Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

Thank you all for the interesting conversations surrounding Disney ITTL! As @Nerdman3000 has stated, I have already asked him to create a write up of the history of Disney ITTL when he gets the chance. Judging by his previous work on TTL (See the Star Trek updates and contributions to the Pop Culture sections), I cannot wait to read his Disney work! :D

Speaking of pop culture, I started my own supplement early.

Fantastic! :D Thank you for your interest and hard work @Andrew Boyd! I look forward to seeing what you write for your supplemental TL.
 
I think my ideas for railroad preservation ITTL are too small to really make a thread, so I'll simply give them now.

- Assuming Conrail still exists ITTL, the New York Central and PRR are spun off into separate railroads again, with the latter, especially the St. Louis route that was abandoned IOTL, becoming part of the Norfolk Southern System.
- The Southern Railroad buys up the Grand Trunk 5629 with help from the Illinois Railroad Museum.
- The Great Dismal Swamp Derailment is barely. Thus butterflying one of the two events that started the downfall of the Southern/Norfolk Southern Steam Program.
- N&W 1218 is taken out for an overhaul in 1991 like OTL. However, it eventually returns to service by 1996.
 
Excellent updates! About other countries in Europe, how is the situation in a) Scandinavia and b) Greece and Cyprus? I remenber that ITTL there was no military dictatorship in Greece. As a result, Greece will probably enter the EEC a bit earlier, instead of 1981. Was there any Turkish invasion in Cyprus ITTL?
 
Congrats at the latest chapter, @President_Lincoln...

Like how Udall and Goldwater team up for something constructive...

Congrats to Senator Murphy (and Cleland, too) for getting the VA started...

There are some things that are still OTL, I see (the reinstatement of the death penalty); wonder what happens ITTL...

BTW, the song "Carry On Wayward Son" was sung by Kansas and released in 1976 (and is now the unofficial theme song of the TV show Supernatural), so congrats for continuing the pattern, @President_Lincoln, and waiting for more...
 
Just watched Rocketman, got me thinking: what’s Reggie Dwight, better known as Elton Hercules John, up to?
I think it was mentioned in one of the Pop Culture Updates that he started a relationship with Brian Samuel Epstein.
It was indeed. :) Much of Elton's path here is similar to his rise IOTL. Teaming with songwriter Bernie Taupin, he took his talents to Apple Corps and was able to live out his adolescent dream of touring with his heroes - the Beatles in the early 1970's. As of 1977, he's still at Apple, working on new songs and currently conquering the world as one of Pop and Rock's biggest stars. His relationship with Brian Epstein was short lived, however, and the late 70's sadly still see Elton turning to drug use to cope with his own loneliness and at-the-moment confused sexuality.

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Chapter 110
Chapter 110: Let There Be Rock - Australia in the World of BSiC
“When the government makes opportunities for any of the citizens, it makes them for all the citizens. We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor. Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilization, because of this human and national waste.” - Gough Whitlam, 20th Prime Minister of Australia, upon launching his campaign for the 1972 General Election

“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”
- Dorothea Mackeller, “My Country”

As was the case across much of the world, the 1960’s and 1970’s presented a period of tremendous growth, opportunity, and change for the Land Down Under.

Having emerged from the crucible of the Second World War an advanced and highly industrialized nation, Australia spent much of the next twenty years seeking to build upon its victory over the Axis Powers, and adjust itself to realities of the developing Cold War world. Politically, the country spent the immediate post-war period effectively dominated by the Liberal Party and its “family and home” oriented leader, Robert Menzies. From 1949, Menzies’ Liberals, in coalition with the rural-based Country Party, managed to keep a firm, conservative grip on power. This stranglehold was solidified by the country’s flourishing economic growth, particularly an unprecedented boom in its manufacturing sector, which promoted both political contentment and the triumph of bourgeois, middle class values, both to the detriment of the Labor Party, which had led the country through much of the war. In addition to a prevailing conservative mentality at home, Cold War fears of “Communist influence” served to weaken Labor throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s, keeping Menzies in power until his retirement on January 26th, 1966. By that time, he had become the longest serving Prime Minister in Australia’s history and had virtually reformed the country in his image. Menzies left office with a disputed, but largely positive legacy, mostly remembered by Australians afterward for its efforts to develop the capital city of Canberra, encourage massive waves of immigration to the country, particularly from Southern and Central Europe, emphasize and increase access toward affordable higher education, and its controversial foreign policy, which saw Australia commit soldiers to the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, and the Conflicts of Cambodia and Rhodesia.

As immigrants poured into the country to work in its booming factories, mines, and refineries, and native Australians saw the onset of a post-war “baby boom” like the one experienced in the United Kingdom and the United States, living standards and leisure time both skyrocketed in the country as well. Holden, an Australian automobile manufacturer, along with four of its competitors came to employ more than 100,000 workers (at least 80% of them immigrants) in a nation of around 11 million people by the early 1960’s. National car ownership rapidly increased during this period as well: from 130 owners in every 1,000 in 1949 to 271 owners in every 1,000 by 1961, to nearly 400 owners in every 1,000 by 1971. Australian industry benefited heavily from hefty tariff protection, which was kept quite high due to pressures from both business owners and labor unions. At the height of PM Menzies’ popularity and power, his nation enjoyed virtually “full employment”, with vast amounts of expensive consumer goods flooding the market and making everyday life for the Australian people much better than the hardships and sacrifices they had faced during the Great Depression and World War II. In short, throughout Menzies’ premiership, most of the Australian public enjoyed good times. “Wild One” and “A Pub with No Beer” brought Australian Rock N Roll and Country music to international airwaves. The country also came to dominate in sport, particularly cricket, rugby, and tennis. Australia hosted the 1956 summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, an event which served to not only establish Australian sporting credentials, but also became a major catalyst for television broadcasting in the country, which began operating under a two-tiered, semi-privatized system created by the Menzies government in 1954.

Above: Sir Robert Menzies, 16th Prime Minister of Australia and the dominant figure of post-war politics in the country from 1949 until 1966. Menzies vision for Australia: conservative, productive, and staunchly anti-communist, served as the guiding template for molding the country’s future.

Menzies’ governments’ foreign policy was primarily constructed around what the Prime Minister referred to as “the Triple Alliance” - strategic defence and trade partnerships with both traditional ally/mother country Britain and the increasingly important superpower the United States. While initially this manifested in Australia taking a “staunchly pro-British line in diplomacy”, as British influence in Southeast Asia waned with the onset of decolonization, and the Suez Crisis (during which Australia was the only Commonwealth nation to support Britain) served a severe blow to the UK’s international reputation, Australia began to look increasingly to the geographically closer United States for leadership. British investment in Australia’s businesses remained steady throughout the post-war period, but the Great Recession of the 1970’s forced many British businesses to cut back and lead Australia to form even closer economic ties with the Americans, who were already superseding Britain in trade with the Land Down Under as well. The “final nail in the coffin” of close UK - Australian economic ties seemed to many the UK’s 1973 decision under Prime Minister Randolph Churchill to enter the European Economic Community. This move, which gave Britain a stronger trading position in Europe in exchange for backing out of lucrative, exclusive rates with the Commonwealth, shocked and alienated many in Australia, according to sources at the time, “particularly older people and conservatives”. By that time, Australia’s economy had largely ceased major trading with Britain, favoring exports to the U.S. and an astoundingly resurgent Japan.

Above: The Sydney Opera House, internationally renowned and beloved in Australia as a symbol of the “New Nationalism” of the 60’s and 70’s first opened its doors in 1973.

Though “old timers” were uncertain about what the new distance from Britain would entail for the Land Down Under, many Australians came to see this direction as, in fact, the right one. A new nationalism swept the country throughout the 1960’s, as the country worked hard to create for itself a unique natural, cultural, and historical heritage, distinct from its status as a Commonwealth nation and former colony of Britain. Liberal Education and Science Minister (and future Prime Minister) John Gorton, a rough and ready former fighter pilot who was widely described at the time as “the Australian’s Australian” promoted the development of local television and film, in an effort to combat the growing primacy of American culture to replace that of Britain. Gorton’s investments, and the creation of the Australian Council for the Arts, would pay off supremely in the coming decades. The country would produce Nobel Prize winning Authors, Poets, and Dramatists, create a new genre of film called “Australian New Wave” (largely inspired by the wave of patriotism), and greatly influence the realms of sport, music, and art, as well.

Despite the longevity of his premiership and his relative popularity throughout his time in power, Menzies did eventually retire, ceding control of the Liberal-Country Coalition in an uncontested leadership election to his Treasurer, Harold Holt. 14 years his predecessor’s junior, Holt at 57 was still one of the oldest men to yet lead his country. To counter the argument from the Labor opposition that the Liberal Party was “old and out of touch with the electorate after so many years in power”, Holt appeared frequently in public at sporting events, and demonstrated openly his proficiencies and proclivities toward sport himself, particularly swimming. The new Prime Minister cultivated a “popular” image with the press - less of Menzies’ austere, paternal presence, and more informal, contemporary, and witty. Holt was praised by the public at large for his quick wit, brought his popular wife, Zara into the public eye with him, and provided the press with unprecedented access to himself and his office, becoming the first Prime Minister to hold near daily press conferences, regardless of what the business at hand of the government was. After less than a year in office, the new Prime Minister led his coalition into the November 1966 elections. In an astounding vote of confidence, the Australian people gave Holt and his Liberals an outright majority over Labor without the need for a coalition with Country, something even Menzies had failed to achieve during his lengthy tenure in Canberra. With 84 out of 124 seats in the House of Representatives, the Liberal Party had handed Labor its worst defeat in over 30 years. Labor leader Arthur Calwell, who by now had become “the Liberals’ punching bag” and lost three federal elections in a row, was ousted from power, succeeded by a “grand man”, who would one day come to recreate Australia anew once more, a man named Gough Whitlam.

Above: 17th PM of Australia, Harold Holt, with his outright Liberal Majority government, was given a largely free hand with which to conduct the business of the country through the mid to late 1960’s.

One factor in Labor’s stunning defeat was leader Calwell’s stubborn dedication to the so-called “White Australia Policy”. Begun decades earlier in the wake of competition between Anglo settlers in Australia with Chinese immigrants over the Gold Fields and Labour-union opposition to bringing in Southeast Asian workers to work on plantations in the south of the country, this fundamentally backward policy sought to limit, to as great a degree as possible immigration to Australia of peoples with non-European ethnic backgrounds. In other words, if you were not European, don’t bother trying to get in. While some in the Labor movement continued to support the policy, including leader Calwell, Deputy Leader Whitlam spoke for many more social-justice minded Labor MPs and members when he came out strongly against the policy, in agreement with PM Holt. Holt lambasted the policy throughout the ‘66 campaign, decrying it as a “racist relic of a bygone era” and insisting that “We have jobs that need to be filled. They [Asian immigrants] have ambitions for a better life. What exactly is the problem here?” This last phrase - “What exactly is the problem here?” - became a catchphrase for Holt throughout the campaign. Labor’s divide over the White Australia Policy and other issues led to the public seeing them as divided and unclear, contributing to Holt’s astounding victory. After winning the election, Holt’s government would begin its majority term by dismantling the Policy and “opening the gates” for millions who were waiting to bring “their talents and spirits' ' to Australia. While Holt won a great victory for tolerance and a more progressive future for Australia with his decision, his government was immediately faced with another racial issue: rights for the country’s indiginous population.

Ever since the founding of the first British colonies on the continent, Indiginous peoples of Australia had been facing sickness (brought from the European colonists), loss of their traditional lands, and even death as thousands and later millions of European flooded their homes. This process, by the early 1930’s, had reduced the number of Native Australians to as low as between 50,000 and 90,000. Though thankfully by that time, most of these survivors had developed an immunity to European diseases. Those that weren’t were aided by modern technology, such as penicillin to help fight the spread of illness. Even with increased odds of survival, however, many indiginous peoples still faced discrimination and worse, outright exclusion from Australian society. From 1910 to 1970, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 3 indiginous or mixed race children were taken from their parents by the Australian government, State governments, and/or various church missions for the purpose of “Assimilating” and “Christianizing” them. This practice led to untold amounts of suffering for native people and their families, and children taken by the program have since come to be called the “Stolen Generations”. Per the original Australian Constitution, indigenous peoples were counted separately from European-descended Australians in the country’s census. This largely disenfranchised them, even after the Menzies government worked to grant natives the right to vote in various state, federal, and commonwealth elections, beginning with indigenous veterans in 1949, and fully extended to Queensland, the last state to grant the franchise to natives, in 1965. Despite the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s, most indigenous people faced hardship, poverty, even homelessness and starvation. Treated at best like second class citizens, many were required to live either on government reserves or outside of predominantly white towns and cities. As the post-war era brought momentous social change around the world, Australia and its indigenous population also came under close international scrutiny.

Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans and the Native American Rights Movement in the United States, students at the University of Sydney formed “Student Action for Aborigines” (SAFA) in 1964. This organization, led by a third year student and Arrernte man named Charlie Perkins, sought to emulate their movement’s highly successful counterparts in the United States. To this end, SAFA organized the “Freedom Ride of ‘65” - a bus tour of western and coastal New South Wales towns which sought to raise the public’s awareness about the poor state of health, housing, education, and economic opportunity for indigenous people. The Ride was also designed to expose the social barriers and discrimination which existed for Natives against the white majority, as well as to equip Native populations to stand up for their rights and peacefully resist anyone who would stand in the way of them achieving social progress, self-determination, and equality. Receiving widespread publicity in local, national, and international press, the Freedom Ride was a tremendous success, and was widely credited with pressuring the Menzies and later, Holt governments to call for the 1967 referendum on Australia’s constitution. The referendum, which came in two parts, was held on the questions of whether: A) indigenous peoples should be counted along with everyone else in national census counts; and B) Whether the Commonwealth should be allowed to legislate specifically for indigenous people. SAFA and other allied civil rights groups spearheaded the campaign for a “YES” vote on the referendum and when the votes were tallied on May 27th, more than 92% of Australians had voted in favor of the proposed amendments. This was, and remains, the largest popular supportive vote for a constitutional amendment in the history of Australia and was seen as a great victory for the Civil Rights Movement.


The struggle did not end there, however. Though civil rights and social progress were great steps in the right direction, the next great fight for the movement was the battle for indigenous Peoples’ land rights. In the early 1960’s, concurrently with natives being granted new rights and recognition in Australia, gigantic deposits of bauxite, a sedimentary rock essential in the mass industrial production of aluminium, were discovered in Northern Australia. Many of these deposits were found on indigenous peoples’ “missions” and reserves. In the midst of the largest economic upswing in the country’s history, mining conglomerates were all too eager to get at the deposits, and did not care if this meant kicking the natives off of their land to get at it. The Menzies government, though sympathetic to the natives’ calls for representation and voting rights, were more interested in economic development than protecting the natives’ ancestral lands. Beginning in 1963 and lasting for over a decade, the Menzies government and its successors fought dozens of lawsuits and cases against indigenous tribes in an attempt to rob them of their land and get access to their mineral rights. While the government won several early cases, international pressure and increasing social unrest and civil disobedience prompted more cases to be won by the tribes over time.

When Harold Holt became Prime Minister, he was largely ambivalent to the struggles of the natives, even reportedly being “flabbergasted” by the overwhelming positive result of the referendum, which he personally believed would “barely” pass if it managed to at all. Despite his own personal disinterest in the issue, Holt saw the referendum vote as a sign that the country was ready to move in a new direction on “Aboriginal” issues. He toured indigenous communities, met with indigenous leaders, such as Charlie Perkins (also now the first indigenous man to graduate from the University of Sydney), and Oodgeroo Noonuccal (also known as Kath Walker). Against the wishes of multiple state governments, Holt created the cabinet level Office of Aboriginal Affairs, and laid the foundation for a new relationship between the federal government and native tribes. That being said, despite this initial wave of goodwill between Holt and the indigenous community, their relationship would eventually sour as Holt lost interest and the political will to stand up for them and began to, like his predecessor, side with mining conglomerates in the struggle over the natives’ land rights. Nonetheless, tremendous progress had been made, and indigenous Australians, for the very first time, began to wield some political influence and have their voices heard by the country at large. The struggle, was certainly not over.

Above: Charlie Perkins (left) would begin his career in public service as a Senior Research Officer with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in 1969. By 1981, the Whitlam Government would appoint him Permanent Secretary of the Department, making Perkins the first indigenous person to serve as the head of a cabinet level office in Australia. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (right), seen here in 1975, campaigning for a seat in Parliament near Brisbane as the candidate for Labor. Her campaign focused primarily on policies supporting the environment and Aboriginal rights. In a shocking upset, she managed to win and became the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the Federal government of Australia.

According to Holt’s biographer, Tom Frame, “The Prime Minister’s inclinations were those of the political centre. He was, first and foremost, a pragmatist, not a philosopher.” This attitude served him well when it came to most domestic and foreign policy making. He was cordial, for instance, with the American President Kennedy, a liberal icon, and downright friendly with Kennedy’s successor, the like-minded (to Holt) “enlightened” centrist George Romney. But some of Holt’s decisions as a moderate wound up pleasing neither the right nor the left and brought with it fits of unpopularity. The PM alienated John McEwen, the leader of the Country Party when he removed Australia from the “Sterling Area” and introduced the Australian Dollar in 1966. This move nearly single handedly led to the collapse of the Liberal-Country coalition, though Holt ultimately managed to hold things together. His popularity further declined when several “less than savory” issues were brought to Parliament’s attention throughout the late 60’s and early 1970’s. These included allegations that the PM was covering up “misuse” of so-called VIP aircraft by several members of his cabinet, all at taxpayer expense. The “VIP” scandal cost the coalition several Senate seats in 1967 by-elections and put Holt on “thin ice” with his party’s leadership. He managed to hold onto power in the ‘69 elections, though once again in the minority and highly dependent on McEwen’s dissatisfied Country Party against a resurgent Labor. He finally faced the music when in September of 1970, it was revealed to the Australian press that the PM was carrying on an extramarital affair with a highly paid call girl. Delivered to the newsmen as an anonymous tip, the story would soon open a floodgate of allegations against Holt, presage the soon to come “Hoover Affair '' in the United States, and ultimately lead to Holt’s resignation in disgrace as Prime Minister in November. The scandal also cost the coalition dearly in the November Half-elections, with Labor picking up four additional Senate seats, enough for a majority there. Holt would forever be remembered in his country by the infamous headline in The Sydney Morning Herald - “Literally Dozens!” referring to the former PM’s supposed extramarital affairs. Succeeded first by his Deputy Leader and Treasurer, William McMahon, who was shortly thereafter replaced in February, 1971 by John Gorton, at the behest of John McEwen and the Country Party, who refused to remain in the coalition with McMahon as PM due to his past economic policies while serving as Holt’s Treasurer.

Above: William McMahon (left) and John Gorton (right), 18th and 19th Prime Ministers of Australia, respectively. Neither man managed to reconcile quarreling factions within the Liberal/Country coalition.

The series of scandals and internal strife within the Liberal-Country coalition which felled Harold Holt, brought in and then removed William McMahon, and ultimately left John Gorton as Prime Minister severely weakened the coalition’s ability to govern. Throughout 1971 and 1972, members of the coalition broke ranks with Gorton and voted against what should have been “easy” legislation - such as expanding funding for the Australian Film and Art Institutes as protest votes against the current state of the government. Gorton further alienated his own party with his highly erratic, independent, “maverick” style of leadership and behavior, and seeming inability to respond to near annual victories by Labor in the Senate.

As the 1972 Federal elections approached, the coalition was utterly unprepared to go up against the charismatic and eloquent Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). After nearly twenty five years in the political wilderness, Labor finally had a leader and an opportunity to take power back from the Liberals. Whitlam, the son of a federal public servant named Fred, whose involvement in human rights’ issues left a powerful influence on his son, had served as a militiaman and later a bomber pilot and navigator with the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. While at St. Paul’s College at the University of Sydney before and during the war, Whitlam earned a Bachelor’s Degree with Second Class Honours in classics, completed his Law Degree, and even contemplated a career in Academia. Ultimately this didn’t pan out, as the young Whitlam received poor marks after admittedly dropping out of his Greek classes after he “couldn’t stand the dry as dust lectures” of a certain Enoch Powell. Yes, that Enoch Powell. From the beginning of his post-war political career, Whitlam made it clear that he was going to make a big splash in Canberra. During his maiden speech, he was interrupted by John McEwen of the Country Party. who was then told by the Speaker that maiden speeches are traditionally heard in silence. Whitlam responded to McEwen by stating that Benjamin Disraeli had been heckled in his maiden speech and had responded, "The time will come when you shall hear me." He told McEwen, "The time will come when you may interrupt me." This cool, confident response put the Coalition government on notice that the new Member for Werriwa would be a force to be reckoned with.

Much younger than many of the leaders of Labor at the time of his political ascent, Whitlam ascended to party leadership after Labor’s third crushing defeat under Arthur Calwell in 1966. Almost immediately after being elected leader, Whitlam tirelessly got to work reforming the ALP into a party that could finally end the Liberal-Country coalition’s grip on the country. He believed that in order to stand a meaningful chance at a majority, Labor needed to grow its support to include more than just its traditional working class base. With this in mind, he began a systematic campaign to attract the suburban middle class throughout his time as Leader of the Opposition, pointing out PM Holt’s failings and suggesting that perhaps the time had finally come for a change in the country. By 1969, Whitlam had succeeded in shifting power in the ALP away from the heads of trade unions and toward the actual parliamentary party. With his newfound control of his party, he helped draft a very progressive, largely social democratic platform for the 1972 elections. This platform called for the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to determine and implement the proper level of government funding for public schools and universities, recognition of Aboriginal land claims, self determination for indigenous peoples and their tribes, an expanded party policy on universal health care, and even the abolition of the Senate via a Constitutional amendment. Whitlam reformed the party’s “backbenchers” into a more formal Shadow Cabinet and presented a “united front” compared to Holt, McMahon, McEwen, and Gorton’s “fractured, factioned, failed” coalition. As the 1972 elections approached, Labor began to soar in the polls. SAFA and other indigenous peoples’ groups campaigned hard for Whitlam and Labor, as did trade unionists, suburban housewives and salarymen, and even rural voters, who were perturbed at Gorton’s government being “asleep at the wheel” as economic hardship hit agricultural areas especially hard due to high inflation. Whitlam’s Labor Party campaigned in 1972 under the slogan: “It’s Time”, a short, bold declaration which seemed to perfectly encapsulate the national mood after nearly a quarter century of Liberal-Country leadership. While Whitlam did face a spirited opposition campaign from PM Gorton, backed by the increasingly influential media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the tide had already turned against the coalition. Labor so dominated the 1972 election that some of Whitlam’s advisors instructed him to “take it easy” on the PM with his jokes and wisecracks. “The people,” they explained. “Might start to feel sorry for him.” In the end, the ALP was rewarded for their efforts at reform and reorganization, picking up a massive 13 seat swing in the House of Representatives, for a majority of 25. This, combined with Labor’s slim majority in the Senate, gave Whitlam a suitable mandate with which to pass his broad, socially progressive agenda.




1972 Australia Federal Election
125 Seats in the House of Representatives
63 Seats needed for a Majority

Labor - 75 Seats (up from 62)
Liberal/Country Coalition - 50 Seats (down from 67)

Almost immediately upon taking office, Whitlam, Australia’s 20th Prime Minister, brought about a series of swift changes. In its first days in power, the new Labor government reopened the equal pay case pending before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and appointed a woman, Elizabeth Evatt, to that Commission. Whitlam abolished a tax on contraceptive medication for women, announced the creation of an interim schools commission (which fulfilled his campaign’s promises on education), banned racially discriminatory sports teams from competition in the country, and instructed Australia’s UN Delegation to vote in favor of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa. Because none of these changes required direct legislation to go into effect, they did so immediately, creating a wave of public approval and sweeping the country with `winds of change”. But that was only the beginning of Whitlam’s plans for his beloved country. As 1972 gave way to ‘73, Whitlam’s government dove into the real work of passing legislation and crafting policy programs. As promised, the government’s official policy on Inidigionous groups was changed from “assimilation” to “self-determination”. This meant that native Australian tribes were now free to determine their political status, and pursue their own social, economic, and cultural development. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was also established. Made up of indigenous peoples, the Commission’s role was to maximise indigenous participation in the development and implementation of policies that affected them, particularly at the federal level. The Whitlam Government announced that it would reverse course on the Liberal/Country policies regarding native Land rights, and form a commission to investigate the process by which restitution may be made for stolen land by the mining interests and white settlement. Whitlam’s government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes and established free, public legal aid with offices in the capital city of each state. Despite spirited opposition, it managed to both abolish fees and tuition for public Universities and create a scheme for single payer, Universal Health Care in the country, dubbed “Medibank” - the latter of these would be funded by a 1.35% levy (with low income exceptions). The Labor government created urban renewal grants which generated flood prevention projects and promoted tourism, and made prudent (standard gauge) high speed rail and highway investments to connect the country’s major cities. Labor even capitalized on the new nationalism of the decade, changing Australia’s national anthem from “God Save the Queen” to “Advance Australia Fair” and creating the Order of Australia to replace the traditional British honours system. 1974’s elections gave the Labor government a slightly increased majority, including in the Senate, which emboldened the energetic Prime Minister to continue the rapid momentum of change and progress. Whitlam would remain in power until December of 1977, when many Australians, perhaps skeptical of the breakneck, rapid pace of change, narrowly elected the Liberal-Country coalition back into power under new Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser. Though Fraser had initially promised to “rollback” much of Whitlam’s program, his razor thin coalition majority, and threats of “a blockage of supply” for his own policies by Labor Senators prevented him from doing so. Whitlam retired as Labor Party leader in 1981 at the age of 65, succeeded by his Treasurer and former Secretary for Social Security, Bill Hayden. When looking back on Whitlam’s relatively short but immensely successful premiership, historian Wallace Brown wrote this glowing review: “A man of superb intellect, knowledge, and literacy, Whitlam rivaled Menzies in his passion for politics and the House of Representatives. He had an ability to use it as a great stage. In his pulpit of social progress, he became a symbol for the changing times in Australia, restored faith in the federal government after several short, scandal-ridden premierships, and helped usher in a new era after decades of status quo coalition rule.”

Above: Gough Whitlam (left), Australian Prime Minister from 1972 - 1977. Today, Whitlam is remembered as one of the country’s finest leaders. Malcolm Fraser (right), 21st PM of Australia struggled and ultimately, failed to undo Medibank and other programs begun by the Whitlam government.

Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Information Age Begins

...

OOC: Hello everyone! Thank you all for your patience in getting this update out. It took a long time for me to do the research necessary, as Australia's history and politics are not as familiar to me as my own native United States. Thank you once again to @Rickshaw for bringing much of the content of this installment to my attention and for providing the inspiration for this lengthy chapter in the first place.

I also wanted to take a quick second to mention that while Wikipedia is my go-to first resource for research when writing Blue Skies in Camelot, it is by no means my only source. For this chapter, I found a great deal of helpful information by visiting the website for Australians Together, a not-for-profit organization which believes in creating "better outcomes" for Australia's Indigenous population by "changing perspectives" on the issues.

I realize that this chapter did not cover New Zealand, and for that I am sorry. I definitely want to cover New Zealand as well, but this update was getting quite long, and I thought perhaps it would be best to save New Zealand for either its own update, or another "foreign affairs" update in the future (which should be coming fairly soon anyway).
 
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Chapter 110: Let There Be Rock - Australia in the World of BSiC
“When the government makes opportunities for any of the citizens, it makes them for all the citizens. We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor. Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilization, because of this human and national waste.” - Gough Whitlam, 20th Prime Minister of Australia, upon launching his campaign for the 1972 General Election

“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”
- Dorothea Mackeller, “My Country”

As was the case across much of the world, the 1960’s and 1970’s presented a period of tremendous growth, opportunity, and change for the Land Down Under.

Having emerged from the crucible of the Second World War an advanced and highly industrialized nation, Australia spent much of the next twenty years seeking to build upon its victory over the Axis Powers, and adjust itself to realities of the developing Cold War world. Politically, the country spent the immediate post-war period effectively dominated by the Liberal Party and its “family and home” oriented leader, Robert Menzies. From 1949, Menzies’ Liberals, in coalition with the rural-based Country Party, managed to keep a firm, conservative grip on power. This stranglehold was solidified by the country’s flourishing economic growth, particularly an unprecedented boom in its manufacturing sector, which promoted both political contentment and the triumph of bourgeois, middle class values, both to the detriment of the Labor Party, which had led the country through much of the war. In addition to a prevailing conservative mentality at home, Cold War fears of “Communist influence” served to weaken Labor throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s, keeping Menzies in power until his retirement on January 26th, 1966. By that time, he had become the longest serving Prime Minister in Australia’s history and had virtually reformed the country in his image. Menzies left office with a disputed, but largely positive legacy, mostly remembered by Australians afterward for its efforts to develop the capital city of Canberra, encourage massive waves of immigration to the country, particularly from Southern and Central Europe, emphasize and increase access toward affordable higher education, and its controversial foreign policy, which saw Australia commit soldiers to the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, and the Conflicts of Cambodia and Rhodesia.

As immigrants poured into the country to work in its booming factories, mines, and refineries, and native Australians saw the onset of a post-war “baby boom” like the one experienced in the United Kingdom and the United States, living standards and leisure time both skyrocketed in the country as well. Holden, an Australian automobile manufacturer, along with four of its competitors came to employ more than 100,000 workers (at least 80% of them immigrants) in a nation of around 11 million people by the early 1960’s. National car ownership rapidly increased during this period as well: from 130 owners in every 1,000 in 1949 to 271 owners in every 1,000 by 1961, to nearly 400 owners in every 1,000 by 1971. Australian industry benefited heavily from hefty tariff protection, which was kept quite high due to pressures from both business owners and labor unions. At the height of PM Menzies’ popularity and power, his nation enjoyed virtually “full employment”, with vast amounts of expensive consumer goods flooding the market and making everyday life for the Australian people much better than the hardships and sacrifices they had faced during the Great Depression and World War II. In short, throughout Menzies’ premiership, most of the Australian public enjoyed good times. “Wild One” and “A Pub with No Beer” brought Australian Rock N Roll and Country music to international airwaves. The country also came to dominate in sport, particularly cricket, rugby, and tennis. Australia hosted the 1956 summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, an event which served to not only establish Australian sporting credentials, but also became a major catalyst for television broadcasting in the country, which began operating under a two-tiered, semi-privatized system created by the Menzies government in 1954.

Above: Sir Robert Menzies, 16th Prime Minister of Australia and the dominant figure of post-war politics in the country from 1949 until 1966. Menzies vision for Australia: conservative, productive, and staunchly anti-communist, served as the guiding template for molding the country’s future.

Menzies’ governments’ foreign policy was primarily constructed around what the Prime Minister referred to as “the Triple Alliance” - strategic defence and trade partnerships with both traditional ally/mother country Britain and the increasingly important superpower the United States. While initially this manifested in Australia taking a “staunchly pro-British line in diplomacy”, as British influence in Southeast Asia waned with the onset of decolonization, and the Suez Crisis (during which Australia was the only Commonwealth nation to support Britain) served a severe blow to the UK’s international reputation, Australia began to look increasingly to the geographically closer United States for leadership. British investment in Australia’s businesses remained steady throughout the post-war period, but the Great Recession of the 1970’s forced many British businesses to cut back and lead Australia to form even closer economic ties with the Americans, who were already superseding Britain in trade with the Land Down Under as well. The “final nail in the coffin” of close UK - Australian economic ties seemed to many the UK’s 1973 decision under Prime Minister Randolph Churchill to enter the European Economic Community. This move, which gave Britain a stronger trading position in Europe in exchange for backing out of lucrative, exclusive rates with the Commonwealth, shocked and alienated many in Australia, according to sources at the time, “particularly older people and conservatives”. By that time, Australia’s economy had largely ceased major trading with Britain, favoring exports to the U.S. and an astoundingly resurgent Japan.

Above: The Sydney Opera House, internationally renowned and beloved in Australia as a symbol of the “New Nationalism” of the 60’s and 70’s first opened its doors in 1973.

Though “old timers” were uncertain about what the new distance from Britain would entail for the Land Down Under, many Australians came to see this direction as, in fact, the right one. A new nationalism swept the country throughout the 1960’s, as the country worked hard to create for itself a unique natural, cultural, and historical heritage, distinct from its status as a Commonwealth nation and former colony of Britain. Liberal Education and Science Minister (and future Prime Minister) John Gorton, a rough and ready former fighter pilot who was widely described at the time as “the Australian’s Australian” promoted the development of local television and film, in an effort to combat the growing primacy of American culture to replace that of Britain. Gorton’s investments, and the creation of the Australian Council for the Arts, would pay off supremely in the coming decades. The country would produce Nobel Prize winning Authors, Poets, and Dramatists, create a new genre of film called “Australian New Wave” (largely inspired by the wave of patriotism), and greatly influence the realms of sport, music, and art, as well.

Despite the longevity of his premiership and his relative popularity throughout his time in power, Menzies did eventually retire, ceding control of the Liberal-Country Coalition in an uncontested leadership election to his Treasurer, Harold Holt. 14 years his predecessor’s junior, Holt at 57 was still one of the oldest men to yet lead his country. To counter the argument from the Labor opposition that the Liberal Party was “old and out of touch with the electorate after so many years in power”, Holt appeared frequently in public at sporting events, and demonstrated openly his proficiencies and proclivities toward sport himself, particularly swimming. The new Prime Minister cultivated a “popular” image with the press - less of Menzies’ austere, paternal presence, and more informal, contemporary, and witty. Holt was praised by the public at large for his quick wit, brought his popular wife, Zara into the public eye with him, and provided the press with unprecedented access to himself and his office, becoming the first Prime Minister to hold near daily press conferences, regardless of what the business at hand of the government was. After less than a year in office, the new Prime Minister led his coalition into the November 1966 elections. In an astounding vote of confidence, the Australian people gave Holt and his Liberals an outright majority over Labor without the need for a coalition with Country, something even Menzies had failed to achieve during his lengthy tenure in Canberra. With 84 out of 124 seats in the House of Representatives, the Liberal Party had handed Labor its worst defeat in over 30 years. Labor leader Arthur Calwell, who by now had become “the Liberals’ punching bag” and lost three federal elections in a row, was ousted from power, succeeded by a “grand man”, who would one day come to recreate Australia anew once more, a man named Gough Whitlam.

Above: 17th PM of Australia, Harold Holt, with his outright Liberal Majority government, was given a largely free hand with which to conduct the business of the country through the mid to late 1960’s.

One factor in Labor’s stunning defeat was leader Calwell’s stubborn dedication to the so-called “White Australia Policy”. Begun decades earlier in the wake of competition between Anglo settlers in Australia with Chinese immigrants over the Gold Fields and Labour-union opposition to bringing in Southeast Asian workers to work on plantations in the south of the country, this fundamentally backward policy sought to limit, to as great a degree as possible immigration to Australia of peoples with non-European ethnic backgrounds. In other words, if you were not European, don’t bother trying to get in. While some in the Labor movement continued to support the policy, including leader Calwell, Deputy Leader Whitlam spoke for many more social-justice minded Labor MPs and members when he came out strongly against the policy, in agreement with PM Holt. Holt lambasted the policy throughout the ‘66 campaign, decrying it as a “racist relic of a bygone era” and insisting that “We have jobs that need to be filled. They [Asian immigrants] have ambitions for a better life. What exactly is the problem here?” This last phrase - “What exactly is the problem here?” - became a catchphrase for Holt throughout the campaign. Labor’s divide over the White Australia Policy and other issues led to the public seeing them as divided and unclear, contributing to Holt’s astounding victory. After winning the election, Holt’s government would begin its majority term by dismantling the Policy and “opening the gates” for millions who were waiting to bring “their talents and spirits' ' to Australia. While Holt won a great victory for tolerance and a more progressive future for Australia with his decision, his government was immediately faced with another racial issue: rights for the country’s indiginous population.

Ever since the founding of the first British colonies on the continent, Indiginous peoples of Australia had been facing sickness (brought from the European colonists), loss of their traditional lands, and even death as thousands and later millions of European flooded their homes. This process, by the early 1930’s, had reduced the number of Native Australians to as low as between 50,000 and 90,000. Though thankfully by that time, most of these survivors had developed an immunity to European diseases. Those that weren’t were aided by modern technology, such as penicillin to help fight the spread of illness. Even with increased odds of survival, however, many indiginous peoples still faced discrimination and worse, outright exclusion from Australian society. From 1910 to 1970, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 3 indiginous or mixed race children were taken from their parents by the Australian government, State governments, and/or various church missions for the purpose of “Assimilating” and “Christianizing” them. This practice led to untold amounts of suffering for native people and their families, and children taken by the program have since come to be called the “Stolen Generations”. Per the original Australian Constitution, indigenous peoples were counted separately from European-descended Australians in the country’s census. This largely disenfranchised them, even after the Menzies government worked to grant natives the right to vote in various state, federal, and commonwealth elections, beginning with indigenous veterans in 1949, and fully extended to Queensland, the last state to grant the franchise to natives, in 1965. Despite the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s, most indigenous people faced hardship, poverty, even homelessness and starvation. Treated at best like second class citizens, many were required to live either on government reserves or outside of predominantly white towns and cities. As the post-war era brought momentous social change around the world, Australia and its indigenous population also came under close international scrutiny.

Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans and the Native American Rights Movement in the United States, students at the University of Sydney formed “Student Action for Aborigines” (SAFA) in 1964. This organization, led by a third year student and Arrernte man named Charlie Perkins, sought to emulate their movement’s highly successful counterparts in the United States. To this end, SAFA organized the “Freedom Ride of ‘65” - a bus tour of western and coastal New South Wales towns which sought to raise the public’s awareness about the poor state of health, housing, education, and economic opportunity for indigenous people. The Ride was also designed to expose the social barriers and discrimination which existed for Natives against the white majority, as well as to equip Native populations to stand up for their rights and peacefully resist anyone who would stand in the way of them achieving social progress, self-determination, and equality. Receiving widespread publicity in local, national, and international press, the Freedom Ride was a tremendous success, and was widely credited with pressuring the Menzies and later, Holt governments to call for the 1967 referendum on Australia’s constitution. The referendum, which came in two parts, was held on the questions of whether: A) indigenous peoples should be counted along with everyone else in national census counts; and B) Whether the Commonwealth should be allowed to legislate specifically for indigenous people. SAFA and other allied civil rights groups spearheaded the campaign for a “YES” vote on the referendum and when the votes were tallied on May 27th, more than 92% of Australians had voted in favor of the proposed amendments. This was, and remains, the largest popular supportive vote for a constitutional amendment in the history of Australia and was seen as a great victory for the Civil Rights Movement.


The struggle did not end there, however. Though civil rights and social progress were great steps in the right direction, the next great fight for the movement was the battle for indigenous Peoples’ land rights. In the early 1960’s, concurrently with natives being granted new rights and recognition in Australia, gigantic deposits of bauxite, a sedimentary rock essential in the mass industrial production of aluminium, were discovered in Northern Australia. Many of these deposits were found on indigenous peoples’ “missions” and reserves. In the midst of the largest economic upswing in the country’s history, mining conglomerates were all too eager to get at the deposits, and did not care if this meant kicking the natives off of their land to get at it. The Menzies government, though sympathetic to the natives’ calls for representation and voting rights, were more interested in economic development than protecting the natives’ ancestral lands. Beginning in 1963 and lasting for over a decade, the Menzies government and its successors fought dozens of lawsuits and cases against indigenous tribes in an attempt to rob them of their land and get access to their mineral rights. While the government won several early cases, international pressure and increasing social unrest and civil disobedience prompted more cases to be won by the tribes over time.

When Harold Holt became Prime Minister, he was largely ambivalent to the struggles of the natives, even reportedly being “flabbergasted” by the overwhelming positive result of the referendum, which he personally believed would “barely” pass if it managed to at all. Despite his own personal disinterest in the issue, Holt saw the referendum vote as a sign that the country was ready to move in a new direction on “Aboriginal” issues. He toured indigenous communities, met with indigenous leaders, such as Charlie Perkins (also now the first indigenous man to graduate from the University of Sydney), and Oodgeroo Noonuccal (also known as Kath Walker). Against the wishes of multiple state governments, Holt created the cabinet level Office of Aboriginal Affairs, and laid the foundation for a new relationship between the federal government and native tribes. That being said, despite this initial wave of goodwill between Holt and the indigenous community, their relationship would eventually sour as Holt lost interest and the political will to stand up for them and began to, like his predecessor, side with mining conglomerates in the struggle over the natives’ land rights. Nonetheless, tremendous progress had been made, and indigenous Australians, for the very first time, began to wield some political influence and have their voices heard by the country at large. The struggle, was certainly not over.

Above: Charlie Perkins (left) would begin his career in public service as a Senior Research Officer with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in 1969. By 1981, the Whitlam Government would appoint him Permanent Secretary of the Department, making Perkins the first indigenous person to serve as the head of a cabinet level office in Australia. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (right), seen here in 1975, campaigning for a seat in Parliament near Brisbane as the candidate for Labor. Her campaign focused primarily on policies supporting the environment and Aboriginal rights. In a shocking upset, she managed to win and became the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the Federal government of Australia.

According to Holt’s biographer, Tom Frame, “The Prime Minister’s inclinations were those of the political centre. He was, first and foremost, a pragmatist, not a philosopher.” This attitude served him well when it came to most domestic and foreign policy making. He was cordial, for instance, with the American President Kennedy, a liberal icon, and downright friendly with Kennedy’s successor, the like-minded (to Holt) “enlightened” centrist George Romney. But some of Holt’s decisions as a moderate wound up pleasing neither the right nor the left and brought with it fits of unpopularity. The PM alienated John McEwen, the leader of the Country Party when he removed Australia from the “Sterling Area” and introduced the Australian Dollar in 1966. This move nearly single handedly led to the collapse of the Liberal-Country coalition, though Holt ultimately managed to hold things together. His popularity further declined when several “less than savory” issues were brought to Parliament’s attention throughout the late 60’s and early 1970’s. These included allegations that the PM was covering up “misuse” of so-called VIP aircraft by several members of his cabinet, all at taxpayer expense. The “VIP” scandal cost the coalition several Senate seats in 1967 by-elections and put Holt on “thin ice” with his party’s leadership. He managed to hold onto power in the ‘69 elections, though once again in the minority and highly dependent on McEwen’s dissatisfied Country Party against a resurgent Labor. He finally faced the music when in September of 1970, it was revealed to the Australian press that the PM was carrying on an extramarital affair with a highly paid call girl. Delivered to the newsmen as an anonymous tip, the story would soon open a floodgate of allegations against Holt, presage the soon to come “Hoover Affair '' in the United States, and ultimately lead to Holt’s resignation in disgrace as Prime Minister in November. The scandal also cost the coalition dearly in the November Half-elections, with Labor picking up four additional Senate seats, enough for a majority there. Holt would forever be remembered in his country by the infamous headline in The Sydney Morning Herald - “Literally Dozens!” referring to the former PM’s supposed extramarital affairs. Succeeded first by his Deputy Leader and Treasurer, William McMahon, who was shortly thereafter replaced in February, 1971 by John Gorton, at the behest of John McEwen and the Country Party, who refused to remain in the coalition with McMahon as PM due to his past economic policies while serving as Holt’s Treasurer.

Above: William McMahon (left) and John Gorton (right), 18th and 19th Prime Ministers of Australia, respectively. Neither man managed to reconcile quarreling factions within the Liberal/Country coalition.

The series of scandals and internal strife within the Liberal-Country coalition which felled Harold Holt, brought in and then removed William McMahon, and ultimately left John Gorton as Prime Minister severely weakened the coalition’s ability to govern. Throughout 1971 and 1972, members of the coalition broke ranks with Gorton and voted against what should have been “easy” legislation - such as expanding funding for the Australian Film and Art Institutes as protest votes against the current state of the government. Gorton further alienated his own party with his highly erratic, independent, “maverick” style of leadership and behavior, and seeming inability to respond to near annual victories by Labor in the Senate.

As the 1972 Federal elections approached, the coalition was utterly unprepared to go up against the charismatic and eloquent Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). After nearly twenty five years in the political wilderness, Labor finally had a leader and an opportunity to take power back from the Liberals. Whitlam, the son of a federal public servant named Fred, whose involvement in human rights’ issues left a powerful influence on his son, had served as a militiaman and later a bomber pilot and navigator with the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. While at St. Paul’s College at the University of Sydney before and during the war, Whitlam earned a Bachelor’s Degree with Second Class Honours in classics, completed his Law Degree, and even contemplated a career in Academia. Ultimately this didn’t pan out, as the young Whitlam received poor marks after admittedly dropping out of his Greek classes after he “couldn’t stand the dry as dust lectures” of a certain Enoch Powell. Yes, that Enoch Powell. From the beginning of his post-war political career, Whitlam made it clear that he was going to make a big splash in Canberra. During his maiden speech, he was interrupted by John McEwen of the Country Party. who was then told by the Speaker that maiden speeches are traditionally heard in silence. Whitlam responded to McEwen by stating that Benjamin Disraeli had been heckled in his maiden speech and had responded, "The time will come when you shall hear me." He told McEwen, "The time will come when you may interrupt me." This cool, confident response put the Coalition government on notice that the new Member for Werriwa would be a force to be reckoned with.

Much younger than many of the leaders of Labor at the time of his political ascent, Whitlam ascended to party leadership after Labor’s third crushing defeat under Arthur Calwell in 1966. Almost immediately after being elected leader, Whitlam tirelessly got to work reforming the ALP into a party that could finally end the Liberal-Country coalition’s grip on the country. He believed that in order to stand a meaningful chance at a majority, Labor needed to grow its support to include more than just its traditional working class base. With this in mind, he began a systematic campaign to attract the suburban middle class throughout his time as Leader of the Opposition, pointing out PM Holt’s failings and suggesting that perhaps the time had finally come for a change in the country. By 1969, Whitlam had succeeded in shifting power in the ALP away from the heads of trade unions and toward the actual parliamentary party. With his newfound control of his party, he helped draft a very progressive, largely social democratic platform for the 1972 elections. This platform called for the establishment of an Australian Schools Commission to determine and implement the proper level of government funding for public schools and universities, recognition of Aboriginal land claims, self determination for indigenous peoples and their tribes, an expanded party policy on universal health care, and even the abolition of the Senate via a Constitutional amendment. Whitlam reformed the party’s “backbenchers” into a more formal Shadow Cabinet and presented a “united front” compared to Holt, McMahon, McEwen, and Gorton’s “fractured, factioned, failed” coalition. As the 1972 elections approached, Labor began to soar in the polls. SAFA and other indigenous peoples’ groups campaigned hard for Whitlam and Labor, as did trade unionists, suburban housewives and salarymen, and even rural voters, who were perturbed at Gorton’s government being “asleep at the wheel” as economic hardship hit agricultural areas especially hard due to high inflation. Whitlam’s Labor Party campaigned in 1972 under the slogan: “It’s Time”, a short, bold declaration which seemed to perfectly encapsulate the national mood after nearly a quarter century of Liberal-Country leadership. While Whitlam did face a spirited opposition campaign from PM Gorton, backed by the increasingly influential media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the tide had already turned against the coalition. Labor so dominated the 1972 election that some of Whitlam’s advisors instructed him to “take it easy” on the PM with his jokes and wisecracks. “The people,” they explained. “Might start to feel sorry for him.” In the end, the ALP was rewarded for their efforts at reform and reorganization, picking up a massive 13 seat swing in the House of Representatives, for a majority of 25. This, combined with Labor’s slim majority in the Senate, gave Whitlam a suitable mandate with which to pass his broad, socially progressive agenda.




1972 Australia Federal Election
125 Seats in the House of Representatives
63 Seats needed for a Majority

Labor - 75 Seats (up from 62)
Liberal/Country Coalition - 50 Seats (down from 67)

Almost immediately upon taking office, Whitlam, Australia’s 20th Prime Minister, brought about a series of swift changes. In its first days in power, the new Labor government reopened the equal pay case pending before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and appointed a woman, Elizabeth Evatt, to that Commission. Whitlam abolished a tax on contraceptive medication for women, announced the creation of an interim schools commission (which fulfilled his campaign’s promises on education), banned racially discriminatory sports teams from competition in the country, and instructed Australia’s UN Delegation to vote in favor of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa. Because none of these changes required direct legislation to go into effect, they did so immediately, creating a wave of public approval and sweeping the country with `winds of change”. But that was only the beginning of Whitlam’s plans for his beloved country. As 1972 gave way to ‘73, Whitlam’s government dove into the real work of passing legislation and crafting policy programs. As promised, the government’s official policy on Inidigionous groups was changed from “assimilation” to “self-determination”. This meant that native Australian tribes were now free to determine their political status, and pursue their own social, economic, and cultural development. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was also established. Made up of indigenous peoples, the Commission’s role was to maximise indigenous participation in the development and implementation of policies that affected them, particularly at the federal level. The Whitlam Government announced that it would reverse course on the Liberal/Country policies regarding native Land rights, and form a commission to investigate the process by which restitution may be made for stolen land by the mining interests and white settlement. Whitlam’s government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes and established free, public legal aid with offices in the capital city of each state. Despite spirited opposition, it managed to both abolish fees and tuition for public Universities and create a scheme for single payer, Universal Health Care in the country, dubbed “Medibank” - the latter of these would be funded by a 1.35% levy (with low income exceptions). The Labor government created urban renewal grants which generated flood prevention projects and promoted tourism, and made prudent (standard gauge) high speed rail and highway investments to connect the country’s major cities. Labor even capitalized on the new nationalism of the decade, changing Australia’s national anthem from “God Save the Queen” to “Advance Australia Fair” and creating the Order of Australia to replace the traditional British honours system. 1974’s elections gave the Labor government a slightly increased majority, including in the Senate, which emboldened the energetic Prime Minister to continue the rapid momentum of change and progress. Whitlam would remain in power until December of 1977, when many Australians, perhaps skeptical of the breakneck, rapid pace of change, narrowly elected the Liberal-Country coalition back into power under new Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser. Though Fraser had initially promised to “rollback” much of Whitlam’s program, his razor thin coalition majority, and threats of “a blockage of supply” for his own policies by Labor Senators prevented him from doing so. Whitlam retired as Labor Party leader in 1981 at the age of 65, succeeded by his Treasurer and former Secretary for Social Security, Bill Hayden. When looking back on Whitlam’s relatively short but immensely successful premiership, historian Wallace Brown wrote this glowing review: “A man of superb intellect, knowledge, and literacy, Whitlam rivaled Menzies in his passion for politics and the House of Representatives. He had an ability to use it as a great stage. In his pulpit of social progress, he became a symbol for the changing times in Australia, restored faith in the federal government after several short, scandal-ridden premierships, and helped usher in a new era after decades of status quo coalition rule.”

Above: Gough Whitlam (left), Australian Prime Minister from 1972 - 1977. Today, Whitlam is remembered as one of the country’s finest leaders. Malcolm Fraser (right), 21st PM of Australia struggled and ultimately, failed to undo Medibank and other programs begun by the Whitlam government.

Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Information Age Begins

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OOC: Hello everyone! Thank you all for your patience in getting this update out. It took a long time for me to do the research necessary, as Australia's history and politics are not as familiar to me as my own native United States. Thank you once again to @Rickshaw for bringing much of the content of this installment to my attention and for providing the inspiration for this lengthy chapter in the first place.

I also wanted to take a quick second to mention that while Wikipedia is my go-to first resource for research when writing Blue Skies in Camelot, it is by no means my only source. For this chapter, I found a great deal of helpful information by visiting the website for Australians Together, a not-for-profit organization which believes in creating "better outcomes" for Australia's Indigenous population by "changing perspectives" on the issues.

I realize that this chapter did not cover New Zealand, and for that I am sorry. I definitely want to cover New Zealand as well, but this update was getting quite long, and I thought perhaps it would be best to save New Zealand for either its own update, or another "foreign affairs" update in the future (which should be coming fairly soon anyway).
I'm going to be bias but best update ever! So great to hear how my country has been going in blue skies. No Dismissal of Whitlam which I'm pleased about and Holt didn't disappear either! Well worth the wait my friend good job with the research too
 
Fantastic chapter there @President_Lincoln - I was glad to read the Native population got some rights sorted out, and seemingly stronger than OTL.

Hopefully Whitlam got a start made on Alt energy sources? Australia is primed for wind, solar and even thermal energy taps.

Surprised Whitlam got the boot in '77 - I suspect that election is well picked over by political pundits, historians, and conspiracy theorists alike.

Looking forward to New Zealand's update.
 
I've been reading the story since the beginning and would like to say that this is such a wonderful and engaging story! Thank you very much for sharing this world with us.
 
So my limited knowledge of Australian politics tells me that Holt not drowning is a big change here.

Nice work, too - seems like even Australia had its own Seesaw Seventies.
 
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