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Presidents & Prime Ministers during the Viet Nam War 
LBJ did not start American involvement in the war or finish it, but he is the best remembered of the Viet Nam era Presidents because it was his Administration that escalated it without a clear goal. 50,000 American and 500 Aussies died fighting a war that they were not allowed to win.

The best remembered anti LBJ slogan goes "Hey hey LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?" While probably unfair it is true to say that he came to power saying that he "would not send American boys 12,000 miles to do a job that Asian boys should be doing for themselves". 

to hear his comment 1     to hear his comment 2


36th President; Lyndon Baines Johnson
Born: August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas.

Died: January 22, 1973.

Party: Democratic.

Age when inaugurated: 55 (after the Kennedy Assassination)

Term: 1963-1969. Johnson passed sweeping antipoverty and civil rights programs.

However, he also increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Anti-war protests and a plummeting approval rating caused him to drop a re-election bid after the politically disastrous Tet Offensive sapped American support for the "un-winnable" war.

Johnson pushed through much of the Kennedy's New Frontier program of laws designed to ease poverty and extend civil rights for blacks. 

Later in his own social reform program, the Great Society, he cut taxes, enforced black voting rights, and set up the Medicare plan giving medical insurance to people over 65. He also committed U.S. troops to ground combat in South Vietnam (1965) and approved the bombing of North Vietnam.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) committed the first US troops to support the failing Government of South Viet Nam but he restricted it to "advisors", usually Special Forces and "civilian"  (CIA) aid. It was Johnson who escalated the US involvement. It was a fatal political  and military mistake to enter a war where you said, in effect," we won't attack the enemy in his country we will only defend our ally in his".

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK)

On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die.

Of Irish descent, he was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917. Graduating from Harvard in 1940, he entered the Navy. 

In 1943, when his PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy, despite grave injuries, led the survivors through perilous waters to safety.

Back from the war, he became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area, advancing in 1953 to the Senate. He married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12, 1953. In 1955, while recuperating from a back operation, he wrote Profiles in Courage, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history.

In 1956 Kennedy almost gained the Democratic nomination for Vice President, and four years later was a first-ballot nominee for President. Millions watched his television debates with the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon. Winning by a narrow margin in the popular vote, Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President.

His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." As President, he set out to redeem his campaign pledge to get America moving again. His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II; before his death, he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.

Responding to ever more urgent demands, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. 

His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.

He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations. But the hard reality of the Communist challenge remained.

Shortly after his inauguration, Kennedy permitted a band of Cuban exiles, already armed and trained, to invade their homeland. The attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro was a failure. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union renewed its campaign against West Berlin. 

Kennedy replied by reinforcing the Berlin garrison and increasing the Nation's military strength, including new efforts in outer space. Confronted by this reaction, Moscow, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, relaxed its pressure in central Europe.

Instead, the Russians now sought to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. When this was discovered by air reconnaissance in October 1962, Kennedy imposed a quarantine on all offensive weapons bound for Cuba.

While the world trembled on the brink of nuclear war, the Russians backed down and agreed to take the missiles away. The American response to the Cuban crisis evidently persuaded Moscow of the futility of nuclear blackmail.

Kennedy now contended that both sides had a vital interest in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and slowing the arms race--a contention which led to the test ban treaty of 1963. 

The months after the Cuban crisis showed significant progress toward his goal of "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." 

His administration thus saw the beginning of new hope for both the equal rights of Americans and the peace of the world.

Richard Milhous Nixon

for "end of war" speech

Reconciliation was the first goal set by President Richard M. Nixon. The Nation was painfully divided, with turbulence in the cities and war overseas. During his Presidency, Nixon succeeded in ending American fighting in Viet Nam and improving relations with the U.S.S.R. and China. But the Watergate scandal brought fresh divisions to the country and ultimately led to his resignation.

His election in 1968 had climaxed a career unusual on two counts: his early success and his comeback after being defeated for President in 1960 and for Governor of California in 1962.

Born in California in 1913, Nixon had a brilliant record at Whittier College and Duke University Law School before beginning the practice of law. In 1940, he married Patricia Ryan; they had two daughters, Patricia (Tricia) and Julie. During World War II, Nixon served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific.

On leaving the service, he was elected to Congress from his California district. In 1950, he won a Senate seat. Two years later, General Eisenhower selected Nixon, age 39, to be his running mate.

As Vice President, Nixon took on major duties in the Eisenhower Administration. Nominated for President by acclamation in 1960, he lost by a narrow margin to John F. Kennedy. In 1968, he again won his party's nomination, and went on to defeat Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and third-party candidate George C. Wallace.

His accomplishments while in office included revenue sharing, the end of the draft (conscription), new anticrime laws, and a broad environmental program. As he had promised, he appointed Justices of conservative philosophy to the Supreme Court. One of the most dramatic events of his first term occurred in 1969, when American astronauts made the first moon landing.

Some of his most acclaimed achievements came in his quest for world stability. During visits in 1972 to Beijing and Moscow, he reduced tensions with China and the U.S.S.R. His summit meetings with Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev produced a treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons. In January 1973, he announced an accord with North Viet Nam to end American involvement in Indochina. In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, negotiated disengagement agreements between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria.

In his 1972 bid for office, Nixon defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern by one of the widest margins on record.

Within a few months, his administration was embattled over the so-called "Watergate" scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. A number of administration officials resigned; some were later convicted of offences connected with efforts to cover up the affair. Nixon denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to divert the investigation.

As a result of unrelated scandals in Maryland, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973. Nixon nominated, and Congress approved, House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford as Vice President.

Faced with what seemed almost certain impeachment, Nixon announced on August 8, 1974, that he would resign the next day to begin "that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."

In his last years, Nixon gained praise as an elder statesman. By the time of his death on April 22, 1994, he had written numerous books on his experiences in public life and on foreign policy.

PT 109. This was a torpedo boat that served in WW2. PT 109 was one of the hundreds of motor torpedo boats (PT) of the PT 103 class completed between 1942 and 1945 by Elco Naval Division of Electric Boat Company at Bayonne, New Jersey. 

The Elco boats were the largest in size of the three types of PT boats built for U.S. use during World War II. 

Wooden-hulled, 80 feet long with a 20-foot, 8-inch beam, the Elco PT boats had three 12-cylinder Packard gasoline engines generating a total of 4,500 horsepower for a designed speed of 41 knots. With accommodations for 3 officers and 14 men, the crew varied from 12 to 14. Its full-load displacement was 56 tons. Early Elco boats had two 20mm guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and two or four 21-inch torpedo tubes. Some of them carried depth charges or mine racks. Later boats mounted one 40mm gun and four torpedo launching racks. Many boats received ad-hoc refits at advanced bases, mounting such light guns as Army Air Forces 37mm aircraft guns and even Japanese 23mm guns. Some PTs later received rocket launchers.

Australia Prime Ministers during the Viet Nam War

Robert Menzies' photograph Harold Holt's photograph John Gorton's Photograph
Rt Hon. Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was Prime Minister twice, from 26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941 and from 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966. Rt Hon. Harold Edward Holt was Prime Minister of Australia from 26 January 1966 to 19 December 1967. Rt Hon. John Grey Gorton was Prime Minister from 10 January 1968 to 10 March 1971.
for biography for biography for biography
In the context of the Viet Nam War these men are best remembered for these things.
Committed Australian troops Stated "All the way with LBJ" Withdrew Australian troops










Robert Gordon Menzies - 'Bob' Menzies or Mr Menzies - was our longest serving Prime Minister. He was Prime Minister twice - from 1939 to 1941, and from 1949 through to 1966 - a total of 18 years and five months - an impressive amount of time in any job! Early in his first period in office, he announced the declaration of the Second World War to the people of Australia. In 1944 he helped start the Liberal Party, which in terms of winning elections, has been the most successful party in federal politics. He presided over Australia's longest period of prosperity and rising living standards this century.

Rt Hon. Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was Prime Minister twice, from 26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941 and from 19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966.

Born: 20 December 1894 at Jeparit, Victoria.

Died: 15 May 1978 at Melbourne, Victoria.

Robert Gordon Menzies was born in Jeparit, Victoria, on 20 December 1894. He died in Melbourne on 15 May 1978.

He married Pattie Maie Leckie (daughter of a Senator) in 1920, and had three children.

His parents were James Menzies and Kate Sampson. James, of Scottish descent, had been a coach-painter in Ballarat before opening a general store in Jeparit. Kate, of Cornish descent, was the daughter of a miners' union leader. James was elected to the Victorian parliament in 1909 as the representative for Lowan.

He started at Jeparit State School before going to Grenville College, Ballarat, then attended Wesley College, Melbourne, on scholarships. After an outstanding academic career at the University of Melbourne, he graduated with first class honours in Law in 1917. He was admitted as a barrister in 1918, and built up a highly successful practice. In 1929 he became a King's Counsel, the youngest in Victoria.

Robert Menzies was elected to Victorian state parliament as a Nationalist Party candidate for the Legislative Council seat of East Yarra in 1928; he resigned and was elected for the Legislative Assembly seat of Nunawading in 1929; he served as Honorary Minister from 1928 until 1929, Attorney-General and Minister for Railways from 1932 to 1934, and Acting Premier in 1934.

He quit state parliament in 1934 to contest the federal seat of Kooyong as a United Australia Party candidate. He retained Kooyong through the next ten elections until his resignation and retirement from federal parliament in February 1966.

On entering federal parliament he immediately became Attorney-General and Minister for Industry in J.A. Lyons' United Australia Party Government. He held these positions until March 1939, and was also deputy UAP leader from 1935. He resigned from Cabinet in March 1939 in protest against the government's failure to implement its national insurance scheme.

Menzies was elected leader of the UAP and became Prime Minister in April 1939, following the death in office of Lyons, and after the 18-day caretaker Prime Ministership of Country Party leader, E.C.G. Page. He suffered an immediate ferocious attack in parliament from Page, who had favoured the recall to parliament of former Prime Minister S.M. Bruce. Page bitterly accused Menzies of disloyalty to Lyons and the government, and suggested he had been a coward for choosing not to serve overseas during World War I, although he was a lieutenant in the Army reserve. (Menzies said his first loyalty was always to the people of his electorate, and explained that he had family reasons for not serving overseas, as two of his brothers had done.) Refusing to work with Menzies, Page took the Country Party out of coalition with the UAP.

As Prime Minister, Menzies announced the declaration of war against Germany on 3 September 1939. He formed a War Cabinet on 15 September.

Australia's entry into World War II; divisions of 2nd AIF sent to the Middle East and North Africa; campaigns against Italian and German armies in Libya, Germans in Crete and Vichy French in Syria 1940-41. Department of Navy formed November 1939; Royal Australian Navy active in actions against Italian navy in Mediterranean in 1940. Australia joins the Empire Air Training Scheme in October 1939; new RAAF squadrons formed; many RAAF pilots and other personnel fought in Battle of Britain with RAF in 1940.

The Country Party re-entered a coalition with the UAP in March 1940, but losses to Labor at the general election in September severely weakened the Menzies coalition government. Continuing dissension with the coalition prompted Menzies to resign as UAP leader and Prime Minister on 28 August 1941. Country Party leader A.W. Fadden replaced Menzies as Prime Minister, but held office for only 40 days before being defeated in parliament, making way for J.J.A. Curtin's Labor government on 7 October.

A period of turmoil and instability in UAP-Country Party coalition 1939-41. E.C.G. Page resigned the CP leadership on 13 September 1939; replaced by A.G. Cameron, who resigned in October 1940 (and later joined UAP) and was in turn replaced by A.W. Fadden. Coalition in-fighting resulted in Menzies' resignation as Prime Minister 28 August 1941. W.M. Hughes replaced him as UAP leader. Fadden became Prime Minister but his government was forced to resign on 7 October 1941, when it lost support of two Independents who voted with Labor to defeat the government.

Despite the instability in the coalition and his loss of office, Menzies had led a government which prepared the nation for war as well as its limited resources allowed.

He was re-elected UAP leader and became leader of the Opposition in September 1943. In October-December 1944 he sponsored the formation of a new party, the Liberal Party, combining the UAP and 17 other non-Labor groups. He was subsequently elected Liberal leader.

Following increasing public dissatisfaction with J.B. Chifley's Labor government, the Liberal and Country parties swept to power at the general election on 10 December 1949. By exchanging electoral preferences the Liberals won 55 seats and the Country Party 19, to Labor's 47. The Liberal and Country parties formed a coalition government on 19 December with Menzies as Prime Minister and Country Party leader A.W. Fadden as Deputy Prime Minister. Menzies' comeback as Prime Minister after the humiliating circumstances of his resignation from the position eight years previously was a great personal triumph.

The fall of J.B. Chifley's Labor government following a series of Communist-inspired strikes, controversies over Labor's wish to nationalise private banks, medical practitioners, transport and communications, and mounting public impatience with continuing wartime austerity measures. Shaking off an earlier reputation for disdain of the public, Menzies proved to be a highly effective populist campaigner, appealing to ordinary citizens through slogans such as 'Put value back in the pound' and 'Are the people the masters of government or government the masters of the people?'

Menzies led the Liberal-Country Party coalition to victory at next five general elections: in 1951, 1954, 1958, 1961 and 1963. He resigned from the Prime Ministership in January 1966, passing the position to H.E. Holt, the Liberals' deputy leader, and resigned from parliament in February 1966. His total of 18 years as Prime Minister and his unbroken 16-year tenure of office during his second period in the position are the longest of all Australian Prime Ministers during the 20th century.

Menzies coalition government pursued various initiatives of the former Chifley Labor government, including development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, mass immigration and the Colombo Plan for aiding developing nations of the Commonwealth. Otherwise it set its own agenda. A key policy was to stamp out Communist influence in union movement and end disruption caused by strike action; goals to be achieved by abolishing the Communist Party. Parliament passed the Communist Party Dissolution Act in October 1950. The Act was immediately challenged in the High Court by ten trade unions, Labor's deputy leader H.V. Evatt representing one of these. The Act was declared invalid in March 1951. Menzies then sought power to outlaw the Communist Party through a referendum in September 1951.

Evatt led a campaign for a 'No' vote to deny government such powers; 'No' supporters narrowly win. The referendum on government power to ban the Communist Party occurred in a climate of mounting 'Cold War' tension between Western and Soviet power blocs. Post-war Communist gains in eastern Europe and China and development of nuclear 'Arms Race' between USA and Western allies (USA, UK and France), outbreak of Korean War June 1950 and defection of UK spies to Soviet Union were factors contributing to widespread fear of the Communist influence in Australia.

In Australia, fears about possibility of a Soviet infiltration heightened by the 1954 defection of two staff members of the Soviet embassy in Canberra - Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov. Labor and Communist sympathisers accused Menzies and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) of manipulating the Petrov case for the political advantage of the coalition parties. Labor leader H.V. Evatt became a central figure in the Petrov case when his secretary was named as a Soviet contact.

Australian armed services were active in Korean War 1950-53; Australian forces suffered 339 war deaths. Australian military forces were sent to Malaya in 1952 to assist in the suppression of Communist insurgents, beginning a long-standing commitment of Australian forces to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore.

The ANZUS treaty with USA and NZ was signed in 1951, becoming the basis of Australian defence planning for the next four decades. In 1954 Australia became a signatory to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) treaty, which became a second major component of defence planning until the early 1970s.

As well as being Prime Minister, Menzies at different times held other ministerial and acting ministerial positions. His portfolios included Defence Coordination, Information, Trade and Customs, External Affairs, External Territories, Treasury, Attorney-General and responsibility for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

The Menzies government presided over the longest period of economic prosperity in Australia's history, lasting from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. This period was one of rapid development, almost continual economic growth, rising standards of living and very low (below 2%) unemployment rates. From the mid-1960s the 'long boom' continued with the discovery and exploitation of new mineral and petroleum resources.

Two major public spectacles of the mid-1950s became the focus of national attention, prompting outpourings of national sentiment - the Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 and the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956. Both events were strongly promoted by the government.

Television was introduced in September 1956. Many Australians had their first experience of TV watching Olympic events on TV sets in the windows of retail stores.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s the Menzies government laid the foundations for the subsequent rapid growth of Australia’s university system and began providing financial support to non-government schools.

The Labor Party split of 1955-57, beginning first in Victoria, and later extending to other States (but not NSW). It resulted in the formation of the anti-Communist breakaway Democratic Labor Party, which had strong links with 'the Movement', a secret Catholic organisation founded in 1942. By directing electoral preferences to the Liberal Party coalition, the DLP effectively kept Labor out of power federally until 1972. In Victoria, where the DLP was strongest, Labor was kept out of office for 27 years from 1955-82. In Queensland the split led to the expulsion - in 1957 - of the Premier, Vince Gair, by the party's State branch. Gair then formed a breakaway Queensland Labor Party, a DLP 'clone' which held office for two months before being defeated in parliament. Labor remained out of office for 32 years from 1957-89.

During his second period as Prime Minister, Menzies’ principal political adversaries were Dr H.C. (‘Bert’) Evatt (1894-1965), Labor leader from 1951 to 1960, and Arthur Calwell (1896-1973), Labor leader from 1960 until 1967.

Menzies travelled widely in Australia and overseas on government business, and was the first Australian Prime Minister to do so. Apart from frequent trips to the UK, USA and Commonwealth nations (New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia), he visited numerous countries in Europe and Asia for conferences on international relations, trade and defence matters. As such, he played an important ambassadorial role on behalf of both Australia and the Commonwealth of Nations.

One particularly important excursion abroad was his trip to Cairo in September 1956 as head of a 5-nation delegation mediating in the Suez crisis. Menzies mission failed, and many commentators regarded his intervention as a fiasco.

Cold War tensions continued throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, until the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Europe in 1989. The commitment of the Menzies government to its alliances with the UK led to the establishment of UK nuclear weapon testing facilities in Australia, first in the Monte Bello Islands, Western Australia, and later at the Woomera missile testing range, in South Australia. The test program continued from 1952 to 1963.

An increasingly close alliance with the USA resulted in the establishment of American military communications bases at Onslow in Western Australia (1963), Pine Gap in the Northern Territory (1969), and Nurrangar in South Australia (1969), as well as other defence and science installations elsewhere in Australia.

A devoted royalist, during his second period as Prime Minister Menzies received numerous honours and awards, including the imperial titles Companion of Honour (1951), Knight of the Thistle (1963), Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1965), Chief Commander US Legion of Merit (1950) and twenty honorary doctorates.

The Menzies government sent military observers to Vietnam in 1962 to assist the South Vietnamese government and US military forces in the war against the Communists. The first of nine Australian infantry battalions to serve in Vietnam arrived there in 1965. The Government introduced the selective military conscription of 20 year old males in 1964, and the first conscripts were sent to Vietnam in 1966. By 1967, after Menzies had retired, the Australian task force in Vietnam numbered 6,000 troops. By the time Australian military forces were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1972, 50,000 Australian military personnel had served in Vietnam - out of which 496 were killed. Both conscription and the government's commitment to the Vietnam War became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread and large-scale public protest demonstrations during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Robert Menzies devoted himself to authorship in retirement. His publications including two books of memoirs: Afternoon Light (1967) and The Measure of Years (1970). Menzies died on 15 May 1978 and was given a state funeral. His second period as Prime Minister has remained an inspiration to Liberal Party members.

The rise of a distinct youth culture in Australia from the mid-1950s. Rock 'n Roll music arrived in Australia in 1955. The Australian tour of the Beatles in 1964 attracted the largest crowds of young people yet seen in Australia.

The availability of the contraceptive 'Pill' for women introduces a new era of family planning, and far-reaching changes in women's lives.


Menzies (I) 1939-41. The most important new legislation resulted from the need to put Australia on a war footing. This legislation included:

The Supply and Development Act 1939 to set up the Department of Supply to organise purchase and manufacture of arms and munitions.

The National Security Acts 1939 and 1940 to give power to the government to make regulations for ‘general safety and defence of the Commonwealth’. This law could be extended to cover almost any activity, but was sometimes successfully challenged in the courts.

The Aliens Registration Act 1939 to control the movement of foreigners in Australia.

The National Registration Act 1939 to set up a registry of men liable for military service and to help mobilisation.

The Trading with the Enemy Act 1939 to prohibit trade with countries at war with Australia.

Menzies (II) 1949-65

The Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 declared illegal and dissolved the Communist Party and affiliated bodies but was declared invalid by the High Court in 1951.

The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1951 provided for the use of secret ballots in trade union elections.

The Security Treaty (Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America) Act 1952 provided parliamentary approval of the ANZUS pact.

The Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 facilitated British nuclear tests at the Monte Bello islands off the coast of Western Australia and later at the Emu and Maralinga sites in South Australia.

The National Health Act 1953 consolidated medical, hospital, pharmaceutical and pensioner medical services.

The Broadcasting and Television Act 1956 gave the ABC the same powers in television as it already had in radio, and made other arrangements for the introduction of television.

Separate industrial court established under an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

Various banking acts, including the Reserve Bank Act 1957, which separated central banking from other functions, had been blocked in the Senate during the 22nd Parliament but became Acts of the 23rd Parliament when the Menzies Government obtained a majority in the Senate at the 1958 election.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 provided for uniform divorce laws rather than the ten codes then existing.

The Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 (since replaced) established the procedures by which ASIO could tap telephones in order to protect the Commonwealth from acts of espionage or subversion, and the Crimes Act 1960 redefined the offences of treason, sabotage and espionage.

The National Library Act 1960 established a National Library separate from the Parliamentary Library.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1962 removed the franchise prohibition existing in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia against Aboriginal people in Commonwealth elections.

The Papua New Guinea Act 1963 was a response to the United Nations Trusteeship Council's criticism of Australian policy in PNG and provided for an enlarged legislature with a majority of indigenous members.

The Currency Act 1963 prepared for the introduction of decimal currency in 1966.

The United States Naval Communication Station Act 1963 approved the agreement to establish a communications station at North West Cape.

The first year of the 25th Parliament, 1964, saw a record 130 bills enacted. The figure for the following year was 156.

The National Service Act 1965 was a response to Australia's increasing involvement in the Vietnam War.


Harold Holt had plenty of time to find out what being Prime Minister would be like - he served for ten years as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party under Menzies. He took over as Prime Minister when Menzies retired in 1966 and later that year won a sweeping victory at the polls on the issue of support for the Australian and United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Late in 1967 he disappeared while swimming in the ocean, making him the third Australian Prime Minister to have died while still in office.

Born: 5 August 1908 at Sydney, New South Wales.

Presumed dead: 19 December 1967 (Melbourne)

Harold Edward Holt was born in Sydney on 5 August 1908, and disappeared, presumed drowned, on 17 December 1967.

He married Zara Fell in 1946 and adopted her three sons from a previous marriage.

Both his parents were school teachers, although his father later worked for the theatrical firm, J. C. Williamson. His parents divorced when he was ten.

He attended Wesley College, Melbourne, where he won awards for sporting ability, character and leadership. He went on to study law at the University of Melbourne, where he played football, cricket and tennis for Queens College.

He graduated as a lawyer in 1930, and was admitted to the Bar in 1931. He worked as a solicitor, became secretary to the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association, and was an active member of the Young Nationalists.

In 1934 Harold Holt stood against former Prime Minister James Scullin for the seat of Yarra in federal parliament, but lost. He also unsuccessfully contested an election for the Victorian parliament.

He was finally elected to federal parliament in 1935. He stood as the UAP candidate for the seat of Fawkner, Victoria. Holt won the next four general elections, held Fawkner from 1937 to 1946, then switched to the seat of Higgins, which he held through eight general elections - from 1949 to 1966.

Holt served as Minister without Portfolio in 1939 and 1940, assisting the Ministers for Supply and Development, Trade and Customs, and Scientific and Industrial Research.

In 1940 he enlisted in the 2nd AIF, but after five months in the army Menzies recalled him to parliament. He then became Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister in Charge of Scientific and Industrial Research in both Menzies' and Fadden's UAP-Country Party coalition governments. While Menzies was still in office, Holt brought in a national child endowment scheme.

When the Menzies-Fadden Liberal-CP coalition government came to power in 1949 Holt again became Minister for Labour and National Service. He held this position for nine years. He was also Minister for Immigration from 1949 to 1956. He was Leader of the House of Representatives and deputy Liberal leader for the next ten years. He took over from A.W. Fadden as Treasurer in 1958, and held this position for the next seven years, until he became Prime Minister on 26 January 1966. As Minister for Labour and National Service, Holt introduced conscription into the army for all males aged 18 in 1951. This scheme continued until 1959.

As Minister for Immigration Holt worked on various migration schemes. He also began to work on changing the White Australia Policy, a scheme that had been in practice since 1901. The idea of the Policy was to keep 'undesirable' immigrants (people without a European background) out of Australia, by giving them a dictation test they could not possibly answer. Holt abolished this test.

In November 1960 the economy was in a recession, brought on by drought, a fall in wool production and rising prices. Now Treasurer, Holt worked at ways to turn the situation around. Using a strategy known as 'credit squeeze' (colloquially as 'Holt's Jolt'), he imposed credit restrictions, raised loan interest rates and heavily increased sales tax on motor vehicles. The economic slump continued through 1961. The unemployment rate reached 3.5%, the highest figure for thirty years. His strategy was so unpopular that his government nearly lost the next election.

When R.G. Menzies retired as Prime Minister, Holt took over the leadership of the Liberal Party, having been deputy leader since 1956. As the war in Vietnam grew more intense, Holt visited the USA in June 1966 to discuss the situation with US President L.B. Johnson. Holt confirmed his government's full support for USA's Vietnam policy, and adopted the slogan 'All the way with LBJ'. On the 14 February 1966, Holt introduced decimal currency - dollars and cents.

The war in Vietnam was growing bigger. 4,500 soldiers were sent in 1966, including the first conscripts (non-volunteers). By the end of the year the number had risen to 6000. The first major battle in which Australians were involved, Long Tan, was fought in June 1967, leaving 18 Australian soldiers dead.

As more and more people in Australia began to protest against sending Australian troops to Vietnam, Holt campaigned for a general election on 26 November 1966 with Australian involvement in the war as a major issue. It seemed that, for the most part, the people of Australia agreed with his war policy, as his government was returned with an impressive ten seat gain. On the 14 February 1966, Holt introduced decimal currency - dollars and cents. More and more people became opposed to sending our troops to Vietnam. Holt's government was also under attack over various other issues, including its handling of the Voyager disaster, VIP aircraft flights, and a proposal to break the nexus between the two federal houses of parliament.

When US President L.B. Johnson visited Australia in October 1966, demonstrators protested fiercely in the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. In August 1966 the Aboriginal stock workers of the Gurindji tribe living on Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory went on strike and walked off the property in protest over low wages and living conditions. In March 1967 they occupied part of the station in an attempt to force the government to return their tribal land, an action which was later seen as being the beginning of the Aboriginal land rights movement.

On the 27 May 1967 Australians voted 'Yes' in a Referendum to change the Commonwealth constitution. 'Full-blood' Aborigines could now be counted in the national census, which meant that the federal government was now just as responsible as the states for Aboriginal affairs.

Harold Holt disappeared while swimming in heavy surf near Portsea, Victoria, on 17 December 1967. Despite a major search his body was never found. His memorial service in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, on 22 December was attended by US President L.B. Johnson, the Prince of Wales, UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson and other heads of state and government.


The Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967 gave assistance to the manufacturing and mining industries. This year saw the first offshore oil rig established.

The Migration Act 1966 relaxed immigration laws to allow entry of non-European settlers, effectively ending the White Australia Policy. from

John Grey Gorton was the only Senator ever to become Prime Minister. Traditionally, Prime Ministers come from the lower house - the House of Representatives. So, shortly after becoming PM, he stood for - and won - a seat in the House of Reps. Gorton believed in strong Commonwealth power over economic management and this made him unpopular with the state Liberal Premiers. He was Prime Minister for three years until he was removed from office by his own party after a vote of no confidence in his leadership in 1971. He actually voted against himself in the ballot - making him the only Prime Minister to vote himself out of office!

Born: 9 September 1911 at Melbourne, Victoria.

John Grey Gorton was born in Melbourne, Victoria, on 9 September 1911.

He married Bettina Brown in 1935 and they had three children. She died in 1983. He married Nancy Home in 1993.

Gorton was the second child of John Rose Gorton and Alice Sinn. His father was an immigrant who had come from England via South Africa, where he had acquired wealth as a business entrepreneur. His mother died when he was seven.

He was educated at the Headford Preparatory School of Sydney Church of England Grammar ('Shore') School, then Geelong Grammar School. He finished his education at Oxford University, in the UK.

After graduating from Oxford he returned to Australia to manage his father's orchard at Kerang, Victoria. He enlisted in the RAAF on 8 November 1940, and trained as a fighter pilot. He served in the UK, Singapore, Darwin and Milne Bay (Papua). He was severely wounded in a 'plane crash and was given reconstructive surgery. He was discharged from the RAAF on 5 December 1944 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

He entered local government after resuming management of the family property at Kerang. He was a member of Kerang Shire Council from 1946 to 1952, and president from 1949 to 1950. He joined the Country Party but later switched to the Liberal Party. In June 1949 he was narrowly defeated for election to the Victorian Legislative Council. He successfully stood as Senate candidate at the general election in December 1949. He retained his seat through the next four Senate elections: 1951, 1953, 1958 and 1964.

He became Minister for the Navy in R.G. Menzies' Liberal-Country Party coalition government on 10 December 1958, and retained the position for the next five years, until December 1963. During the 1960s he served in other portfolios; Minister Assisting the Minister for External Affairs, March 1960-December 1963; Minister-in-charge of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, February 1962-December 1963; Minister for the Interior, December 1963-March 1964; Minister for Works, December 1963-February 1967; Minister-in-charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research under the Prime Minister, December 1963-December 1966; Minister for Education and Science, December 1966-February 1968. He was also Leader of Government in the Senate from 16 October 1967 to 1 February 1968.

After the disappearance and presumed drowning of H.E. Holt on 19 December 1967, Gorton took advantage of a potential rift within the Liberal-Country Party coalition when caretaker Prime Minister, J. McEwen, threatened the CP would quit the coalition if William McMahon, the Treasurer, was elected Liberal leader. To preserve coalition unity, McMahon opted not to contest the leadership, allowing Gorton a chance of winning against the other principal candidate, P.M.C. Hasluck. When the ballot was held on 9 January 1968, Gorton outpolled Hasluck, and was sworn in as Prime Minister the next day, becoming the first Senator to have been appointed Prime Minister. He resigned from the Senate on 31 January to contest the by-election for Holt's former seat of Higgins on 24 February. Gorton won Higgins easily, and held it through the next three general elections: 1969, 1972 and 1974.

Gorton retained Prime Ministership for three years, until 10 March 1971. He took the Liberal-CP coalition to victory at the general election on 25 October 1969. However, the coalition lost 18 seats, mainly Liberal, to a resurgent Labor Party. Labor's total vote was 3.6% higher than that of the coalition, which retained power only by preference votes from the Democratic Labor Party.

Major mineral and petroleum exploration, and mining. By 1968 the exploitation of mineral deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia had made Australia a major exporter of iron ore, and bauxite deposits at Gove in the Northern Territory were being mined.

By 1969 natural gas was supplying Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne; and the Moonie (Queensland), Bass Strait and Barrow Island (WA) fields were producing 65% of Australia's crude oil needs. New discoveries prompted the 1968-69 minerals boom, reminiscent of the gold boom of the 1850s. Speculation forced mineral share prices to astonishing levels; as one example, Poseidon nickel shares jumped from 50¢ to $280  before the boom collapsed in early 1970. A dispute between federal and state government over off-shore mineral rights in May 1970 brought to the fore the issue of 'states' rights'. Federal government became factionalised and faced defeat until CP leader J. McEwen worked out an acceptable compromise.

In 1970 the Kingsford Smith (on 3 May) and Tullamarine (on 1 July) international airports opened in Sydney and Melbourne respectively, and the first Boeing 747 'jumbo' jet landed in Sydney in October, ushering in a new era of fast and relatively cheap international air travel for Australians.

The Commonwealth Arbitration Commission established the principle of 'equal pay for equal work' for women in June 1970, and ruled for pay increases to be phased in over three years.

Mounting opposition to the Vietnamese War resulted in huge public demonstrations on 8 May 1970, Vietnam Moratorium Day marches were held in all state capitals.

The last Australia-South Africa cricket test series for 25 years was played in 1969, anti-Apartheid protests in Australia leading to their cancellation. The South African rugby team toured Australia in June-July 1971 but led to such widespread demonstrations that no further Australia-South Africa matches were conducted until 1994. To forestall anti-Springbok demonstrations, the Queensland government declared a State of Emergency in July 1971. Dissension within the Liberal Party over Gorton's leadership led to a party room challenge from McMahon and other contenders on 7 November 1969. Gorton survived the challenge, but opposition to him within the party mounted. In a party room meeting on 10 March 1971, a motion of confidence in his leadership was tied 33:33. Gorton then gave his chairman's casting vote against the motion, effectively removing himself from office.

Gorton came into severe conflict with the Premiers, in particular the Liberal Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales, Henry Bolte and Robin Askin, and the Country Party Premier of Queensland, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, over his ‘centralising’ ambitions. His dispute with the states over his government’s legislation on off-shore mineral rights in May 1970 factionalised the government. This, and his eccentric personal style, became matters of public controversy, contributing to the mounting dissatisfaction with the leadership within the Liberal Party.

McMahon won the subsequent vote for the leadership, and thus became Prime Minister. Gorton then contested the vote for deputy leader and won. He accepted the position of Minister for Defence in McMahon's government, but after publishing a series of newspaper articles titled 'I Did It My Way' which were critical of Cabinet, he was forced to resign his Ministry on 12 August 1971. He gave up the deputy leadership as well four days later. J.D. Anthony was appointed leader of the federal parliamentary Country Party on 2 February 1971, replacing J. McEwen. Under his leadership the CP (which changed its name to the National Country Party in 1972 and the National Party in 1982) changed from a farmers' lobby into a more generally based political grouping.

When the coalition went into opposition after the election of E.G. Whitlam's Labor government on 5 December 1972, Gorton joined the Opposition's executive and served as Liberal spokesperson on Urban and Regional Development, Environment and Conservation. He opposed the appointment as Liberal leader of J.M. Fraser, whose resignation as Minister for Defence from his Cabinet in March 1971 had triggered McMahon's successful challenge to his Prime Ministership. He quit the Liberal Party in November 1975 when, with the dismissal of Whitlam by the Governor-General, Fraser's campaign to oust Labor succeeded. Gorton then stood unsuccessfully as an independent Senate candidate for the Australian Capital Territory at the general election on 13 December 1975.

Accession to the parliamentary Liberal Party leadership of B.M. Snedden on 20 December 1972; and Snedden's replacement as leader by J.M. Fraser on 21 March 1975.

Dismissal by Governor-General (J.R. Kerr) of E.G. Whitlam as Prime Minister and appointment as interim Prime Minister of J.M. Fraser, on 11 November 1975.

Gorton retired from politics after the 1975 elections and lived quietly in Canberra, occasionally making headlines through interviews granted to journalists.


The Copyright Act 1968 made Australia a party to an international copyright convention.

The Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 enabled overseas capital to be raised for loan funds to assist Australian companies.

The Maritime Conversion Act 1970 established a board to oversee the introduction of metric weights and measures.

The Australian Film Development Corporation Act 1970 (since replaced by later legislation) provided for the first Commonwealth assistance to the film industry.



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