1966 – Menzies and Holt governments

Holt ministry being sworn in at Government House, Canberra, 26 January 1966
Holt ministry being sworn in at Government House, Canberra, 26 January 1966 (A1200, L53615)

The eighth Menzies and first Holt ministries considered a range of issues, many of which continue to be topical today.

Submissions, decisions and Cabinet 'C' files

Approximately 600 submissions were made in 1966. A number of items were brought up in Cabinet meetings by the Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet without a submission having been received. Two hundred and twenty-five (225) decisions without submission were made throughout 1966.

Cabinet 'C' files are arranged by subject, and generally include copies of submissions and supporting papers, circulation details for these, minutes of decisions, memoranda to interested ministers and departments advising them of decisions, and any related papers such as briefs on submissions prepared by officers of the Prime Minister's Department.

Viewing the records

Folders containing lists of the submissions and decisions is available for viewing in the Canberra reading room.

Title listings of all submissions and decisions from 1966 can be found on RecordSearch, by doing a keyword search using the title of the submission or decision. Submissions and decisions can be also be ordered for viewing in the Canberra reading room of the National Archives.

Members and committees of the 1966 Cabinet

January 1966 saw the end of the Menzies era and his eighth ministry, when Harold Holt replaced Robert Menzies as Prime Minister. The first Holt ministry, of 24 Ministers, covered the period 26 January to 14 December 1966. Holt formed his second ministry after the coalition was re-elected in December.

Holt's first Cabinet consisted of 12 Ministers:


The Right Honourable Harold Holt

Prime Minister

The Right Honourable John McEwen

Minister for Trade & Industry

The Honourable William McMahon


The Right Honourable Paul Hasluck

Minister for External Affairs

The Honourable Charles Adermann

Minister for Primary Industry

The Honourable Allen Fairhall

Minister for Defence

Senator the Honourable Norman Henty

Minister for Supply

The Honourable Alan Hulme

Postmaster-General and Vice-President of the Executive Council

The Honourable David Fairbairn, DFC

Minister for National Development

The Honourable Charles Barnes

Minister for Territories

Senator the Honourable John Gorton

Minister for Works; and under the Prime Minister, Minister-in-Charge, Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research

The Honourable Leslie Bury

Minister for Labour and National Service

Cabinet meetings were held weekly during Parliamentary sittings and usually last about two and a half hours.

Committees of Cabinet

The following standing Committees of Cabinet operated in 1966:

  • Defence Preparations Committee
  • Economic Committee
  • Ex-Servicemen's Committee
  • Higher Salaries Committee
  • Legislation Committee
  • Vice-President's Committee

Members of Cabinet Committees were drawn from the entire Ministry, not just from the ranks of Cabinet. Ad hoc committees of Cabinet were established to investigate particular subjects and to make recommendations to Cabinet.

Cabinet Committees were first established by Prime Minister Menzies in 1950. Their role was to assist Cabinet:

  • to make decisions more expeditiously and efficiently by having a Committee of Ministers sift through the issues and the facts and present Cabinet with a clear recommendation for action; and
  • by relieving Cabinet of much business of lesser importance.

All of the standing Committees identified above, except for the Ex-Servicemen's Committee which had an advisory role, were empowered to take final decisions on behalf of the Cabinet.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019