Can You Help?

This website is in imminent danger of being shut down. It has been online since 1995, but the personal circumstances of the owner, Malcolm Farnsworth, are such that economies have to be made. Server costs and suchlike have become prohibitive. At the urging of people online, I have agreed to see if Patreon provides a solution. More information is available at the Patreon website. If you are able to contribute even $1.00/month to keep the site running, please click the Patreon button below.

Become a Patron!

Paul Keating Launches Cabinet Diaries By Gareth Evans With Another Swipe At Bob Hawke

Paul Keating has renewed his attack on Bob Hawke during a speech at the launch of the Cabinet diaries of Gareth Evans.


Whilst Evans says in his book that Hawke was out of action for about a month in 1984 over his daughter’s drug addiction problems, Keating claimed that Hawke was “asleep” for about five years until 1989. Keating said Hawke failed to “nourish” the government with ideas and leadership.

Keating said Hawke failed to take a lead on Aboriginal land rights in this time: “Bob always cried for Aborigines but he wouldn’t do anything for them.” [Read more…]

Paul Keating Turns 70

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating turns 70 today.

Keating was 25 when he entered the House of Representatives as the Labor member for Blaxland in October 1969. He was 47 when he became Australia’s 24th prime minister in December 1991. He remained PM until March 1996 when he was defeated by John Howard’s coalition.


Keating’s first ministerial appointment came in the dying days of the Whitlam government. Following the sacking of Minerals and Energy minister Rex Connor, Keating became Minister for Northern Australia on October 21, 1975, serving for three weeks until the government was dismissed by the Governor-General on November 11. He is the youngest of the eleven surviving ministers of the Whitlam governments. [Read more…]

1986-87 Hawke Government Cabinet Papers Released

Cabinet Papers from the Hawke government’s second and third terms of 1986-87 have been released by the National Archives.

Hawke Cabinet

Former Senator Gareth Evans, a Cabinet minister of the time, described the Hawke government, then in its fourth and fifth years, as a “government pretty much at the top of its form”. [Read more…]

At America’s Cup 30th Anniversary, Bob Hawke Tells A Joke

Today is the 30th anniversary of Australia’s victory over the United States in the America’s Cup yacht race.

Bob Hawke had been prime minister for six months when Australia II, skippered by John Bertrand, defeated Liberty, skippered by Dennis Conner. Australia II was designed by Ben Lexcen with a revolutionary and controversial ‘winged keel’. Representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club, Australia II was funded by businessman Alan Bond.

Australia II’s victory was the first time in 132 years that the Americans had been defeated.

Even though few Australians knew much about the race, it captured the public imagination at the time. On the day of victory, Bob Hawke appeared on morning television wearing a specially made jacket. His appearance is remembered for his declaration: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

  • Watch Hawke’s 1983 America’s Cup appearance:

At an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary today, Bob Hawke appeared with Bertrand and Bond and told a joke that he said captures the “irreverence” of Australians:

  • Watch Bob Hawke’s 2013 joke:

Medicare 30th Anniversary

Medicare is 30 years old today.

MedicareThe legislation to establish the universal health insurance system was passed on this day in 1983, six months after the election of the Hawke Labor government.

As it still still does today, Medicare is partly funded by a 1.5% levy on all taxpayers. It allows doctors to provide medical care at no cost to patients through bulk billing. Alternatively, Medicare reimburses patients 85% of a scheduled fee which allows doctors to determine their own charges with patients paying the balance. Medicare also provides for basic public hospital cover with patients able to take out additional private insurance. Health professionals with a Medicare provider number are also included in the scheme.

Medicare’s history begins with Gough Whitlam in the 1970s. The health insurance scheme was developed by health economist Richard Scotton and John Deeble. Under Whitlam, the scheme was called Medibank and was a major plank in Whitlam’s 1972 election platform. [Read more…]

Julia Gillard’s Place Amongst The List Of Australian Prime Ministers

It’s January, it’s the holiday season, but it’s also an election year, so let’s play with some historical data.

Don’t take it too seriously, but 2013 offers a number of interesting possibilities for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Gillard is the 27th person to serve as prime minister in the 112 years of Australia’s federation. She is the 11th Labor prime minister.

Gillard is currently the 17th longest serving prime minister, having exceeded the terms of 10 prime ministers, 7 from the conservative side (Page, McEwen, Fadden, Reid, Cook, McMahon & Holt) and 3 from Labor (Forde, Watson & Scullin).

Of the ten PMs Gillard has already overtaken, only three ever won an election (Cook in 1913, Scullin in 1929 & Holt in 1966). None could be regarded as raging successes.

  • Joseph Cook called a double dissolution in 1914 and became one of the first casualties of the Great War. Andrew Fisher, the Labor PM Cook had defeated in 1913, returned to the post.
  • James Scullin’s government, elected one week before the Wall Street crash ushered in the Great Depression in 1929, split three ways and was demolished at at an early election by his former Treasurer, Joe Lyons, who had defected to the conservatives.
  • Harold Holt won a smashing victory against the ALP and Arthur Calwell in 1966. At the time of his death by drowning in 1967, his leadership was under threat from rivals within and from without by a rampant Gough Whitlam.

Three of the prime ministers Gillard has overtaken (Page, Forde & McEwen) assumed the office on a temporary basis following the death of the incumbent.

  • The Country Party leader Earle Page served for 20 days after Lyons died in 1939. Despite a vicious verbal assault by Page, the United Australia Party elected Menzies as their new leader.
  • Frank Forde was prime minister for 8 days after John Curtin died in 1945. He continued serving as the ALP’s deputy leader after Ben Chifley became leader but lost his seat at the 1946 election.
  • Like Page, John McEwen was leader of the Country Party when he became prime minister after the death of Harold Holt. His major achievement in this time was to threaten to bring down the government if the Liberals chose McMahon to replace Holt. He succeeded in delaying McMahon’s accession to the position for another three years.

Two of the prime ministers Gillard has surpassed (Watson & Reid) served briefly after upheaval in the House of Representatives.

  • John Christian (Chris) Watson became the first Labor PM after the House amended Alfred Deakin’s Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Deakin handed the job to Watson who lasted nearly four months until the House passed another amendment to the same bill. The Governor-General refused to grant Watson an election and Reid took over.
  • George Reid lasted for 10 months until the House amended the Address-in-Reply and the Governor-General again refused to grant an election. Deakin returned for the second of his three terms as prime minister.

The 10th prime minister Gillard has overtaken (Fadden) would appreciate the position she has faced for the past two years.

  • Arthur Fadden was Country Party leader when a joint meeting of the United Australia Party and the Country Party made him prime minister in 1940 after Robert Menzies resigned. Even though the UAP had elected the 77-year-old Billy Hughes as their leader, it wasn’t thought he was sufficiently able-bodied to return to the post he had last held in 1922. Fadden lasted for 40 days until the two independents who held the balance of power in the hung parliament tossed him out in favour of Labor’s John Curtin.

Gillard’s achievement in rising to 17th place in the list of longest serving prime ministers doesn’t look overly impressive when you consider the circumstances of the 10 men she has overtaken.

In terms of prime ministerial longevity, what does 2013 hold in store for Gillard? [Read more…]

1984-85 Hawke Government Cabinet Papers Released

The National Archives has released Cabinet papers from the 1984-85 Hawke Labor government.

Because the Archives is transitioning from the old 30-year embargo rule to 20 years, two years worth of papers have been released.

CLICK HERE for details of the Cabinet documents.

Dr. Jim Stokes, the National Archives historical consultant, outlined the political climate of the time, whilst a former Hawke minister, Susan Ryan, provided a personal recollection of 1984-85. Transcripts of their talks are provided below. [Read more…]

Julia Gillard And Bob Hawke Speak At Woodford Folk Festival

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has appeared at the Woodford Folk Festival with her Labor predecessor Bob Hawke.

Gillard told the gathering that the “big decisions” made by her government “would have been effectively the same” even if the government had not operated in a minority.

She said that she wanted to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme on July 1st and deliver “further education reforms” before “we get around to winning that election”. [Read more…]

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…]

Anniversaries Galore In The First Week Of December

The first week of December is a big week for political anniversaries.

Today, for example, is the anniversary of the swearing-in of the Rudd Labor government in 2007. Channel 10 News reported it this way:

Looking back at Rudd: [Read more…]