Cabinet records of the Fraser government, 1975–83 – Fact sheet 246

The Fraser ministries

The Liberal–Country Party government of Malcolm Fraser began with the swearing-in of the first Fraser ministry on 11 November 1975, following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. It consisted of 15 members who were all members of Cabinet. The role was a caretaker one, pending the outcome of the general election on 13 December 1975. The second ministry, which consisted of 26 ministers, was formed on 22 December 1975 following the Coalition’s election victory. At this time the practice was reintroduced whereby Cabinet comprised only selected members of the ministry.

The Fraser government remained in office for more than seven years, coming to an end with the loss of the general election on 5 March 1983.

The Cabinet records identify five Fraser ministries and five Cabinets. Other sources identify only three Cabinets – the first ministry not being regarded as a Cabinet (the decisions of this period have an ‘M’ suffix indicating they are formally regarded as ministry, rather than Cabinet, decisions); and the period of the fourth and fifth ministries being regarded as one continuing Cabinet (as the 1982 ministerial reshuffle did not alter the composition of the Cabinet).

Fraser government ministries

MinistryDate range of ministryReason for end of ministry
First11 November – 22 December 1975Election – 13 December 1975
Second22 December 1975 – 20 December 1977Election – 10 December 1977
Third20 December 1977 – 3 November 1980Election – 18 October 1980
Fourth3 November 1980 – 7 May 1982Reshuffle – 7 May 1982
Fifth7 May 1982 – 11 March 1983Election – 5 March 1983

Cabinet in operation

The style of the Fraser government generated a large volume of Cabinet business, a particular feature being the very large number of matters considered without a formal submission. A number of measures were taken to assist the Cabinet Office in dealing with the great quantities of records that resulted. These measures included:

  • issuing a Cabinet handbook setting out policy and procedural arrangements
  • introducing categories of ‘Cabinet papers’ and ‘Cabinet memoranda’ as a way of improving control over matters presented to Cabinet without a formal submission
  • using Committees to relieve pressure on the Prime Minister (see the list of committees below).

Records of the Fraser Cabinet

Records become available for access once they enter the open access period.

Cabinet correspondence files

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCabinet file series1975–83A10756
SeriesRegister of Cabinet files1975–83A12999

Submissions

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesSubmission series – first ministry1975A12908
SeriesSubmission series – second to fifth ministries1975–83A12909
SeriesRegister of submissions1975A12910

Papers and Memoranda

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPapers series – Cabinet1976–79A12933
SeriesPapers series – FAD committee1976A12934
SeriesRegister of papers1976–82A12940
SeriesMemoranda series1979-83A12930
SeriesRegister of memoranda1979-83A12932

Decisions

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesMinistry decisions1975–82A12931
SeriesRegister of decisions1975–83A12911
SeriesDecisions series – first ministry1975A13050
SeriesDecisions series – second to fifth ministries1975–83A13075

Indexes

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesSubject index (1975–82)1975–82A12936
SeriesNominal index1975–83A13156
SeriesNominal index (departments)1975–81A12939

Auxiliary series

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCabinet Office procedural and housekeeping files1968–83A7753
SeriesChronological record of meetings1975–79A12573
SeriesAttendance sheets1975–83A12575
SeriesReference index of LC files to decisions1975–83A12938
ItemRecords of meetings1976–77A12935
SeriesDebrief sheets1978-83A12937

Fraser Cabinet standing committees and ad hoc committees

Cabinet was assisted by a range of standing committees and ad hoc committees. The main standing committees are listed below. Cabinet decisions taken by a subcommittee are identified by the suffix shown.

Ad hoc committees were appointed for a particular purpose as required. Decisions of an Ad hoc committee bear the suffix ‘AD HOC’.

Committee nameDate rangeSuffix
Coordination1979–83CC
Economic1975–83EC
Foreign Affairs and Defence1975–83FAD
General Administrative1975–79GA
General Policy1979–83GP
Industry Policy1979–83IP
Intelligence and Security1977–80IS
Legislation1975–83LC
Machinery of Government1975–79MOG
Monetary Policy1977–83MP
Planning and Coordination1975–79PC
Public Information1977–83PIC
Social Welfare Policy1977–83SWP
Wages Policy1977–83WP

Cabinet notebooks

Cabinet notebooks become available 30 years after the end of the year in which they were created. The first Cabinet notebooks for the Fraser government will become available from January 2026.

Further sources of information

For further information about the period of the Fraser government see John Malcolm Fraser.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017