Australia in the 1990’s

The 1990s opened in Australia with the worst economic recession since the end of the Second World War. The effects of the unfavorable economic situation intersected with the complex dynamics of Australian society which had been characterized in a markedly multicultural sense: the traditional supremacy of White Australia was severely tested by an Asian presence increasingly consistent in numerical terms and increasingly enterprising economically, while the Aborigines, the weakest part of the Australian ‘nation’, had begun to see their requests for recognition accepted in the legislation promoted by the government federal. More and more turned to Asia, the Australia at the end of the century he found himself in the need to reconstitute with great effort, and not without strong internal resistance, a collective identity less tied to European roots and cultural traditions. For Australia 1996, please check

The general elections of March 1990 awarded the victory for the fourth consecutive time to the Labor Party, in government since 1983. The new executive, under the leadership of R. Hawke, pursued an austerity policy as in previous legislatures, with cuts in public spending and severe fiscal measures, which was followed by the launch of an unprecedented privatization program relating to the banking and financial sectors. air transport. Persistent economic stagnation, however, coupled with internal strife within the Labor Party, led to Hawke’s resignation and the appointment of former Treasury Minister P. Keating as chief executive. The involvement in financial scandals of some important party leaders, and the defeat in several local and supplementary elections, seemed to accelerate, despite this turnover, the decline of Labor. In the general elections of March 1993 the liberal-national opposition, led by the liberal J. Hewson, presented an economic reform program focused on reducing income taxes and introducing a new tax on goods and services. Keating attacked the opposition program as economically inflationary and socially detrimental to the lower classes, ethnic minorities and women. On the other hand, he set up an electoral campaign under the banner of ‘big issues’: the land rights of the aboriginal populations, the transformation of the to. in a republic before 2001, improving health care and reducing unemployment (which in July 1992 had reached a record rate of ‘ 11, 1%) through public funding aimed at creating new jobs. Contrary to expectations, the elections saw the confirmation of the Labor majority which even increased its representatives in the House (80 seats, two more than in 1990, against 49 for the Liberal Party and 16 for the National Party).

Regarding the question of the aborigines, the new Keating government, taking its cue from a sentence of the High Court of June 1992 that had repealed the concept of terra nullius according to which the European settlers had seized land considered ‘uninhabited’, presented the Native title act which recognized the existence of land rights prior to colonization. The law, passed by Parliament in December 1993 after months of intense negotiations, it gave the aborigines the right to appeal to special courts to claim possession of land that they could prove to have permanently occupied, thus negotiating directly with the mining companies and with the ranchers the exploitation of the soil and subsoil. Although all concessions prior to the end of 1993 were excluded and the application of the new law concerned a few territories of the Crown and some desert areas of the hinterland, its impact, including cultural, was very significant and raised the protests and concerns of the mining industry, as well as the dissent of the most uncompromising of the aborigines. The government also undertook to create a special federal fund intended for the reacquisition of land and, in general, for the improvement of the living conditions, education and health of the Aboriginal people who still lived in disadvantaged conditions compared to the rest of Australian society in the 1990s. with a per capita income much lower, a higher percentage of unemployed, a higher mortality, a significantly higher alcoholism rate, an incomprehensibly high percentage of deaths, in circumstances that are not always clear, among prisoners.

The foreign policy of the Labor governments, based on essentially economic-commercial objectives, privileged relations with neighboring Asian countries. In 1989 Hawke promoted the birth of APEC, with the aim of further integrating the regional economy through the free circulation of goods, capital and technologies. Following this lead, Keating opened an active season of state visits to neighboring countries and increased financial aid to Cambodia and Vietnam. The Australian government was among the first to grant its military support to the United States in the Gulf War and relations between the two countries continued to remain close, especially on the military level. Relations with some European countries are more complex: the affirmation that the Australia2001, reiterated by Keating on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s visit in September 1993, temporarily cooled relations with Great Britain, while the French government’s decision to resume nuclear tests in the South Pacific in 1995 after three years of suspension caused moments of considerable tension with France.

The dynamism of the Keating government failed to prevent the country’s serious economic problems from remaining at the center of political attention ahead of the 1996 elections. Despite the containment of the inflation rate (2.6% in 1996), the Australia it did not emerge from the recession: unemployment showed no signs of decreasing, while the incentives and tax cuts promised by Keating turned into an increase in cuts in social spending. Under these conditions, the elections of March 1996 marked the clear affirmation of the liberal-national coalition (the Liberals obtained 76 seats in the Chamber and the National Party 18, against 49Labor) and led, after thirteen years of uninterrupted Labor government, to the formation of an executive headed by the liberal leader J. Howard; in the same month of March, K. Beazley replaced Keating at the head of the Labor Party.

The new government continued the privatization program undertaken by Labor by extending it to telecommunications and implemented a drastic policy of cuts in public spending, affecting all sectors except military spending. These measures, which in August 1996 raised unprecedented demonstrations in Canberra, inevitably ended up affecting the most disadvantaged classes including the Aborigines, whose rights acquired in the two-year period 1992 – 93 were called into question with the proposal, put forward by the Howard government, to limit the application of the Native title act.

The aboriginal question was resumed in October 1996 by Mrs. P. Hanson, an independent deputy, who in a speech to the Chamber asked for the elimination of all funds in favor of the aborigines (of which she spoke in openly disparaging terms), together with the closure of the borders. to Asian immigration which, according to him, would have submerged Australia. The government’s position towards the ‘Hanson case’ was strongly condemned, and yet the repercussions of the episode in domestic and foreign public opinion were noteworthy: the image of the to. it was damaged among the Asian states which constituted the country’s largest source of investment, while the results of some polls revealed that about half of the Australians surveyed shared Hanson’s views. In May 1997 the publication of the results of an inquiry promoted by the commission on human rights and equal opportunities reopened the discussion, revealing that between 1910 and 1970 about 100,000 Aboriginal children had been removed from their families, often by force, and forced to live in orphanages or with white families according to a plan of forced integration and in the belief that the aborigines were rapidly doomed to extinction.

The government’s choice in May 1997 to reduce the influx of immigrants by a further 8 % (with an overall reduction of 20 % in two years), even if motivated by the high unemployment rate, seemed to endorse the idea that the Australian multicultural society was going through a period of uncertainty and rethinking values. The elections of October 3, 1998 confirmed the center-right coalition in the government and sanctioned the failure of Labor and the clear defeat of the racist party of Hanson, One Nation.. After years of heated discussions on constitutional ties with Great Britain and after a constitutional convention had ruled in favor of the establishment of a republican system, a referendum was called for the end of 1999, the outcome of which was in any case subject to constitutional change. Held in November, the consultation rejected the republican theses by a small margin.

Australia in the 1990's

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