1968 – McEwen and Gorton governments

The second ministry chosen by Prime Minister John Gorton in the Cabinet Room, Parliament House, Canberra, 28 February 1968
The second ministry chosen by Prime Minister John Gorton in the Cabinet Room, Parliament House, Canberra, 28 February 1968 (NAA: A1200, L69391)

The 1968 Cabinet records

Submissions

Over 430 submissions with related briefing notes, were considered by Cabinet in 1968. ‘Submissions’ normally consist of all departmental submissions and briefing notes placed before the Cabinet by sponsoring Ministers, and Cabinet’s decision on each submission. Each submission is filed in numerical sequence with its related briefing note and decision.

Decisions

Two hundred and eighty-six decisions were made by the 1968 Cabinet. ‘Decisions without submission’ consist only of Cabinet decisions. Decisions have their own numbering system and are recorded in the form of Cabinet minutes, usually with details of Cabinet’s discussion.

Cabinet notebooks

Officials of the Cabinet Office were usually present for meetings of Cabinet and Cabinet Committees. In 1968 the two officials would have been the Secretary to Cabinet and the Deputy Secretary. Their role included the recording of proceedings so that minutes accurately reflecting the decisions made or conclusions reached could be prepared. These records of proceedings are referred to as Cabinet notebooks.

Under section 22A of the Archives Act 1983, Cabinet notebooks (unlike other Commonwealth records) are not available to the public until 50 years have lapsed since their creation.

Submissions and decisions for 1968 are held in the following series:

Collection references

Viewing the records

The 1968 Cabinet series and items have been entered onto RecordSearch. Digital copies of submissions and decisions can be viewed in RecordSearch. The original records can be ordered for viewing in the Canberra reading room of the National Archives.

Folders containing copies of lists of the 1968 submissions and decisions are available for public access in the National Archives' Canberra reading room.

Members and committees of the 1968 Cabinet

There were three ministries and Cabinets in 1968.

The McEwen Ministry

John McEwen replaced Harold Holt as Prime Minister on 19 December 1967 after Holt disappeared in the surf off Portsea, Victoria two days earlier.

The McEwen Ministry first met on the afternoon of Wednesday, 20 December 1967. The record of attendance (A5830) notes that no formal business was discussed at this meeting which lasted approximately 30 minutes.

McEwen Cabinet

The McEwen Cabinet was in effect the Holt Cabinet minus Holt. It consisted of the following 11 Ministers:

MinisterPortfolio

The Right Honourable John McEwen PC

Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry

The Right Honourable William McMahon PC

Treasurer

The Right Honourable Paul Hasluck PC

Minister for External Affairs

The Honourable Allen Fairhall

Minister for Defence

The Honourable John Douglas Anthony

Minister for Primary Industry

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

Senator the Honourable John Gorton

Minister for Education and Science

The Honourable Leslie Bury

Minister for Labour and National Service

The Honourable Ian Sinclair

Minister for Social Services and Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry

While there is no record of the McEwen Cabinet meeting, the Economic Committee of Cabinet comprising McEwen, McMahon, Hasluck, Anthony, Gorton, Fairbairn, Henty and Bury met on Thursday, 4 January 1968. The following senior bureaucrats also attended this meeting:

  • Sir John Bunting, CBE, Secretary to Cabinet;
  • Mr Peter Lawler, OBE, Deputy Secretary to Cabinet;
  • Sir Richard Randall, Secretary to the Treasury;
  • Sir Laurence McIntyre, Deputy Secretary, Department of External Affairs;
  • Dr Coombs, Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs;
  • Sir Alan Westerman, Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry; and
  • Mr M Summers, Deputy Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry.

On 10 January 1968, John Gorton became leader of the Liberal Party and succeeded McEwen as Prime Minister.

Gorton Ministries

Senator John Gorton was sworn in as Prime Minister on 10 January 1968. He resigned from the Senate on 1 February 1968 to contest a by–election for Holt’s seat of Higgins, being elected to the House of Representatives on 24 February 1968.

First Gorton Cabinet

There were two Gorton Ministries and Cabinets during 1968. The first Gorton Cabinet covered the period 10 January 1968 to 28 February 1968 and consisted of the following 11 Ministers:

MinisterPortfolio

The Right Honourable John Gorton

Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Science

The Right Honourable John McEwen PC

Minister for Trade and Industry

The Right Honourable William McMahon PC

Treasurer

The Right Honourable Paul Hasluck PC

Minister for External Affairs

The Honourable Allen Fairhall

Minister for Defence

The Honourable John Douglas Anthony

Minister for Primary Industry

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 Leslie Bury

Minister for Labour and National Service

The Honourable Ian Sinclair

Minister for Social Services and Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry

Second Gorton Cabinet

The second Gorton Ministry was in place from 28 February 1968 to 12 November 1969. Gorton’s second Cabinet consisted of the following 12 Ministers.

MinisterPortfolio

The Right Honourable John Gorton

Prime Minister

The Right Honourable John McEwen PC

Minister for Trade and Industry

The Right Honourable William McMahon PC

Treasurer

The Right Honourable Paul Hasluck PC (to 11 Feb 1969)

Minister for External Affairs

The Honourable Gordon Freeth (from 11 Feb 1969)

Minister for External Affairs

The Honourable Allen Fairhall

Minister for Defence

The Honourable John Douglas Anthony

Minister for Primary Industry

The Honourable Alan Hulme

Postmaster–General and Vice–President of the Executive Council

The Honourable David Fairbairn DFC

Minister for National Development

The Honourable Leslie Bury

Minister for Labour and National Service

The Honourable Ian Sinclair

Minister for Shipping and Transport and Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry

Senator the Honourable Kenneth Anderson

Minister for Supply

The Honourable John Malcolm Fraser

Minister for Education and Science

During Parliamentary sittings, Cabinet meetings were usually held weekly and lasted for around two and a half hours.

Committees of Cabinet

In 1968 the committees of Cabinet included:

CommitteeAbbreviation

Ad Hoc Committee

AD HOC

Economic Committee

EC

Ex Servicemen’s Committee

EX

Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

FAD

General Administrative Committee

GA

Government Purchasing Policy Committee

PP

Legislation Committee

LEG

Ministry

M

Taxation Committee

TAX

Welfare Committee

WEL

The committee abbreviation is added to the decision number to identify its decisions.

Key political figures

Some of the key political figures in Australia in 1968 are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those they held in 1968.

Government Ministers

The Honourable John Douglas Anthony

MHR for Richmond, NSW
Minister for Primary Industry

The Honourable Don Chipp

MHR for Higinbotham, Vic
Minister for the Navy (to 28 Feb 1968)

The Honourable John Malcolm Fraser

MHR for Wannon, Vic
Minister for Army (19 Dec 1967 to 28 Feb 1968)
Minister for Education and Science (from 28 Feb 1968)

The Right Honourable Sir John Gorton

Senator for Victoria
MHR for Higgins, Vic
Minister for Education and Science
Prime Minister (from 10 Jan 1968)

The Right Honourable Ian Sinclair

MHR for New England, NSW
Minister for Social Services (19 Dec 1967 to 28 Feb 1968)
Minister for Shipping and Transport (from 28 Feb 1968)
Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry (from 19 Dec 1967)

William Wentworth

MHR for Mackellar, NSW
Minister for Social Services
Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs

Government Members of Parliament

Tom Hughes QC

MHR for Parkes, NSW

James Killen

MHR for Moreton, Qld

Andrew Peacock

MHR for Kooyong, Vic

Anthony Street

MHR for Corangamite, Vic

Ian Wilson

MHR for Sturt, SA

Reg Withers

Senator for WA

Opposition Members of Parliament

Kim Edward Beazley

MHR for Fremantle, WA

Jim Cairns

MHR for Yarra, Vic

Clyde Cameron

MHR for Hindmarsh, SA

Bill Hayden

MHR for Oxley, Qld

Doug McClelland

Senator for NSW

Gordon Scholes

MHR for Corio, Vic

Tom Uren

MHR for Reid, NSW

Gough Whitlam QC

MHR for Werriwa, NSW

Senior Public Servants

Peter Bailey

First Assistant Secretary (Committee Secretary), Cabinet Office

PJ Lawler OBE

Deputy Secretary, Cabinet Office

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