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Memento : Issue 22
f 2 memento january 2003 NAA: A6180, 5/12/72/6 More excerpts from Ian Hancock's talk* Foreign affairs Except for the continued deployment of a small advisory team, the McMahon government completed Australia's military withdrawal from South Vietnam. While defending its refusal to recognise China, the government moved towards establishing closer relations with Japan and Indonesia, further belying claims by later Labor Prime Ministers that their governments 'discovered' another side of Asia. The Australian government was regarding Asia as less of a threat and more of an opportunity for economic development. When the McMahon government failed to support a New Zealand--Peru resolution opposing French nuclear tests in the Pacific during a meeting in Stockholm, a public outcry at home forced it to take a stronger stand. Around the globe Abroad, there were signs of optimism. President Nixon's visit to China and the Soviet Union appeared to herald a new era in the Cold War, the new state of Bangladesh emerged out of East Pakistan, and Britain was preparing to enter the European Economic Community. On the gloomier side were Idi Amin's decision to expel most Asians from Uganda, the massacre of 25 civilians at Lod airport by three Japanese terrorists, the IRA's launch of 'Bloody Friday' in Belfast after the British government imposed direct rule in Northern Ireland, and Black September's killing of 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. Australia had its own experience of what the Liberal Attorney-General called a 'world-wide problem' when two bombs exploded in Sydney in September and letter bombs were intercepted by authorities on their way to Israeli destinations within Australia. The new Whitlam government On 2 December Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party to election victory. Three days later he and his deputy, Lance Barnard, were sworn in as a two-man ministry and announced 40 decisions in advance of the Caucus elections for the ministry (though after consultations with shadow ministers). These decisions included freeing draft resisters, excluding racially selected sporting teams, and re- opening the equal pay case. Elizabeth Evatt was appointed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and a judicial inquiry was established as the first move towards the legal recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The hectic pace of these two weeks further overshadowed the record of the McMahon government while adding to the excitement of those who had backed Labor's victory. Indigenous issues Indigenous matters gained more attention in 1972, partly because of the appearance of the Tent Embassy in front of Parliament House and the government's attempts to close it, and partly because of the issue of land rights. According to McMahon's Australia Day statement, the government fully understood 'the desire of the Aboriginal people to have their affinity with the land with which they have been associated recognised by law'. But it refused to embrace a concept that smacked of 'separate development'. Gough Whitlam delivers an election speech with the campaign slogan 'It's Time'. Economic issues The Treasurer, Billy Snedden, considered that the major economic problems in 1972 were 'intolerably' high inflation, at around 7 per cent per annum, and subdued consumer spending, despite a rise in average weekly earnings of 9 per cent. The government tried three times during 1972 to promote growth and consumer spending by providing funds for the States and for rural relief, increasing social service benefits and reducing personal income tax.