1980 – Fraser government

There were two Ministries and two Cabinets in 1980:

  • The Third Fraser Ministry (20 December 1977 – 3 November 1980);
  • The Fourth Fraser Ministry (3 November 1980 – 7 May 1982).

The Fourth Fraser Ministry was sworn in after the re-election of the government in November 1980, and served until a ministerial reshuffle on 7 May 1982.

The 1980 Cabinet records

Channel 9 desk at the National Tally Room, Canberra on the night of the 18 October 1980 federal election.
Channel 9 desk at the National Tally Room, Canberra on the night of the 18 October 1980 federal election. (A6315, K28/10/80/120)

1980 was a year of transition. Potential new leaders were emerging in both major parties and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser's government had lost ground since its election triumphs in 1975 and 1977. The October 1980 election campaign began with an assumption that Fraser would win, but a lacklustre campaign and a better than expected performance by opposition leader Bill Hayden closed the gap and three of the four national polls ended up predicting a Labor victory. In the end the government survived a 4.2% swing and won a 23 seat majority. In the Senate the government faced the new prospect of having to negotiate with the Australian Democrats and independents to get its legislation passed. Fraser retained the Liberal leadership unchallenged, but some felt that his absolute authority was starting to weaken.

Internationally 1980 was a year of tension and foreboding. 1979 had seen the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, the taking of American hostages in Teheran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In September 1980 Iraq invaded Iran. Some feared that Afghanistan was the first stage of a major Soviet push into the Middle East that might end in a third world war. Vietnam was seen as a Soviet satellite potentially threatening the ASEAN states, although the Sino-Soviet split increased Australian interest in improving relations with China. Australia reacted very strongly to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and supported US calls for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The government urged the Australian Olympic Federation not to go to Moscow and in the end the hockey, shooting, yachting and equestrian teams withdrew. However the Federation decided in May to send a team of 120 athletes to Moscow to compete in 17 sports. They won five medals, two of them gold.

Domestically the economy was travelling reasonably well. Inflation was around 10% and unemployment over 6%, but these were better outcomes than in some other major economies and the government spoke hopefully of a coming $29 billion boom in resource projects. However Treasury argued that the government's top priorities must remain the fight against inflation and reduction of the Budget deficit. Treasury also urged restraint in the growth of wages and money supply, a reduction in tariffs and an end to the policy of holding down interest rates for political reasons.

The government also grappled with an estimated 60,000 illegal immigrants, most of them people who had entered Australia on some form of temporary visa and then gone to ground. The government did not have the resources to hunt down illegals and it was under increasing political pressure to offer them some form of amnesty. Cabinet agreed to restrict post-arrival residence applications to close relatives of Australians, refugees and people who already held work permits. However illegals who had arrived before the end of 1979 could also apply. Rigorous action would be taken to deport new illegals.

Submissions

During 1980 the Fraser Cabinet received 759 submissions. Sixty submissions were withdrawn completely, and 18 were withdrawn and replaced by another submission. Cabinet submissions considered by the Third and Fourth Fraser Ministries are held in series A12909.

A copy of the decision is attached to the submission within series A12909. Related material may be held in the Cabinet Office file. Third and Fourth Fraser Ministry Cabinet Office files are held in series A10756.

Memoranda

The Cabinet memoranda format was introduced in February 1979 following a review of Cabinet Office arrangements and replaced the earlier Cabinet papers series. Memoranda provided a means – other than a formal Cabinet submission – by which a minister could, with the prior consent of the Prime Minister, place a matter before Cabinet.

Cabinet memoranda for the Fraser Cabinet are held in series A12930.

During 1980 Cabinet considered 416 memoranda. Nine of these were withdrawn.

Decisions

Cabinet decisions made by the Third and Fourth Fraser Ministries are held in series A13075. This series includes copies of all decisions, both those made on a submission and those made without submission.

During 1980, 2671 Cabinet decisions were made. Just over 42 per cent of decisions – some 1123 – were made without submission.

Cabinet Office 'LC' files

Cabinet Office 'LC' files (in series A10756) contain the originals of the submissions, briefing papers and related decisions. They also contain departmental advice and exchanges between officials and ministers not included in the formal Cabinet papers. There is a file in this series for most submissions.

'LC' files of interest can be identified through the National Archives' collection database, RecordSearch, and an application for access placed online. There will be some delay in making them available as they will require access examination.

Departmental records

The detailed background papers and earlier drafts of the Cabinet papers being released can be found on the files of the department that sponsored each Cabinet submission. These papers reveal the detailed deliberations of the Public Service on the topic and often include the opinions and guidance of the responsible minister.

Records can be identified through the National Archives' collection database, RecordSearch.

Collection references

Public access to Cabinet submissions, memoranda and decisions

Most 1980 Cabinet submissions, memoranda/papers and decisions have been wholly released for public access. A small amount of material has been withheld from public access. The table below indicates whether a document is partially released (noted as OWE – open with exception) or wholly withheld (noted as Closed) and the reasons for exemption from public access under the Archives Act 1983.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(a) of the Archives Act 1983 is withheld to protect Australia's security, defence or international relations.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(b) of the Archives Act 1983 is withheld to protect information communicated in confidence by, or on behalf of, a foreign government.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(j) of the Archives Act 1983 is withheld because its release would involve an unreasonable disclosure of information concerning the business or professional affairs of a person or the business, commercial or financial affairs of an organisation or undertaking.

Information exempted under section 33(2) of the Archives Act 1983 is withheld on the grounds of legal professional privilege and its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

Topic and titleDocumentReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Recovery of damages awarded by foreign courts in anti-trust proceedingsSubmission 3909OWE 33(1)(a)(j) and 33(2)
DEFENCE
The implications of recent events in Afghanistan for national strategic assessments and strategic policySubmission 3803OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
Transport of the Tactical Assault Group (TAG) and its necessary equipment (withdrawn submission)Submission 4120OWE 33(1)(a)
US military use of Australian territory and/or facilitiesSubmission 4245OWE 33(1)(a)
Possible provision of staging facilities in Australia for United States B52 aircraftSubmission 4292OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
Seaborne air capabilitySubmission 4305OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
Australian strategic analysis and defence policy objectives – 1979 (supplementary submission)Submission 4308
Decision 12645(FAD)
OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
Transport of the Tactical Assault Group (TAG) and its necessary equipment (withdrawn submission)Submission 4347OWE 33(1)(a)
FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran crisis – issues and options for AustraliaMemorandum 691OWE 33(1)(a)
SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE
Protection of Esso/BHP installations in GippslandSubmission 3744OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
Protection of Australian mission overseasSubmission 3756
Decision 10756/IS
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Acquisition of IBM computerSubmission 3799OWE 33(1)(a)
Progress report – joint working group examining protection of ESSO/BHP installations in Gippsland and Bass StraitSubmission 4012OWE 33(1)(a)
Contingency planning for a terrorist attack on Esso/BHP installations in Gippsland/Bass StraitMemorandum 771
Memorandum 787
Memorandum 806
Decision 11745/IS
OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Bass Strait – security of installationsDecision 11745/ISOWE 33(1)(a)
Intelligence agencies activities and 1980/81 budget estimatesMemorandum 880OWE 33(1)(a)(b)
TERRITORIES
Antarctica – Australia’s policy at the conference on the conservation of Antarctic marine living resourcesSubmission 3962OWE 33(1)(a)
Antarctica – follow up action on the convention of the conservation of Antarctic marine living resourcesSubmission 4137OWE 33(1)(a)
WHOLLY EXEMPT
Title exemptSubmission 3894CLOSED 33(1)(a)
Title exemptSubmission 3992
Decision 11703/IS
CLOSED 33(1)(a)(b)
CLOSED 33(1)(a)(b)

Background to 1980

At the media briefing on the 1980 Cabinet records two speakers provided content and insights into the issues, events and personalities on 1980.

Dr Jim Stokes, the National Archives historical consultant undertook extensive research of the 1980 Cabinet papers and provided a paper on the significant issues and events of 1980.

Paul Kelly has been one of Australia's best known and most respected political writers and commentators for more than 30 years. Since joining the Canberra press gallery in 1971, he has worked with several of Australia’s key national newspapers, serving as chief political correspondent with The Australian (1974–75), chief political correspondent and later deputy editor with The National Times (1977–81), and chief political correspondent with The Sydney Morning Herald (1981–84), before returning to The Australian as national affairs editor (1985–91) and editor-in-chief (1991–96). He has been The Australian's editor-at-large since 1996.

Paul Kelly has published seven books on Australian politics and history including The Hawke Ascendancy (1984), The End of Certainty (1992) and 100 years – The Australian Story (2001), which also featured as a five-part documentary for the ABC to mark the centenary of Federation. His most recent book, The March of Patriots: the Struggle for Modern Australia (2009) deals with the Keating and Howard governments. Paul has been a Fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard University and is currently a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Paul Kelly provided context and insight into the issues, events and personalities of 1980.

Members and committees

There were two Ministries and two Cabinets in 1980:

  • The Third Fraser Ministry (20 December 1977 – 3 November 1980);
  • The Fourth Fraser Ministry (3 November 1980 – 7 May 1982).
The Fourth Fraser Ministry was sworn in after the re-election of the government in November 1980, and served until a ministerial reshuffle on 7 May 1982.

The Fraser Cabinet in 1980

Members of the Fraser Cabinet in 1980 are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those they held in 1980, with major changes taking place following the general election held on 18 October. The new Ministry was sworn in on 3 November 1980.

As had been the case with earlier Fraser ministries, the Cabinet comprised some but not all members of the Ministry. This practice has been continued by all subsequent ministries.

MinisterPortfolio
Fraser, The Rt Hon John MalcolmPrime Minister
Anthony, The Rt Hon John DouglasDeputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade and Resources
Lynch, The Hon Phillip ReginaldMinster for Industry and Commerce
Sinclair, The Hon Ian McCahon (in Cabinet from 19.8.1980)Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (from 19.8.1980 to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Communications (from 3.11.1980)
Carrick, Senator the Hon John LeslieMinister for National Development and Energy
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Street, The Hon Anthony AustinMinister for Industrial Relations (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Foreign Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Nixon, The Hon Peter JamesMinister for Primary Industry
Howard, The Hon John WinstonTreasurer
Peacock, The Hon Andrew SharpMinister for Foreign Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 3.11.1980)
Killen, The Hon Denis JamesMinister for Defence
Guilfoyle, Senator the Hon Margaret Georgina ConstanceMinister for Social Security (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Finance (from 3.11.1980)
Robinson, The Hon Eric Laidlaw (in Cabinet to 3.11.1980)Minister for Finance (to 3.11.1980)
Viner, The Hon Robert IanMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs
Leader of the House
Durack, Senator the Hon Peter Drew QCAttorney-General
Hunt, The Hon Ralph James Dunnet (in Cabinet to 3.11.80)Minister for Transport (from 8.12.1979)
Chaney, Senator the Hon Frederick Michael (in Cabinet from 3.11.1980)Minister for Social Security (from 3.11.1980)

Cabinet committees

Cabinet committees were first formally established by Liberal Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1950. Their role was to help Cabinet make decisions more expeditiously and efficiently by:

  • having a committee of ministers sift through the issues and the facts then present Cabinet with a clear recommendation for action
  • relieving Cabinet of much business of lesser importance.

Decisions made by a committee are indicated by the addition of the committee abbreviation to the decision number.

In 1980 the Fraser Cabinet had the following Cabinet committees:

Cabinet committeeAbbreviation
Ad Hoc CommitteeAd Hoc
Co-ordination CommitteeCC
Economic CommitteeEC
Foreign Affairs and Defence CommitteeFAD
General Administrative CommitteeGA
General Policy CommitteeGP
Industry Policy CommitteeIP
Intelligence and Security CommitteeIS
Legislation CommitteeLEG
Machinery of Government CommitteeMOG
Monetary Policy CommitteeMP
Planning and Co-ordination CommitteePC
Public Information CommitteePIC
Social Welfare Policy CommitteeSWP
Wages Policy CommitteeWP

It was usual for decisions made by an Ad Hoc committee to bear the suffix 'Ad Hoc'. One exception to this is the Ad Hoc Committee on Budget which was usually represented by a 'B' suffix (sometimes shown as 'AHB').

In November 1980 an Ad Hoc committee was formed to support Cabinet in matters relating to the Review of Commonwealth Functions. Decisions made by the committee bear the suffix 'RCF'.

Key figures of 1980 and 1981

The following table lists the key people in Government in 1980 and 1981 and other significant figures referred to in the selected Cabinet documents. Other figures from the period may be identified by consulting the Commonwealth Government Directory (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra) for 1980 and 1981 and the Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (21st edition, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1982).

NameRole
Adermann, The Hon Albert EvanMinister for Veterans' Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Anthony, The Rt Hon John Douglas

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade and Resources

Barwick, Sir Garfield GCMGChief Justice, High Court of Australia
Baume, Senator the Hon Peter ErneMinister for Aboriginal Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Bowen, Sir NigelChief Judge, Federal Court of Australia
Chair, Committee of Inquiry Concerning Public Duty and Private Interest
Brown, The Hon Neil AnthonyMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Carrick, Senator the Hon John LeslieMinister for National Development and Energy
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Chaney, Senator the Hon Frederick MichaelMinister for Aboriginal Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Social Security (from 3.11.1980)
Codd, MichaelUnder Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Cowen, His Excellency Sir Zelman, AK, GCMG, KStJ, QCGovernor-General of Australia
Crawford, Sir JohnChair, Study Group on Structural Adjustment
Durack, Senator the Hon Peter Drew QCAttorney-General
Ellicott, The Hon Robert James QCMinister for the Capital Territory (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Home Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 3.11.1980 to 17.2.1981)
Fife, The Hon Wallace ClydeMinister for Education
Fraser, The Rt Hon John MalcolmPrime Minister
Galbally, Francis QCChair, Review into Post-arrival Programs and Services for Migrants
Garland, The Hon Ransley VictorMinister for Business and Consumer Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Groom, The Hon Raymond JohnMinister for Housing and Construction (to 3.11.1980)
Guilfoyle, Senator The Hon Margaret Georgina ConstanceMinister for Social Security (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Finance (from 3.11.1980)
Henderson, PeterSecretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
Hodgman, The Hon William MichaelMinister for the Capital Territory (from 3.11.1980)
Holcroft, WarwickChair, Independent Public Inquiry into Domestic Airfares
Howard, The Hon John WinstonTreasurer
Hunt, The Hon Ralph James DunnetMinister for Transport
Jamison, James Hardie OBEChair, Commission of Inquiry into the Efficiency and Administration of Hospitals
Killen, The Hon Denis JamesMinister for Defence
Lynch, The Hon Phillip ReginaldMinister for Industry and Commerce
MacKellar, The Hon Michael John RandalMinister for Health
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 17.2.1981 to 19.3.1981)
Macphee, The Hon Ian MalcolmMinister for Productivity (to 8.12.1979)
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
McLeay, The Hon John EldenMinister for Administrative Services (to 3.11.1980)
McVeigh, The Hon Daniel ThomasMinister for Housing and Construction (from 3.11.1980)
Moore, The Hon John ColintonMinister for Business and Consumer Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Myers, Sir Rupert KBE, CBEVice-Chancellor, University of NSW
Chair, Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia
Neaves, AlanSecretary, Attorney-General’s Department
Newman, The Hon Kevin EugeneMinister for Productivity (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Administrative Services (from 3.11.1980)
Nixon, The Hon Peter JamesMinister for Primary Industry
Peacock, The Hon Andrew SharpMinister for Foreign Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 3.11.1980)
Pritchett, WilliamSecretary, Department of Defence
Robinson, The Hon Eric LaidlawMinister for Finance (to 3.11.1980)
Died 7 January 1981
Scott, Senator The Hon Donald BarrMinister for Special Trade Representations (to 19.8.1980)
Sinclair, The Hon Ian McCahonMinister for Special Trade Representations (from 19.8.1980 to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Communications (from 3.11.1980)
Staley, The Hon Anthony AllanMinister for Post and Telecommunications (to 3.11.1980)
Steele Craik, DuncanAuditor-General
Stone, JohnSecretary, Department of the Treasury
Street, The Hon Anthony AustinMinister for Industrial Relations (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Foreign Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Sweetland, WilfredChair, Commission of Inquiry into the Viability of the Christmas Island Phosphate Industry
Thomson, The Hon David ScottMinister for Science and the Environment (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Science and Technology (from 3.11.1980)
Viner, The Hon Robert IanMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs (to 16.4.1981)
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 16.4.1981)
Leader of the House
Williams, Bruce RoddaChair, Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training
Williams, The Hon Justice Edward StrattonCommissioner, Royal Commission into Drugs
Judge, Queensland Supreme Court
Wilson, The Hon Ian Bonython CameronMinister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 19.3.1981)
Woods, Sir ColinCommissioner, Australian Federal Police
Yeend, GeoffreySecretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Selected documents

The selected documents illustrate the major issues the Fraser Cabinet addressed during 1980. Introductory notes are provided for each topic. The documents – sometimes excerpts only – include:

  • submissions (series A12909)
  • memoranda (series A12930)
  • decisions (series A13075).
Every attempt has been made to reproduce high-quality images of the original archival documents. Sometimes, the result may not be fully legible due to the poor quality of the original document.

A full set of reference copies of the 1980 Cabinet submissions and decisions is held in the Cabinet room within the National Archives' Canberra reading room. Related Cabinet Office files (series A10756) may also be requested for viewing in the Canberra reading room.

Use the links in the right-hand column to download the key documents. To view PDFs, you will need Acrobat Reader.

SubjectPDF
Foreign Affairs
Afghanistan, the Soviet Union and the Olympics boycott1,909kb
Iran1,975kb
Indonesia671kb
Kampuchea715kb
China585kb
Vanuatu1,644kb
Defence1,971kb
Agent Orange2,097kb
The economy, Budget and taxes2,428kb
Wages and industrial relations1,473kb
Resources and energy2,491kb
Civil aviation1,134kb
Freedom of information legislation786kb
Indigenous affairs1,194kb
Refugees and illegal immigrants1,782kb
Law enforcement1,539kb

Further information

Personal records

The National Archives holds an extensive collection of Malcolm Fraser's personal records. Details of these records can be found in RecordSearch. Choose the 'RecordSearch – Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter Mr Fraser's Commonwealth Person number (CP 51) into the 'Person number' field to reach the person registration and select 'Series'.

The National Archives also holds personal records deposited by other members of the 1980 Cabinet. Details of these records can be found in RecordSearch. To search for these records Choose the 'RecordSearch – Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter the Cabinet member's name (for example, Margaret Guilfoyle) into the 'Person name' field to reach the person registration and select 'Series'.

The Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne includes photographs and speeches relating to Malcolm Fraser's political career.

Other records

The National Archives holds many records documenting Malcolm Fraser's parliamentary career and prime ministership.

The Australia's Prime Ministers website provides a wealth of information on Malcolm Fraser's life and career, with links to relevant records held by institutions around the world.

More on the 1980 Cabinet records

1980 Cabinet records release, 7 December 2010

SpeakerDurationSizeDownloadTranscript
Jim Stokes – Background to the 1980 Cabinet records: The historical context and issues of interest 20:57 minutes 24.57mb Download mp3 file Transcript
Paul Kelly – Remembering 1980 and 1981 23:09 minutes 27.15mb Download mp3 file Transcript
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