Australia in the 1970s


The Dismissal


During 1974, inflation reached 17 per cent, partly due to large increases in world oil prices and to significant wage increases. Subsequently, the economy went into recession.

In February 1975, Australian unemployment figures reached 5.2 per cent, the highest rate since the 1930s Great Depression. Rex Connor, the minister for minerals and energy, attempted to borrow large sums of money through Middle Eastern associates to fund the processing of oil, gas and uranium. This was not the usual practice for securing government loans. When the attempt failed, Connor told federal parliament and the press that the relationship with the intermediary, Khemlani, had ended. It soon became clear that this wasn't the case, and Connor was forced to resign.

In the midst of this and other scandals, the opposition Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser (1930–) announced that budget bills would not be passed in the Senate, which was controlled by the Liberal-National Country Party, until an election was called. Whitlam refused, and on the 11 November, governor-general Sir John Kerr (1914–91) dismissed Whitlam and appointed Fraser as interim prime minister. The election held a month later saw Fraser win decisively.


A snapshot of 1978

  • January
    • The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1978 (Cth) was proclaimed in federal parliament.
    • The Special Broadcasting Service, also known as SBS, was established.

  • April
    • The Migrant Services and Programs Report, also known as 'The Galbally Report', was presented to the prime minister.

  • August
    • The Malcolm Fraser conservative government announced the end of maternity allowances.

  • November
    • The West Gate Bridge over the Yarra River and Port Melbourne was opened. It is the second-largest single span bridge in Australia.
    • The Ranger Uranium Agreement was signed by the Northern Land Council and ratified by the traditional owners, allowing uranium mining in Arnhem Land.

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