Every year, the National Archives of Australia releases secret government documents from thirty years ago. These are always released on January 1st, and tend to be nothing more than an interesting insight into the mind of the government of the day.
Not this year. Read on to find out why.
According to this morning’s Age, 1974 was the year that the Labor government under Gough Whitlam “lost its grip on reality and its own conduct”, and “the year Treasury lost its influence on Government decision-making”.
As a direct result, it was the year that Whitlam attempted to borrow $4 billion – an amount that would have quadrupled the government’s foreign debt – from unnamed oil sheikhs, through a shady Pakistani commodities broker, despite Treasury being told by the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve that it was most likely a scam.
Read the articles in The Age:
- The year the government lost its head
- How the loans scandal became an affair to remember
- Secret steps in Whitlam’s “funny money” affair
Then, read some of the documents on the National Archive’s website. This document is especially interesting – it contains a list of discussion points about the multi-billion-dollar loan, and starts “There are two possible situations. (i) The money is there; or (ii) the money is not there (i.e. this is a confidence trick of major proportions)”.
Episodes like this led to the downfall of the Labor government and Gough Whitlam’s spectacular dismissal in 1975.
The 1975 Cabinet documents contain the final half of the loans affair – at the end of December 1974, the Opposition had just started to hear the first whispers that something might be wrong – and all the material from the constitutional crisis of that year. These documents are due to be released on January 1st, 2006.