Australian Political.History.

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01 Jan 1901   
1st Prime Minister and 1st Governor-General
Lord Hopetoun became the first Governor-General and Edmund Barton the first Prime Minister. Both were sworn in at the ceremony inaugurating the Commonwealth of Australia.
29 Mar 1901   
1st federal elections
Voters elected 75 members to the House of Representatives. Voters in the six states elected 36 representatives to the first Senate. This was the only federal election to take place on two days, 29 and 30 March.
09 May 1901   
Parliament House for a day
The grand opening of parliament in Melbourne's Exhibition Building in the morning, was followed by the first sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate in their borrowed home, Victoria's Parliament House.
10 May 1901   
Parliament sits in Melbourne Parliament House
The first meeting of the Australian parliament took place in the Melbourne Exhibition Building on 9 May 1901. By the next day, parliament had moved to its new home for the next 26 years, the Melbourne Parliament House.
03 Sep 1901   
An Australian flag chosen
A huge flag showing the winning design of Union Jack and Southern Cross on a blue background was unfurled over the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. The same design on a red background was used for merchant ships. It was many years before the blue flag officially replaced the British Union Jack for all other uses.
23 Dec 1901   
Dictating a ‘White Australia'
The enactment of the Immigration Restriction Act meant a dictation test became an effective way of excluding people from Australia. It enabled the government to create a predominantly European population. The ‘White Australia' policy was finally dismantled in 1966 by the Holt government.
31 May 1902   
Boer War ends
From 1899 when the war in South Africa broke out, troops from the Australian colonies had been sent to fight for Britain against the Afrikaners (former Dutch colonists). Despite the passionate arguments of Leader of the Opposition GH Reid, parliament agreed to send Commonwealth troops. They arrived shortly before the surrender of the Boer army.
09 Aug 1902   
Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, her son Edward acceded to the throne. Prime Minister Edmund Barton led the Australian representation at the coronation in Westminster Abbey the following year.
03 Nov 1902   
The empire cable
Postmaster-General James Drake opened the submarine telegraph cable from Vancouver, Canada to Southport, Queensland. This completed an all-British link thirty years after a London to Darwin cable was connected to South Australia's overland telegraph line. The telegraph cable circling the globe enabled information to be sent by Morse code in ‘dot-dash' electrical signals.
09 Jan 1903   
2nd Governor-General
Lord Tennyson, a former South Australian Governor, was confirmed as Australia's second Governor-General. He had been acting since 17 July 1902 when Lord Hopetoun left Australia. Lord Tennyson remained in office until 21 January 1904.
24 Sep 1903   
2nd Prime Minister
When Edmund Barton resigned to become a judge of the High Court, his friend and deputy Prime Minister Alfred Deakin succeeded him.
06 Oct 1903   
High Court established
Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton and Richard O'Connor met for the first sitting of the High Court of Australia. In 1906 HB Higgins and Sir Isaac Isaacs joined them when the Deakin government increased the bench to five. In 1913 the Fisher government gave the Court its present size of seven judges.
16 Dec 1903   
Women stand and vote
The 1903 federal election was the first where women had the same rights as men to stand for parliament and to vote. Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel and Mary Ann Bentley stood for the Senate. Selina Siggins stood for the seat of Dalley in the House of Representatives.
16 Dec 1903   
2nd federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
21 Jan 1904   
3rd Governor-General
Lord Northcote served as Governor-General until 9 September 1908.
02 Mar 1904   
Opening of 2nd parliament
The second parliament opened and closed with the same Prime Minister, but there were four changes of government and three different Prime Ministers between the 1903 and 1906 federal elections. This was the most unstable of Australia's 40 parliaments.
27 Apr 1904   
3rd Prime Minister
Australia's first federal Labor government led by JC Watson, achieved office when Labor members withdrew support for the Deakin government on an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
18 Aug 1904   
4th Prime Minister
Leader of the Opposition from 1901, GH Reid became Australia's fourth Prime Minister in three years.
15 Dec 1904   
Arbitrating arbitration
The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was finally enacted, establishing a federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Bill put two Prime Ministers out of office.
24 May 1905   
Empire Day
Britain decided to continue the public celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday after the end of her 64-year reign in 1901. Following this lead, George Reid made Empire Day a national event in Australia. It remained a public holiday until 1958.
06 Jul 1905   
Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister for the second time, when the Reid government lost majority support in the House of Representatives.
18 Oct 1905   
Wireless communications
Enactment of the Wireless Telegraphy Act gave the Postmaster-General responsibility for radio communications. Signals had first been sent across the Atlantic, from England to the United States, four years before. In 1905 radio signals were successfully sent across Bass Strait.
18 Jun 1906   
Counting the Commonwealth
GH Knibbs was appointed head of the new Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Some 4.5 million people were counted in the first census on 3 April 1911. Indigenous people were first included officially in the federal census in 1971 when the population was 12.8 million.
01 Sep 1906   
Papua: a new territory
Southeastern New Guinea became the Australian territory of Papua. Britain had annexed the area in 1888, following Germany's annexation of the northeastern region in 1884. The western half of the island had been under Dutch sovereignty since 1828.
12 Dec 1906   
3rd federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
12 Dec 1906   
1st referendum
At the third federal election, voters approved a change to Section 13 of the Constitution. This minor change adjusted the timing of Senate elections and the date senators would commence their terms of office. This was the first of eight alterations to the Australian Constitution in its first century.
02 Jul 1907   
Trunk calls begin
The dual-line cables necessary for telephone conversations first linked the Sydney and Melbourne exchanges. The Postmaster-General's Department completed the main trunk lines to Adelaide in 1914, to Brisbane in 1923 and to Perth in 1930. Tasmania was connected by submarine coaxial cable in 1936.
23 Oct 1907   
Women's work on show
Some 15,000 people crowded Melbourne's Exhibition Building for the opening of the Australian Exhibition of Women's Work by Lady Northcote. Pattie Deakin ran the model creche. The five-week exhibition showcased the work of musicians, artists and craftswomen.
08 Nov 1907   
The Harvester case
Justice Higgins established the principle of a male basic wage in a Conciliation and Arbitration Court case. This was the only decision under a ‘new protection' law that tied excise duties to wages. The High Court declared the law unconstitutional a year later.
16 May 1908   
Writers fund begins
The Commonwealth Literary Fund was established as a pension fund for writers in poverty. In 1939 the Menzies government, at the urging of James Scullin, transformed it into a grants scheme for writers. The Fund and its Advisory Board ceased in 1973 when they were absorbed into the new Australia Council.
20 Aug 1908   
‘Great White Fleet'
In the first United States naval visit to Australia, a fleet of white-painted ships steamed into Sydney Harbour. Their four-month tour of Australian ports was part of a lengthy promotional voyage arranged by US President Theodore Roosevelt.
09 Sep 1908   
4th Governor-General
Lord Dudley served as Governor-General to 31 July 1911. Lord Chelmsford was acting Governor-General from 21 January 1909 to 27 January 1910.
13 Nov 1908   
5th Prime Minister
Andrew Fisher became Prime Minister after Labor withdrew its support from the minority Deakin government.
15 Dec 1908   
1st pensions
The Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act became law and set up a national aged pension scheme. The scheme began in July 1909 for men aged 65. Women aged 60 had to wait until December 1910, when invalid pensions were also introduced.
09 Mar 1909   
New endeavour
The Endeavour, an Australian-built hydrographic survey vessel, was the Commonwealth's first seagoing ship. Its research work included locating fishing grounds off the east coast and in the Great Australian Bight. The ship and crew were lost at sea in 1914, while attempting to rescue a member of the Mawson Antarctic expedition.
02 Jun 1909   
Prime Minister for the 3rd time
Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister for the third time after negotiating the ‘fusion' of members from the three non-Labor political groups in the House of Representatives.
13 Dec 1909   
Military training
The Commonwealth Defence Act became law. It provided for the compulsory military training scheme that began on 1 January 1911, and for the establishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, Canberra, on 27 June 1911.
13 Dec 1909   
High Commissioner
The Act establishing a High Commission in London became law. A month later GH Reid became Australia's first High Commissioner. During his term the building of Australia House commenced. Reid was also closely involved in ordering the vessels for Australia's first naval fleet.
13 Apr 1910   
Voters at the fourth federal election approved the second alteration to the Constitution. This was a minor change to Commonwealth-State arrangements for public debts under Section 105.
13 Apr 1910   
4th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
29 Apr 1910   
Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Andrew Fisher was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time. On 1 July 1910 the fourth parliament was opened, the first time a Prime Minister had a majority in both Houses.
30 Jun 1910   
A flying machine
The government offered 5000 pounds for the invention of a military flying machine. Australia's first five military aircraft, ordered in 1912, were French and British designs. They were first used in 1914 at the new Central Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria, the nucleus of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921.
01 Jan 1911   
Two new territories
The Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory were formally transferred to the Commonwealth. The territory for the new national capital included an area of 2360 square kilometres near Yass, New South Wales and a seaport at Jervis Bay.
17 Jun 1911   
Suffrage in Britain
A week before the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, Margaret Fisher led Australian and New Zealand women in a London demonstration. Some 40,000 marched in support of a Bill granting women the right to vote. The British government did not enact the suffrage law until 1919.
22 Jun 1911   
King George V and Queen Mary
Prime Minister Andrew Fisher headed an Australian delegation to London, for the Coronation in Westminster Abbey and celebrations in the city.
31 Jul 1911   
5th Governor-General
Lord Denman was Governor-General until 18 May 1914.
02 Dec 1911   
Australian Antarctic expedition
Douglas Mawson left Hobart in the Aurora for Macquarie Island. The expedition spent three years exploring overland and mapping some 1500 kilometres of the coast of Antarctica.
15 Jul 1912   
A Commonwealth bank
The Commonwealth Bank began savings bank business in Victoria. It used post offices as agencies to extend facilities to other States. Six months later, on 20 January 1913, it opened for general banking. The Prime Minister laid a foundation stone for the head office at Pitt Street and Martin Place, Sydney. It opened for business on 22 August 1916.
19 Sep 1912   
Wattle for the Coat of Arms
A new Commonwealth Coat of Arms was granted. This followed moves to improve the original design by adding the States' Arms and making the kangaroo and emu more lifelike. The government had declared wattle Australia's national flower and added it to the new design.
10 Oct 1912   
Maternity Allowance Act
Under this ‘baby bonus' law mothers received 5 pounds on the birth of each child. Indigenous mothers and others not defined as citizens were ineligible for this payment.
02 Jan 1913   
First Australian stamp
The Fisher government issued the Commonwealth penny stamp. It featured a kangaroo on a white map of Australia. Although later stamps reintroduced the King's head, the kangaroo design remained in use for some forty years.
12 Mar 1913   
‘I name this city Canberra'
The Foundation Day of the national capital was an elaborate ceremony in the empty paddock that was Capitol Hill. Governor-General Lord Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and Minister for Home Affairs King O'Malley laid the foundation stones of a commemorative column. The column was never finished and the base remains in front of Parliament House.
31 May 1913   
5th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
24 Jun 1913   
6th Prime Minister
Sworn in after a close election result, Prime Minister Joseph Cook held a majority of only one in the House of Representatives.
04 Oct 1913   
Royal Australian Navy
Huge crowds lined Sydney Harbour for the arrival of Australia's new naval fleet, the battle cruiser HMAS Australia and three cruisers and three destroyers. The Royal Australian Navy had been established on 19 July 1911. The Naval College had temporary quarters in Victoria until HMAS Creswell at Jervis Bay was opened on 10 February 1915.
30 Mar 1914   
Norfolk Island
The Island, governed as part of New South Wales since 1788, was proclaimed a Commonwealth territory, thirteen years after Federation.
18 May 1914   
6th Governor-General
Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson was Governor-General to 6 October 1920.
04 Aug 1914   
Australia at war
Britain declared war on Germany and automatically the British Dominions, including Australia, were also at war. Recruitment began a week later and on 1 November the First Division of the Australian Imperial Force left Australia. They arrived at their training camp in Egypt on 5 December.
15 Aug 1914   
Panama Canal
The 64 km channel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans was officially opened. The Panama Canal saved ships making the 11,300 km voyage around Cape Horn. It had taken ten years to build across the isthmus between North and South America.
05 Sep 1914   
6th federal election
House of Representatives and all 36 Senate seats
13 Sep 1914   
Capture of New Guinea
An Australian force occupied Rabaul and, on 17 September, the German governor surrendered New Guinea. The area remained under Australian military control until 1921.
17 Sep 1914   
Prime Minister for the 3rd time
Andrew Fisher was sworn in as Prime Minister for the third time. Labor was comfortably returned to government at Australia's first double dissolution election on 5 September.
09 Nov 1914   
The first Sydney
HMAS Sydney engaged the German cruiser Emden off the Cocos Islands, sinking the enemy ship in the first naval action of the war. Australians celebrated the battle as a successful test of the new Royal Australian Navy.
25 Apr 1915   
ANZACs land
The Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli. They fought a desperate campaign against Turkish forces until 20 December when 80,000 men successfully withdrew.
12 Jul 1915   
Wartime broadcasting
The Department of the Navy separated from the Defence Department and took control of broadcasting for the duration of the war. The departments merged again in 1921.
27 Oct 1915   
7th Prime Minister
After the forced resignation of Andrew Fisher, Labor parliamentarians elected WM Hughes as Party leader.
01 Dec 1915   
Australian Wheat Board created
This Commonwealth body coordinated State wheat boards to ensure equitable marketing of the Australian wheat crop under wartime conditions. The Prime Minister chaired the Board, which ceased operations in 1923.
29 Apr 1916   
Irish rebellion crushed
A pro-independence Easter rebellion in Dublin was violently suppressed by British troops. Protest demonstrations in Australia caused some Australians to be suspicious of the loyalty of people of Irish descent.
28 Jun 1916   
National ships
The government established a Commonwealth Shipping Line with the purchase of fifteen seagoing steamers from Britain.
28 Oct 1916   
Conscription referendum
The first referendum on compulsory military enlistment failed. The issue bitterly divided communities and created a rift in the Labor Party. On 13 November the Party expelled Prime Minister WM Hughes over his support for conscription.
17 Feb 1917   
New Cabinet
WM Hughes formed a new ministry and retained the prime ministership despite his expulsion from the Labor Party. Ten days earlier he had formed the Nationalist Party, merging other expelled Labor members and some former Liberals.
06 Apr 1917   
United States at war
President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Germany. The United States joined the Allies in defending Atlantic shipping and on the frontline in France.
05 May 1917   
7th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
17 Oct 1917   
National railways
The Commonwealth completed construction of the 1690 km Port Augusta to Perth section of the TransAustralia Railway, linking Perth to Sydney. In the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth government had added only 85 km, from Pine Creek to Katherine, to the 235 km line from Darwin to Pine Creek, built by the South Australian government.
07 Nov 1917   
Revolution in Russia
Bolshevik revolutionaries occupied the Russian capital, St Petersburg (then Petrograd). They overturned a provisional government established after the forced abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in March.
20 Dec 1917   
Peace Army riots
The second conscription referendum failed. The ‘No' majority was more than double that of the first referendum in 1916. Campaigns were bitterly fought throughout Australia. Women's Peace Army protestors were arrested in Melbourne. In Warwick, Queensland, an egg thrown at Prime Minister WM Hughes led to his setting up a Commonwealth police force.
10 Jan 1918   
Prime ministerial promise
Prime Minister WM Hughes was again sworn in as Prime Minister. He had vowed to resign if the conscription referendum failed. It did, so he had resigned on 8 January. The Nationalists held a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, and Hughes was not replaced as party leader. The Governor-General thus swore Hughes in again.
03 Aug 1918   
Australia House opened
King George V officially opened Australia House on The Strand. Andrew Fisher, the first occupant, had been High Commissioner since 1916.
22 Sep 1918   
Prime Minister calling
In the first direct radio telephone call from England to Australia, the Prime Minister spoke from London to Sydney. WM Hughes and Minister for the Navy Joseph Cook were away from Australia for sixteen months from April 1918.
11 Nov 1918   
Armistice Day
Germany's surrender ended World War I. Australia had nearly 60,000 official casualties. This loss was commemorated with the establishment of Armistice Day in 1919, observed each year at 11 am.
17 Dec 1918   
Darwin rebellion
Some 1000 demonstrators marched to the Residency in Darwin. They burnt an effigy of Northern Territory Administrator John Gilruth and demanded his resignation. Their grievances were against the two main Territory employers, Vestey's meatworks and the Commonwealth. Both Gilruth and the Vestey company left Darwin soon after.
06 Mar 1919   
Homes for heroes
The Commonwealth War Service Homes Commission began operations. It provided low-interest home loans for returned servicemen.
09 May 1919   
Seamen's strike
Australia's seamen went on strike for better wages and conditions. The immediate interruption of fuel and coal supplies created a serious crisis that worsened as job losses mounted. The strike lasted the whole winter before the demands were met.
28 Jun 1919   
Treaty of Versailles
At the end of the six-month Peace Conference in Paris, Australia's Prime Minister WM Hughes and Minister for the Navy Joseph Cook signed the Peace Treaty at Versailles that established the League of Nations. With Britain's other dominions, Australia established its status as an independent member of the world's first international organisation of governments.
02 Jul 1919   
The Nauru mandate
Britain, New Zealand and Australia signed an agreement for Australian administration of Nauru, located 4000 km northeast of Sydney. Australia had captured the island from Germany in 1914 and in 1920 the League of Nations designated it an Australian mandate.
10 Dec 1919   
First flight
Ross and Keith Smith won the prize money offered by the government for the first flight from Britain to Australia. They landed their Vickers Vimy aircraft in Darwin after a 28-day flight from Hounslow in England.
13 Dec 1919   
8th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
22 Jan 1920   
Country Party
The Australian Country Party was officially from members of the Farmers Federation. The new party benefited from the introduction of preferential voting for both Houses of parliament. At the 14 December 1919 election it won 8 seats in the House of Representatives.
27 May 1920   
Prince of Wales tour
Prince Edward (later briefly King Edward VIII) arrived in Australia. The 26-year-old travelled overland from Adelaide to Wallangarra, on the Queensland border. The royal visitors were provided with ‘a varied programme of kangaroo and emu hunting, buckjumping, with exhibitions of shearing etc'. Hugely popular, the Prince of Wales left Australia on 18 August 1920.
31 Aug 1920   
Engineers case
The High Court decision in the case Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd was a milestone in constitutional interpretation and in Commonwealth-State relations. In holding that Arbitration Court decisions were binding on State governments, the Court took an expansive view of how Commonwealth powers derive from the Constitution.
06 Oct 1920   
7th Governor-General
Lord Forster served as Governor-General until 8 October 1925.
30 Oct 1920   
Communist Party of Australia
The Party was first formed at a Sydney meeting. It later divided into two groups. One favoured adherence to doctrine, the other a practical trades union approach.
07 Mar 1921   
Health a federal concern
The Commonwealth Department of Health was formed. It took over the quarantine service of the Department of Trade and Customs, the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It also became responsible for national health functions such as the treatment of infectious diseases in returned soldiers.
12 Aug 1921   
Australian Federation of Women Voters
Bessie Rischbieth founded this federated body of Australian women's political associations. Their aim was to participate in the international federations and establish credentials as lobbyists and advisers at the League of Nations. As a result of their efforts, each Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly included a woman member.
31 Dec 1921   
Trouble in Canberra
Prime Minister WM Hughes removed Walter Burley Griffin as director of construction at Canberra after disagreements over his supervisory role. Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin had won the competition to design the national capital on 14 May 1912.
01 Feb 1922   
Red flag for merchant ships
The red Australian flag, authorised by the British Admiralty for merchant shipping in 1902, became compulsory under the 1920 Navigation Act.
21 May 1922   
Empire settlement
The Empire Settlement Act enabled the intake of large numbers of British immigrants. Over 200,000 assisted settlers arrived in Australia between 1922 and 1929.
03 Nov 1922   
Australia's first airline, Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service began regular passenger services with two war surplus biplanes. The first flight was from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland.
16 Dec 1922   
9th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
09 Feb 1923   
8th Prime Minister
Stanley Melbourne Bruce was sworn in as Prime Minister after the Nationalist Party displaced WM Hughes as leader.
09 Jun 1923   
Loan Council
The government agreed to form a Loan Council to coordinate States' borrowing. The Council's first meeting was on 1 February 1924.
05 Oct 1923   
Imperial Conference
Prime Minister SM Bruce arrived in London for the Imperial Conference. He advocated the ‘men, money and markets' empire trade policy that shaped Australia's agricultural, pastoral, financial and population policies throughout the 1920s.
01 Jan 1924   
Mt Stromlo observatory
With the appointment of its first director, the Commonwealth Solar Observatory was established. Located on Mount Stromlo, outside Canberra, it enabled scientific research on the sun and geophysics.
01 Jan 1924   
Federal roads
The Australian Automobile Association was formed. It lobbied for federal finance for roads and a national traffic code. Commonwealth funds for national highways were provided for in the Federal Roads Act 1926.
30 Jan 1924   
Cabinet in Canberra
The first Cabinet meeting was held in Canberra. The ministers were lodged at Yarralumla House, later the residence of the Governor-General. The building of Parliament House had begun on 28 August 1923.
04 Sep 1924   
Agricultural science
The Commonwealth Citrus Research Station opened at Griffith, New South Wales in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. In March 1927 it became a research station of the Commonwealth Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
14 Apr 1925   
Big brother
The ‘Big Brother' child immigration scheme was launched as part of the scheme for British settlement in Australia. The Barnardo and Fairbridge organisations brought children for settlement at locations around Australia. Fairbridge farm school at Pinjarra, Western Australia had been established in 1912.
08 Oct 1925   
8th Governor-General
Lord Stonehaven served as Governor-General until 22 January 1931. Lord Somers was acting Governor-General from 3 October 1930 to 22 January 1931.
14 Nov 1925   
Compulsory voting
The 10th general election was the first in which voting was compulsory after the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted on 10 October 1924.
14 Nov 1925   
10th federal election
House of Representatives and 22 Senate seats
22 Jun 1926   
The government set up the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (later CSIRO) to foster applied research. In 1927 the CSIR moved into its building at Black Mountain in Canberra.
19 Nov 1926   
Free and equal
At the Imperial Conference agreement was reached on the independent and equal relationship of the British Dominions. The agreement recognised the Dominions as ‘autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status . . . and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations'.
01 Dec 1926   
1st petrol tax
A federal levy on imported petrol was imposed for the first time. A tax on locally refined petrol was introduced the following year. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries at Laverton, Victoria and the Shell company's works at Clyde, New South Wales began refining petrol in 1924.
30 Apr 1927   
Forestry School
The Forestry School, established in Adelaide, transferred to permanent premises in the national capital.
09 May 1927   
New Parliament House
The ceremonial opening of parliament in Parliament House, Canberra was the deadline for completion of many other buildings, including the Hotel Canberra and Hotel Kurrajong, and the prime ministerial residence, The Lodge. As Commonwealth departments were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, housing construction was accelerated in an attempt to keep pace.
02 Jun 1927   
Australian films
A Royal Commission into the film industry was appointed. It reported in April on the state of film-making in Australia. It also reported on the process of distributing films from the United States to the 1250 Australian cinemas.
09 Jun 1928   
1st Pacific flight
Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm completed the first flight across the Pacific. They flew the Southern Cross from Oakland, California to Brisbane. In August they made the first non-stop flight across Australia, from Perth to Point Cook. In September, they achieved the first flight from Australia to New Zealand.
17 Nov 1928   
A successful referendum altered constitutional provisions on Commonwealth-State financial relations. The referendum was held with the 11th federal election. All House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats were contested.
31 Jan 1929   
The Warrigal
The Royal Australian Air Force purchased its first Australian plane, the Warrigal 1.
02 Aug 1929   
End of the line
The Alice Springs to Adelaide railway line was completed. In 1930, however, Commonwealth construction of the North Australia railway ceased with the line from Darwin terminating at Birdum.
23 Aug 1929   
Industrial challenge
The government attempted to pass a Bill abolishing the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Bill aimed to relegate arbitration powers to the States, except in the ‘external' industries of shipping and stevedoring.
12 Oct 1929   
12th federal election
House of Representatives only
22 Oct 1929   
9th Prime Minister
James Scullin was sworn in as Prime Minister after the election of Australia's third Labor government.
24 Oct 1929   
Wall Street collapse
The fall of the New York Stock Exchange had an impact throughout the world. Investment loans were called in and financial firms across the globe collapsed.
01 Jan 1930   
Ticket to fly
Pioneer aviators Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm began the first air service between Sydney and Brisbane.
01 Dec 1930   
New High Court justices
The Labor government filled two vacancies on the High Court. Thirty-six-year-old Herbert Vere Evatt became the youngest Justice of the High Court. Edward Aloysius McTiernan went on to become the oldest. Justice McTiernan served the longest term on the High Court, retiring in September 1976 at the age of 84.
22 Jan 1931   
9th Governor-General an Australian
Sir Isaac Isaacs became the first Australian-born Governor-General. He served until 23 January 1936.
19 Apr 1931   
United Australia Party
Joseph Lyons formed the United Australia Party. It was a merger of the Nationalist Party and other groups, after Lyons left the Labor Party.
19 Dec 1931   
13th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
06 Jan 1932   
10th Prime Minister
Joseph Lyons was sworn in as Prime Minister. His new United Australia Party won government at the election on 19 December.
03 May 1932   
Unemployment relief
The Loan (Unemployment Relief Works) Act authorised the government to grant money from a fund of 1,800,000 pounds for relief work approved by employment councils in each State.
01 Jul 1932   
The ABC is born
The Australian Broadcasting Commission was established to set up and operate national broadcasting stations. Broadcast programs were to address as many of the interests of the community as compatible with ‘suitable broadcasting'.
29 Nov 1932   
Nine miles from Gundagai
Prime Minister Joseph Lyons unveiled the ‘Dog on the Tucker Box' statue near Gundagai, in the southwest of New South Wales. Thousands of people assembled for the ceremony.
07 Feb 1933   
Australian territory in Antarctica
The Australian Antarctic Territory was formally proclaimed by Douglas Mawson aboard the Discovery in Antarctic waters. Britain had ceded Antarctic claims to Australia and the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act came into effect from 24 August 1936.
14 Jul 1933   
Nazi government
The National Socialist Party assumed power in Germany. It was declared the only legal political party.
15 Sep 1934   
14th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
06 Nov 1934   
Egon Kisch
Journalist Egon Kisch was invited to speak at a conference in Melbourne but he was prevented from leaving his ship at Fremantle. In Sydney, the government attempted to bar his entry by giving him a dictation test in Gaelic, knowing he spoke seven European languages. Kisch challenged the ban on his entry and won the case. He spoke at workers' meetings until he left Australia in March 1935.
06 May 1935   
Silver jubilee
King George V and Queen Mary celebrated the 25th anniversary of their reign. Among the guests were Robert and Pattie Menzies, making their first visit to Britain.
18 Nov 1935   
Invasion of Ethiopia
Australia joined other League of Nations members in advocating sanctions against Italy after Italian troops entered Ethiopia in October. The Lyons government's Sanctions Act 1935 prohibited Australians from all commercial dealings with Italy.
20 Jan 1936   
King Edward VIII
The Prince of Wales succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, King George V. The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on 1 May 1937.
23 Jan 1936   
10th Governor-General
Lord Gowrie served as Governor-General until 30 January 1945.
01 May 1937   
King George VI
The Duke of York was proclaimed King George VI two days after the abdication of Edward VIII on 10 December 1936. The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on 1 May 1937.
24 Jun 1937   
Censorship Board
The Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board was established. The new Board (temporarily) lifted the old Book Censorship Advisory Committee's ban on James Joyce's Ulysses.
23 Oct 1937   
15th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
26 Jan 1938   
Aboriginal Day of Mourning
The 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove was officially celebrated as Australia's Sesquicentenary. Unofficially, it was a Day of Mourning for Indigenous people who lobbied in vain for representation in parliament and for legal equality.
31 Mar 1938   
Xavier Herbert won the Commonwealth Sesquicentenary literary competition with his novel Capricornia, set in the Northern Territory.
15 Nov 1938   
‘Pig iron' dispute
Waterside workers at Port Kembla, New South Wales refused to load scrap iron destined for Japan, arguing that it would be used in munitions factories. Attorney-General Robert Menzies attempted to enforce the loading of the cargo.
01 Dec 1938   
Jewish refugees accepted
Australia agreed to take 15,000 Jewish refugees fleeing from Europe after the German occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia.
07 Apr 1939   
11th Prime Minister
Earle Page became the eleventh Prime Minister following the death of Joseph Lyons. His term lasted nineteen days.
26 Apr 1939   
12th Prime Minister
Robert Menzies was sworn in as Prime Minister, after he was elected leader of the United Australia Party.
03 Sep 1939   
Australia declares war on Germany
After German troops invaded Poland on 1 September, Britain declared war. The Dominions, including Australia, followed with separate declarations the same day.
20 Oct 1939   
Compulsory military training
Six weeks after Australia entered World War II, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the reintroduction of compulsory defence training. It took effect on 1 January 1940. Unmarried men aged 21 were required to undergo three months training with the militia.
20 Dec 1939   
Australia calling
Radio Australia began broadcasting from Sydney. The station moved to Melbourne the following year.
07 Jan 1940   
Australia's first diplomats
Australia's first diplomatic post was set up with the despatch of RG Casey to Washington. On 18 August John Latham was appointed to Tokyo in the first exchange of diplomats with Japan.
13 Aug 1940   
Canberra air disaster
A Lockheed Hudson plane crashed near the Canberra aerodrome, with the loss of all aboard. The passengers included three federal ministers and the Chief of the General Staff.
21 Sep 1940   
16th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats.
29 Aug 1941   
13th Prime Minister
Arthur Fadden succeeded Robert Menzies as Prime Minister.
07 Oct 1941   
14th Prime Minister
John Curtin was sworn in as Prime Minister after the Fadden coalition government lost majority support in the House of Representatives.
19 Nov 1941   
The second Sydney
The HMAS Sydney and the German raider Kormoran fought an hour-long battle 150 miles west of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Both vessels were stricken. The Sydney was on fire but moved slowly away. Most of the Kormoran crew survived and were picked up, but the Sydney and all 645 men aboard disappeared. Ten anguished days later Prime Minister John Curtin made the news public.
09 Dec 1941   
Declaration of war
Two days after the Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Australia declared war on Japan, and on axis powers Finland, Hungary and Romania.
19 Feb 1942   
Bombing of Darwin
Japanese bombers made the first attack on Darwin four days after Japan captured Singapore. The Japanese advance was stopped in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway atoll in May, and at Kokoda in November 1942. Attacks on Darwin and Katherine continued until November 1943. Bombs were also dropped on Townsville, Queensland, and Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland in Western Australia.
31 May 1942   
Submarines in Sydney Harbour
A torpedo fired from a midget submarine missed its target, the USS Chicago, and struck HMAS Kuttabul at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, killing 19 sailors. Two other midget submarines, launched from a flotilla of Japanese submarines lying off the coast, were disabled and captured.
07 Jun 1942   
Income tax goes federal
Enactment of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act enabled the Commonwealth to take over from the States the power to levy personal income tax.
11 Aug 1942   
Hollywood bombshell
Film star and Austrian refugee Hedy Lamarr and a fellow inventor took out a United States patent for a technique for generating a secure spectrum of radio frequencies to guide torpedoes. The technique was later used in missiles and for mobile phones.
24 Dec 1942   
Planning for a future
A Department of Post-War Reconstruction was established. Dr HC Coombs was appointed Director-General in January 1943.
03 Mar 1943   
Soviet embassy
A Soviet embassy was established in Canberra and an Australian diplomat was posted to Moscow.
14 May 1943   
Centaur tragedy
The hospital ship Centaur with 268 people aboard was torpedoed off Cape Moreton, Queensland. It sank in 3 minutes, with all lives lost. It was en route to the war zone and carrying no patients.
21 Aug 1943   
17th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats
23 Sep 1943   
First women, 17th parliament
Forty years after women candidates first stood for parliament, Dame Enid Lyons and Dorothy Tangney became the first women to win seats in parliament. Enid Lyons took a seat in the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney a seat in the Senate.
22 Jul 1944   
World Bank
The agreement by allied powers to establish the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund was reached at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The initial aim was to establish international institutions to fund reconstruction in countries ravaged by the second world war.
05 Aug 1944   
Cowra outbreak
Japanese prisoners of war broke out of their detention camp in Cowra, New South Wales. They were armed with improvised weapons and 231 prisoners were killed and 108 wounded. The survivors were captured in the next few days.
14 Dec 1944   
Liberal Party of Australia
The new party was formed at a conference in Canberra. It emerged from an agreement to merge the United Australia Party and other non-Labor organisations, including the extensive Australian League of Women Voters.
30 Jan 1945   
11th Governor-General
The Duke of Gloucester served as Governor-General until 11 March 1947. Sir Winston Dugan was acting Governor-General from 19 January to 11 March 1947.
25 Apr 1945   
United Nations
The San Francisco conference to establish the United Nations opened. A new organisation to promote international peace, replacing the League of Nations, had been planned since representatives from China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States met at Dunbarton Oaks in Washington DC in 1944. Forty-six nations sent delegates to draw up the Charter which was signed on 26 June 1945.
08 May 1945   
Germany's surrender to the allied forces ended the war in Europe.
06 Jul 1945   
15th Prime Minister
On the death of John Curtin, deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde was sworn in until the federal parliamentary Labor Party elected a new leader.
13 Jul 1945   
16th Prime Minister
New Prime Minister Ben Chifley was sworn in after being chosen the day before as the new leader of the Labor Party.
06 Aug 1945   
The first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On 15 August Japan surrendered, ending the war in the Pacific.
17 Oct 1945   
Peace time intelligence
The Commonwealth Investigation Service was formed. It combined the wartime Security Service and the Investigation Branch.
10 Jul 1946   
Parliament at home
Proceedings in the House of Representatives were broadcast for the first time. Legislation required the ABC to relay the parliamentary sessions on the interstate radio network. Senate broadcasts began a week later.
15 Aug 1946   
Coal Board
Under an agreement with the New South Wales government, a Joint Coal Board was established. It enabled the government to continue the regulation of coal production, distribution and prices managed during the war by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner. Coal production tripled in the next 25 years. In 2002 the Board was replaced by a private company, Coal Services Pty Ltd.
28 Sep 1946   
National social security
A referendum to alter Section 51 of the Constitution was successful. It granted the Commonwealth power to provide maternity allowances, widows pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, and student and family allowances. The referendum was held with the 18th federal election.
28 Sep 1946   
18th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats
13 Dec 1946   
Papua New Guinea
The United Nations granted Australia trusteeship of New Guinea and Papua. The two regions were administered jointly, with the capital at Port Moresby.
11 Mar 1947   
12th Governor-General
Sir William McKell served as Governor-General until 8 May 1953. Lord Northcote was acting Governor-General from 19 July to 14 December 1951.
01 Apr 1947   
The Woomera rocket range was established as a joint facility for testing British and Australian short and long-range missiles. The range was sited within the 127,000 square kilometre Woomera Prohibited Area in the northwest of South Australia. From 1957 the facility has also been used for Australia's space program.
01 Jul 1947   
Good news
At 7 pm, the first ABC news broadcast under amendments to the Broadcasting Act was aired. The changes aimed at removing bias by requiring all news to be produced by ABC journalists, rather than gathered from commercial sources.
21 Jul 1947   
Displaced persons accepted
Australia's Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell signed an agreement with the United Nations Refugee organisation to accept displaced persons from European countries ravaged by war.
18 Nov 1947   
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
Australia applied the reduced tariffs under the GATT, signed in Geneva that year. The agreement established an international forum to encourage free trade between members by reducing tariffs on traded goods and by providing a means for resolving trade disputes.
26 Dec 1947   
Antarctic territories
Britain transferred Heard and MacDonald Islands in Antarctica to Australia. The Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) was established in August. Scientific stations were set up on Heard Island in December, and on Macquarie Island the following May, using the small vessel Wyatt Earp.
01 Jan 1948   
40-hour week
Workers covered by Commonwealth awards began the reduced 40-hour week. The date for the change had been set by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in September 1947.
24 Jun 1948   
National sea and air lines
The Qantas Empire Airways Act meant Australia's only overseas airline was now publicly owned. In 1948 the government also re-established a Commonwealth shipping line.
21 Sep 1948   
United Nations president
Australia's Minister for External Affairs, HV Evatt, was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly.
29 Nov 1948   
First Holden
Prime Minister Ben Chifley launched the first Holden ‘family motor car' off the assembly line. Ten years later, 500,000 Holdens had been produced.
26 Jan 1949   
Australia's first citizens
The Nationality and Citizenship Act came into operation, creating Australian citizenship. Although Australians remained British subjects, they were now citizens of their own country as well. The Act retained the definition of ‘aliens' as those not British subjects. Irish citizens and ‘protected persons' within the British Commonwealth were excepted.
16 Mar 1949   
ASIO established
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was established to protect the Commonwealth from espionage, sabotage and subversion.
11 May 1949   
More seats in parliament
The 1948 Representation Act was enacted. It increased the the House of Representatives from 75 to 122 seats, including a new member for the Australian Capital Territory, and the Senate from 36 to 60 seats. The Commonwealth Electoral Act introduced proportional representation for Senate elections.
12 Sep 1949   
Planting the national garden
Prime Minister Ben Chifley planted a eucalypt at the entrance of the National Botanic Gardens during a visit by international foresters. The gardens had been established at Black Mountain in Canberra four years before.
17 Oct 1949   
Snowy scheme
Work began on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme to divert water from the upper Snowy River through tunnels and dams. The scheme aimed to generate electricity for New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, and provide water for irrigation along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. This major postwar development project employed many immigrant workers and was completed in 1972.
10 Dec 1949   
19th federal election
House of Representatives and 42 Senate seats
19 Dec 1949   
Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the second time, starting a 16-year term that set a record in Australian politics. The Liberal/Country Party coalition had been convincingly returned at the federal election on 10 December.
27 Dec 1949   
Independence for Indonesia
The independent Republic of the United States of Indonesia was established. This ended five years of revolution and military struggle with the Dutch authorities. Nationalist forces had unilaterally declared independence on 17 August 1945 after almost 350 years of Dutch rule.
09 Jan 1950   
Colombo Plan
The idea of a network of developing and donor countries was raised at a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). A 5-year scheme commenced in 1951 and was repeated until 1980. The Colombo Plan then became a permanent resource for development and education in East and Southeast Asian countries.
23 Jun 1950   
Communist Party ban
The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was passed by parliament. After it was enacted in October, the law was challenged in the High Court and, on 9 March 1951, was held to be unconstitutional. The Court ruled that parliament could not invoke its defence powers to rule an association unlawful when the nation was not at war.
26 Jul 1950   
Australia joins Korean War
The government announced Australia would send troops to fight in Korea. This was part of the United Nations response to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea on 25 June. The frontline moved into North Korea and the war continued for three years.
01 Jan 1951   
Commonwealth Jubilee
Celebrations began throughout Australia to mark the 50th anniversary of Federation.
19 Mar 1951   
Parliament dissolved
The Governor-General granted a double dissolution of both houses of parliament. He held that the Senate's action in referring the Commonwealth Bank Bill to committee was a ‘failure to pass' the Bill. This was only the second double dissolution of the parliament, the first being in 1914.
12 Apr 1951   
National Service begins
The first call-up notice was issued under the National Service Act. The Act provided for compulsory military training of 18-year-old men, who were then to remain on the Reserve of the Commonwealth Military Forces for five years. Between 1951 and 1960 when the scheme ended, over 500,000 men had registered, 52 intakes were organised and some 227,000 men were trained.
28 Apr 1951   
20th federal election
House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats
09 Sep 1951   
Peace Treaty signed
At San Francisco, 49 nations signed the peace treaty with Japan, agreeing to the binding terms of the war settlement.
22 Sep 1951   
Referendum on Communism
A referendum to alter the Constitution so as to grant parliament the power to outlaw Communism was lost narrowly.
06 Feb 1952   
Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen after the death of her father, King George VI. The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953.
29 Apr 1952   
ANZUS Treaty
The security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, signed in Canberra on 1 September 1951, came into force. Aimed at maintaining peace in the Pacific, the ANZUS Treaty endured until 1986. The United States suspended their agreement with New Zealand after the ban on nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed US Navy ships in New Zealand waters.
03 Oct 1952   
Montebello atomic tests
The first British atomic tests were held in the Montebello Islands, 120 km northwest of Dampier, Western Australia. Tests were then moved to Emu Field in northwestern South Australia.
08 May 1953   
13th Governor-General
Sir William Slim served as Governor-General until 2 February 1960. Lord Northcote was acting Governor-General from 30 July to 22 October 1956 and Sir Dallas Brooks was acting Governor-General from 8 to 16 January 1959.
27 Jul 1953   
Korean War over
The United Nations and North Korea signed the agreement ending three years of war on 27 July 1953. Relations between the Republic of Korea in the south and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north remained strained. Australia did not establish diplomatic relations with North Korea until 1974.
03 Feb 1954   
The Queen in Australia
Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney aboard the royal yacht Gothic. The first reigning monarch to visit Australia, the Queen and Prince Phillip covered 10,000 miles by air and 2000 miles on the ground by the time they left Australia on 1 April.
13 Feb 1954   
Mawson Station
Australia's first permanent station in Antarctica was established. The Kista Dan was used to convey men and materials. Davis, the second station, was established in 1957 as part of Australia's contribution to the International Geophysical Year.
20 Apr 1954   
The Petrovs defect
A week after the defection of Vladimir Petrov, Evdokia Petrov also appealed for political asylum in a dramatic scene at Darwin airport. Based on evidence provided by the two Soviet Embassy cipher officers, a Royal Commission on Espionage was held. After the Commission reported on October 1955, the Petrovs became Melbourne suburbanites Sven and Maria Allyson.
29 May 1954   
21st federal election
House of Representatives and Senate seats
08 Sep 1954   
SEATO established
The formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, a defence alliance of countries in southeast Asia and part of the southwest Pacific, was aimed at containing Communism. Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan (until 1973), the Philippines, Thailand and the United States were members. SEATO was disbanded in 1977.
11 Jun 1955   
Privilege of parliament
Newspapermen Frank Browne and Raymond Fitzpatrick were charged in the House of Representatives with breaching parliamentary privilege. In the only such case in the 20th century, they served three months in gaol on the order of Cabinet.
23 Oct 1955   
Cocos (Keeling) Islands on board
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands became Commonwealth territory with the proclamation of the Cocos (Keeling) Island Act. The 27 coral islands in two atolls are in the Indian Ocean, some 2800 kilometres northwest of Perth.
10 Dec 1955   
22nd federal election
House of Representatives and 30 Senate seats
16 May 1956   
Maralinga atomic tests
The first nuclear tests took place at Maralinga, South Australia. This was developed as a permanent test site in response to a request from the British government after the first tests at Montebello and Emu Field in 1953 and 1954. The tests conducted at Maralinga until 1963 were the subject of a Royal Commission in 1984.
14 Aug 1956   
Boilermakers Case
The Conciliation and Arbitration Court was replaced by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This was made necessary by the High Court ruling in the 1956 ‘separation of powers' Boilermakers Case. The High Court held that judicial matters must be dealt with by a body separate from one dealing with the non-judicial prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.
22 Nov 1956   
Melbourne Olympic Games
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, opened Australia's first Olympic Games in Melbourne. The Games were held during the international Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution. Television was introduced into Australia to make these the first Olympic Games televised.
13 Dec 1956   
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act made ASIO a statutory authority. ASIO had been established by government directive in 1949.
27 Aug 1957   
Labor Party split
The Democratic Labor Party formed in a breakaway of anti-Communist groups from the Australian Labor Party.
10 Oct 1957   
Constructing Lake Burley Griffin
The National Capital Development Commission started work on the coordinated planning and development of the national capital. Among elements of the city's original design implemented was the construction of Lake Burley Griffin. On 31 January 1989 the National Capital Planning Authority replaced the Commission.
26 Jan 1958   
Nuclear startup
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission's nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights near Sydney began operation. The research facility was established in 1955 after the Commission was set up under the Atomic Energy Act in 1953. It was renamed the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in 1987.
24 May 1958   
A new Commonwealth Day
Empire Day became Commonwealth Day and was no longer celebrated as a public holiday. This anniversary of Queen Victoria's birthday had been a public holiday since 1905.
01 Oct 1958   
Christmas Island territory
The proclamation of the Christmas Island Act made an Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean, 2623 kilometres northwest of Perth. Initially the island was administered by an ‘official representative' of the Australian government. From 1968 an Administrator reporting to the Minister for Territories took this role.
22 Nov 1958   
23rd federal election
House of Representatives and 32 Senate seats
05 Feb 1959   
Historic British guest
Harold Macmillan became the first British Prime Minister to visit Australia. His visit was six years after the first visit by the reigning monarch.
01 Dec 1959   
Antarctic Treaty
Australia signed the treaty which came into force on 23 June 1961. It established the legal framework for the management of Antarctica and promoted international cooperation in Antarctic scientific research.
14 Jan 1960   
A Reserve Bank
The proclamation of the Commonwealth Banks Act and the Reserve Bank Act split the Commonwealth Bank of Australia into the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Reserve Bank of Australia.
02 Feb 1960   
14th Governor-General
Lord Dunrossil served as Governor-General until 3 February 1961. Sir Dallas Brooks was acting Governor-General from 3 February to 3 August 1961.
25 Feb 1960   
US space tracking
Australia signed an agreement to allow the United States to establish satellite tracking stations. These were located in the Australian Capital Territory at Orroral Creek, Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla.
01 Mar 1960   
Good news at the chemist
A new pharmaceutical benefits scheme commenced, with a wider range of prescribed medicines subsidised by the government.
16 Nov 1960   
Credit squeeze
The government's response to accelerating inflation and falling wool prices led to a recession. This was the first postwar pitfall for the energetic building industry, eager car salesmen and committed consumers.
13 Dec 1960   
New security law
Amendments to the Crimes Act introduced tougher definitions and penalties for espionage, sabotage and treason, and identified a new crime of treachery.
01 Feb 1961   
‘No fault' divorce
The Matrimonial Causes Act came into operation. It established a uniform basis for divorce law throughout Australia and recognised a specified period of separation as sufficient grounds to end marriage.
17 Jul 1961   
Bonegilla riot
Migrants from eastern Europe staged a violent protest against conditions at the migrant hostel at Bonegilla in Victoria.
03 Aug 1961   
15th Governor-General
Lord De L'Isle served as Governor-General until 22 September 1965.
31 Oct 1961   
National Astronomical Observatory
The 64-metre radio telescope at Parkes in western New South Wales was opened. It was one of the two largest telescopes in the world for radio observations of the southern sky.
03 Dec 1961   
The Moonie field
Oil was discovered in explorations at Moonie in southern Queensland. This became Australia's first commercial oilfield. A pipeline to Brisbane opened on 8 April 1964.
09 Dec 1961   
24th federal election
House of Representatives and 31 Senate seats
09 Apr 1962   
Interstate direct dial
A coaxial cable linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne was completed. It enabled a caller to dial numbers at exchanges on the other end of the trunk lines, rather than needing an operator to make the connection. The broadband link also enabled data transmission. The last telegram transmitted by Morse Code was sent on 13 December that year.
02 Nov 1962   
Swan Lake
The first performance of the Australian Ballet in Sydney was a triumph, not only for the new company, but for those in the government who saw supporting national arts initiatives as a move towards greater cultural independence from Britain.
01 May 1963   
Glorious New Guinea
Indonesia annexed the former Dutch province of western New Guinea and named it Irian Jaya, which means 'Glorious New Guinea'. After Indonesia held a controversial ‘free choice' vote on self-determination in 1969, the United Nations recognised Irian Jaya as an Indonesian state. An independence movement has continued to protest Indonesian rule.
14 Aug 1963   
Bark petitions
Yolngu people petitioned the House of Representatives after the government excised land from the Arnhem Land reserve on 13 March, without consulting the traditional owners. When bauxite mining at Yirrkala went ahead, the Yolngu took their case against the Nabalco mining company to the Northern Territory Supreme Court. In its 1971 decision, the court did not recognise their claim.
01 Nov 1963   
A national franchise achieved
Indigenous people throughout Australia won the suffrage on the same basis as other electors when an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act became law. The 1963 election was the first federal election for Indigenous people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Those in the other States had won voting rights in 1949.
30 Nov 1963   
25th federal election
House of Representatives
03 Dec 1963   
International direct dial
International dialling became possible with the opening of COMPAC, the Commonwealth Pacific cable. This was part of a scheme to connect the British Commonwealth by telephone. The cable was re-routed after South Africa's decision to leave the Commonwealth. The COMPAC cable had 80 telephone circuits, each able to carry 22 telegraph circuits.
10 Feb 1964   
Naval disaster
The destroyer HMAS Voyager sank off Jervis Bay, New South Wales after a collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Two Royal Commissions were held to investigate the cause of the disaster in which 81 sailors died.
20 Aug 1964   
Australia joins INTELSAT
Australia became part of the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium. INTELSAT was established to develop a global system of commercial satellite links.
05 Nov 1964   
National Service lottery
Cabinet decided to re-introduce compulsory military service, which had ended in 1960. The National Service Act enabled government to conscript men for a two-year term with a further three years in the Reserve. Marbles denoting birth dates were drawn from a lottery barrel to select those who would be called up. Between the first ballot in 1965 and the last in1972, some 63,000 men were conscripted.
28 Apr 1965   
War in Vietnam
Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced Australian troops would be sent to Vietnam to support United States forces. The first battalion arrived in Vietnam the following month. After March 1966, National Servicemen were sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army. Some 19,000 conscripts were sent in the next four years.
22 Sep 1965   
16th Governor-General
Lord Casey served as Governor-General until 30 April 1969.
01 Oct 1965   
Rhodesia sanctioned
The government followed Britain in imposing economic sanctions on Southern Rhodesia. When Britain refused to grant independence, the Ian Smith government had declared self-government. It suppressed groups such as the Zimbabwe African National Union. On 18 April 1980 Southern Rhodesia became the independent republic of Zimbabwe. The leader of the Union was its first Prime Minister.
26 Jan 1966   
17th Prime Minister
After a record 16-year term, Sir Robert Menzies resigned and Harold Holt was sworn in.
14 Feb 1966   
Dollars and cents
Australia changed to a decimal currency. Pounds, shillings and pence were replaced with the new currency.
27 Aug 1966   
Gurindji strike
At Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, 200 Gurindji workers for the Vestey pastoral company went on strike. They were campaigning for recognition of rights to an area at Wattie Creek, on their traditional lands.
26 Nov 1966   
26th federal election
House of Representatives
27 May 1967   
Historic referendum
In the largest majority of any Australian referendum, voters overwhelmingly supported a proposal to count Indigenous people in the national census and to give the federal parliament power to legislate for Indigenous people.
16 Sep 1967   
North West Cape
The government approved the establishment of a United States Navy communications base in Western Australia that opened on 16 September 1967. A top security joint space facility was established at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
19 Nov 1967   
Australia's first satellite was launched from the Woomera rocket range, carrying research instruments from the Weapons Research Establishment.
19 Dec 1967   
18th Prime Minister
John McEwen was sworn in as Prime Minister two days after Harold Holt disappeared in the ocean off Portsea, Victoria.
10 Jan 1968   
19th Prime Minister
After the Liberal Party elected Senator John Gorton as the new Party leader, he was sworn in as Prime Minister.
31 Jan 1968   
Independent Nauru
Nauru gained independence from Australia and special member status in the British Commonwealth. Australia, New Zealand and Britain handed over their joint control of the local phosphate industry in 1970.
04 Jul 1968   
Moratorium protest
A major demonstration in the ongoing campaigns against the war in Vietnam ended in violence. Crowds outside the United States consulate in Melbourne were charged by mounted police. Prime Minister John Gorton had announced in February that no further Australian troops would be sent to Vietnam, but 8000 men were already fighting there.
28 Oct 1968   
The postman calls once
Twice-daily mail deliveries, an urban standard since Federation, ceased around Australia. The previous year the national postcode system had been introduced to facilitate sorting large volumes of mail.
01 Dec 1968   
Full wages
For the first time Aboriginal workers on Northern Territory pastoral stations earned full wages. The award wage entitlement was later extended to all Indigenous employees of the Commonwealth government.
30 Apr 1969   
17th Governor-General
Perth-born Sir Paul Hasluck served as Governor-General until 11 July 1974.
19 Jun 1969   
Almost equal pay
After decades of campaigning, women workers were granted equal pay rates with men doing comparable work. Because the Arbitration Commission's decision was for incremental increases, pay parity was not achieved until 1972.
21 Jul 1969   
Men on the moon
When two United States astronauts stepped onto the moon, millions of viewers around the world watched on television. The images were received from Apollo II via Australia's giant telescope in Parkes, New South Wales. The signals were sent from Parkes to Sydney by microwave, and then relayed as television signals to the ABC studios at Gore Hill in Sydney, and then to Houston, Texas for the international telecast.
25 Oct 1969   
27th federal election
House of Representatives
29 Nov 1969   
The Indian-Pacific completed
The final section of the transcontinental railway was rebuilt to a standard gauge. Preparations then began for the service enabling passengers to cross the continent without changing trains at State borders.
16 Dec 1969   
Coming home
Prime Minister John Gorton announced that a withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam would commence the following year.
04 Jul 1970   
Changing to metric
A Metric Conversion Board was established to implement a gradual transfer from imperial to metric weights and measures.
01 Sep 1970   
Uranium discovered
A rich uranium deposit was reported at Nabarlek in the Northern Territory. Prime Minister John Gorton warned two weeks later that any foreign takeover would be prevented if necessary by legislation.
18 Sep 1970   
Second moratorium
The second Vietnam moratorium also involved massive rallies around Australia. In November a battalion returning after its tour of duty was not replaced. This was the beginning of the reduction in Australian forces in Vietnam.
10 Mar 1971   
20th Prime Minister
After displacing John Gorton as Liberal Party leader, William McMahon was sworn in as Prime Minister.
24 May 1971   
Being counted
Senator Neville Bonner became the first Aboriginal parliamentarian. He was nominated by the Queensland Liberal Party for a vacant Senate seat. Indigenous people were included in the national census for the first time in 1971, following the 1967 amendment to the Constitution.
18 Aug 1971   
The Vietnam toll
Prime Minister William McMahon announced the final withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. By the time the last men had returned home in 1972, more than 46,000 Australian personnel had served in Vietnam, with 3000 wounded and 500 dead.
02 Nov 1971   
Dinner at the White House
At an official dinner with President and Mrs Nixon at the White House, the prime ministerial couple attracted international attention. Television and magazines relayed pictures of Sonia McMahon's diplomatically daring dress.
26 Jan 1972   
A tent embassy
Aboriginal people set up a tent ‘embassy' in front of Parliament House. Though police removed it several times, it was replaced until February 1975. A second tent embassy opened on the same site in January 1992, still stands in front of Old Parliament House.
02 Dec 1972   
28th federal election
House of Representatives
06 Dec 1972   
21st Prime Minister
Labor was elected to government for the first time in 26 years. Gough Whitlam and deputy Lance Barnard were sworn in to comprise the first ministry until a Cabinet was chosen.
19 Dec 1972   
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
One of the early reforms of the new Whitlam government was upgrading the Office of Aboriginal Affairs to ministerial level. This fulfilled an election promise designed to meet the responsibilities allocated by the 1967 Referendum.
19 Oct 1973   
Queen of Australia
The Royal Style and Titles Act altered the formal title of Queen Elizabeth II to refer specifically to Australia. This was one of the few Bills of the Australian parliament enacted by the monarch personally, rather than by the Governor-General as vice-regal authority. Queen Elizabeth signed her assent during the Royal Tour for the opening of the Sydney Opera House.
31 Oct 1973   
Whitlam in China
The first visit of an Australian Prime Minister to China marked Australia's trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. Gough Whitlam had visited China in 1971, as part of a Labor Party delegation, a month before United States President Nixon made his historic visit.
04 Dec 1973   
Governing the continental shelf
The Sea and Submerged Lands Act extended Australian territorial seas from three to twelve miles. This gave the Commonwealth sovereignty of the sea and sovereign rights to resources to the extent of the continental shelf. Australia was a signatory to United Nations Conventions in 1958 and 1964 recognising national rights to territorial seas beyond the three-mile limit, mainly to enable member nations to protect their fishing grounds.
23 Feb 1974   
Saturday closing
Official post offices ended Saturday opening. On 1 July 1975 Saturday mail deliveries ceased. On the same date two statutory corporations, the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission were established, replacing the Postmaster-General's Department.
18 May 1974   
29th federal election
House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats
11 Jul 1974   
18th Governor-General
Sir John Kerr served as Governor-General until 8 December 1977.
05 Aug 1974   
Territories get Senate seats
The Senate was expanded to 64 seats when two Senate seats each were assigned to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This legislation was challenged in the High Court, and upheld.
24 Dec 1974   
Cyclone Tracy
On Christmas Eve 65 people lost their lives when a cyclone destroyed 90 per cent of homes in Darwin. Residents were without shelter, power, transport or water and sewerage services. Acting Prime Minister Jim Cairns ordered the evacuation of the population.
31 Dec 1974   
Diplomatic relations with North Korea
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea opened an embassy in Australia. The following April an Australian embassy opened in North Korea. On 30 October 1975, North Korea withdrew its embassy from Canberra and on 6 November expelled the staff of the Australian embassy in Pyongyang.
30 Apr 1975   
Evacuation of Saigon
North Vietnamese troops occupied Saigon and remaining Australian and United States personnel were evacuated. Under the new regime, North and South Vietnam were unified. Saigon, the southern capital became Ho Chi Minh City.
01 Jul 1975   
Medibank begins
The government introduced Medibank, Australia's first national health insurance scheme.
16 Aug 1975   
Handover at Wattie Creek
At Daguragu in the Northern Territory, Vincent Lingiari of the Gurindji people formally accepted from Prime Minister Gough Whitlam title deeds to a part of their traditional lands.
16 Sep 1975   
Independence Day
Papua New Guinea became independent, ending remaining Australian responsibilities in the self-governing country.
11 Nov 1975   
22nd Prime Minister
After the Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed the Labor government, Malcolm Fraser became ‘caretaker' Prime Minister pending a general election.
13 Dec 1975   
30th federal election
House of Representatives and 64 Senate seats
06 Jan 1976   
Federal family law
The Family Law Act came into force, establishing a federal Family Court.
16 Jun 1976   
Treaty of Friendship
The Australia-Japan Treaty of Friendship was signed, confirming the important trade relations between the two nations. By 1970 Japan had become Australia's main overseas customer, with some 19.4 per cent of export trade while Britain's share fell to 13.4 per cent.
02 Feb 1977   
A federal court
The first judges of the Federal Court were sworn in by the Attorney-General. The jurisdiction of the Court included the areas previously covered by the Industrial Court and the Bankruptcy Court. It also heard appeals from State and Territory courts in specific federal matters. The Federal Court is subject only to the High Court of Australia.
01 Jul 1977   
The first Commonwealth Ombudsman took office. The Ombudsman has responsibility to investigate complaints about administrative decisions and make recommendations for remedy.
08 Dec 1977   
19th Governor-General
Sir Zelman Cowen served as Governor-General until 29 July 1982.
10 Dec 1977   
31st federal election
House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats
01 Jan 1978   
SBS begins
The Special Broadcasting Service came into operation under the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act. It was established to provide multilingual broadcasting and television services.
26 Jan 1978   
Land rights in the Northern Territory
The proclamation of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act in 1976 enabled traditional owners to claim unalienated land. The Act provided for a Commission to hear claims and with power to grant a limited title. This was the first Australian law enabling claims to traditional ownership to be judged.
01 Jul 1978   
Northern Territory self-government
The Northern Territory achieved limited self-government, with a fully elected Legislative Assembly. This followed 67 years of federal administration, after 50 years of government by South Australia.
07 Oct 1979   
Immigration advisors
An Australian Refugee Advisory Council was established. Its role was to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the settlement of refugees. Large numbers of Indo-Chinese refugees had become a challenge for receiving countries like Australia.
19 Oct 1979   
Federal Police
The Australian Federal Police force was formed. The AFP combined the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Federal Narcotics Bureau.
26 Jan 1980   
Australian Institute of Sport
The Minister for Home Affairs announced the establishment of a national institute of sport. It began as a public company with 95 per cent funding from the government. In January 1987 the Institute became a statutory authority under the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism.
29 May 1980   
Coastal Waters (State Powers) Act
The Commonwealth returned control of coastal waters to the States. The federal government had taken control of these waters in 1973.
18 Oct 1980   
32nd federal election
House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats
01 Jan 1981   
The desktop computer
The first personal computers went on sale. Thirty years earlier the first mainframe computer, UNIVAC, had come into use.
30 Apr 1981   
Razor Gang report
The final report of a committee set up to review government function recommended the abolition of a number of agencies and reduction of others.
10 Dec 1981   
HREOC established
Proclamation of the Human Rights Commission Act provided for a body to promote and protect human rights in line with all United Nations instruments ratified by Australia. Australia's Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 also covered the Commission. It was renamed the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1986.
29 Jun 1982   
Falklands War
Australia lifted a ban on imports from Argentina after Britain defeated Argentina in the 3-month war in the Falklands Islands.
29 Jul 1982   
20th Governor-General
Sir Ninian Stephen served as Governor-General until 15 February 1989.
01 Jan 1983   
TCP/IP enables the birth of the Internet
Adoption of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) standard enabled the development of a supranational Internet. The first network of computers, ARPANET, had emerged in the United States in 1969.
03 Feb 1983   
Double dissolution
Malcolm Fraser announced a double dissolution of parliament. The same day Bob Hawke was elected leader of the Labor Party after Bill Hayden resigned.
05 Mar 1983   
33rd federal election
House of Representatives and all 64 Senate seats
11 Mar 1983   
23rd Prime Minister
A Labor government was sworn in and Bob Hawke became Prime Minister.
11 Apr 1983   
Economic summit
In an early example of his consensus approach, Prime Minister Bob Hawke called a meeting of leaders of business, government and trades unions. The meeting discussed economic strategy, the approach to unemployment and inflation, and a prices and incomes accord.
26 Sep 1983   
America's Cup comes to Fremantle
The yacht Australia II won the America's Cup. It was the first challenger to remove the 132-year old trophy from the United States.
09 Dec 1983   
Floating the dollar
The Hawke government deregulated the Australian dollar. Instead of the Reserve Bank determining its value, the international money market set the exchange rate.
01 Feb 1984   
The Medicare health scheme began operating. It replaced the Medibank scheme with one financed by a 1 per cent levy on incomes.
29 Mar 1984   
Indigenous promotion
Charles Perkins became the first Indigenous person to head a Commonwealth department. He was appointed Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
19 Apr 1984   
Let us rejoice
‘Advance Australia Fair' was proclaimed Australia's national anthem. This followed a decade of ongoing debate, a national opinion poll in 1974, and a plebiscite in 1977. At the same time, green and gold were proclaimed Australia's national colours.
24 Jul 1984   
Nuclear tests revisited
The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia was established. It was a response to widespread concern about adequate disposal of radioactive substances, the effects of exposure to ionising radiation, and the impact on traditional owners' use of their lands. The Commission reported on 5 December 1985.
01 Oct 1984   
Handback of Uluru
Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen formally handed Pitjantjatjara traditional owners the title deeds to the Uluru area. The arrangement required a lease-back to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and joint management by members of the local Mutijulu community and the service.
01 Dec 1984   
34th federal election
House of Representatives and 46 Senate seats
01 Jan 1985   
Espionage uncovered
The 1954 records of the Royal Commission on Espionage were made public under the new Archives Act 1983. This established the '30-year-rule' for access to most Commonwealth records.
02 Mar 1986   
Australia Acts
Australian law became independent of British parliaments and courts. Seven laws enacted by the States, British government and the final one by the Commonwealth government, severed a constitutional tie to Britain. The Australia Acts ended the inclusion into Australian law of British Acts of Parliament, and abolished remaining provisions for appeals from Australian courts to the Privy Council in London.
02 Apr 1987   
No Australia card
The Australia Card Bill was rejected by the Senate for the second time and Prime Minister Bob Hawke requested a double-dissolution of parliament. Although the national identity card was a prominent issue in campaigning for the election, it was eventually dropped by the Hawke government.
11 Jul 1987   
35th federal election
House of Representatives and all 76 Senate seats
30 Nov 1987   
Prime Minister Bob Hawke arrived in Moscow on an official visit for discussions on mutual trade and foreign policy. The trip was made possible by post Cold War changes developed under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
09 May 1988   
New Parliament House
Queen Elizabeth II ceremonially opened Australia's new Parliament House on Capitol Hill in Canberra, above the provisional Parliament House opened by her father and mother in 1927. In 1901 her grandparenmts had opened Australia's first Parliament in Melbourne.
01 Aug 1988   
Industrial Relations Act
Enactment of this law provided for the implementation of the government's industrial relations reforms. It repealed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 when it came into effect the following year.
23 Nov 1988   
Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the National Science and Technology Centre, a joint Australia-Japan Bicentennial Project.
16 Feb 1989   
21st Governor-General
William Hayden served as Governor-General until 16 February 1996.
11 Dec 1989   
Timor Gap Treaty
Indonesian and Australian representatives signed the Treaty in a plane above the Timor Sea, between East Timor and northern Australia. The Treaty came into force on 9 February 1991. It established a zone of cooperation in an oil-rich undersea area where the continental shelf extending from Java meets the northern Australian continental shelf.
05 Mar 1990   
ATSIC established
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission began work. It merged the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission.
24 Mar 1990   
36th federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
03 Oct 1990   
Fall of the Berlin Wall
After six months of negotiation, East and West Germany were reunified after 45 years and this day is now a national holiday. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to prevent people leaving Soviet East Germany, was dismantled on 9 November 1989 after the glasnost reforms of Soviet President Gorbachev thawed relations with non-communist countries.
27 Feb 1991   
End of the Gulf War
The Iraqi army was defeated after United States ground attacks. These followed ‘Operation Desert Storm', a massive air strike against military targets in Iraq. Australia sent three warships to support the US-led United Nations forces in the response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops in August 1990.
15 Apr 1991   
Deaths in custody
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its final report. The Commission investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal prisoners between 1980 and 1989. Its report comprised eleven volumes and more than 5000 pages and included 339 recommendations.
20 Dec 1991   
24th Prime Minister
In an exchange of Labor Party leadership, Paul Keating succeeded Bob Hawke as Prime Minister.
01 Jan 1992   
World Wide Web
The first browser program went on sale and transformed the Internet paths to a global network. Developed by scientists in Geneva in 1989, this text-based browser enabled anyone with knowledge of the UNIX operating system to link to the Internet. The first image-based browser, Mosaic, went on sale in September 1993.
03 Jun 1992   
Mabo Case
Ten years after the case began, the High Court's judgment was handed down in a case bought by people from the Torres Strait island of Mer. The decision inserted the legal doctrine of native title into Australian law. This led to the Native Title Act in 1993, which enabled Indigenous people throughout Australia to claim traditional rights to unalienated land.
01 Sep 1992   
Wattle Day
Australia's first official Wattle Day. The date was proclaimed as an annual celebration of the golden wattle. This wattle, Acacia pycnantha benth, had been proclaimed the official national floral emblem in August 1988.
14 Sep 1992   
Somalian crisis
Australian personnel, members of a United Nations peacekeeping force, arrived in Somalia in East Africa in a crisis of civil war and famine.
13 Mar 1993   
37th federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
28 Jul 1993   
The opal proclamation
Australia was provided with a national gemstone, when the opal was officially proclaimed to fit this role. The environmental conditions necessary for opal to form are more common in Australia than elsewhere. Australia produces 95 per cent of the world's opals.
09 Aug 1993   
Phosphate payout
Australia agreed to pay Nauru 107 million dollars in compensation for damage caused to the island by phosphate mining. In June 1992 the International Court of Justice ruled on the claim, holding Australia alone liable.
20 Nov 1993   
Strengthening APEC
Regional heads of government met in Seattle in the United States to expand the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, an initiative of Australia. Malaysia's Prime Minister did not attend, and relations with Australia deteriorated. Relations recovered with the visit of the Prime Minister to Malaysia in January 1996.
30 Mar 1994   
Industrial Relations Court
An Act established the Industrial Relations Court of Australia to take over the functions of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia. This arrangement was altered when industrial relations were restructured in 1997.
10 May 1994   
End of apartheid
Nelson Mandela became President of the Republic of South Africa after the first post-apartheid elections. In July South Africa rejoined the British Commonwealth. Australia had played a strong role in the sanctions policy against the apartheid regime that outlawed the African National Congress and gaoled Mandela from 1963 to 1990.
01 Jan 1995   
World Trade Organisation
Established in Geneva under the international Uruguay Round negotiations from 1986 to 1994, the WTO was set up to negotiate and implement the regulation of international trade agreements. In 2002 there were 144 member countries
08 Nov 1995   
Death of a Prime Minister
Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin was assasinated by an Israeli gunman. This threatened the fragile progress towards peace between Israel and Palestine achieved by the Washington agreement two years before.
14 Dec 1995   
Peace in Bosnia
After three years of war in the post-Yugoslav states, the presidents of Croatia and Serbia, and the Bosnian Muslim leader, signed a peace treaty ending hostilities.
28 Dec 1995   
Nuclear weapons testing
Australia joined countries protesting against France's renewed nuclear weapons testing. The French exploded nuclear devices at Mururoa Atoll in the south Pacific one month after a United Nations vote for an immediate ban on nuclear testing.
16 Feb 1996   
22nd Governor-General
Sir William Deane served as Governor-General until 29 June 2001.
02 Mar 1996   
38th federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
11 Mar 1996   
25th Prime Minister
The first Coalition government for 13 years was sworn in, with John Howard as Prime Minister.
10 May 1996   
Port Arthur massacre
A gunman killed 35 people at Port Arthur, Tasmania. Twelve days later, Prime Minister John Howard announced a scheme for uniform gun laws throughout Australia. A buy-back of privately owned guns was funded by a special levy on taxpayers.
11 Dec 1996   
Telstra on sale
The Bill enabling the share market sale of one half of Telstra passed both Houses of parliament. This was achieved after Senator Mal Colston left the Labor Party and, with Independent Brian Harradine, held the balance of power in the Senate.
23 Dec 1996   
Wik native title
The full High Court determined that pastoral leases did not extinguish native title. The Prime Minister proposed a ‘10-point plan' in April 1997 in an attempt to allay pastoralists' concerns about the implications of the judgment.
01 Jan 1997   
Restructuring industrial relations
Most of the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 came into effect. Under the Act, the Industrial Relations Act 1988 was substantially amended. Jurisdiction of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia, established in 1994, was transferred to the Federal Court of Australia from 25 May 1997.
11 Apr 1997   
One Nation
Pauline Hanson launched a new political party in Ipswich, Queensland promoting tighter immigration restrictions. Hanson had won the seat of Oxley in the 1996 federal election as an Independent, after she had failed to gain Liberal preselection.
26 May 1997   
Sorry business
In parliament the Prime Minister tabled the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report on the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, Bringing Them Home.
13 Feb 1998   
Constitutional Convention
At the conclusion of ten days of deliberations, 116 appointed delegates and 36 elected delegates voted that a proposal for a republic with a president appointed by parliament be put to the people. At the referendum held on 6 November 1999, Australians rejected this model.
30 Aug 1998   
A new intercontinental communications optical fibre cable system able to transfer 20 gigabits of information per second was completed. It accelerated Internet access in Australia and partner countries including Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, the United States and United Kingdom. The cable runs ashore through the sand dunes of Floreat Beach in Western Australia.
03 Oct 1998   
39th federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
20 Sep 1999   
East Timor crisis
An Australian contingent of 2500 troops arrived in Dili to lead a United Nations peacekeeping team in East Timor. This followed violent disruption after an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia on 30 August. The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) took charge six days later to disarm pro-Indonesian militia and provide shelter, food, and medical aid to the East Timorese people.
03 Dec 1999   
Law of the sea
The Federal Court upheld the validity of native title in the sea and the seabed around Croker Island in the Northern Territory. The government had appealed a decision of the Native Title Tribunal set up under the Native Title Act 1996.
01 Jul 2000   
A new tax
A goods and services tax was introduced as part of the government's tax reform program aimed at redressing the effects of declining revenue from income tax.
25 Jul 2000   
Diplomatic relations resumed between North Korea and Australia. An ambassador from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea presented his credentials in Canberra. Three weeks earlier an Australian ambassador had been received in Pyongyang.
15 Sep 2000   
Sydney Olympic Games
The Governor-General opened the second Olympic Games held in Australia. Sydney's successful bid for the ‘Green Games' involved transforming the polluted wasteland of Homebush Bay into a world standard Olympic Park. Among the records broken at the Games was the number of passengers carried on one day by Sydney's ferries, exceeding the previous record set on 1 January 1901.
01 Jan 2001   
Centenary of Federation
The celebration of Australia's 100th birthday began in Sydney's Centennial Park, the site of the inauguration ceremonies on 1 January 1901. On 9 May the opening of the first parliament was commemorated at a special sitting of parliament in Melbourne's Exhibition Building.
29 Jun 2001   
23rd Governor-General
Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Hollingworth became Australia's Governor-General, the first minister of religion appointed to the vice-regal post.
07 Aug 2001   
Census question 50
The national census measuring Australia's population 100 years after Federation took place. Respondents were asked to decide whether their names and addresses would be retained for release in 99 years. Some 52 per cent agreed, the rest maintaining Australia's tradition of an anonymous census.
29 Aug 2001   
Tampa crisis
A Norwegian ship rescued refugees fleeing repressive regimes in Afghanistan and the Middle East from their sinking boat in the Indian Ocean. It then crossed into Australian waters despite the refusal of entry by the Australian government. The refugees were taken to security holding camps in the Pacific while their eligibility for political asylum was assessed.
11 Sep 2001   
A new war
Afghanistan-based Al-Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked United States airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in lower Manhattan, and into the Pentagon, the US Defence Department headquarters in Washington. A fourth airliner crashed before nearing its apparent target, the White House. The death toll was 3000. Prime Minister John Howard, then in Washington, agreed to support US President George W Bush in the world's first ‘war on terrorism'.
10 Nov 2001   
40th federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
04 Mar 2002   
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Coolum (Queensland) established a three-person committee to work with the Commonwealth Secretary-General to determine the appropriate Commonwealth responses to Zimbabwe's democratic shortcomings. John Howard was one of the three members of the committee, along with the Presidents of Nigeria and South Africa. On 19 March the committee decided to suspend Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth.
20 May 2002   
Independent East Timor
The proclamation of East Timor's autonomy followed the vote to end Indonesian rule in 1999. The first elections were held on 1 August 2001 and an 88-member Constituent Assembly was elected on 30 August 2001. In presidential elections on 14 April 2002, independence leader Xanana Gusmao became East Timor's first president.
12 Oct 2002   
Bali bombing
A bomb at a nightclub in Kuta (Bali, Indonesia) killed 200 people, nearly half of them Australians. Those killed came from at least 18 countries.
18 Mar 2003   
Commitment of Australian forces to Iraq
The government agreed to a request by the President of the United States that Australian forces join the coalition acting to enforce Iraq's compliance with resolutions of the United Nations Security Council relating to the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Approximately 2000 Australian Defence Force personnel were now deployed in the Middle East.
28 May 2003   
Resignation of the Governor-General
The Queen accepted the resignation of Dr Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General. The Governor of Tasmania, Sir Guy Greene, served as Administrator of the Commonwealth until the appointment of a new Governor-General.
22 Jun 2003   
24th Governor-General
Major-General Michael Jeffery was appointed Governor-General. He had served as Governor of Western Australia from 1993 to 2000.
25 Jun 2004   
National Water Initiative
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a National Water Initiative and the establishment of a seven-member National Water Commission.
13 Aug 2004   
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement
Legislation implementing the AUSFTA was passed by the parliament, concluding a lengthy process of negotiation that had taken place in 2003 and early 2004. The agreement came into operation on 1 January 2005.
09 Oct 2004   
41st federal election
House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats.
26 Dec 2004   
On Boxing Day a tsunami brought major devastation and loss of life to eleven countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Thailand. An Australian-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development was formed to assist Indonesia's recovery.
01 Jul 2005   
Senate majority
The Senators elected at the 41st federal election took their seats, giving the Liberal-National coalition a majority in both chambers.