AUSTRALIA IN THE 1970’S


Politics:


Malcolm Fraser served as prime minister until March 1983, longer than anyone except Bob Menzies; then the Labor party returned to office, and Bob Hawke\'s term extended further than any previous Labor leader. His term lasted until December 1991, when Paul Keating replaced him as Prime Minister. Australian life remained gracious and comfortable in many ways: in 1964 Donald Horne published a book about Australia entitled The Lucky Country, and, while Horne used the phrase sarcastically, many of his fellow citizens in the generation ahead accepted it. Both Fraser and Hawke were capable and committed, and such qualities were respected widely among their ministers. In the states, however, the record was often unpredictable and sometimes worse. The major political parties became less associated with particular pressure groups: middle-class professionals became virtually as dominant in the ALP as they were among the Liberals. The Country Party changed its name to the National Party (NP) in 1983.


This approach reflected, rather than caused, persistent problems; but did not solve them. Inflation was endemic from the 1940s but rose sharply in the early 1970s. Defying much rhetoric and expostulation, the rate of inflation remained higher than that of countries with otherwise comparable economies. High interest rates continued to attract overseas investment, but even this was a disputable boon. The high rates curtailed spending, notably on that traditional bastion of “the Lucky Country,” individual home ownership. They also increased the national debt and tended to keep the value of the Australian dollar high, harming the balance of trade.


The government\'s policies prompted reduction of tariffs; doubtless these had previously sheltered inefficiency, but in the new climate many manufacturers succumbed. As a result, a pillar of the earlier boom was overturned, and unemployment became a problem in a way unknown since 1940. Australia\'s share in world trade diminished. Notwithstanding that, its economic viability depended more than ever on commodity exports, continuing or even intensifying a colonial-style economic status. Living standards declined relative to many other societies and tended toward absolute stabilisation. A few individuals got rich but behaved in such a way as to win the derogatory nickname “corporate cowboys,” and they ultimately often lost their shareholders\' money. In the later 1980s the governments or the police or both of several states were implicated in scandals involving corruption and deceit. These troubles had counterparts in earlier Australian history and in many another time and place. Nevertheless, it was disquieting. The political drama of November–December 1975 had less short-term effect than might have been expected. In the longer term, however, that period seemed a watershed.


International affairs


Both world wars encouraged, even forced, Australian governments to assert themselves internationally. The ALP had always tended toward a comparatively forthright international policy. Appropriately, therefore, the Curtin and Chifley governments, especially in the person of Evatt, took a sizeable part in founding the United Nations. Evatt helped secure recognition of the rights of smaller nations in the United Nations and served as president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948–49. The Labor governments also had some sympathy for Asian nationalist movements, most importantly in Indonesia.


With the accession of Menzies and the deepening of the Cold War, attitudes became more conservative. Sentimental ties of empire remained strong enough for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 to provoke mass emotion. Menzies, an ardent royalist, upheld the British position in the Suez crisis of 1956. Yet overall the stronger theme was Australian acceptance of U.S. dominance—all the more inexorable as the United Kingdom abandoned much of the modest interest it had ever cherished for Australia. The U.S. alliance crystallised in the 1951 Australia–New Zealand–United States (ANZUS) pact, reinforced (1955–77) by the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Only the Whitlam government chafed at the alliance, and then only in part. Australia followed the United States\' lead in such crises as the Korean, Vietnam, and 1991 Persian Gulf wars. Australia did not recognise the People\'s Republic of China until 1972–73. American satellite-tracking stations and other facilities functioned on Australian soil.


Relations with Japan were particularly important. Antagonism ran strong in the postwar years and lingered for decades. Nevertheless, trade recommenced in 1949 and grew rapidly; by 1966–67 Japan had surpassed the United Kingdom as the nation receiving the largest share of Australia\'s exports, and in