1984 and 1985 – Hawke government

There were two Hawke ministries and Cabinets in 1984 and 1985:

  • First Hawke Ministry (11 March 1983 – 13 December 1984)
  • Second Hawke Ministry (13 December 1984 – 24 July 1987).

The First Hawke Ministry served until the general election on 1 December 1984, at which the government was returned.

The Second Hawke Ministry was sworn in on 13 December and served until the next general election, which was held in July 1987.

The 1984 and 1985 Cabinet records

Prime Minister Bob Hawke launches the ALP campaign for the general election held on 1 December 1984. (NAA: A6180, 16/11/84/30)
Prime Minister Bob Hawke launches the ALP campaign for the general election held on 1 December 1984. (NAA: A6180, 16/11/84/30)

A Morgan Gallop poll taken in February 1984 showed that after its first year in office the Hawke government was still very popular with the electorate. Results of the poll gave the government 54 per cent of the vote, against 40 per cent for the Liberal–National Party Opposition and 4 per cent for the Australian Democrats. Even more impressive for the government was the 70 per cent approval rating for Prime Minister Bob Hawke against 36 per cent for Opposition Leader Andrew Peacock. Hawke's personal popularity was enhanced by the perception that he was presiding over a generally competent Cabinet which was prepared to tackle major issues in ways that sought to achieve community consensus.

The March 1983 election that brought Hawke to power was a double dissolution of both houses of Parliament, requiring another election for half the members of the Senate no later than the first half of 1985. Governments generally dislike inflicting separate Senate elections on voters, and it was decided to hold an election for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate on 1 December 1984. The election campaign began on the assumption that the government would win easily but, with a long campaign period of more than seven weeks and a better than expected performance from Peacock, the ALP found the going harder than anticipated. In the end, the government won a comfortable victory with 51.8 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Through 1984 and 1985 the government presided over an improving economy. This was assisted by special factors, such as the improved world economic position and the end of the drought in Australia, but was a satisfying outcome for the government's reforming, yet prudent, fiscal plan. Unemployment was falling and the budget was being carefully managed.

A Tax Summit held in July 1985 allowed the government to bring a consensus approach to the vexed question of taxation reform. At the closing session of the summit, Hawke indicated that there seemed to be general support for a number of broad positions including a crackdown on tax evasion, some extension of the direct and indirect tax base (including a consumption tax on services), adequate compensation for the needy, a possible replacement of the income tax threshold with tax rebates, changes to the dependent spouse rebate, and the possible introduction of dividend imputation, aligning company tax rates with the top personal rate. The government's final tax package, which excluded a consumption tax, was unveiled by Treasurer Paul Keating in September 1985.

As 1985 drew to a close, the government was in a comfortable position. The same could not be said for the Opposition. Leadership tensions resulted in the resignation of Peacock in September and his replacement by John Howard.

Submissions

During 1984, up until the time of the general election held in December the Hawke Cabinet received 470 submissions. Of these, 33 were withdrawn before being considered. Submissions considered by the first Hawke Cabinet are held in series A13977.

A change in Cabinet Office management procedures, introduced with the swearing in of the Second Hawke Ministry in December 1984, saw submissions and memoranda combined into a single series. While still being identified as either a 'submission' or a 'memorandum', papers were controlled within a single sequential numbering system. Rather than commencing with '1' this new series commenced with '1962', which was the first number after allowing for the combined total of numbers used for the issue of submissions and memoranda through the life of the First Hawke Ministry. This series is registered by the National Archives as A14039.

From 13 December 1984 until the end of 1985, the Hawke Cabinet received 604 submissions. Of these, 59 were withdrawn before being considered.

It is usual for a copy of the decision (or decisions) arising from a submission to be attached to the submission.

Memoranda

Cabinet memoranda provided a means – other than a formal Cabinet submission – by which a minister could, with the prior consent of the Prime Minister, place a matter before Cabinet.

During 1984 until the general election held in December, the Hawke Cabinet received 255 memoranda. Of these, seven were withdrawn before being considered. Memoranda considered by the first Hawke Cabinet are held in series A13978.

Under the new management procedures set in place after the general election in December 1984, which saw submissions and memoranda combined into a single series (see Submissions), the Hawke Cabinet received 857 memoranda. Of these, 119 were withdrawn before being considered. Memoranda considered by the Second Hawke Ministry are held in series A14039.

It is usual for a copy of the decision (or decisions) arising from a memorandum to be attached to the memorandum held in A13978.

Decisions

Cabinet decisions are the outcomes of the deliberations of Cabinet. The series of decisions of the Hawke Cabinet (A13979) contain both the decisions made on a submission or memorandum and those made without a submission or memorandum.

During 1984 and 1985, the Hawke Cabinets made 4300 decisions, of which 1268 (29 per cent) were made without a submission or memorandum.

Cabinet Office files

Cabinet Office files contain the originals of the submissions, memoranda and related decisions. They also contain departmental advice and exchanges between officials and ministers not included in the formal Cabinet papers. There is a Cabinet Office file for most submissions and memoranda.

Files for the Hawke Cabinets in 1984 and 1985, which are held in series A11116, have numbers beginning with the prefix 'CA' and are often referred to as 'CA files'.

CA files of interest from 1984 and 1985 can be identified through the Archives' collection database, RecordSearch, where an application for access can also be placed online.

Departmental records

The 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 detailed deliberations of the Public Service on the topic, and often include the opinions and guidance of the responsible minister. Records can be identified through RecordSearch.

Collection references

Public access to Cabinet submissions, memoranda and decisions

More than 700 of the papers considered and discussed by the first and second Hawke Cabinets in 1984 and 1985 – submissions, memoranda and decisions – were made available for viewing on 1 January 2013.

A small amount of material was withheld from 30 of these papers, and one further submission was wholly withheld. The table below indicates whether a document is partially released ('OWE' – open with exception) or wholly withheld ('Closed'), and the reasons for exemption from public access under the Archives Act 1983.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(a) of the Archives Act is withheld to protect Australia's security, defence or international relations.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(c) of the Archives Act is withheld because its release would have a substantial adverse effect on the financial or property interests of the Australian Government or a government institution.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(d) of the Archives Act is withheld because its release would constitute a breach of confidence.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(g) of the Archives Act is withheld because its release would involve an unreasonable disclosure of information relating to the personal affairs of a person.

Information exempted under section 33(1)(j) of the Archives Act is withheld because its release would adversely impact on the business, commercial or financial affairs of a person, organisation or undertaking.

Information exempted under section 33(2) of the Archives Act is withheld on the grounds of legal professional privilege and its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

Topic and titleDocumentReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act

Australian honours system

Review of Australian honours systemSubmission 3249OWE 33(1)(d) and (g)

Defence

Future Defence activity in MalaysiaSubmission 656OWE 33(1)(a)
Helicopters for Navy frigatesSubmission 1025OWE 33(1)(a)
ANZUS – arrangements for handling relations with the USA and New ZealandSubmission 2635OWE 33(1)(a)
New Defence major capital investment proposals for 1985–86Submission 2998OWE 33(1)(a)
Army counter-terrorist facilitiesSubmission 3145OWE 33(1)(a)

Foreign Affairs

Australia–Indonesia maritime delimitation negotiationsSubmission 618OWE 33(1)(a)
Review of Offshore Constitutional Settlement – petroleum and mineralsSubmission 986OWE 33(1)(c) and 33(2)
USSR – proposed Aeroflot officeSubmission 987OWE 33(1)(a)
Review of Offshore Constitutional Settlement – titles legislationSubmission 2638OWE 33(1)(c) and 33(2)
USSR proposal – Aeroflot officeSubmission 2987OWE 33(1)(a)
Australia–Indonesia maritime delimitation negotiationsSubmission 3302
Decision 6733
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Australia–Indonesia maritime delimitation negotiationsSubmission 3454
Decision 6927
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
International atmospheric experiments in Northern AustraliaSubmission 3457OWE 33(1)(a)

Legal matters

Briese allegation relating to the conduct of Mr Justice MurphySubmission 1007OWE 33(1)(g) and 33(2)

Security and intelligence

Tabling of final reports of the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence AgenciesSubmission 2070OWE 33(1)(a)
Tabling of final reports of the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence AgenciesMemorandum 2120
Decision 4762/SEC
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Review of offshore counter-terrorist assault capability and protective measuresMemorandum 2653OWE 33(1)(a)
Relocation of ASIO headquarters to CanberraMemorandum 2893OWE 33(1)(a)
Review of the security of ministerial telecommunicationsMemorandum 3152OWE 33(1)(a)
Collection in Australia of foreign intelligenceSubmission 3153OWE 33(1)(a)

Territories

Long-term plans for Antarctic programsSubmission 614OWE 33(1)(a)
Antarctic airfieldsSubmission 733OWE 33(1)(a)
Australian objectives in Antarctic minerals negotiationsSubmission 746OWE 33(1)(a)
Antarctic shippingDecision 3728/ER
Decision 4072 (Amended)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Air transport to AntarcticaSubmission 842
Decision 3728/ER
Decision 4072 (Amended)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Antarctic transport systems – an overviewSubmission 842
Decision 3728/ER
Decision 4072 (Amended)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Australia's long-term interests and role in AntarcticaSubmission 923
Decision 3728/ER
Decision 4072 (Amended)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
OWE 33(1)(a)
Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands – legal and administrative arrangementsSubmission 1992OWE 33(1)(a)
Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands – resources required for administrationSubmission 3030OWE 33(1)(a)

Wholly exempt

Title exemptSubmission 1985
Decision 4654 (SEC)
Closed 33(1)(a)
Closed 33(1)(a)

Background to 1984 and 1985

At the media briefing on the Cabinet records for 1984 and 1985, two speakers provided context and insights into the issues, events and personalities of those years.

Dr Jim Stokes, the Archives' historical consultant, undertook extensive research of the 1984 and 1985 Cabinet papers and provided an overview of the significant issues and events of these years.

The Hon Susan Ryan AO provided context and insight into the issues, events and personalities of 1984 and 1985. Ryan was elected to the Australian Senate in 1975 and served as one of two senators from the ACT until 1988. When appointed to serve as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women in the Hawke government in March 1983, she became the first woman to serve in an ALP Cabinet. She subsequently served as Minister for Education (1984–87) and Special Minister of State (1987–88), before stepping down from the Senate in 1988.

Before entering Parliament, Ryan had been a schoolteacher (from 1963), a research officer at the Australian National University (1966), and a tutor at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education (1971–72). She was a founding member of the Women's Electoral Lobby, ACT, and in 1975 was an education officer for the Australian secretariat of International Women's Year. In 1974–75 she was an ALP member of the ACT Legislative Assembly.

After leaving Parliament Ryan took on a number of senior management roles including Chief Executive of the Australian Plastics Industry Association (1989–93), Executive Director of the Association of Superannuation Funds (Australia) (1993–97), and President of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (2000–07). In 2011 she was appointed Australia's first Age Discrimination Commissioner.

Members and committees

There were two Hawke ministries and Cabinets in 1984 and 1985:

  • First Hawke Ministry (11 March 1983 – 13 December 1984)
  • Second Hawke Ministry (13 December 1984 – 24 July 1987).

The First Hawke Ministry served until the general election on 1 December 1984, at which the government was returned. The Second Hawke Ministry was sworn in on 13 December and served until the next general election which was held in July 1987.

The Hawke government continued the practice of having the Cabinet comprise some, but not all, members of the Ministry. This practice has been continued by all subsequent ministries.

Hawke Cabinet members, 1984 and 1985

MinisterPortfolio
Hawke, The Hon Robert James LeePrime Minister
Bowen, The Hon Lionel FrostDeputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade (to 13.12.1984)
Attorney-General (from 13.12.1984)
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Button, Senator the Hon John NormanMinister for Industry and Commerce (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (from 13.12.1984)
Grimes, Senator the Hon Donald JamesMinister for Social Security (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Community Services (from 13.12.1984)
Willis, The Hon RalphMinister for Employment and Industrial Relations
Keating, The Hon Paul JohnTreasurer
Young, The Hon Michael Jerome (in Cabinet from 21.1.1984)Special Minister of State (from 21.1.1984)
Walsh, Senator the Hon Peter AlexanderMinister for Resources and Energy (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Finance (from 13.12.1984)
Hayden, The Hon William GeorgeMinister for Foreign Affairs
Ryan, Senator the Hon Susan MareeMinister for Education and Youth Affairs (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Education (from 13.12.1984)
Evans, Senator the Hon Gareth JohnAttorney-General (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Resources and Energy (from 13.12.1984)
Scholes, The Hon Gordon Glen Denton (in Cabinet to 13.12.1984)Minister for Defence (to 13.12.1984)
Dawkins, The Hon John SydneyMinister for Finance (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Trade (from 13.12.1984)
Kerin, The Hon John CharlesMinister for Primary Industry
West, The Hon Stewart John (in Cabinet from 3.4.1984)Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Housing and Construction (from 13.12.1984)
Beazley, The Hon Kim Christian (in Cabinet from 13.12.1984)Minister for Defence (from 13.12.1984)
Hurford, The Hon Christopher John (in Cabinet from 13.12.1984)Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (from 13.12.1984)
Howe, The Hon Brian Leslie (in Cabinet from 13.12.1984)Minister for Social Security (from 13.12.1984)

Hawke Cabinet committees, 1984 and 1985

The following abbreviations refer to the committees of the Hawke Cabinet in 1984 and 1985. They may follow a decision number, which occurs in the list of submissions, memoranda and decisions, indicating the committee of Cabinet that made the decision.

Committee nameAbbreviation
Ad Hoc CommitteeAd Hoc
Budget (from August 1985)B
Defence and External RelationsDER
Economic PolicyEP
Expenditure Review (until December 1984)ER
IndustryIND
InfrastructureINF
Legal and AdministrativeLA
LegislationLEG
National and International Security (until January 1985)NIS
Parliamentary BusinessPB
RevenueR
Security (from January 1985)SEC
Social PolicySP
Tax Avoidance IssuesTAX

Key figures of 1984 and 1985

The following table lists the key people in government in 1984 and 1985 and other significant figures referred to in the selected Cabinet documents. Other figures from the period may be identified by consulting the 1984 and 1985 Commonwealth Government Directory (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra), and Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (23rd edition, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1986).

NameRole
Beazley, The Hon Kim ChristianMinister for Aviation (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Defence (from 13.12.1984)
Blewett, The Hon Dr NealMinister for Health
Bowen, The Hon Lionel FrostDeputy Prime Minister
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Minister for Trade (to 13.12.1984)
Attorney-General (from 13.12.1984)
Brown, The Hon John JosephMinister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism Minister for Administrative Services (to 13.12.1984)
Brazil, PatrickSecretary, Attorney-General's Department
Button, Senator the Hon John NormanMinister for Industry and Commerce (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (from 13.12.1984)
Cohen, The Hon BarryMinister for Home Affairs and the Environment (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Environment (from 13.12.1984)
Cole, Sir WilliamSecretary, Department of Defence (from 1984)
Dawkins, The Hon John SydneyMinister for Finance (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Trade (from 13.12.1984)
Duffy, The Hon Michael JohnMinister for Communications
Evans, Senator the Hon Gareth JohnAttorney-General (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Resources and Energy (from 13.12.1984)
Evatt, Justice Phillip GeorgeRoyal Commissioner, Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam
Fraser, BernieSecretary, Department of the Treasury (from 1984)
Gietzelt, Senator the Hon Arthur ThomasMinister for Veterans' Affairs
Grimes, Senator the Hon Donald JamesMinister for Social Security (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Community Services (from 13.12.1984)
Harris, StuartSecretary, Department of Foreign Affairs (from 1984)
Hawke, The Hon Robert James LeePrime Minister
Hayden, The Hon William GeorgeMinister for Foreign Affairs
Henderson, PeterSecretary, Department of Foreign Affairs (to 1984)
Holding, The Hon Allan ClydeMinister for Aboriginal Affairs
Howard, The Hon John WinstonLeader of the Opposition (from September 1985)
Howe, The Hon Brian LeslieMinister for Defence Support (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Social Security (from 13.12.1984)
Hurford, The Hon Christopher JohnMinister for Housing and Construction (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (from 13.12.1984)
Jenkins, The Hon Dr Henry AlfredSpeaker, House of Representatives
Jones, The Hon Barry OwenMinister for Science and Technology (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Science (from 13.12.1984)
Keating, The Hon Paul JohnTreasurer
Kerin, The Hon John CharlesMinister for Primary Industry
McClelland, Senator the Hon DouglasPresident of the Senate
McClelland, Justice James RobertRoyal Commissioner, Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia
Morris, The Hon Peter FrederickMinister for Transport Minister for Aviation (from 13.12.1984)
Murphy, Justice Lionel KeithJudge, High Court of Australia
Peacock, The Hon Andrew SharpLeader of the Opposition (to September 1985)
Peatey, GordonChief Executive, Parliament House Construction Authority
Pritchett, WilliamSecretary, Department of Defence (to 1984)
Ryan, Senator the Hon Susan MareeMinister for Education and Youth Affairs (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Education (from 13.12.1984)
Scholes, The Hon Gordon Glen DentonMinister for Defence (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Territories (from 13.12.1984)
Sinclair, The Hon Ian McCahonLeader of the National Party of Australia
Stephen, His Excellency Sir Ninian AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, KStJGovernor-General of Australia
Stewart, Donald GeraldRoyal Commissioner, Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking
Stone, JohnSecretary, Department of the Treasury (to 1984)
Uren, The Hon ThomasMinister for Territories and Local Government (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services (from 13.12.1984)
Walsh, Senator the Hon PeterMinister for Resources and Energy (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Finance (from 13.12.1984)
West, The Hon Stewart JohnMinister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (to 13.12.1984)
Minister for Housing and Construction (from 13.12.1984)
Willis, The Hon RalphMinister for Employment and Industrial Relations
Yeend, GeoffreySecretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Young, The Hon Michael JeromeSpecial Minister of State (from 21.1.1984)

Selected documents

The selected documents illustrate the major issues addressed by the Hawke Cabinet during 1984 and 1985. Introductory notes are provided for each topic. The documents have been taken from the following records series of the Hawke Cabinet:

Every attempt has been made to reproduce high-quality images of the original archival documents. Sometimes, the result may not be fully legible due to the poor quality of the original document.

A reference set of the more than 700 Cabinet papers for 1984 and 1985, available from 1 January 2013, is held at the Archives' Canberra reading room.

Those records not available, as well as the related Cabinet Office files for the Hawke Cabinet (Series A11116), may be requested from 1 January 2013 using RecordSearch and will be made available after access examination.

Key documents

The economy, Budget and wages policy

Tax reform

Taxing business lunches and pensioners' assets

The Australia Card

Financial reform

Industrial relations

Foreign affairs, defence and Christmas Island

The Age tapes and the investigation of Justice Lionel Murphy

The Sheraton Hotel affair, the second Hope Royal Commission and Army counter-terrorism capability

Agent Orange and British nuclear tests

Constitutional reform, administrative law and affirmative action

Indigenous land rights

Illegal immigrants

Education

Science, the environment and Commission for the Future

Managing the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Special Broadcasting Service

The second Sydney airport

The America's Cup

The role of the National Archives of Australia

Further information

Personal records of Prime Minister Hawke

The Archives holds collections of the personal records of Bob Hawke. Details of these records can be found on RecordSearch. Choose the 'Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter 'CP 390' (the Commonwealth Person number for Bob Hawke) into the 'Person number' field to reach the person registration, and select 'Series'.

The Archives also holds personal records deposited by other members of the 1984 and 1985 Cabinets. Details of these records can also be found on RecordSearch. To search for them choose the 'Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter the Cabinet member's name (for example, 'Gareth Evans') into the 'Person name' field to reach the person registration, and select 'Series'.

Additional primary source material for Hawke is held by the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia.

Other sources

The Archives' Australia's Prime Ministers website provides a wealth of information on the life and career of Hawke, with links to relevant records held by institutions around the world.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014