The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Australian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Australian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Australian Politicians.
With an HPI of 64.98, John Howard is the most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 67 different languages on wikipedia.
John Winston Howard (born 26 July 1939) is an Australian former politician who served as the 25th Prime Minister of Australia (1996–2007) and Leader of the Liberal Party (1985–1989; 1995–2007). His nearly twelve-year tenure as Prime Minister is the second-longest in history, behind only Sir Robert Menzies, who served for eighteen non-consecutive years. He has also been the oldest living former Australian Prime Minister since the death of Bob Hawke in 2019. Howard was born in Sydney and studied law at the University of Sydney. He was a commercial lawyer before entering parliament. A former federal president of the Young Liberals, he first stood for office at the 1968 New South Wales state election, but lost narrowly. At the 1974 federal election, Howard was elected to the Division of Bennelong, which he would go on to represent until 2007. He was promoted to cabinet in 1977, and later in the year replaced Phillip Lynch as Treasurer of Australia, remaining in that position until the defeat of Malcolm Fraser's government in 1983. In 1985, Howard was elected leader of the Liberal Party for the first time, thus replacing Andrew Peacock as Leader of the Opposition. He led the Liberal–National coalition to the 1987 federal election, but lost to Bob Hawke's Labor government, and was removed from the leadership in 1989. Remaining a key figure in the party, Howard was re-elected leader in 1995 (replacing Alexander Downer), and subsequently led the Coalition to victory at the 1996 federal election. After defeating Paul Keating's Labor government in 1996, the Howard Government was re-elected at the 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections. Howard's actions as prime minister included new gun laws (in response to the Port Arthur massacre), the introduction of a nationwide value-added tax, immigration reform, and industrial relations reform. Australia also contributed troops to the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War under his government, and led the International Force for East Timor. The Howard government was defeated at the 2007 federal election, with the Labor Party's Kevin Rudd succeeding him as prime minister. Howard also lost his own seat at the election, becoming only the second prime minister to do so (after Stanley Bruce in 1929).
With an HPI of 64.74, Harold Holt is the 2nd most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Harold Edward Holt (5 August 1908 – 17 December 1967) was an Australian politician who served as the 17th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1966 until his disappearance in 1967. He was the leader of the Liberal Party during that time. Holt, born in Sydney, lived in Melbourne from 1920. He was the first prime minister born in the twentieth century, after the Federation of Australia. He studied law at the University of Melbourne and had his own legal practice, becoming, at twenty-seven years of age, the member for Fawkner in the House of Representatives at a 1935 by-election. A protégé of Robert Menzies, he was a minister in the 1939 United Australia Party government. He held a series of minor portfolios until the government's defeat in 1941. His tenure was interrupted by a brief stint in the Australian Army, which ended when he was recalled to cabinet following the deaths of three ministers in the 1940 Canberra air disaster. He joined the new Liberal Party upon its creation in 1945. When the Liberals came to office in 1949, Holt became a senior figure in the new government. As Minister for Immigration (1949–1956), he expanded the post-war immigration scheme and relaxed the White Australia policy for the first time. He was also influential as Minister for Labour and National Service (1949–1958), where he handled several industrial relations disputes. Holt was elected deputy leader of the Liberal Party in 1956, and after the 1958 election replaced Arthur Fadden as Treasurer. He oversaw the creation of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the decimal Australian dollar, but was blamed for a credit crunch that almost cost the Coalition the 1961 election. However, the economy soon rebounded and Holt retained his place as Menzies' heir apparent. Holt became prime minister in January 1966, elected unopposed as Liberal leader following Menzies' retirement. He fought a general election later that year, winning a landslide victory. The Holt Government continued the dismantling of the White Australia policy, amended the constitution to give the federal government responsibility for indigenous affairs, and took Australia out of the sterling area. Holt promoted greater engagement with Asia and the Pacific, and made visits to a number of East Asian countries. His government expanded Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, and maintained close ties with the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson. While visiting the White House, Holt proclaimed that he was "all the way with LBJ", a remark which was poorly received at home. In December 1967, Holt disappeared while swimming in rough conditions at Cheviot Beach, Victoria. He was presumed dead, although his body was never recovered; his disappearance spawned a number of conspiracy theories. Holt was the third Australian prime minister to die in office. He was succeeded by Country Party leader John McEwen on an interim basis and then by John Gorton. His death was commemorated in a number of ways, among them by the establishment of the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre in Melbourne.
With an HPI of 61.92, John Curtin is the 3rd most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.
John Curtin (8 January 1885 – 5 July 1945) was an Australian politician who served as the 14th Prime Minister of Australia from 1941 until his death in 1945. He led the country for the majority of World War II, including all but the last few weeks of the war in the Pacific. He was the leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1935 to 1945, and its longest serving leader until Gough Whitlam. Curtin's leadership skills and personal character were acclaimed by his political contemporaries. He is frequently cited as one of Australia's greatest prime ministers. Curtin left school at the age of 13 and became involved in the labour movement in Melbourne. He joined the Labor Party at a young age and was also involved with the Victorian Socialist Party. He became state secretary of the Timberworkers' Union in 1911 and federal president in 1914. Curtin was a leader of the "No" campaign during the 1916 referendum on overseas conscription, and was briefly gaoled for refusing to attend a compulsory medical examination. He moved to Perth the following year to become the editor of the Westralian Worker, and later served as state president of the Australian Journalists' Association. After three previous attempts, Curtin was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1928 federal election, winning the Division of Fremantle. He is the only prime minister to represent a constituency in Western Australia. He remained loyal to the Labor government during the party split of 1931. He lost his seat in Labor's landslide defeat at the 1931 election, but won it back in 1934. The following year, Curtin was elected party leader in place of James Scullin, defeating Frank Forde by a single vote. The party gained seats at the 1937 and 1940 elections, with the latter resulting in a hung parliament. The ALP eventually formed a minority government in October 1941, when the Fadden Government lost a confidence motion. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred two months after Curtin became prime minister, and Australia entered the war against Japan. Bombing raids on northern Australia soon followed. Curtin led the nation's war effort and made significant decisions about how the war was conducted. He placed Australian forces under the command of the American general Douglas MacArthur, with whom he formed a close relationship, and successfully negotiated the issue of overseas conscription that had split his party during World War I. The ALP won almost two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives at the 1943 election, which remains a party record. Curtin died in office in July 1945, after months of ill health attributed to the stresses of the war. Many of his post-war reconstruction plans were implemented by his successor Ben Chifley, who in 1946 led the ALP to consecutive victories for the first time.
With an HPI of 61.49, David Hurley is the 4th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.
General David John Hurley, (born 26 August 1953) is an Australian former senior officer in the Australian Army who serves as the 27th Governor-General of Australia since 1 July 2019. He was previously the 38th Governor of New South Wales, serving from 2014 to 2019. In a 42-year military career, Hurley deployed on Operation Solace in Somalia in 1993, commanded the 1st Brigade (1999–2000), was the inaugural Chief of Capability Development Group (2003–2007) and Chief of Joint Operations (2007–2008) and served as Vice Chief of the Defence Force (2008–2011). His career culminated with his appointment as Chief of the Defence Force on 4 July 2011, in succession to Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. Hurley retired from the army in June 2014, and succeeded Dame Marie Bashir as Governor of New South Wales on 2 October 2014.
With an HPI of 61.06, Bob Hawke is the 5th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.
Robert James Lee Hawke, (9 December 1929 – 16 May 2019) was an Australian politician who served as Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wills from 1980 to 1992. Hawke was born in Bordertown, South Australia. He attended the University of Western Australia and went on to study at University College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, during which time he set a world record for downing a yard of ale in 11 seconds. In 1956, Hawke joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a research officer. Having risen to become responsible for national wage case arbitration, he was elected as President of the ACTU in 1969, where he achieved a high public profile. He was also President of the Labor Party from 1973 to 1980. In 1980, Hawke stood down from his roles as ACTU and Labor Party President to announce his intention to enter parliamentary politics, and was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills in Victoria. Three years later, he was elected unopposed to replace Bill Hayden as Labor Leader, and within just five weeks led Labor to a landslide victory at the 1983 election and was sworn in as Prime Minister. He led Labor to victory three more times, in 1984, 1987 and 1990, making him the most electorally successful Labor Prime Minister in history. To this day, Hawke holds the highest ever AC Nielsen approval rating for an Australian Prime Minister, reaching 75% approval in 1984.The Hawke Government implemented a significant number of reforms, including major economic reforms, the establishment of Landcare, the introduction of the universal health scheme Medicare, brokering the Prices and Incomes Accord, creating APEC, floating the Australian dollar, deregulating the financial sector, introducing the Family Assistance Scheme, enacting the Sex Discrimination Act to prevent discrimination in the workplace, declaring "Advance Australia Fair" as the country's national anthem, initiating superannuation pension schemes for all workers, negotiating a ban on mining in Antarctica and overseeing passage of the Australia Act that removed all remaining jurisdiction by the United Kingdom from Australia. Historians have generally praised the reforms implemented by the Hawke Government.In June 1991, Treasurer Paul Keating unsuccessfully challenged for the leadership, believing that Hawke had reneged on the Kirribilli Agreement. Keating mounted a second challenge six months later, this time narrowly succeeding. Hawke subsequently retired from Parliament, pursuing both a business career and a number of charitable causes, until his death in 2019, aged 89. Hawke remains his party's longest-serving leader, and Australia's third-longest-serving Prime Minister behind Robert Menzies and John Howard. He is also the only Prime Minister to be born in South Australia and the only one raised and educated in Western Australia.
With an HPI of 60.95, Kevin Rudd is the 6th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 80 different languages.
Kevin Michael Rudd (born 21 September 1957) is an Australian Labor Party politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, serving twice, from December 2007 to June 2010 and again from June 2013 to September 2013. Born in Nambour, Queensland, Rudd graduated from the Australian National University with honours in Chinese studies, and is fluent in Mandarin. Before entering politics, he worked as a diplomat and public servant for the Goss Government. Rudd was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1998 election for the Division of Griffith. He was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet in 2001 as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In December 2006, he successfully challenged Kim Beazley for the leadership of the Labor Party, thus becoming Leader of the Opposition. Rudd led Labor to a landslide victory at the 2007 election, defeating the Howard Government. The Rudd Government's earliest acts included action on climate change through ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and delivering the first national Apology to Indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generations. The Government also provided economic stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis, resulting in Australia becoming one of the only developed countries to avoid the late-2000s recession. Other signature policies included establishing the National Broadband Network, launching the Digital Education Revolution and the Building the Education Revolution, dismantling WorkChoices, and withdrawing Australian troops from the Iraq War. Despite a long period of popularity in opinion polls, a significant fall in Rudd's personal approval in the middle of 2010 was blamed on the sudden deferral of the Senate-rejected Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. With an election drawing close, growing unease at Rudd's prospects for victory prompted his deputy, Julia Gillard, to announce on 23 June 2010 that she would challenge him for the leadership the following day. Rudd chose to resign as Prime Minister, rather than contest the leadership. The speed of the leadership change took much of Australia by surprise, and was the beginning of a sequence of four Prime Ministers who would all be removed by their own parties before completing their full first term. Rudd chose to re-contest his seat at the 2010 election, which resulted in a Gillard-led minority government. Rudd was promoted back into the Cabinet by Gillard as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He remained in that role until resigning on 22 February 2012, citing Gillard's failure to discipline colleagues who had publicly criticised him. In response, Gillard called a leadership spill, which Rudd lost by 71 votes to 31. Tensions over the leadership nevertheless continued; after a spill in March 2013, which Rudd did not contest, a further ballot was held in June 2013, which Rudd won by 57 votes to 45. His second term as Prime Minister lasted less than three months, as Labor were defeated at the 2013 election. Rudd retired from parliament following the election. In February 2014, he was named Senior Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he leads research on the future of China–United States relations. In September 2014, he became Distinguished Fellow-in-Residence at the Paulson Institute within the University of Chicago. He is also Chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, Chair of Sanitation and Water for All, and Chairman of the Board at the International Peace Institute. In January 2021, he was appointed the 8th President and CEO of the Asia Society.
With an HPI of 60.91, Dawn Fraser is the 7th most famous Australian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Dawn Fraser (born 4 September 1937) is an Australian freestyle champion swimmer and former politician. She is one of only three swimmers to have won the same Olympic individual event three times – in her case the women's 100-metre freestyle.Within Australia, she is often known for her controversial behaviour as much as for her athletic ability.
With an HPI of 60.77, Robert Menzies is the 8th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, (; 20 December 1894 – 15 May 1978), was an Australian politician who twice served as Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966. He played a central role in the creation of the Liberal Party of Australia, defining its policies and its broad outreach. He is Australia's longest-serving prime minister, serving over 18 years in total. Menzies studied law at the University of Melbourne and became one of Melbourne's leading lawyers. He was Deputy Premier of Victoria from 1932 to 1934, and then transferred to federal parliament, subsequently becoming Attorney-General and Minister for Industry in the government of Joseph Lyons. In April 1939, following Lyons's death, Menzies was elected leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) and sworn in as prime minister. He authorised Australia's entry into World War II in September 1939, and in 1941 spent four months in England to participate in meetings of Churchill's war cabinet. On his return to Australia in August 1941, Menzies found that he had lost the support of his party and consequently resigned as prime minister. He subsequently helped to create the new Liberal Party, and was elected its inaugural leader in August 1945. At the 1949 federal election, Menzies led the Liberal–Country coalition to victory and returned as prime minister. His appeal to the home and family, promoted via reassuring radio talks, matched the national mood as the economy grew and middle-class values prevailed; the Labor Party's support had also been eroded by Cold War scares. After 1955, his government also received support from the Democratic Labour Party, a breakaway group from the Labor Party. Menzies won seven consecutive elections during his second term, eventually retiring as prime minister in January 1966. Despite the failures of his first administration, his government is remembered for its development of Canberra, its expanded post-war immigration scheme, its emphasis on higher education, and its national security policies, which saw Australia contribute troops to the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation, and the Vietnam War.
With an HPI of 60.09, Scott Morrison is the 9th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.
Scott John Morrison (; born 13 May 1968) is an Australian politician who is the 30th and current prime minister of Australia. He took office in August 2018 upon his election as leader of the Liberal Party. Morrison was born in Sydney and studied economic geography at the University of New South Wales. He worked as director of the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport from 1998 to 2000 and was managing director of Tourism Australia from 2004 to 2006. Morrison also served as state director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2000 to 2004. He was first elected to the House of Representatives at the 2007 election for the Division of Cook in New South Wales, and was quickly appointed to the shadow cabinet. After the Coalition's victory at the 2013 election, Morrison was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the Abbott Government, where he was responsible for implementing Operation Sovereign Borders. In a reshuffle the following year, he became Minister for Social Services. He was later promoted to the role of Treasurer in September 2015, after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Abbott as Prime Minister.In August 2018, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton unsuccessfully challenged Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Leadership tension continued, and the party voted to hold a second leadership ballot on 24 August, with Turnbull choosing not to stand. In that ballot, Morrison was seen as a compromise candidate and defeated both Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to become Leader of the Liberal Party. He was sworn in as Prime Minister by the Governor-General later that day.Morrison went on to lead the Coalition to a surprise victory in the 2019 election. He was criticised for his government's response to the 2019–20 bushfires and the 2021 Parliament rape allegations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morrison government has been praised for making Australia one of the few Western countries to successfully suppress the virus. However, it has also been criticized for not creating a national quarantine system, failure to help Australians stranded overseas, and a slow vaccination rollout that fell far short of its targets. Morrison and his government have also been accused of showing favouritism to certain states during the pandemic.
With an HPI of 60.03, Gough Whitlam is the 10th most famous Australian Politician. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
Edward Gough Whitlam (; 11 July 1916 – 21 October 2014) was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, serving from 1972 to 1975. He led the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to power for the first time in 23 years at the 1972 election. He won the 1974 election before being controversially dismissed by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Whitlam remains the only Australian prime minister to have been removed from office in this manner. Whitlam served as an air navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force for four years during World War II, and worked as a barrister following the war. He was first elected to Parliament in 1952, representing Werriwa in the House of Representatives. Whitlam became Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in 1960, and in 1967, after the retirement of Arthur Calwell, was elected Leader and became the Leader of the Opposition. After narrowly losing the 1969 election, Whitlam led Labor to victory at the 1972 election after 23 years of continuous Liberal-Country Coalition Government. The Whitlam Government implemented a large number of new programmes and policy changes, including the termination of military conscription, institution of universal health care and free university education, and the implementation of legal aid programmes. With the opposition-controlled Senate delaying passage of bills, Whitlam called a double dissolution election in 1974 in which he won a slightly reduced majority in the House of Representatives, and picked up three Senate seats. The Whitlam government then instituted the first and only joint sitting enabled under s. 57 of the Constitution as part of the double dissolution process. Despite the government's second election victory, the opposition, reacting to government scandals and a flagging economy suffering from the 1973 oil crisis and the 1973–75 recession, continued to obstruct the government's programme in the Senate. In late 1975, the Opposition Senators refused to allow a vote on the government's appropriation bills, returning them to the House of Representatives with a demand that the government go to an election, thus denying the government supply. Whitlam refused to back down, arguing that his government, which held a clear majority in the House of Representatives, was being held to ransom by the Senate. The crisis ended on 11 November, when Whitlam arrived at a pre-arranged meeting with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at Government House to call a half-Senate election. Kerr dismissed him from office and commissioned the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, as caretaker prime minister. Labor lost the subsequent election by a landslide. Whitlam stepped down after losing again at the 1977 election, and retired from parliament in 1978. Upon the election of the Hawke Government in 1983, he was appointed as Ambassador to UNESCO, a position he filled with distinction, and was elected a member of the UNESCO Executive Board. He remained active into his nineties. The propriety and circumstances of his dismissal and the legacy of his government have been frequently debated in the decades since he left office.
Pantheon has 43 people classified as politicians born between 1849 and 1977. Of these 43, 21 (48.84%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include John Howard, David Hurley, and Kevin Rudd. The most famous deceased politicians include Harold Holt, John Curtin, and Bob Hawke. As of October 2020, 3 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including David Hurley, Bob Carr, and Anthony Albanese.
1939 - Present
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1968 - Present
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1937 - 2020
1908 - 1967
1885 - 1945
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1894 - 1978
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1908 - 1988
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1883 - 1967
Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 22 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.