First Whitlam ministry

The first Whitlam Ministry (Labor) was the 47th ministry of the Government of Australia. Often known as the "two-man Ministry" or the "Duumvirate", it was led by the country's 21st Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. The first Whitlam ministry succeeded the McMahon Ministry, which dissolved on 5 December 1972 following the federal election that took place on 2 December which saw Labor defeat William McMahon's LiberalCountry Coalition. The ministry was replaced by the second Whitlam ministry on 19 December 1972.[1]

First Whitlam Ministry
Flag of Australia.svg
47th Ministry of Australia
First Whitlam Ministry.jpg
The First Whitlam Ministry being sworn in by Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck
Date formed5 December 1972
Date dissolved19 December 1972
People and organisations
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralSir Paul Hasluck
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Deputy Prime MinisterLance Barnard
No. of ministers2
Member partyLabor
Status in legislatureMajority government
Opposition partyLiberal
Election(s)2 December 1972
Legislature term(s)28th
PredecessorMcMahon Ministry
SuccessorSecond Whitlam ministry

Whitlam had just led the Australian Labor Party to victory after 23 years of Coalition rule. Historically, when Labor won government, the caucus elected the members of the ministry, with Labor Prime Ministers only having the right to allocate portfolios. Although Labor's victory was beyond doubt, counting was scheduled to continue until 15 December, two weeks after the 2 December election.

In accordance with longstanding Australian constitutional practice, the outgoing Prime Minister, William McMahon, advised the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, that he was no longer in a position to govern. Whitlam then advised Hasluck that he could form a government with his new majority. Normally, McMahon would have stayed on as a caretaker until the final results were known. However, Whitlam was unwilling to wait that long. Accordingly, soon after advising Hasluck that he could form a government, Whitlam had himself and his deputy leader, Lance Barnard, sworn in as an interim two-man government until the full ministry could be chosen. For the next two weeks, Whitlam and Barnard held 27 portfolios between them. It is the smallest ministry in Australian history.

Whitlam, who died in 2014, was the last surviving member of the first Whitlam ministry, having outlived Barnard by 17 years.


The duumvirate made 40 significant decisions in its brief tenure, including the immediate release of all draft resisters, the removal of troops from Vietnam and the recognition of Communist China. [2]


Party Minister Portrait Portfolio
  Labor Hon Gough Whitlam QC

MP for Werriwa

  Hon Lance Barnard

MP for Bass


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ministries and Cabinets". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  2. ^[bare URL]