premier after two years in parliament, the least time aside from Forrest. Tonkin became premier after almost 38 years in parliament, the most time in parliament before becoming premier.[15] The only father and son pair to have both been premier is Charles Court and his son Richard Court. George Leake, who died of pneumonia on 24 June 1902, is the only premier to have died in office.[3][15] Moore, Philip Collier, John Willcock and Geoff Gallop are the only premiers to have resigned due to ill health.[11][16]

Forrest, Colebatch and Lawrence are the only premiers to have served in the Parliament of Australia as well.[17] Forrest and Lawrence are the only premiers to have been ministers in the Government of Australia as well. Moore is the only premier to have served in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.[18] The only premier to subsequently serve as governor is James Mitchell.[3] George Leake, Frank Wilson, Phillip Collier and Mitchell are the only people to have been premier more than once.[12] There are currently eight living former premiers.[19] The most recent premier to die is Ray O'Connor, who was premier from 1982 to 1983 and died in 2013.[20][21]

Two former premiers have been sentenced to jail. In 1994, Brian Burke was sentenced to two years in jail for defrauding the state by $17,000 by making false claims on the parliamentary imprest account.[22] He was released on parole after serving seven months.[23] In 1995, O'Connor served six months in jail for stealing a $25,000 cheque from the Bond Corporation during his time as premier.[21][24] In 1997, Burke was sentenced to three years jail for stealing $122,585 in Labor Party campaign donations. He served six months before this conviction was quashed upon appeal.[23][25]

List of premiers of Western Australia

No. Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Constituency
Election Term of office[12] Political party[26] Ministry Monarch Governor[27] Ref.
Took office Left office Time in office
1 Sir John Forrest
(1847–1918)
MLA for Bunbury
1890–1901
1890
1894
1897
29 December 1890 14 February 1901 10 years,
48 days
None Forrest ministry Victoria Frederick Broome [12][28]
William Robinson
Gerard Smith
Edward VII
2 George Throssell
(1840–1910)
MLA for Northam
1890–1904
MLC for East Province
1907–1910
1901 14 February 1901 27 May 1901 101 days None Throssell ministry [12][29]
Arthur Lawley
3 George Leake
(1856–1902)
MLA for Roebourne
1890
MLA for Albany
1894–1900
MLA for West Perth
1901–1902
27 May 1901 21 November 1901 178 days None First Leake ministry [12][30]
4 Alf Morgans
(1850–1933)
MLA for Coolgardie
1897–1904
21 November 1901 23 December 1901 32 days None Morgans ministry [12][31]
(3) George Leake
(1856–1902)
MLA for Roebourne
1890
MLA for Albany
1894–1900
MLA for West Perth
1901–1902
23 December 1901 24 June 1902 190 days None Second Leake ministry [12]
5 Sir Walter James
(1863–1943)
MLA for East Perth
1894–1904
1 July 1902 10 August 1904 2 years,
40 days
None James ministry [12][32]
Frederick Bedford
6 Henry Daglish
(1866–1920)
MLA for Subiaco

1901–1911
1904 10 August 1904 25 August 1905 1 year,
15 days
Labor Daglish ministry [12][33]
7 Sir Hector Rason
(1858–1927)
MLC for Swan
1889–1890
MLA for South Murchison
1897–1901
MLA for Guildford
1901–1906
1905 25 August 1905 7 May 1906 255 days None Rason ministry [12][34]
8 Sir Newton Moore
(1870–1936)
MLA for Bunbury
1904–1911
1908 7 May 1906 16 September 1910 4 years,
132 days
None Moore ministry [12][35]
Gerald Strickland
George V
9 Frank Wilson
(1859–1918)
MLA for Canning
1897–1901
MLA for Perth
1901
MLA for Sussex
1904–1917
16 September 1910 7 October 1911 1 year,
21 days
None First Wilson ministry [12][36]
10 John Scaddan
(1876–1934)
MLA for Ivanhoe
1904–1911
MLA for Brown Hill-Ivanhoe
1911–1916
1916–1917
MLA for Albany
1919–1924
MLA for Maylands
1930–1933
1911
1914
7 October 1911 27 July 1916 4 years,
294 days
Labor Scaddan ministry [12][37]
Harry Barron
(9) Frank Wilson
(1859–1918)
MLA for Canning
1897–1901
MLA for Perth
1901
MLA for Sussex
1904–1917
27 July 1916 28 June 1917 336 days Liberal Second Wilson ministry [12][36]
William Ellison-Macartney
11 Sir Henry Lefroy
(1854–1930)
MLA for Moore
1892–1901
1911–1921
1917 28 June 1917 17 April 1919 1 year,
293 days
Nationalist Lefroy ministry [12][38]
12 Sir Hal Colebatch
(1872–1953)
MLC for East Province
1912–1923
MLC for Metropolitan Province
(1940–1948)
17 April 1919 17 May 1919 30 days Nationalist Colebatch ministry [12][39]
13 Sir James Mitchell
(1866–1951)
MLA for Northam
1905–1933
1921 17 May 1919 17 April 1924 4 years,
335 days
Nationalist First Mitchell ministry [12][40]
Francis Newdegate
14 Philip Collier
(1873–1948)
MLA for Boulder
1905–1948
1924
1927
17 April 1924 24 April 1930 6 years,
8 days
Labor First Collier ministry [12][41]
William Campion
(13) Sir James Mitchell
(1866–1951)
MLA for Northam
1905–1933
1930 24 April 1930 26 April 1933 3 years Nationalist Second Mitchell ministry [12][40]
None
(14) Philip Collier
(1873–1948)
MLA for Boulder
1905–1948
1933
1936
26 April 1933 19 August 1936 3 years,
118 days
Labor Second Collier ministry [12][41]
Edward VIII
15 John Willcock
(1879–1947)
MLA for Geraldton
1917–1947
1939
1943
19 August 1936 31 July 1945 8 years,
345 days
Labor Willcock ministry [12][42]
George VI
16 Frank Wise
(1897–1986)
MLA for Gascoyne
1933–1951
31 July 1945 1 April 1947 1 year,
244 days
Labor Wise ministry [12]
17 Sir Ross McLarty
(1891–1962)
MLA for Murray-Wellington
1930–1962
1947
1950
1 April 1947 23 February 1953 5 years,
328 days
Liberal McLarty–Watts ministry [12][43]
James Mitchell
Charles Gairdner
Elizabeth II
18 Bert Hawke
(1900–1986)
MLA for Northam
1933–1968
1953
1956
23 February 1953 2 April 1959 6 years,
37 days
Labor Hawke ministry [12][44]
19 Sir David Brand
(1912–1979)
MLA for Greenough
1945–1975
1959
1962
1965
1968
2 April 1959 3 March 1971 11 years,
335 days
Liberal Brand–Watts ministry [12][45]
Brand–Nalder ministry
Douglas Kendrew
20 John Tonkin
(1902–1995)
MLA for North-East Fremantle
1933–1950
MLA for Melville
1950–1977
1971 3 March 1971 8 April 1974 3 years,
66 days
Labor Tonkin ministry [12]
Hughie Edwards
21 Sir Charles Court
(1911–2007)
MLA for Nedlands
1953–1982
1974
1977
1980
8 April 1974 25 January 1982 7 years,
292 days
Liberal Court–McPharlin ministry [12]
Court ministry
Wallace Kyle
Richard Trowbridge
22 Ray O'Connor
(1926–2013)
MLA for North Perth
1959–1962
MLA for Mount Lawley
1962–1984
25 January 1982 25 February 1983 1 year,
31 days
Liberal O'Connor ministry [12]
23 Brian Burke
(born 1947)
MLA for Balcatta
1973–1974
1977–1983
MLA for Balga
1974–1977
1983–1988
1983
1986
25 February 1983 25 February 1988 5 years Labor Burke ministry [12]
Gordon Reid
24 Peter Dowding
(born 1943)
MLC for North Province
1979–1986
MLA for Maylands
1986–1990
1989 25 February 1988 12 February 1990 1 year,
352 days
Labor Dowding ministry [12]
None
25 Carmen Lawrence
(born 1948)
MLA for Subiaco
1986–1989
MLA for Glendalough
1989–1994
12 February 1990 16 February 1993 3 years,
4 days
Labor Lawrence ministry [12]
Francis Burt
26 Richard Court
(born 1947)
MLA for Nedlands
1982–2001
1993
1996
16 February 1993 16 February 2001 7 years,
360 days
Liberal Court–Cowan ministry [12]
Michael Jeffery
John Sanderson
27 Geoff Gallop
(born 1951)
MLA for Victoria Park
1986–2006
2001
2005
16 February 2001 25 January 2006 4 years,
343 days
Labor Gallop ministry [12]
Ken Michael
28 Alan Carpenter
(born 1951)
MLA for Willagee
1996–2009
25 January 2006 23 September 2008 2 years,
242 days
Labor Carpenter ministry [12]
29 Colin Barnett
(born 1950)
MLA for Cottesloe
1990 – 2018
2008
2013
23 September 2008 17 March 2017 8 years,
175 days
Liberal Barnett ministry [12]
Malcolm McCusker
Kerry Sanderson
30 Mark McGowan
(born 1967)
MLA for Rockingham
1996–2023
2017
2021
17 March 2017 8 June 2023 6 years,
83 days
Labor First McGowan ministry [46]
Kim Beazley
Second McGowan ministry
Chris Dawson
Charles III
31 Roger Cook
(born 1965)
MLA for Kwinana
2008–present
8 June 2023 incumbent 260 days Labor Cook ministry [47]

Graphical timeline

Roger Cook (politician)Mark McGowanColin BarnettAlan CarpenterGeoff GallopRichard CourtCarmen LawrencePeter DowdingBrian Burke (Australian politician)Ray O'ConnorCharles CourtJohn TonkinDavid BrandBert HawkeRoss McLartyFrank WiseJohn WillcockPhilip CollierJames Mitchell (Australian politician)Hal ColebatchHenry LefroyJohn ScaddanFrank Wilson (politician)Newton MooreHector RasonHenry DaglishWalter James (Australian politician)Alf MorgansGeorge LeakeGeorge ThrossellJohn Forrest

References

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Bibliography