1981 – Fraser government

The Fourth Fraser Ministry was sworn in after the re-election of the government in November 1980, and served until a ministerial reshuffle on 7 May 1982. This ministry served through the whole of 1981.

The 1981 Cabinet records

Public access provisions

Under changes to the public access provisions of the Archives Act 1983 approved by Parliament in May 2010 the open access period for most Australian Government records will commence after 20 years instead of the current 30 years. The change is being phased in over 10 years with the closed period reducing by a years on 1 January each year until 2020. For more detailed information about this change refer to Access to records under the Archives Act.

As a result of this change Cabinet records for 1981 became eligible for public access from 1 January 2010, along with the Cabinet records for 1980.

Cabinet records for 1981 from the four main series (submissions, memoranda, decisions and the Cabinet Office 'LC' files) are listed on the RecordSearch database. Applications for access to any records from 1981 may be made using RecordSearch.

Selected key 1981 Cabinet records will released throughout 2011.

Submissions

During 1981 the Fraser Cabinet received 759 submissions. Twenty-two submissions were withdrawn completely, and 11 were withdrawn and replaced by another submission.

Cabinet submissions considered by the Fourth Fraser Ministry are held in series A12909.

A copy of the decision is attached to the submission within series A12909. Related material may be held in the Cabinet Office file. Fourth Fraser Ministry Cabinet Office files are held in series A10756.

Memoranda

The Cabinet memoranda format was introduced in February 1979 following a review of Cabinet Office arrangements and replaced the earlier Cabinet papers series. 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 memoranda for the Fraser Cabinet are held in series A12930.

During 1981 Cabinet considered 742 memoranda. Thirteen of these were withdrawn, eight were withdrawn and replaced by another memorandum, and one was withdrawn and replaced by a submission.

Decisions

Cabinet decisions made by the Fourth Fraser Ministry are held in series A13075. This series includes copies of all decisions, both those made on a submission and those made without submission.

During 1981, 4114 Cabinet decisions were made. Just over 332 per cent of decisions – some 1392 – were made without submission.

Cabinet Office 'LC' files

Cabinet Office 'LC' files (in series A10756) 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.

'LC' files of interest can be identified through the National Archives' collection database, RecordSearch, and an application for access placed online. There will be some delay in making them available as they will require access examination.

Departmental records

The detailed background papers and earlier drafts of the Cabinet papers being released 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 the National Archives' collection database, RecordSearch.

Collection references

Background to 1981

Members and committees

The Fourth Fraser Ministry was sworn in after the re-election of the government in November 1980, and served until a ministerial reshuffle on 7 May 1982. This ministry served through the whole of 1981.

The Fraser Cabinet in 1981

Members of the Fraser Cabinet in 1981 are listed below. The roles and titles ascribed to them are those they held in 1981.

As had been the case with earlier Fraser ministries, the Cabinet comprised some but not all members of the Ministry. This practice has been continued by all subsequent ministries.

MinisterPortfolio
Fraser, The Rt Hon John MalcolmPrime Minister
Anthony, The Rt Hon John DouglasDeputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade and Resources
Lynch, The Hon Phillip ReginaldMinster for Industry and Commerce
Sinclair, The Hon Ian McCahonMinister for Communications
Carrick, Senator the Hon John LeslieMinister for National Development and Energy
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Street, The Hon Anthony AustinMinister for Foreign Affairs
Nixon, The Hon Peter JamesMinister for Primary Industry
Howard, The Hon John WinstonTreasurer
Peacock, The Hon. Andrew Sharp (in Cabinet to 16.4.1981)Minister for Industrial Relations (to 16.4.1981)
Killen, The Hon Denis JamesMinister for Defence
Guilfoyle, Senator the Hon Margaret Georgina ConstanceMinister for Finance
Viner, The Hon Robert IanMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs (to 16.4.1981) 
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 16.4.1981)
Leader of the House
Durack, Senator the Hon Peter Drew QCAttorney-General
Chaney, Senator the Hon Frederick MichaelMinister for Social Security
Fife, The Hon Wallace Clyde (in Cabinet from 16.4.1981)Minister for Education

Cabinet committees

Cabinet committees were first formally established in 1950 to help Cabinet make decisions more expeditiously and efficiently by:

  • having a committee of ministers sift through the issues and facts and then present Cabinet with a clear recommendation for action; and
  • relieving Cabinet of much business of lesser importance.
Decisions made by a committee are indicated by the addition of the committee abbreviation to the decision number.

In 1981 the Fraser Cabinet had the following Cabinet committees:

Cabinet committeeAbbreviation
Ad Hoc CommitteeAd Hoc
Co-ordination CommitteeCC
Economic CommitteeEC
Foreign Affairs and Defence CommitteeFAD
General Administrative CommitteeGA
General Policy CommitteeGP
Industry Policy CommitteeIP
Intelligence and Security CommitteeIS
Legislation CommitteeLEG
Machinery of Government CommitteeMOG
Monetary Policy CommitteeMP
Planning and Co-ordination CommitteePC
Public Information CommitteePIC
Social Welfare Policy CommitteeSWP
Wages Policy CommitteeWP

It was usual for decisions made by an Ad Hoc committee to bear the suffix 'Ad Hoc'. One exception to this is the Ad Hoc Committee on Budget which was usually represented by a 'B' suffix (sometimes shown as 'AHB').

In November 1980 an Ad Hoc committee was formed to support Cabinet in matters relating to the Review of Commonwealth Functions. Decisions made by the committee, which was very active in the first half of 1981, bear the suffix 'RCF'.

Key figures of 1980 and 1981

The following table lists the key people in Government in 1980 and 1981 and other significant figures referred to in the selected Cabinet documents. Other figures from the period may be identified by consulting the Commonwealth Government Directory (Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra) for 1980 and 1981 and the Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (21st edition, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1982).

NameRole
Adermann, The Hon Albert EvanMinister for Veterans' Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Anthony, The Rt Hon John Douglas

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Trade and Resources

Barwick, Sir Garfield GCMGChief Justice, High Court of Australia
Baume, Senator the Hon Peter ErneMinister for Aboriginal Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Bowen, Sir NigelChief Judge, Federal Court of Australia
Chair, Committee of Inquiry Concerning Public Duty and Private Interest
Brown, The Hon Neil AnthonyMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Carrick, Senator the Hon John LeslieMinister for National Development and Energy
Vice-President of the Executive Council
Chaney, Senator the Hon Frederick MichaelMinister for Aboriginal Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Social Security (from 3.11.1980)
Codd, MichaelUnder Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Cowen, His Excellency Sir Zelman, AK, GCMG, KStJ, QCGovernor-General of Australia
Crawford, Sir JohnChair, Study Group on Structural Adjustment
Durack, Senator the Hon Peter Drew QCAttorney-General
Ellicott, The Hon Robert James QCMinister for the Capital Territory (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Home Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 3.11.1980 to 17.2.1981)
Fife, The Hon Wallace ClydeMinister for Education
Fraser, The Rt Hon John MalcolmPrime Minister
Galbally, Francis QCChair, Review into Post-arrival Programs and Services for Migrants
Garland, The Hon Ransley VictorMinister for Business and Consumer Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Groom, The Hon Raymond JohnMinister for Housing and Construction (to 3.11.1980)
Guilfoyle, Senator The Hon Margaret Georgina ConstanceMinister for Social Security (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Finance (from 3.11.1980)
Henderson, PeterSecretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
Hodgman, The Hon William MichaelMinister for the Capital Territory (from 3.11.1980)
Holcroft, WarwickChair, Independent Public Inquiry into Domestic Airfares
Howard, The Hon John WinstonTreasurer
Hunt, The Hon Ralph James DunnetMinister for Transport
Jamison, James Hardie OBEChair, Commission of Inquiry into the Efficiency and Administration of Hospitals
Killen, The Hon Denis JamesMinister for Defence
Lynch, The Hon Phillip ReginaldMinister for Industry and Commerce
MacKellar, The Hon Michael John RandalMinister for Health
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 17.2.1981 to 19.3.1981)
Macphee, The Hon Ian MalcolmMinister for Productivity (to 8.12.1979)
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
McLeay, The Hon John EldenMinister for Administrative Services (to 3.11.1980)
McVeigh, The Hon Daniel ThomasMinister for Housing and Construction (from 3.11.1980)
Moore, The Hon John ColintonMinister for Business and Consumer Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Myers, Sir Rupert KBE, CBEVice-Chancellor, University of NSW
Chair, Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia
Neaves, AlanSecretary, Attorney-General’s Department
Newman, The Hon Kevin EugeneMinister for Productivity (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Administrative Services (from 3.11.1980)
Nixon, The Hon Peter JamesMinister for Primary Industry
Peacock, The Hon Andrew SharpMinister for Foreign Affairs (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 3.11.1980 to 16.4.1981)
Pritchett, WilliamSecretary, Department of Defence
Robinson, The Hon Eric LaidlawMinister for Finance (to 3.11.1980)
Died 7 January 1981
Scott, Senator The Hon Donald BarrMinister for Special Trade Representations (to 19.8.1980)
Sinclair, The Hon Ian McCahonMinister for Special Trade Representations (from 19.8.1980 to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Communications (from 3.11.1980)
Staley, The Hon Anthony AllanMinister for Post and Telecommunications (to 3.11.1980)
Steele Craik, DuncanAuditor-General
Stone, JohnSecretary, Department of the Treasury
Street, The Hon Anthony AustinMinister for Industrial Relations (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Foreign Affairs (from 3.11.1980)
Sweetland, WilfredChair, Commission of Inquiry into the Viability of the Christmas Island Phosphate Industry
Thomson, The Hon David ScottMinister for Science and the Environment (to 3.11.1980)
Minister for Science and Technology (from 3.11.1980)
Viner, The Hon Robert IanMinister for Employment and Youth Affairs (to 16.4.1981)
Minister for Industrial Relations (from 16.4.1981)
Leader of the House
Williams, Bruce RoddaChair, Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training
Williams, The Hon Justice Edward StrattonCommissioner, Royal Commission into Drugs
Judge, Queensland Supreme Court
Wilson, The Hon Ian Bonython CameronMinister for Home Affairs and the Environment (from 19.3.1981)
Woods, Sir ColinCommissioner, Australian Federal Police
Yeend, GeoffreySecretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Selected documents

Collection references

 Series titleDate rangeSeries number
ItemAustralian defector policy – Decision 14931(FAD)13 Apr 1981 – 27 Apr 1981A12909
ItemMachinery of investigation of unauthorised disclosures of official information – Decision 15123(FAD)27 Apr 1981 – 12 May 1981A12909
ItemCounter-terrorism policy review – Decision 16437(FAD)04 Apr 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
ItemCounter-terrorism policy and organisation – Decision 16438(FAD)06 May 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
ItemSecurity of ESSO/BHP installations in Bass Strait/Gippsland – an overview – Decision 16439(FAD)24 Apr 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
ItemBass Strait – legislative provisions for a proposed 'area to be avoided' for Australian vessels over 200 tons gross tonnage – Decision 16440(FAD)30 May 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
ItemBass Strait – prohibited zone around the offshore installations for Australian vessels up to 200 tons gross tonnage – Decisions 16441(FAD), 16946(FAD) and 18879(FAD)30 May 1981 – 06 Sep 1982A12909
ItemSurveillance of Bass Strait offshore oil/gas installations – Decision 16442(FAD)30 May 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
ItemLocation of counter-terrorist Offshore Installations Assault Team (OAT) – Decision 16443(FAD)30 May 1981 – 22 Jul 1981A12909
Item1981–1982 budget estimates of intelligence agencies – Permanent Heads Committee on Intelligence and Security – Decision 1644708 Jul 1981 – 08 Jul 1981A12909
ItemReport of the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Coastal Surveillance – Decisions 17224 and 17318(FAD)12 Nov 1981 – 16 Dec 1981A12909
ItemVulnerability of the Australian telecommunications system to industrial disputation – Decision 1728427 Nov 1981 – 15 Dec 1981A12909

Further information

Personal records

The National Archives holds an extensive collection of Malcolm Fraser's personal records. Details of these records can be found in RecordSearch. Choose the 'RecordSearch – Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter Mr Fraser's Commonwealth Person number (CP 51) into the 'Person number' field to reach the person registration and select 'Series'.

The National Archives also holds personal records deposited by other members of the 1980 Cabinet. Details of these records can be found in RecordSearch. To search for these records Choose the 'RecordSearch – Advanced search' tab, and select the 'Commonwealth persons' box. Enter the Cabinet member's name (for example, Margaret Guilfoyle) into the 'Person name' field to reach the person registration and select 'Series'.

The Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne includes photographs and speeches relating to Malcolm Fraser's political career.

Other records

The National Archives holds many records documenting Malcolm Fraser's parliamentary career and prime ministership.

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

1980 Cabinet records release, 7 December 2010

SpeakerDurationSizeDownloadTranscript
Jim Stokes – Background to the 1980 Cabinet records: The historical context and issues of interest 20:57 minutes 24.57mb Download mp3 file Transcript
Paul Kelly – Remembering 1980 and 1981 23:09 minutes 27.15mb Download mp3 file Transcript
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