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Governor-General’s Speech Opening Parliament: 1983

The Hawke Labor Government was elected in March 1983, the first victory for the ALP since the Whitlam dismissal and electoral defeat in 1975.

The Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, opened the 33rd Parliament on April 21, 1983.

Govenor-General Sir Ninian Stephen’s Address to Open the 33rd Parliament.

Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia here assembled:

At the elections for both Houses of Parliament on 5 March 1983, the people of Australia declared firmly for a change of government and for a change of national direction.

You have been called together to consider a wide-ranging program of legislation designed to give effect to the mandate of the people.

The new Government has assumed office at a time of Australia’s gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression fifty years ago. [Read more…]


Sir Billy Snedden Retires From Parliament; Asserts Tradition Of Former Speakers Departing

Sir Billy Snedden resigned from the House of Representatives on its first day of sitting, following the 1983 election that brought the Hawke government to power.

SneddenSnedden had been Speaker of the House since 1976, following the appointment and subsequent election of the Fraser government.

He did not contest the election for a new Speaker when the House met for the first time on April 21, 1983. He told the House that he supported the tradition of former Speakers leaving the Parliament when they left the Speakership.

Snedden was first elected to Parliament in 1955 as the member for Bruce. He was Attorney-General under Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies and Harold Holt, between 1964-66. He was Minister for Immigration between 1966-69, Minister for Labour and National Service 1969-71, and Treasurer 1971-72. He became leader of the Liberal Party after its defeat in 1972 and led the Coalition to another defeat in 1974. In November of that year, his leadership was unsuccessfully challenged by Malcolm Fraser. He was defeated by Fraser in a second challenge in March 1975. [Read more…]


John Howard Comments On The 1983 Election Defeat And His Leadership Ambitions

The day after the Coalition’s defeat in the 1983 federal election, the outgoing Treasurer, John Howard, commented on his leadership ambitions in the Liberal Party.

Howard was 43 years old. He had entered parliament in 1974 and served as a minister throughout the seven years of the Fraser government, notably as Treasurer between 1977-83. His rivalry with Andrew Peacock was well-established in 1983, although the full scale of the competition was not yet evident. [Read more…]


1983 Federal Election: Triumphant Hawke Arrives At National Tally Room And Claims Victory

Bob Hawke arrived at the National Tally Room in Canberra on election night – March 5, 1983 – to applause and adulation.

These two videos show how Hawke’s arrival was shown by ABC television and Channel 10: [Read more…]


Malcolm Fraser Concedes Defeat In 1983 Federal Election

After nearly 7 years and 4 months as Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser conceded defeat late on the night of March 5, 1983.

He was at that stage Australia’s second longest serving prime minister. He would lose that position to the man who defeated him, Bob Hawke. In turn, Hawke was eventually overtaken by John Howard.

Fraser accepted responsibility for the timing of the double dissolution election and the defeat of the government. He immediately resigned as leader of the Liberal Party. He subsequently resigned from his Victorian electorate of Wannon and never sat in the House of Representatives again. [Read more…]


Prime Minister-elect Bob Hawke’s Election Night Press Conference

Before Bob Hawke made a triumphant appearance in the National Tally Room on election night – March 5, 1983 – he first held a sober press conference in which he made clear how he intended to govern.

Decades later, Hawke’s first remarks as Prime Minister-elect are instructive. He made it clear that he did not intend to repeat Gough Whitlam’s two-man government of December 1972. Reassurance, calm and steadiness are the hallmarks of his comments. Hawke’s determination to prove that Labor could govern responsibly was never more clear than in this press conference. [Read more…]


Video Scenes From 1983 Federal Election Night

On election night, March 5, 1983, it soon became clear that Bob Hawke’s ALP had defeated Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal-National Coalition.

However, some Liberals, including Andrew Peacock and Ian MacPhee, were reluctant to give up hope that the government might hang on.

This video shows some scenes from the election counting. The media panel includes David Butler, Jim Waley, Max Walsh and George Negus. It features Andrew Peacock, Ian MacPhee and the incoming Treasurer, Paul Keating. [Read more…]