Although political families are sometimes viewed pejoratively as ‘dynasties’ perhaps, as political scientist Professor John Warhurst proposes, there is ‘a political gene that not only attracts members of the same family to politics but gives them the personal attributes to succeed’. In 1986 political historian Joan Rydon observed that most members of political families have been active in their parties well before their election and suggested that family background may have led to membership of those parties at an early age.
Since Federation there have been a number of political families in the Commonwealth Parliament. The first parliament included eight sons of state parliamentarians, and seven members who had brothers in state parliaments.
On 30 occasions since 1901 a son has succeeded his father into parliament and on two occasions a daughter has succeeded her father. Of these, 14 were Labor Party families and 17 non-Labor. In the other cases there was a significant shift in party allegiance: James Guy (Senator, Tas., 1914–20; ALP) was succeeded by his son, Allan Guy. Allan was initially elected as the Labor member for Bass but, in 1931, joined Joseph Lyons, James Fenton and two other Labor members in forming the United Australia Party. He subsequently became a Liberal Senator for Tasmania. In one unusual case, a father succeeded his son in Parliament: Francis Matthew John Baker (MHR, Oxley; 1931–34; Griffith, 1934–39; FLP) died in office, the result of a motor accident. Eighteen months later, his father Francis Patrick Baker (MHR, Maranoa, 1940–43; ALP) was elected.
In two cases, there have been three successive generations in the Commonwealth Parliament: the Anthonys: Hubert Lawrence (MHR, Richmond, 1937–57; CP), John Douglas (MHR, Richmond, 1957–84; CP; NCP; NPA) and Lawrence James (MHR, Richmond, 1996–2004; NPA; NP); and the Downers: Sir John William (Senator, SA, 1901–03; PROT), Alexander Russell (MHR, Angas, 1949–64; LIB) and Alexander John Gosse (MHR, Mayo, 1984–2008; LIB).
Dame Enid Lyons (MHR, Darwin, 1943–51; UAP; LIB) and Doris Blackburn (MHR, Bourke, 1946–49; IND LAB), the first two women elected to the House of Representatives, were the widows of previous members.
This Research paper documents:
- those members of the 44th Parliament who have relatives who have served in parliaments,
- Prime Ministers’ relatives who have served in Parliament,
- a complete list of all federal Members of Parliament who have had relatives who have also served in Parliament, and
- State premiers who have had relatives in Commonwealth Parliament.
This information has been compiled by the Parliamentary Library using data from the Parliamentary Handbook and other biographical sources.