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Research Guides

Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania


As Chapter 3 testifies, disasters self-select as a record-creating theme in Commonwealth–Tasmanian relations. Tragedy both real and foreshadowed provided one hallmark of the 1960s. 'Black Tuesday' heads the list, shorthand for 62 deaths and the image of Hobart suburbs ablaze in February 1967. By contrast, the decade opened with severe flooding in the Derwent Valley and Hobart, and ended with Launceston experiencing its worst floods in 40 years. Of sadness to come, the preconditions were set with the opening of the Tasman Bridge in 1964 and the departure in 1966 of Tasmanians, some volunteers and others national service conscripts, to the war in Vietnam.

Two issues previously low in governments' consciousness were Indigenous rights and the environment. In the mid-1960s, that began to change in Hobart and Canberra. In 1967, Tasmania and the other states supported the referendum question to remove all constitutional barriers to Commonwealth measures to support Indigenous people. That year also saw the HEC announce plans for the Gordon River Power Development Scheme and, by extension, Lake Pedder. Politically too, things were afoot. The Menzies era ended with his retirement in January 1966. When his replacement, Harold Holt, drowned in December 1967, John Gorton became Prime Minister. Around the same time, 35 years of Labor rule, the last 11 dominated the Premier Eric Reece, ended. A fresh face, the Liberal Member for Wilmot Angus Bethune, became Premier in 1969. 'During his parliamentary career', wrote Max Bingham, Bethune 'was noted for his grasp of federal–state relations, his humanity and his keen analytical mind'.

Economic development continued to be seen as crucial to the state's prosperity. There were any number of reasons to justify confidence, including new mineral discoveries and the total faith in hydroindustrialisation of two powerful forces, Premier Eric Reece and the HEC. New Commonwealth agencies were similarly oriented, for example, the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, Victorian/Tasmanian Office (from 1961; CA 2637), Department of Shipping and Transport, Regional Controller, Tasmania (CA 10150) and Department of Trade and Industry, State Branch, Tasmania (CA 1549, both formed in 1963), and Forestry and Timber Bureau Forestry Research Institute, Tasmania (from 1964; CA 1554).


Chapter 1
The Commonwealth and Tasmania, 1901–2000