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William McMahon

William McMahon

Sir William McMahon was the 20th Prime Minister of Australia. The Liberal politician was born in Sydney on 23rd February 1908. He served the Australian government continuously for 21 years and 6 months which is a record. Also his tenure as a Prime Minister was the longest without leading his party to win at an election.

Personal Life

William McMahon was one of four children of lawyer William McMahon and Mary Anne McMahon. He was raised by his uncle and aunt as his mother died when McMahon was only 9 and after 9 years his father passed away. After completion of education at Sydney Grammar School in 1926, McMahon got admission at the University of Sydney to become a graduate in Law. He practiced law in Allen, Allen & Hemsley, Australia’s oldest law firm. McMahon joined army in 1940 but a hearing loss confined him to staff work. After 2nd World War, he visited Europe and completed degree in Economics at the University of Sydney. In 1949 he entered into politics. McMahon was quite unpopular with his colleagues in spite of his continuous progress. The leader seemed to be too ambitious and a conspirator, though he was highly capable. Throughout his life he faced rumors of being homosexual. At the age of 57 McMahon married to Sonia Rachel Hopkins. The couple had three children named Melinda, Julian and Deborah.

Political Career

A brief description of the political career of McMahon is as follows:

  • 1949: Got elected to the House of Representatives
  • 1951: Became Minister for Air and Minister for the Navy under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. At different times under Menzies, McMahon took charge of Social Services, Primary Industry (1956–58) and Labor and National Service (1958–66). He was also appointed as Vice-President of the Executive Council.
  • 1966-69: Treasurer and as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (succeeded Harold Holt, who became Prime Minister)
  • 1969-1971: Foreign Minister under Prime Minister John Gorton
  • 1971: Sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia after displacing Gorton as Party Leader
  • 1972: Liberal Party-Country Party coalition lost in the Federal election and failed to form government
  • McMahon remained in parliament till 1982.

McMahon as a Prime Minister

William McMahon took several important decisions during his tenure as Prime Minister of Australia. Some of his significant actions are mentioned below:

  • Formed the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
  • Established the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian Wool Corporation.
  • Supported independent schools on a per capita basis with additional assistance.
  • Child-care centers got Commonwealth funding.
  • Stopped the pensioner means test
  • Declared the final pulling-out of Australian troops from Vietnam
  • Attracted international attention while attending a dinner party with American President Mr. Nixon. Media released photos of Mrs. Sonia McMahon’s ‘Diplomatically Daring Dress’.
  • Cancelled Gorton's intended nuclear power program, which had incorporated a reactor which can generate plutonium of weapons grade.

Later Life

After getting retirement from parliament in 1982, he travelled, worked as a consultant to the Bank of America and wrote an autobiography which was not published. At the age of 80, on 31 March 1988, McMahon died of cancer in Sydney.


William McMahon was appointed

  • A Privy Counsellor in 1966.
  • A Companion of Honour in the New Year's Day Honours of 1972.
  • A Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1977.

After the redistribution of New South Wales federal electorates in 2009, The Division of Prospect was renamed as the Division of McMahon starting at the federal election 2010.

20th Prime Minister of Australia
In office: 10 March 1971– 5 December 1972
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Sir Paul Hasluck
Deputy Doug Anthony
Preceded by John Gorton
Succeeded by Gough Whitlam
Treasurer of Australia
In office: 26 November 1966– 25 October 1969
Prime Minister Harold Holt, John McEwen, John Gorton
Preceded by Harold Holt
Succeeded by Les Bury
Minister for Navy
In office: 17 July 1951– 9 July 1954
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Philip McBride
Succeeded by Josiah Francis
Minister for Air
In office: 17 July 1951– 9 July 1954
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Philip McBride
Succeeded by Athol Townley
Member of the Australian Parliament for Lowe
In office: 10 December 1949– 13 March 1982
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Michael Maher
Personal details
Born 23 February 1908 Sydney, Australia
Died 31 March 1988 (aged 80) Sydney, Australia
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Sonia McMahon (m. 1965–1988)
Children Melinda Julian Deborah
Alma mater University of Sydney
Religion Anglicanism

Types Of Visas

Immigration Info

Australian History

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