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Australia Modern History

Civil coalitions led the country during the 1950s and 1960s. In the early 1970s, the Social Democratic Labor took over. Thereafter, the government continued to switch between the blocks. A good economic development enabled the bourgeois coalition government under Liberal leader John Howard to win four consecutive elections from 1996 until 2007. However, in the election that year Labor, with its new party leader Kevin Rudd, won. One of Rudd's first steps was to sign the Kyoto Agreement and to officially apologize to Aborigines for past injustices.

From 1949 to 1972, the country was ruled by bourgeois coalitions and the economy grew steadily. In 1972, the government was taken over by Labor under Gough Whitlam. The change of power was partly due to the bourgeois government's support for the US in the Vietnam War. As in many other Western countries, not least TV images from the fighting led to a strong opinion against the war. Contributing also caused more than 500 Australian soldiers to die in Vietnam.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Australia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

A number of reforms were implemented: the social protection network was strengthened, a public health care system was introduced and the Aborigines were granted certain land rights. The Papua New Guinea colony gained its independence and Australia's contacts were directed to Asia.

However, the economy did not pass all the reforms; government spending doubled and the government budget deficit rose. In 1974 Parliament rejected Whitlam's draft budget and the Governor-General made the unique decision to dismiss the Prime Minister. The coalition between liberals and the National Party that took office also won subsequent elections. However, dissatisfaction with economic policy led Labor to a 1983 victory over the dynamic former trade unionist Bob Hawke.

Broad consensus solutions with business and trade unions became Hawke's economic recipe. In the almost liberal spirit, tax cuts, budgetary tightening, liberalization of the financial market, wage restrictions and reduced protectionism were taken to create growth. Financial crises and dissatisfaction, not least within their own party, followed, but politics also met with understanding among voters. The divided and scandalous opposition found it difficult to attack Hawke's policy from the right.

Contemporary History of AustraliaCivil coalition gains power

Before the 1996 parliamentary elections, the new Prime Minister Paul Keating sought to make the state of affairs a key issue: Labor wanted to make Australia a republic in 2001, on the centenary of the formation of the federal state. But the monarchy-friendly opposition managed to carry over the debate on the economy. The Labor government, which failed to deliver on promised tax cuts and forced budget cuts, ended up on the defensive when the bourgeois opposition promised tax breaks for families with children. The 1996 election was a serious loss for Labor. The Liberals gained their own majority in the House of Representatives, but still formed a coalition government with the National Party.

From 1996-2007, the country was ruled by a bourgeois coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party with the Liberal Party leader, John Howard, as prime minister.

The government's economic policy was successful, but that did not mean that the criticism did not occur. Cuts in public spending sparked protests from the left and in the countryside during the first years of government. The introduction of a new tax and accounting system in 2000 irritated the government's support troops among small businesses. In the early 1990s, the government was more generous with spending. However, growth was so good that there was still surplus in the Treasury.

During the first half of the 1990s, the rights of Aborigines had been strengthened, but the Howard government lowered its contributions to the indigenous population and allowed the aborigines to limit the land rights extended by the courts. The contributions to Aborigines, but especially the increasing immigration from Asia, were heavily criticized by populist politicians such as Pauline Hanson whose party, One Nation, saw success in the 1998 elections.

Refugee policy is tightened

Howard also took a tough stance towards refugees. In 2001, the federal parliament passed stricter refugee laws to keep boat refugees away and refugees who came to the country illegally by boat were either returned to Indonesia or received by Nauru and Papua New Guinea in exchange for aid. The tougher stance, coupled with unrest after the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001, is believed to have contributed to the government winning elections that year.

A backlash for Howard came in February 2003 when he lost a vote of no confidence in the Senate because of the government's decision to support US plans for war in Iraq. However, it had no direct political consequences.

In the 2004 election, which was dominated by economic issues, Howard won a grand victory and succeeded for the first time in obtaining a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the spring of 2005, the Government presented major reductions in income tax. Thanks to increased tax revenues in general, including increased exports of coal and iron ore to China, the budget for 2005/2006 was still at a plus. In 2006, diplomat Kevin Rudd was named new Labor leader.

Fighting terrorism was an important issue for the Howard government. The terrorist attacks on the Indonesian island of Bali in October 2002, when 88 Australians were killed, shocked the nation and the fear grew that Australia would also be attacked by terrorists. A little over six months later, the Senate approved a new anti-terrorism law, which gave the security police the right to detain people for a week without prosecution. Three years later, the legislation was further tightened. It was now allowed to keep suspected terrorists in custody without prosecution for up to 14 days and the police were given the right to use electronic surveillance and in some situations "shoot to kill". It would also take longer to become an Australian citizen.

After a public investigation revealed that alcoholism and a lack of education in the Northern Territory led to a large number of child sexual abuse, it was decided that the government would take over the administration in some 60 aboriginal areas. Some Aboriginal organizations claimed that the measures were racist and more authoritarian than necessary, while others welcomed them. The government was criticized for not consulting the Aboriginal people before taking the measures. Leading politicians at the state level accused Prime Minister Howard of trying to win points ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Many in Labor felt that more should be done to solve the problems in the longer term.

Parliamentary elections 2007

In October 2007, Howard announced parliamentary elections until November. He hoped that the good economy would give the government votes, but Labor's opinion polls showed ten percent, including through promises to sign the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gases and withdraw Australia's troops from Iraq as well as new investment in education and care.

In the November 2007 parliamentary elections, Labor won a major vote with 53 percent of the vote. Kevin Rudd was named prime minister. Labor also dominated at the state level.

The Liberal Party and the National Party, after the 2007 election loss, suffered something of a crisis and their leaders resigned.

In Rudd's government, Julia Gillard became the first woman in the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Rudd's first action as prime minister was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, something his representative John Howard stubbornly refused.

In a ceremony in Parliament in February 2008, Prime Minister Rudd apologized to all Aborigines for the abuses committed against them for two centuries (see Population and Languages). Rudd also had the former government's cancellation of asylum seekers detained on remote South Pacific islands pending notification if they were allowed to stay in Australia.

The question of whether the country was to become a republic was raised again, but according to Rudd, this was not a high priority, despite the promise of a referendum on the monarchy in the electoral movement.

Discussions about climate policy

In 2009, Rudd's government encountered major problems when it sought to enforce a law on a greenhouse gas emissions trading system. The intention was to get the law passed in the Senate with the help of the Liberal Party. Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull promised the party would support the government. But protests came from party members who did not consider it scientifically proven that climate change was caused by greenhouse gas emissions and also saw financial risks with the proposal. The brawl ended with Turnbull being forced to resign as party chairman after losing a vote against Tony Abbott. As the new leader of the Liberal Party, Abbott said he intended to stop the government's emissions trading proposals. Shortly thereafter, when the Senate raised the issue for a vote, a majority voted against the proposal.

All trips around the emissions trading caused the Labor government to collapse in opinion polls. The dissatisfaction was fueled by another controversial government proposal to introduce a so-called super tax for the country's mining industry, where profits above a certain level would be taxed extra hard. At the beginning of the summer, confidence in Labor was so low that Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard openly challenged Rudd for the post of party chairman and thus head of government. Rudd found it too good not to stand in the vote and all the party's MPs cast their vote on Gillard.

Gillard vowed to reinstate voters' confidence in Labor ahead of the parliamentary elections later in 2010. She also managed to reach a compromise with the mining companies on the proposed super tax: a tax rate of 30 percent instead of the 40 percent of the original proposal.

The 2010 election

In July 2010, Prime Minister Gillard announced elections for August 21. The most important issues were immigration, the economy including the taxation of the mining sector, climate change and parental leave. Both Gillard and the new opposition leader Abbott advocated reduced immigration. Both parties also wanted to tighten up the asylum policy and deal with the problem of boat refugees who entered the country illegally.

The election was a disappointment for Labor, who did not get his own majority in the House of Representatives. But it also did not get the opposition coalition between the Liberals and the National Party: Labor was given 72 seats in the House of Representatives, while the Opposition Alliance took home 73 seats. The Greens were given a mandate and four independent candidates were voted into the lower chamber. After Labor managed to secure the support of the Greens and three independent candidates, it was clear that Gillard could continue as prime minister. An important part of the settlement was Gillard's pledge to invest in rural areas. Labor thus formed a minority government. Gillard appointed Kevin Rudd as Foreign Minister in the new government.

Unusually heavy and sustained rainfall in January 2011 caused the worst flooding in Queensland in the North East in several decades. The water masses covered at most a surface of the total size of Germany and France.

In 2011, large demonstrations were held in the country against the government's plans to introduce a tax on carbon dioxide emissions in 2012. The tax was part of the settlement following the election concluded with the Greens. The protesters claimed that the tax would damage the country's economy by increasing household costs and causing unemployment, and they received support from the Conservative opposition. However, the carbon dioxide tax was voted through in Parliament by a barely margin in the fall of 2011, which meant that the country's 500 largest emission booths would be forced to pay tax.

Refugee camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea

The issue of asylum and refugee policy gained momentum in connection with reports of refugees who drowned when they tried to get to Australia with the help of human traffickers. In August 2012, Parliament approved a new law to re-open Australian camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers. It was also decided that Australia would receive 45 percent more refugees than before.

After a long period of power struggles within Labor, Gillard was deposed as party leader in June 2013 through an internal vote on the chair. She lost to Rudd with the numbers 45 to 57. Gillard also left the Prime Minister's post and Rudd was installed as head of government. A couple of months later, Rudd announced elections until September 7.

In their election campaign, the bourgeois parties highlighted Labour's repeated problems in agreeing on who would lead the party. In addition, it promised to withdraw the unpopular carbon tax as well as taxes in the mining industry.

In the elections, the Liberal Party and the National Party together secured a clear majority of seats in the House of Representatives, while Labor made one of its worst elections in two decades. After the election, Kevin Rudd chose to step down as Labor leader, which led to a new power struggle for leadership within the party. Bill Shorten came out victorious.

 
 

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