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'Necessary and urgent'? The politics of Northern Australia, 1945-75.

This article chiefly traces the rise and fall of an idea. (1) Between 1945 and 1975, there was strong support for the notion that isolated Northern Australia was the most pivotal region of Australia, entitled to special consideration from the Commonwealth because of its potential strategic and economic significance. A central feature of the Northern Australia story is the role of federal Labor. Especially through the efforts of Gough Whitlam, the Australian Labor Party used the example of Northern Australia to highlight the benefits of an increased Commonwealth role in matters traditionally dealt with by the states. By the time Whitlam became Prime Minister, however, northern development no longer carried much weight in discussions of national priorities. As fear of external invasion from the north declined during the 1960s and 1970s, it became difficult to sustain the idea that Northern Australia was a region whose needs deserved priority over other regional areas.

Unofficial borders such as those of 'Northern Australia' are notoriously flexible. In this paper, Northern Australia will be defined as those parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia which are located north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Debates on Northern Australia between 1945 and 1975 were largely about the 'politics of remoteness' with frequent reference to the tropics. These factors make the Tropic of Capricorn the most logical southern boundary for this era. (2)

In practice, politicians and public servants from the 1940s onwards would sometimes adopt a generous geographical definition of Northern Australia which facilitated the inclusion of developments or proposals located well below the Tropic of Capricorn. In this way, Queensland towns like Bundaberg and Gladstone were expediently categorised as part of the north. During the 1961 election, ALP leader Arthur Calwell's press secretary, Graham Freudenberg, visited the north and has since shared a telling anecdote about Queensland geographical perceptions:
   In that campaign I learnt a lesson about northern psychology. In
   Townsville, Arthur [Calwell] naturally stressed the importance of
   northern development, and supported the idea, then being mooted, of
   an aluminium smelter at Gladstone. A bloke piped up from the back:
   'Hey Arthur, Gladstone's South. What are you going to do for the
   North?' (3)

While generalisations will be made about Northern Australia as a whole, Queensland will be the predominant focus of attention because of its prominence in political discussion on northern development. It was Queensland which had the largest number of settlers north of Capricorn. Queenslanders were also the most vociferous in the push to develop the north, and quickest to suggest that the region was being neglected by the Commonwealth Government.

Curtin, Chifley and Northern Australia 1944-1949

Commonwealth interest in Northern Australia intensified during World War II because the Pacific war forced Australia to confront the lopsided nature of its development. As Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, Sir Thomas Blamey, asserted, large areas of the continent were underdeveloped, raising the spectre of potential military chaos:
   Invasion of any part of the country would have cut off some regions
   from State and Commonwealth centres; it would have raised problems
   of the evacuation of civilians and goods, of the maintenance of
   food supplies, of local government in both exposed and occupied
   areas, and of effective liaison between civil and military
   authority. (4)

Partly through fear of the strategic consequences of 'uneven development', the Curtin-Chifley Labor governments adopted a policy of decentralisation designed to facilitate regional settlement beyond the capital cities. One regional proposal which became the subject of much debate was the development of Northern Australia. As senior bureaucrat H.C. Coombs reminded Chifley, Curtin regarded the development of the north as a key post-war goal:
   At the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which was
   held in Canberra in October 1944 ... Curtin, when outlining the
   Commonwealth Government's policy for development and
   decentralisation drew attention to the fact that it was essential
   to the future security of Australia that renewed efforts should be
   made to develop the sparsely populated areas of Northern Australia.

Curtin was responding to the collective fear of invasion, partly caused by Japanese air raids on Australia, especially at Darwin and Broome. Queensland, in particular, had a sense of vulnerability because of its proximity to the battle zone of New Guinea. It provided major training grounds and bases for allied troops bound for overseas, so citizens were constantly reminded of the war. Many Queenslanders believed the myth that a 'Brisbane line' had been drawn, with the northern part of Australia to be abandoned in the event of Japanese invasion. (6)

Curtin's initial interest in the development of Northern Australia ultimately resulted in the establishment by the Commonwealth of the Northern Australia Development Committee (NADC) in late 1945 when Ben Chifley had taken over as Prime Minister. NADC was largely advisory in nature and was concerned with the future development of the north. Its definition of the north was very liberal. It included the entire Northern Territory, all of Western Australia above 26[degrees] latitude, all of Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn plus a large area of the latter state's south-west. (7) The committee included two state-approved representatives each from Western Australia and Queensland, and two Commonwealth public servants representing the Department of Interior's interests in the Northern Territory. The Director-General of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, H.C. Coombs, acted as chairman.

The committee was designed to help plan the development of Northern Australia 'in a way which recognised that the Commonwealth has responsibilities to parts of the north not directly under its jurisdiction'. (8) NADC's main achievement was in the promotion of greater knowledge and information about Northern Australia and its resources, which had been relatively sketchy up to that point. As prominent public servant Grenfell Rudduck pointed out in the early 1950s:
   [NADC] initiated or at least accelerated practically all of the
   major survey activities now being undertaken in the north. For
   example, Queensland's work on the Channel Country, the Burdekin
   proposal and the Mareeba-Dimbulah Scheme were all developed for
   presentation to the Commonwealth through the Committee. It was
   responsible for the programme of air photography, the benefit of
   which is now being felt by [the] Mineral Resources Bureau, CSIRO
   and other organisations ... (9)

In May 1947, NADC submitted a report on northern development to the Government. It recommended an annual expenditure of 1,235,000 [pounds sterling] on improving facilities in the north to attract people there, and to make life in a climate marked by extreme dry weather and unpredictable seasonal rainfalls more comfortable. The committee presumed that on national interest grounds, the Commonwealth would be prepared to shoulder the cost of most of this amount.

NADC's recommendations included measures designed to alleviate the isolation of women and children, such as annual 'holiday excursion fares'; ambitious transport projects; the construction of medical and educational facilities; and water conservation projects to help pastoralists, miners and townfolk overcome drought. The committee also identified several regional infrastructure projects which it felt the Commonwealth should invest in, such as Queensland's foreshadowed Burdekin River high level road and rail bridge 'in view of the fact that all weather communications between Northern Australia and the South is essential to the development of Northern Australia'. (10)

Ben Chifley--who was both Prime Minister and Treasurer--gave the report a lukewarm reception. He was influenced by the Treasury, which felt that NADC's program of northern development was poorly costed, and regarded some proposals, such as those addressing educational disadvantage, as intruding on state responsibilities. (11) Moreover, Chifley was perturbed that the settled areas of the North Queensland coast and hinterland (such as the Burdekin River) were included in NADC recommendations: 'The area that was brought in includes a population of 177,000 along the [Queensland] coast. Somebody told me that I had agreed to the inclusion of this area. If that is so, I must have been ill at the time.' (12)

NADC's hopes of encouraging the Commonwealth to introduce a more ambitious plan for Northern Australia were thus very quickly dashed. While the Commonwealth retained some concern about the possibility of a resurgent Japanese military, the wartime urgency expressed by Curtin for the development of Northern Australia's open spaces had very quickly dissipated. In a public statement in 1946, H.V. Johnson, the Minister for the Interior, contradicted popular beliefs about the 'vulnerable north', claiming its undeveloped nature had actually been 'a definite deterrent to the invasion of Australia'. (13) The advent of the atomic bomb, the emerging Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and the consequent belief that future armed conflict would likely be fought in the North Pacific and Europe had temporarily undermined the defence case for building up the north. (14)

Excising the most populated Queensland areas of Northern Australia and their infrastructure demands from the NADC projected development program was conceivably a tactic designed to cut costs to the Commonwealth. But Chifley's intransigence on this point infuriated the Queensland Labor Premier, Ned Hanlon, who blasted the Prime Minister at the August 1947 Premiers Conference:
   The Burdekin River is much more important to the safety of
   Australia than is the Murray River. Your attitude has changed now
   because the Japanese are safely put away for a generation, but they
   have not been put away for all time. The northern part of Australia
   was considered to be very important a few years ago. The Burdekin
   River has just as much fight to development as any other river.

The towns within the Burdekin River region did have severe infrastructure problems in the 1940s, as an anonymous public servant reported: 'Except for the main road to Townsville, and part of the road to Bowen, 2 to 3 inches of rain is quite sufficient to completely immobilise all road transport.' (16) But Hanlon's appeal to Chifley's sense of national security was futile. Following Chifley's lack of interest in the 1947 report, the Northern Australia Development Committee was gradually wound down. It was virtually defunct by the end of the Chifley era. (17)

A radio broadcast on Northern Australia by Chifley circa 1949 showed the extent to which his government wished to dampen expectations of Commonwealth financial largesse: '[Northern Australia] isn't a land offering productive abundance, nor is it one which the Commonwealth is going to write off as a bad debt ... There are substantial mineral deposits, although I don't think the country is an El Dorado.' (18)

In contrast to its caution over northern development, the Chifley Government's last year in office (1949) saw the Commonwealth establish the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. The Snowy Mountains scheme involved diverting water inland from the eastward-flowing Snowy River, the aim being to use the redirected water flow for irrigation, drought relief and hydro-electricity in parts of Victoria and New South Wales. Completed in 1974, the scheme created several large dams, power stations and 140 kilometres of tunnels. The sheer scale and ingenuity of the Snowy Mountains scheme captured the imagination and national pride of many Australians. It also led many politicians to regard the Snowy Mountains scheme as the model for northern development. (19)


The Chifley Government's willingness to commit to the Snowy Mountains scheme was probably influenced, at least in part, by the familiarity of both the natural resources involved and the concept, which had been debated and reported on for several years. (20) Further, while the scheme was potentially a financial risk, Victoria and New South Wales had sufficient settlement of farmers and citizens to make such a scheme seem viable. Northern Australia proposals, by contrast, often suffered because of incomplete knowledge of natural resources and the lack of a concentrated population to justify expensive projects.

Perhaps under pressure from Hanlon to support northern development, Chifley announced in a policy speech broadcast on 14 November 1949 that the Commonwealth was 'considering a joint effort with the Queensland Government to develop the Burdekin River irrigation scheme'. (21) During that month Hanlon passed a bill in the Queensland Parliament authorising his Government to 'enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth' to jointly finance the Burdekin River irrigation scheme, which would, among other things, boast a 138-foot dam and hydro-electric power generation. (22) The estimated cost of the proposal was 29 million [pounds sterling].

While admitting some local disadvantages, such as irregular rainfall patterns, Hanlon exuded a confidence in the scheme that was not shared by all. A Commonwealth interdepartmental committee set up by Chifley to investigate the proposal provided a very negative report:
   The proposals as officially submitted by the Queensland Government
   are characterized by a measure of vagueness as far as the proposed
   land use is concerned. This feature is applicable to many of the
   references to watering, soils and pasture and crop possibilities.
   Many of the claims made are unsupported by direct experimental or
   commercial experience. (23)

After his defeat in the 1949 federal elections, Chifley claimed that he had 'personally and by telephone' informed the Queensland Premier that he was prepared to recommend to his Government that the Commonwealth should share the cost of the Burdekin River scheme with Queensland 'on a 50:50 basis'. Chifley had to admit, however, that there was no formal agreement between the two governments. (24) Given the less than favourable Commonwealth investigation of the scheme, and Chifley's conservative outlook on northern development, it is unlikely that the Burdekin River scheme would have proceeded, at least not without lengthy delays.

However, when the incoming Menzies Government expressed little interest in developing the Burdekin River area, a potent Labor myth began to be created by W. F. Edmonds (Member of the House of Representatives for Herbert) and other ALP figures. Gough Whitlam became one of a number of prominent Labor MPs in the 1950s and 1960s who nostalgically claimed that developing the north was part of the unfulfilled Chifley legacy, tragically curtailed by the election of an uncaring Menzies Government:
   In 1949 the Chifley Government and Hanlon Government in Queensland
   had agreed on a Snowy Mountains type authority for the Burdekin
   River but the Menzies Government abandoned the scheme. (25)

The ALP's rhetoric on northern development was to be strongly influenced by this rose-tinted view of the Chifley Government's northern credentials, which was used to suggest that the ALP alone had a strong commitment to the north.

Northern development and ALP policy in the 1950s and early 1960s

Prior to his election as Prime Minister in 1949, Robert Menzies promised to 'pay much-needed attention to more remote and undeveloped areas such as North Queensland, the Northern Territory and North-West Australia'. (26) Apart from funding agricultural and other scientific research, however, the Menzies Government placed Northern Australia very low on its agenda until 1959. In this year, it agreed to give the Queensland Government a 20 million [pounds sterling] loan (with interest repayments) to assist with the reconstruction of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway. This infrastructure project facilitated the mineral production plans of a well-established company, Mount Isa Mines. Apart from this initiative, the Liberal-Country Party Government had a cautious approach to spending money on northern development which was to continue through the 1960s. (27)

During its years opposing the Menzies Government, the ALP began to see electoral advantages in portraying itself as the champion of northern development. This conviction partly stemmed from growing fear of communism and military aggression evident within China, North Vietnam and other parts of South-East Asia. Of particular concern to many Australians was President Sukarno's unstable rule in Indonesia between 1949 and 1965, which relied on both the military and the Indonesian Communist Party. (28)

Journalists, politicians and advocates of a new state of North Queensland imagined that northern resources were being viewed with hungry eyes. The North Queensland ALP member for Kennedy, Bill Riordan, spoke for many when he combined the familiar cry of northern neglect with the

new fear of decolonised Asia:
   The people living in [Northern Australia] ... gravely doubt whether
   Canberra realizes the menace to our north, and they believe that
   their areas are regarded as the 'far north' by Melbourne, Sydney
   and Canberra. Are we in Canberra conscious that ... Melville Island
   is less than 200 miles from Indonesia or about the distance of
   Canberra from Sydney? (29)

By the 1955 election, Opposition Leader H.V. Evatt was proclaiming that 'the development and peopling of the Northern areas of Australia, covering the Northern Territory and extending to the north of Queensland and Western Australia, is vital to national welfare and defence'. This was followed, in 1958, by a promise that Labor, if elected, would create a 'Minister for the Northern Territory and North Australian Affairs'. (30)

A rising federal ALP parliamentarian, Gough Whitlam, subsequently became interested in creating a more cohesive Northern Australia policy. His concern was sparked by the 1958 election, which resulted in Labor losing the Queensland seat of Herbert, a Townsville constituency held by the ALP since 1925. This suggested to Whitlam that his party needed to concentrate more fully on winning the support of Northern Australia. (31)

The issue of northern development was used by Whitlam as an example of how the Commonwealth could circumvent states' rights by using section 96 of the Australian Constitution, which gave the Australian Parliament the right to 'grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit'. Whitlam's increasing confidence in the nation-building potential of section 96 stemmed from his membership of the Parliament's bipartisan Constitutional Review Committee (1956-59), appointed by Menzies to recommend constitutional reform.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Constitutional Review Committee received submissions from new state movements in Queensland, seeking the creation of new northern states for the 'defence and safety of Australia'. (32) With the powerful section 96 in his hands, Whitlam evidently did not think new states were necessary to assist the development of the north. In 1960, his first year as Deputy Opposition Leader, Whitlam expressed his faith in the Commonwealth's ability to develop the latent wealth of Northern Australia:
   Australians have a greater opportunity and obligation than any
   other race of European origin to develop an area of the tropics ...
   the Commonwealth should initiate a project similar to the Snowy
   Mountains scheme for the purposes of carrying on national
   development in the north ... section 96 ... makes it clear that
   this Government can make grants to the States for any purpose it
   sees fit. (33)

As his former speech writer Graham Freudenberg has pointed out, Whitlam's interest in Northern Australia had a strong intellectual basis: it gave him a platform from which to express 'his main ideas on the role of government, economic planning, regional development, Commonwealth-State relations and the use of the Australian Constitution'. (34)

New Opposition Leader (1960-67) Arthur Calwell's political attraction to Northern Australia was more visceral, although he adopted some of Whitlam's phrases and was indebted to the younger man's policy work on this issue. Calwell had popularised the phrase 'populate or perish' as Immigration Minister in the 1940s, and regarded an underpopulated north as a potential national risk. Both Whitlam and Calwell were united in their belief in an expanded role for the Federal Government. As Calwell wrote:
   Decentralization and Northern development are part of the same
   problem because dealing with them must be approached along the same
   lines--through the acceptance by the Federal Government of the
   responsibility to plan. (35)


The rising profile of the north: 1961-1966

Support for northern development became a major feature of Labor's campaign during the 1961 federal election. At a time of rising unemployment, the Calwell Labor Opposition tapped into the Queensland electorate's sense of neglect from Canberra. (36) There were two themes underpinning Calwell's northern advocacy. First, he argued that Labor, unlike the Liberals, was the party to trust with regard to northern development. Second, Calwell argued that northern neglect was morally wrong because of the populist notion than an 'Empty North' would leave the continent vulnerable to attack:
   It is almost axiomatic to say that unless we develop this country
   we will lose it ... The Labor Party, which developed Rum Jungle and
   Mt Isa, and made the first grants to help the North-West ...
   believes that roads and railways and airports and seaports must be
   built ... in the top half of Western Australia and the Northern
   Territory and Queensland, where 40 per cent of our country is
   occupied by only 4 per cent of our people ... tomorrow might be too
   late. (37)

Calwell came very close to winning the federal election held on 9 December 1961. The ALP won 60 seats to the Coalition's 62. During the election, Whitlam had campaigned heavily in Queensland on northern development and the alleged Commonwealth neglect of the state. The ALP increased its Queensland representation from three to 11 seats, winning back the northern seat of Herbert in the process. Whitlam's focus on Northern Australia was vindicated. (38)

By the time of the 1963 election, northern development had become a popular media issue, and received some television exposure, including interviews on the subject with Gough Whitlam and Liberal minister William McMahon on ABC TV's Four Corners program. From 1964 to 1967, the 'Develop the North' theme continued to feature in newspapers such as The Australian, The Canberra Times and the Melbourne Herald. (39)

This coverage was partly due to the work of the People the North Committee (1962-69), dominated by Townsville alderman Harry Hopkins. Established by the North Queensland Local Government Association, the People the North Committee wanted to increase Australia's population north of the Tropic of Capricorn from 375,000 to one million by 1973. This was deemed urgent:
   Because other populations are exploding on Australia's doorstep.
   Because economically and strategically, Australia now stands alone.
   To survive, Australia must grow stronger, faster ... to win new
   markets and deter aggression. As a nation Australia is off-balance.
   Most of her capital, know-how, energies, skills and population are
   squeezed together in one corner. (40)

People the North wanted to smash the perception of the north as a place of 'extremes and hardship'. It wanted federal funds and national policies that would help convince the 'townie ... who has a steady, routine nine-to-five job, a house in the suburbs, cuts the grass ... and cleans his car on Sunday' that his suburban lifestyle could be exactly replicated in the north. (41) The committee gained great publicity for the cause by employing a publicist to create and distribute stories to newspaper editors and commentators. Members of the committee also lobbied Federal Government and Opposition members. (42)

People the North also had a number of high-profile southern supporters. One was academic economist Sir Douglas Copland, who was excited by the possibility of 'balanced development in Australia' which would 'create a new concept, both internally and externally, of Australia's new sense of nationhood'. (43) A more general supporter of the north was Crawford Munro, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of New South Wales, who was alive to the professional opportunities for his discipline in opening up the north. (44)

The Liberal-Country Party Government was keenly aware of the continuing publicity for Northern Australia, especially in relation to Queensland. It took two initiatives in the 1960s which assisted the busy port city of Townsville and consolidated its position as a northern hub. First, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) established a branch of its Division of Tropical Pastures in Townsville in 1962, leading to the establishment of the Davies Laboratory in 1965. The CSIRO's work on tropical pastures, involving the testing of introduced legumes and grasses, proved important to the beef cattle industry for the development of improved pastures appropriate to the tropical soils and variable climate.

Second, the Menzies Government decided to build an army base in Townsville. Established in 1966, Lavarack Barracks soon became the biggest such base in the country, providing a training centre for soldiers during the Vietnam War. The army thus contributed substantially to North Queensland's population and economy. (45)

Nevertheless, the Menzies Government continued to make itself vulnerable to criticisms about its attitude towards the north. Menzies had announced that if returned at the 1963 federal election, he would establish a Northern Division within the Department of National Development. He was true to his word, but the new Northern Division (established in 1964) had limited powers. It collected information on northern resources and provided policy advice, but ultimately had little clout.

A small number of infrastructure projects subsequently received support, such as a $3.27 million loan to Queensland to assist with the development of a harbour at Weipa, but federal funding for projects categorised as Northern Australia schemes actually dropped from $22.3 million (1963-64) to $12 million (1965-66). During the same budgetary period, the Federal Government's development funding to other parts of Australia rose from $12.2 million to $39.9 million, not including annual payments of around $40 million to the Snowy Mountains scheme. (46)

Rex Patterson, Gough Whitlam and northern development

When faced with demands that the Government agree with the ALP that a new Snowy Mountains scheme should be created in the north, Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen remained sceptical:
   A gigantic spectacular project will get a politician the headlines
   ... It isn't necessarily the thing that's best at the box office.

McEwen's caution in committing funds to projects in remote areas that might turn out to be expensive fiascos reflected the views of his Government. However, Menzies' electoral support for northern development had raised expectations.

Renewed criticisms of the Liberal-Country Party's treatment of the north came from an unexpected source. The Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, Dr Rex Patterson, became frustrated by his failure to win Commonwealth support for more rapid northern development. (48) Queensland-born Patterson had worked for the federal public service since 1949, mainly in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and had been intimately associated with research on northern development during that time. He was proud of his research contribution which influenced the Commonwealth to finance beef roads in Northern Australia during the 1960s, 'opening up the country not only for the cattle industry but also allowing more and more people to go into those areas'. (49) A fervent believer in water conservation to combat drought and harness rainfall for agricultural purposes, Patterson was particularly disappointed that the Menzies Government seemed reluctant to financially support an expansion of the Ord River irrigation scheme in Western Australia's north. (50)

In August 1965, Patterson signalled his intention to resign before the next federal election to become the ALP candidate for the seat of Dawson. As he later explained, 'My reason for standing for Parliament is that I firmly believe the north will never be developed for the benefit of Australians and their children unless more voices which genuinely support the north are heard in the national Parliament.' (51) Noting Patterson's intentions, the Government then transferred Patterson to a specially created position within the department and prevented him from obtaining further access to cabinet papers and policy documents. Menzies later gave Patterson free publicity by attacking him in Parliament for appealing against the transfer. (52)

Patterson's political career began earlier than he had expected because of the sudden death of the incumbent Country Party MHR for Dawson, George Shaw, on 9 January 1966. As a consequence, a by-election for the seat was to be held on 26 February. The main population centre of Dawson was the northern sugar town of Mackay, but the seat encompassed several hundred square kilometres of rural and semi-rural land, as well as several other townships such as Proserpine and Sarina. As such it was considered a natural Country Party electorate, but Patterson had some advantages. He had an understanding of life on the land, having been brought up on a cane farm near Bundaberg; he had taught as a school teacher in Mackay and Proserpine; and as a young man he had been an accomplished cricketer and tennis player.

The Brisbane Worker used such examples of Patterson's 'down-to-earth' experiences to quash any anti-intellectual doubts among its working-class readers about the candidate's PhD in Agricultural Economics and federal public service background:
   Patterson ... is as familiar with the business end of a cane knife
   as he is with the principles of agricultural economics ... Dr
   Patterson is just not another 'backroom boffin', with a text book
   in one hand, and a slide rule in the other. (53)

Patterson's campaign was supported energetically by Whitlam. Patterson, 39, a highly educated expert on northern development, was an example of the type of young, tertiary-trained politician Whitlam wished to encourage. The Dawson campaign also gave Whitlam a chance to show that he was a forward-thinking potential leader by focusing on northern development. As the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported: 'Mr Whitlam's [northern development] plan becomes of great importance to Australia as present political developments could shortly make him Labor parliamentary leader.' (54)

Many voters whom Whitlam addressed during the campaign would have recalled the invasion scares of World War II, made topical again by the Vietnam War and the fear of the spread of communism within the Asia-Pacific region. Some of Whitlam and his supporters' 1966-67 statements on northern development reflected this context. For example, at a northern symposium organised by the People the North Committee at the University of New South Wales, Whitlam claimed:
   There is little doubt that the Australian people desire a faster
   rate of development. For many it is an uneasy feeling about an
   empty and defenceless north ... Australia can make a unique
   contribution in the settling and development of a huge tropical
   area by an advanced people of European origin. (55)

On a personal level, Whitlam had long been opposed to racial discrimination. As early as 1961, he and future South Australian Premier Don Dunstan had called for the words 'Maintenance of White Australia' to be removed from Labor's party platform. This was achieved in 1965, but as the above quote shows, the 'yellow peril' language of the past took a little time to die. (56)

Concentrating on the issue of northern development, Whitlam helped Patterson win a previously impenetrable Country Party seat with a swing of 12 per cent. This feat was instrumental in gaining crucial support from the Queensland branch of the ALP for Whitlam's internal struggles against the ALP hierarchy. Because the Queensland delegates on Labor's federal executive switched their votes, Whitlam narrowly escaped expulsion from the ALP in March 1966 for 'gross disloyalty'. Members of the federal executive wanted to expel Whitlam because he publicly criticised their decision to bind ALP parliamentarians to opposing state aid to nongovernment schools. Patterson alerted Queensland state secretary Tom Bums to the seriousness of Whitlam's predicament, and Bums phoned the Queensland delegates and convinced them to change their votes. (57)

Northern consolidation: Whitlam the Opposition Leader

Whitlam consolidated his image as a friend of the north after becoming leader of the ALP Opposition in February 1967. His northern development policies were generally based on ideas and proposals that had long been debated by a variety of groups and individuals, including Whitlam himself, Rex Patterson, the People the North Committee, journalists, academics, and even the Snowy Mountains Authority commissioner, Sir William Hudson:
   [Hudson] has hinted that Snowy experts should be used in large
   water resources projects in North Queensland and other parts of
   North Australia ... He also says that large irrigation schemes
   appear feasible in the Herbert, the Burdekin, and Fitzroy basins of
   northern Queensland. (58)

Three underlying themes held Whitlam's grab-bag of northern development policies together. First, Whitlam argued that Northern Australia's minerals, beef production and other primary commodities held the key to Australia's future economic prosperity:
   The increased export earnings which the north can provide are
   necessary to raise the productive capacity of the South ... what
   happens in the Fitzroy Basin in Central Queensland or on the
   Fitzroy in the Southern Kimberleys is important to the people who
   live in Fitzroy, Melbourne. (59)

This sense of Northern Australia as an integral part of national interest justified, in Whitlam's mind, federal investment in ambitious schemes like the ALP's proposed retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority to develop northern water resources. (60)

The second major northern theme Whitlam pursued was the notion that the Commonwealth must take a leading role in northern development, a reflection of Whitlam's long-term constitutional view that, 'The states are too large to deal with local matters, and too small and weak to deal with national ones.' (61) Whitlam argued that only the Commonwealth had the resources necessary to complete an ambitious national infrastructure program of dam-building, road construction and power generation.

He pledged in 1969 that he would create a Department of Northern Development, which would not only deal with economic development but would also be responsible for nature conservation in the region, including areas like the Great Barrier Reef. While the states of Queensland and Western Australia would be consulted, Whitlam assumed that Northern Australia's future development would be co-ordinated by the Commonwealth:
   We will establish a Ministry for Northern Development. Mr Chifley
   regularly conferred with the Premiers of Queensland and Western
   Australia on northern development. Sir Robert Menzies, Mr Holt and
   Mr Gorton never did. I shall. (62)

The third political theme fleshed out by Whitlam during his period as Opposition Leader was the argument that since Labor lost power in 1949, the Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government in Canberra had neglected the north in essential areas such as transport. Whitlam asserted that only the ALP had the will and the desire to rectify the situation. Patterson, Whitlam, and Deputy Opposition Leader Lance Barnard went on a tour of North Queensland towns such as Mt Isa, Weipa and Karumba in April 1967 where this message of northern neglect was rammed home. Whitlam's staffers may have planted a number of stories in the southern press to highlight the theme of a region forgotten by the conservatives:
   Southerners might grumble about telephone services, but when Gough
   Whitlam's staff tried to contact him at Karumba on the Gulf of
   Carpentaria during his current northern tour they were told the
   telephone line had been out for three months. (63)

Sometimes the ALP under Whitlam gave the impression that the 'North' more or less exclusively referred to Queensland. For example, the two Labor MPs most associated with the Northern Australia cause were Queenslanders. Rex Patterson was joined in Parliament in 1967 by Dr Doug Everingham, whose successful campaign in the Queensland seat of Capricornia strongly emphasised the importance of Northern Australia. 'Don't halt with Holt [Prime Minister Harold Holt],' Everingham advised. 'Send Dr Everingham to help Dr Patterson develop Capricornia.' (64)

In 1972, Labor hoped the Townsville voters in the Herbert electorate would elect a third champion of Northern Australia, Fabian Sweeney. An agricultural consultant by profession, Sweeney's ultimately unsuccessful campaign to unseat Liberal member Robert 'Duke' Bonnett coincided with Whitlam's pledge to make Townsville a 'growth centre'. Along with Albury-Wodonga, Townsville was chosen by Whitlam as the testing ground for his decentralisation policies: he was emotionally attached to the idea of planned regional cities which would end congestion in the metropolitan areas. The growth centre concept was sold to the Herbert electorate as making Townsville 'THE Capital of North Australia'. (65)

Yet while Whitlam's 1972 policy speech reaffirmed Labor's determination to develop the north 'for the benefit of the Australian nation and future Australians', the ALP's interest in Northern Australia had begun to fade. (66) Since 1969, Whitlam had become better known for his new directions in foreign policy, such as his clear advocacy of an independent Papua New Guinea and his visit to the People's Republic of China at a time (1971) when Australia did not officially recognise the communist country. Northern Australia's time in the policy sun was passing. (67)

The decline of Northern Australia as a political dream

During the Whitlam Government (1972-75), northern development was overshadowed in the media by more prominent aspects of the ALP program, including the expansion of federal aid to schools and universities, support for urban development and Whitlam's focus on independent foreign policy. However, the development of Northern Australia was an election promise. Accordingly, Rex Patterson became Minister for Northern Development and, several months later, Minister for the Northern Territory. In June 1975, these departments were amalgamated to form the Department of Northern Australia. Very shortly before the Labor Government was dismissed from office, Whitlam transferred Patterson to Agriculture and put a young Paul Keating in his place. (68)

Patterson found his time as Minister for Northern Development to be a frustrating experience. One of his key problems was that there was a sense of uncertainty about the Department of Northern Development's role and jurisdiction. At the time of its establishment, the party leaders declared that Patterson's department was 'responsible for all matters concerned with the specialised development and utilisation of the natural resources of land, water and minerals' north of 26[degrees] latitude. (69) As Northern Development Minister, Patterson therefore expected to be given substantial Government authority for development in northern areas. He was especially eager to gain primary responsibility for northern minerals as, 'There can be no doubt that the main determinant of growth in northern Australia will be investment in mining for export.'

Patterson was nevertheless prepared to give responsibility for Northern Australia's uranium, natural gas and petroleum to the Minerals and Energy Minister, Rex Connor, possibly in deference to the latter's personal interests. (70) However, by the time Patterson had prepared an abortive Cabinet submission in early 1973 on the roles and functions of the Department of Northern Development, it was becoming clear that Patterson's power to influence the direction of Government policy on northern matters would be inhibited by Connor.


On 31 January 1973, Connor announced that the Cabinet had decided to impose price controls on Australian mineral exports. As the Brisbane Courier-Mail explained, 'The Federal Government in effect will set a minimum price and the maximum tonnage for minerals to be exported.' (71) Connor was partly motivated to introduce export controls by a belief that Queensland's cheaper coal prices gave it an unfair advantage over New South Wales coal. Patterson went public with his dissent:
   The facts are that if northern coal producers had demanded the
   relatively high US coal prices, or the average world price ... it
   is likely that the central and north Queensland coalfields would
   not have been developed at all. (72)

Whitlam and many members of the Cabinet were in no mood to tolerate Patterson's public criticisms of an announced Government decision. The Prime Minister successfully moved a motion at the ALP's federal executive meeting on 5 February congratulating 'Federal Cabinet on the ... steps it has taken to carry out the party's programme with respect to ownership, control and development of Australia's natural resources'. (73) The motion received unanimous support, and appears to have been a deliberate attempt to demonstrate that the Northern Development Minister did not have strong internal support for his views.

Several 'off the record' comments by anonymous Labor figures criticising Patterson's 'breach of Cabinet solidarity' were reported in the press. (74) This also served to underline the limited political authority of the Northern Development Minister compared to the Minister for Minerals and Energy.

Patterson subsequently became something of a rural 'outsider' within the Whitlam Government. The Prime Minister now paid more attention to the ideas of Rex Connor, who was fixated with securing greater Australian ownership of mining projects. Connor's attempts to 'buy back the farm' ultimately led to a scandal over a grandiose but unsuccessful attempt at loan-raising on a massive scale. (75)

Whitlam's decision not to appoint Patterson as his Minister for Primary Industry (later retitled Agriculture) until October 1975 may also account for Patterson's inability to shape rural policy in favour of his northern objectives. He reacted strongly against the Prime Minister's lack of political understanding of rural matters, shown in Whitlam's drastic decisions to cut special assistance schemes which had long been taken for granted in the bush.

These budget savings, including petrol subsidies to country areas and the superphosphate bounty, helped contribute to a disastrous result for Labor in the 1974 Queensland state election. (76) The decision to abolish the subsidy on superphosphate fertiliser did not sit well with Patterson's ideas on developing Northern Australia's pastoral industry:
   Improved pastures such as Townsville Stylo have got to have
   phosphate ... It [the Northern Territory] is a development area and
   it does still need financial incentives. (77)

With some justification, Patterson felt that Whitlam had lost touch with Queensland and the north, which had played such a part in the formation of Whitlam's public profile. Whitlam by the end of 1974 was better known in Queensland for his personal slanging match with Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen than for his northern policies. Much to Whitlam's vocal annoyance, the Queensland Premier proved highly reluctant to fully co-operate with Federal Labor's centralist reform program. (78) Strongly anti-Labor and focused on state rights, Bjelke-Petersen refused to countenance Whitlam's proposal to make Townsville a regional growth centre, with its implication of Commonwealth involvement in planning and developing new residential estates. (79)

Despite some evidence to the contrary, the Queensland Government successfully encouraged the perception of a neglectful Canberra during the Whitlam era. The perception that Whitlam was out of touch with the north may have influenced Patterson's defeat in Dawson at the end of 1975. As Patterson himself pointed out:
   Queensland is fiercely parochial - a feeling which intensifies the
   further north one goes. Melbourne is closer to Brisbane than Cairns
   to [Brisbane] ... The pouring of millions of dollars into
   heavily-subsidised Sydney and Melbourne ... make[s] no impression
   in the north ... such actions only intensify the feeling of neglect
   when they are skilfully handled by anti-Labor forces. (80)

Ironically, Patterson and Whitlam could look back on a number of achievements in northern development. Patterson was successful in securing bilateral agreements with countries such as Japan, China and Singapore to purchase Australian sugar, benefiting North Queensland farmers. The Labor Government also provided several millions of dollars in grants and loans to facilitate the building of Queensland water projects, including the Kinchant Dam at Mirani, near Mackay; Ross River Dam, catering for the water needs of Townsville residents; and Julius Dam, assisting with the water supply of Mount Isa. Further, the Whitlam Government continued the former Coalition Government's financial support for beef roads in Queensland and Western Australia. (81)

However, the northern outcomes were modest in comparison to the ALP's oft-repeated vision of a vast new Snowy Mountains scheme to develop the north. The relatively low-scale achievements also did not match the sense of urgency and commitment engendered in Whitlam's 1972 policy speech:
   It is in the North that the great sugar and cattle industries have
   been established and it is in the North that Australians face the
   greatest challenge to retain the ownership of the nation's
   resources. (82)

'Northern Development', the Courier-Mail cynically claimed, 'was a useful campaign issue for Labor in 1972, but it counted for little once Labor was in power'. (83) Indeed, the low public profile of the Northern Development portfolio compared to Immigration, Education and many others left the door open for northern Opposition members such as Duke Bonnett (Herbert) and Robert Katter senior (Kennedy) to turn the tables on the ALP's earlier criticisms of the former Liberal-Country Party Government, using much the same theme of northern neglect, as Bonnett stated:
   I do not think the Prime Minister can deny that this Government is
   southern oriented and that it will not spend money in the north
   when it can be used to greater political advantage in the south.

The ALP's rhetoric of urgency and national destiny in regard to northern development became a distant memory in office. One reason for this was that circumstances had changed. The political momentum for creating an authority to oversee large-scale water resources projects in the north began to decline when the Holt Government made the decision to dismantle the Snowy Mountains Authority upon completion of the scheme. As the authority was being phased out, the Coalition established the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, a much smaller organisation which did consulting work in both Australia and overseas. (85)

Even if Whitlam had wanted to pursue a spectacular, Snowy Mountains-type scheme in Northern Australia, there were a number of roadblocks in the way. Some doubts were emerging about the north's capacity to become a paradise for irrigators. Passionately supported by Patterson, the Ord River scheme in north-west Australia was less than successful.

Completed in 1972 with the federal support of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the Ord River scheme included the Lake Argyle water reservoir. According to historian Geoffrey Bolton, this was 'a small inland sea holding nine times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour in normal times'. (86) The scheme proved to be relatively unprofitable: Ord River farmers tried a variety of crops, including cotton and sorghum, but were plagued with insects.

Further, it was difficult to maintain the sense of urgency to develop Northern Australia as economic and diplomatic relations between Australia and Asian countries became closer under Whitlam. The gradual dismantling of the White Australia policy in the 1960s and early 1970s meant that fear of northern invasion was no longer acceptable as a means of drawing attention to the north, but nothing as powerful took its place as the raison d'etre of northern development.

Finally, for all the powers of section 96, a hostile state government such as Bjelke-Petersen's would have been likely to obstruct the development of a Snowy Mountains-type scheme for the north unless the state obtained equal or greater prestige than the Commonwealth.


As the 21st century progresses, the 'Empty North' remains largely empty.

Northerners, particularly in Queensland, were and are chiefly 'coast-huggers'. They are attracted to the more hospitable areas of the coast, living in regional cities and towns with access to a wider variety of employment and recreational opportunities, as well as public services and facilities. In recent decades, miners based in coastal cities have often been employed by companies on a fly-in fly-out basis. This has allowed exploitation of remote, inland mineral resources in the north without the need for more permanent settlement.

Queensland was the state where the cries of northern neglect were traditionally loudest, and it remains the major population area of Northern Australia. From the 1970s onwards, however, mineral booms, diversification into areas such as tourism, and incremental commonwealth-state funding of infrastructure such as roads have alleviated much of the isolation and discomfort of living in the north. Northern Australia, for most of its (largely Queensland) citizens, is nowhere near as remote from the rest of Australia as it was during the first two decades after World War II. (87) It is therefore difficult to imagine a lobby group such as the People the North Committee gaining traction today.

From the 1940s to the early 1970s, Australian governments on both sides of politics were caught between wanting to be seen to support the north, and wanting to be fiscally prudent. By contrast, from the luxury of opposition (1949-72), the ALP gradually developed policies which elevated the position of the north to an urgent national issue. In particular, Whitlam skilfully used the Northern Australia issue to gain support in Queensland and to demonstrate his leadership potential and style.

By the late 1960s, Whitlam's attention had wandered to other issues and Northern Australia became lost in a sea of competing policies. ALP action on northern development during the Whitlam Government was piecemeal, relatively modest and difficult to promote as an electoral selling point. Perhaps most crucial to the downgrading of the Northern Australia idea was the ALP's failure in government to find a 'necessary and urgent' reason for northern development that resonated with decision-makers. Once the threat of northern invasion fell out of favour as a rationale for developing the region during the late 1960s, it was difficult to sustain the notion of Northern Australian development as a national priority above the progress of other regional areas. (88)

Member RAHS


(1) This research was supported by the Australian Government under an Australian Prime Ministers Centre Fellowship, an initiative of the Museum of Australian Democracy. The article's title comes from a phrase spoken by Gough Whitlam: 'Labor believes that the development of the whole of North Australia is both necessary and urgent.' E.G. Whitlam, 'Northern Australian Development: policy decision by the ALP federal conference, Melbourne 1 August 1969', press statement, 2 August 1969, document held in the Whitlam Institute (hereafter WI) at the University of Western Sydney. A digitised version of this document and others held at the WI can be found on its website at

(2) The Tropic of Capricorn is approximately 23.4 degrees south of the Equator.

(3) Graham Freudenberg to Lyndon Megarrity, letter dated 21 April 2011, in possession of the author.

(4) Blarney to Minister for the Army, January 1944 cited in first draft of 'Regional Planning in Australia' (circa March 1947), A9816 1947/64 Part 1, National Archives of Australia (NAA).

(5) Submission from Chairman to the Prime Minister, in [printed report]: Northern Australia Development Committee (NADC), AA1972/841 11, NAA.

(6) Geoffrey Bolton, The Oxford History of Australia Volume 5: The Middle Way 1942-1995 (1990), Melbourne, 1996, p. 15.

(7) Minutes of first meeting of the NADC, 30 January 1946, A431 1946/1613, NAA.

(8) 'Action being taken by the Commonwealth and State Governments to develop Northern Australia', dated 13 August 1946 [Department of Interior press release], A431 1947/1255, NAA.

(9) Summary of the activities of the Northern Australia Development Committee by the Acting Director Grenfell Rudduck, 13 November 1950, AA 1977/268 8, NAA.

(10) Printed report: Northern Australia Development Committee, AA1972/841 11, NAA.

(11) F.G.G. Rose, Executive Officer, NADC to H.C. Coombs, circa 30 September 1947, A9816 1946/302 Part 3, NAA.

(12) Chifley, cited in extract of report of the Premiers Conference, August 1947, A9816 1946/302 Part 3, NAA.

(13) Minister for the Interior, 'Action taken by the Commonwealth and State Governments to Develop Northern Australia', 13 August 1946, A9816 1946/205, NAA. See also Derek McDougall, Australia's Foreign Relations: entering the 21st Century, Sydney, 2009, p. 151.

(14) F.G.G. Rose, NADC executive officer, to H.C. Coombs, circa 30 September 1947, A9816 1946/302 Part 3, NAA.

(15) Hanlon, cited in extract from the transcript of the August 1947 Premiers Conference, A9816 1946/302 Part 3, NAA.

(16) Memo ca. 1949 on transport within the Burdekin River area, A9816 1948/71, NAA.

(17) C.R. Lambert to W.E.L. de Vos, 13 December 1951, A431 1948/794, NAA.

(18) Transcript of broadcast by the Prime Minister Mr Chifley, ca. 1949, A9816 1946/205, NAA.

(19) Grahame Griffin, 'Selling the Snowy: the Snowy Mountains scheme and national mythmaking', in Journal of Australian Studies, no. 79, 2003, p. 39; Geoffrey Blainey, A Shorter History of Australia (1994), Sydney, 2000, p. 202; Bolton, Oxford History of Australia, pp. 5658.

(20) See Lauri Neal, Cooma Country, Cooma, 1976, pp. 249-53.

(21) Cited in A.W. Stargardt (ed), Things Worth Fighting For: speeches by Joseph Benedict Chifley, Melbourne, 1952, p. 81.

(22) 'Burdekin Scheme on Vast Scale', Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 5 November 1949, p. 1.

(23) 'Burdekin River Irrigation, Hydro-electric and Flood Mitigation Project - Preliminary Report of the Inter-departmental Committee, dated 10th November', cited by Arthur Fadden (MHR), Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (CPD), 20 April 1950, p. 1688.

(24) Ben Chifley, CPD, 20 April 1950, p. 1688.

(25) Government Responsibility in Northern Development, E.G. Whitlam address at Symposium on Northern Development, UNSW, 14 February 1966, M170 66/3, NAA. See also W.F. Edmonds, CPD, 4 May 1950, p. 2193.

(26) R.G. Menzies, Joint Opposition Policy - 1949, copy in M157 Part 2, NAA.

(27) Ross Fitzgerald, Lyndon Megarrity and David Symons, Made in Queensland: a new history, Brisbane, 2009, p. 130.

(28) See McDougall, pp. 95, 172; Norman Harper, A Great and Powerful Friend: A study of Australian American relations between 1900 and 1975, Brisbane, 1987, pp. 295-305.

(29) Bill Riordan, CPD, 17 September 1953, pp. 339-40. See also 'Queensland's First Century', The Bulletin (Sydney), 31 December 1958, p. 13; Bolton, A Thousand Miles Away: a history of north Queensland to 1920, Canberra, 1963, p. 338.

(30) H.V. Evatt, policy speech, Hurstville NSW, 9 November 1955/H.V. Evatt, policy speech, 15 October 1958, speeches cited in Ian McAllister and Rhonda Moore (eds), Party Strategy and Change: Australian political leaders' speeches since 1946, Melbourne, 1991, pp. 55, 67.

(31) He had become familiar with the region during World War II while serving in the Royal Australian Air Force. Gough Whitlam, The Whitlam Government 1972-1975, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 230-1.

(32) Capricornia New State Movement, booklet submitted to Constitutional Review Committee 10 July 1957, M178 9, NAA. For details on the Constitutional Review Committee, see Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: A moment in history, Melbourne, 2008, pp. 181-8, 416.

(33) Gough Whitlam, CPD, 6 October 1960, p. 1792.

(34) Freudenberg to Megarrity, 21 April 2011.

(35) A.A. Calwell, Labor's Role in Modern Society (1963), Melbourne, 1965, p. 149. The book was prepared for publication by Freudenberg, who was reliant on Whitlam's speeches and articles for the book's section on Northern Australia. Freudenberg to Megarrity, 21 April 2011.

(36) 'Parties Court the Electors in a Divided Queensland', The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 23 November 1961, p. 2; A. Calwell, Labor's Policy: a blueprint for a government, Melbourne, 1961, in M157 35/17 Part 2, NAA.

(37) Calwell, Labor's Policy.

(38) Whitlam, Whitlam Government, p. 232; Hocking, pp. 217-18.

(39) Alan Hulme to Harold Holt, 19 July 1963, M2606 128, NAA. For press coverage, see for example 'Inertia in North Accusation', The Canberra Times, 31 March 1966; Frank Devine, 'We Must Develop the Empty North - Fast', Herald (Melbourne), 15 April 1964; 'Nicklin Plan to Move SMA North', The Australian, 10 May 1966, clippings in A2618 Documents 2632 to 2635, NAA.

(40) People the North! (leaflet circa 1962), in People the North Committee (PTNC) Papers, Box 4, James Cook University Library Special Collections (JCU SC).

(41) Larry Foley, Operation Elbow Room, booklet circa 1964, in PTNC Papers, Box 4, JCU SC.

(42) 'PTN - The Story So Far', Ayr Advocate, 29 January 1965, in PTNC Papers, Box 6, PTNC Press Clippings book, 16-31 January 1965, JCU SC.

(43) Douglas Copland to Harry Hopkins, 23 May 1963, in PTNC Papers, Box 2, JCU SC.

(44) Geoffrey Griffith, 'Go North, Young Man! Youth corps could open up our empty space', Daily Mirror (Sydney), 8 December 1961, p. 20.

(45) For Menzies' Townsville initiatives, see A.G. Eyles and D.G. Cameron, Pasture Research in Northern Australia - its history, achievement and future emphasis, Brisbane, 1985, pp. 26, 69, 185-95; Peter Bell, Our Place in the Sun: a brief history of James Cook University 1960-2010, Townsville, 2010, p. 27.

(46) David Fairbairn, Government Policy on Northern Development, 27 May 1966: submission no. 224 (withdrawn), A5841 224, NAA. While Fairbairn noted that the Tropic of Capricorn was agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the states as the 'southern boundary of the "north" in Queensland', the figures for Northern Australia cited in this document include the funding of a coal loading works in Gladstone. See also 'Commonwealth Policies on Northern Development in the Sixties', ca 1971, AA1974 1, NAA.

(47) 'Comment on Snowy Team for North', Producer's Review (Queensland), April 1966, clipping in A2618 Documents 2632 to 2635, NAA.

(48) For Patterson's career and the Dawson campaign, see Colin A. Hughes, 'The Dawson ByElection, 1966', Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 12, no. 1, 1966, pp. 12-16; Joan Rydon, A Biographical Register of the Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1972, Canberra, 1975, p. 175.

(49) Rex Patterson, CPD, 13 November 1973, p. 3236.

(50) Rex Patterson, CPD, 15 March 1966, p. 250; Jonathan Gaul, 'Job Switch for Dr Patterson', The Canberra Times (hereafter CT), 23 September 1965, p. 1.

(51) Rex Patterson, Australian Labor Party: Dawson by-election - campaign opening address, Theatre Royal, Mackay, 7 February 1966, copy held at the National Library of Australia (NLA).

(52) Sir David Fairbairn, interviewed 24 March 1976 by Mel Pratt, Oral TRC 121/74, NLA.

(53) Editorial, Worker, 14 February 1966, p. 2.

(54) Jack Lunn, 'Growth in North ... the Whitlam Way', Courier-Mail (hereafter CM), 15 February 1966, p. 8.

(55) E.G. Whitlam, 'Government Responsibility in Northern Development', in People of the North Committee, North Australia Development: proceedings of Symposium held at the University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney, 14-15 February 1966, copy held PTNC Papers, Box 4, JCU SC. For similar comments by Whitlam's supporters, see 'What You Should Know about the ALP', photocopied pamphlet ca 1967, M157 35/20, NAA; Patterson, Australian Labor Party: Dawson by-election, NLA.

(56) Hocking, pp. 206-8.

(57) Hocking, pp. 250-56.

(58) 'North Queensland Could be a New "Snowy"', CM, 4 January 1966, p. 3.

(59) E.G. Whitlam, Opening Address: 1967 Senate election [speech at Blacktown Civic Centre, 13 November 1967], copy held at Mitchell Library.

(60) '"Ask aid", Qld Told', Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 30 April 1967, clipping in M156 35, NAA.

(61) 'Wider Powers for Federal Government', The Age, 20 July 1957, clipping in M178 11, NAA.

(62) Gough Whitlam, Australian Labor Party policy speech, Sydney Town Hall, 1 October 1969 (transcript at Mitchell Library).

(63) 'Where Time Stands Still', Sun-Herald, 30 April 1967, clipping in M156 35, NAA.

(64) Doug Everingham, speech circa September 1967, M156 50, NAA.

(65) Advertisement for Sweeney's election campaign, Townsville Daily Bulletin, 11 November 1972, p. 10. Albury (NSW) and Wodonga (Vic) are neighbouring towns sharing state borders.

(66) Gough Whitlam, Australian Labor Party policy speech 1972, Blacktown Civic Centre, 13 November 1972, p. 21, held at WI.

(67) See Hocking, pp. 362-64, 371-81.

(68) Whitlam, Whitlam Government, p. 752.

(69) Rex Patterson, 'The Role of the Department of Northern Development', 22 February 1973, Cabinet Submission No. 151 (withdrawn), A5915 151, NAA. Declaring the southern boundary of Northern Australia to be 26[degrees] latitude was doubtless for administrative convenience, as this definition incorporated the entire Northern Territory. However, the definition also embraced towns like Bundaberg, located well within the southern half of Queensland. Patterson later cited support for the 'Bundaberg irrigation works' as part of his department's activities. Rex Patterson, CPD, 29 October 1974, p. 2974.

(70) Patterson, 'Role of the Department of Northern Development'. In a letter from Patterson to Connor (7 February 1973), enclosed in this document, Patterson was prepared to allow Connor responsibility for coal, but references to coal are not found in Patterson's Cabinet submission.

(71) 'Qld May Put Coal Law to High Court: Exports Control', CM, 1 February 1973, p. 1.

(72) 'Patterson Stands by Sales of Cheap Coal', The Australian, 3 February 1973, p. 1.

(73) 'Labor Closes Ranks Over Mineral Policy', The Australian, 6 February 1973, p. 1.

(74) 'Labor Closes Ranks', The Australian, 6 February 1973, p. 1. See also Chris Anderson, 'Fed Ministers Snub Colleague', Sun-Herald (Sydney), 4 February 1973, p. 25; Brian Johns, 'Cabinet Endorses Patterson Censure', SMH, 7 February 1973, p. 3; 'Whitlam May Axe Patterson', Melbourne Observer, 4 February 1973, p. 3.

(75) 'Minerals Gag on Patterson', CM, 7 February 1973, p. 10; Max Griffiths, Of Mines & Men: Australia's 20th century mining miracle 1945-1985, Sydney, 1998, pp. 104-8.

(76) Ross McMullin, The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891-1991, Melbourne, 1991, p. 350.

(77) Errol Simper, 'New Minister Pleases Northern Territorians', CT, 24 April 1974, p. 2.

(78) Peter Coaldrake, Working the System: government in Queensland, Brisbane, 1989, pp. 91-92.

(79) 'Growth Centres in Queensland: statement by Prime Minister', Townsville, 5 April 1975, held in WI.

(80) 'Minister says PM Out of Touch', CM, l0 December 1974, p. 1.

(81) Whitlam, Whitlam Government, pp. 235-7; 'Speech by the Hon E.G. Whitlam ... to the Labor-in-Politics Convention', Brisbane, 19 January 1977, held in WI; Denise Conroy, 'Federal-State Relations', in Allan Patience (ed), The Bjelke-Petersen Premiership 1968-1983: issues in public policy, Melbourne, 1985, p. 255.

(82) Whitlam, Australian Labor Party policy speech 1972, p. 21, held at WI.

(83) Editorial, 'The North', CM, 20 December 1975, p. 1.

(84) Robert Bonnett, CPD, 29 October 1974, p. 2973. See also Robert Katter sr, CPD, 11 May 1975, p. 1783.

(85) Bob Brown, Governing Australia: a century of politics, policies and people, volume 2 1950-1975, Nelson Bay, 2007, p. 242; Fairbairn, interviewed by Mel Pratt, NLA.

(86) Geoffrey Bolton, Land of Vision and Mirage: Western Australia since 1826, Perth, 2008, p. 160.

(87) See John Holmes, 'Coast versus Inland: two different Queenslands?' Queensland Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 1994, p. 21; Fitzgerald, Megarrity and Symons, pp. 232-33.

(88) The author would like to thank Rod Sullivan, Frank Bongiorno, R.G. and L.P. Megarrity, Graham Freudenberg and Bronwyn McBurnie for their helpful comments.
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Date:Dec 1, 2011
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