Federal Politics

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Comfortable country far from Orwell's vision

THIRTY-FIVE years earlier the English novelist and journalist George Orwell had written a satire about a scary place called Oceania that was terrorised by a totalitarian political party. But when 1984 actually came around Australia was one of the more relaxed and comfortable places in the world.

The popularity of the prime minister, Bob Hawke, had hardly been blunted since the March 1983 election. His only noticeable injury was copping one in the face when the press gallery journalist Gary O'Neill cheekily bowled a bouncer during a politicians versus media cricket match.

However, if Western Mining Corporation's Hugh Morgan worried about ''High Keynesians'' hiding in the left, and high wages and giving away land to Aborigines, much of the rest of the country was cruising towards a boom. The ride continued through 1985 and Australia just hung on happily.

There was little change over the two years.

Politics was mainly about re-elections. Not only did Hawke easily endure, but Neville Wran, John Cain, Brian Burke and John Bannon all continued as premiers. And Ronald Reagan won a second term to complete his defeat of the so-called ''evil empire'' of the USSR.

The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. The IRA attempted to assassinate the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at a Conservative Party conference.


At Milperra home-grown evil surfaced when the Comancheros and Bandidos gave a glimpse of the violent biker culture by killing seven and wounding 15 of themselves. The corrupt BLF leader Norm Gallagher was jailed for receiving secret commissions and then released. The drug boss Robert Trimbole was collared briefly in Dublin and the National Crime Authority established. A copy of the Costigan report was tabled in the Victorian Parliament linking Kerry Packer with crimes and urging his prosecution (he was later exonerated of all allegations). And High Court Justice Lionel Murphy was committed for trial for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Western Australia became the last state to abolish capital punishment. Three Ananda Marga sect members were released after serving seven years on conspiracy to murder charges linked to the 1978 Hilton bombing. A federal task force was established to co-ordinate the AIDS campaign. Homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalised in NSW while Victoria legalised brothels. Mice plagues swept NSW, Victoria and South Australia and 220,000 kangaroos were culled in NSW.

In Queensland a summer power strike turned the premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, into an industrial relations warrior and resulted in months of illegal marches. On Palm Sunday 1985, 300,000 marched in anti-nuclear rallies. The French government, busy testing nuclear bombs in the South Pacific, sank the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand.

Tim Macartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer became the first Australians to summit Mount Everest. The world's first frozen-embryo baby was born in Melbourne. In London Prince Harry, the second son of Princess Charles and the Princess of Wales, came along.

Among the dead were the television quiz king Bob Dyer, writers Xavier Herbert, Alan Marshall, Hal Porter and Eleanor Dark, poet Douglas Stewart, Nobel prize-winning virologist Macfarlane Burnet, politicians Bill McKell and Percy Spender and tennis coach Harry Hopman.

The world stopped for the Los Angeles Olympics. Carl Lewis won four gold medals. The World Series renegades Greg Chappell, Rod March and Dennis Lillee retired from Test cricket and Australia played England in the first international cricket match under lights at the MCG. The boxer Jeff Fenech and surfer Tom Carroll won world crowns. Adelaide staged its first formula one grand prix, and Geoffrey Edelsten bought the Sydney Swans for a reported $6.3 million.

Medicare started and the $1 note was replaced by a coin. The banks were deregulated and G.J. Coles took over Myer. Darling Harbour redevelopment started.

The top films were Back to the Future, The Killing Fields, Ghostbusters and The Terminator. Prince's When Doves Cry, Lionel Ritchie's Hello, and Wham's Careless Whisper and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Dire Straits' Money for Nothing were among the top hits. Dire Straits' album Brothers In Arms was one of the first albums directed at the CD market. In March 1985, the ABC's Weekend Magazine ceased and Neighbours began 10 days later.

John Howard became Liberal leader. And British scientists found a hole in the ozone layer.

Arthur Malcolm, an Anglican, was consecrated Australia's first Aboriginal bishop, and freehold title to Ayers Rock and Uluru National Park was handed over to the locals.

On December 2, 1985, the Australia Act abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council, cutting Australia's last constitutional ties with Britain.