Australia in the 1980s


High external tariffs to protect Australian industries and economic sectors had been in place since the early 1900s. It was the 1983 Labor government under the leadership of prime minister Bob Hawke that began to change this protective landscape. Barriers to international trade were removed. The Australian dollar was floated on the stock exchange. Government-owned companies such as Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank and eventually Telecom were privatised. Manufacturing industries such as automobiles, clothes, footwear and textiles that had flourished in the post-war period now began to decline.

In 1980, the first Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) were introduced for bank customers in Sydney. Two years later, the first EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) terminal began operating in Western Australia.

In April 1980, Mitsubishi took over Chrysler Australia Ltd. A year later, the 4-millionth Holden came off the assembly line. By 1988, the number of motor vehicles on Australian roads reached 9.3 million.

In 1984, the first stage of the North-West Shelf natural gas project began operation, with gas piped to Perth and industrial areas of Western Australia.

In September 1986, a sealed road around the continent was completed when the last section between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek in north-west WA was opened.

Fitzroy Crossing, north-west Western Australia

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A snapshot of 1988

  • January
    • The first Aboriginal television station, Imparja, began transmission in Alice Springs.
    • Australia's Bicentennial celebrations began and the First Fleet re-enactment vessels arrived at Botany Bay.
    • The new Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

  • June
    • Kay Cottee became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world.
    • The $2 coin went into circulation replacing the old $2 note.


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