A few days ago, listening to political journalist and commentator Mungo MacCallum chatting to Phillip Adams on Radio National’s Late Night Live, Mungo was asked who he considered to be the best Australian Prime Ministers in his lifetime. He nominated three: Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating and John Gorton.
I imagine both sides of the political divide will be surprised at one, some, or all of his choices. The spectacular ends to their prime ministerships were inconsequential to Mungo. He was judging them on the jobs they’d done. Simply, their achievements.
I do not remember Mungo’s justifications, so I thought I’d Google them and list them here.
- 1972 – ended conscription during Vietnam War.
- 1973: created new government departments including Aboriginal Affairs, Environment and amalgamation of armed forces into Defence.
- 1974: Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, Australian Legal Aid Office, National Employment and Training Scheme.
- The Health Insurance Act 1973 established ‘Medibank’, a national health scheme funded by levy which provided free public hospital treatment and medical benefits totaling at least 85 per cent of the cost of doctor and hospital services.
- The Trade Practices Act 1974 outlawed restrictive trade practices and ensured consumer protection and product and manufacturing liability.
- The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 established a service to plan and manage national parks in line with international standards.
- The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 enabled Australia to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination.
- The Family Law Act 1975 replaced the existing grounds for divorce with a single ground, irretrievable breakdown of marriage (for example, having separated and lived apart for 12 months or more) and the extension of federal jurisdiction to maintenance, custody and property matters.
- As Treasurer in the Hawke government, Keating was the architect of the deregulation of the Australian economy.
- The government floated the Australian currency and allowed foreign banks to operate in Australia from 1983.
- Removed direct government controls from interest rates which had helped create a competitive disadvantage for Australian companies.
- Abolished the two-airline policy and achieved a general lowering of tariff levels.
- As prime minister, built strong bilateral links with Australia’s Asia-Pacific neighbours, particularly Indonesia.
- Was a driving force in establishing the Asia Pacific Economic forum (APEC) heads of government meeting with its commitment to regional free trade.
- Responded to the High Court decision in the Mabo case 1992 and enacted the Native Title Act 1993 and the Land Fund Act 1994, which was the first national recognition of indigenous occupation and title to land.
- In April 1993 he appointed a Republic Advisory Committee to examine options to make Australia a republic.
- Established the National Training Act 1992, presented the White Paper Working Nation in 1994 to combat rising unemployment. Proposed a national superannuation scheme to redress low national savings.
- Established National Film and Television Training School and Australia Council for the Arts. As Minister for Education and Science, laid groundwork for government assistance to independent schools.
- Initiated reform to Commonwealth law that led to decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.
- Rates of pay were standardised between the sexes.
That is just a brief look as time was against me, but it gives you a fair idea of their achievements. Based on what I’ve found though, I can’t say I agree with Gorton as a choice. Perhaps you will know something that I don’t.
Do you agree with his list? What would your list be?