Ballot Box

Ballot Box

The Australian Government, over 45 federal parliaments, has achieved much.  Often the initiatives that emanate from the parliamentary chambers in Canberra are evidence of advanced social, economic, financial and even scientific thinking.  We are the holders of many world firsts.

So much of this has been achieved through normal parliamentary process: the debating of bills brought on not only by the government in the House of Representatives, but by the Senate and Private Members themselves.  Over the life of the Federation since 1901, the Australian Parliament has enacted 12,437 bills up to about the middle of 2016.  Of course this doesn’t count the number of initiatives that were decided by administrative means, or even Ministerial discretion.

You know how many of those were the result of a plebiscite?  Just one.  A single plebiscite (one of 3 in the history of federation) that selected “Advance Australia Fair” in 1977.  There were two others, in 1916 and 1917, to determine whether to introduce conscription for military service in World War 1, but these were both rejected.

Here is a list of some important initiatives put into effect by the Government of Australia – it’s just a few and I’m sure I’m missing some.

But keep in mind: only one of these occurred as the result of a plebiscite.

1899Sent Troops to the Boer War
1901Established the White Australia Policy
1903Created equal voting rights for women
1903Created the High Court of Australia
1904Established the Conciliation and Arbitration Court
1906Annexed Southeastern New Guinea
1906Created the Bureau of Statistics
1906Increased size of High Court to Five
1907Established the basic wage
1908Created Invalid and Old Aged Pensions
1909Established formal diplomatic relations with Great Britain
1911Absorbed Northern Territory and Federal Capital territory into the Commonwealth
1911Started compulsory military training
1911Established the Royal Military College at Duntroon
1912Created a "baby bonus"
1912Created the Commonwealth Bank
1912Declared Wattle as Australia's national flower
1912Created a new Commonwealth Coat of Arms
1913Increased size of High Court to Seven
1913Established 'Foundation Day' for Canberra
1913Established the Naval College
1913Issued the first commonwealth stamp
1914Declared war on Germany
1914Occupied Rabaul and captured New Guinea
1914Took over Norfolk Island from NSW
1915Created the Australian Wheat board
1916Created Commonwealth Shipping Line
1917Completed construction of the 1690 km Port Augusta to Perth section of the TransAustralia railway, linking Perth to Sydney
1917Created the Commonwealth Police Force
1919Created the Commonwealth War Service Homes Commission
1919Established Australian administration of Nauru
1919Signed the Peace Treaty at Versailles
1921Created the Commonwealth Dept of Health
1921Established the Royal Australian Airforce
1922Decided to take large numbers of British immigrants
1922Made the red Australian Flag compulsory for merchant shipping
1923Created Loan Council
1924Established the Commonwealth Solar Observatory
1924Opened the Commonwealth Citrus research Station
1925Introduced compulsory voting for Federal elections
1926CSIRO set up
1926established independent and equal relationship amongst all former british dominions
1926imposed a federal levy on imported petrol
1927Established a Royal Commission into the Australian Film Industry
1927established the Forestry School in Adelaide
1929attempted to abolish the Conciliation and Arbitratoin Court
1932Authorised the granting on money for releif work to counter unemployment
1932Built the 'Dog on the Tucker Box' statue near Gundagai
1932Established the ABC
1933Proclaimed the Australian Antarctic Territory
1934attempted to ban Egon Kisch from entering Australia
1935Implemeted sanctions against Italy after invations of Ethiopia
1937Established Literature Censorship Board and lifted the ban on James Joyce's Ulsseys
1938Agreed to accept 15000 Jewish refugees from Europe
1939Declared war on Germany
1939Established a Grants Scheme for Writers
1939Introduced compulsory defence training
1940Established Australia's first diplomatic post, to USA and then Japan
1941Declared war on Japan
1942Enacted the Income Tax Act
1942Established a Dept of Post-War Reconstruction
1944Participated in establishlishing the World Bank and IMF
1945Established National Botanic Gardens
1945Formed the Commonwealth Investigation Service
1945Signed United Nations Charter
1946Accepted trusteeship of New Guinea and Papua
1946Established Joint Coal Board
1946Established the broadcast of House of Reps on radio
1947Established the first ABC news broadcast to counter bias in commercial news sources
1947Introduced the 40 hour working week
1947Set up the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition
1947Signed agreement with UN to accept displaced persons from Europe
1947Signed General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 'GATT'
1948Established public ownership of Qantas and Commonwealth Shipping Line
1949Created ASIO
1949Created Australian Citizenship
1949Established ASIO
1949Nearly doubled the size of Parliament
1949Started building the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme
1950Banned the Communist Party - later overturned by High Court
1950Helped to establish the Colombo Plan
1950Sent troops to Korea
1951Signed Peace Treaty with Japan
1951Starts national service
1952Signed ANZUS treaty
1953Allowed British atomic tests in Montebello Islands
1954Established permanent station in Antarctica
1954Signed up to Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation 'SEATO'
1955Charged Browen and Fitzpatrick with breaching privilege of parliament
1956Allowed British atomic tests at Maralinga, South Australia
1956Made ASIO a statutary authority
1956Set up the Conciliation and Arbitration Court
1957Started work on constructing Lake Burley Griffin
1958Estbalished australian nucular reactor at Lucas Heights
1958Made Christmas Island into an Australian Territory
1959Signed Treaty for management of Antarctica
1960created a new Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
1960established a new crime of 'treachery' and toughened definitions and penalties for espionage, sabotage and treason
1960Signed agreement to establish US satellite tracking stations
1960Split Commonwealth Bank and Reserve Bank of Australia
1961Built the 64-metre radio telescope at Parkes
1961Established 'no fault' divorce
1963Provided voting rights to indigenous people throughout Australia
1964Established 2 Royal Commissions into the sinking of the HMAS Voyager by the HMAS Melbourne
1964Re--introduced compulsory military service, selection by ballot
1965Imposed economic sanctions on Southern Rhodesia
1965Sent Australian troops to vietnam
1966Changed to Decimal Currency
1966Dismantled the White Australia Policy
1967Approved the building of top secret US Navy communications base at Pine Gap
1968Agreed to Independence for Nauru
1968Provided full wages for indigenous pastoral workers
1968Provided full wages for indigenous employees of the Commonwealth Govt
1968Stopped sending troops to Vietnam
1968Stopped twice-daily mail deliveries
1969Announced the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam
1969Granted women equal pay
1970Introduced the metric system
1971Final withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam
1972Upgraded Office of Aboriginal Affairs to ministerial level
1973established Queen Elizabeth as the Queen of Australia
1973Increased australian territorial seas from 3 to 12 miles
1973Signed Trade Agreement with People's Republic of China
1973Took control of coastal waters from the States
1973Abolished the death penalty for Commonwealth offences
1973Cut tariffs by 25% across the board to open up Australia's economy to the world
1973Reduced the voting age to 18
1974Allowed the opening of an embassy of North Korkea in Australia
1974Ended Saturday opening of Post Offices
1974Finally established diplomatic relations with North Korea after the Korean War
1974Increased the size of the senate
1975Created Family Court
1975Created National Parks and Wildlife service
1975Ceased Saturday mail deliveries
1975Abolished the Postmaster General's Department
1975Established an Australian Honors System to replace British Honours for australians
1975Handover of title deeds to part of Indigenous traditional lands at Wattie Creek
1975Introduced first national health insurance scheme - Medibank
1975Outlawed discrimination on the grounds of race
1976Enacted Aboriginal Land Rights Act
1976Proclamation of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act
1976Signed Australia-Japan Treaty of Friendship
1977Approved the mining and export of Uranium
1977Created the Federal Court
1977Created the office of Government Obmudsman
1977Signed the Gleneagles agreement that affirmed opposition to racial discriminiatoin in sport and prevented South Africa touring internationally
1978Created the Special Broadcasting Service
1978Enabled limited Self-Government by the Northern Territory
1978Regonised Indonesian soveriengty over East Timor
1979Established Australian Refugee Advisory Council
1979Formed the Australian Federal Police
1979Proclaimed the Kadadu National Park in Arnhem Land
1980Enacted a Whale Protection Act
1980Established National Institute of Sport
1980Returned control of coastal waters to the States
1981Created the Human Rights Commission
1982Applied and then lifted ban on imports from Argentina around the Falkland Islands War
1982Enacted the Frredom of Information Act
1983Called the Economic Summit
1983Deregulated the Australian dollar
1984Appointed first head of Commonwealth Department
1984Decided on 'Advance Australia Fair' as our new national anthem
1984Handed back the title to Uluru to Pitjanttatjara traditional owneres
1984Initiated the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia
1984Replaced Medibank with Medicare, including a 1% levy
1985Established the '30 year rule' for access to most Commonwealth records
1986Made the final separation of Australian legal system from the British parliament and courts
1987Proposed the Australia Card, although ultimately rejected
1988Enacted the Industrial relations Act
1988Proclaimed the golden wattle the official national floral emblem
1989Signed the Timor Gap Treaty with Indonesia
1990Created the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
1991Sent troops to the Gulf for Operation Desert Storm
1992Proclaimed a national day to celebrate the golden wattle
1992Sent Australian trools to Somalia
1993Agreed to pay Nauru 107 million dollars for damage caused by phosphate mining
1993Proclaimed the national australian gemstone: Opal
1993Signed up to Asia-Pacific Economic Forum - APEC
1994Established the Industrial Relations Court of Australia
1995Signed up to World Trade Organisation - WTO
1996Initiated uniform gun-control laws throughout Australia and organised a buy-back of privately owned guns
1996Sold 50% of Telstra
1998Initiated the Constitutional Convention
1999Sent troops to East Timor
2000Introduced a Goods and Services Tax
2000Resumed diplomatic relations with North Korea
2001Refused entry to Tampa
2001Supported US President George W Busin in the world's first 'war on terror' after 9/11 terror attacks
2002Participated in the decision to suspend Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth
2003Sent Troops to Middle east to act against Iraq
2004Agreed to partner with Indonesia to help them recover from the impacts of Boxing Day Tsunami
2004Established a National Water Commission
2004Signed up to the Free Trade Agreement with USA
2004Changed Marriage Act to specify "man" and "woman"
2005Agreed to the sale of the rest of Telstra to the public
2006Introduced Workchoices
2007Appointed the first female Deputy Prime Minister
2007Prosecuted the Chasers for breaching APEC security cordon in Sydney
2007Signed the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions
2008Apologised for the effect of past government policies on Indigenous people
2008Appointed the first female Governor-General
2010Introduced Fair Work program to replace Workchoices
2010Prohibited the reinstatement of capital punishment in all Australian states and territories.
2015Gave a knighthood to Prince Phillip