1970 – Gorton government

Prime Minister Gorton with visiting United States Vice-President, Spiro Agnew
Prime Minister Gorton with visiting United States Vice-President, Spiro Agnew (NAA: A1200, L85624)

The 1970 Cabinet records

The third Gorton ministry spanned the period 12 November 1969 to 10 March 1971.

Submissions, decisions and files

The 1970 Cabinet records consist of 553 submissions with related briefing notes and decisions, and 291 decisions without submission.

Cabinet did not consider all submissions. A number were withdrawn before being considered by Cabinet, while other submissions were only for Cabinet’s information and did not require a decision. Others did not get listed for attention at a Cabinet meeting for some weeks or months due to the pressure of business and reworking of priorities. The submission title usually indicates if the submission was withdrawn.

Copies of decisions without submission are found in the folders of Cabinet decisions. Decision numbers 275, 347, 626 and 695 were not used. Decisions on some 1970 submissions were not made until 1971.

The Cabinet Office and Prime Minister's Department files contain a copy of the submission, briefing papers and relevant decisions. They also contain departmental advice exchanges between officials and ministers not included in the formal Cabinet papers. Withdrawn submissions can also be found in the relevant 'C' or 'CO' file.

Collection references

Cabinet notebooks

Officials of the Cabinet Office were usually present for meetings of Cabinet and Cabinet committees. In 1970, the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary to Cabinet attended most Cabinet meetings.

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.

Viewing the records

Folders containing copies of lists of 1970 submissions and decisions are available for public access in the National Archives' Canberra reading room.

Individual Cabinet records can be requested and viewed through the National Archives' Canberra reading room. Digital copies of submissions (A5869) and decisions (A5873) can also be viewed online in RecordSearch.

Members and committees of the 1970 Cabinet

At the 25 October 1969 federal election, the Gorton government was returned with its majority reduced from 39 to just seven. Despite being challenged for leadership by William McMahon and George Fairbairn, Gorton retained leadership and put in place a reshuffled third ministry.

The third Gorton government was in place from 12 November 1969 to 10 March 1971 and its Cabinet consisted of the following 13 Ministers in order of seniority.


Gorton, The Right Hon. John Grey

Prime Minister

McEwen, The Right Hon. John

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry

McMahon, The Right Hon. William

Minister for External Affairs

Anthony, The Hon. John Douglas

Minister for Primary Industry

Hulme, The Hon. Alan Shallcross

Postmaster-General and Vice-President of the Executive Council

Bury, The Hon. Leslie Harry Ernest


Sinclair, The Hon. Ian McCahon

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

Anderson, Senator the Hon. Kenneth McColl

Minister for Supply

Fraser, The Hon. John Malcolm

Minister for Defence

Swartz, The Hon. Reginald William Colin, MBE ED

Minister for National Development

Snedden, The Hon. Billie Mackie, QC

Minister for Labour and National Service

Bowen, The Hon. Nigel Hubert, QC

Minister for Education and Science

Nixon, The Hon. Peter James

Minister for the Interior

During 1970 parliamentary sittings and Cabinet meetings were usually held twice weekly and lasted for about four hours.

Cabinet committees

Cabinet committees were first formally 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.

The 1970 Cabinet committees are listed below.


Ad Hoc Committee

Ad Hoc

Commonwealth Works Committee


Ex Servicemen’s Committee


General Administrative Committee


Government Purchasing Policy Committee


Legislation Committee




Taxation Committee


The committee abbreviation is added to the Decision Number to identify its decisions.

Key political figures

Some of the political figures in Australia in 1970 who are still active in the community are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those held in 1970.

Government Ministers


Anthony, The Hon. John Douglas

MHR for Richmond, NSW
Minister for Primary Industry

Chipp, The Hon. Donald Leslie

MHR for Hotham, Vic
Minister for Customs and Excise

Fraser, The Hon. John Malcolm

MHR for Wannon, Vic
Minister for Defence

Gorton, The Right Hon. John Grey

MHR for Higgins, Vic
Prime Minister

Hughes, The Hon. Thomas Eyre, QC

MHR for Berowra, NSW

Killen, The Hon. Denis James

MHR for Moreton, Qld
Minister for the Navy

Peacock, The Hon. Andrew Sharp

MHR for Kooyong, Vic
Minister for the Army and Minister assisting the Prime Minister

Sinclair, The Hon. Ian McCahon

MHR for New England, NSW
Minister for Shipping and Transport and  Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry

Wentworth, The Hon. William  Charles

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

Government Members of Parliament

Street, Anthony Austin

MHR for Corangamite, Vic

Withers, Reginald Grieve

Senator for WA

Opposition Members of Parliament

Beazley, Kim Edward

MHR for Fremantle, WA

Cairns, James Ford

MHR for Lalor, Vic

Cameron, Clyde Robert

MHR for Hindmarsh, SA

Cohen, Barry

MHR for Robertson, NSW

Grassby, Albert Jaime

MHR for Riverina, NSW

Hayden, William George

MHR for Oxley, Qld

Keating, Paul John

MHR for Blaxland, NSW

Scholes, Gordon Glen Denton

MHR for Corio, Vic

Uren, Thomas

MHR for Reid, NSW

Whitlam, Edward Gough, QC

MHR for Werriwa, NSW
Leader of the Opposition

Senior Public Servants

Bailey, Peter

First Assistant Secretary (Committee
 Secretary), Cabinet Office

Hewitt, Cyrus Lenox Simson

Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department

Lawler, Peter, OBE

Deputy Secretary, Cabinet Office

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019