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William McMahon

William McMahon (February 23, 1908 - March 31, 1988) was the 20th Prime Minister of Australia from 1971 - 1972.

McMahon was among the group of Liberals who entered parliament in 1949 and became key figures in successive Liberal-Country Party coalition governments.

McMahon was elected deputy leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party when Harold Holt succeeded Menzies as Prime Minister and Liberal leader on January 26, 1966. As both deputy and senior Cabinet member he would have been a strong contender for the Liberal leadership after the death of Harold Holt on December 19, 1967. However, John McEwen, caretaker Prime Minister, announced that he and the Country Party would not serve in a government led by McMahon.

McMahon therefore withdrew and John Gorton eventually won the party room vote for the position and was sworn in as Prime Minister on January 10, 1968.

Over the next three years, continuing disagreement within the coalition over Gorton's leadership style and factionalism arising from his centralist position on the states' rights issue led McMahon to issue a second challenge to Gorton. This was successful and McMahon was commissioned as Prime Minister on March 10, 1971.

McMahon remained Prime Minister until December 5, 1972, when the Liberal-CP coalition was defeated by Labor at the general election. During the election campaign, the coalition, under McMahon, had been unable to match the performance of Labor leader, Gough Whitlam, who campaigned on the theme 'It's Time' - time for a change to Labor after twenty-three years of unbroken coalition rule.

McMahon resigned the Liberal leadership on December 5, 1972, after conceding defeat to Whitlam. Billy Snedden[?] won the subsequent ballot for leadership on December 20 against four other contenders, including Gorton and Whitlam's replacement as Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.

While in opposition McMahon served as a member of the Shadow Cabinet from December, 1972 - June, 1974 and was a backbencher from 1974 - 1982. He retired from parliament on January 4, 1982 and died of cancer six years later.

Previous Australian Prime Minister: John Gorton
Next Australian Prime Minister: Gough Whitlam



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