William McMahon

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Sir William "Billy" McMahon, GCMG, CH (23 February 1908 – 31 March 1988) was an Australian Liberal politician and the 20th Prime Minister of Australia. He was the longest continuously serving government minister in Australian history (21 years and 6 months).


Early life

William McMahon was born in Sydney, New South Wales, where his father was a lawyer. He was of Irish ancestry[citation needed]. McMahon's mother died when he was 9 and his father when he was 18.[citation needed] He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in law. He practised in Sydney with Allen, Allen & Hemsley (now Allens Arthur Robinson), the oldest law firm in Australia. In 1940 he joined the Army, but because of a hearing loss he was confined to staff work. After World War II he travelled in Europe and completed an economics degree.


McMahon was elected to the House of Representatives for the Sydney seat of Lowe in 1949, one of the flood of new Liberal MPs known as the "forty-niners". He was capable and ambitious, and in 1951 Prime Minister Robert Menzies made him Minister for Air and Minister for the Navy. Over the next 15 years he held the portfolios of Social Services, Primary Industry and Labour and National Service, and he was also Vice-President of the Executive Council. In 1966, when Harold Holt became Prime Minister, McMahon succeeded him as Treasurer and as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.

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