1996 and 1997 – Keating and Howard governments

Prime Minister John Howard with President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines at the APEC Meeting in Subic, Philippines, November 1996. (NAA: A13966, 961498)

Paul Keating was sworn in as Australia's 24th Prime Minister on 20 December 1991 after narrowly defeating Bob Hawke in a Labor Caucus ballot for party leadership. He held office until 11 March 1996. The second Keating Ministry was sworn in on 24 March 1993 and served until 11 March 1996.

John Howard served as Australia's 25th Prime Minister from 11 March 1996 until 3 December 2007. The first Howard Cabinet was sworn in on 11 March 1996 and served until 21 October 1998.

1996–1997 Cabinet records

Submissions

Most Cabinet business is conducted on the basis of formal submissions. As far as possible, submissions are circulated to all ministers before meetings.

Once lodged, Cabinet submissions may be withdrawn by their originating department or Minister.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

  • they were overtaken by events (such as a forthcoming election)
  • 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 Withdrawn submissions are not always found in the folders of submissions but can usually be found in the relevant Cabinet Office file.

During January to March 1996, the Keating Cabinet considered 18 submissions.

Submissions from this period are registered by the National Archives in series A14217.

During March 1996 to December 1997, the Howard Cabinet considered 338 submissions.

Submissions from this period are registered by the National Archives in series A14370.

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. 

Cabinet was concerned that the submission should remain the main vehicle by which matters were placed before it. Cabinet memoranda, though, would allow for the presentation to Cabinet of supplementary or other factual information not contained in an original submission, or additional information on a matter specifically called for by Cabinet.

Memoranda were in a format specifically prepared for presentation to Cabinet, and included recommendations, making it more straightforward for Cabinet to reach a decision. They were registered and copies retained by the Cabinet Office. Where a memorandum resulted in a decision by Cabinet, a copy of the decision was attached to the memorandum. 

During January to March 1996, the Keating Cabinet considered 2 memoranda.

Memoranda considered by the second Keating Cabinet are held with submissions in series A14217.

During March 1996 to December 1997, the Howard Cabinet considered 143 memoranda.

Memoranda considered by the Howard Cabinet are held with submissions in series A14370.

Decisions

Cabinet decisions, also known as Cabinet minutes, are the essential documented output of the Cabinet process and record the course of action to be taken on a matter following deliberation by Cabinet. 

Although much Cabinet business was conducted on the basis of submissions or memoranda, the Prime Minister could decide to raise, or allow a colleague to raise, a matter without formal documentation. In such cases, the Cabinet decision is the only formal record of such deliberations. Even after the introduction of the Cabinet memoranda process many decisions continued to be made with no supporting documentation. 

Where a decision was made as a result of Cabinet deliberation on a submission or memorandum, a copy of the decision is held with this document. However, it was not uncommon for decisions to be made with no supporting documentation and these are referred to as 'decisions without submission'. 

During January to March 1996 the Keating Cabinet made 12 decisions without submission or memorandum. 

The series of decisions of the Keating Cabinet (A14218) contain both the decisions made on a submission or memorandum and those made without a submission or memorandum.

During March 1996 to December 1997, the Howard Cabinet made 260 decisions without submission or memorandum. 

Decisions made by the Howard Cabinet, whether they were made on a submission or memoranda or not are held with submissions and memoranda in series A14370.

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 containing papers considered by the Keating Cabinet in January to March 1996 are held in series A11117.

Files containing papers considered by the Howard Cabinet in 1996 and 1997 are held in series A14371.

Cabinet files of interest from 1996 and 1997 can be identified through the National Archives' collection database, RecordSearch, where an application for access can also be submitted 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.

Release of the 1996 and 1997 Cabinet records

On Tuesday 11 December 2018, following an event at the National Press Club, Canberra, the National Archives released key 1996 and 1997 Cabinet records under embargo to accredited media representatives in advance of their public release under the Archives Act 1983 on 1 January 2019. The Cabinet records released under embargo are those considered by the Keating government in 1996 and the Howard government in 1996 and 1997.

Mr David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives, was the MC for the event. The National Archives' Cabinet Historian, Associate-Professor Paul Strangio, Deputy Head of School, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, provided a brief introduction to matters considered by Cabinet in 1996 and 1997. Associate-Professor Strangio's essay provides greater detail on this subject.

The Hon John Howard, OM, AC, former Prime Minister, in conversation with Ms Sabra Lane, President of the National Press Club, spoke at the event providing context and insight into the issues, events and personalities of 1996 and 1997.

The Honourable John Howard, OM, AC

Mr. Howard entered parliament as the Member for Bennelong in May 1974. After the controversial dismissal of the Whitlam government in November 1975, he took his first portfolio as Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in the Coalition government of Malcolm Fraser and Doug Anthony. John Howard was then Treasurer from 1977 until the Fraser government lost office in 1983.

Leader of the Opposition from 1985 to 1989, and again from 1995, John Howard became Prime Minister following the Liberal–National Party Coalition's victory in the 1996 federal election. Mr. Howard served as Prime Minister from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007, the longest prime ministerial term after Robert Menzies. When he lost the seat of Bennelong in 2007, John Howard also became the second Australian prime minister to lose his seat, the first being Stanley Melbourne Bruce in 1929.

Mr. Howard was appointed as the Chairman of the International Democrat Union in 2002 and served in that role until 2014. In 2008 Mr. Howard was appointed as a director of the Bradman Foundation.

Cabinet members and committees

Swearing in of first Howard Ministry at Government House, 11 March 1996. (NAA: A13966, 960446)

Keating Cabinet ministers

Members of the Keating Cabinet in 1996 are listed below. A number of these Cabinet ministers have transferred collections of personal records to the National Archives. Further details about the personal records collections held by the National Archives can be found by selecting the links in the following list.

NameRole
Keating, The Hon Paul John

Prime Minister

Beazley, The Hon Kim ChristianDeputy Prime Minister  
Minister for Finance
Willis, The Hon RalphTreasurer
Evans, Senator the Hon Gareth John, QCMinister for Foreign Affairs
Ray, Senator the Hon Robert FrancisMinister for Defence
Lavarch, the Hon Michael HughAttorney-General
Cook, Senator the Hon Peter Francis SalmonMinister for Industry, Science and Technology 
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science
Bolkus, Senator the Hon NickMinister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs
Crean, the Hon Simon FindlayMinister for Employment, Education and Training
Collins, Senator the Hon Robert Lindsay AOMinister for Primary Industries and Energy
McMullan, Senator the Hon Robert FrancisMinister for Trade
Brereton, the Hon Laurence JohnMinister for Transport
Lee, the Hon Michael JohnMinister for Communications and the Arts
Faulkner, Senator the Hon John PhilipMinister for the Environment, Sport and Territories
Lawrence, the Hon Dr Carmen MaryMinister for Human Services and Health
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women
Baldwin, The Hon Peter JeremyMinister for Social Security

Keating Cabinet committees

The following Keating government Cabinet committees were active in 1996. The abbreviation for a particular committee may follow a decision number, which occurs in the list of submissions, memoranda and decisions, indicating the committee of Cabinet that made the decision.

Cabinet committeeAbbreviation
Ad Hoc CommitteeAd Hoc
Expenditure Review CommitteeER
General Policy CommitteeGPC
Native Title CommitteeNTC
Parliamentary Business CommitteePB
Republic CommitteeRC
Revenue CommitteeREV
Structural Adjustment and Trade CommitteeSATC
Social Policy CommitteeSP
White Paper Ad Hoc committeeWP AD

It was usual for decisions made by an Ad Hoc Committee to bear the suffix 'Ad Hoc'.

Howard Cabinet ministers

Members of the Howard Cabinet in 1996 and 1997 are listed below. A number of these Cabinet ministers have transferred collections of personal records to the National Archives. Further details about the personal records collections held by the National Archives can be found by selecting the links in the following list.

NameRole
Howard, the Hon John Winston, OM, AC

Prime Minister

Fischer, the Hon Timothy Andrew, ACDeputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade
Costello, the Hon Peter Howard, ACTreasurer
Downer, the Hon Alexander John Gosse, ACMinister for Foreign Affairs
McLachlan, the Hon Ian Murray, AOMinister for Defence
Williams, the Hon Daryl Robert, AM, QCAttorney-General (in Cabinet from 6 October 1997)
Anderson, the Hon John Duncan, AOMinister for Primary Industries and Energy
Hill, Senator the Hon Robert Murray, ACMinister for the Environment
Alston, Senator the Hon Richard Kenneth Robert, AOMinister for Communications and the Arts (to 9 October 1997)
Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts (from 9 October 1997)
Newman, Senator the Hon Jocelyn Margaret, AOMinister for Industrial Relations (to 11 July 1997)
Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business (from 11 July 1997)
Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service (from 17 March 1996 to 18 July 1997)
Moore, the Hon John Colinton, AOMinister for Industry, Science and Tourism
Sharp, the Hon John Randall, AMMinister for Transport and Regional Development (to 24 September 1997)
Wooldridge, Dr the Hon Michael Richard LewisMinister for Industry, Science and Tourism
Fahey, the Hon John Joseph, ACMinister for Finance (to 6 October 1997)
Minister for Finance and Administration (from 6 October 1997)
Vanstone, Senator the Hon Amanda EloiseMinister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (to 6 October 1997)
Minister for Justice (from 6 October 1997)
Kemp, Dr the Hon David Alastair, ACMinister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (from 6 October 1997)
Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service (from 18 July 1997)
Vaile, the Hon Mark Anthony James, AOMinister for Transport and Regional Development (from 6 October 1997)

Howard Cabinet committees

The following Howard government Cabinet committees were active in 1996 and 1997. The abbreviation for a particular committee may follow a decision number, which occurs in the list of submissions, memoranda and decisions, indicating the committee of Cabinet that made the decision. Decisions made by the full Cabinet often use the CAB abbreviation.

Cabinet committeeAbbreviation
Ad Hoc CommitteeAd or Ad Hoc
Employment CommitteeE
Expenditure Review CommitteeER
General Administrative CommitteeG
Legislative CommitteeL
National Security CommitteeNS
Parliamentary Business CommitteePB
Portrayal of Violence CommitteePV

Cabinet record selection

A list of key Cabinet records selected by media representatives, the National Archives' Cabinet historian and the National Archives is available in related links. The documents have been selected from the submissions and memoranda of the Keating Cabinet (series A14217) and the Howard Cabinet (series A14370) and are grouped alphabetically under subject headings.

The complete list of Keating Cabinet submissions and memoranda (A14217), decisions (A14218), Cabinet Office files (series A11117), as well as Howard Cabinet submissions, memoranda and decisions (A14370) and Cabinet files (A14371) can be identified using RecordSearch. Where a record is not already available for public access an application for access can be submitted online.

Cabinet records withheld from public access

Under the Archives Act 1983, Commonwealth records are available for public access when they reach the open access period unless they contain information that falls into certain exemption categories defined in section 33 of the Act. Before the National Archives releases records for public access they are examined, sometimes in consultation with other government agencies, to ensure they do not contain information requiring exemption.

A selection of key Cabinet records from 1996 and 1997 have been examined by the National Archives. Most of these records have been wholly released for public access.

Some information in the remaining records (listed below) has been withheld from public access because its disclosure would:

  • damage Australia's security, defence or international relations – s33(1)(a);
  • have a substantial adverse effect on the financial or property interests of the Commonwealth and disclosure would not, on balance, be in the public interest – 33(1)(c);
  • disclose lawful methods or procedures for preventing, detecting or investigating breaches of the law  – s33(1)(f)(ii)
  • prejudice the maintenance or enforcement of lawful methods for the protection of public safety – s33(1)(f)(iii)
  • be privileged from production in legal proceedings on the ground of legal professional privilege and its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest – 33(2)(a)(b)

These records fall into two categories. 4 records listed below have been wholly withheld from public access for one or more of the reasons above. These records are marked as 'CLOSED' on the table below. The remaining 19 records listed below are 'open with exception', meaning that a portion of each record has been withheld, but that the remaining material is open for public access. These are marked as 'OWE' on the table below.

Aboriginal Affairs

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Native Title Act 1993 - proposed amendments - Decisions JH96/0069/CAB, JH96/0069/CAB/2
and JH96/0069/CAB/3
1996A14370, JH1996/69OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)
Pastoral leases and native title - ways to expedite High Court determination - Decision JH96/0196/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/196OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)
Mediation by the Commonwealth in relation to native title determination applications - Decision JH96/0262/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/262OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)
National Inquiry into Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families - Decision JH96/0270/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/270

OWE
s33(1)(c)
OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)

Native Title Act 1993 - further proposed amendments - Decision JH96/0452/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/452OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)
Native Title Bill 1997 - further consideration of Senate amendments - reintroduction of the Bill, and associated issues - Decisions without submission JH97/0462/CAB, JH97/0462/CAB/2, JH97/0462/CAB/3, JH97/0462/CAB/4, JH97/0462/CAB/5, JH97/0462/CAB/6, JH97/0462/CAB/7, JH97/0462/CAB/8, JH97/0462/CAB/9, JH97/0462/CAB/10 and JH97/0462/MIN/111996A14370, JH1996/462OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)

Budget and economy

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Supply Bills (Numbers 1 and 2) and Supply (Parliamentary Departments) Bill 1996-1997 and Loan Bill 1996 - Decision JH96/0050/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/50OWE
s33(1)(a)

Constitution

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Proposed Government response to Parliamentary Committee Report on Section 44 of the Constitution - Decision JH97/0522/CAB1997A14370, JH1997/492OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)

Environment

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Proposal for the National Pollutant Inventory - Decision 48491996A14217, 2547OWE
s33(2)(a)(b)

Foreign affairs

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Australia-Indonesia agreement for maintaining security - Decision JH96/0062/NS1996A14370, JH1996/62OWE
s33(1)(a)
Australia-Taiwan relations - Decision JH96/0210/NS1996A14370, JH1996/210CLOSED
s33(1)(a)
Australia-China relations - Decision JH96/0280/NS1996A14370, JH1996/280CLOSED
s33(1)(a)
Australia-China relations - Decision JH96/0599/NS1996A14370, JH1996/599CLOSED
s33(1)(a)
Australia-Hong Kong relations - Decision JH96/0600/NS1996A14370, JH1996/600CLOSED
s33(1)(a)
Australia-Indonesia Maritime Boundary Delimitation Treaty - Decision JH97/0041/CAB1997A14370, JH1997/41OWE
s33(1)(a)
Australia-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations and the Korean security situation - Decision JH97/0271/NS1997A14370, JH1997/271OWE
s33(1)(a)
Ratification and implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty - Decision JH97/0492/CAB1997A14370, JH1997/492OWE
s33(1)(a)

Immigration

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Settlement of litigation for unlawful detention - Tang versus Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs - Decision JH96/0503/CAB1996A14370, JH1996/503

OWE
s33(1)(c)
s33(2)(a)(b)

Visa cancellations - Decision JH96/0595/NS1996A14370, JH1996/595

OWE
s33(1)(a)
s33(1)(f)(ii)
s33(1)(f)(iii)

Law enforcement and legal

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Report of the Task Force on the Commonwealth approach to illicit drugs - Decision JH97/0453/CAB1997A14370, JH1997/453OWE
s33(1)(c)
s33(2)(a)(b)

Security and intelligence

Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number and control symbolReason for exemption from public access under the Archives Act
Reference copy of National foreign intelligence assessment priorities - Decision JH96/0209/NS1996A14370, JH1996/209OWE
33(1)(a)
Handling of legislative and related reforms arising from the Samuels Commission of Inquiry into Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) - Decision JH96/0319/NS1996A14370, JH1996/319OWE
33(1)(a)
Establishment of a Joint Australia – United States Relay Ground Station at Pine Gap – Decision JH97/0423/NS1997A14370, JH1997/423OWE
33(1)(a)

Further information

Personal records

The National Archives also holds collections of personal records deposited by people who have been closely associated with the Australian 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 access provisions of the Archives Act 1983. From 1 January 2019 records created in 1996 and 1997 will enter the open access period. Access to non-Commonwealth records in personal records collections is determined by the depositor.

The National Archives holds personal records collections deposited by Paul Keating, John Howard and many of their respective Cabinet ministers. Further details about the personal records collections of individual members of these governments can be found by selecting the links in the lists of Cabinet ministers for 1996 and 1997.

The National Archives' Australia's Prime Ministers website also provides information about the careers of Australia's prime ministers and is illustrated with unique records and photographs from the National Archives' collection.

Related links

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