The idea to rank the Prime Ministers of Australia in order of greatness came to me back in 2006, when I last visited Canada. Accidentally buying an academic bookstore, I bought a book called Prime Ministers: rating Leaders of Canada J. L. Granatstein and Norman Hilmer, professors of history at Canadian universities. Copying their idea, I wrote an article for Australian weekend which was published in August 2008. The attached table is an update of the original table published with this article.
My article today explains my decisions regarding these recent prime ministers: John Howard, Kevin Rada, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. Lack of space doesn’t allow me to consider the rest. If I were young, I could turn this article into great opus 400 pages and 2000 footnotes!
My readers Swiss Daily articles may have noticed that I do the same for American presidents. Being a copy of what I am is another recognition in this regard. There was my guide Where They stand: American presidents through the eyes of voters and Historians Robert Mary, published in 2012. See my article “Nixon and Trump: two failed presidents” published on November 10, 2020. The chart posted there basically coincides with the chart I am posting today.
In any case, returning to Australia, my first explanation today concerns John Howard, a man whom everyone agrees as belonging to the category of “Greats.” The question is why I put Billy Hughes higher than Howard. My answer: it was very important that Australia was on the side of the winner in both world wars. So both Hughes and John Curtin should be high in the “Big” category. The difference between them is that Curtin united the country where Hughes divided it. Thus, Curtin goes higher, but Hughes ’achievement for Australia’s military efforts and post-war statehood gives him several marks that a peacetime prime minister would not have received.
Labor supporters disagree with me on the appointment of the two greatest prime ministers. They put Curtin in the first place and at the same time claim that I attach too much importance to winning the election and the length of his tenure. My argument is that winning the election is important because it shows the ability to carry out complex reforms while maintaining popularity. For me, Menzies should be first.
I am now considering how to accommodate Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the latter, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rada, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. Everyone won the election and had at least one other achievement of significant lasting value. For Morrison it was AUKUS, for Gillard it was the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for Rada it was that he had twice been to the Prime Minister’s Office, for Turnbull’s same-sex marriages and for Abbott’s immigration.
My most important decision was: who to put on 16 and who on 17. Labor supporters strongly rejected my decision. They would say I put a bulldozer ahead of the consensus builder! I reply that Morrison was a much better election winner, as evidenced by the fact that his party retained him as the leader in the second election, in which he was very close to victory. On the contrary, Gillard would have been shattered if Labor had allowed her to lead the party in the September 2013 election. That’s why they replaced her with Rudd. By the way, Turnbull is placed above Ebat only because he has held the post longer. A rare member of the Liberal Party would agree with me!
Finally, let me explain the category “Did not win the election.” I judged these people solely by their time in office. Frank Ford’s eight days made him the shortest term prime minister, and Paige the second shortest. Billy McMan has served the longest term of those who have never won an election.