A CONCISE HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA
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The year in which Captain James Cook took possession of Australia, or the Great South Land as it was generally known to navigators who had speculated on the possible existence, is not looked upon with any great favour by the Aborigines who had lived on the continent in harmonious coexistence for around 30,000 years. Cook's action in claiming for England the eastern coast from 39 degrees to 10.1/2 degrees latitude south was not considered to be an auspicious event by anyone other than those present at the time.
Cook had been despatched from Plymouth, England, on 26 August 1768 with directions to proceed to Tahiti. The barquentine Endeavour carried two important passengers, Joseph Banks of the Royal Society and Dr David Solander. Banks was to observe the transit of Venus across the sun while the Endeavour was at Tahiti, and Solander's task was to collect botanical samples for study back in England. There were also some sealed orders which Cook was not to open until Banks had completed his task at Tahiti. Those instructions were for him to proceed westwards from Tahiti in search of the Great South Land.
First land of any substance discovered on this venture was New Zealand. After six months of exploration Endeavour sailed further west until 20 April 1770 when Lieutenant Zachary Hicks sighted land. On 29 April they sailed into a bay where the ship anchored and a party was sent ashore. For eight days Cook, Banks, Solander and the rest of the expedition explored the immediate vicinity of the large bay. The huge variety of plant specimen s and other such items collected by Solander prompted Cook to name the expanse of water Botany Bay.
On 5 May Endeavour sailed out of Botany Bay and turned north. Later that same day they sailed past two large headlands which appeared to guard a good anchorage. Cook named the area Port Jackson but did not enter it, thus missing the finest waterway on the continent. Continuing north up the coastline, charting and naming numerous landmarks on 11 June Endeavour struck a reef north of what is now Cairns, forcing Cook to beach the vessel and begin repairs. six weeks later the voyage resumed until they reached the northernmost point of the east coast at a point Cook named Cape York.
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It was here on 21 August 1770, on Possession Island, that Cook claimed the entire eastern coast in the name of the King.
After a long, disagreeable voyage the eleven ships - HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, the convict ships Friendship, Prince of Wales, Lady Penrhyn, Scarborough, Charlotte and Alexander, and the storeships Borrowdale, Golden Gove and Fishburn - entered Botany Bay.
Phillip gave the Botany Bay area a cursory inspection and did not like what he saw He decided to look for a more agreeable area for the settlement and sailed north to the mouth of the waterway Cook had named Port Jackson. Once through the towering headlands Phillip was impressed - Port Jackson was an excellent deep-water port which would accommodate a vast number of ships with ease. He sailed inland, searching for a suitable area with a good supply of running water. Finding a small cove into which a clean, clear stream emptied, Phillip named the cove for his associate Lord Sydney, Baron of Chiselhurst, the Secretary of State for the Home Office.
The rest of the fleet sailed from Botany Bay on a voyage of exploration and colonisation. These British colonists were faced with hacking out an existence in an environment they neither knew nor understood. Men who had spent much of their lives as sailors and convicts - born and raised in the slums of cities such as London, Manchester and Liverpool - were forced to learn the ways of this vastly different land. Problems between the 'Aborigines and the whites began almost immediately; the whites were mostly unprepared to understand or cope with the indigenous people, while the Aborigines wanted to defend their tribal lands from encroachment by the new, unknown invaders. In May the first of many clashes between whites and Aborigines took place; the whites came off second best, two being fatally wounded in the conflict.
For Phillip relations between Aborigines and whites were rather low on the list of priorities - staying alive was his primary concern. It had soon become obvious there was a distinct lack of agricultural talent amongst the settlers, a fact testified to by the failure of numerous crops. A settlement was established at rose Hill, west from Sydney Cove, where the soil was more fertile and chances for a successful agricultural enterprise were greater, but despite this Phillip was close to panic by the end of the year. He was forced to despatch HMS Sirius to Cape Town for fresh supplies of food and crop seeds. Another of Phillip's problems was the Marine Corps he commanded. The Marines, far from home and unhappy about the worked they were forced to do, were becoming increasingly fractious and difficult to control. They were involved in all manner of corrupt activities and were insolent and uncooperative toward their commander. The year finished badly. With the future of the settlement in grave doubt, Arthur Phillip was a worried and unhappy man.
1789 was probably one of the bleakest years in the history of white settlement in Australia. The non-arrival of further supplies from England exacerbated the situation, forcing governor Phillip to place everyone in the colony on rations until such time as crops from the newly established farm at Rose Hill (later Parramatta) could be harvested. Unbeknown to Phillip or his colony a storeship, guardian, had sailed for New South Wales but had struck an iceberg in the southern Indian Ocean. In order to save the ship and the crew all the stores destined for Port Jackson were thrown overboard and the ship was forced to return to Cape Town.
While the problem of feeding the settlement continued so did the process of exploration. Phillip sailed north from Port Jackson and discovered the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Much of the shoreline of Port Jackson had been charted, mainly by Lieutenant John Hunter. Rather than exterminate the Aborigine population like many of his fellow settlers wanted to do, Phillip preferred to attempt some understanding and communication. Two young black men named Colebee and Bennelong were captured and handed over to Phillip; Colebee escaped and returned to his tribe, but Bennelong and Phillip became friends and later travelled to England together. Bennelong gave his name to the site on which the Sydney Opera House now stands. The government farm at Rose Hill yielded its first crops in December, but these went nowhere near meeting the drastic needs of the settlement and the tight rationing was maintained. James ruse, a convict who was found to have some farming knowledge, was granted a small plot of .4 ha at Rose Hill. He was the first convict to be granted land, a trend that would continue in the coming years.
In Britain the prison authorities despatched another fleet of convict ships carrying more than 1000 felons, for New South Wales. Had Phillip known he would have been appalled. One consolation was that a storeship, Justinian, was included in the Second Fleet. When the fleet eventually reached Sydney cove in June it was revealed that 267 of the convicts - more than one-quarter of the complement that had departed England - had died en route, mainly as a result of ill-treatment at the hands of their gaolers. This shocking situation would lead to more efficient and humane treatment of convicts on voyages to penal settlements in future years.
Also on the Second fleet was a group of soldiers known as the New South Wales Corps. This new Corps had been raised in Britain specifically for service in the penal colony and was intended to replace the less-than-effective Marines. One problem which had not occupied anyone in Britain at the time of the sailing of the First Fleet was what would happen to convicts whose terms of imprisonment expired in New South Wales. Phillip solved this quandary to some degree by granting land to those who wanted it and who could turn it to good use. He extended the land grants system to include sailors and marines as a way of quietening their mutinous outpourngs.
The settlement of areas outside the Sydney Cove region gained momentum as farms were established to the north and the west of Parramatta (formerly Rose Hill). Some of this land was owned by Marines, but the majority had been granted to former convicts. Results of cultivation were mixed, however, some headway was gradually being made in the push for self-sufficiency. Tough rationing measures remained in force.
Oblivious as they had always been to the situation in New South Wales, the home government prepared and despatched yet another fleet of convict-carrying ships for Sydney Cove. while the mortality rate on the voyage was not as dramatic as for the Second Fleet, it was nevertheless high by the time the ships dropped anchor in Port Jackson in August.
1792 was a pivotal year for the colony of New South Wales. The New South Wales Corps, under Major Corps, under Major Francis Grose, took over almost all command of the settlement and Arthur Phillip's requests for permission to return to Britain were finally granted, leaving the way open for Grose and his highly capable Lieutenant, John Macarthur, to assume control. Soon after Phillip's departure an American clipper ship carrying foodstuffs and a large quantity of rum arrived in Sydney. The captain of the clipper refused to sell any of the provisions unless all the rum was also bought. Macarthur, acting through Grose, engineered the purchase of the entire cargo. Almost overnight rum became the primary form of currency for New South Wales, members of the Corps were paid in rum, while tradesmen and farmers were forced to accept it in payment for their labour or crops. Before long the New South Wales Corps had become known as the 'Rum Corps'.
For the first time new arrivals in New South Wales comprised more than the usual parade of convicts and military men. A small group of free settlers, consisting of various tradesmen and farmers, arrived in 1792 and established a new settlement called Liberty Plains at what is today the Sydney suburb of Bankstown. Phillip's departure for Britain was notable in that he took with him two Aborigines, Bennelong and the young boy Yemmerrawannie. Georgian London was entranced by the arrival of these two black 'savages' from the New South Wales penal colony. Bennelong and Yemmerrawannie even had the dubious pleasure of meeting King George III.
With Francis Grose in the chair as Lieutenant Governor, and John Macarthur in the background manipulating him, the New South Wales Corps rose to new levels of power and influence. The trade in rum as a currency proliferated and the Corps became more deeply involved in all manner of graft and corruption. Exploration of the region surrounding Port Jackson continued, with the major event of 1793 being the expedition led by William Paterson west from Parramatta into the foothills of the Blue Mountains
In the absence of a fully-fledged Governor the 'Rum Corps' consolidated its hold on the economy of the colony. Men such as Grose and Macarthur were becoming wealthy from their efforts, while free settlers were forced more and more under the oppressive control of the officers of the Corps. The spreading of settlement north from Parramatta reached the Hawkesbury River with the establishment of the town of Windsor on the banks of the waterway, because of catastrophic flooding.
The governorship of New South Wales was restored when Captain John Hunter, one of Phillip's officers on the First Fleet and the man who had charted much of Port Jackson, was appointed to the position. Unfortunately London, by delaying too long in replacing Phillip, had played into Macarthur's hands - through neglect the New South Wales Corps had been allowed to become the alternative government of the colony. Despite his strenuous efforts to curtail the trade in rum and for powers of the Corps, Hunter was unable to make headway against the entrenched corruption.
Agricultural development had advanced to the point where New South Wales was self-sufficient in grain supplies. To process the grain brought in from the western areas around Parramatta a windmill was constructed on a hill overlooking Sydney cove. Today the windmill site is known as Observatory Hill. A long tradition of Australian industrial militancy began in 1795 when labourers employed to harvest wheat took strike action in pursuit of better wages. As were most such actions in those years it was unsuccessful.
George Bass, who had arrived at Sydney Cove in company with the master navigator Matthew Flinders, began a programme of exploration which would have a dramatic effect on the future of the New South Wales colony. In June he struck out for the mountainous country west of Sydney, hoping to find a way across the barrier which had halted Captain William Paterson three years earlier. But like Paterson, Bass found the huge escarpments of the blue Mountains impenetrable and was forced to return to Sydney. Life for governor Hunter continued to be dominated by his battles with the New South Wales Corps - battles which he almost always lost.
Excited by the discoveries he had made the previous year, George Bass joined with Matthew Flinders to mount a voyage of discovery to Van Diemen's Land. Bass arranged for the construction of a sloop to his own specifications, named it Norfolk, and set out in the vessel with Flinders from Port Jackson on 7 October to retrace his journey of 1797.
His theory about a passage between New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land proved correct. They named the vast expanse of grey and inhospitable water Bass Strait and headed the Norfolk across the strait to the western coast of Van Diemen's Land which the two voyagers now supposed was an island. Sailing south, they rounded the southern tip of the island, discovered and explored the Derwent River, then continued around the eastern coast of the island and north back to Sydney Cove.
Matthew Flinders, fresh from his triumph with Bass, sailed north from Port Jackson to explore the northern coastline of New South Wales. While little real benefit accrued to the colony in the short term, his discoveries on that voyage laid the groundwork for future settlements to the north. In the wake of the reapers' strike of 1795, a number of worker groups had attempted to use industrial action to win a better standard of remuneration. The colonial administrators, frightened of what this might lead to, applied the combination Acts which had been passed in Britain to prevent the grouping of workers into unions. It was the beginning of a long and bitter history of industrial confrontation between workers and employers in Australia.
Governor King provided the colony with a better and larger work-force by introducing the 'Ticket of Leave' system, under which convicts still serving sentences could find their own work and be paid wages. This replaced the previous method of placing convicts with free settlers virtually as slave labour. The discovery of coal on the banks of the Hunter River by Lieutenant John Shortland in 1797 led to the establishment of a penal settlement there in 1801. Convicts sent to the Hunter River were there specifically to work the coal-mines and provide the Sydney cove area with combustible fuel.
French explorer Nicholas Baudin arrived in New South Wales waters and set off a round of colonial jitters. Governor King advised the home government in London of the French mariner's presence and suggested he could be investigating the possibility of claiming Van Diemen's Land for France. Matthew Flinders was recalled to England in order to take command of Investigator, in which he was to begin a complete exploration of the Australian continent. He began his voyage of discovery in December of 1801 when he arrived at Cape Leeuwin in what is now Western Australia, matching and surpassing Baudin 's efforts.
John Macarthur, civilian, departed from Sydney cove carrying samples of the wool he had grown by cross-breeding the merino sheep from Cape Town. The quality of the wool was sufficient to force British woolen mill owners into suspending their belief that the penal colony of New South Wales was nothing more than a gaol for England's cast-offs.
A momentous year for exploration, a number of different individuals made attempts to open up the country. The first effort was that of George Caley, who headed west in a bid to succeed where Bass and Paterson had failed. Unfortunately for Caley, the rugged escarpment defeated him just as they had his predecessors. The voyage of discovery begun by Matthew Flinders in 1801 took him from Cape Leeuwin on the western coast of the continent, across the expanse of the Gr5eat Australian Bight, traversing the entrances of Spencers Gulf and St Vincents Gulf in what was to become the colony of South Australia in later years. Here Flinders met the French explorer Nicholas Baudin, whose exploits were creating so much concern in Sydney and London, and he named the area Encounter Bay. Following the coastline past Westernport Bay, discovered by George Bass, Flinders returned to Sydney cove. After a brief sojourn in Sydney Town he departed once more on a voyage to the north along a similar route to that taken by Captain James Cook in 1770.
Lieutenant John Murray was despatched from Sydney cove south to explore the region around Westernport Bay with the possibility of a settlement in mind. Murray sailed his craft Lady Nelson into Port Phillip Bay, which he explored extensively and reported on favourably to governor King. While Murray was enthusing over the possibilities of Port Phillip bay governor King was agreeing to the closure of the Hunter Valley settlement, established in 1801 to mine coal.
The Matthew Flinders voyage of discovery jo0urneyed north around the tip of Cape York and headed west across the Gulf of Carpentaria to Arnhem Land, where he encountered proas which had sailed south from Makassar. Continuing around the coast until he reached Cape Leeuwin once more, Flinders proved beyond doubt that the land mass which contained New South Wales was a continent.
Governor King followed up Lieutenant John Murray's glowing report on the Port Phillip Bay area by sending New South Wales Surveyor-General Charles Grimes to explore the Yarra River, which emptied into the Bay. Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins was instructed to establish a settlement at Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay but after three months he reached the conclusion that the site was unsuitable for a penal colony. He decided to move across Bass Strait to Risdon Cove early in 1804.
Baudin, the Frenchman who had been exploring the Australian coast concurrently with flinders' efforts, was the direct cause of the establishment in 1803 of a penal settlement at Risdon cove on the mouth of the Derwent River. The new settlement was under the control of Lieutenant John Bowen, who soon found the location unsatisfactory. The Van Diemen's Land penal settlements that followed the Risdon Cove effort gained reputations as the most horrific of all the colonial gaols in the Antipodes. With the growth of the free-settler population of New South Wales, King saw the necessity for a newspaper which could disseminate information about occurrences within the colony. But The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser was little more than a gossip sheet, and discussion of politics was banned.
Flushed with his success in selling his wool to the British woolen mills, John Macarthur set out to establish a major pastoral property at Cowpastures, south-west of Sydney in the area now called Camden. Macarthur was strengthening his position as a prominent civilian in the colony and regularly plotted with anti-King factions to reduce the Governor's influence.
August 1806 marked the beginning of the supreme clash of wills between the colonial governor and the New South Wales Corps when Captain William Bligh was placed in charge of the colony. Bligh came to Sydney with a reputation as a disciplinarian, not to mention a superb navigator who had been able to direct the tiny boat in which he had been cast adrift from the Bounty from the eastern Pacific Ocean to Timor in the East Indies. Like his predecessors Hunter and King, the new governor set himself the task of bringing the New South Wales Corps to heel. The need to bring the currency situation under control was desperate. Readily supported by the free settlers, his abrasive manner earned him little kudos with the Rum Corps. Almost from the start Bligh fell out with John Macarthur, setting off a battle which only one man could win, at least in the short term. In Van Diemen's Land the settlement at York Town on the Tamar River was moved inland to a site named Launceston. The inland regions of Van Diemen's Land had been found to be extremely fertile and very similar to the English countryside, spurring settlers on to agricultural pursuits modelled on those of their homeland.
In 1807 the clash of wills between governor Bligh and John Macarthur came to a head. Bligh took the bit between his teeth and banned outright the use of rum as a form of currency. This, and Bligh's heavy-handed manner, so enraged the New South Wales Corps, whose members had become rich men from the rum trade, that they all but declared war on the Governor. The year of confrontation culminated in Bligh ordering John Macarthur's arrest on a charge of sedition. Bligh had continued to oppose the granting of the Cowpastures land on which Macarthur had established his sheep-breeding station; Macarthur had retaliated by fomenting dissent amongst New South Wales Corps members. Macarthur's arrest in late 1807 set the stage for the divisive and rebellious events which would take place in early 1808.
The new year opened with the colony torn by dissent. Among the members of the New South Wales Corps there was talk of open rebellion against what they saw as the high-handed action of Governor Bligh in his attempts to end the rum trade and his arrest of Corps patron John Macarthur. On 26 January, twenty years after the founding of the colony, the talk of rebellion became action when the leaders of the New South Wales Corps decided to take official control of the colony which they had run on a de facto basis for years. Under its commander Major George Johnston, the Corps marched on Government House and arrested a protesting Bligh on the trumped-up charge of having subverted the laws of Britain. Johnston took control of the colony as Lieutenant Governor for six months until the arrival of another Lieutenant-Governor, Major Joseph Foveaux. Bligh was kept under arrest by the Corps for the rest of 1808. The action of the Corps was way beyond what any right-thinking person would countenance: it was a blatant attempt to regain the control that had been gradually slipping from its grasp under the measures instituted by the Governor.
In February William Bligh agreed to the demands of Johnston and the New South Wales Corps that he return to London. He was placed on board HMS Porpoise for the voyage, but once outside Sydney heads Bligh commandeered the ship and ordered its captain to sail to the Sullivan's Cove settlement in Van Diemen's Land where he attempted to coerce the commander of the settlement, David Collins, to accompany him back to Sydney and retake control of the colony. Collins declined, and Bligh ordered HMS Porpoise to anchor in the entrance to the Derwent River where it remained for the rest of the year.
In London the full extent of the rebellion in New South Wales was realised by the colonial authorities, who then began moves to remove the New South Wales Corps and its officers. Brigadier-General Miles Nightingall was appointed Governor-elect and was given the 73rd Regiment under the command of colonel Lachlan Macquarie to back his authority. After years of corruption and bad leadership the New South Wales Corps would prove no match for Macquarie's disciplined force. Before the new team departed England Nightingall resigned because of ill health, prompting the government to place Macquarie in total control.
Two ships, HMS Dromedary and HMS Hindostan, sailed for Sydney Cove, arriving on 28 December. Word sent to HMS Porpoise in the Derwent River that Macquarie wanted Bligh reinstated as Governor for one day before he took over unfortunately was not received until January 1810, by which time Macquarie had moved ashore to take control.
On 1 January 1810 the new Governor of New South Wales, Colonel Lachlan Macquarie, backed by the full authority of the British Government and supported by the 73rd Regiment, was sworn in by Judge Advocate Ellis Bent. Thus began a period of relative stability for the tiny colony under the firm but benevolent Macquarie rule. The new governor found the colony in a state of collapse. Public confidence was non-existent, the financial system had been destroyed and the moral fibre of New South Wales had disintegrated. Macquarie's first move was to end the bitter disputes raging between the various factions in the colony. William Bligh returned to Sydney in mid-January and remained to gather evidence for the forthcoming court martial of Major George Johnston who had deposed him. Johnston's charges against Bligh were found to be groundless.
John Macarthur, foreseeing the actions Macquarie would take against those involved in the rebellion, had fled to Britain in late 1809. Macquarie had instructions to arrest the wool-grower if he found Macarthur had committed crimes against the government. In Britain Macarthur used his considerable influence to avoid detention, but he was unable to return to New South Wales for the next eight years. During this period of exile his wife Elizabeth controlled the Macarthur properties and maintained the breeding programme for the merino flocks. Although Macarthur is often given credit as the father of the Australian wool industry, it was the work of Elizabeth Macarthur during the 1810-1817 period which laid much of the groundwork.
In the relative calm which descended on the New South Wales colony after Macquarie's arrival the free settlers turned their attentions to more rewarding pursuits. The culmination of the merino breeding programme initiated by Riley, Marsden and Macarthur was the shipment of Australia's first commercial load of wool to Britain. That merino clip earned a price of 5/- per pound.
In the wake of the appointment of Lachlan Macquarie the colony settled down as the new leader sought to heal the wounds of the previous twenty years and start a new era of stability. Unfortunately his early efforts were not helped when British banking interests unexpectedly terminated lines of credit because of a crisis in the homeland - a scenario which was to be repeated often in the years to come.
A severe drought hit the infant colony, placing an enormous strain on its tiny agricultural industry. Pressure was brought to bear on Macquarie to mount an expedition to once more try to find a way across the Blue Mountains to what was believed would be fertile lands beyond. Macquarie commissioned three men - Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth - to attempt what so many others had failed to do. The trio and their team set out in May with a plan to avoid travelling up the Crose or Warrangamba Valleys, both of which ended in escarpments and had halted all previous exploration attempts. Instead the men adopted a policy of keeping to the ridges, eventually they made their way over the daunting barrier to gaze on the wide plains beyond. This achievement was doubtless one of the most notable events in Australian history, and certainly the most momentous since Flinders'[ circumnavigation of the continent.
Following the return to Sydney of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, Macquarie ordered George Evans to retrace their steps and go further west into the vast plains to investigate the possibility of establishing a settlement.
Like Arthur Phillip, Macquarie felt a responsibility towards the Aborigines who still lived around Sydney in significant numbers. Rather than adapt to the ways of the Aborigines Macquarie, like so many others before and since, tried to 'civilise' the uninhabited northern side of Port Jackson in the area now known as Mosman for the Aborigines to establish a farm along European lines. As could be expected the project, well-meant as it was, failed. The Aborigines were not an agriculturally minded race and had no real interest in formal farming methods.
The great navigator Matthew Flinders died in London on 19 July, the day after his book A Voyage To Terra Australis was published. Apart from the vital record this work left for future generations, it was also notable in that flinders suggested the name 'Australia' for the land mass he had circumnavigated between 1801 and 1803.
Following the recommendation of George Evans that a settlement be established on the western plains, a road was pushed through the Blue Mountains to what is today Bathurst. The pioneers who built homes and properties at Bathurst were a hardy breed forced to put up with conditions almost on a par with those which had confronted the first arrivals to the colony in 1788.
New settlement was also in vogue in Van Diemen's Land, where the first free settlers arrived to farm the rich agricultural land. The advent of this trend on the island colony went some way to blunting its notoriety as a harsh and cruel penal installation.
Macquarie's plans for the expansion of the New South Wales colony were further enhanced by moves to encourage the migration of wealthy settlers. The principal attraction to such people was the offer of free labour in the form of convicts to work the properties the well-heeled migrants would take up. For the six years of his incumbency governor Macquarie had been working to establish a better standard of construction in the Sydney Cove area. Until that time most structures were of a fairly rudimentary nature and were inclined to suffer from the slightest tests of nature. The real problem in creating quality buildings was the lack of suitable architectural talent to design them and supervise their construction. Francis Greenway, convicted of forgery in Bristol where he had run an architectural practice, had arrived in New South Wales in 1814 and was granted a Ticket of Leave the following year. Macquarie appointed him Civil Architect in 1816. Greenway was the driving force behind the construction of many of the enduring buildings we have today to remind the people of Australia of the Macquarie era.
Lachlan Macquarie's attempts to stabilise the currency of New South Wales reached a vital point in 1817 when he paved the way for the establishment of the Bank of New South Wales by a group of colonial merchants. In recent years the name of the Bank of New South Wales was changed to Westpac in one of the worst examples of corporate vandalism in Australia's history.
The New South Wales Surveyor-General, John Oxley, was despatched west of the Mountains to explore the country around what was called the Lachlan River. At one point his way was blocked by swampland which forced him to turn back, robbing him of the honour of discovering the Murrumbidgee River.
Macquarie was essentially a man who believed in allowing the people under his command some semblance of dignity and an opportunity to rehabilitate. In this view he was regularly challenged by free settlers who believed that convicted were the scum of the earth and deserved to be treated that way. Being a strong-minded individual, Macquarie was able to ignore these accusations until the settlers began to make their feelings known in London. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst, reacted by censuring the Governor - a criticism Macquarie did not accept meekly - and the war of words between London and Sydney was to continue for several more years.
Exploration was once more the talk of the colony when John Oxley, the Surveyor-General, departed on a long series of expeditions which took him again to the western plains to explore the Macquarie River. He discovered the Warrumbungle Mountains and the Liverpool Plains before heading east to the Great Divide. He passed this obstruction to the north of the Hunter Valley and reached the coast at a point now known as Port Macquarie.
With Francis Greenway as his Civil Architect, Macquarie embarked on an ambitious programme of construction. Some of the most notable works completed in the following years include the Macquarie Lighthouse on South head, the Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church. During this time Sydney was transformed from a virtual shanty town to, if not a respectable city, then at least a town of some substance.
During the period 1817-19 relations between Macquarie and Earl Bathurst deteriorated rapidly. The complaints from free settlers in New South Wales regarding Macquarie's treatment of convicts became a veritable flood. Bathurst sent J T Bigge to Sydney to report on what was really taking place. Almost immediately the strong-minded and visionary Macquarie was at odds with the petty, bureaucratic Bigge who criticised him for indulging in a huge public works scheme that was at odds with the primary purpose of New South Wales - a penal colony. Unable to have any impact on Macquarie, Bigge sought to undermine him by associating with the Governor's enemies, most of whom had been behind the campaign of complaints to the Secretary of State.
The year 1820 marked a major expansion westward of the grazing areas of the New South Wales colony. Previously pastoral activities west of the Blue Mountains had been severely restricted, but all this changed with the opening up of the western plains and the south-western areas around what is now Goulburn. The New South Wales dairying industry was founded with farms established in the Illawarra district to the south of Sydney.
After eleven years of progress, the like of which New South Wales had not seen before, the reign of Governor Lachlan Macquarie came to an end in 1821. Macquarie's relatively humane treatment of the convicts under his control, his concentration on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and his desire to create something more than just a penal settlement out of the colony had earned him as many enemies as friends. 'Regrettably the enemies were people in high places.
Their complaints and the reports of J T Bigge, who had arrived in Sydney in 1819, all combined to put immense pressure on the governor. He had never really recovered from a critical illness in 1819 and Earl Bathurst granted his request for retirement in 1821. His departure from Sydney on HMS Surry was a moment of immense sadness for the population. Macquarie had taken the colony from a squalid collection of makeshift dwellings to a small town of some substance; he had stabilised the colony, and had all but destroyed the rum trade and broken the power of the New South Wales Corps. Without doubt no governor before or since has done so much to advance the cause of Australia.
One of Macquarie's final acts was the authorisation for the establishment of a penal settlement at Port Macquarie at the mouth of the Hastings River, the area discovered by John Oxley in 1818. Port Macquarie was specifically designed to house those convicts who had been found guilty of crimes committed in New South Wales rather than in Britain. Another settlement for convicts - this time for those of an intractable nature - was established at Macquarie Harbour on the western coastline of Van Diemen's Land. The convicts worked on timber-cutting and ship construction activities. Macquarie's replacement was Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, a fanatical astronomer who, whilst a reasonably effective administrator, tended to take a less practical view than the down-to-earth Macquarie.
Phillip King, son of the former Governor, was assigned to continue the exploration work previously undertaken by Matthew Flinders. He headed north from Sydney and achieved a great deal in surveying the inner areas of the Barrier Reef waters as well as charting much of the northern and western coasts of the continent.
Sir Thomas Brisbane, the new Governor, attempted to strengthen the currency reforms introduced by Macquarie by making Spanish dollars the standard medium of exchange in New South Wales. Apart from rum, which had been used until the arrival of Macquarie, various currencies from all over Europe had been accepted for payment of debts. The development of the colony, already proceeding at a solid pace, was further aided by the establishment in London of the Australian Company, which sold land in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land to Scots who wished to migrate. Industrial relations once more became a sore point in 1822 when a group of shepherds employed to tend the growing flocks of sheep providing wool to the British mills struck in support of higher wages. The reaction of the courts was swift and brutal; the organiser of the strike, one James Straiter, received 500 lashes and was imprisoned in solitary confinement for one month.
In 1823 the colony of New South Wales began the long and tortuous road to self-government with the authorisation by London of the establishment of a legislative Council of upright and solid citizens. All Council members were appointed by the governor, who held a power of veto over their decisions. There was no vote by the populace for the Council members. Continent. John Oxley, the New South Wales Surveyor-General, having sailed north from Port Jackson searching out sites for another penal settlement, landed on an island in Morton Bay (named by James Cook in 1770). Here he met up with three escaped convicts who told him they suspected the existence of a major river which emptied into the bay. Oxley found the watercourse and proceeded upstream. He returned to Sydney cove full of enthusiasm for the new site.
Governor Brisbane accepted John Oxley's suggestion that the land around Morton Bay be turned into a penal settlement for difficult and intractable convicts; in September Oxley and a number of soldiers went ashore at a point the Surveyor-General named Redcliffe. This first settlement proved badly sited and after three months the decision was made to move up the river Oxley had discovered, to a site which is now the centre of the city of Brisbane. Initially the settlement was known simply as Morton Bay, but the New South Wales Chief Justice recommended it be called Edinglassie - a proposal rejected in favour of Brisbane, which would curry far greater favour with the Governor.
The newspaper established during governor King's term had served the colony reasonably well but, because it could not report on political matters, it lacked appeal to the free settlers who were coming to expect a less censored press in their adopted home. In 1824 William Charles Wentworth (one of the trio who had found the path across the Blue Mountains) joined with Robert Wardell to launch The Australian. The new privately owned journal went some way towards providing a more enlightened view of events in New South Wales. In an attempt to stimulate land development in New South Wales the British government allowed the establishment of the Australian Agricultural Company, which would hold exclusive rights to all land located between Port Stephens, north of the Hunter River settlement, and the Manning River. The company then began promoting the land to prospective immigrants in Britain. Hamilton Hume, an explorer of some note, was commissioned by Governor Brisbane to head an overland expedition to Port Phillip Bay. although settlement had extended a considerable distance to the south-west of Sydney, no one had so far attempted to make a journey through to Bass Strait. Hume teamed up with William Hovell - a mistake, as the pair proved ill-matched in temperament. They discovered the Australian Alps and a major river which they named the Hume, then pushed on southwards until they reached what they believed to be Westernport Bay. In fact it was Corio Bay.
Relations between Aborigines and settlers around Bathurst on the western plains deteriorated in 1824 to the point where a battle between the parties resulted in the deaths of seven whites. Brisbane declared martial law in the region until the situation calmed.
Governor Brisbane's problems in running the colony of New South Wales reached a peak in 1825 when Secretary of State for the colonies Lord Bathu7rst recalled him and his scheming colonial Secretary, Frederick Goulburn. Brisbane's replacement was Major-General Ralph Darling, who had previously been in command of the British garrison at Mauritius. Darling, being a military man, was given to an autocratic exercise of his powers. Almost immediately he found himself offside with that old adversary of numerous other Governors, John Macarthur. He was also criticised by reformers such as William Charles Wentworth who was particularly fighting for greater freedom for his newspaper The Australian.
Once again the old bogy of French colonial ambitions came to the fore, resulting in the despatch of Major Edmund Lockyer to the western part of the continent to establish a military base at King George Sound. Lockyer named the settlement Frederick Town for the Duke of York and Albany. The status of a separate colony was bestowed on Van Diemen's Land in 1825 by a royal Proclamation which also decreed that a Legislative Council be formed. George Arthur was elevated from the rank of Lieutenant-Governor to full governorship of the new colony.
Bushranging came to the fore when a group of convicts who had escaped from the Macqwuarie Harbour penal settlement in Van Diemen's Land in 1824 went on a rampage around Launceston. Although most were recaptured, the leader Matthew Brady remained at large until 1826 when he was caught by John Batman and later sentenced to death for his exploits. Like the settlement at King George Sound on the western side of the continent, the establishment of a presence at Westernport on the south-eastern coast was prompted by the perceived ambitions of the French. The Westernport location was abandoned two years later.
Governor Darling, alarmed at the rapid and relatively uncontrolled spread of settlement well into the western areas of the colony, published a 'Limits of Settlement' notice by which he hoped to bring the expansion under control. Under the terms of the notice any person who settled outside the limits was given no guarantee of protection by the police and was, in effect, a nonentity.
Captain Patrick Logan was assigned to command the Morton Bay penal settlement on the banks of the Brisbane river, beginning one of the most notorious periods in the history of transportation of convicts. To say the least Logan was a disciplinarian; actually his reign was a period of outright cruelty which made Morton Bay a place to be feared by all convicts.
Governor Darling's disagreements with William Charles Wentworth in the matter of freedom of the press of the colony came to a head. Darling went to the length of placing a tax of 4d per copy on newspapers - a huge amount, as the most a newspaper sold for at that time was 1d. The outrage of the population was made clear to the governor and he rescinded the order. Botanist-explorer Allan Cunningham set out from Sydney to explore the country between that town and Morton Bay. He discovered the lush grasslands to the west of the Brisbane River which he named Darling Downs in honour of the governor. Cunningham then found a route from the Downs east to Morton Bay, through what is now known as Cunningham's Gap.
Captain James Stirling, another explorer, was at work in the west. After finding the shallow and almost impassable mouth of a river which he named the Swan, he set out for the north where he established Fort Wellington at Raffles Bay in what is now the Northern Territory. Fort Wellington replaced a less-than-successful settlement on Melville Island just off the coast. At Morton Bay Captain Patrick Logan expanded his domain when he established two new locations for convicts. The first was situated further west along a tributary of the Brisbane River at a place initially named Limestone but later called Ipswich; the second was on Stradbroke Island, one of two large islands which guard the mouth of the Brisbane River from the open sea.
The movement for greater autonomy of government for New South Wales, which was under the direct control of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, scored another victory when the Legislative Council won the right to override legislation and directives brought down by the Governor. It was a major step forward, but the Council still lacked the legitimacy of being elected by the populace.
Charles Sturt, Military Secretary to Governor Darling, set out on an expedition to the west of New South Wales where he explored the Bogan, Castlereagh and Macquarie Rivers. He also earned a place in t6he history books for his discovery and naming of the Darling River.
The Sturt expedition then followed the course of the Murray River to the point where it empties into Lake Alexandrina. The ship which Sturt expected to meet his party at this point did not arrive, necessitating a long and difficult journey back up the Murray.
1830 is remembered as one of the most distasteful years in Australian history. In Van Diemen's Land the Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel George Arthur, angry at the continuing conflict between Aborigines and the white settlers, ordered a 'Black Line' to be formed in an attempt to round up all the island's blacks and corral them on the Tasman Peninsula. The theory was that once gathered in one place the Aborigines could be 'protected' and the whites allowed to get on with the settlement of the land. although the 'Black Line' was judged a failure, it was responsible for widespread dislocation of the black community of Van Diemen's Land and the beginning of the end for the island's tribes.
Also in Van Diemen's Land yet another penal settlement was established, the one with the name of Port Arthur, named for the Lieutenant governor. it was to gain a reputation as an evil and unpleasant prison. While Port Arthur was being established the settlement at Port Macquarie, north of Sydney, was being terminated, at least as a place to send convicts. Following the departure of the felons free settlers moved into the area around the Hastings River.
The departure of Governor Darling and the appointment of Major-General Richard Bourke in his place marked the dawning of an era of major change for the colony of New South Wales. Bourke was a rarity in colonial governors - a liberal-minded individual who supported the principle of self-government for the colony and was instrumental in bringing it about. He also ensured full civil rights were granted to all free citizens of New South Wales, ending the divisiveness of Darling's term of office.
Major Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, began a programme of systematic exploration of the colony of New South Wales. He considered that exploration was his exclusive right, and had been gravely offended by the exploits of Charles Sturt. He was determined no further glory would accrue to his rival. In April a weekly newspaper, the Sydney Herald, began publication. it was the commencement of a long and illustrious career for a journal which is still in existence today as The Sydney Morning Herald.
The efforts of Governor Bourke and the government in Britain began to bear fruit as migration began on a hitherto unprecedented scale. The London Emigration Committee co-ordinated the departure of thousands of Britons for new homes in the colonies
With the passage of the Sydney Police Act the course of law and order took a positive turn. In essence, the Act established a police force in New South Wales and introduced police courts to deal with a wide variety of offences mostly related to breaches of the peace.
The principles of systematic land settlement advocated by Edward Gibbon Wakefield during his term as a prisoner in Newgate Goal in London were given a degree of legitimacy with the passage of The South Australian Colonisation Act. Under that Act land was sold in the region known as South Australia, around St vincent6s Gulf, for 12/- per acre. As expounded in the Wakefield scheme, the revenue gained from these sales was used to assist the immigration of people unable to afford the fare to the colonies.
Land around the coast of southern New South Wales had been somewhat neglected over the years, but during the 1830s there was a concerted movement to settle various regions. One of the first was the area known as Portland Bay. Edward Henty moved there from Launceston in Van Diemen's Land, established a sheep station and explored further inland.
Settlement of what would become known as Victoria, begun tentatively in 1834, gained momentum in 1835. Encouraged by the success of Edward Henty in the Portland Bay region, John Batman, who owned a property near Launceston in Van Diemen's Land, formed the Port Phillip Association with several other residents of the island. Their intention was to explore and acquire land for farming in the Port Phillip Bay region.
In May Batman sailed up the Yarra River, looking at the possibilities of the region for settlement. He sought out members of the Dutigalla tribe of Aborigines who lived in the region and concluded a treaty with them: the Dutigallas received an assortment of goods and a promise of a yearly rental payment in return for 250,000 hectares of land. The government moved quickly to disallow the treaty. Although Batman had been first on the scene he was in fact beaten to the first settlement by John Fawkner, who established a general store and an inn during 1835.
By the time the Governor formally declared the area around Port Phillip Bay should be opened up for settlement a large number of people, mostly from Van Diemen's Land, had already set up properties there. New South Wales Surveyor-General Major Thomas Mitchell continued his extensive explorations in western New South Wales by following the course of the Lachlan River south. He then travelled west to the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers, crossed the Murray and headed south, discovering a region of fertile grasslands he named Australia Felix.
South Australia began officially with the arrival in the new colony of a number of ships carrying migrants. A province of Britain, it was placed under the governorship of Captain John Hidmarsh. The most significant difference between South Australia and the rest of the colonies that made up Australia was that it was founded on a base of free settlement with no convicts ever having been transported there. In the matter of transportation of convicts agitation to halt the practice became so strong in Britain that the government was forced to direct the colonial Office to begin plans for its cessation. somewhat vague in its wording, the directive left the colonial Office free to pursue a slow reduction in convict departures.
In 1837 the first Chinese labourers arrived in Australia, setting the scene for some of the most shameful acts in Australian history as Anglo-Saxon prejudice and fear of the hard-working orientals drove the whites to unprecedented acts of racial savagery. Development of the Port Phillip Bay region continued apace with the offer for sale of crown land. Governor Bourke had visited the settlement and decreed that a town called Melbourne be laid out. Another settlement, named Williamstown, was established at the mouth of the Yarra River. A highlight of the year for the area was the arrival of a flock of over 9000 sheep which had been driven overland from New South Wales.
Caroline Chisholm arrived and began a programme of assisting women immigrants to find work and easing the plight of women in Sydney without work. She arranged the passage of women to country regions where the need for their labour was critical. Also on the immigration front, the first Germans to arrive in Australia settled in South Australia with the help of George Angas, head of of one of the most illustrious pioneering families of the colony. The Germans established towns in the Barossa Valley and laid the groundwork for the wine industry for which the region is famous today.
Exploration of the colonies continued. Angus McMillan set out from Melbourne in the Port Philli district and headed east. He discovered a richly fertile region which he named Caledonia Australis for his homeland of Scotland. Another momentous discovery was that of Paul Strzelecki who, without companions, climbed the highest peak in the Australian Alps which had been discovered by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell. Strzelecki named the mountain after a fellow Pole - the leader of the democratic movement in Poland, Tadeusz Kosciusko.
In South Australia the urge to investigate the country to the south of the settled area on the edge of St Vincents Gulf was strong. Edward Eyre, searching for new grazing lands, forged north as far as what is now known as Lake Torrens. On a second expedition he journeyed north from the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula to the head of Spencer's gulf. Canada's problems were brought to Australia in 1839 when a group of 150 political prisoners who had been fighting for the French-Canadian cause were shipped to Sydney for internment. They were kept in a separate gaol in the area now known as Canada Bay.
A momentous year for New South Wales the British government finally moved to end transportation of convicts to Sydney Cove. The news for Van Diemen's Land and the Port Phillip district was not so good, as transportation was to continue there for the foreseeable future. Greeted with mixed feelings in Sydney, many people hailed the decision as a major step forward in the development of a free society for the colony while the rest looked upon it as the termination of a marvellous source of free or inexpensive labour. But though the transportation had ended, it would take many years for the numbers of convicts already in New South Wales to work out their sentences.
The Polish explorer who had scaled the heights of the Australian Alps, Paul Strzelecki, followed in the footsteps of Angus McMillan and explored the region McMillan had named Caledonia Australis. Strzelecki more politically minded, gave the area the name of Gippsland after the New South Wales governor, a title which caught on.
Edward Eyre, the South Australian explorer, once more headed north to investigate the region east of Lake Torrens. Defeated by the inhospitable land he opted for an east-west journey across the Nullabor Plain to King George Sound. After his overseer, John Baxter, was murdered by two Aborigines in his party, Eyre continued westward until he chanced on a whaling boat at Esperance. With additional supplies courtesy of the whalers Eyre completed his journey, arriving at King George Sound in 1841.
Settlement of the region to the west of Morton Bay was begun by the Leslie Brothers who established a property on the Darling Downs, discovered by Allan Cunningham on his expedition from Sydney.
In an attempt to gain security from strength the United Tradesmen of Sydney banded together to form a supreme labour council. The union movement continued to be officially ostracised in Britain and in New South Wales. An Australian dynasty had its beginnings in 1841 when John Fairfax and Charles Kemp formed a partnership to purchase the Sydney Herald: the following year the newspaper was renamed The Sydney Morning Herald, a name which remains to this day. Members of the Fairfax family retain substantial shareholdings in the company founded by John Fairfax, and a Fairfax is chairman of the board of directors.
In London the Imperial Parliament bowed to pressure from the colony of New South Wales for some form of self-government, and in 1842 the Constitution Act was passed giving the colony an elected government. The new Legislative council comprised thirty-six members - twenty-four were elected under a limited franchise while the balance were appointees of the governor. The catch was that the franchise was extended only to landowners and, because there was no remuneration for members, only the wealthy could afford to stand for election. This development did nothing to end the autocratic powers of the governors, who were in continual conflict with the Legislative Council.
The shaky legal framework of the Colonisation Act, under which the province of South Australia had been established in 1834, was ended when a new Act gave total control to the colonial Office. South Australia became a fully-fledged colony on the same basis as New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.
Morton Bay, which had become Moreton Bay following a misspelling in an official document, became available for free settlement instead of existing purely for penal purposes. Further north along the coastline the area around Wide Bay was also thrown open to free settlers.
At the settlement of Hindmarsh in South Australia, wheat farmer John Ridley developed a stripper-harvester that revolutionised the harvesting of the grain crop in Australia and the rest of the world. Ridley's efforts were a result of a shortage of manpower in the South Australian colony. His stripper-harvester could work through a harvest easily with only a very few labourers needed.
Exploration dominated 1844 with two intrepid expeditions setting out to investigate some of the harshest areas of the continent. Charles Sturt departed Adelaide and followed the Murray then the Darling Rivers until he reached Laidley's Ponds where Menindee stands today. From there he headed north-west through the Barrier Ranges until the expedition came to a halt in early 1845 near the present day site of Milparinka.
Ludwig Leichhardt had come to Australia from his native Prussia two years before he made his incredible expedition through north-eastern Australia. The journey began at Jimbour station on the Darling Downs west of Moreton Bay and moved north through what is now Queensland. At the southern end of Cape York they turned west and headed around the gulf of Carpentaria, then north-west to the settlement at Port Essington in the far north of the continent.
The Sturt expedition remained at the waterhole near Milparinka for six months, unable to move because of the incredible drought conditions. When rain finally fell Sturt sent the majority of his party back to Adelaide while a small band headed north-west. They crossed Strzelecki Creek, Cooper Creek and the Diamantina River before coming on what was to be known as Sturts Stony Desert. Forced back by a shortage of supplies they returned to the depot.
Resupplied, the Sturt expedition set out in a north-westerly direction again, but after attempting a crossing of the Stony Desert he turned back once more. Finally, as the year neared its end, the expedition made its way back south, meeting up with several of the original explorers whom Sturt had sent back to Adelaide. Desperately ill with scurvy, Sturt returned slowly to Adelaide and arrived there in early 1846.
While Sturt had been so unfairly cheated, the Leichhardt expedition did reach the destination during 1845. Its arrival at Port Essington was a complete surprise to the military authorities there. Travelling back to Sydney by ship, the city was equally surprised at the explorers' return and they were greeted as conquering heroes.
A highlight of 1946 was the establishment of several newspapers. In Melbourne The Melbourne Argus made its first appearance, while in Brisbane - as the Moreton Bay settlement had become known - The Moreton Bay Courier was issued. The issue of transportation remained a thorny one in Port Phillip and in Van Diemen's Land as the free settlers in Van Diemen's Land became increasingly vocal in their calls for an end to the shipment of convicts to their colony, or at least for a gradual reduction in the numbers.
Ludwig Leichahardt, flushed with success from his expedition across northern and eastern Australia, decided to attempt a crossing from east to west through the centre of the continent. The expedition, like the first, departed from the Darling Downs, but was forced to turn back after having covered 800 kilometres.
Greater autonomy of government for the colonies of Australia received a considerable boost in 1847 when the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Grey, declared he was in favour of some form of centralised government to bind together New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, South Australia and New Zealand. This decision marks the point at which the push for Federation in Australia really began, although it was at least another thirty years before the movement gained sufficient momentum to be taken seriously in London.
The name of Ludwig Leichhardt came to the fore once again when he formed an expedition to attempt the crossing Australia he had been forced to abort in 1846. Departing from the Darling Downs in April, the party was never heard of again. To this day no trace has been found of the Leichhardt expedition.
One month after the Leichhardt, departure another major expedition left Rockingham Bay in the north-eastern section of the continent to attempt an overland trek to Cape York. led by Edward Kennedy, the party reached Weymouth Bay in the far north where most of the explorers remained because of shortage of supplies. At Shelburne Bay, further north, it was decided that only Kennedy and the Aborigine Jacky Jacky would make the final leg of the journey to Cape York. Both were attacked by blacks not for short of their destination - Kennedy was killed, while Jacky Jacky was wounded by able to make the distance to where the boat was waiting.
One of the nation's most venerable institutions was born in 1848 when a group of Sydney citizens met in a room over a shop in George Street, near the site of Wynyard Station. They agreed to form an insurance group that became known as the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Residents of the Port Phillip district were granted the end of transportation in 1848, clearing the way for the growth of the settlement as a free society. The stream of convicts was replaced with a flow of refugees, particularly former citizens of Germany and Hungary who were fleeing political turmoil in their country.
Governor-General of the Australian possessions, Sir Charles Fitz Roy, realised at the end of the 1840s that the gradual drop in the numbers of convicts in New South Wales meant the reasons for suppressing information about gold discoveries had disappeared. Governor Gipps had refused to allow any mention of finds of gold in the colony to be published for fear of the effect it would have on the population. After a particularly poor season for wool, Fitz Roy asked the government in London to supply a geologist who could investigate the mineral worth of New South Wales. The first discovery of gold made public came in this year, at Glenmona, a sheep station north-west of Melbourne.
The development of the Australian States as they exist today took a significant step in 1850 with the passage through the Imperial Parliament in London of the Victoria Separation Act. Melbourne had grown into a substantial town and the rural areas of the new colony were proving particularly good for wheat - and wool-grown. Governor Charles La Trobe was appointed to the colony, while a Legislative Council along the same lines as that in New South Wales was established. This now meant that the Australian continent was divided up into the major colony of New South Wales, plus Victoria and South Australia. The island of Van Dieman's Land was the other colony. Across the other side of the continent the situation was not as rosy. For the first time convicts were being sent to the settlements on the Swan River.
In 1851 the entire face of a Australia began a rapid change while the economy of the colonies was to be forever altered. Edward Hargraves returned from California to try his hand at searching for gold in New South Wales. He met with success at Summer Hill Creek, at a site that later became known as the Ophir Mine. Three months later John Lister, William Tom and James Tom returned to the site and began a more intensive mining. Once the news of their finds was made public, there was a mass exodus from Sydney and Melbourne as would be prospectors made for Summer Hill Creek.
New South Wales authorities were elated at the discoveries of gold, but the Victorians became worried about the rapid decline of manpower in their colony. To solve the problem a special committee was formed, and a converted campaign to find gold in that colony was arranged with the offer of a reward of 200 pounds. The search for Victorian gold met with spectacular success the same year when a rich find was made in the Buninyong Ranges near Ballarat. Victoria soon overtook New South Wales as the source of much of the gold being mined on the continent.
While the colonies caught gold fever the old debate for and against transportation of convicts raged on. although the shipping of convicts to the antipodes had ceased in Sydney and Port Phillip, it continued in Van Diemen's Land and in the west. The Australasian Anti-Transportation League came into being to give a combined strength to the voices raised in protest at the continuing practice.
When the Gold-fields Management Act was passed in 1852 it set the scene for one of the most bitter confrontations in the history of the colonies. It decreed that all goldminers should pay a licence fee for the right to search for gold - a requirement bitterly resented by the miners, who persistently refused to take out licenses. This led to bitter feuds between the miners and the police who were sent on to the gold-fields to endorse the government's policy. Another government decision in 1852 bestowed on Australia the grossly disjointed railway system it enjoys today. Although the British Government had opted for a standard-gauge railway system of 4'8.1/2", the engineer employed by the company building the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta, an Irishman, decided that the colonies should have the 'Irish' gauge of 5'3". Victoria and South Australia concurred and went ahead with planning their own railway systems. When the Sydney engineer resigned his post he was replaced by an Englishman, who decided to change to the standard gauge. By the time this decision was made both Victoria and South Australia were too far advanced to alter their track gauge.
Expansion of the gold mining industry in New South Wales and Victoria was rapid - so rapid, in fact, that by 1853 exports of gold were accruing more revenue than exports of wool. Opposition to the licence system continued and there were a number of minor clashes with police. The anti-transportationists scored a major victory when it was announced that shipping convicts to Van Diemen's Land would cease: the last ship carrying convicts arrived Hobart in May. Squatters, those settlers who had established large sheep runs in the isolated areas of the colonies, came under intense scrutiny in 1853. Vast tracts of land controlled by these people were blocking settlement of the regions by persons of lesser means. The Melbourne newspaper The Argus started a campaign for the breaking-up of the large landholdings by legislation or by the application of punitive land taxes.
Problems encountered in getting wool from the stations in the far west of New South Wales to the coast were partly solved by the introduction of the flat-bottomed river boats which plied the Murray-Darling River System, collecting the wool bales at wharves along the way and carrying them south-west in South Australia. The loss of the port trade for Sydney that this brought about was a major incentive for the development of the New South Wales railway system in later years.
One of Australia's more famous transport organisations began life in 1854 when Freeman Cobb, John Peck, John Lamber and James Swanton formed the American Telegraph Coach Line. The company's first service was from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), but this was soon put out of business by the railway. Using coaches imported from the United States, the partners then began services along the rough bush tracks connecting Melbourne with the gold-fields. Although it had been expected that Sydney would be the first city to enjoy the pleasures of railway travel, that honour in fact, fell to Melbourne where a line constructed between Melbourne and Sandridge by The Melbourne and Hobsons Bay Railway company opened for business on 12 September. Because of the late arrival of the rolling stock from Britain the first train was hauled by an Australian-built locomotive.
Another first enjoyed by the colony of Victoria in this year was the establishment of Australia's first telegraph line, which ran from Melbourne to Williamstown at the mouth of the Yarra River. Over-enthusiastic enforcement by police of the miners' licence system, at the direction of Governor Hotham, brought tensions between miners and police to an all-time high. The event which brought matters to a head was the arrest and subsequent acquittal in the face of almost overwhelming evidence of James Bentley, owner of the Eureka Hotel at Ballarat, for the murder of James Scobie, a miner. Incensed, the miners began moves to have the decision of the court overturned; in the meantime the Eureka Hotel was burned down by angry diggers. They went to Governor Hotham with a list of demands including universal suffrage, which would have given them a voice in the Legislative Council, and the end of the licensing system. Hotham was less than co-operative and did nothing to calm the situation when he despatched troops to the Ballarat gold-fields in case of riots. After burning their licenses the enraged miners constructed a stockade in defiance of the police, at which point the government judged the actions of the Eureka miners to be treasonous and sent in the troops. In the resultant minor skirmish six soldiers and more than twenty miners were killed. Twelve of those brought to trial on charges of high treason were acquitted, while for a thirteenth miner the action was allowed to lapse.
A major change in the system of government for New South Wales occurred when the Imperial Parliament gave its approval to the establishment of two House of Parliament in the colony. The upper house, or Legislative Council, consisted of members appointed for life and was envisaged to operate as a house of review for legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly, a wholly elected body. It was through this lower house that the principal business of the colony was expected to be conducted.
The Sydney Railway company's continued financial difficulties became so drastic that the New South Wales Government was forced to step in and take control, becoming the first government in the world to operate a railway. Construction of the first track from Redfern to Parramatta was sustained by the government. Once again the great Australian hysteria about invasion from the north surfaced when the numbers of Chinese were attracted by the possibility of discovering gold. Greatly resented by the Anglo-Saxon population, various punitive campaigns were undertaken by groups of miners. Although the Victorian Government sought to restrict the numbers of Chinese arriving in the colony, the immigrants simply landed in one of the other colonies and travelled overland to the gold-fields. Augustus Gregory began an expedition from Sydney in the path of the ill-fated trek of Ludwig Leichhardt. Gregory's travels took him through central Queensland, to the Victoria River in what is now the Northern Territory.
The population of Van Diemen's Land presented a petition to Queen Victoria asking that the name of their colony be changed to Tasmania in honour of the navigator Abel Tasman. The British Government acquiesced, granting the name change the same year. Following the establishment of the Parliament of New South Wales in 1855, general elections brought in a conservative government under the Premiership of Stuart Donaldson which lasted five months. After that a government of 'liberals' was in power for four weeks, then the conservatives returned in September with a new leader, Henry Parkes. In Victoria the cause of electoral freedom was enhanced in 1856 when it became the first of the Australian colonies to introduce the secret ballot at elections.
The development of South Australia, the only colony to have escaped the stigma of being a penal settlement, was enhanced when the Imperial Parliament granted it responsible government. Its new Parliament was similar to those of New South Wales and Victoria with an upper Legislative Council and a lower Legislative Assembly.
Following in the wake of electoral reforms which had taken place in South Australia and Victoria, the New South Wales Parliament passed a Bill granting manhood suffrage along with a secret ballot. For the first time men other than those who held property in the colony could stand as candidates; the other major facet of the reforms was the introduction of the concept of electorates based on population, setting the scene for the gradual introduction of the one-person-one-vote system. Again in South Australia, Robert Torrens introduced a revolutionary new form of land ownership made official by the Real Property Act. Torrens - son of Colonel Robert Torrens, a pioneer settler in South Australia - brought in the Torrens title, which greatly reduced the problems associated with the proof of ownership of land and made infinitely easier the transfer of ownership.
A find of gold in the north of New South Wales at a place called Cannoona led to a short-lived gold rush. Benefit did accrue from the Canoona rush - the establishment of a town named Rockahmpton the banks of the Fitzroy River. Ballarat reinforced its position as the premier gold-mining centre in the colonies following the discovery of the 'Welcome Nugget', which weighed in at almost 70 kilograms.
The largest colony so far declared on the Australian continent came into being when an Act of the Imperial Parliament authorised the establishment of Queensland. Smaller than those of the other four colonies, the Queensland Parliament had an eleven-member upper house and a twenty-six member-lower house. Sir George Bowen was appointed as the first Governor of the colony of Queensland.
Exploration of Australia's interior once more entered the news in 1860 with the mounting of two important expeditions. First was that of John Mcdougall Stuart, who planned a crossing from the south to the north. He set out from Adelaide in March, but by June - three-quarters of the way to the northern coastline - he was forced back by the barren country and the attacks of hostile Aborigines. During the journey he climbed and named Central Mount Sturt in honour of the earlier explorer. The original name was later altered to Central Mount Stuart. Probably Australia's most famous, the other major expedition was the ill-considered and ill-fated Burke and Wills epic. Led by Robert Burke with William Wills as his lieutenant, it was a major event in Melbourne and many of the city's prominent citizens contributed funds. The caravan, which included twenty-five specially imported camels, departed Melbourne on 20 August with a huge public send-off. They forged north and reached the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in early 1881, having left a depot of men and supplies at Cooper Creek.
Attitudes of Australia's colonial governments had changed little since the attempts made by Captain Arthur Phillip to 'civilise' the Aborigine population, and 'benevolent protection' of the tribes prevailed. This was little more than a way of removing Aborigines from their traditional lands and placing them in reserves where they became wholly dependent on the white man's benevolence. Aborigines who rejected this 'Christian charity' were subdued and forced into the reserved which were first established in 1860 by the Victorian Government's Aborigine Protection Board.
The saga of the Burke and wills expedition dragged on into 1861 when the party, having reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, headed south once more. Enormous privations were faced by Burke and Wills on the return journey, and by terribly bad luck, they reached the Cooper Creek depot just seven hours after it had been abandoned: provisions and a letter had been buried in the ground. Burke decided that, rather than attempt to overtake the depot party, they would head south for Mount Hopeless. They left a letter in the pit where the provisions had been, but omitted to leave any sign of their presence. In their trek to Mount Hopeless both Burke and Wills perished; their colleague King survived by living with an Aboriginal tribe until his rescue.
When the original depot team later returned to the Cooper Creek site they thought the site had not been reached by Burke and wills, and returned to Melbourne where a rescue expedition was mounted. The rescuers discovered King, who led them to the bodies of the two leaders of the original expedition. Both men were given public funerals in Melbourne and were hailed as heroes who had been defeated by the severity of the interior. John McDouall Stuart, though he had been defeated by the same harsh conditions as those which ended the lives of Burke and wills, decided on another attempt to cross the continent from south to north. His new expedition set out in 1861 and this time was successful in reaching the northern coastline. Unlike burke and wills, it was also successful in returning to the point of departure.
The hostility shown towards the Chinese broke into virtual open warfare in 1861 on the Burrangong gold-fields close to the site of the town of Young. Miners angry at the presence of Chinese on the field launched several attacks which resulted in some injuries. A lack of effective police or military control encouraged the rioters, and on 30 June over 3,000 miners, agitated by wild rumours of hordes of Chinese marching on Burrangong, attacked the Chinese cam at Lambing Flat. Eventually sufficient troops arrived to quell the riots and several miners were arrested, but the subsequent assault on the police compound resulted in a miner losing his life. Those arrested for the attacks on the Chinese went free when the all-white juries declined to bring in a guilty verdict.
Although some attempts to grow sugar cane in the Port Macquarie district had failed, it was not until 1862, when John Buhot grew it in the Botanical Gardens in Brisbane, that it was considered a likely prospect for Queensland. Buhot joined with Captain Louis Hope, who established a cane plantation at Ormiston just east of Brisbane. Hope's enterprise was the beginning of the massive Queensland sugar cane industry.
Once Louis Hope had proved sugar cane could be grown economically in Queensland a number of planters established estates up and down the colony's coastline. Conventional wisdom had it that white men could not work in the incredible heat and humidity of cane-growing country, so a number of planters devised a scheme similar to that on which the West Indian cane trade had been built. With the support of Governor George Bowen, the planters organised the 'recruitment' of labourers from the various islands of the South Pacific. Officially indentured labourers, in reality the 'kanakas' were slaves. Recruitment of the workers followed different patterns; some ship captains were honest in the way they offered work to the islanders, whereas many others simply kidnapped the strongest men and brought them to Queensland. Fortunately the kanaka trade was restricted to Queensland, but it remains a blot on the history of Australia - an era when slave-trading became the norm.
Captain Louis Hope's sugar plantation at Ormiston near Brisbane yielded its first crop in 1864. He constructed a sugar-milling plant which went into operation the same year, and his pioneering efforts gained him official recognition as the founder of the sugar industry in Australia.
Bushranging in the remote areas of the colonies had become big business by the 1860s, with numerous 'personalities' who had made names for themselves through their exploits. Despite the folk-hero image cultivated by many of the bushrangers, they were tracked constantly by the police. In 1865 the notorious Ben Hall, who had been responsible for numerous hold-us and robberies, was shot by police on the Lachlan Plains in western New South Wales. On the agricultural scene the growth of the sugar cane industry in northern Queensland promoted the settlement of the Cleveland Bay - Ross Creek area, which had been used as a port since 1863. The new site was named Townsville after the merchant and kanaka-trader Robert Towns, who had lobbied the Queensland Government for its development.
Another major Australian achievement was the invention of the wool press, which compressed wool into bales. This allowed far greater quantities of wool to be transported to the selling centres and enabled much more economical shipping of the raw wool to Britain and other markets.
Queensland's sugar industry grew rapidly and was set to become the colony's largest, developing on the back of black slave labour brought in from the South Queensland Government supported the establishment of vast sugar plantations which were the basis of many large sugar companies. Expansion continued during 1866 with the opening of mills in the region around the Mary and Burnett Rivers.
Concerned with the need for more secondary industries in the colony, the Victorian Government introduced a tariff on certain imported goods in the hope the higher prices would encourage local entrepreneurs to establish businesses. That Victorian tariff was the beginning of protectionism in Australia, which today remains as contentious an issue as it was in 1867. The discovery of copper deposits at Cloncurry in the far west of Queensland was overshadowed by the more important finding of gold at the tiny settlement of Gympy (later called Gympie) by James Nash. Gold was the one mineral which could guarantee a rapid influx of cash, as had been proven in Victoria where Melbourne had developed into a prosperous city, and the parlous state of Queensland's finances had led the government to offer rewards for its discovery.
Antagonism between the Irish and the English was impressed upon the local population in the Australian colonies when a group of convicted Irish political prisoners arrived. For the first time in the history of the colonies a member of the Royal Family, which was held in awe and respect by the mostly British population of Australia, arrived on the warship HMS Galatea for an official visit. The Duke of Edinburgh was given a rapturous welcome when he visited many areas of the colonies during a stay which lasted seven months from October 1867.
Most dramatic of the events of 1868 was undoubtedly the attempted assassination on 12 March of the visiting Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf on the northern shore of Port Jackson. The royal visitor was shot and wounded by James O'Farrell, who was claimed to be a member of the Irish Sin Fein organisation. Apprehended and charged, needless to say O'Farrell was found guilty and hanged a short time later. Transportation, the sole reason for the foundation of the colony of New South Wales in 1788, ended in 1868. Considerable agitation amongst residents of the colonies and lobbying by various human rights groups in Britain had brought the trade to a close. Western Australia was the last penal settlement, receiving its final shipload of convicts in January. This left Australia looking towards a future as a free country with convicts in January. This left Australia looking towards a future as a free country with an economy largely based on agriculture traded with the 'Mother Country'. Gold fever continued to spread in Queensland; a rich find was made at a place called Ravenwood, west of Townsville, which lasted a considerable time and contributed a huge amount of revenue to the Queensland Treasury.
Railway construction was a talking point for citizens of New South Wales in 1869 when work was completed on the Lithgow zigzag line. Built to take the western railway over the Blue Mountains, the track was designed for the trains to climb one section of track then reverse up another - thus avoiding a line which, because of the grades involved, would have stretched for many kilometres beyond the ultimate destination at which the engineers were aiming.
This was the year of the Overland Telegraph Line, an achievement which captured the imagination of every Australian in 1870. A submarine telegraph cable had been laid from Europe to the Dutch East Indies, and the Australian colonies were eager that it be extended to link the major cities with Britain. A company known as the British-Australian Telegraph company was formed by private investors to negotiate with the South Australian and Queensland Governments, as each administration was eager to have the telegraph service run through its colony because of the revenue potential. In the end it was South Australia which offered the company the best deal, but in return it had to construct an overland telegraph line from Palmerston (Darwin) south of Port Augusta through country which only recently had been crossed by John McDouall Stuart and which was largely unmapped. The deal with the British-Australian Telegraph Company was that the South Australian line would be completed by the beginning of 1872.
Work continued on the Overland Telegraph Line between Port Augusta and Palmerston (Darwin) throughout 1871 under the direction of South Australian Postmaster-General Charles Todd. It reached Tennant Creek in December, but rugged terrain and problems with rains and flooding hampered progress further north and it did not arrive in Palmerston in time as per the agreement with the British-Australian Telegraph Company. A second party was set to work at Palmerston in late 1871 to construct a line south to connect with that struggling north. The link from Java completed in November, however it was not until June the following year that the first telegrams went through. As a sidelight to the development of Overland Telegraph, a town with the name of Stuart was established on the route. This settlement honouring the great explorer retained its name until 1933 when it was changed to Alice Springs. While the labourers were battling to push the Overland Telegraph through on time a discovery of gold was made a a place called Pine Creek south-east of Palmerston which occasioned a gold rush from the southern colonies.
The saga of the Overland Telegraph continued with the British-Australian Telegraph company becoming increasingly restive over delays in the completion of the line. Originally the agreement had set 1 January 1872 as the date on which the two cables would be linked, but it was to be another eight months before the final join was made. From June to August a special team of Horsemen was established to operate a shuttle service carrying telegrams between the two unjoined sections of the line. As it turned out it was not needed: the following day the submarine cable between Java and Palmerston failed. The connection though to London was made a Frew's Ponds on 22 August, but the actual service did not begin until October when it revolutionised communications for Australians - no longer were they completely reliant on mail ships for their link with the outside world.
Another, larger, find of gold was made at Charters Towers, just to the west of Ravenwood in Queensland. Charters Towers quickly grew into a roaring, brawling boom town with vast sums of money being made and lost overnight. Centralised government for the Australian colonies took another step forward in membership of which was restricted to whites born in Australia. The Association was highly nationalistic and advocated an end to rivalries between colonies by the formation of a central administration.
For those who yearned to discover what lay in the few unexplored regions of the continent the last great challenge was the country west of the Overland Telegraph Line. Colonel Peter Warburton and a part of explorers felt Stuart (Alice Springs) in April to attempt a crossing to Perth, but they were forced by the terrible conditions to turn north and make for the coast. A matter of one week after Warburton's departure another expedition, under the command of William Gosse, departed from Stuart for a similar attempt, Gosse, though able to penetrate the harsh country further than Warburton had, also was forced back. His greatest discovery on the journey was a huge monolithic rock which he named for the South Australian Premier, Henry Ayers.
Victoria and the other colonies had always been reliant on New South Wales for supplies of coal from the Hunter Valley. David Ryan's find of huge deposits of brown coal around the Morwell River district in eastern Victoria set the stage for a gradual charge in that reliance. Although the better-quality New South Wales coal was needed for burning in steam engines and similar equipment, the brown coal ultimately proved suitable for electricity generation.
While there was no remuneration for Members of Parliament in the Australian colonies it was extremely difficult for any persons other than those with substantial incomes to run for election. The New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, keen to gain a greater voice in the legislative process, decided to field a candidate in the 1874 elections and undertook to pay a wage to the winner for the term he spent in the Legislative Assembly. Chosen was Angas Cameron, who easily won the mostly working-class electorate of West Sydney. Cameron's victory was turning point for Australian politics, proving conclusively that representatives of the working class could hold office if given the chance.
The attraction of the inland of Australia proved too great for Ernest Giles, who mounted an expedition which left from the settlement of Beltana in South Australia in May for a trek to Perth. After a journey of six months the party reached Perth and, following a period of rest, set out in 1876 for the return crossing. The Giles expedition was a huge success.
Farming some of the more difficult country in the colonies, particularly the Malee area of northern Victoria, was made easier to some degree by the invention of the Stump-Jump Plough. Brothers Robert and Clarence Smith of Ardrossan in South Australia, devised a system in which each of the shares of the plough worked independently and, when an obstruction was met, the blade rose over it. For many farmers it was a prayer answered. In Tasmania the vendetta carried out for many years against the island's Aborigine population appeared to have been won hen Truganini, thought to be the last of the race's full-blood members, died. Although she had wanted her body to be left undisturbed, it suffered the indignity of being displayed in the Tasmanian Museum.
Irishman Frederick Wolseley arrived in Australia in 1854 to work for his brother-in-law on a property near Deniliquin in New South Wales. His years of experience in the wool industry had by the 1870s led him to devise a machine which could be used to shear sheep. In 1877 his final design was patented and put to work on the station Wolseley owned near Walgett. By the 188s the Wolseley equipment was in wide use in shearing sheds around Australia.
A continuing problem for farmers and station-owners in the central areas of Australia was that of a regular, reliable water supply many droughts lasted years. The principle of drilling for underground water was first introduced on the sheep station Kallara outside Bourke in north-western New South Wales. Once the bore struck water the station was guaranteed an undiminished supply of water for the foreseeable future. The artesian bore was one more step on the road to an easier lifestyle for the residents of the land.
Trade unionism had come a long way from the day when the leader of a shepherds' strike was given 500 lashes for having the temerity to demand better wages. In 1879 the union movement took a major step towards legitimacy with the convening of the first Inter-Colonial Trade Union Congress in Sydney.
Calls for a central government for Australia continued to grow. Henry Parkes, a Premier of New South Wales proposed a Federal Council which would oversee and co-ordinate the activities of the colonies. The moves were aided in part by the convening of the first Inter-Colonial Conference in 1880, one of his major acts being an agreement to combine action by all colonies to restrict the numbers of Chinese migrating to Australia. This established the groundwork for what would later become the White Australia policy. The Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company was formed to bring the pleasures of Alexander Graham Bell's invention to the citizens of the Victorian capital now a large city enjoying the property created by the gold rushes of the 1880s. Its first telephone exchange was connected to forty-four subscribers.
A nineteen-year-old entrepreneur established a tiny business manufacturing confectionery in the back of his parents' home in Melbourne. MacPherson Robertson had worked in a confectionery factory in Leith, Scotland, and in another such operation in Melbourne. The chocolates he sold under the name MacRobertson's soon became one of Australia's best known products. On 11 November the extraordinary career of Australia's best known bushranger came to an end when Edward Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol. Since the Kelly gang's beginnings in 1878 it had been constantly at odds with the police. The final confrontation came at the hotel in the tiny town of Glenrowan in northern Victoria - Kelly was shot and taken into custody after a battle between police and the gang.
The colonies received their second royal visit since 1788 when the Princes Albert and George, each serving a term as midshipman in the royal Navy on the warship HMS Bacehante. Migration of free settlers continued to increase over the years. Since transportation had ended immigrants had been arriving from numerous countries including Norway, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Italy. In 1881 a group of the last established a 'Little Italy' settlement at Woodburn on the banks of the Richmond River in northern New South Wales.
Queensland's burgeoning wealth from gold-mining was further enhanced in 1881 when the yellow metal was discovered at Mount Morgan, south-west of Rockhampton. One of the founders of the Mount Morgan gold-field was William Knox D'Arcy, who later returned to his homeland to establish the British Petroleum (BP) company with the money he had earned in Queensland.
Sowing the seeds of their later difficulties, the colonies greatly increased their borrowings from British financial institutions in 1883. Together the colonies became the single largest borrower of British capital, taking some 50% of all loans made overseas by the British. Germany's increasing militarism worried the British Government - a problem the Australian colonies took on when it became obvious that the Germans had colonial intentions in the South Pacific. After Germany established a presence in the north-eastern portion of New Guinea the government of Queensland, under Premier Thomas McIlwraith, annexed Papua in the name of the British Crown. The government in London, which had adopted a policy of acquiring colonies only if they could support themselves, or at least could earn money for Britain, rejected McIlwraith's action, although Papua did eventually become a colony.
Charles Rasp, employed as a boundary rider on a station in the far west of New South Wales, decided that a hill in the area he worked must contain tin. Rasp pegged out a claim on the site, which he named Broken Hill, and formed a syndicate to mine the region. In 1885 the syndicate became the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Australia's railways reached an important point in 1883 with the completion of a short stretch of line across the mud-flats of the Murray River from Albury in New South Wales to Wodonga in Victoria. Victoria's 5'3" gauge line had reached Wodonga many years earlier, but the 4'8.1/2" track from Sydney linked Albury with the colonial capital only in 1880. Now the final join was made, giving the residents of the two largest cities their first direct rail link. The only problem was the disparity in gauges, which forced passengers to leave their trains in Albury and cross the platform to another; a problem which remained until 1962 when the standard-gauge link between Melbourne and Sydney was made.
When nineteen-year-old Hugh McKay created the Sunshine Harvester - a machine which could strip, thresh, clean and bag wheat in one operation - the transition from cottage industry to major manufacturing centre began for Australia. McKay's invention led him to establish a factory at Ballarat in 1891; it developed into a major manufacturing enterprise which was soon exporting machines as well as selling to Australian farmers.
Henry Parkes' suggestion that a Federal council be appointed to co-ordinate the activities of the colonies was taken up by the Imperial Parliament in 1885, but it was a half-hearted affair which did little to advance the cause of Federation which was becoming a major political issue. In 1871 the contingents of British soldiers which had been stationed in Australia since 1788 had been withdrawn and replaced by locally raised forces. The troubles of the British in the Sudan came to a head in 1885 when General Gordon was killed at Khartoum. Gordon's death, apart from setting off an orgy of suburb and street namings and statue dedications, stirred the Gladstone Government into action. In response to the British Government's invitation to participate in a war against the Mahdi and Australian colonies despatched a contingent of troops, few of whom had ever seen action before.
A future Prime Minister of Australia, Alfred Deakin, was sent to the United States by the Victorian Government to investigate the question of irrigation and whether it could be applied to agriculture in the colony. Deakin met the Canadian brothers George and William Chaffey, who had been involved in various irrigation schemes in California. At Deakin's urging the Chaffeys came to Australia in 1886 to establish an irrigation scheme in the Mildura area in return for the granting of a large tract of land.
The Victorian Government passed the Aborigines Protection Act, which altered the terms of the administration's 'protection' of the black tribes to embrace only full-blood Aborigines. It was decided that only full-blood Aborigines could live on government reserves, forcing the eviction of thousands of reserve-dwellers - many of whom had been herded on to the government land against their will in the first place. Sydney's population was scandalised by the trial of eleven young men accused of the pack rape of sixteen-year=-old Mary Hicks in Moore Park. Hicks had been assaulted by the men after being taken to the park in a hansom cab. At the end of the marathon trial nine of the arrested were sentenced to be hanged; the verdict was reduced for four of the offenders, but the remaining five went to the gallows the following year.
Ever present, the danger of fire or explosion in coal-mines was tragically brought home to the public when a huge conflagration occurred at the Bulli mine in the Illawarra escarpment south of Sydney. In the fire that followed an incredible total of eighty-one miners lost their lives. Hysteria about invasion from the north grew more strident and a number of mass meetings called on politicians to invoke legislation to ban or severely restrict the numbers of Chinese arriving in the colonies, and even to deport those already in residence.
Concerned at the exploitation of young boys in the colony's coal-mines - where lads as young as thirteen years were being forced to work long hours in appalling conditions for paltry wages - the New South Wales Legislative Assembly directed that any youth aged between thirteen and eighteen years could work no more than a 50.1/2-hour week. As agitation continued for a Federation of the colonies, the cause was given a substantial boost by the report of Major-General Bevan Edwards to which he deprecated the activities of the individual colonies in the area of defence and claimed that no effective deterrent force could be created unless it was a united affair with all colonies taking part.
Henry Parkes, for many years the principal advocate of Federation of the colonies, travelled to the northern New South Wales town of Tenterfield and made a speech credited with being the catalyst for the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. He claimed, rightly, that the federal Council was ineffective and should be replaced by a central Parliament, elected by the citizens of all the colonies. The Tenterfield speech provoked pro-Federationists into greater action. June saw the beginnings of the large-scale involvement of labour in the political process. Ten unions agreed to form the Australian Labor Federation; the first active Labor Party was established in Queensland later the same year, creating a tradition of Labor Party politics in that State which lasted until 1957. This move was in development which would allow union members of stand for election without being dependent upon the support of their organisations.
Western Australia, the last of the Australian colonies, was granted self-government with the Legislative Council for upper house (or upper house) as an appointed body and the Legislative Assembly (lower house) elected by voters who owned property. The move of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council into politics in a large way was further facilitated by the decision to form Labor Electoral Leagues - in essence electorate organisations which formed the grass-roots support of the Labor Party and functioned as a support mechanism in getting members elected to Parliament.
Australia's newspapers, virtually the only means of disseminating news in these pre-wireless days, were owned by proprietors who usually stamped their own individual, often idiosyncratic, brands on the standards of reporting. Most newspapers were ultra-conservative and not given to supporting the fledgeling Labor political movement; the unions went some way towards altering that position in 1890 with the first publication of The Worker newspaper in Brisbane.
From the first days of the gold rushes in 1851 the colonies had been awash with money which had been invested in the construction of fine buildings, theatres and clubs in Sydney and Melbourne. A new wealthy class had evolved, particularly in Melbourne. One of the most frenzied activities of the post gold-rush era - land speculation - had reached epidemic proportions in Melbourne in the late 1880s, and in 1890: any number of large and small investors, some of them pillars of society, were caught in the new depression, and the economy was grounded for another five years before it began to climb back to a respectable level of prosperity.
Supported by Henry Parkes and the Queensland Premier, Samuel Griffith, the first Federation convention was called for Sydney. Present were delegates sent by the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand. Despite the efforts of Parkes, Griffith, Edmund Barton and Charles Kinston the Convention failed - not because the delegates lacked enthusiasm for the idea but because of financial problems the depression had created. Each colony was so immersed in its own struggle to stay afloat the plans for a Commonwealth of Australia were shelved. The other great political development of 1891 was the rise of the Labor Party. Winning a total of thirty-five seats in the New South Wales elections, Labor held the balance of power between the Free Traders led by Parkes and Dibbs's Protectionists.
Western Australia entered the gold-rush club with a vengeance in 1892 when two prospectors, Arthur Bayley and William Ford, discovered an immensely rich field at Fly Flat. Good-miners desperate for a new challenge swamped to the site that had acquired the name Coolgardie. Bayley remained in the district, establishing the Bayley's Reward Mine. Coolgardie was later overshadowed by the Kalgorrlie and Boulder fields.
Alarmed by what they saw as the ever-growing domination of the colonial parliaments by city dwellers and Labor supporters, a number of farmers attempted to form a body to field candidates for election in rural areas. They failed, but laid the groundwork for the farmers' organisations of the early 1900s that would eventually become the Country Party. Although thwarted in its intentions in 1891, the federation movement pursued its objective with renewed vigour and formed the Australasian Federation League in 1893, by which time Edmund Barton had taken over from Henry Parkes as the leader. His efforts were buoyed up by a conference of the Australian Natives Association in the small town of Corowa near the Victoria - New South Wales border. The ANA conference called for a different approach to a Constitutional Convention, recommending that delegates be elected by the populations of the colonies rather than appointed by the governments.
Western Australia's position as a gold producer was given a massive boost in 1893 when Patrick Hannan found gold at Kalgoorlie, which also became known as the Golden Mile. Immensely rich, the Kalgoorlie fields gradually proved superior to the previous discovery made at Coolgardie.
In the South Australian Parliament colonial Premier Charles Kingston introduced a Conciliation Bill which, had it been passed, would have made an enormous difference to the ever-growing problem of industrial relations. Designed to bring employers and employees together in a spirit of bargaining rather than the industrial warfare that marked most such negotiations in Australia at that time, the legislation collapsed when it became obvious the major employer groups would not support it. Lawrence Hargrave, a man obsessed with flight, having studied the movements of birds for many years devised a series of box-kites in which he was able to rise to a height of 5 metres at Stanwell Park, south of Sydney.
Another step in the tortuous progression towards Federation was taken in January at the Hobart Premiers' Conference when all delegates agreed to adopt the ideas put forward at the Corowa convention in 1893. The Premiers returned to their respective colonies to begin the legislative processes to allow a new Federation Convention to be conducted with all delegates elected by the populace.
By late 1896 most of the machinery necessary for the establishment of the Constitutional Convention had been put in motion. All the colonies, with the exception of Queensland, had passed the appropriate legislation and held elections for delegates, ten from each colony. Amongst the many elected delegates were Edmund Barton from New South Wales, Charles Kingston from South Australia and Alfred Deakin from Victoria. The decision of Queensland not to participate was a shattering blow to Samuel Griffith, one of the prime movers of the earlier conventions.
The great day finally arrived for the delegates to the Constitutional Convention when they assembled in Adelaide for the first of three sessions that would draft a constitution for a federation of the Australian colonies. Most of what had been devised at the previous conference in 1891 was abandoned in favour of a fresh start - a wise decision in view of the fact that a number of the earlier participants, such as Henry Parkes and Samuel Griffith, were not present. It was decided that the new Commonwealth would have a two-tier system of government comprising a House of Representatives and a Senate; a Prime Minister would be head of government while the Imperial Parliament at Westminster would continue to hold sway over the Australian Houses, the colonies would be called States and each would retain its own Governor, while a Governor-General would represent the British government; the Federation would mean an end to tariffs on trade between colonies, with the Commonwealth Government taking full responsibility for all import duties. Other matters to become Federal concerns included defence and postal services.
While Queensland remained aloof from the Constitutional Convention a financial scandal was brewing; the Queensland Nation al Bank collapsed and on e of its major debtors was the Premier of the colony, Thomas McIlwraith.
Federation moved closer as the final meetings of the Constitutional convention were held in Melbourne in January and February of 1898. It was then necessary to place the draft constitution before the electors of each of the colonies in referendums. Voting took place in early June in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. Western Australia delayed its referendum until it had negotiated a number of concessions, while Queensland still held out completely. Approval in Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria, in New So0uth Wales the draft failed to gain the required quota even though a majority of the electorate approved. This was mostly due to New South Wales Premier George Reid, whose ambiguous attitude towards Federation had confused the electorate and earned him the nick-name of 'Yes-No Reid'.
Determined not to be defeated by Reid, the pre-Federationists entered into negotiations with the Premier. His support was won by making several concessions to New South Wales, the most important of which was the agreement to locate the new national capital within that State outside a radius of 100 miles from Sydney. Having won his point, Reid campaigned with Barton at the new referendum. By this time Queensland had agreed to take part as well. The referendum was won convincingly in all colonies except Western Australia, which still had not decided whether to hold a poll the principal fear in the west was that it would be dominated by New South Wales and Victoria.
Next step was to take the Constitution to London for approval by the Imperial Parliament. Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, invited each of the five colonies to send a representative to London to oversee passage of the legislation. Those chosen were Edmund Barton (New South Wales), Alfred Deakin (Victoria), Charles Kingston (South Australia), Sir Philip Fysh (Tasmania) and James Dickson (Queensland. Western Australia still had not made up its mind.
Following the outbreak of hostilities between the Boers and the British Army in South Africa, each of the colonies recruited separate forces to support eh Empire. The New South Wales Lancers were first into the fray in November at the Battle of Graspan. On 1 December the Labor Party won power in Queensland after the conservatives had been defeated on a number of votes. Anderson Dawson became the first Labor premier in the Australian colonies and leader of the first Labor government to be formed anywhere in the world. Defeated in the Legislative Assembly almost immediately, the new government was forced to resign seven days after its formation.
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On arrival in London the five delegates from the Australian colonies discovered the Secretary of State for the colonies ready and waiting with a list of amendments he wanted made to the Constitution. After all that had taken place in the constitutional conventions Barton, Deakin and Kingston were not prepared to allow any changes. Fysh and Dickson were less adamant, tending to be awed by the situation. The trio went to work around Britain, addressing meetings and putting their cause until Chamberlain was forced to withdraw. Chamberlain was not the only one wanting late changes. Finally the Western Australian Government had decided it could not accept Federation unless a number of clauses were included in the constitution specifically protecting Western Australia's interests. Its requests were rejected, principally because, having won their battle against chamberlain, the delegates could hardly turn around and make their own alterations.
Realising there would be no concessions, the Western Australians faced a geographical split - the coastal residents opposed federation, while those on the Kalgoorlie, boulder and Coolgardie gold-fields favoured it. The latter were pushing to separate from Western Australia, a situation the government could not allow considering the huge revenue flow the gold-fields generated. A referendum was held in the middle of the year which resulted in a resounding 'yes' vote.
Queen Victoria gave Royal Assent to the Imperial Parliament's Act to create the commonwealth of Australia, in time to allow the especially dramatic touch of bringing the new federation into being at the start of the new century. Australian troops fighting in south Africa were united under a single command, reflecting the new Federation that was soon to take place. They were present at the capture of Pretoria and took part in the relief of Baden Powell's force at Mafeking. On the home front, Sydney was struck by an outbreak of bubonic plague - the dreaded 'black death'. Rats which came ashore from ships that had recently visited India and China were responsible for the plague. Sydney was badly hit and the population close to panic. Those who could afford to took trains to the Blue Mountains, while those forced to remain the city prayed. The plague infestation was Millers Point, close to the Darling Habour wharves. Swift action by the colonial government in sealing off the area and sending in teams of sanitation engineers and rodent exterminators probably saved the city from a far worse plight.
Three young blacks - Jimmy Governor, Joe Governor and Jackie Underwood - rebelled against the whites, whom they considered to be responsible for much of the hardship and prejudice they faced. In the ensuing rampage seven whites died. Joe Governor was shot and killed by police, his brother and Jackie Underwood were tried and hanged. New South Wales led the way in the introduction of social security measures in the form of the old-age pension. Recipients had to be over 65 years of age, of good character and have been a resident of New South Wales for at least twenty-five years.
The great day finally arrived on 1 January 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. On that day the new Governor-General, Lord Hopetown, stepped ashore at Farm cove in Sydney then proceeded to Centennial Park for a huge pageant. Sydney had been chosen as the site for the Federation celebrations because of its status as Australia's oldest city. Hopetoun's arrival did not signal a new era in politics - the wheeling and dealing continued unabated. George Reid, desperate to stop Edmund Barton becoming Prime Minister, advised Lord Hopetoun that Sir William Lyne, Premier of New South Wales, should be commissio9ned to form a caretaker government until election were held; however Lyne was unable to form a government when none of the obvious choices for ministerial posts would serve under him. The Governor-General then called on Barton, who became Australia's first Prime Minister.
Barton and his Protectionist grouping were confirmed in government at the March elections with the support of the Commonwealth Labor Party under John Watson. Reid's Free Traders formed the Opposition. Regrettably the first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament was a racist Act designed to entrench the principle of white Australia. It also signalled the end of the kanaka trade in Queensland, not through humanitarian ideals but to rid Australia of a large number of non-whites who were repatriated to their former homes in the South Pacific. The next major event of Federation was the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne (the Victorian Parliament had agreed to vacate its home for the Commonwealth). The Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) was despatched to Australia to perform the opening ceremony, which took place in the exhibition buildings because the Parlimentary chambers were too small to contain the vast assembly of invited guests.
In the matter of electoral reform Australia led the world in certain aspects and trailed badly in others. In 1902 a system of almost universal suffrage was introduced: women gained the vote for the first time but the losers were the Aborigines, who were neither able to vote nor included in the official population counts. Hugh McKay, whose Sunshine Harvester company had made huge strides in the development of Australian industry, pulled off a major coup in 1902 when he arranged the sale of his wheat strippers to Argentina.
One of the most important aspects of Federation was the creation of the High Court of Australia, the highest level of legal appeal in the Commonwealth although further appeal could be made to the Privy council in London. Edmund Barton was offered the position of Chief Justice but he declined,, preferring to remain in the Prime Minister's chair, and the eminent Queenslander Samuel Griffith was appointed. That decision of Barton's was undoubtedly one he regretted, because within months he had been persuaded to step down from the leadership of the country. Barton had run out of energy for the government of the country, the challenge of Federation having been fought and won. His long-time friend Alfred Deakin took his place. Deakin was a much more suitable Prime Minister, committed to the advancement of the country and the introduction of a wide range of social reforms.
One of Barton's last mistakes was his handling of complaints from the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, about the expenses he had been forced to bear during the celebrations for the opening of Parliament in 1901. Barton had given the governor-General a number of assurances about a special grant to cover the costs, but the Parliament altered the arrangement while the Prime Minister was in London. Hopetoun resigned and returned to London in disgust. His place was taken by Lord Tennyson.
Following his electoral success in 1903 Deakin introduced the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the Parliament early in 1904. The Labor Party found a number of amendments to the Bill, in particular widening its scope to include employee of State Governments. Seeing himself unable to win, Deakin opted for resignation. Exploiting a rift between outgoing Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and Opposition Leader George Reid - the most obvious choice for Prime Minister if he could gain the support - the Labor Party formed a majority government under John Watson. A reluctant Prime Minister, Watson was concerned that Labor was not yet ready for government. He was right; a matter of only months later Watson's administration, the first national Labor government in the world, was defeated when George Reid's Free Traders and a number of Deakin's Protectionists combined to bring it down.
George Reid's term as Prime Minister ended after only twelve months. The Labor Party, and in particular John Watson, had no time for Reid, preferring Deakin as leader of the country. Watson informed Deakin that Labor would support a Protectionist government providing the Prime Minister gave advice to Labor of all forthcoming legislation and providing certain measures sought by Labor were passed. Deakin agreed to the terms, although he was criticised in some quarters for the deal. In an interesting sidelight to history, Herbert Hoover, later to become President of the United States, formed the Zinc Corporation at Broken Hill. Hoover bought up the tailings of the Broken Hill Proprietory Company's mines and extracted the residue of zinc. He later formed the much larger anew Broken Hill Consolidated Company.
Although Western Australia had agreed to become a part of the Federation at the last moment in 1900, dissent over the election raged continually for years. In 1906 a resolution was passed in the Western Australian Parliament to secede; action did not eventuate, but it did make the politicians in the east sit up and take notice. a number of measures for the benefit of the western State were begun, including moves toward the construction of the transcontinental railway.
This was a landmark year for industrial relations in Australia. Henry Bourne Higgins, President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, heard the case put by H V McKay - The Sunshine Harvester Company for the granting of a certificate that the company paid fair and reasonable wages. The certificate was required in order that McKay could import certain components free of tariff. Higgins investigated the lifestyles of a number of McKay's workers and decided that, for a man with an average family, the absolute basic wage should be 42/- per week. As McKay's employees worked a six-day week this meant they should receive 7/- per day. They were getting 6/- per day, so the application was refused. On appeal to the High Court Higgins' decision was disallowed, along with the Acts that required a certificate of fair and reasonable wages in return for tariff concessions. Although Higgins was defeated on the Sunshine Harvester case, he used the knowledge acquired and applied it to most future decisions, thus enshrining the principle of the basic wage in Australian industrial law.
The Deakin Government lost power in 1908 when Queenslander Andrew Fisher achieved leadership of the Commonwealth Labor Party. Fisher and the Labor Party were eager for another chance of government. After being defeated in a confidence motion Deakin resigned and the Governor-General, Lord Dudley, commissioned Fisher to form a government. George Reid, tired and dispirited and without any chance of regaining the Prime Ministership, resigned his leadership of the Free Traders group. His place was taken by Joseph Cook, a Labor renegade who had crossed to the opposite side of politics. Cook, a far more reasonable person, was a friend of Deakin's, and between them the two conservative leaders began plans to amalgamate their power groups into one force.
Deakin and his Protectionists and the Free Traders led by Joseph Cook made their association formal in 1909 when they formed the 'Fusion', and their combined numbers were sufficient to defeat the Fisher Labor Government. The reason cited for their action was Fisher's announcement of a land tax to break up the large rural estates. Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister of Australia for the third time. Defence had been one of the supposedly more pressing reasons for establishment of the Federation, but it had received scant attention in the years from 1901 to 1909. Under pressure from the more conservative elements of the 'Fusion', Deakin invited Field Marshal Kitchener to visit Australia and advise on the composition of the new Australian military forces.
The action of the 'Fusion' in deposing the Fisher Go0vernment was not endorsed by the Australian electorate at the elections of 1710. In fact the Australian people gave Andrew Fisher and the Labor Party the most sweeping victory since Federation. Labor won a safe majority in the House of Representatives and almost total control the Senate. Australia gained the right to issue its own currency in 1910 following the passage of the Australian Banknotes Act. Previously all currency had been sterling. This move towards financial independence was a forerunner to the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank.
Military matters were high on the agenda in 1911. Field Marshal Kitchener's report, which advocated a standing army of around 80,000 men including both professional soldiers and conscripts, was presented to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. One of the first results of that report was the introduction of a system of compulsory military training for all males over twelve years of age - those under eighteen participated in cadet corps type activities, while those over eighteen were drafted into the Army for a period of time. Until 1901 Australia's naval pursuits had been centred on the Pacific Squadron of the Royal Navy based in Sydney, augmented by some fairly insignificant navies possessed by the colonies. The Royal Navy was not keen to lose its base at Sydney, efforts were rewarded in 1911 by the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy. HMAS Australia, the RAN's first and only capital ship, was launched in Scotland the same year and a destroyer, HMAS Warrego, was constructed at Cockatoo Island in Sydney. The remainder of the fleet was purchased second-hand from the Royal Navy.
On the political scene the Fisher Government introduced the fairly radical idea of compulsory voting in Federal elections. It remains in force today, Australia being one of the few countries to have such a system. The vessel question of the site of the Federal capital was settled at last. over the years since Federation various sites had been proposed and rejected by the government - often the Senate favoured one location and the House of Representatives another - but they had finally agreed and a large tract of land south of Yass in New South Wales was transferred to the Commonwealth. The area chosen was prime sheep-grazing country centred on a village called Canberra. An international competition was announced for the design of a city.
Following the construction of several dams on the Murrumbidgee River the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, centred on Griffith and Leeton, was opened for settlement. The first citrus trees were planted in 1912 and, as the area progressed, it was used for the cultivation of pears, peaches and grapes amongst other crops. Keen to loosen Australia's financial ties to Britain, the Fisher Government established the Commonwealth Bank and opened the first branch in Melbourne as a savings bank. The commonwealth operated as a central bank along the lines of the Bank of England until the establishment of the Reserve Bank in the 1960s. In 1913 its activities were widened to include commercial banking services.
By this time a dominant factor in the economy of Australia with its silver and lead mining and smelting activities. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company entered the iron and steel industry with the financial assistance of the Commonwealth Bank. A site for a steel works was selected on the banks of the Hunter River at Newcastle. The first blast furnace came into operation in 1915. After years of procrastination the transcontinental railway link from east to west looked like becoming a reality. First earth on the project was turned by the governor-General, Lord Denman, at Port Augusta, and a few weeks later Andrew Fisher performed a similar ceremony at Kalgoorlie. In Britain the aeroplane was being seen increasingly as a useful tool in time of war. Australia followed the lead of the 'mother country' by establishing the Australian flying Corps with a flying school at Point Cook near Melbourne.
The 'Fusion' of Free Traders and Protectionists which had taken power briefly in 1909 remained intact, although the group had become known as the Liberals. Deakin was forced to retire through ill health in 1913, leaving Joseph Cook with the leadership. At the polls the Liberals defeated Labor - but with a majority of only one seat. Given the volatile nature of the Liberals, who were a power grouping rather than a formal party, Cook rarely could be sure of passing legislation as it only took one of his team to cross the floor and vote with Labor to be defeated. Cook spent most of his time in office searching for an excuse to force an election.
Prime Minister Joseph Cook found his reason for a double dissolution of the Parliament when he attempted to force through the Labor-controlled Senate a bill ending preference for unionists in government employment. At the subsequent poll Andrew Fisher's win was a foregone conclusion. During the final days of the election campaign war was declared between Britain and Germany; and in an intemperate moment Fisher declared that Australia would support Britain to the last man and the last shilling'. As the war machine rumbled into action in Australia, passions of Empire solidarity were stirred up with the promise that if Australia helped Britain now then Britain would always be there to help Australia in a time of crisis. The war was an event of great excitement for Australians, and the young men who volunteered treated their departures from Australia as an experience not to be missed. Only volunteer soldiers, members of the Australian Imperial Force, could serve overseas - conscripts were part of the Militia which was restricted to Australia and its territories.
War in Europe gave the Australian Government the excuse it was looking for to send troops into German New guinea. It was taken with little resistance and occupied until the end of the conflict when it became an Australian territory on a mandate from the League of Nations. 'British' superiority was proven to many Australians in November when the royal Australian Navy's light cruiser HMAS Sydney went into battle with the German raider Emden off the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Emden was hopelessly outclassed by the superior armament of Sydney and the German ship, mortally wounded, went aground on North Keeling Island after more than 130 men had died.
Australian troops, believing they were on their way to Europe to fight against Germany, were surprised and disappointed when they disembarked from the ships in Egypt. They were to be used in engagements against turkey which had declared war as an ally of Germany. In April 1915 Australian infantry and members of the Australian Light Horse acting as foot soldiers went ashore at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles as part of Winston Churchill's grand plan to protect the surrounding sea lanes. Almost from the start the Australians were pinned down at Gallipoli, beginning a nine-month long siege in which the Turks almost always held the upper hand. By December it has become obvious even to the most egotistical of the British Generals that the fronts at Gallipoli and Suvla Bay were disasters and evacuation was ordered. Most of the exhausted Australian troops were sent to fight on the Western Front in Europe.
The pressures of waging war began to tell on Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, who found dealing with the British military almost as difficult as doing battle with the Turks; for instance, the Generals omitted to inform Fisher of the Australian invasion and Gallipoli until it was actually taking place. In failing health, Fisher decided to resign and take up the position of Australian High commissioner in London. His well-being had not been helped by the devious behaviour of his deputy, William Morris (Billy) Hughes, a founder of the Waterside Workers Federation, who had been planting fisher's downfall for years. Hughes, a maniacal warmonger, assumed the Prime Ministership with glee and plunged into the conduct of the war with relish.
Prime Minister Billy Hughes decided to travel to Britain to investigate the conduct of the war first-hand. That was the blackest year of the entire Great War, and Britain's leaders needed someone from another country to tell them what they were doing was anyone who would listen. In return he was feted by the British Government and by the military command. The Generals convinced Hughes that to fight the war effectively they needed a considerable increase in manpower from Australia. Recruiting in Australia had fallen off dramatically as the incredible casualty figures appeared daily in the press.
Hughes returned to Australia believing that the only answer to the personnel problem was conscription - a measure his Labor Party was implacably opposed to. After bitter and hostile debates within the Party Hughes persuaded his fellow Parliamentarians that the issue should be put to the Australian people in a referendum. Despite an hysterical campaign by the pro-war groups (most of whom did not have to go to fight) the Australian people rejected the proposal, although by a small margin. While this debate was raging Australian troops were engaged in battles at Pozieres, Frommelles, and on the Somme in Europe, as well as at Gaza in the Middle East. During his sojourn in Britain Hughes had taken it upon himself to purchase a fleet of twenty-five ships, most of them seized German freighters, from which he created the Commonwealth Shipping Line. Hughes, a founder of the Waterside Workers Federation, was keen to break the monopoly the British shipowners held on trade between their country and Australia. Like many Hughes decisions, the purchase was a surprise as much to members of the Cabinet as to the public.
Far from being over, the conscription debate raged even more in 1917. Hughes, not one to give up easily, continued to push for the right to send a conscripted army outside Australia. Again the question was put to the people and again the answer was 'no', even more emphatically. Still this did not faze Hughes. His next ploy was to gather his supporters within the Labor Party and walk out, forming the National Labor Party. Within days Hughes did a deal with the leader of the Liberals, Joseph Cook, to become partners in the National Party, and the combined NLP/Liberals numbers enabled Hughes to remain as Prime Minister. Stunned, the Labor Party collapsed into faction-fighting and a succession of less-than-ideal leaders.
The transcontinental railway which had been under construction since 1912 was finally completed in 1917. Hughes government decided that, in view of the high death toll in Europe, it would be improper to have an elaborate celebration for the opening of the line; instead, the first Commonwealth Railways train left Port Augusta after a simple ceremony. Australians could now cross the continent by train; however for a resident of Sydney to do so it was necessary to take a New South Wales government Railways train to Albury, change to Victorian Railways for the journey to Melbourne, from there a through train to Adelaide was available, then yet another change was made to a South Australian Railways service to Port Augusta where the Commonwealth line started, and a final transfer took place at Kalgoorlie where Western Australian Government Railways took over.
As the Great War entered its final year the attitude of the Australian population was very different from the days of 1914 when it had all seemed like the great adventure. Australia sent 331 781 men to fight - almost half were wounded in some way and more than 60,000 died in battle. Still, the politicians and the Generals were able to promote the war as some great conflict fought for the greater good of the free world. Australia had paid a huge price for its support at Britain in a war which would have had little effect on this country. With the end of the war in sight Hughes and his deputy, Joseph Cook, departed secretly for London where they were to discuss the post-war situation. The British, French and United States Governments were planning a conference to decide the terms of reparations from Germany and to establish the League of Nations. Hughes discovered that no one had considered Australia's efforts warranted inviting an Australian delegation. Using every bit of his forceful personality, Hughes pressured the British to allow one then compromised by agreeing that the Australian group would be a part of the British delegation.
On the north-eastern coast of Australia the town of Innisfail was battered by one of the worst cyclones on record. Famous for its sugar-growing activities, the town was all but destroyed by the conflagration. Ernest Fisk, a former Cunard radio operator, had arrived in Australia in 1910 to demonstrate the Marconi wireless system. He had stayed, and in 1917 had founded Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA). Fisk, proposed the establishment of wireless communication between Australia and Britain, and demonstrated the feasibility of such an operation when he was able to communicate between Sydney and Britain using Morse code.
Prime Minister Billy Hughes attended the Versailles Conference, with his deputy Joseph Cook, as a part of the Australian delegation. He gained notoriety for his fiery clashes with United States President Woodrow Wilson who, exasperated by Hughes, was moved to describe the Australian Prime Minister as a 'pestiferous warmint'. The spectre of 'White Australia' was brought into the conference when the Japanese attempted to have a clause guaranteeing racial equality inserted in the charter of the League of Nations. Hughes combined with Wilson and several other countries to defeat the clause.
Many Australian troops remained in Europe during 1919, and when he visited them the soldiers gave the Australian Prime Minister a rapturous welcome, bestowing on him the nickname 'The Little Digger'. For some Australian troops the fighting was not yet over. There was considerable opposition to the revolutionary government established under Lenin in Russia and, in an effort to destablise the Communists, a North Russian Relief Force was raised and sent to Archangel from where it was expected to overthrow the government. Hughes agreed to the use of a small contingent of Australians in the Force. The effort, half-hearted and badly led, failed soon after the landings began. Almost all shipping around the Australian coastline was brought to a halt by a seamen's strike in May. Supplies of coal from the Hunter Valley were cut off as were shipments of many foodstuffs. Industries were forced to stand down employees because of lack of work. The dispute, which was over wages and conditions, saw many seamen fined and gaoled before the shipping companies were ultimately forced to surrender.
In keeping with its policy of protecting Aborigines, the Nationalist Government passed legislation known as the Northern Territory Aborigines Ordinances. Under these regulations Aborigines were not allowed possession of alcohol, nor could they approach licensed premises. The worst aspect of the legislation was that marriage or sexual relations with persons other than members of their own race was prohibited. Ernest Fisk's demonstration in 1918 of the possibilities of wireless for international communications led to another public exhibition in 1919 at which he gave the Australian public its first taste of local wireless broadcasting. The first item broadcast on radio in Australia was a rendition of 'God Save The King'.
Deciding it was essential to strengthen Australia by encouraging more immigration from Britain, the Hughes Government took up a 'populate or perish' policy. Initially the scheme was directed at British ex-servicemen and their families. These newcomers were able to participate in the Soldier-Settler Scheme devised to give returned Australian servicemen land in areas such as northern Victoria and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. During the war a large number of women had taken men's places in the work-force and, as the women worked for wages almost half that of the men, employers were reluctant to take back their former employees. The Nationalist government had no wish to upset the employers, its main financial support group, so it conceived the Soldier-Settler Scheme. While some of the ex-servicemen successfully worked the properties they were allocated, many failed. They were essentially city-raised men who had no real feel for life on the land.
Not all Australians were frightened or angered by the revolution which had taken place in Russia in 1917. To many who considered the Australian political scene to be dominated by big business the communist ideals were attractive. Initially those who aspired to Communism were to be found in the ranks of the Labor Party, but it soon became obvious that the ideals of Labor and of Bolshevism did not mix well. In 1920 the Communists split from Labor and formed the Communist Party of Australia. At the other end of the political spectrum another development was taking place. The farmers of Australia, long suspicious of the residents of the cities, believed firmly that life on the land embodied all that was good and noble. Country people even went so far as to believe that the principle of one person, one vote was wrong because it allowed the greater population of the cities to dominate that of the country. To promote these views a number of farmers' political organisations had been formed in each State. Appealing directly to the country dwellers they soon began winning a large majority of rural electorates, until by 1920 they were sufficiently strong to have some influence in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. At this stage the various associations were merged under the name of country Party and a Grafton doctor, Earle Page, became the leader in the Federal Parliament.
Australia's first Royal Tour since 1901 took place. With the arrival of the immensely popular Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne then occupied by King George V, Australia's cities went wild. Streets were turned into avenues of arches, each welcoming the young Prince in a different way. He also travelled to the site of Canberra to lay the corner-stone of the city. In the dusty western Queensland town of Winton two young pilots, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, veterans of the Australian Flying Corps, joined with a grazier, Fergus McMaster, to establish Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services. The fledgeling airline initially offered air taxi and parcel-carrying services to the population of the west, but it was an air mail contract that the partners really wanted.
Previously operating as part of the Army, the Australian Flying Corps became a separate force along the lines of the royal Air force in Britain. With a gift of over 100 war-surplus aircraft received from Britain in 1919, the new royal Australian Air Force was accorded equal status to the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army. Immigration patterns altered dramatically in 1921 following the termination of large-scale migration to the United States. Southern Europeans had been arriving in Australia in small numbers for many years, now a flood of people from countries such as Italy began. The Commonwealth Government had established the Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department to oversee commercial aviation in its infant days; in 1920 the Branch had called tenders for air mail services and had awarded the first to Western Australian Airways, operated by ex-war pilot Norman Brearley. Brearley's airline flew the first air mail service from Geraldton to Derby in Western Australia in 1921.
By the 1922 elections the fortunes of the National Party under the leadership of Billy Hughes were waning. Led by Earle Page the Country Party made significant gains in rural areas while the Labor Party also picked up some seats, although not sufficient to outvote the combined National and Country numbers. There was only way the Nationalists could remain to government, and that was to form a coalition with the Country Party. Page was willing, but his price was the removal of Hughes as Prime Minister. Waiting in the wings was Stanley Bruce, son of a wealthy Melbourne merchant, who had risen from back-bencher to Treasurer in only three years; his financial policies were similar to those of Page, making him acceptable as a leader to the Country Party. Hughes was voted out of the leadership by his Party and replaced with Bruce.
Abolition of the upper houses of the State and Federal Parliaments had always been part of Labor policy. State Legislative Councils had become the most exclusive clubs in the land, and an appointment to one of the Councils was almost as good as a life membership. In Queensland the Labor government swamped the Legislative council with its own appointees pledged to the abolition of the upper house then pushed through the necessary legislation. Despite a number of court appeals the action stood, making Queensland's Parliament the only unicameral system in Australia. In western Queensland the fortunes of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (Q.A.N.T.A.S.) improved markedly when granted an air mail route between Charlesville and Cloncurry via Longreach and Winton. This route was designed to complement, rather than compete with, the railway system.
For Sydney residents the great event of 1923 was the beginning of construction of the North Shore bridge. Because Australian foundries did not have the capacity to supply such a mammoth project all the steel was brought by ship from Middlesborough in England. Dorman Long, the construction company, was also English; but the engineer who designed the structure was the brilliant Australian John Bradfield.
John Campbell Miles discovered large deposits of lead in spinifex country in the north-west of Queensland and named the area Mount Isa. All leases were taken over two years later by an American mining company which began exploitation of the silver, lead, zinc and copper riches. The demonstrations of the potential of wireless broadcasting by Ernest Fisk had prompted the commonwealth government to call tenders for licences for companies to operate such services. Because the concept of paid advertising had not been canvassed, it was decided that listeners would pay a licence fee to the government in return for a sealed receiver. These licence fees would constitute the remuneration for the broadcaster. First to go to air was 2SB, owned by Broadcasters Limited (the station's designation was later altered to 2BL).
Mob rule took over Melbourne in 1923 when members of the city's police refused to go on duty over a wages and conditions dispute. Law and order in Melbourne quickly broke down - mobs of hoodlums looted shops and attacked passers-by. After several nights of rioting large numbers of ex-servicemen volunteered as special constables; they restored order to the city and continued to uphold the law until new policemen were trained. None of the striking officers was reinstated. A problem which had been in existence in Australia almost since the first white settlement was highlighted in 1923 when Henry McEwan was arrested for dealing in the drug opium. McEwan's conviction was Australia's first for drug trafficking.
Since the first days of electricity most of the States had been reliant on coal from the Hunter Valley mines in New South Wales. In 1924 the Victorians made a move towards independence by commencing the generation of power from brown coal mined at Yallourn in the La Trobe Valley. Wireless broadcasting expanded rapidly. Three more stations opened 2FC in Sydney (owned by the Sydney department store organisation, Farmer and Company), 3LO in Melbourne and 6WF in Perth (whose licence was held by the Western Farmers Cooperative).
Motion pictures, or 'the pictures' as they were called by most Australians, had been around since the late 1890s, usually screened in rented halls or converted shops or even in the open. By the 1920s 'the pictures' had become a large business with many entrepreneurs vying for the eager patrons' money. These businessmen soon realised that larger and larger theatres attracted larger and larger crowds. In Brisbane the Carroll brothers, having succeeded with the Pavilion theatre, decided to build a large 'picture palace' just down the street. The Winter Garden Theatre opened to a blaze of publicity and was for a short time the grandest cinema in the country.
But it was soon eclipsed by two other 'picture palaces'; the Capitol in Melbourne and the Prince Edward in Sydney. Designed by the architect who created Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, the Capitol magnificently reflected his idiosyncratic style; the Prince Edward was more subdued, but it was still hugely impressive to the people who poured through its doors.
Australian farmers had for many years been suffering under a scourge known as prickly pear, a small cactus introduced as a domestic plant in the 1800s. It had run riot, taking over vast tracts of Australian agricultural land by the 1920s. Desperate for a solution to the menace the government established the Prickly Pear board. The Board's scientists came up with the answer in the form of Cactoblastis cactorum, a tiny moth which lays its eggs on the prickly pear. Once the eggs hatch the resultant caterpillars burrow into the plant, gutting and killing it. almost immediately Cactoblastis made its impact, and thousands of acres of farmland were returned to cultivation.
The Canadian-owned Ford Motor Company of Australia was established to take over the activities of a number of small assemblers and body builders which had handled its products up until that time. Ford purchased land and Geelong in Victoria and began construction of a new factory. In the meantime 'T' model Fords were assembled from imported components at a former woolstore near the harbour. Wireless broadcasting went commercial when the Commonwealth Government approved a system of 'A' class licences for the sealed-unit stations and 'B' class licenses for stations carrying paid advertising. First of the 'B' class stations was 2U in Sydney, operated by Electric Utilities Limited. An interesting sidelight was the granting to the Labor Party of a licence to broadcast, resulting in the establishment of station 2KY.
Western Australia's dissatisfaction about is membership of the Federation continued to simmer and finally erupted in moves for the State to secede. The Secession League of Western Australia was formed to promote the idea of crating a separate Dominion in the west. An illustrious record of scientific research was begun in 1926 when the Bruce government established the council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the forerunner of today's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Bruce displayed his unique sense of cultural cringe by immediately beginning a search for a suitable Englishman to head the Council. Following the lead set by the Ford Motor Company in 1925, General Motors formed a partnership with the Adelaide-based Holden's Motor Body builders to construct bodies and fit them to imported GM chassis. That deal resulted in the construction of the ultra-modern Holden's factory at Woodville in the Adelaide suburbs.
Twenty-seven years after Federation the home for the Commonwealth Parliament was finally completed. The city of Canberra had been laid out more or less to the design of Walter Burley Griffin - an American architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright - who had won the international design competition with his highly imaginative concept. As could be expected the architect had fallen out with the bureaucrats and been forced to resign before the project was finished. The new Parliament House was completed and ready for the official opening by the duke of York in 1927. Bruce and his government, the Opposition, and a horde of invited guests gathered in the city that still consisted very much of sheep paddocks. A lone Aborigine was turned away from the ceremony when he was judged to be incorrectly dressed.
The Commonwealth Line of ships formed by Billy Hughes in 1916 had experienced a chequered career. At its peak the fleet had numbered seventy-five vessels, and five large passenger liners had been introduced to garner some of the traffic between Australia and Britain, although these tended to be poorly run. By 1927 the fleet was reduced to the five liners and two cargo ships. Bruce was pressured into selling the Line to British shipowners for 1.9 million pounds, a bargain price - the five passenger liners alone had cost over 10 million pounds. For two of Melbourne's most notorious criminals life ended in 1927. 'Squizzy' Taylor went to the Fitzroy home of 'Snowy' Cutmore to take revenge on the latter for his treatment of a woman friend of Taylor's. In the ensuring confrontation the two men shot each other: Cutmore died on the spot but Taylor made it to a hospital before death overtook him.
The greatest events of 1928 were of an aerial nature. First was the arrival in Australia of Bert Hinkler in an Avro Avian which he had flown from Britain to Australia single-handed and in record time. Hinkler, a young man from Bundaberg in Queensland, had ben fascinated by flight all his life. In 1912 he had sailed to England and found employment at the Sopwith Aeroplane Works. After the war he had increased his skill and eventually found backers prepared to support his bid for the England-Australia record. Australia went crazy for the young airman, who was feted in street parades and official receptions around the country.
Due partly to the public relations talents of the people involved, the second exploit was even more popular. Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm purchased a Fokker FVII aircraft in the USA, and with two Americans as navigator and mechanic set out to fly the Pacific from Oakland, California, to Brisbane - a feat never before attempted, let alone achieved. When the Fokker, named Southern Cross, appeared in the skies over Brisbane a vast crowd was waiting for it, at Mascot in Sydney more than 300,000 residents of the city turned out for its arrival. Within a month Southern Cross had flown non-stop from Melbourne to Perth, and just weeks after that is third 'first' was crossing of the Tasman Sea from Richmond near Sydney to Christchurch in New Zealand. Kingsford Smith and Ulm were saluted as national heroes.
On the industrial relations scene things were not so bright. A national strike of wharf labourers collapsed in all cities but Melbourne, where it was to drag on in bitterness until well into 1929. In an attempt to control the labourers the shipowners had organised a system of licences without which no person could obtain a start on the docks; also, with the support of the Bruce government, they actively recruited Italian migrants on ships coming to Australia to work the wharves as strike-breakers. This action led to ugly and unpleasant confrontations between strikers and the immigrants, and even resulted in physical violence and bombings. Theatre construction began in earnest. Union Theatres opened two elaborate 'atmospheric' cinemas, the Capitol in Sydney and the Ambassadors in Perth, not to be outdone Hoyts Theatres created two gothic-style palaces for picture-goers, one in Sydney and one in Adelaide, each called the Regent.
For the residents of the remote regions of Australia, efficient medical attention became a reality for the first time when Reverend John Flynn of the Australian Island Mission established the flying doctor Service. Using the pedal wireless designed by Ernest Fisk of AWA, Flynn was able to arrange medical advice over the air or despatch a Q.A.N.T.A.S. aircraft with doctor to the scene.
An apparent publicity stunt caused the names of Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm to lose some of their lustre. After setting out in Southern Cross to fly to London the aircraft vanished over the north-west of Western Australia. In the ensuing search a small aircraft called Kookaburra was forced down in the desert and its two flyers perished. When Kingsford Smith and Ulm were found unhurt it was widely believed they had perpetrated a stunt to raise further funding for their attempt on the Australia-Britain record. Public adulation turned to public outrage. By 1929 the Australian economy had deteriorated to the point where depression set in. Begun in 1927, the slide was blamed mostly on Stanley Bruce who faced the electors late in the year and was defeated. Not only was the Bruce Government defeated, the Prime Minister himself lost his seat - the first and only such occurrence in Australian history to date. The Nationalist-Country Party Government was replaced by Labor under the leadership of James Scullin. Labor had been out of power so long that only Scullin himself and Joseph Lyons, the former Tasmanian Premier, had any ministerial experience.
One of the causes of Bruce's downfall was his plan to return the Conciliation and Arbitration powers to the State Governments. After six years of battling over industrial relations Bruce had had enough; the strike by timber-workers and the disputes on the Melbourne wharves were the end of the road as far as the Prime Minister was concerned. A large percentage of the government did not want the Conciliation and Arbitration powers handed over, but only a small number was prepared to say so. Billy Hughes, who had been looking for his chance to repay Bruce for forcing him out of the Prime Ministership was one. With a b group of backers Hughes crossed the floor and voted against the Government, forcing the calling of a general election.
For Australia 1930 was a year of economic and political turmoil. No sooner had the Scullin Government won power than it was in trouble. Scullin's Treasurer, E.G. Theodore, a former Premier of Queensland, was found by a royal commission to have been involved in the sale of a mine he had owned at Mungana to the State government. Theodore resigned while the matter was being investigated and Scullin took over the Treasury portfolio himself instead of handing it to the highly ambitious Joseph Lyons. In the meantime the arrival in Australia of the Bank of England's representative, Otto Niemeyer, was greeted with suspicion and hostility in Labor ranks. Niemeyer set about instructing the State Governments and the Commonwealth on how they should cut welfare and other spending and in the process ensure they paid back the money they owned to the British financiers. The British debt collector was ably supported by the governor of the commonwealth Bank. Certain elements of the Labor Party, ld by the New South Wales premier Jack Lang, advocated repudiation of the debts as a way out of the financial crisis.
When Scullin departed for London and the Imperial Conference he took with him a proposal that the new Australian Governor-General, due for appointment in 1931, be an Australian. Scullin's choice was the eminent Judge Sir Isaac Isaacs. In 1930 the position of Governor-General was different from today in that it represented the British government rather than the Crown because Australia was a Dominion and subject to the direction of the Imperial Parliament. King George V was less than impressed with Scullin's plan - the monarch preferred to see another of the type of second-rate British aristocrat. Australia had been blessed with in the past take the position. But Scullin held his ground and finally won against stiff opposition.
The turmoil of the Labor Government worsened in 1931. Scullin had left Lyons in temporary charge of the Treasury during his absence in London in 1930, but on his return he sought and obtained the agreement of the Party caucus to reinstate Theodore. Lyons, highly ambitious, saw his path to the leadership blocked for the foreseeable future and opted to resign from Labor. He formed the All For Australia League and, within months of his resignation, was approached by members of the remnants of the old National Party. After their 1929 defeat the Nationalists had gone to pieces and desperately needed a new image. Lyons merged the All For Australia League with the National Part to make the United Australia Party.
Labor's position was further complicated by the falling-out between Jack Lang, Premier of New South Wales, and Scullin and Theodore. Lang was pushing hard against the banks and financiers, while Scullin was taking a softer line. He officially broke with the Labor Party to form Lang Labor; for many years New South Wales had two Labor Parties - Lang Labor and the ALP. Forced to the polls after losing a vote in the House of Representatives, the Scullin government came to an end. Scullin and Theodore were accused of favouring members of their own factions in the allocation of unemployment relief funds. In the subsequent election Joseph Lyons won a convincing victory at the head of the United Australia Party. The image he had cultivated as a responsible financial manager was of immense assistance in the election.
Officially Australia's status as a Dominion ended in 1931 when the Statute of Westminster passed through the Imperial Parliament. Introduced mostly as a result of Canadian and South African agitation at the 1926 Imperial conference, in essence the new arrangement made Australia a fully independent country. Australia, theoretically, now held an equal position with Britain in the world, the King became Australia's Head of State and the governor-General the King's representative. In 1926 the Bruce government had been unenthusiastic about the change; the Lyons government thought along the same lines. Although passed in Britain, the statute of Westminster was not ratified in Australia until 1942.
On the industrial scene Holden's Motor body Builders was badly hit by the Depression. At its vast Woodville plant in Adelaide the company was forced to cut production drastically and lay off a large number of workers. The only answer to the company's plight was a merger with its principal customer. General Motors Australia, GMA financed the deal with cash it was unable to repatriate back to its New York headquarters because of currency restrictions in Australia. Following many calls for an air link between London and Australia, principally to carry mail, the British and Australian governments agreed to an experimental flight. Imperial Airways (later BOAC) was to carry a shipment of mail as far as Darwin where it would be taken over by Q.A.N.T.A.S. and carried to Brisbane; from Brisbane the mails would be carried south by Australian National Airways, the company owned by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm. The Imperial Airways aircraft crashed near Koepang on Timor, making it necessary for Kingsford Smith to fly to the island to bring the mail bags to Darwin.
By 1932 the young Australian cricketer Donald Bradman was reaching the peak of his batting abilities. The Marylebone Cricket Club sent a tem under the captaincy of Douglas Jardine to Australia to play for the Ashes. Jardine, who had an abiding dislike of Australian, devised the 'bodyline' method at bowling which he put into practice through the medium of the terrifying fast bowler Harold Larwood. Bodyline involved the bowler aiming directly for the body of the batsman in the hope of sufficiently shaking his confidence to reduce the run rate. After a number of batsmen were injured by the English bowling the Australian crowds grew hostile and bombarded the English players with all manner of accusations. The conflict reached a peak at the Adelaide Oval - south Australian mounted police stood ready to take the field if the anger of the crowd grew into a riot. A telegram despatched to the MCC by the Australian cricketing authorities accused the English players of unsportsmanlike behaviour, which so incensed the MCC that the matter became political. Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, who was attempting to negotiate the renewal of an Australian Government loan at the time, had immense pressure put on him to bring the Australian cricket administrators into line. The less-than-subtle threat was made that the continuation of these accusations would place Australia's borrowing position in jeopardy.
In March the Sydney Harbour Bridge stood completed and ready for opening. This magnificent engineering feat linked the northern and southern shores of Port Jackson for the first time. Normally it fell to the State's Governor to perform the opening ceremony on such occasions, but Premier Jack Lang decided he would perform the ceremony himself, a decision which invoked cries of outrage from the conservative sectors of the population. The issue reached King George V, who made it plain he was angry that the Governor, Sir Philip Game, had not been given the honour. On the day of the ceremony a member of a Fascist para-military organisation called the New Guard, Captain Francis de Groot, mingled with the official Light Horse contingent. Just prior to the cutting of the ribbon de Groot rode his horse in front of the Premier and the governor and slashed the ribbon with a sword, declaring the bridge open in the name of the people of New South Wales. De Groot claimed he had taken the action as a protest against the socialist actions of the Lang Government.
Game took his revenge on Lang only eight weeks after the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lang, a persistent advocate of repudiation of debts to British financiers, refused to hand over moneys that were to be used for just such a purpose to the Federal government. Intractable as ever, the Premier refused to budge from his position. Sir Philip Game announced the Lang government's commission was terminated, and in the subsequent election Lang was defeated. To the conservatives the Lang dismissal was a triumph of good over evil, but for Labor supporters and the working class it was yet another example of power and privilege defeating a battler for the cause of the ordinary man.
An Imperial Economic Conference was held in Ottawa, Canada, to discuss the problems of the Depression. A system of Imperial preference was agreed upon whereby Australia, Canada, south Africa, New Zealand and the colonies would have guaranteed and preferential access to the British market for their goods, while the reverse would apply for British manufactured items. Imperial Preference had been devised by Britain as a way out of her dire economic plight, although when it had been proposed by Stanley Bruce in the 1920s it had been rejected by Britain and the Dominions. Other countries, notably the United States, had been upstaging Britain in the market-place of the world, leading British industry into a period of gloom. Wireless continued its rapid infiltration into the homes of the nation with the establishment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Lyons Government. ABC stations were on the licence system and carried no advertising. The Commission took over stations which had been operated by the Australian Broadcasting Company on behalf of the government for several years.
The campaign began in 1926 to form a separate Dominion of Western Australia had lapsed for a time, then returned with renewed vigour during the Depression. In late 1932 the dominion League of Western Australia pressured the State government into passing legislation for a referendum on the subject. Held in 1933, the referendum of the population returned a vote overwhelmingly in favour of secession. In response to the Western Australian Parliament's request to London for an alteration to the constitution to allow secession, the British Government ruled that only the Australian people voting in a referendum had the power to alter the Constitution and no individual State could request such a change. Bert Hinkler, the Australian aviator who had won the adulation of the country in 1928 for his solo flight from Britain, was killed in a tragic air crash in the Italian Alps.
Aviation successes were a large part of the news of 1934. The governments of Australia and Britain agreed on an air mail service to operate between London and Sydney. Imperial Airways would operate the London-Singapore sector and a new company, Qantas Empire Airways - owned 50% by Imperial and 50% by Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services - would operate Singapore-Brisbane. Butler Air Transport won the contract to carry the mails from Charleville, where they were transhipped from Qantas, to Cootamundra, where they were loaded on to the Sydney mail train. Another great aviation event was the Melbourne Centenary Air Race, sponsored by Sir MacPherson Robertson of MacRobertson Chocolates fame. Robertson's competition attracted a huge field of entrants and the result signalled a major change in aviation strategies. Although the winner was a racing aircraft, a deHavilland DH88 comet, second place-getter was a normal commercial aircraft, a Douglas DC2 operated by the Dutch airline KLM. The DC2 was adopted by the city of Albury when the residents used car headlights and bonfires to light a runway for the aircraft, which had become lost in a storm.
Joseph Lyons and his government were returned at the 1934 polls, but without sufficient numbers to govern on its own. A deal was made with the Country Party under the leadership of Earle Page for the formation of a coalition.
Its paranoia about international communism was highlighted by the tactics adopted by the Lyons government to prevent noted Czechoslovakian communist Egon Kisch entering the country. That section of the 'White Australia' policy which required migrants to Australia to take down a dictation test in a European language was applied to Kisch, a noted linguist. The language chosen was Gaelic, one of the few Kisch had not mastered. Charles Kingsford Smith, still attempting to reign some of the prestige and adulation of 1928, took on the England-Australia record flying a Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross. The event ended in tragedy when the aircraft crashed into the Bay of Bengal, killing Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot.
One of Australia's most bizarre murder cases took place in 1935. A shark which had recently been captured and placed in Sydney's Coogee Aquarium regurgitated a human arm from its stomach in front of horrified spectators. The arm was identified by several tattoos as being that of a boxer named James Smith. Patrick Brady, who had been holidaying with Smith, was arrested and charged with his murder. He in turn accused Smith's employer, Reginald Holmes, but Holmes was shot dead the day before the coronial inquiry. Brady was acquitted of the murder when his lawyers argued that an arm did not constitute a body, and that James Smith could well be still alive.
The spectre of communism continued to haunt many Australians, especially those who were members of the Catholic Church. Caught between two worlds, the Labor Party supported many of the socialist objectives of Communism while having a large number of members who were of the Catholic faith. Bartholomew Santamaria, a fervent opponent of communism, was particularly concerned with the influence of Communism in the union movement. Along with other Labor Catholics he established the Catholic Worker newspaper in an endeavour to halt this influence. In 1936 the Lyons government became concerned at the rise in fascism as much as the rise in communism. The Nationalists ordered an increase in the strength of the Army against the possible day when Hitler or Mussolini would become a threat to Australia or its allies.
When the Japanese invaded Manchuria members of the international trade union movement were outraged. In retaliation wharf labourers in Australia refused to load or service Japanese ships for a period of time. Not long after take-off from Brisbane's Archerfield Aerodrome an Airlines of Australia Stinson aircraft carrying a group of businessmen crashed into rugged rain forest in the Lamington Plateau south of Brisbane. For more than twenty-four hours it was thought that the aircraft had gone down in New South Wales. When the search moved to the area south of Brisbane a young bushman named Bernard O'Reilly came on the scene. O'Reilly had grown up in the Lamington region and knew the terrain intimately. Within a day of becoming involved O'Reilly had found the aircraft; his bushcraft had enabled him to sight from a long distance a tiny piece of jungle where trees had been singed by fire. When he arrived at the crash site he found two of the passengers alive - the others had perished.
For the first time since the dark days of the Depression the Australian Government recommenced the assisted-passage migration scheme. A large number of people who arrived in Australia during the pre-war years were refugees fleeing racial persecution in Germany. As Japanese aggression continued in China, Australian wharf labourers sustained their action against Japanese ships. One dispute involved the loading of supplies of pig-iron at Port Kembla, material which reasonably could have been expected to be used in the production of war goods. In the ensuing clash between the government and the wharfies Robert Menzies earned the nickname he carried with him for a lifetime: 'Pig-Iron Bob'. Eventually the labourers won the day when Lyons banned the export of all iron ore to cut off supplies to Japan, a decision which also stymied all development of iron-ore exploration in Australia for the next twenty years. The success of the air mail service between Australia and Britain prompted a widening of operations and a switch from land-based aircraft. In 1938 Short Empire flying boats began regular services three times each week from Sydney's rose Bay Base to Southhampton. The huge aircraft brought true luxury to flying for the first time.
Joseph Lyons became the first Prime Minister of Australia to die in office. His untimely end sparked off a major squabble between the United Australia Party and its coalition partner. Country Party leader Menzies was equally determined he would be. Page, who was acting Prime Minister, attacked Menzies in Parliament, accusing him of disloyalty to Lyons in 1938. Page's action split his own party, and five members withdrew to sit on the cross-benches. The UAP elected Menzies as its leader, forcing Page to honour his promise to break the coalition. Menzies was able to struggle on in government with the support of two independent members. Ranged against the UAP was a newly cohesive Labor Party under the leadership of John Curtin. When Britain declared war on Germany, Menzies announced on the wireless that 'as a consequence, Australia is also at war'. The mood within the country was very different from that which prevailed in 1914. There was no elation, no wild patriotism, just resignation - the memories of the carnage of the Great War were too fresh in the minds of most Australians.
That periodic scourge of Australia, bushfire, struck again in 1939. In a horrific day that became known as Black Friday, fire surged across millions of hectares of land, killing over seventy people and destroying vast numbers of homes another buildings. The small town of Noorjee was completely obliterated in the conflagration. Aware of the persecution taking place in Germany, the government agreed to bring 15,000 Jewish refugees to Australia to escape the Nazi regime. Because of the war and the clampdown on civilian travel only about one-quarter of the 15,000 arrived in Australia.
As had occurred in the Great War, Australian troops who expected to be sailing to Europe found themselves on their way to Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The 6th Division of the Australian Imperial Force departed Australia in January, followed by the 7th and 9th Divisions. Again the Australian Army was divided into the AIF, which was able to serve anywhere in the world, and the Militia, the conscripted force, which was restricted to Australia and its territories. The Menzies Government was badly shaken by the deaths of three of its Ministers - Gullett, Street and Fairbairn - in an air crash near Canberra. This calamity robbed the government of three of its most experienced members at the time it could least afford it. On a less tragic front, Menzies appointed Richard Casey as Australia's Special Minister to the United States, marking a major change in Australian foreign policy. Until the Casey appointment all Australian diplomatic affairs had been conducted through British Embassies around the world.
Following the fall of France the mood in Australia changed dramatically. The population had been treating the conflict as something of a joke, something that really was not happening. Menzies moved to take control of all the nation's resources in particular, factories which could be turned to production of armaments and other wartime goods were brought under direct Government control. In Britain contingents of the Royal Australian Air Force had been incorporated into the Royal Air Force. These pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, which followed the defeat of France by the Germans.
Australian divisions were involved in the see-saw battles of North Africa. During the siege of Tobruk Australian troops earned the name 'Rats of Tobruk' from their opponents. Australian troops also saw action in Crete and Greece. On the political scene the situation had deteriorated badly since 1940. Menzies, barely in control of the United Australia Party, was forced to resign and his place was taken by former Prime Minister Billy Hughes. Now bereft of any real leadership, the UAP handed the Prime Ministership over to the minority partners in the coalition, the Country Party, and the nation's new leader was Arthur Fadden, an accountant from members who had been supporting him withdrew. The governor-General called on Labor leader John Curtin to form a government. After three years of political bickering and infighting Australia had a leader willing and able to take on the responsibility of effectively governing the country. The Australian military benefited considerably from the Lend-Lease agreement worked out between Roosevelt and Churchill. supplies of American armaments began flowing to Aust5ralian troops in the field. * * * * *
In late 1941 the reality of war had been dramatically brought home to Australians when the Japanese attacked the American bases in Hawaii. Now it came even closer to home as the Japanese Army began its steamroller advance through Asia. The 8th Division, originally intended for service in the Middle East, was diverted to Singapore where it took part in the Malayan campaign along with British and Indian troops. By the end of January the Japanese had forced the defenders south to Singapore where, in mid-February, more than 20,000 Australian soldiers surrendered. The virtual loss of the 8th Division was a crushing blow to Australian morale as well as to the nation's ability to conduct war.
Curtin decided that the 7th and 9th Divisions in the Middle East should be brought home immediately. Winston Churchill opposed the move, directing that the two divisions go to Burma rather than return to defend their own country. In the confrontation that followed Curtin came out the winner and the troops began the long sea voyage across the Indian Ocean, constantly in danger of attack from Japanese submarines. Australians were stunned when Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin on 19 February, the first attack ever made on Australia by a hostile nation. The nation slumped into gloom and despair and began to steel itself for invasion, a mood heightened by the invasion of New Guinea. At this point, realising that all the rhetoric of the Empire supporters over the years meant nothing, that at the moment of Australia's greatest peril Britain would not be coming to its aid, John Curtin made his historic appeal to the United States for help. Although Australia was expendable to both the USA and Britain, the Roosevelt administration realised the island continent would make an ideal base from which to launch a counter-offensive against the Japanese. With US forces in the Philippines defeated, their commander General Douglas Macarthur was ordered to Australia where he became Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Region.
An Australia in a desperately low state of morale received the the boost it needed in June and July when the country's soldiers met the Japanese at Milne Bay and Kokoda and succeeded in stopping their advance. The action won the breathing space needed as vast numbers of American troops began arriving in Australia. While the infantry was turning the tide on land, a US Navy flotilla with a number of royal Australian Navy ships fought the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese juggernaut came to a sudden halt. The war came to Sydney on a dark night in May when three Japanese midget submarines slipped past the Harbour boom gates and attacked the Garden Island Naval Base. A torpedo fired at an American warship missed and struck the depot ship, a former harbour ferry HMAS Kuttabul. In the pandemonium that followed two of the submarines were hit by depth charges, but the third disappeared. Several days later a Japanese submarine surfaced off Sydney and fired a number of shells which struck houses in the rose Bay area. Newcastle was also attacked in the same way.
It fell to the Curtin Government to finally ratify the British Parliament's Statute of Westminster, passed in 1931 but never taken up by Australia, as action made necessary by various legal technicalities involved in the prosecution of the war. The Statute ended Australia's position as a British Dominion and brought full independence at last. Melbourne was hit by a series of bizarre murders in May; three women were found strangled in various places around the city. Because of the wartime lighting regulations the homicides were dubbed. The Brown-Out Murders'. The last murder took place in a clay air-raid trench in a park, which was the murderer's downfall. A sentry at an Army camp in royal Park recalled seeing an American soldier with clay on his uniform the previous night. Private Edward Leonski was arrested and tried for murder. He was hanged in November.
On the war front Australian troops began to take the offensive against the Japanese in New guinea. Because of New guinea's status as a territory of Australia both the AIF and conscript Militia were able to serve. As the war zone began to move north away from New guinea Curtin was faced with a dilemma; to play an effective part in the conflict all of Australia's army needed to be involved but Labor Party policy denied this. One one of the greatest battles of his career John Curtin went to the Party and convinced it to change. Conscription had all but destroyed the Labor Party during the Great War when Hughes continued to advocate overseas service for the Militia in the face of continuing opposition from the Party.
Curtin efforts to reunited to country and fight the war paid handsome dividends in the 1943 elections with Labor achieving its best ever election result. The opposition - the Country Party under Fadden and the UAP under Hughes - were an ineffective force. That changed when Robert Menzies was able to depose Hughes following the elections. Menzies, although he had been written off after his removal of 1941, began a campaign to reform the conservative forces. Incongruously, while war was raging to the north, arms were being taken up in Archibald Prize, was won by William Dobell for his painting of Joshua Smith. Two other artists took court action claiming the painting was a caricature and not a portrait. Although they were unsuccessful, the bitterness engendered by the dispute lasted for years.
On the war front Australian troops began to take the offensive against the Japanese in New guinea. Because of New guinea's status as a territory of Australia both the AIF and the conscript Militia were able to serve. As the war zone began to move north away from New guinea Curtin was faced with a dilemma: to play an effective part in the conflict all of Australia's army needed to be involved, but Labor Party policy denied this. In one of the greatest battles of his career John Curtin went to the Party and convinced it to change. Conscription had all but destroyed the Labor Party during the Great War when Hughes continued to advocate overseas service for the Militia in the face of continuing opposition from the Party.
Curtin's efforts to reunite the country and fight the war paid handsome dividends in the 1943 elections with Labor achieving its best ever election result. The opposition - the country Party under Fadden and the UAP under Hughes - were an ineffective force. That changed when Robert Menzies was able to depose Hughes following the elections. Menzies, although he had been written off after his removal in 1943, began a campaign to reform the conservative forces. Incongruously, while war was raging to the north, arms were being taken up in Australia's art world. The country's most prestigious award for portraiture, the Archibald Prize, was won by William Dobell for his painting of Joshua Smith. Two other artists took court action claiming the painting was a caricature and not a portrait. Although they were unsuccessful, the bitterness engendered by the dispute lasted for years.
Throughout 1944 Australian troops continued their assaults against Japanese positions in New guinea and the surrounding regions. Battles with the Japanese also occurred on Australia soil when prisoners of war held at the Cowra internment camp in western New South Wales staged a mass breakout. In the action that followed more than two hundred of the escapees were killed. The newspaper industry and the government came to blows in 1944 over the issue of censorship. On 15 April The Daily Telegraph in Sydney published an edition with large areas of white space to show how much material had been censored. The Sunday Telegraph published the next day printed the censored material, prompting a raid of the company's plant. Commonwealth police, guns drawn, confiscated the offending newspapers and closed down the presses. All of Sydney's newspapers followed the lead of The Daily Telegraph the following day and printed censored material: all were seized. The matter was finally decided in the courts, won by the newspapers. One of the great oddities of Australian politics occurred in 1944 when Fred Patterson won election to the Queensland Legislative Assembly. What made Patterson unusual was that he was a declared Communist. His feat has never been equalled.
Ironically, the man who had done so much to see Australia through the Second World War, John Curtin, died only months before the surrender of Japan. Curtin's place was taken by Joseph Ben edict 'Ben' Chifley, a man of immense character and moral strength who had risen from being an engine driver on the New South Wales Railways to the highest elected office in the land. One of Chifley's first actions after the end of the war was to direct Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell to begin a massive campaign of assisted migration from Britain and Europe. As in the Great War, the conflict just ended had made Australians realise just how vulnerable the continent was. The 'populate or perish' cliche came into common usage. Calwell attacked the job with relish, establishing a programme few people had believed possible.
Another of Chifley's ambitions for Australia was the development of a homegrown motor car industry. This ambition was paralleled in Laurence Hartinett, head of General Motors-Holden's. Hartnett, after a sustained campaign, obtained permission from his New York masters for an Australian car, but then was told that GM would make no funds available for the project. When Chifley heard of the position he arranged a 2.5 million pounds loan from the Commonwealth Bank with the Bank of Adelaide coming in to the tune of 500,000 pounds. The Holden project was under way. It is ironic that the Holden car, which earned so much for General Motors in the USA, was financed exclusively with Australian money.
The immigration programme moved into high gear when an agreement was reached with the British Government under which ex-servicemen and women and their families were brought to Australia on an assisted passage basis, the fare for the trip out being fixed at 10 pounds. On the darker side of the equation, the government refused permission for Chinese and Pacific Islander refugees to enter Australia. One of the main planks of Labor policy was nationalisation of important industries, a policy Chifley supported enthusiastically. Government ownership of airlines was becoming common in most countries outside the United States. The government passed an Act to take over all Australia's airlines; however, the airlines challenged the action in the High Court and won, prompting Chifley to take another course. Trans Australia Airlines was set u by the commonwealth government and began operations on the Melbourne-Sydney route, then spread rapidly to encompass all capital cities.
The second airline to come under government control was Qantas Empire Airways, not by nationalisation but by takeover. The government bought up all the Australian shares and the British Government agreed to sell BOAC's 50% shareholding. Robert Menzies' efforts to revitalise the conservative side of politics began to bear fruit. Having established the Liberal Party from the dregs of the United Australia Party he embarked on a whole new image-building campaign. Although American manufacturers had been building cars in Australia for many years, British companies had been content to export to this outpost of the Empire. In 1946 the Rootes Group, manufacturers of Hillman, Humber and Singer cars, built a production line in Port Melbourne.
Following the war a British Commonwealth Occupation Force was established in Kure, Japan, with a large Australian contingent as one of its principal components. An immediate result of the occupation was a large number of marriages between Australian servicemen and Japanese women. The Australian government's 'White Australia' policy was involved in probably one of the cruelest acts of the Chifley Government - despite continuing pressure, the government refused to relent and allow the Japanese brides into the country.
The nationalisation proposals of the Chifley government began to cause real divisions within the community when the Bank Nationalisation 'act was passed. Backed by Robert Menzies and the Liberal Party, the private banks began a massive public relations campaign and took their case to the High Court. When the Duke of Gloucester stood down as Governor-General the Chifley Government opted to appoint an Australian to the position, only the second such appointment since Federation. Chosen was Sir William McKell, former Labor Premier of New South Wales.
The bank nationalisation row continued into 1948, when the High Court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional. The Chifley Government took the case to the Privy Council, but as usual it upheld the High Court's decision. Although he had been defeated, Chifley never gave up his belief that the Australian people would be better served by a government banking system rather than the private enterprise that was so despised by Labor people. Chifley and Laurence Hartnett's work on the construction of an all-Australian motor car came to fruition when the first Holden rolled off the Fisherman's Bend assembly line. Present on the occasion was the Prime Minister, but not Hartnett, who had been relieved of his position as Managing Director by the GM head office.
In one of the major acts of post-war development the Labor Government established the Snowy Mountains Authority to construct one of the most imaginative schemes in Australian history. When completed it would provide much-needed irrigation for farmers in the inland as well as generate electricity for Victoria and New South Wales. A result of the ratification of the Statute of Westminster was the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which passed through the Parliament in 1949. For the first time Australians were Australian citizens rather than British citizens, although passports continued to be British. The monumental industrial dispute of 1949 was undoubtedly the strike on the New South Wales coal-fields by miners desiring increased wages amongst other things. With the State ravaged by severe power cuts a large number of workers in affected industries were stood down. Tramways and railway services were also restricted. The matter was complicated by accusations that Communists were behind the strike. Prime Minister Chifley, a devout Catholic and anti-Communist, was caught between the two positions. His reaction was to end the strike by sending in troops to operate the open-cut mines. It ended the strike, but caused deep schisms within the union movement.
In order to keep control on inflation Chifley had retained food and petrol rationing since the end of the war. Australians were sick and tired of the continuing restrictions and were searching for a way out of their dilemma. They found their answer in Robert Menzies and the Liberal Party. Menzies promised immediate termination of rationing and the population took him at his word. The Labour era which had begun in 1943 ended at the general elections in 1949, in which the number of House of Representative and Senate seats was substantially increased. Chifley retained his leadership of the Labor Party.
One of the promises which had helped the new Menzies Government into power in 1949 was that it would introduce legislation banning the communist Party of Australia. When it was brought down, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill reversed the traditional onus of proof to make the person accused responsible for proving his or her innocence. The Labor Party was racked with dissent over the Bill; the strong Catholic anti-Communist faction called for its passage through the Labor-dominated Senate, while those concerned with civil rights called for its defeat. Eventually Labor allowed the Bill to pass when the majority of its Senators absented themselves from the Chamber for the vote.
Almost immediately the Bill was subjected to a challenge in the High Court brought by the Waterside Workers Federation, a Communist-dominated union . Opposition Leader Chifley was placed in an embarrassing position when his deputy, Kings Counsel Herbert Evatt, agreed to argue the Watersiders' case before the Court. Only five years after the end of World War Two Australia found itself once more involved in a war. When Chinese-backed forces invaded South Korea the United States promptly began moving in vast numbers of troops to assist the non-Communist country. Australia was first after the USA to volunteer troops, who arrived in South Korea in September and saw action almost immediately. Many countries eventually went to the aid of the South Koreans under the auspices of the United Nations. The Australian troops in Korea were supported by No. 77 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force.
The RAAF was operational in Malaya as well. No. 1 bomber Squadron flew in action from Singapore against communist terrorists attempting to overthrow the British colonial rule in Malaya. Rabbits, which had been introduced to Australia in the nineteenth century as game, quickly became a menace of plague proportions. Various measures had been taken to prevent their dispersion across the continent but few, including the vast myxomatosis to the rabbit population, the disease spread rapidly, killing large numbers and bringing the scourge under control.
The action brought by the Waterside Workers Federation against The Communist Party Dissolution Act in the High Court was successful.; the Court declared the Act unconstitutional on the grounds of its infringement of civil liberty. Within ten days of that decision Menzies sought and gained a double dissolution of Parliament on the basis that the Senate had twice rejected the government's Commonwealth Bank Act. That election was a disaster for both Chifley and the Labor Party; the Liberals won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
'Ben' Chifley remained as leader of the Labor Party, but in June he died in Canberra Hospital shortly after suffering a heart attack in his room at the Kurrajong Hotel. He was greatly mourned on both sides of politics. Chifley's replacement as leader of the Labor Party was Herbert Evatt. To support the Australian effort in Korea, compulsory military training was reintroduced for the first time since World War Two. Australian troops were involved in active service in South Korea throughout the year.
For many years Australia's prosperity had been won through its primary produce. In 1951 this position was reinforced by the hysterical situation in the wool industry. With world-wide demand sky-rocketing because of the a Korean War, Australian wool prices quickly reached the 1 pound per pound mark and then surpassed it. The huge increases in earnings brought by these prices bestowed on the graziers the image of wealthy landowners, an image they did little to suppress at the time. Menzies refused to give up his efforts to ban the communist Party and in September he held a referendum on the subject. Although by only a relatively small margin, the move was defeated by the Australian people.
Following the lead set in 1946 by their rival, The Rootes Group, the British Motor Corporation - a merger of Austin and Morris - established an assembly line on the site of the Victoria Park Racecourse at Zetland, Sydney, originally purchased in 1946 by Lord Nuffield when the board of Morris Motors rejected his plans for Australian manufacture.
During the years following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the major world powers acted quickly to establish their own bomb development programmes. As they had no remote areas in which to test their weapons the British approached the Australian Government for permission to use parts of the Australian continent,. Eager to associate itself with the power of nuclear weaponry, the Menzies Government readily agreed. The first A-bomb test took place at Monte Bellow Island off the Western Australian coast in October 1952. While the Australian military involvement continued in Korea the scene was being set for another such commitment. Although the royal Australian Air Force had been in action in the Malayan 'Emergency' since 1951, no ground troops had been committed. In 1952 the Menzies government despatched an observe force to Malaya, the prelude to a much larger involvement in the years to come.
In 1953 Australians were facing the prospect of the introduction of television to the nation. The decision brought down by the Royal commission established by the Menzies Government to consider the nature of the industry was that the Australian Broadcasting commission would operate a national service with a channel in each capital and regional city, while licences would be granted to commercial operators, initially two each in Sydney and Melbourne. Licences for Sydney and Melbourne would be granted for operations commencing in 1956. Federal government legislation to make all Northern Territory Aborigines wards of the government compounded the plight of Australia's black population. Aborigines were still considered to be in need of protection and were still denied the right to vote. The war in Korea ended with the Armistice signed at Panmunjon in July and gradual withdrawal of the Australian troop commitment began. On another military front the tradition of appointing a Britisher as Governor-General of Australia was resurrected by the Menzies Government following the retirement of Sir William McKell. Sir William Slim fitted well with the militarism of the times, having been a hero of the Burma campaign in World War Two.
When it became obvious that the Liberal Government was going to lose office through its poor management of the economy, Menzies searched desperately for an issue on which he could split the Opposition. He found it in a minor official of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Vladimir Petrov, who conveniently approached the government in this election year with what he claimed were documents proving Soviet espionage in Australia. Petrov was granted political asylum, but his wife was escorted out of Canberra and on to a BOAC aircraft at Sydney. On landing at Darwin the escorts were overpowered and Mrs Edvokia Petrov given the opportunity to join her husband, at first she refused, but just prior to the departure of the aircraft she changed her mind. Menzies ordered a royal commission to investigate the Petrov accusations and diplomatic relations between Australia and the USSR were severed.
In the meantime, the Petrov incident fresh in their minds, Menzies went to the people. Needless to say Labor was once again split between the hardline Catholic anti-Communists and the more liberal members of the Party. Menzies convincingly won the election. The other spectacular event of 1954 was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, the first reigning monarch to tour Australia. Inordinate lengths were gone to in expressing the nations' loyalty to the Queen: the cities were illuminated, and public and private buildings and homes were decorated with all manner of gaudy bunting. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, even to the extent of lining the tracks along which royal trains passed.
Having been so thoroughly defeated in the 1954 elections, Labor leader Herbert Evatt decided he had little to lose by bringing the intense factional rivalry of the Party out into the open. The Movement, founded by fervent anti-Communist Bartholomew Santamaria with support from the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix, had been working closely with a number of Labor politicians from the Victorian branch. At its Hobart conference the Labor Party directed that the Movement be disbanded, and any member who declined to obey be expelled from the Party. Seven expelled Labor members from the Federal Parliament formed the Australian Labor Party-Anti-Communist.
Sensitivity to criticism in the press of the Menzies Government was highlighted when two newspapermen were called to the bar of the House of Representatives to answer charges of breach of privilege. Frank Browne and Raymond Fitzpatrick had been responsible for an article on illegal activities within the immigration scheme published in the Bankstown Observer in Sydney; the Parliament voted the two guilty and sentenced each to three months' imprisonment. Following torrential downpours of rain in February the Hunter River in New South Wales broke its banks and flooded a number of towns. Worst hit was Maitland, which was inundated by floodwaters. Eleven people drowned in the Maitland area alone.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board was formed to receive applications for the establishment of television stations. Initially the intention had been that licences would not fall into the hands of the newspaper proprietors in the way radio had, but this proved a false hope when the names of the successful applicants were revealed. Australian Consolidated Press (publisher of The Bulletin and Sydney Daily Telegraph) gained TCN9 in Sydney and GTBV9 in Melbourne; John Fairfax and Sons (The Sydney Morning Herald) took out ATN7, Sydney; and The Herald and Weekly Times (the Melbourne Herald and The Sun News-Pictorial) was granted HSV7 in Melbourne. Television transmission would begin in Sydney and Melbourne in 1956, the other capitals would have to wait until 1959. With the Korean conflict over, the Menzies Government decided to involve itself more deeply in the Malayan 'Emergency'. Under the auspices of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) the first major commitment of Australian troops arrived in Malaya in 1955.
For Australians the greatest event of 1956 was undoubtedly the Olympic Games, officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh, held in Melbourne. The city went to great lengths to prepare for the event: vast sums of money were spent on upgrading facilities at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the construction of Olympic Park, and a special village was built at Heidelberg, a north-eastern suburb, to house competitors. Those Australians who could afford the high cost of a receiver were able to watch the Olympic Games on television for the first time. On 16 September 1956 TCN9 had made the first television transmission - from a disused church in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Frank Packer, head of Australian Consolidated Press, was so determined his station would be first to air that he decided to begin transmissions from the church before the studios in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby were completed.
In Sydney the tramway system which had provided such sterling service to the population since 1879 was pronounced an anachronism by those who believed that the diesel bus was the way of the future. Heavy usage during the War had run the system down badly and, instead of upgrading it, the decision was made to close the entire operation, beginning with the North Shore lines.
The Australian Labor Party-Anti-Communist formed in 1955, unsuccessful in its attempt to win election in the House of Representatives, in 1957 decided to rename itself the Democratic Labor Party. Avowedly right-wing, the DLP promoted militarism and anti-Communism as its main policies. But its real ambition, which would achieve some success, was to prevent the ALP from gaining office. A pronouncement from the Vatican that the Catholic Church should sever its links with the 'Movement' dealt a heavy blow to the organisation. In Queensland, differences between the various factions of the Australian Labor Party burst into the open when the Queensland Central Executive moved for the expulsion of State premier Vince Gair. He departed to form the Queensland Labor Party. Defeated when the ALP, the Country Party and the Liberal Party combined against him in Parliament, Gair was soundly beaten in the subsequent election, effectively ending Labor domination of Queensland politics. The new government, a Country Party - Liberal Party coalition, was led by Frank Nicklin.
Australian National Airways, which was owned by a consortium of British and Australian shipping companies and headed by Ivan Holyman, had been operating with considerable losses since the government's establishment of Trans Australia Airlines in 1946, TAA's choice of aircraft had always been superior to that of ANA, making the government airline the preference of most of the travelling public. When Holyman died in 1957 the shareholders decided to sell the company off to the highest bidder. Surprisingly the winner was Reginald Ansett, whose Ansett Airways operated low-cost services in south-eastern Australia. He merged the two airlines to form Ansett-ANA.
In New South Wales the State's Labor government conducted an international competition for the design of an opera house to be constructed on the site of the Fort Macquarie tram depot on Bennelong Point. Danish architect Joern Utzon's imaginative design was accepted, and he was announced the winner to the accompaniment of considerable criticism from those who considered it impossible to construct.
At the 1958 elections the Democratic Labor Party, with its announced intention of denying government to the Australian Labor Party, came to the aid of the Menzies Government by directing its preferences to the Liberal-Country Party coalition. Although the DLP did not have sufficient electoral support to win seats in the House of Representatives, the vote for the party was enough to turn the tide against the ALP. The long tenure of Country Party leaders was highlighted when Arthur Falden announced he would step down as Party leader and commonwealth Treasurer. Fadden had been Treasurer since the coalition's 1949 victory and during that time had presided over a record level of inflation which had reached 22% in the mid-1950s. Since its foundation in the post Great War years only two men had led the Country Party - Earle Page was the first - and Fadden had taken over in 1940. A former Soldier-Settler from the Goulburn Valley in Victoria, John 'Black-jack' McEwen, became the new leader.
A new era began in 1959 for passengers travelling between Australia and England on Qantas with the introduction of the Boeing 707 jet aircraft. Despite intense British pressures on the Australian Government for Qantas to buy the deHavilland Comet, the Qantas board had stood firm for the 707 - a decision in which they were well vindicated. Qantas's first 707 flew into Sydney, after having broken all existing speed records for a trans-Pacific crossing, to a welcome by a huge crowd.
Following the resignation of Arthur Fadden as Federal Treasurer in 1958 the position had been handed to the relatively inexperienced Harold Holt, a Menzies protege. Holt and Menzies embarked on a campaign to boost private spending by promoting the healthy position of the Australian economy. when the ploy was a little more successful than desired and inflation began to rage out of control it was decided, after receiving predictably orthodox Treasury advice, that the economy required a sharp brake to bring it back to a manageable level. This led to the infamous credit squeeze of 1960 which, combined with falling prices for Australian wool on the international market, brought the country almost to its knees. Large companies and family concerns were affected similarly, and many went bankrupt.
Sydney commercial traveller Basil Thorne won the 300,000 pounds Opera House Lottery; six days later his eight-year-old son Graeme disappeared on his way to school. Subsequently a ransom of 25,000 pounds was demanded, but before the family could respond the kidnapper terminated all communication. Graeme Thorne's body was found on a vacant block of ground at Seaforth, a Sydney suburb. By brilliant use of forensic science police were able to discover the identity of the kidnapper as one Stephen Bradley. Bradley escaped overseas but was arrested in Ceylon and extradited to Australia. The subsequent trial generated enormous passion: crowds milled outside the court demanding that they be allowed to deal with Bradley themselves. The kidnapper-murderer of Graeme Thorne was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Herbert Evatt, exhausted and dispirited from the years of division, decided to relinquish the leadership of the Australian Labor Party and take up the position offered to him of chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His replacement was Arthur Calwell, who had risen to prominence in the post-war years when he presided over the massive immigration scheme inaugurated by the Chifley Government. Exports of iron ore, banned since World War Two, were permitted again in 1960. In Western Australia a number of iron-ore deposits had been discovered but never exploited because there was insufficient demand within Australia. The burgeoning Japanese market was the first target of men such as Lang Hancock, who organised a consortium to work the reserves he had discovered many years before in the Hamersley Ranges.
The electoral backlash inflicted on the Liberal-Country Party coalition by the Menzies-Holt credit squeeze brought the government to within one seat of being defeated by Labor under its new leader Arthur Calwell. Menzies, seeing the dissatisfaction of the population, delayed the election until the last possible moment. In the end the result was balanced on the seat of Moreton in Brisbane, which finally fell to the Liberals after seven days of vote-counting. In a development which had profound effects on the way in which the pharmaceutical industry conducted itself, Dr William McBride presented a paper titled 'The Teratogenic Action of Tahlidomide' to the medical profession. Thalidomide, a drug used to combat depression in expectant mothers, was manufactured by a subsidiary of the British group Distillers Limited. McBride established a link between the drug and deformities in new-born children.
The search for Sydney's 'Mutilator Murderer' had begun in 1960 when the stabbed and sexually mutilated body of a man was found under a shed in Sydney's Domain. During the following nine months another two victims of the mutilator were discovered in Sydney. After pursuing numerous false trails police were aided when a PMG employee recognised a fellow workmate supposedly found dead beneath a shop. Investigations revealed the body belonged to yet another victim of the mutilator and that the ex-PMG employee, Alan Brennan, was alive. Brennan was discovered working in Melbourne, arrested and returned to Sydney. Found guilty of the killings, he was placed in an institution for the criminally insane.
Scrapping of the vast Sydney tramway system, begun in 1956, was completed in 1961 when the last tramcar ran from Elizabeth Street to La Perouse. For the first time since 1879 the streets no longer reverberated to the sound of the rumbling juggernauts which had done so much for the city's development.
With the war in Malaya virtually won, the Menzies Government began looking around for a new conflict in which it could involve Australian soldiers. As the United States began to escalate its embroilment in the continuing clash between northern and southern Vietnam, Australia volunteered the services of a group of Australian Warrant Officers as advisers to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The railway gauge debacle which had bedevilled interstate transport since the 1880s was relieved to a degree in 1962. A standard-gauge line between Sydney and Melbourne was completed and a new train named Southern Aurora, owned jointly by New South Wales and Victoria, was constructed to operate the route. For the first time since the two colonies were linked in 1883 passengers did not have to make the change from one train to another at Albury Station.
1963 opened with what remains today one of the most baffling cases of murder in Australian history. The near-naked bodies of Dr Gilbert Bogle and Mrs Margaret Chandler were found on the banks of Sydney's Lane Cover River in the early hours of 1 January. Both had attended the same party the previous night and Bogle had volunteered to drive Chandler home at around 3.00 am. No sign of violence could be discovered on either body, which led police to test all manner of poisons for a possible answer. One theory advanced was that chandler had been involved in top-secret work overseas and was killed by agents of a foreign government, but no cause of death or reason for murder has even been found.
The royal Australian Air Force's re-equipment plans attracted much attention when it was announced that the new American fighter bomber the TFX was to be ordered as a replacement for the English Electric Canberra. This decision was roundly criticised by those who supported the British TSR2 aircraft, criticism which was later borne out as the delivery date for the TFX, or F1-11 as it was later renamed, was increasingly delayed. On a slightly more positive note, replacement of the RAAF's Avon Sabres began with the arrival of the French Dassault Mirage fighter. Menzies, noting that the electorate appeared to have reversed its position from that of 1961, called an early election for the House of Representatives. As it turned out, both the coalition led by Menzies and Labor under Calwell were neck-and-neck until the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in the middle of the campaign. The killing shattered any feelings of adventure the electorate may have been entertaining and threw the balance in favour of the known factor of Menzies.
Emulating the lead set by blacks in the United States, Australian Aborigine Charles Perkins led a number of Freedom Rides through the northern and western areas of New South Wales. Perkins' main target was the segregation of blacks and whites which existed in hotels, cinemas and swimming pools.
On 10 February the nation was rocked by the news that the royal Australian Navy flagship HMAS Melbourne had collided with and sunk the destroyer HMAS Voyager during exercises off Jervis Bay. Melbourne had sliced Voyager in two, sending the destroyer to the bottom with huge loss of life, and the flagship limped back into Garden Island, Sydney, with a huge gash in its bow. The Menzies Government, with the intention of sending Australian troops to serve in Vietnam, introduced legislation for compulsory military training. It was decided that all males aged twenty years should be registered for national service and those to be called up would be chosen by a ballot system utilising the Tattersalls lottery equipment in Melbourne. That decision marked the beginning of a period of dissent within the community, which quickly split into pro- and anti- camps.
In December Esso-BHP - a partnership of The Broken Hill Proprietory company and Standard Oil of New Jersey - struck oil in Bass Strait where they had been prospecting for some five years. Bass Strait soon proved to have Australia's greatest oil reserves, going a considerable way to achieving oil independence for the nation. On another mining front underground workers at the copper, solver, lead and zinc, operations of Mount Isa Mines walked off the job following the company's rejection of a bonus claim. The subsequent dispute lasted seven months from August 1964 to March 1965, creating deep and lasting divisions between employers and employees. 'Hero' of the strike was miners' leader Pat Mackey, who became a national figure as the dispute dragged on.
In its efforts to carry favour with the United States administration of Lyndon Johnson, the Menzies Government agreed to send a battalion of Australian troops to the Vietnam war and this first commitment of soldiers arrived in the war zone in May. Many of the Australian soldiers had the distinct advantage over their American counterparts of experience in the Malayan campaigns which had involved similar jungle warfare.
The bodies of two teenagers, Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, were found in the sandhills of a popular beach in 'Sydney's northern suburbs. To date the 'Wanda Beach Murders' remain a mystery. Robert Menzies finally bowed to pressure from the Australian people and subverted his personal preference for English aristocrats as Governors-General when he announced the appointment of Richard Lord Casey as the new representative of the Crown in Australia. Casey had been a Cabinet Minister in Menzies; first government in 1939 and had become the head of the Australian diplomatic mission established in Washington DC in 1940. Casey was the third Australian Governor-General, but the first to be appointed by a conservative government.
As 1966 began an era in Australian politics ended. On 20 January Robert Menzies resigned as Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party. He had held office for a record sixteen years and was looked upon as the grand old man of Australian politics. His place was taken by his deputy and Federal Treasurer, Harold Holt, who, as Menzies' chosen successor, was elected unopposed to the Liberal leadership. Thus began a year of unprecedented political events. Once in the Prime Ministerial chair Holt departed for the United States and a meeting with President Lyndon Johnson. During the visit Holt made his infamous statement that Australia would go 'All the way with LBJ'. Johnson and Holt became close associates, to the point where the Australian Prime Minister became the only friend the embattled American leader had on the international science. Johnson returned Holt's support by staging a tour of Australia just months before a Federal election was due to be held. The President was warmly welcome in many quarters with enthusiastic ticker-tape parades through city streets, but at the same time anti-Vietnam demonstrators were also very much in evidence, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. For Holt the tour was a politician's dream - he was seen as a friend of the most powerful man in the world and Australia was taking its place on the international stage.
As a part of Holt's 'All the way with LBJ' philosophy the Australian troop strength in Vietnam was increased to 4500 men, including a number of conscripts - National Servicemen, or 'Nashos' as they were known. This was the first time Australian conscripts had been used in a war in which the homeland was not directly affected. The decision to send conscripts to Vietnam caused deep division in the community and gave a huge boost to the anti-War movement, as did the death of Private Errol Noack, the first National Serviceman to die in the conflict. The degree of division within Australia over the Vietnam War involvement was emphasised in July when Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell was shot and wounded as he merged from Mosman Town Hall in Sydney after addressing an anti-Vietnam rally. Calwell remains the only Australian political leader to be subjected to such an assault.
Predictably, the election of 1966 was fought largely on the question of whether Australia should be involved in the war in Vietnam. Calwell, unnerved by the assassination attempt and tired after years of leading a divided Labor Party, was far from his best. He was ranged against the much more charismatic Holt, who had been seen to be a friend of the great and powerful and a fighter preventing the 'yellow peril' from overuning Australia. The result was a landslide victory to Holt and the destruction of any further Prime Ministerial aspirations of Arthur Augustus Calwell.
Australian had long harboured the conviction that every young man should be forced to serve a term in the armed forces, to make a 'man' of him. Those who still held this belief were shocked and outraged when a number of youths called up for service in the Army refused to go. These conscientious objectors were generally vilified by the wider community, although they had great support within the anti-War movement. William White was the first conscientious objector to be brought before the courts, and his case happened to coincide with the Federal lection. He was held in custody during the campaign and released afterwards. Another major change in Australian society took place on 14 February 1966. Decimal currency was introduced, to the usual protests which accompany any such profound change. The old pounds, shillings and pence which had been based on the British currency system were replaced with dollars and cents, $1 equalling 10/-. Even its name had been the subject of considerable debate - the Menzies government favoured 'Royals' while the majority of the population wanted 'Dollars'. Australian royalists felt deeply honoured in 1966 at the choice of Timbertop, an annexe of the exclusive Geelong Grammar School, for eight months in the education of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. It was of course an excellent piece of public relations designed to cement the Royal association with Australia.
During 1966 Ronald Ryan and Peter Walker had escaped from Melbourne's Pentridge Gaol, Ryan having stabbed and killed a warder in the process. When the two were caught after two weeks at large Ryan was sentenced to death for the murder of the warder. By 1967 most Australian States had removed the death penalty from the statute books, but in Victoria it remained. After numerous appeals and a public outcry the Liberal premier of Victoria, Henry Bolte, announced that the sentence would be carried out, and on 9 January Ryan was hanged at Pentridgte. He was the last person to be executed in Australia.
Hobart suffered the horrors of bushfire as a huge blaze descended on it from the south-east. The holocaust burned to within three kilometres of the city centre, causing around $45 million worth of damage.
Long-time aspirant Edward Gough Whitlam finally achieved leadership of the Australian Labor Party in February 1967. Whitlam had chafed under Calwell's reign for six years and was now ready to embark on an ambitious plan to reform the Party's policy-making machinery. For many years Menzies had attacked the Labor Party for its team of 'faceless men' - the non-elected Party members who decided the policies to be carried out by the elected members. The so-called 'VIP Aircraft Affair' had the Holt Government under siege. It was claimed that Ministers had been using aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force's VIP fleet for personal purposes. On the Opposition's call for records of flights made by the aircraft to be made available to Parliament, Minister for Air Peter Howson claimed they did not exist. In the ensuring row the government was further embarrassed when its Senate Leader, John Gorton, tabled the requested documents.
In a long overdue move the government put to the people a referendum proposing that all forms of discrimination against Aborigines be outlawed. Surprisingly, considering the racist nature of the population, there was a 90% vote in favour. Aborigines were no longer considered 'protected', at least under Commonwealth law, and were to he counted in the population and allowed to vote for the first time. All States handed over their powers in the area of Aboriginal affairs to the Commonwealth, with the exception of Queensland which continued its policies of protection'. On the afternoon of Sunday 17 December 1967 Australians were stunned to hear over their radios and television sets that Prime Minister Harold Holt had disappeared in the surf off Portsea in Victoria where his holiday home was located. A huge search-and=-rescue campaign was immediately launched, but no trace was ever found of his body. The following day the Governor-General commissioned Country Party leader John McEwen to form al caretaker government. Almost immediately Liberals began campaigning for the leadership, prompting McEwen to issue an edict on 20 December stating that the Country Party would not serve in coalition with a government headed by William McMahon.
When the Liberal Party met during January to decide on a new leader for the country William McMahon had bowed to the blackmail of caretaker Prime Minister McEwen and withdrawn from the race. Winner was Senator John Gorton, who immediately resigned his place in the upper house to contest Holt's blue-ribbon seat of Higgins. Under the Constitution a resigning Minister holds the commission of his office for three months after the date of that resignation. Gorton's Prime Ministership was to be markedly different from that of his predecessors, one of his first announcements on assuming office was that there would be no increase in the numbers of Australian servicemen in Vietnam. The future of British-built aircraft in Australia seemed bleak in 1968 when a Vickers Viscount operated by MacRobertson Miller Airways crashed at Port Hedland in the north-west of Western Australia. Although the Viscount had been a popular aircraft with passengers, it had suffered a number of major accidents including one at Mangalore, Victoria, shortly after delivery in 1954; another had broken up in a storm and crashed in Botany Bay in 1961; and a third had crashed near Winton in Queensland in 1966.
By 1969 the Australian Labor Party, under the leadership of Gough Whitlam, was shaping up as a creditable alternative government for Australia. Whitlam had succeeded in his aim to make the Party more democratic by introducing a larger representation of elected members to the policy-making Central Executive. The decision-making process was also made public for the first time. His path to the leadership of the Liberal Party effectively blocked, Paul Hasluck decided to resign from politics and take u appointment as Governor-General. Hasluck was the second Australian appointed to the job by a Liberal government, and also the second retired member of the Party. Most Australians came to believe that the royal Australian Navy flagship HMAS Melbourne was jinxed when it collided with the American destroyer USS Frank E Evans in the South China Sea. The US ship, which it is believed misunderstood a signal from Melbourne, sank with a heavy loss of life.
A huge number of Australians caught stock market fever in 1969 as the minerals boom burst on to a population with money to spend. Star of the mineral boom was Poseidon, a nickel company which had reported a major find in Western Australia. The price of Poseidon shares rose from $1 to almost $30 overnight, and by the end of the year hovered around the $200 mark. A number of astute investors made a great deal of money in the scramble, but as many were ruined by dabbling in worthless prospecting companies. When the Gorton Government went to the polls in October 1969 the Australian Labor Party was given an even chance of winning. Initially the counting favoured Whitlam but by the end of the night had swung back to Gorton, allowing the Liberals to squeak back into power. Gorton's poor showing led to a challenge for the leadership of the Party with William McMahon, now out of John McEwen's bad books, as the main contender. Although the voting was close, the attempt to unseat Gorton proved unsuccessful.
As a growing number of Australians realised the Vietnam War was unwinnable, the issue of our continuing involvement deepened the division of the country. The situation which existed in 1966 when Holt had won a resounding victory on a pro-Vietnam policy had been reversed. Bowing to public pressure Gorton announced a reduction in Australia's troop strength by the non-replacement of one battalion, reducing the numbers from 8500 men to just over 6000. Also on the military front, the F1-11 bomber programme had become a standing joke in Australia. Ordered in 1963, the aircraft was long overdue for delivery owing to repeated technical difficulties, and the United States Government offered to loan the royal Australian Air Force a fleet of McDonnell Douglas Phantoms until the F1-11s could be delivered. The Phantoms went into service in 1970 at the Amberley base near Brisbane, replacing the geriatric English Electric Canberras.
The first transcontinental rail link between eastern and western Australia had been made in 1917, but to travel it required a number of train and gauge changes until the opening of the standard-gauge line from Sydney to Perth in 1970. This new link effectively ended the franchise held by the Silverton Tramway company, the most profitable private railway in Australia, which had connected the New South Wales government Railways terminus at Broken Hill with that of the South Australian Railways at Cockburn. Widely celebrated throughout the country, at least by the whites, was the bicentenary of Captain James Cook's discovery of Australia in 1770. The main events were focused around a visit by the Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
In a night of drama involving a Qantas Boeing 707 aircraft in an extortion threat, a man calling himself 'Mr Brown' took $500,000 in ransom money. Claiming the 707 had on board an explosive device which would detonate if the aircraft flew below a certain altitude, he demanded $500,000 in return for information about the bomb. After the money had been paid it was discovered that no device existed and the 707 landed safely. Three months later, when he was arrested, 'Mr Brown' was revealed to be Peter Macari. Conservation was a growing concern in the early 1970s. The construction boom which had raged through Sydney in the 1960s had destroyed hundreds of architecturally and socially significant buildings and replaced them with office blocks and home unit towers of unrelieved blandness. To top off this development mania two of Sydney's oldest areas, The Rocks and Woolloomooloo, were targeted for complete demolition and rebuilding; high-rise office and residential blocks were planned for these prime sites. A halt to the madness came when the Builders Labourers Federation, led by Jack Mundy, began applying 'Green Bans', which stopped the indiscriminate demolition of historically and culturally significant precincts.
On its last legs since the 1969 elections, the Gorton Government was finally ended. Minister for Defence Malcolm Fraser resigned, accusing the Prime Minister of 'extreme disloyalty'. His move led to four other Ministers refusing to serve under Gorton, prompting the Prime Minister to call a Party meeting and ask for a vote of confidence in his leadership. A tied vote meant Gorton, as chairman, had the casting vote: he used it to remove himself from office. William McMahon was then elevated by the Party to the leadership and the Prime Ministership of Australia.
The year of 1972 was a momentous one in Australia's recent history in that it spelled the end of twenty-three years of unbroken Liberal-Country Party rule. Continuing to split the Australian electorate was the Vietnam War issue, although the number of servicemen in action in the conflict was being steadily reduced. Australians had also become dissatisfied with the almost moribund McMahon government, which seemed incapable of delivery anything in the way of novel policies and was continually at war within its own ranks. By contrast the Labor Party had never looked so united as under the Whitlam leadership. Almost all of 1972 was an election campaign as Labor began its bid for power, and its highly emotive 'It's Time' campaign played a large part in creating the mood for a change in Australian minds.
Australia went to the polls on 2 December 1972 with Prime Minister McMahon ranged against the charismatic Whitlam. Late that evening a strange feeling descended over the nation as it realised that a new era had begun. Unwilling to wait until the Labor Caucus decided which members of Parliament would be Ministers in the new government, Whitlam asked the Governor-General to commission himself and his deputy Lance Barnard as a Cabinet of two. Almost immediately Whitlam put a number of Labor policies into action, the most important of which was the ending of Australia's involvement in Vietnam and the termination of conscription which had become such a divisive issue. On a more sombre note, on 31 July the Box Flat Colliery near Ipswich in ?Queensland was rocked by a huge explosion. Emergency services were rushed to the site to find seventeen miners killed in the blast.
The first months of the new Whitlam Labor Government were full of optimism until the administration appeared to turn sour. Many of the promises made at the election campaign were honoured: there were massive increases in spending on the arts and social security; and for the first time eighteen-year-olds were allowed to vote in Federal elections. One of the first signs that the government was experiencing difficulties in its dealings with the Public Service was an early-morning raid in March conducted by the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, on the Melbourne headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in an attempt to obtain ASIO files on Croatian dissidents in Australia prior to the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister.
Another era ended in 1973 when the last Australian troops were withdrawn from Singapore in line with Labor policy. Australia's sole military presence remaining in South-East Asia was the royal Australian Air Force base at Butterworth in Malaysia. After sixteen years of Hysteria, recriminations, speculation and ever-mounting costs, the Sydney Opera House finally was ready to be opened. Largely financed by lotteries, its final cost of over $100 million was staggering. Joern Utzon, the man who had conceived the brilliant design, was not to be present at the finish: his continual disputes with the New South Wales government had led to his resignation from the project in 1966. The opening of the Sydney Opera House was considered to be of such importance that no less a personage than the Monarch herself was required. Sydney staged a flamboyant display with hundreds of boats, ships, and ferries crowding the waterway.
In March Brisbane was shocked by the deaths of fifteen people when a deliberately lit fire gutted the Whisky au-Go-Go nightclub in the inner suburb of Fortitude Valley. Investigation of the tragedy has been clouded in mystery ever since, with the man convicted of the crime, John Andrew Stewart, persistently claiming his innocence. The status of Robert Hawke, Federal President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), was enhanced in 1973. Hawke was elected president of the Australian Labor Party and took to wearing two hats, which many people saw as a conflict of interests. During the first full year of the Whitlam Government's term the country Party Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, rose to national prominence by appointing himself the unofficial Opposition. He began touring the nation on a tirade against the evils of socialism.
Torrential rain falling on much of eastern Australia opened the year. Combined with a particularly bad cyclone season, the deluge soaked the cities and the countryside until, on the Australia Day holiday weekend, a number of rivers in south-eastern Queensland broke their banks. Most dramatic was the Brisbane River, which flowed across many low-lying suburbs and inundated thousands of homes. The floodwater also washed into the city commercial area, creating havoc. When the waters finally subsided after a week Brisbane and many surrounding towns were a disaster area.
In February Mary Gibbs, the teacher of the small Victorian school at Faraday, and six of her pupils were kidnapped by Robert Boland and Edwin John Eastwood and held for a $1 million ransom. Gibbs and the children made their escape while Boland and Eastwood were collecting the ransom money. Apprehended shortly afterwards, the kidnappers were each sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. Mary Gibbs was awarded the George Medal for Bravery. While the Whitlam Government controlled the House of Representatives the Senate remained in the hands of the Liberal and Country Parties, neither of which had ever accepted they had been legitimately defeated in the 1972 election. The government remained under constant threat of having legislation blocked in the upper house. An election for half the Senate was due in 1974 so Whitlam moved to improve labor's chances of gaining control by approaching Queensland DLP Senator Vince Gair with the offer of an appointment to the Ambassadorship of Eire. Gair, who had been deposed from the DLP leadership by Frank McManus the previous year, agreed, but the appointment became common knowledge before he had submitted his resignation. Country Party leader Doug Anthony contacted Queensland premier Bjelke-Petersen and suggested that he immediately issue writs for five Senate vacancies rather than six. The Whitlam ploy backfired and ruined any chance of gaining a majority in the upper house.
Politics was the overwhelmingly dominant theme in 1975. The Whitlam government had gone from crisis to crisis and seemed mired in scandal and incompetence. Faction fighting was rife in the Parliamentary party. This situation was not assisted by the continuing attitude of the Opposition parties that they had not really lost the 1972 and 1974 elections. In February Attorney-General Lionel Murphy resigned from the Senate to take up an appointment as a Judge of the High Court. Tom Lewis, New South Wales Liberal Premier, eager to join the anti-Whitlam crusade, decided to appoint Cleaver Bunton to replace Murphy rather than appoint a Labor Party member as tradition dictated. Whitlam's relations with the members of his Parliamentary team were further damaged by confrontation in the House of Representatives between the Prime Minister and the Speaker., Jim Cope. Cope resigned and was replaced by Gordon Scholes.
All was not rosy in the Liberal camp either, as dissatisfaction over the leadership of Billy Snedden increased. Snedden's failure to match up to the Whitlam oratory embarrassed some members of the Party and they began looking for a replacement. After one abortive attempt, supporters of Malcolm Fraser succeeded in having their candidate elected leader. The first test of Whitlam versus Fraser came when former Deputy Prime Minister Lance Barnard resigned from the Parliament to become Ambassador to Sweden. At the subsequent by-election in Barnard's seat of Bass in Tasmania, Labor was thrashed by the Opposition with a 16% swing to the Liberals. In the wake of the Barnard resignation Whitlam reshuffled the Ministry once again, this time shifting Cairns from the Treasury and replacing him with bill Hayden. Although Hayden was one of the best choices Whitlam could have made, the new Treasurer was faced with an almost impossible situation. Inflation was out of hand and had risen over the 20% mark for the first time since the Menzies days of the 1950s. The government continued its lavish spending spree in spite of its effects on the economy of the nation.
Hobart was effectively divided in two when the ore carrier Lake Illawarra struck a pylon of the Tasman Bridge which crosses the Derwent river linking the two sides of the city. A section of the bridge collapsed, sending a number of vehicles plunging into the river. Lake Illawarra sank under the weight of the collapsing bridge. A landmark of the Whitlam administration's term was the introduction of the Family Law Act, which for the first time removed the aspect of guilt in divorce. Another of the government's innovations was the introduction of Medibank, providing all Australians with free comprehensive medical cover.
The battle to retain the character of areas in Sydney's inner suburbs had been waged for a number of years, and in 1975 the guerrilla war between the developers and the conservationists reached its peak in the arena of Victoria Street. Newspaper publisher and daughter of the Mark Foys department store family, Juanita Neilsen, was a strident voice against the plans for development of the Kings Cross area, which involved the demolition of much of the traditional terrace-house accommodation for replacement by high-rise apartment blocks. Neilsen disappeared from her home at Kings Cross in July and no trace of her has ever been found. With the fall of the fascist government in Portugal the future of that country's colonies was thrown into confusion. In Portuguese East Timor, just north of Australia, various factions fought for control of the government until the Indonesian Government decided to annex the colony. The Fretilin guerrilla movement continued its opposition to the Indonesian conquest, but it was not aided by the decision of the Whitlam Government to accept the Indonesian action without protest.
Independence for the Territory of Papua and New guinea - Labor Party policy for many years - was achieved in 1975 when the former colony of Papua and the mandated territory of New Guinea became Papua-New guinea under the Prime Ministership of Michael Somare. The move began a huge exodus of white former public servants back to Australia. Following the death of Labor Senator Bert Milliner, tradition was once more ignored when Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen refused to accept the Labor Party's nomination of Mal Colston as his replacement. Bjelke-Petersen's choice was the unknown Albert Field, a minor, right-wing union official and opponent of the Whitlam Government. Field was expelled from the Labor Party and the case taken to the High Court in an attempt to block his appointment.
During 1975 the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Rex Connor, endeavoured to raise $4000 million to buy up overseas shareholdings in a number of Australian mining which comprises representatives of Federal and State Government, but instead it was classified as a 'temporary' loan, thus bypassing the council. When the Opposition authorisation and requested Treasury to seek a $2000 million dollar credit. Under questioning in Parliament former Treasurer Jim Cairns denied having made contact with a loans broker three months earlier, however a letter from Cairns tabled in Parliament forced Whitlam to sack the Environment Minister. In October the government was still under fire from the Opposition, compelling Whitlam to assure Parliament that all loan-seeking activities had ended. At this point Tirath Khemlani, a shady Middle Eastern finance man, entered the picture. Khemlani apparently had claimed to have available in Zurich the $4000 million Connor needed but was less than enthusiastic about accompanying Treasury officials to Switzerland to verify the existence of the funds. When relations between Khemlani and Connor soured the money-broker attempted to embarrass the government by producing telexes which showed Connor had been involved in seeking a loan even after Whitlam's assurance that all such activity had ended. Connor was forced to resign his portfolio.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser had claimed that the Liberal Party would not attempt to block government supply in the senate unless 'extraordinary and reprehensible circumstances' existed to warrant such action. Fraser decided the 'Loans Affair' represented such circumstances and, on 16 October, the Senate voted to defer the Hayden budget until Whitlam agreed to call a House of Representatives election. Whitlam refused and a deadlock ensued, the Prime Minister using all the powers of his office in an attempt to break the will of the less-committed Liberal Senators. The situation dragged on into November - Fraser and Whitlam still at loggerheads, booth refusing to budge, although public support for Fraser was wavering. In an attempt to continue operating, the government approached the private banks for temporary support until the budget was passed. The banks refused. On the following day, 11 November - Remembrance Day - the Governor-General Sir John Kerr called Opposition Leader Fraser to Government House prior to an appointment he had with the Prime Minister. Fraser remained hidden in the house while Whitlam delivered a letter requesting a half-Senate election. Kerr asked if he was willing to call a House of Representatives election. Whitlam said he was not, and Kerr informed him he was dismissed. After Whitlam departed Fraser was sworn in as caretaker Prime Minister.
Despite what seemed huge support for the Labor Party in rallies around the country. Whitlam was defeated soundly and Fraser won the largest majority any government had enjoyed since Federation.
Compared with 1975, 1976 was a relatively quiet year on the political scene. Gough Whitlam remained as leader of the Labor Party, while the country still raged over whether the actions of 'Sir John Kerr had been legal. The Fraser Government had promised to retain the Medibank health system intact, but almost immediately commenced dismantling it. These moves led to widespread protest and a strongly supported one-day national strike. The reformist government of Premier Don Dunstan in South Australia created history in 1976 when it appointed Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls as State Governor. Where the Governorship of Nicholls differed from his predecessors was that he was an Aborigine. Unfortunately ill health forced his early resignation from the post. Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen was outraged by the Fraser Government's refusal to issue export permits for the products of sand-mining on Fraser Island, an action which resulted largely from the efforts of the Fraser Island Defence Organisation (FIDO).
On 18 January a city-bound train from the Blue Mountains west of Sydney left the tracks at Granville in the western suburbs and ploughed into the supports of a road bridge. The following carriages, crowded with commuting passengers, were crushed under the weight of the collapsing structure. In what became known as the 'Granville Disaster' eighty-three people died and many more were badly injured. A massive rescue effort was mounted throughout the day and night. The tragedy, the worst rail accident in Australian history, brought to light the poor state of the New South Wales railway system, created by years of neglect. The civil liberties scene in 'Queensland came to the fore when Police Commissioner Whitrod announced an inquiry into an assault on a woman protest marcher by a police officer. State Cabinet overrode the decision and accepted Whitrod's subsequent resignation on the issue. This situation led to the government's decision to place the issuing of march permits in the hands of the new Police Commissioner, Terry Lewis, with no appeal to the courts allowed, which in turn provoked a long series of confrontations between police and 'illegal' marchers in the streets of Brisbane. The scale of arrests which followed clogged the Queensland court system for years and finally brought about a softening of the requirements for permits.
Former Liberal Minister Don Chipp, who had been overlooked by Fraser for his Ministry, resigned from the Party announcing he was unhappy with the way the country was being run. He had intended to take up employment in private enterprise, but was prevailed upon to support the founding of a new political movement, the Australian Democrats. Chipp began a tour of the country to generate support for the party, attracting disgruntled people from both the Labor and Liberal camps. Although the Democrats had enormous potential the success of the organisation was marred by a lack of effective discipline. The regional city of Griffith, centre of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, was in the news during the year when local furniture retailer and anti-drug campaigner Donald McKay disappeared. Traces of blood were found around McKay's car in a hotel car park. It has been assumed that he was murdered by persons with vested interests in drug cultivation in the region. No trace of his body has yet been found.
Yet another premature election ended the year - Malcolm Fraser decided to go to the polls twelve months early. In the early stages of the election campaign it appeared that Labor under Whitlam was the winner, a development which prompted the resignation of governor-General Kerr. But by the time polling day arrived Fraser had reversed the situation and again won a crushing victory. Whitlam announced his resignation from politics once the result became clear. During the run-up to the election Treasurer Phillip Lynch was implicated in a scandal over the sale of land in Victoria. Fraser demanded Lynch's resignation which was reluctantly given.
In 1978 an era in Australian political history ended with the death of the Liberal Party founder, Sir Robert Menzies. He had been ailing for some time, and passed away in the study of his Melbourne suburban home. After a funeral service held at Scots Church, Melbourne, the funeral cortege passed through city streets packed with onlookers. When Parliament House in Canberra had been opened in 1927 the structure was intended to be only a temporary one until a grander edifice could be erected. Fifty years of indecision had passed before it was finally agreed that a new home for the Parliament would be constructed on Capital Hill in time for the bicentennial of white settlement in 1988. The design chosen was a highly imaginative concept of a building which is mostly underground.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM) being held at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney was dramatically disrupted when an explosive device concealed in a rubbish bin outside the hotel detonated as the bin was loaded on to a garbage truck. Two police officers and two garbage collectors were killed in the blast. Prime Minister Fraser ordered a massive increase in security and soldiers were brought in to supplement police efforts. President of both the Australian council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Australian Labor Party, Bob Hawke had long been considered an obvious candidate for a seat in the Federal parliament. The opportunity he had been looking for presented itself when long-time Labor MP Gordon Bryant decided to resign his seat of Wills in Melbourne. Although his pre-selection was opposed by the Party's left wing, Hawke won the ALP candidacy and subsequently the electorate of Wills. Opposition Leader Bill Hayden appointed Hawke spokesman on Industrial Affairs.
The Fraser Government was rocked by yet another scandal when National Party Minister Ian Sinclair was named as being involved in illegal activities surrounding his family's ownership of a funeral business on Sydney's North Shore. Although resistant to pressure applied by the Prime Minister, Sinclair finally resigned his portfolio while the matter was investigated. In South Australia the long reign of Don Dunstan ended when the Labor Premier announced his resignation from politics. Dunstan, who had introduced far-reaching social changes to the State and made it one of the most progressive in Australia, was suffering from fatigue, aggravated by the death of his wife Adele Koh. Dunstan's replacement was Des Corcoran, who later in the year opted for an early elective and was defeated by the Liberals.
Tasmanian politics were thrown into turmoil when a Member of the Legislative Assembly defeated in the State election challenged his opponent in the Supreme Court claiming he had spent more than $1500 on campaigning. The Tasmanian Electoral Act specifies $1500 as the maximum allowable expenditure by a candidate in an election campaign. In the subsequent furore fifty-two sitting members and unsuccessful candidates were charged and fined for failing to submit details of their electoral expenditure.
For the first time since 1972 a Federal election was held at the due time in 1980. Perceiving that the image of its leader Bill Hayden was not strong enough to defeat Fraser, the Labor Party opted for a vote-winning trio of Hayden, Bob Hawke and New South Wales Premier Neville Wran to front its advertising campaign. Although it was looking less and less like an effective force, the Fraser Government won the 1980 poll but with significantly reduced numbers and loss of control in the Senate. In Tasmania the Labor State Government became embroiled in a long-running dispute over the construction of a hydro-electricity project known as the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam. While the all-powerful Hydro Electricity commission was pressuring the government to authorise the project, conservationists were equally adamant that the region should remain unspoiled. The issue opened a dramatic split in the party.
The most bizarre event of 1980 occurred at a campsite of the foot of Ayers rock in central Australia. Alice 'Lindy' Chamberlain, who was staying at the site with her husband Michael and their children, claimed a dingo had taken her baby Azaria from their tent. An intensive search was mounted but no trace of the child was found other than bloodstained clothing identified as having belonged to her. In the wake of intense speculation an inquest into the fate of Azaria Chamberlain began in Alice Springs in December. A series of attacks on judges of the Family Law Court began in June. Justice David Opas opened the door of his home in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra and was shot dead by an unknown assailant. Despite widespread investigation by both Federal and New South Wales Police, the murder remains unresolved.
Woolworths Limited was the target of a bombing campaign begun in late 1980 and culminating on Christmas Eve. The third explosion took place at the Woolworths store on the corner of George and Park Streets, Sydney, at a time when the store and the city streets were crowded by last-minute shoppers. A ransom of $1 million was demanded as the price for the cessation of the bombings.
The inquest into the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain at Ayers Rock in 1980 delivered a finding that the child had been taken by a dingo. Later in the year Northern Territory police reopened the case after receiving new evidence involving the presence of blood in the Chamberlains' car and a report from a British forensic expert regarding the child's clothing. A second inquest found the Chamberlains should stand trial for the murder of their daughter. Tasmania's Labor Government was dragged deeper and deeper into the mire of the Gordon-below-Franklin hydro-electricity scheme. Premier Dough Lowe, an opponent of the plan, was forced to resign as members of his government were won over to the Hydro Electricity commission's side. He was replaced by former television journalist Harry Holgate. With Lowe sitting on the cross-benches in Parliament, Holgate's majority of one was destroyed when Party Whip Mary Willey opted to join the former Premier. Rather than be defeated in the Legislative Assembly Hogate prorogued Parliament for four months, staving off the inevitable.
In the Federal arena the sackings and resignations of Fraser Government Ministers continued: leadership aspirant Andrew Peacock resigned his portfolio claiming Fraser had been disloyal to him. Melbourne was chosen as the setting for the commonwealth Heads of government Meeting (CHOGM), at which Prime Minister Fraser was host to leaders such as Margaret Thatcher from Britain and Pierre Trudeau of Canada. The Meeting, opened by the Queen, achieved little of lasting value and was an enormous disruption of life in the Victorian capital.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was further embarrassed by revelations that Minister for Health Michael McKellar had brought a colour television through customs by declaring it to be a non-dutiable black-and-white set. In the subsequent furore both McKellar and the Minister for customs and Excise, John Moore, were forced to resign their portfolios. On the Labor side of politics the leadership aspirations of Bob Hawke entered the public arena. He challenged bill Hayden who, under increasing pressure over the style of his leadership, had precipitated the vote in an attempt to clarify the situation. Hayden was successful in holding his post, but the exercise laid the groundwork for future contests.
Brisbane City council's long-term efforts to bring the Commonwealth Games to the city were realised. In the face of widespread scepticism about the city's ability to hold such a major event, the Games were a huge success and the opening and closing ceremonies, in particular, were memorable spectacles. 1982 was the beginning of a tide of change in State governments across the nation. It started in Tasmania when the Holgate Government was forced to the polls with the Gordon-below-Franklin power scheme the major issue of the campaign. Holgate and the Labor Party were soundly defeated and replaced by a Liberal government under the leadership of Robin Gray. In Victoria, John Cain led Labor to victory and ended twenty-seven years of unbroken Liberal rule. By coincidence the previous Labor Premier of the State had been Cain's father. South Australia's short-lived Tonkin Liberal government was defeated by John Bannon and his Labor team.
Late in the year former Liberal deputy leader Sir Phillip Lynch retired from politics, leaving his marginal seat open to a by-election. Labor, buoyed by its success in the Sydney seat of Lowe vacated by former Prime Minister William McMahon earlier in the year, confidently expected to take Lynch's seat; however it was beaten mainly because of the calibre of the candidate fielded. The victory for the Liberals set Malcolm Fraser on a course to another early general election. In October Lindy Chamberlain was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of her daughter Azaria. Her husband Michael was found to have been an accessory after the fact and was released on a good-behaviour bond. The Chamberlains' defence lawyers announced that the verdict would be appealed against.
The Costigan Royal commission, which had been set up by the Fraser Government to investigate illegal activities within the Ship Painters and Dockers Union, began to unearth a great deal of material outside the scope of its original activities. A number of prominent business people and supporters of the Liberal Party were found to have been involved in large-scale income tax evasion schemes. The revelations dampened the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister for an early election.
In February Bill Hayden's leadership of the Labor Party was looking shaky. When it appeared that a second challenge from Bob Hawke was likely Malcolm Fraser went to the Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen to request a double dissolution. At the same time, at a Labor Party meeting in Brisbane, Hayden announced his resignation. Bob Hawke was elected the new Party leader and the election campaign began. Right from the start the charismatic Hawke took the front running while the Fraser government looked old and tired. The Prime Minister's increasing attacks against the socialist bogy took on an air of unreality as Hawke was greeted with growing enthusiasm everywhere he went. On 5 March Bob Hawke became the new Prime Minister of Australia with a large majority in the House of representatives, Fraser resigned from the leadership of the Liberal Party and from politics altogether.
During the election campaign a series of disastrous fires swept through parts of Victoria and South Australia. These holocausts became known generally as the Ash Wednesday' bushfires. Vast areas of countryside were destroyed and a number of people lost their lives. Hawke's first major initiative was an Economic Summit: the leaders of government, trade unions and industry gathered in the House of Representatives Chamber in Parliament House, Canberra, to decide on policies which would overcome the problems faced by the country. An immediate achievement of the new administration was the wages accord reached with the unions, designed to hold down inflation whole the overall economic situation improved.
The new government also honoured its promise to halt the Gordon-below-Franklin power scheme. With the region declared a World Wilderness Area by the United Nations, the Hawke Government went to the High Court in an effort to force the Tasmanian Government to halt construction work. The Federal Government won its case and in the process greatly strengthened its powers over the States. The first year of Hawke's Prime Ministership was marred by the accusation that former ALP Secretary, now Canberra lobbyist, David Combe, had been implicated in alleged Russian spying activities. According to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Combe was friendly with Valery Ivanov, an officer of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. In the subsequent fracas Special Minister of State Mick Young was removed from his position for having told a friend of the expulsion of Ivanov prior to its happening. Young was later restored to the Ministry.
In scenes reminiscent of the 1954 visit to Australia by the young Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince and Princess of Wales and their son Prince William visited Australia. It was the Princess's first visit to Australia since her marriage and the reception was large and enthusiastic. The seeming invincibility of the New South Wales Labor Government was shaken in 1983 when ABC-TV's Four Corners broadcast a programme in which it was alleged that Premier Neville Wran had influenced the outcome of a court case involving the head of the New South Wales rugby League, Kevin Humphries. A Royal Commission under New South Wales Chief Justice Sir Laurence Street was convened and found the allegations against Wran to be false.
As the Chamberlain murder saga continued, the appeals lodged by both the Chamberlains against their convictions were rejected by the full Bench and the couple turned to the High Court. In the meantime a considerable campaign was building up inside and outside the Seventh Day Adventist Church, of which Michael Chamberlain was a pastor. On the sporting scene, Western Australian millionaire Alan Bond finally achieved his aim of winning the 'Americas Cup' from the New York Yacht Club. The win by his yacht Australia II was greeted in Australian cities with the adulation and celebration normally associated with the ending of a war.
Early in the year the Labor Government introduced its new universal health scheme, this time entitled Medicare. Introduced by Health Minister Dr Neal Blewitt, it involved the levying of taxpayers' wages rather than a completely free system. The usual opposition from the premier of Queensland was overcome with Bjelke-Petersen winning no extra concessions. Once again the spectre of racism and opposition to immigration was resurrected after most people thought it had been buried years before. Melbourne academic Dr Geoffrey Blainey involved the threat of the 'yellow peril' by exhorting the government to reduce his intake of migrants from Asia, a suggestion taken up by a number of fringe groups which had previously been involved in graffiti-painting campaigns in some Sydney Universities.
The murder of Justice David Opas of the Family Law Court in Sydney in 1980 led to a number of threats and actions against other judges of the Court, and the campaign was taken a step further in July 1984 when a bomb exploded at the door of the home of Justice Ray Watson. Watson himself was injured, but his wife Pearl was killed in the blast. Contrary to the predictions of doom which had greeted the election of a Labor government in 1983, the Australian economy continued its slow improvement through 1984. In many ways the Hawke Government proved as financially conservative as its predecessor, and was certainly a completely different administration from that of Gough Whitlam. Divisions within the party continued over a number of issues, including the question of the export of uranium mined in Australia. Continuing to profess their innocence in 1984, the Chamberlains unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court. What was claimed to be new evidence was presented to the Northern Territory police, however it was not acted upon A campaign to free Lindy Chamberlain gained momentum but the High Court upheld the decision of the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
Prime Minister Hawke had won a second term for the Federal ALP in December 1984. It had been a watershed. The overlong campaign and the skills of Opposition Leader Andrew Peacock had contained the Hawke juggernaut and shown that a prime minister enjoying 70 per cent approval rating was not invincible. Although very much in control, Hawke was faced with a major crisis which arose from a misunderstanding of the mood of the electorate. The anti-nuclear movement, fuelled a 6.8 per cent vote for the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984, continued to prosper. It gained considerable kudos and credibility from the Royal Commission into British atomic tests at Maralinga and Monte Bello. The report, handled down in November 1985, showed that the British had adopted a cavalier and irresponsible attitude to both the tests and the subsequent clean-up operations.
During the year the government, tired of the industrial lawlessness of the Builders Labourers Federation, introduced legislation to deregister the union. Lionel Murphy, a former Attorney-General and High Court Judge, went on trial on charges of 'attempting to pervert the course of justice'. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months' gaol. Murphy duly appealed. In New South Wales the Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, Murray Farquhar, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and gaoled.
In a case of 'shooting himself in the foot', Andrew Peacock, the leader of the Federal Liberal Party, challenged his deputy John Howard and lost. Howard became leader but was unable to capture the public's imagination in any significant way. The economy had a rough ride due to difficult external forces. The Australian dollar lost nearly 20 per cent of its value, unemployment still hovered only a fraction below 10 per cent, and a widely publicised 'tax summit' achieved little.
The year was a mixed bag for the film industry. George Miller's Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, helped by the success of the previous two Mad Max movies and a Number One single from Tina Turner, was a huge box office hit. Flop of the year was the big budge extravaganza Burke and Wills starring Jack Thompson and Nigel Havers. Its failure gave notice that the Australian film industry could no longer rely on history as a successful box office subject. The year was a notable one for Australian sport. The first Adelaide Grand Prix received approval and endorsement from drivers, sports writers and motor racing fans. Held in the Adelaide streets it attracted a huge crowd and was won by Keke Rosberg at an average speed of 135.168 kilometres per hour. The superb Australian Rugby Union team, captained by Andrew Slack, returned to Australia in early 1985 after achieving a rare grand slam in the United Kingdom beating England 19-3, Ireland 16-9, Wales 28-9 and Scotland 37-12. Mark Ella had scored a try in every match.
After three years in power the Federal Labor Government of Prime Minister Hawke was demonstrating clearly that it was very right wing and conservative. Public antagonism to the party inevitably meant that wherever Hawke went he was greeted by protesters. In January thousands of protesting farmers gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra. This protest spilled over into the ballot box when, against all predictions, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen once again won outright power in Queensland and newly elected NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth won the safe Labor seat of Rockdale with less than a hundred votes.
The Labor Party's problems became regular news items. The US policy of dumping primary products in traditional Australian markets was handled ineptly. The National Party's leader, Ian Sinclair, dismissed the ALP Cabinet as 'Bollinger Bolsheviks' and suggested that US bases in Australia be used to force the issue and demand an end to US dumping. Relations between the United States and Australia deteriorated. Foreign Minister Bill Hayden was unambiguous and hard-hitting in his criticism. The issue of relations with the US continued throughout the year and again became a major issue 'when US warships arrived in Australian ports in October to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy.
The Lionel Murphy Age tapes saga came to an embarrassing and unsatisfactory conclusion when Murphy died of cancer and the government terminated the Royal Commission hearings. The 'New Right', a mixture of Thatcherite politicians and hard-line industrialists, emerged as a potentially important force particularly in industrial relations. This was also the year when the Australian economy was harshly described by Treasurer Paul Keating as being only one step removed from a 'banana republic'. Although the remark was roundly condemned it was not dramatically inaccurate. Interest rates on home loans rose to 16 per cent and overdraft loans from savings banks were up to 19 per cent. The balance of payments deficit soared beyond $1.5 billion in the month of July and the harsh August budget cut $3 billion from government expenditure.
On a broader political front 1986 saw a lengthy and, at time, acrimonious dispute in the Australian courts over Peter Wright's ability to publish his expose of the British intelligence service, Spycatcher. A group calling themselves the Australian cultural Terrorists stole Picasso's Weeping woman in what proved to be a successful attempt to increase arts funding and prizes for young artists. But the 'cultural' event of the year was undoubtedly the release of Crocodile Dundee which went on to become one of the most successful movies of all time. Paul Hogan snubbed the Australian Film Industry awards and the excellent low budget movie Malcolm took out Best Picture.
Two events dominated 1987 - the tortuous decline of Sir Johannes Bjeke-Petersen and the history making Federal election victory which gave the Hawke government a record third term. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's remarkable victory in the Queensland State election had convinced the ageing politician that he had a huge populist base which extended far beyond the boundaries of his State. Encouraged by the increasingly vocal 'New Right' (nicknamed the 'white shoe' brigade) Sir Joh made a bid for Federal politics. Hundreds of thousands of 'Joh for PM' green car stickers were distributed through newspapers, a platform of 25 per cent flat tax was promoted, ex-head of Treasury John Stone was employed to assist policy formation, and the party was launched. It was greeted with derision by non-Queenslanders and had the unfortunate effect of causing serious disruption in the Federal National Party and actually splitting the Federal Opposition. Sir Joh was seen as a spoiler and a wrecker.
Prime Minister Hawke could not resist exploiting the opposition's disarray. An election was called and although the government was experiencing problems it was returned with a reduced majority. Hawke had achieved what no Labor prime minister before him had achieved. He had won three consecutive Federal elections. The new Parliament contained two senators representing the Nuclear Disarmament Party - but no Sir Joh. In his stead was Senator John Stone who, within days, had managed to scuttle the proposed 'Australia Card' legislation. Later in the year, after a series of increasingly bizarre actions including banning condom machines and refusing to allow AIDS education in Queensland schools, Sir Joh was persuaded to resign on 8 August 1988 but events beat him and on 1 December, after 19 years and 3 months in parliament, he announced his retirement from politics. It was the end of an era.
On the sporting front 1987 was the year when, after a huge media hype, Australia lost the briefly held but much prized America's Cup. The compensation in the unequal competition between the two countries was that in the United States Crocodile Dundee became the most successful foreign movie ever and garnered unqualified praise from the critics. The only problem attached to this success was that Americans began to see Australians as brave crocodile hunters. This generated a renewed interest in Australia as a tourist destination which led to a tourist boom and also, by accident, led to the death of an American tourist who was taken by a crocodile in the Northern Territory.
Much of 1987 was taken up with preparations for the Bicentennial year. Most of the capital cities were engaged in massive building projects and an advertisement 'Celebration of the Nation' began appearing regularly on television in an attempt to engender enthusiasm and national pride. It was voted 'Worst Ad of the Year' by one of the major advertising industry magazines.
A year of Bicentennial celebrations, 1988 was a year of 'events' as well as a year when Australians began to look seriously at some of the flaws and cracks in the perfect facade of the 'Lucky Country'. Sydney was the focus of celebrations at the beginning of the year and those Sydneysiders lucky enough to enjoy a harbour view spent over January and February gazing out on tall ships and fireworks displays. The Australia Day celebrations, in the presence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, drew hundreds of thousands of people to the harbour foreshores where a daytime parade of tall ships was followed by a night-time of revelry and awe-inspiring fireworks.
It had been hoped by the powerful NSW Labor Party machine that the effect of the festivities would spin off into an election victory for Premier Barrie Unsworth. This was not the case. Labor were comprehensively beaten by the Liberal Party led by Nick Greiner. This caused considerable anguish and soul-searching in Labor Party ranks. Bob Hawke was accused of losing touch with the party's traditional base by fraternising with too many black tie, cigar-smoking captains of industry. This assessment was partly confirmed by a string of Labor defeats in Federal by-elections. Unsworth's demise meant that Premier Greiner accompanied Queen Elizabeth II when she opened the controversial Darling Harbour project. The project, which had been touted as the centrepiece of New South Wales' Bicentennial celebrations, was comprehensively overshadowed by the opening of the new billion dollar Parliament House in Canberra and the instant and huge success of Brisbane's 40 hectare World Expo '88.
By mid-year the Federal Labor Party, although still confident of their 'sound economic management', was confronted by a majority of non-Labour Premiers - New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory - at the Premier's conference. At around this time two controversial issues were dominating the headlines and causing many Australians to reflect on their two hundred years of settlement. Aboriginal protests at most major bicentennial events, coupled with the Muirhead Inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody, focused attention on the problems of Aborigines in a country which had proved less-than-lucky for them.
The decision by the Liberal Party to develop a separate immigration policy once again drew attention to the ongoing problem of making Australia a genuine and successful multicultural society. The debate on immigration allowed Australian racism to emerge once again as a major item on the political agenda.
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