Holt Government

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Holt Government
Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Harold Holt 1965 01.jpg
In office
26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967
Prime Minister Harold Holt
Deputy John McEwen
Parties Liberal
Country
OriginHolt wins 1966 Liberal leadership election
Demise Holt disappears, presumed drowned
Predecessor Menzies Government (II)
Successor McEwen Government

The Holt Government was the federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister Harold Holt. It was made up of members of a Liberal-Country Party coalition in the Australian Parliament from 26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967.

Contents

Background

The Liberal Party of Australia-Country Party of Australia coalition had governed in Australia since 1949 under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Menzies retired in January 1966 and the Liberal Party elected Harold Holt as party leader and he became Prime Minister of Australia. [1]

Terms in office

ABC video of Holt Government's conversion to decimal currency.

After being elected by the Parliamentary Liberal Party to serve as leader and Prime Minister, Harold Holt led the coalition to victory in the November 1966 Australian Federal Election against the Australian Labor Party opposition led by Arthur Calwell. The Coalition won a substantial majority – the Liberals winning 61 seats and the Country Party 21 – with the Labor Party winning 41 and 1 Independent in the Australian House of Representatives (representing the largest parliamentary majority in 65 years). [2] Following the 1966 election, Gough Whitlam replaced Arthur Calwell as Leader of the Opposition.

During his time in office, Holt increased Australian commitment to the growing War in Vietnam. His government oversaw conversion to decimal currency. Holt faced Britain's withdrawal from Asia by visiting and hosting many Asian leaders and by expanding ties to the United States, hosting the first visit to Australia by an American president, his friend Lyndon Johnson. Holt's government introduced the Migration Act 1966, which effectively dismantled the White Australia Policy and increased access to non-European migrants, including refugees fleeing the Vietnam War. Holt also called the 1967 Referendum which removed the discriminatory clause in the Australian Constitution which excluded Aboriginal Australians from being counted in the census – the referendum was one of the few to be overwhelmingly endorsed by the Australian electorate (over 90% voted 'yes'). By the end of 1967, the Liberals initially popular support for the war in Vietnam was causing increasing public protest. [3]

Death of Holt

On 17 December 1967, Holt disappeared in heavy surf while swimming off Cheviot Beach, near Melbourne, becoming the third Australian Prime Minister to die in office. [4] He was not formally declared missing until 19 December. Country Party leader John McEwen served as Prime Minister from 19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968, pending the election of a new leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. [5] McEwen ruled out maintaining the Coalition if deputy liberal leader William McMahon became Prime Minister. John Gorton won the leadership election with a small majority and resigned from the Senate to stand for election to Higgins, the House of Represensatives seat formerly held by Harold Holt, which he achieved on 24 February 1968. [6]

See also

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First Gorton Ministry

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Disappearance of Harold Holt disappearance of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt off the coast of Portsea, Victoria

On 17 December 1967, Harold Holt, the Prime Minister of Australia, disappeared while swimming in the sea near Portsea, Victoria. An enormous search operation was mounted in and around Cheviot Beach, but his body was never recovered. Holt was eventually declared dead in absentia, and his memorial service five days later was attended by many world leaders. It is generally agreed that his disappearance was a simple case of an accidental drowning, but a number of conspiracy theories still surfaced, most famously the suggestion that he had been collected by a Chinese submarine. Holt was the third Australian prime minister to die in office, after Joseph Lyons in 1939 and John Curtin in 1945. He was initially replaced in a caretaker capacity by John McEwen, and then by John Gorton following a Liberal Party leadership election. Holt's death has entered Australian folklore, and was commemorated by, among other things, the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre.

1968 Liberal Party of Australia leadership election

A leadership election in the Liberal Party of Australia, the party of government in the Parliament of Australia, was held on 9 January 1968. It followed the disappearance and presumed drowning of previous leader Harold Holt, who had been declared dead on 19 December 1967. The contest was won by Senator John Gorton in a party room ballot; he was sworn in as prime minister the following day, replacing caretaker John McEwen.

1966 Liberal Party of Australia leadership election

The Liberal Party of Australia held a leadership ballot on 20 January 1966, following the resignation of Robert Menzies. Harold Holt was elected unopposed as his successor, and was sworn in as prime minister on 26 January.

References

  1. "In office - Harold Holt (26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967) and Zara Holt".
  2. "Elections - Harold Holt (26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967) and Zara Holt".
  3. "In office - Harold Holt (26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967) and Zara Holt".
  4. "In office - Harold Holt (26 January 1966 – 19 December 1967) and Zara Holt".
  5. "About - John McEwen (19 December 1967 – 10 January 1968) and Ann McEwen".
  6. "Before office - John Gorton (10 January 1968 – 10 March 1971) and Bettina Gorton".