Philip McBride became the Federal member for Grey in 1930, holding the seat until 1937 when he moved to the Senate. His abilities were quickly recognised, and from the outbreak of WWII until the advent of the Curtin Government, he was a member of the War Cabinet with responsibilities including commerce, supply, and munitions. He lost his Senate position in 1944.
In 1946 McBride returned to Canberra as Member for Wakefield, remaining in Federal Parliament until 1958, during which time he served for nine years as Minister for Defence in the Menzies Government. McBride was knighted in 1952 and honoured with membership of the Privy Council in 1959. He was President of the Liberal Party from 1960 to 1965.
From a Burra family with strong rural interests, he was chairman of the family company from 1928 to 1978 and Chairman of Elder Smith when it merged with Goldsborough Mort Ltd. in 1962.