First Whitlam Ministry

The First Whitlam Ministry, often known as the "two-man Ministry" or the "Duumvirate", was the forty-eighth Australian Commonwealth ministry, and ran from 5 to 19 December 1972.[1]

The Australian Labor Party 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.

Portfolio Minister

Prime Minister
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Customs and Excise
Minister for Trade and Industry
Minister for Shipping and Transport
Minister for Education and Science
Minister for Civil Aviation
Minister for Housing
Minister for Works
Minister for External Territories
Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts

Hon Gough Whitlam, QC MP

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
Minister for Supply
Minister for the Army
Minister for the Navy
Minister for Air
Minister for Labour and National Service
Minister for Social Services
Minister for Immigration
Minister for the Interior
Minister for Primary Industry
Minister for Repatriation
Minister for Health
Minister for National Development

Hon Lance Barnard, MP


  1. "Ministries and Cabinets". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
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