Author Talk: Patrick Mullins

Author Talk: Patrick Mullins

Author Talks

William McMahon was a significant, if widely derided and disliked, figure in Australian politics in the second half of the twentieth century. This biography tells the story of his life, his career, and his doomed attempts to recast views of his much-maligned time as Australia’s prime minister.

1 / 4 events in this Author Talks series
Saturday
24 November 2018 2pm to 3pm

Price

General Admission: $10.00
State Library Friends Members: Free

Location

Metcalfe Auditorium, Ground Floor
Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Australia

 

Author Talk: Patrick Mullins

Tiberius with a Telephone: The life and stories of William McMahon

 

The oddly compelling story of a man regarded as Australia’s worst prime minister.

William McMahon was a significant, if widely derided and disliked, figure in Australian politics in the second half of the twentieth century. This biography tells the story of his life, his career, and his doomed attempts to recast views of his much-maligned time as Australia’s prime minister.

After a long ministerial career under Menzies, McMahon became treasurer under Harold Holt, and fought a fierce, bitter war over protectionism with John McEwen. Following Holt’s death in 1967, McEwen had his revenge by vetoing McMahon’s candidature for the Liberal Party’s leadership, and thus paved the way for John Gorton to become prime minister. But almost three years later, amid acrimony and division, McMahon would topple Gorton and fulfill his life’s ambition to become Australia’s prime minister.

In office, McMahon worked furiously to enact an agenda that grappled with the profound changes reshaping Australia. He withdrew combat forces from Vietnam, legislated for Commonwealth government involvement in childcare, established the National Urban and Regional Development Authority and the first Department of the Environment, began phasing out the means test on pensions, sought to control foreign investments, and accelerated the timetable for the independence of Papua New Guinea. But his failures would overshadow his successes, and by the time of the 1972 election McMahon would lead a divided, tired, and rancorous party to defeat. 

A man whose life was coloured by tragedy, comedy, persistence, courage, farce, and failure, McMahon’s story has never been told at length. Tiberius with a Telephone fills that gap, using deep archival research and extensive interviews with McMahon’s contemporaries and colleagues. It is a tour de force - an authoritative and colourful account of a unique politician and a vital period in Australia’s history.

Head shot of Patrick Mullins

Patrick Mullins is a Canberra-based writer and academic who holds a PhD from the University of Canberra. He was the inaugural Donald Horne Fellow at the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, and was a research fellow at the Museum of Australian Democracy. His early, brief version of this book won the 2015 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers

 

 


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