THE HOLT/GORTON/MCMAHON GOVERNMENTS (1966 – 1972)
The success of the Menzies government’s policies laid the foundations for the massive expansion in resource development and investment that occurred under the Liberal/National Party Coalition governments led by Harold Holt (1966-67), John Gorton (1967-71) and William McMahon (1971-72).The Australian economy and standards of living grew rapidly, and Liberals took the lead in recognising the rights of women and minority groups, including homosexuals and Aboriginal Australians.The strength of the economy enabled an increasing public and political concern with ‘quality of life’ issues. The Holt/Gorton/McMahon Governments delivered improved funding and services in traditional areas like health, education and welfare, while at the same time expanding Australia’s foreign policy and defence initiatives. The White Australia policy was abolished under the Holt government, and Australia’s immigration placed on a non-dsicriminatory basis.The Holt government also initiated the abolition of the constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people – with the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights recording a resounding victory. The government increasingly focused on the need to position Australia to take advantage of the rapidly changing world of technology, and established policies to promote energy conservation and environmental protection.With the growing threat of communist insurgencies in a number of Southeast Asian countries, the Coalition strongly supported the United States in resisting the attack by North Vietnam on South Vietnam, as it had done in relation to the US-led United Nations action in Korea in the 1950s. While the US strategy was not successful in Vietnam, the resistance to the communist takeover was important in buying time for other countries to stablise and to defeat their domestic insurgencies, and a more peaceful region emerged. The communists began persecution of their political enemies in Vietnam, and in Cambodia engaged in an horiffic genocide.The Holt/Gorton/McMahon Governments provided the opportunity to consolidate the policy gains of the Menzies era. Some of the features which highlighted this period of government include:
- a boom in the construction of new homes and the commencement of urban and regional development programs
- the introduction of the Department of Education and Science to take advantage of new technology
- an increased emphasis on the development of Northern Australia with new railways, roads and ports
- a rapid expansion and increased support for Australia’s growing tourism industry
- a continuation of full employment, high growth rates, a doubling of exports and an explosion in the work force
- changes to education such as the funding of a new teacher training college and the expansion of assistance to secondary schools for science labs
- the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Office and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs
- additional social services – assistance scheme for pensioner health, increased funding to Meals of Wheels programs, the funding of housing support for young widows and expanded benefits for the disabled
- the establishment of the Australian Council for the Arts and funding for the Australian Film and Television Corporation
- greater conservation measures – a twelve mile fishing zone, the introduction of an Institute of Marine Science and conservation of the Gordon River
THE FRASER GOVERNMENT (1975 – 1983)
The Fraser Government came to power with a mandate to restore Australia’s economy after the disastrous mismanagement of the Whitlam Labor government.The Fraser government began the historic turnaround from the ‘big government’ approach of Whitlam to an era of liberal reform. Fraser argued strongly for a more limited role for government in economic life, wound back government spending, and restrained union power, while promoting individual rights and opportunities..The impact of the economic mismanagement of the Whitlam government was intensified by the fallout of the world oil shock, a prolonged record-breaking drought and unsettled world markets. Despite the volatile economic environment, the Fraser Government made hard decisions to ensure Australia’s future was secure.Some of the features of the Fraser era include:
- effective restraint of government spending
- major new assistance for families
- the introduction of far-reaching reforms to strengthen the Federal system
- large scale investment and development projects, such as dams and roads
- strong legislation to limit union power and secondary boycotts
- major new developments in wages and industrial relations
- a focus on assisting with employment schemes to encourage employment growth
- laws to stop ‘bottom-of-the-harbour’ tax evasion schemes
- greater flexibility in the management of the exchange rate
- better training and assistance to sportsmen and women to help them compete at a world level
- assistance to both large and small business through a series of government programs
- strengthening the right of parents to choose the best school for their child
- development of newly discovered mineral resources
- a focus on conservation, the environment and the development of new national parks
- welcoming refugees from Vietnam after the communist takeover
- supporting more effective Western action to overcome the North-South divide between rich and poor countries
- strengthening Australia’s defence forces
- a strong stand against Soviet expansion of its activities into the Pacific and its invasion of Afghanistan
THE GREINER/FAHEY GOVERNMENTS (1988 – 1995)
The second New South Wales Liberal & National Government was elected to office on 19 March 1988 under the leadership of Nick Greiner.With the resignation of Premier Nick Greiner on 24 June 1992, John Fahey was elected to the premiership. The Greiner and Fahey Governments presided over a period of substantial structural reform that traversed industrial relations, State finances and micro-economic reform in many State utilities. Some of the achievements of the Greiner and Fahey Governments include:
- Selective High Schools.
- Last payment on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- The establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
- The successful bid for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
- The Parramatta River Cat.
- The appointment of the first Minister for the Status of Women.
- The launch of the New South Wales Senior’s Card.
- The establishment of the Office of Ageing and the Senior’s Media Network to combat negative stereotypes about ageing.
- The abolition of compulsory retirement.
- The passage of the Disability Services Act to guarantee the rights of all disabled people in New South Wales.
- The establishment of the Environment Protection Authority to protect and improve the State’s environment.
THE HOWARD GOVERNMENT (1996 – 2007)
The Howard Government guided Australia through one of the most successful periods in the country’s history, helping to take Australia to the forefront of the world’s leading economies. Its economic policies rebuilt Australian prosperity after yet another period of Labor economic mismanagement (under the Hawke/Keating government), which had resulted in the worst recession (and highest unemployment) for 60 years.The Howard government’s policies enabled Australia to resist the impact of the Asian economic downturn, and restored effective full employment.The prudential supervision of the financial system put in place by the Howard government meant that Australia had no domestic sub-prime crisis. Strong financial institutions underpinned the economy when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008.The Howard Government’s policy success was based on its firm commitment to Liberal values, and a commonsense approach to dealing with problems. John Howard described his philosophy as a combination of economic liberalism and social conservatism.The economic prosperity achieved by the Howard Government meant that people had more money to invest in savings for the future. Australia’s strong position also allowed the government to invest in new roads and rail, as well as in environmental projects throughout the country.Some of the features of the Howard era include:
- a focus on strong economic management with a commitment to surplus budgets and zero government debt
- the strengthening of Australia’s national security through an increase in defence spending and a substantial boost to defence-ready troop numbers
- record low levels of unemployment achieved by a freeing up of labour markets, a massive expansion in opportunities to acquire skills, and greatly improved job placement assistance for the unemployed – allowing workers to become less reliant on unions
- record federal government funding into the education and health sectors
- a major effort to overcome educational disadvantage (illiteracy and innumeracy), to increase school accountability, and strengthen the ability of parents to choose the best school for their child
- encouraging one of the highest levels of private investment in education and training in the world
- low interest rates, strong economic growth and lower taxation
- unprecedented commitment to restoring and protecting Australian land, waters, vegetation and biodiversity
- major improvements in protection of Australia’s national heritage
- fostering pride in Australia’s achievements and resistance to the ‘black armband’ view of Australian history