Previously classified Cabinet documents from 2001 highlighted a pivotal year that firmly put national security at the forefront of Australian policy.
Then Prime Minister John Howard struggled in the polls ahead of the 2001 election before his government addressed Australia’s national security needs in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the tampa crisis.
He committed troops to the US military intervention in Afghanistan on October 4, 2001 and called the elections the next day.
A campaign focused on national security and immigration policy saw Mr. Howard unexpectedly win his third consecutive election.
Historian Christine Wallace has called the “khaki elections” and military events staged during Mr. Howard’s election campaign “the most explicit exploitation of a national security lens” in nearly 50 years.
The Liberal leader has upheld his decision to prevent the Tampa ship carrying 433 refugees from docking in Australia, laying the foundation for Australian refugee policy for the next two decades.
He admitted that there was no doubt that the focus on national security had garnered support from his government, but he believed he would still have been re-appointed as prime minister, with a more margin. weak.
The extent of disagreements over the government’s climate policy was also revealed, with a duel between then Environment Minister Robert Hill and Industry Minister Nick Minchin.
Last year’s release of the 2000 cabinet documents noted the two ministers’ disagreement, with Mr Minchin opposing any reduction action, but the new documents reveal that Mr Hill was not the only one to be concerned.
Mr. Hill’s Environment Department comments on a submission by Mr. Minchin criticized “(the) superficial treatment of climate change and other environmental issues (as) out of proportion to their importance to energy policy.”
He also raised concerns about the rapid and significant growth in emissions resulting from energy market reforms.
Dr Wallace says cabinet minutes from the climate discussion reveal that the Howard government had a more nuanced view of climate change than any subsequent government and that ministers’ opinions pushing for more action do not. were not always summarily rejected.
The mine of Cabinet documents also reveals the government’s rejection of a national stolen generation apology and rejection of a treaty with Australia’s First Nations.
The cabinet ruled that an apology was not appropriate “given that the (family separation) practices at the time were considered to be in the best interests of the children concerned and were sanctioned by the laws of the time” .
He also rejected financial redress for the victims of the Stolen Generation, saying it was neither an appropriate nor practical way to help heal the trauma.
There were 218 Cabinet documents in the last version, which is less than the 250 the National Archives aims to release. The content of the documents can be made public from Saturday.
COVID-19 lockdowns in ACT impacted the collection and review of some of the documents.
Australian Associated Press