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Memento : Issue 28
Summer--Autumn 2005 MEMENTO 5 Other domestic matters Throughout 1974, Bill Hayden, Minister for Social Security, proceeded to negotiate for the introduction of Medibank. Despite continued opposition from health funds, the coalition and the medical profession, he had achieved sufficient progress by the end of the year to be confident of a new beginning in the provision and funding of health services. Meanwhile, Attorney- General Lionel Murphy proceeded with two landmark pieces of legislation. The new Trade Practices Act imposed tougher sanctions for breaches and provided greater consumer protection to tackle unfair or dishonest advertising. The Family Law Bill introduced a single no-fault ground for divorce, namely, the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, and recognised the non-financial contribution of women to the home in making a property settlement. The economy Australian politics in 1974 were conducted against a background of an economy in strife. The economists, politicians, soothsayers and jeremiahs who contributed to a confusing debate were operating in unfamiliar territory. They were confronted with the supposedly unthinkable: a simultaneous increase in the rates of inflation and unemployment. In December 1972 the annual rate of inflation stood at 4.5 per cent. Within 10 months it had reached 10 per cent. By June 1974 it had blown out to 14.4 per cent. At the same time, the numbers of unemployed had risen from 71,000 in June to 111,000 in August. If, during the first half of 1974, the Whitlam government looked to be in control of itself and -- more or less -- the economy, it failed on both counts in the second. By the end of the year, Labor was in deep trouble, especially after being trounced in the Queensland State election on 7 December. A week later, the 'loans affair' all but sealed its fate. On 13--14 December four ministers -- Gough Whitlam, Jim Cairns, Rex Connor and Lionel Murphy -- agreed to borrow $4 billion 'for temporary purposes'. A mid- 1974 fall-out between Treasury and the government and continuing suspicions between the two were important components in this secretive enterprise. This bizarre excursion into the world of 'funny money' and unconventional contacts eventually helped to bring down the Whitlam government in 1975. (opposite) Aboriginal demonstration outside Parliament House, 1974. NAA: A6180, 14/3/74/338 (above left) Gough Whitlam addresses a stellar audience at the United Nations in New York in 1974. NAA: A6180, 21/10/74/3 (above right) Aerial view of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy. NAA: A8746, KN29/1/75/16 Other memorable events 1974 was also the year the ABC launched Countdown (and Molly Meldrum). Olivia Newton-John won two Grammy awards and was declared Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year for I Honestly Love You. Denis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in Brisbane set Ian Chappell's team on the path to cricket domination. And Alan McGilvray confessed that he simplified his Monday and Tuesday cricket commentaries to help out the housewives who were listening whilst doing the laundry. It was the year that tertiary education fees, and broadcasting and television licence fees, were abolished. And, tragically, it was the year that Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin on Christmas morning, killing 65 people. To read Ian Hancock's paper in full, or to view the 1974 Cabinet records online, visit The Collection section of our website at www.naa.gov.au.