Australia in the 1970s

International relations

In April 1971, an Australian table-tennis team visited China for the first time. In June 1971, Gough Whitlam led an ALP delegation to meet the foreign minister of China. Not long after, US president Richard Nixon (1913–94) visited China and met with its leader Mao Zedong. When Gough Whitlam became prime minister in 1972, he formally recognised communist China as a legitimate state, the first time an Australian government had done so.

In February 1973, the UK-Australia Trade Pact came to an end. Britain entered the European Economic Community (EEC), and the traditional trade links it had maintained with its previous colonial dominions such as Australia were significantly downgraded. All previous preferential tariff agreements between the two countries were ended.

A snapshot of 1978

  • January
    • The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1978 (Cth) was proclaimed in federal parliament.
    • The Special Broadcasting Service, also known as SBS, was established.

  • April
    • The Migrant Services and Programs Report, also known as 'The Galbally Report', was presented to the prime minister.

  • August
    • The Malcolm Fraser conservative government announced the end of maternity allowances.

  • November
    • The West Gate Bridge over the Yarra River and Port Melbourne was opened. It is the second-largest single span bridge in Australia.
    • The Ranger Uranium Agreement was signed by the Northern Land Council and ratified by the traditional owners, allowing uranium mining in Arnhem Land.


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