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Hawke Government: 1991

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1991 newspaper collage [Image Source: unknown]After Bob Hawke's triumphant fourth-term victory in 1990 there were rumours that he was about to retire and hand over to Paul Keating. When he failed to do so, a leadership challenge became inevitable and on the second challenge, in December 1991 Paul Keating won leadership and became Prime Minister of Australia.

Hawkes evident success as a prime minister, his management skills, his ability to tack and weave through a succession of crises, to compromise and adapt to the need for reform, along with the bitterness surrounding his demise as leader and defeat in the party room in December 1991 left him lacking the martyrdom and heroic virtue Labor found in the Whitlam legacy.

In many respects, Bob Hawke was the most characteristically Australian of Australian prime ministers to date. His larrikin ways, his pragmatism, even those pre-prime ministerial years marked him out as the people's PM. In just under a decade, Hawke restored Labor's reputation for competent stewardship in economic affairs.

Under Hawke, Australia deregulated banking, floated the dollar and drove down protection. Further reforms introduced during 1990 and 1991 included crucial changes; opening Australia to competition in the telecommunications industry, the reduction of all tariffs to five per cent and the phasing out of textile, clothing and motor vehicle protection. It was an era of progress for Australia, both internationally and at home. In so many forums, Australia was significant; APEC, the GATT, the Cairns Group, CHOGM and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Women also benefited with the Hawke Government. Former Senator Susan Ryan saw how Hawke noted the increase of women in the Caucus and said "He was truly committed to consensus and a number's a number for Bob," she recalls. "He accepted that. And there were remarkable achievements for women in that time."

The Hawke government will be remembered as one of competent managers at the economic and the political levels, which markedly improved the quality of our public policy debate. It has largely dispensed with the rhetoric of left and Right, which had paralysed Labor politics for so long, and has begun to seek real solutions to real problems. In this sense it is a government that is path breaking Stewart, R and Jennett, C Hawke and Australian Public Policy.

For all of the success of his Governments' economic reforms, the picture that stays with us of Bob Hawke in public office is the television footage of a red-eyed and ecstatically laughing Australian Prime Minister, after a sleepless night watching Australia win the America's Cup in September 1983 - the morning he told Australian employers to go easy on employees who didn't turn up for work that day.


Iraq Conflict

Following United States led air attacks on Iraq, and Iraq occupied Kuwait, the Prime Minister formally committed Australia to the war against Iraq. In making his announcement the Prime Minister said that Australias involvement would be limited to the existing level of commitment. This consisted of the warship HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney and the supply ship HMAS Success.

Sometimes tragically we have to fight for peace by Bob Hawke

Australian, January 16, 1991.

D Day for PM on our ships role by Roy Eccleston

Australian, January 16, 1991.

Hawkes sad but necessary decision Editorial

Australian, January 16, 1991.

Iraq Conflict Parliament

The Commonwealth Parliament passed a resolution in support of Australias military involvement in the Iran conflict. Eight government members, two independents and the eight democrat Senators rejected Australias involvement and others raised doubts about it. The resolution came after parliament was recalled for a special two day sitting to allow debate on Australias involvement, which was the subject of a number of public protests across Australia.

Parliament set to back PM on Gulf by Michael Gordon

Sunday Age (Melbourne), January 20, 1991.

Hawke faces Caucus revolt by Glenn Milne

Australian, January 22, 1991.

Australia Day

Prime Minister Bob Hawke in his Australia Day speech in Sydney noted that this was not a day for self indulgence or complacency. Its a day for reflecting on the character of our nation, and for remembering the debt we owe to our predecessors who achieved so much and built so much on our behalf and for our benefit. And especially on Australia Day 1991 do we need to bear in mind the sacrifices that others are making on our behalf. For the first time in 20 years, Australia Day 1991 sees Australian defence forces, serving overseas, committed to combat a difficult and hazardous conflict in the Persian Gulf. And lets bear in mind the hardships being experienced by our embassy staff in the Middle East and by other Australians living and working in the region. The past year was a testing one for the nation and 1991 will bring its own challenges and difficulties.


Visit by New Zealand Prime Minister

New Zealand Prime Minister Mr J B Bolger was welcomed by Prime Minister Bob Hawke on his first visit to Australia since becoming prime minister of New Zealand. The PMs confirmed their intention to meet at least annually, both to discuss issues on the international agenda and to review bilateral developments. They reiterated their solidarity with the multinational forces now taking action in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

Wool Floor Price

Facing a possible $4 billion debt by the Australian Wool Corporation, the government announced the abandonment of the 17 year old floor (reserve) price for wool. The government said it would establish new wool selling arrangements after June 30, 1991, following consideration of the report of the committee of inquiry into the industry, chaired by sir William Vines.

Farmers push rival views on wool by Paul Downie

Australian, February 6, 1991.

Wool tumbles at first open market hurdle by Cathy Bolt

Australian Financial Review, February 28, 1991.

Wheat for Bangladesh

Australia will provide more than 30,000 tonnes of quality South Australian wheat worth nearly $5 million for a food aid shipment for World Food Program projects in Bangladesh. Poverty among Bangladeshs 100 million people is widespread and increasing with landless people, in particular women, among the most disadvantaged said Dr Neal Blewett, Minister for Trade and Overseas Development.

Hawke/Keating cartoon [Image Source: Geoff Hook]Olympic Bid

The Commonwealth Government agreed to allow New South Wales to borrow $300 million outside its normal allocation to build the infrastructure required to host the Olympic Games in 2000. If the Sydney bid was successful the Commonwealth would provide a grant of $150 million.

Carr to Hawke: be fair on Games

Sydney Morning Herald, February 16, 1991.

Hawke revives bid for games; by Lenore Taylor

Australian, February 20, 1991.

Prime Ministership

While Australian Forces acquit themselves in Gulf War One, back home, Prime Minister Bob Hawke finds renewed popularity, much to concern of his heir apparent, Treasurer Paul Keating.


Wheat Delegation

The Prime Minister announced that an all party delegation would leave for the United States to protest against United States Wheat subsidies. The Leader of he Opposition, John Hewson called for the Prime Minister to lead the delegation however the delegation would be led by the Minister for Trade and Overseas Development, Dr Neal Blewett.

Hawke should head trade delegation: Opposition

Canberra Times, March 4, 1991.

Hawke refuses to join US lobby by Paul Downie

Australian, March 5, 1991.

Commonwealth Day

The Prime Ministers message for Commonwealth Day on March 11th reflected on the Commonwealths achievements; the rich diversity of its members as well as their common commitment to creating a fair, peaceful and sustainably productive world for all. Since the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 1989, the Commonwealth has been engaged in a rigorous review of its roles and functions. The priorities identified during the review will be considered at the net meeting in Harare in October.

Industry Statement

The Prime Minister delivered the Governments Industry Statement with the major elements of the package including:

with the total costs of programs being $33 million in 1990/1991, $446 million in 1991/1992 and $854 million in 1992/1993. The statement was generally regarded by commentators as disappointing.

Building a competitive Australia, March 12, 1991: statement by Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Treasurer Paul Keating, Industry Minister, John Button Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1991.

Hawke rises above the hypocrisy by Pater Hartcher

Sydney Morning Herald, March 16, 1991.

PM seeks to revive business confidence by Geoff Kitney

Sydney Morning Herald, March 16, 1991.


As part of the governments industry statement the Prime Minister announced major reforms to the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade). The reforms announced including moving the headquarters of Austrade from Canberra to Sydney and transferring responsibility for it from the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce to the Minister for Trade and Overseas Development.

Austrade refocuses on Asia-Pacific by Paul Downie

Australian, March 13, 1991.

Aboriginal Deaths

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that criminal charges be laid against police over the 1985 death in Tamworth of Bruce Leslie. The report of Leslie was one of 14 tabled in Parliament. The reports blamed many of the 14 deaths, often suicides, on faults in the system including negligence, inexperience, inefficient records and reporting systems, errors of judgement, lack of medical services and neglect and inadequate procedures.

Charges should be laid over death, says ODea by Margaret Esaterbrook

Age, March 16, 1991.

Police under cloud in prisoners death by Tony Hewett

Sydney Morning Herald, March 16, 1991.

Prime Minister Economy

The Prime Minister addressing the Institute of Company Directors predicted that inflation would fall to 4 per cent as long as trade union leaders were prepared to agree to further wage restraint in the following round of discussions on the Prices and Incomes Accord. Wage increases could be offset by lower taxation rates.

PMs main target: peg inflation at 4pc by Geoff Kitney

Australian Financial Review, March 18, 1991.

ACTU to join PMs inflation battle by Shane Green

Australian, March 20, 1991.

Political Advertisements and Donations

The Government announced that it would introduce legislation to ban political advertising on television and radio. The advertising ban would apply to federal, state and local government elections and to lobby groups. The government would also require the full disclosure of political donations and expenditures over $1500.00.

Political ads go way of tobacco-up in smoke by Lachlan Chipman

Canberra Times, March 21, 1991.

TV ads to free speech by Peter Robinson

Sydney Morning Herald, March 24, 1991.


Ministers Warned

The Prime Minister warned his Ministers to cease questioning the Governments economic policies or face the sack. The warning followed comments by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, John Dawkins, questioning the governments policy of allowing the free market to establish the level of the Australian dollar in a post tariff environment.

The Dawkins plan to share profits by Tim Colebatch

Age, April 6, 1991.

PM vows to sack rebel ministers by Roy Eccleston

Age, April 9, 1991.

PM backs down on threat of dismissal by Roy Eccleston

Age, April 10, 1991.

National Wage Decision

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission, handing down the National Wage Case decision, rejected the Government Australian Council of Trade Unions Accord Mark V!, the first time a whole Accord package had been rejected. The Commission instead granted a 2.5 per cent increase to be awarded on a case by case basis for improvements in productivity and efficiency. It called on the Government to convene a national conference on retirement income. The Commission rejected calls for more enterprise bargaining saying that neither employers nor trade unions were mature enough to handle it.

Possibility of using tax cuts to appease unhappy workers by Rowley Spiers

Australian Financial Review, April 18, 1991.

Thousands ineligible for 2.5per cent wage rise

Australian, April 19, 1991.

Enterprise bargaining buried for time being by Brad Norington

Sydney Morning Herald, April 17, 1991.


Aboriginal Deaths

The final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was released. The Commission found that severe disadvantage and cultural breakdown imposed by 200 years of white racism had created the situation in which Aborigines were 20 times more likely to be in prison than whites. The death rate of imprisoned Aborigines was no higher than non Aborigines but the imprisonment rate was higher. After three years of investigation commissioner Elliot Johnson said the key to the problem was a change in white attitude so that Aborigines had the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. The Report contained 339 recommendations.

Jail blacks only as a last resort by Tony Hewett

Sydney Morning Herald, May 10, 1991.

Deaths report dams racism by Margaret Easterbrock

Age, May 10, 1991.

Premiers Conference

The Premiers Conference held in the midst of the leadership battle for the Prime Ministership achieved unprecedented harmony with an increase in funding to the States on an assurance from the Commonwealth to address long standing disagreements over funding arrangements. Most States and Territories agreed to keep increases in taxes and charges below inflation in 1991-1992. They also agreed with the Commonwealths assessment that the economic outlook was improving.

Premiers offered tax, funding trade off by Laura Tingle

Australian, May 31, 1991.

Happy premiers are a worry by Alan Wood

Australian, June 5, 1991.


Prime Ministership

The Deputy prime Minister and Treasurer, Paul Keating, lost a leadership bid against the Prime Minister with a vote of 44-66. After failing in his bid Keating resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer and moved to the backbench. He said he would not challenge Hawke again. Brian Howe, Minister for Community Service and Health was elected by Caucus as the new Deputy Prime Minister.

Keatings countdown by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, June 1, 1991.

Left to gain as Howe set to be Deputy PM by Jeremy Thompson

Canberra Times, June 3, 1991.

Hawke wins round one by Glenn Milne

Australian, June 4, 1991.


New ministers were sworn in as a result of the resignation of Paul Keating as Treasurer. John Kerin was appointed Treasurer, Simon Crean was appointed to replace Kerin and Ross Free, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister also appointed to replace Crean as Minister for Science and Technology.

Keating loses first round, injured Hawke opts for Kerin by Geoff Kitney

Australian Financial Review, June 4, 1991.

Kerin takes over as Treasurer by Michelle Grattan

The Age, June 4, 1991.

High noon for cabinets Gary Cooper by David Barnett

Bulletin, June 18, 1991.

ABC and SBS advertising

The Government agreed to allow advertising on the Special Broadcasting Services television and radio, to be limited to five minutes per hour and broadcast between programs or in natural program breaks. Cabinet reaffirmed its ban on advertising and sponsorship on the ABC.

Pressure from SBS led to ads decision by Errol Simper

West Australian, June 15, 1991.

ALP National Conference

The Centenary National Conference of the Australian Labor Party was held in Hobart. The first two dates were focused on the election of a federal president for the ALP. In the first vote on June 24, 1991 both Barry Jones, MP and Senator Stephen Loosley tied 50 votes all with one informal vote. It was alleged the informal vote was intended for Loosley. On June 25, 1991 Jones withdrew from the ballot and Loosley was elected. Other issues discussed included

Test for Hawkes three eagles by David OReilly

Bulletin, June 25, 1991.

Labor in conference

Sydney Morning Herald, June 25, 1991.

The force 10 factional row we had to have by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, June 25, 1991.


Mining in Antarctica

International agreement has now been reached to prohibit mining in Antarctica. The last differences to the Antarctica Treaty had been resolved and the Protocol now ready to be signed according to a statement by Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. The Protocol is the result of an initiative launched by Australia and France in mid 1989 to have the Antarctic Minerals Convention set aside in favour of a new agreement prohibiting mining in Antarctica and providing for more comprehensive environmental protection for that region. Antarctica will become a naturals reserve devoted to peace and science where mining is prohibited said Hawke.

Vietnam and Cambodia

The Government announced that it would reopen its embassy in Cambodia, making it the first country to appoint an ambassador after recent peace talk progress. Australian had long been in the forefront of the Peace in Cambodia, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Gareth Evans promoting a United Nations based peace solution.

Cambodia council wins Australia support by Jeremy Thompson

Canberra Times, July 3, 1991.

Embassy to reopen in Cambodia by Greg Austin

Sydney Morning Herald, July 3, 1991.

World Population Day

For the second year, the world community will observe July 11 as World population Day. In 1990, more than 90 governments and countless organisations joined the United Nations in marking this occasion. We live in a world of 5.4 billion people and by the year 2001, another billion people will be added. The fastest population growth is often in the poorest countries, those least equipped to sustain increasing demands for food, clean water, health care, housing, education and other necessities. Australian assistance to developing countries for population programs is administered by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau.

Keating as Treasurer

The Conservative think tank, the Tasman Institute, released the first scholarly critique of Paul Keatings term of Treasurer from 1983 1991. While the study praised the former Treasurer for many initiatives, it held him personally responsible for Australias poor economic performance, which it said was conspicuously weaker than that of the leading industrialised economies.

Keating got the economy wrong by Sue Neales

Australian Financial Review, July 12, 1991.

Cabinet fight on Keating record by Michelle Grattan

Age, July 13, 1991.


Speaking at a seminar n Canberra, the Prime Minister said the lack of recognition of women in Australia was economically stupid and morally unacceptable. He announced that the government would revitalise its national agenda for women with four plans focusing on such issues as child care, parental leave and violence against women. He said that the office for the Status of Women would draw up a fresh strategy to be considered by the Government in late 1992. The reforms identified would include recognition of the pressures on workers and their families.

PM promises new reforms for women

Canberra times, July 27, 1991.

PM puts womens status backs on agenda by Kylie Davis

West Australian, July 27, 1991.


The Commonwealth and South Australian Governments announced agreement to go ahead with the multi-function polis (MFP) as a national and international 21st century project. The Commonwealth agreed to provide $12.27 million as start up funding for the Adelaide project.

Cabinet to give MFP its stamp of approval by Lenora Taylor

Australian, July 28, 1991.

Nothing in MFP for Australia, says Democrat by Peter Hughes

Age, August 1, 1991.


Bicentenary Gift

Australias gift of a bronze bust of the explorer La Perouse is unveiled in Paris. The gift is a major feature of Australias contribution to the celebration of the bicentenary of the French Revolution and the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The bust will be sited on a prominent position on the Quai Branly, opposite the Australian Embassy and adjacent to the River Seine. It will be positioned such that La Perouse appears to be looking towards the embassy and Australia, the direction of his last voyage.

War Crimes Legislation

The High Court rejected a challenge to the Commonwealths War Crimes Act clearing the way for a number of cases to proceed. Amendments to the Act, under which a prosecution of Ivan Polyulhovich had been launched, were challenged on constitutional grounds and on the basis of the retrospectivity of the amendments. Both arguments were rejected by a 4-3 majority of the Court.

War crimes case provides ammunition by David Solomon

Age, August 16, 1991.

Challenge to Nazi hunt fails by Verge Blunden

Sydney Morning Herald, August 15, 1991.

PM Warning

The Prime Minister warned his Ministers that he would dismiss the next Minister identified as leaking Cabinet documents.. The warning followed public dispute between pro-Hawke and pro-Keating Ministers over the 1991-1992 Budget. The destablising dispute led the Prime Minister to concede that Keating might make another another leadership.

Dawkins slams Budget leaks as personal by Rowley Spiers

Australian Financial Review, August 27, 1991.

Hawke seeks discipline by Geoff Kitney

Australian Financial Review, August 29, 1991.

Hawke threatens sack for leaks by Michelle Grattan

Age, August 29, 1991.


Interest Rates

The Treasurer announced a reduction in Reserve Banks cash interest rates by 1 per cent to 9.5 per cent which resulted in financial institutions reducing many of their interest rates. The move was reported as a political rather than economic decision but this was rejected by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Bernie Fraser. He said the reduction was a response to the realisation that the recession was worst than first thought.

Home rates at six year low by Stephen Ellis

Sydney Morning Herald, September 6, 1991.

A healthy interest is cutting the panic rate by Laura Tingle

Australian, September 4, 1991.

South Africa

The Prime Minister cancelled a visit to South Africa because of disappointment at the pace of reform there. The changes towards transitional government and constitutional reform have slowed down and they are not going as fast as they should be he said. The visit had been planned for October 1991.

PM cancels visit as South Africa falters by Tony Parkinson

Australian, September 19, 1991.

Hawke drops plans to visit South Africa by Greg Austin

Sydney Morning Herald, September 19, 1991.


Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

The Prime Minister visit to Zimbabwe had four main components; a meeting of the High Level Appraisal Group on the future of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting itself, a short bilateral visit to Zimbabwe at the invitation of President Robert Mugabe, and separate bilateral discussions with a number of heads of government of countries important to Australia.

Hawke leaving the game behind on his safari by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, October 12, 1991.

PM meets Mulroney over lifting of sanctions by Mark Metherell

Age, October 15, 1991.

Sydney Airport-Third Runway

The environmental impact statement on the proposed runway at Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney was released. The report by Kinhill Engineers Pty Ltd dismissed major objectives put forward by the runways opponents and also recorded that the matter of residents that would be affected by noise was less than expected. The report addressed nearly 1,900 submissions made by members of the public and interested groups but reinforced the basic finding of the draft statement that a third runway was the most appropriate response to Sydneys airport congestion.

Runway noise will hit more-study by Tony Hewett

Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, 1991.

Report clears way for airports third runway to go ahead by Libby Moffet

Australian Financial Review, October 3, 1991.


The former Treasurer, Paul Keating, criticised the Governments economic policy calling for another reduction in interest rates and criticising the slow and steady approach of the Government. Keating said that since inflation had been beaten it was necessary to reduce interest rates to increase employment. The following day Keating took a more conciliatory approach to the Governments economic policies. The comments were seen in the context of the leadership and his desire to be Prime Minister.

Time now, says Keating to nurture recovery by Robert Garran

Australian Financial Review, October 3, 1991.

Hawke needles Keating over policy by Glenn Milne

West Australian, October 5-6, 1991.

Keating splits with Hawke on economy by Glenn Milne

Australian, October 3, 1991.


Bush Visit

President George Bush cancelled his planned visit to Australia and Asia in the face of growing criticism in the United States that he was spending too much time on foreign travel and not enough time dealing with the United States domestic problems.

Axing of Bush visit returns leadership, GST to front seat by Tony Parkinson

Age, November 7, 1991.

Bush scraps visit to silence critics by Peter Stephens

Sydney Morning Herald, November 7, 1991.


The former Treasurer, Paul Keating, speaking on radio repeated his earlier promise not to make any further challenges to the leadership of the Prime Minister. However, he said he still wanted to be Prime Minister at some time in the future. Keatings statement followed increased speculation that he was about to challenge Bob Hawke again.

Hawke gets ultimatum by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, November 7, 1991.

Keatings promise by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, November 9, 1991.


Ministry-John Kerin

The Prime Minister announced a reshuffle of his cabinet portfolios which saw John Kerin moved from the position of Treasurer to become Minister for Transport and Communications. Ralph Willis the Minister fro Finance was appointed the new Treasurer. Hawke said he had moved Kerin because he had suffered some loss of confidence in communication.

Kerin takes the drop for Hawke by Alan Ramsay

Sydney Morning Herald, December 7, 1991.

Hawkes panic reshuffle sees the Labor party turn tribal by Peter Walsh

Sydney Morning Herald, December 9, 1991.

Hawke wields the knife by Michelle Grattan

The Age, December 7, 1991.

Leadership Challenge

Events on 18th December, 1991, were rapidly leading to the 20th December when Paul Keating successfully challenged Bob Hawke for Leadership of the Labor Party and replaced Bob Hawke as Prime Minister.

Hawke cartoon[Image Source: Geoff Hook]

New Prime Minister Elected

Paul Keating, former Treasurer who resigned following an unsuccessful challenge against Bob Hawke for the Prime Ministership in June 1991, was elected Prime Minister by Caucus in a second challenge. Following months of destabilisation within the Australian Labor Party over the leadership issue, the Prime Minister announced on December 19 that he had called a special Caucus meeting to allow him to vacate the leadership and recontest a secret ballot against any challenger. Keating was elected leader 56 votes to 51. In the ballot on June 3, 1991 Hawke won 66 to 44 votes.

In accepting the position Keating pledged to:

Keating was sworn in as Prime Minister at Government House on 20 December, 1991.

Keating as Macbeth, Hawke as Duncan by Jack Waterford

Canberra Times, December 12, 1991.

Keating is new PM by Tony Wright

Canberra Times, December 20, 1991.

Hawke/Keating cartoon[Image Source: Geoff Hook]Hawkes ego is driving us to depression by Max Walsh

Sydney Morning Herald, December 19, 1991.

Heart on his sleeves, tears on his cheeks by Peter Bowers

Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 1991.

Working together?

Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Deputy Paul Keating in an on-again, off-again leadership struggle resulted in Keating assuming leadership of the Australian Labor Party.