McGauran attended Xavier College in Kew Melbourne. Before attending university he worked at Flemington Racecourse. At Monash University he obtained a Bachelor of Economics and worked as a Certified Practising Accountant and then a company director for the McGauran Group of Companies. He was elected to the Melbourne City Council between 1985 and 1988.
McGauran won National Party preselection for a Senate seat in the 1987. In 1990 he was required to
step out of Parliament for three years. In 1993 he was re-elected.
On 2 November 1989 McGauran introduced the End of War List to the Senate. The Bill was passed. It was aimed at recognising the ‘unsung heroes’ of the Vietnam
War. More than 80 Vietnam Vets have been honoured for their acts of bravery since this time.
McGauran was a strong advocate for the freedom of East Timor.
In 2001 McGauran became the first Federal MP to join the Australian Army
as part of the Federal Government's MP exchange program. In the 2004 election McGauran retained National Party pre-selection. In 2005 McGauran was accused of releasing to The Age newspaper the private patient records of a woman who had had an abortion. However, he denies this accusation. On 23 January 2006 McGauran announced that he was resigning from the
National Party and would apply to join the Liberal Party. He said he would be best
able to represent rural Victorians as a member of the Liberal Party. In 2009 McGauran was the first to speak up against the Liberal policy supporting the Government's Emissions Trading Scheme.In the 2010 election, McGauran lost his Senate seat.