On This Day In 1966: Menzies Retires, Holt Government Takes Office

Having announced his retirement on January 20, Sir Robert Menzies officially departed the prime ministership on this day in 1966. Harold Holt’s first ministry was sworn in at the same time.

It was a historic moment 50 years ago that brought to an end the political career of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. Menzies had been Prime Minister for two years between April 1939 and August 1941. He formed the Liberal Party in 1944 and served for six years as Opposition Leader before defeating the Chifley Labor government in December 1949.

Menzies went on to win six more elections in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961 and 1963. When he retired, he had been prime minister for 16 years and 5 weeks.


Harold Holt took office at the age of 57 with a ministerial career that had started 26 years earlier. He had first served under Menzies in 1940 and had been Treasurer since 1958. [Read more…]

Mungo MacCallum Not Dead

Some journalists took to Twitter today to tell us Mungo MacCallum was dead, but he wasn’t and isn’t.

Still, any excuse to remember one of my favourite Mungo pieces. It appeared in Nation Review on December 27, 1974.

It was a month after Malcolm Fraser had failed to dislodge Bill Snedden from the Liberal leadership. It’s easy to see leadership changes as inevitable in retrospect, but foretelling the future is fraught at the best of times. [Read more…]

Today’s Electoral Anniversaries: Hughes And Fraser

Today, December 13, is the anniversary of two federal elections, the first in 1919, the second in 1975.

On December 13, 1919, Prime Minister William Morris Hughes was re-elected, defeating the ALP led by Frank Tudor. Hughes had been prime minister since 1915, first for the Labor Party and then as leader of the Nationalist Party that was formed from the Liberals and Labor defectors after the ALP split over conscription.

The election is historic for a couple of reasons. It was the first general election to use preferential voting, instead of first-past-the-post. And it was the first general election contested by the newly-formed Country Party. Not yet a national party, it consisted of different organisations in the states, but it won 11 seats, eating into Hughes’s majority.

On December 13, 1975, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser led the Liberal-Country party coalition to the biggest ever win in Australian federal history, before or since. The coalition parties won 91 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives. The ALP won 36 seats, a loss of 30.

Fraser had been prime minister for one month and two days, having been appointed caretaker prime minister on November 11, following Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

More Anniversaries: Three Elections, A Floating Dollar And The Redfern Speech

Twenty-nine-years ago today, the Hawke government floated the dollar.

It was a move little understood at the time but now regarded as timely and crucial to Australia’s economic development. Whilst former prime ministers Hawke and Keating still differ over who had most influence on the decision, no-one questions its significance. [Read more…]

Malcolm Fraser’s Whitlam Oration

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has delivered the 2012 Whitlam Oration to the Whitlam Institute in Sydney.

Malcolm Fraser

Nearly thirty-seven years after the Fraser-led coalition parties blocked the Budget and Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam government, Fraser remarked that in the 1970s “few people would have believed that Malcolm Fraser would be delivering a Gough Whitlam oration”. [Read more…]

Cabinet Papers From 1982-1983 Released

Cabinet papers from 1982, the final full year of the Fraser coalition government, and 1983, the first year of the Hawke Labor government, have been released.

The papers were formerly released under the thirty-year rule, but this has been reduced to twenty years. Until 2020, two years of Cabinet documents will be released each year. [Read more…]

Sir Zelman Cowen Eulogised By Josh Frydenberg

The former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, was remembered today at a funeral service in Melbourne.

The service was attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who appointed Cowen in December 1977. Former PMs Bob Hawke and John Howard also attended, as did Cowen’s successor as Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen. [Read more…]