William McMahon

William (Billy) McMahon’s (1908-1988) career spanned the whole of the twenty-three year reign that began with the Liberal triumph of 1949, when Labor was swept from power. Elected in 1949, after training as a lawyer and economist, McMahon became prime minister in the closing days of Liberal power, after a long and very public struggle with John Gorton. He had immense ministerial experience, but paired with this was a history of internal party conflict and distrust. His government was defeated by Labor in 1972.

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10 March 1971

William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

Faced with a vote of no confidence in the party room that results in a 33–33 tie, John Gorton steps down as Prime Minister, and the Minister External Affairs William McMahon is elected to succeed him. The McMahon government further accelerates Australian withdrawal from Vietnam, grants self-government to Papua New Guinea and is the first to appoint a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


William McMahon.