The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, also known as the PM or Whoever’s Running Things This Month, is the head of government in Australia.
The PM is chosen by either their party colleagues or maverick crossbenchers to serve a term of two to three years before being dumped by those same party colleagues, on the basis of poor polling.
The public are also theoretically able to choose and remove their own leaders through the elections that are usually held every three years.
But this archaic approach has largely been discarded in recent years in favour of sudden assassinations, allowing voters to constantly hire and fire new leaders through the opinion poll process without the inconvenience of a nationwide ballot. Though this has led to substantial job instability for prime ministers, it has provided continuing employment opportunities for pollsters.
The job of prime minister is not mentioned in the constitution of Australia, which was intended to be a document that set down the Australian political system for future generations. The founders, in their wisdom, envisaged that voters would one day want to dump not just the incumbent, but the entire office of prime minister. Experts feel that the day is fast approaching.
Though technically commissioned by the governor-general, prime ministers are, in fact, chosen by their colleagues on the basis of complex, self-interested deals, either before the party is elected to office, or suddenly, late at night, after it has.
This is because while technically a prime minister’s most sacred duty is defending the nation, in practice their biggest priority is defending their colleagues’ seats in parliament.
Prime ministers notionally serve up to three years before facing an election, although since 2010, the practice has been to deny all prime ministers the chance to face re-election, hoping instead that voters might feel more sympathetic towards someone who hasn’t disappointed them in the intervening years.
The prime minister has extensive power across nearly all areas of government, until they do not. The schism between the text of the constitution and accepted practice has created a constitutional duel—both the prime minister and governor-general have the effective ability to sack one another, which is a charming customary hangover from the Westminster system except when it becomes a hopeless debacle, as in 1975.
Consequently, a prime minister can be sacked by their colleagues; the governor-general; the High Court; the Australian people, in the event of an election; and even the opposition, if it has the numbers to block supply. Combining this situation with Australia’s notorious tall poppy syndrome, it’s extraordinary that the nation’s politics is as stable as they are at present—that is, stable enough to make Fiji seem immutable by comparison.
Privileges of office
The PM is the most senior and respected politician in the country, unless the office is held by a woman, in which case the public feels free to call her by her first name and make constant insulting comments about her appearance.
There are two official prime ministerial residences. In Canberra, the Lodge has long been the primary residence of Australian leaders, unless their personal unpopularity leads the staff to organise a lengthy renovation to coincide with their expected incumbency, in which case the prime minister in question resides in a police college.
In Sydney, the prime minister resides at Kirribilli House, unless they personally own a superior harbourside mansion. Some PMs make Kirribilli House their primary residence, in the event of having children at a private school up the road. The governor-general’s residence, Admiralty House, is next door, allowing convenient access whenever one wishes to sack the other.
Previously, PMs travelled in armoured Holden Statesmans, but in recent years they have shifted to an equally Australian brand of car, BMW. The prime ministerial numberplate is always ‘C1’—denoting ‘Commonwealth’, although some have suggested other words.
Prime ministers are usually granted an office, staff, and travel within Australia. However, it has been suggested that this be revised, on the basis that the constant changes of prime minister are likely to send the Commonwealth bankrupt.
The print edition of Strayapedia has an extensive list of notable prime ministers, as well as some un-noteable ones. There are also separate entries for several PMs, including Howard, Abbott, Hawke and Forde.