Tiberius with a Telephone: The Life and Stories of William McMahon

Patrick Mullins

    Research output: Book/ReportOther


    ‘Sir William McMahon, Liberal party leader and Australia’s 20th prime minister, was a master of political intrigue. He accumulated epithets — ‘Billy big-ears’, ‘Billy the leak’, ‘a quean’, and in Gough Whitlam’s memorable quip, ‘Tiberius with a telephone’. In this commanding and exceptionally researched biography, Patrick Mullins has retrieved McMahon from historical neglect, revealing the man behind the personal and political caricature. It is a compelling portrait of an insecure, vain, deeply ambitious man, and a skilful political operator whose one great strength, his remarkable persistence, was eventually rewarded with the liberal prime ministership. At once fascinating, revelatory, unflattering, and at times uncomfortable, Mullins never shies away from McMahon’s clear and unavoidable personal failings. His own colleagues described him as an inveterate liar, a compulsive leaker, and ‘completely untrustworthy’. Some refused outright ever to work with him. As Mullins unravels this devastating personal and political critique, McMahon’s ascendency is all the more remarkable. But this is a story also of the Liberal Party in decline, divided and uncertain of its place in the weary interregnum between the twin titans of Australian politics — the founding Liberal leader, Sir Robert Menzies, and Labor’s Gough Whitlam. Mullins’ exemplary research, skilful use of an innovative structure, and engaging biographical narrative shows a complete picture of McMahon for the first time. This is everything a political biography should be.’
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationMelbourne
    PublisherScribe Publications
    Number of pages784
    ISBN (Print)9781922310637, 9781925713602
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    Dive into the research topics of 'Tiberius with a Telephone: The Life and Stories of William McMahon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this