1973 – Whitlam government

Gough Whitlam's trip to China, 1973
Gough Whitlam's trip to China, 1973 (NAA: A6180, 14/11/73/209)

The 1973 Cabinet records

The second Whitlam ministry was formed on 19 December 1972 and remained in place until 12 June 1974.

Cabinet submissions

Most Cabinet business was conducted on the basis of formal submissions (which are also known as memoranda, minutes or agenda). As far as possible, submissions were circulated to all ministers prior to meetings.

After receiving Cabinet submissions, the Cabinet Office registered them and allocated a unique number. The first submission received by the Cabinet Office during its term was registered as number 1. Subsequent submissions were allocated consecutive running numbers.

Cabinet submissions once lodged could be withdrawn by their originating department or Minister. This could happen because:

  • in the waiting period they were overtaken by events (including a forthcoming election); or
  • the length of time that had elapsed since lodgment without being listed for consideration indicated that the matter was not a priority; or
  • the Cabinet Office returned them as they did not comply with technical requirements (for example, there had been inadequate consultation).

In such cases all copies, other than a master copy retained by the Cabinet Office, were required to be returned to the originating department. Withdrawn submissions are not always found in the folders of submissions but can usually be found in the relevant Cabinet Office (‘CL') file.

The Whitlam Ministry considered 823 submissions in 1973. These include 63 submissions which were withdrawn before a decision was taken as well as four submissions which were withdrawn after a decision was reached. Decisions were not made on four submissions. A further three submissions were for information only and thus no decision was required, although a decision was recorded for one of these.

Cabinet did not consider all submissions. A number were withdrawn before being considered by Cabinet, or were not received. This is noted by the words ‘withdrawn' or ‘not received' after the submission title. Occasionally these submissions are not included in the submission series A5915. This is indicated by the title being in italics.

A copy of the submission may be located in the relevant Cabinet office file. A number of other submissions were only for Cabinet's information, and did not require a decision. The submission title notes where this is the case.

Cabinet decisions

As for submissions, Cabinet decisions were allocated a unique number in sequence. However, the decision number is not the same as the submission number to which it relates. This is because decisions are not made in order of receipt of submissions and many decisions were made without a submission.

Although much Cabinet business was conducted on the basis of submissions, the Prime Minister could decide to raise, or allow a colleague to raise, a matter without submission. In such cases, the Cabinet decision is the only formal record of such deliberations.

The Whitlam Ministry made a total of 1828 decisions in 1973, of which 692 were made without submission.

Copies of decisions are attached to the submission to which they relate. Copies of decisions without submission will be found in the folders of Cabinet decisions (A5925). These folders contain the full set of decisions of Cabinet for 1973 in numerical sequence.

Cabinet Office files

The Cabinet Office files (‘CL' files) 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.

There are three main series of 1973 Cabinet records:

Collection references

Viewing 1973 Cabinet records

A complete listing of the 1973 Cabinet records (submissions, decisions and Cabinet Office files) can be accessed through the National Archives' online collection database, RecordSearchDigital copies of the submissions and decisions can also be viewed in RecordSearch.

The original records can be ordered and viewed in the National Archives' Canberra reading room.

Cabinet notebooks

In 1973, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (Sir Edward John Bunting), the Deputy Secretary (Peter Bailey), the First Assistant Secretary, Cabinet and Legislative Programming Division (Robert Linford) or the Assistant Secretary, Cabinet (Michael Wilson and later George Brouwer) attended most Cabinet meetings.

In general, three secretaries attended full Cabinet meetings, while two attended Cabinet committee 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 are not available to the public until 50 years have lapsed since their creation, unlike other Commonwealth records which are released after 30 years.

Departmental records

Detailed background papers and earlier drafts of the Cabinet papers can be found on the files of the department that sponsored each Cabinet submission. These papers reveal the deliberations of the Public Service on the topic and often include the opinions and guidance of the responsible Minister. These files can be identified through the Archives online database RecordSearch.

Personal records

The Archives also holds collections of personal records deposited by people who have been closely associated with the Commonwealth government in an official capacity, such as governors-general, prime ministers and ministers. These records may include official Commonwealth records as well as private, or personal, records.

Commonwealth records in these collections are subject to the usual access conditions of the Archives Act 1983 and are available 30 years from the date of creation, subject to the exemption of material of continuing sensitivity. Access to non-Commonwealth records in personal records collections is determined by the depositor. Please consult the Archives about the access conditions that apply to personal records you wish to access.

Personal records of Gough Whitlam

The National Archives holds an extensive collection of Gough Whitlam's personal records. It comprises almost 100 series of records covering the period 1952–78. Most of them were created by Whitlam as Prime Minister and as a Member of Parliament. The records include subject and correspondence files, media releases and speeches, Labor Party material, photographs, audio tapes, films, invitations and press clippings. Some relate to Whitlam's activities after he retired from politics.

Although the official records in this collection are not available until 30 years after they were created, access to non-Commonwealth material within the collection may be requested 25 years from the date of creation.

Further details about Whitlam's personal records can also be found in our collection database RecordSearch. Enter Whitlam's Commonwealth person number (CP 99) into the field for 'Reference numbers', then select 'Series' from the 'Search' drop-down menu.

Australia's Prime Ministers website introduces the careers of Gough and Margaret Whitlam, and is illustrated with unique records and photographs from our collection. It includes a complete list of the elections Whitlam contested and a one-page ‘Fast Facts' with dates, portfolios and little known quiz facts.

The Whitlam fact sheet offers introductions to personal, departmental and photographic records relating to the Whitlams held by the Archives.

Members and committees of the 1973 Cabinet

There was only one ministry and Cabinet in 1973, the second Whitlam ministry. Members of the Cabinet are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those held in 1973.

Second Whitlam Cabinet

The second Whitlam ministry was elected at a meeting of the parliamentary caucas of the Australian Labor Party on 19 December 1972 and remained in place until a general election on 18 May 1974.

It was succeeded by the Third Whitlam Ministry which was dismissed by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, on 11 November 1975.

The Second Whitlam Ministry reverted to the original practice which existed before 1956 with all members of the ministry sitting as members of Cabinet. The allocation of portfolios in 1973 is indicated below.

MinisterPortfolio

Whitlam, The Hon. Edward Gough, QC

Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 6 Nov 1973)

Barnard, The Hon. Lance Herbert

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister for the Army (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister for Air (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister for Supply (to 9 Oct 1973)

Cairns, The Hon. James Ford

Minister for Overseas Trade, Minister for Secondary Industry (to 9 Oct 1973)

Hayden, The Hon. William George

Minister for Social Security

Crean, The Hon. Frank

Treasurer

Murphy, Senator the Hon. Lionel Keith, QC

Attorney-General, Minister for Customs and Excise, Leader of the Government in the Senate

Willesee, Senator the Hon. Donald Robert

Special Minister of State (to 30 Nov 1973); Vice-President of the Executive Council (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister assisting the Prime Minister (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 6 Nov 1973); Minister for Foreign Affairs (from 6 Nov 1973)

McClelland, Senator the Hon. Douglas

Minister for the Media

Patterson, The Hon. Rex Alan

Minister for Northern Development, Minister for the Northern Territory (from 19 Oct 1973)

Bishop, Senator the Hon. Reginald

Minister for Repatriation, Minister assisting the Minister for Defence

Daly, The Hon. Frederick Michael

Minister for Services and Property, Leader of the House

Cameron, The Hon. Clyde Robert

Minister for Labour

Uren, The Hon. Thomas

Minister for Urban and Regional Development

Jones, The Hon. Charles Keith

Minister for Transport, Minister for Civil Aviation (to 30 Nov 1973)

Beazley, The Hon. Kim Edward

Minister for Education

Stewart, The Hon. Francis Eugene

Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Minister assisting the Treasurer (from 15 Feb 1973); Vice-President of the Executive Council (from 30 Nov 1973)

Cavanagh, Senator the Hon. James Luke

Minister for Works (to 9 Oct 1973); Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (from 9 Oct 1973)

Wriedt, Senator the Hon. Kenneth Shaw

Minister for Primary Industry

Bryant, The Hon. Gordon Munro, ED

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (to 9 Oct 1973); Minister for the Capital Territory (from 9 Oct 1973)

Connor, The Hon. Reginald Francis Xavier

Minister for Minerals and Energy

Grassby, The Hon. Albert Jaime

Minister for Immigration

Johnson, The Hon. Leslie Royston

Minister for Housing (to 30 Oct 1973); Minister for Works (from 9 Oct 1973 to 30 Nov 1973); Minister for Housing and Construction (from 30 Nov 1973)

Enderby, The Hon. Keppel Earl, QC

Minister for the Northern Territory (to 19 Oct 1973); Minister for the Capital Territory (to 9 Oct 1973); Minister for Supply (from 9 Oct 1973); Minister for Secondary Industry (from 9 Oct 1973)

Bowen, The Hon. Lionel Frost

Postmaster-General, Special Minister of State (from 30 Oct 1973); Minister assisting the Prime Minister (from 30 Nov 1973)

Everingham, The Hon. Douglas Nixon

Minister for Health

Cass, The Hon. Moses Henry

Minister for the Environment and Conservation

Morrison, The Hon. William Lawrence

Minister for External Territories (to 30 Nov 1973); Minister for Science Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in matters relating to Papua New Guinea (from 30 Nov 1973)

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
  • relieving Cabinet of much business of lesser importance.

The 1973 committees of the Whitlam Cabinet

Cabinet committeeAbbreviation

Ad Hoc Committees

Ad Hoc

Economic Committee

EC

Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

FAD

Legislation Committee

LEG

Urban and Regional Development Committee

URD

Welfare Committee

WEL

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

Key political figures

Some of the political figures in Australia in 1973 who are still active in the community are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those they held in 1973.

Government Ministers

Beazley, The Hon. Kim Edward

MHR for Fremantle, WA
Minister for Education

Bowen, The Hon. Lionel Frost

MHR for Kingsford-Smith, NSW
Postmaster-General
Special Minister of State (from 10 Nov 1973)
Minister assisting the Prime Minister (from 10 Nov 1973)

Cameron, The Hon. Clyde Robert

MHR for Hindmarsh, SA
Minister for Labour

Cass, The Hon. Moses Henry

MHR for Maribyrnong, Vic
Minister for the Environment and Conservation

Crean, The Hon. Frank

MHR for Melbourne Ports, Vic
Treasurer

Enderby, The Hon. Keppel
Earl, QC

MHR for the Australian Capital Territory
Minister for the Capital Territory (to 9 Oct 1973)
Minister for the Northern Territory (to 9 Oct 1973)
Minister for Supply (from 9 Oct 1973 )
Minister for Secondary Industry (from 9 Oct 1973)

Grassby, The Hon. Albert Jaime

MHR for Riverina, NSW
Minister for Immigration

Hayden, The Hon. William George

MHR for Oxley, Qld
Minister for Social Security

McClelland, Senator the Hon. Douglas

Senator for New South Wales
Minister for the Media

Patterson, The Hon. Rex Alan

MHR for Dawson, QLD
Minister for Northern Development
Minister for the Northern Territory (from 19 Oct 1973)

Uren, The Hon. Thomas

MHR for Reid, NSW
Minister for Urban and Regional Development

Whitlam, The Hon. Edward Gough, QC

MHR for Werriwa, NSW
Prime Minister
Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 6 Nov 1973)

Wriedt, Senator the Hon. Kenneth Shaw

Senator for Tasmania
Minister for Primary Industry

Government Members of Parliament

Berinson, Joseph Max

MHR for Perth, WA

Cohen, Barry

MHR for Robertson, NSW

Cross, Manfred Douglas

MHR for Brisbane, QLD

Hurford, Christopher John

MHR for Adelaide, SA

Keating, Paul John

MHR for Blaxland, NSW

Kerin, John

MHR for Macarthur, NSW

Lamb, Anthony Hamilton

MHR for La Trobe, Vic

Scholes, The Hon. Gordon Glen Denton

MHR for Corio, Vic

Opposition Members of Parliament

Anthony, The Rt Hon. John Douglas, PC

MHR for Richmond, NSW

Chipp, The Hon. Donald Leslie

MHR for Hotham, Vic

Cotton, Senator the Hon. Robert Carrington

Senator for New South Wales

Fraser, The Hon. John Malcolm

MHR for Wannon, Vic

Guilfoyle, Margaret Georgina Constance

Senator for Victoria

Hunt, The Hon. Ralph James Dunnet

MHR for Gwydir, NSW

Killen, The Hon. Denis James

MHR for Moreton, Qld

MacKellar, Michael John Randal

MHR for Warringah, NSW

Nixon, The Hon. Peter James

MHR for Gippsland, Vic

Peacock, The Hon. Andrew Sharp

MHR for Kooyong, Vic

Rae, Peter Elliot

Senator for Tasmania

Sinclair, The Hon. Ian McCahon

MHR for New England, NSW

Withers, Reginald Greive

Senator for Western Australia

Senior public servants

Bailey, Peter Hamilton

Deputy Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet

Brouwer, George Eugene

Assistant Secretary, Cabinet

Hewitt, Sir Cyrus Lenox, OBE

Secretary, Department of Minerals and Energy

Lawler, Peter, OBE

Secretary, Department of the Special Minister of State

Wilson, Michael John

Assistant Secretary, Cabinet

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017