Term of Government (1972-1975)
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 Liberal–Country Coalition. The ministry was replaced by the Second Whitlam Ministry on 19 December 1972.
The Australian Labor Party, led by Gough Whitlam, had just won government 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.