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Australia 1970s to 1990s By 1970 Australia had begun to withdraw its military commitments in Vietnam. Australia's participation in the war was formally declared at an end when the Governor-General issued a proclamation in January of 1973. From the time of the arrival of the first Australia personnel in 1962 to the official end of the war in 1973, some 50 000 Australians served in Vietnam. A total of 520 were killed and almost 2400 were wounded. At home, the Vietnam War was the cause of a large amount of social and political dissent, comparable to the conscription disputes of the WWI period. The government punished those who had avoided the draft and soldiers sometimes met a hostile public upon returning to Australia. These tensions might be seen to have led to the 1972 election of the first Labor government in 23 years under Gough Whitlam. The Whitlam government abolished conscription and withdrew troops from Vietnam. It made a conscious decision that Australia was not going to automatically follow the foreign policy of the United States. Under Whitlam, Australia took a more independent position, which involved attempting to reach out and connect with our regional neighbours in Asia. As part of this program, Whitlam eliminated the last elements of the White Australia Policy. The official end of this policy came in 1973, when the Whitlam government put in place a series of amendments preventing the enforcement of racist aspects of existing immigration laws. These amendments made it possible for all immigrants to obtain citizenship after three years of permanent residence regardless of their country of origin. The Whitlam government also ratified all international agreements relating to immigration and race and made it so that race was disregarded as a factor in selecting immigrants. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) made it illegal to use racial criteria for any official purpose, such as hiring or dismissal of employees. These changes led to a rise in immigration from Asia, especially from war-torn Vietnam, and Australia moved toward becoming the multicultural nation we know today. The focus on multiculturalism and on Asia was not lost with the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, but continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s, particularly under the leadership of Paul Keating. The Whitlam government also moved to increase trade relations with Asia, and officially recognised the People's Republic of China in order to have a more open political and trading relationship with China. After Whitlam, relations with China developed and, aside from the problems surrounding the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, continue to evolve. Diplomatic relations with our near neighbour Indonesia have also been a developing and sometimes controversial area from the 1970s through to the present day. In 1999, following a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the US, a referendum was held in East Timor on the question of full independence from Indonesia. Violence and militia activities broke out around this referendum and Australia sent a peacekeeping force (known as INTERFET) to restore order. The 1980s in Australia were dominated by anxieties surrounding the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. One key test for Australia's foreign relations came in its divergence from New Zealand on the nuclear issue. In 1985 New Zealand signed the Treaty of Rarotonga (named for the island on which it was signed) which is the common name for the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. This treaty put in place a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, banning the use, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons within the zone. Signatories to the treaty include Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Under the Labour Party government of David Lange, this led to the enacting of anti-nuclear legislation which prevented ships carrying nuclear weapons or powered by nuclear reactors visiting New Zealand. This, in turn, led to the suspension of ANZUS relations between the US and New Zealand. Australia, however, did not put in place any similar zone of restriction around its own territories, and as Australia continues to have nuclear reactors, and is home to around 25 percent of the world's uranium deposits, the nations of the South Pacific remained divided on the nuclear issue throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In internal events, the mid-to-late 1980s saw an unprecedented boom in the Australian economy. The value of stocks in some of the largest companies on the share market increased by three or four times, in some cases in as little as a year's time. With the deregulation of banks in Australia, there was a steep rise in lending which further fuelled the share market boom. The activities of entrepreneurs and the 'corporate raiders' dominated the economy, as they raised huge sums of money, engaged in takeover bids and made massive profits. Alan Bond is the businessman most often associated with the corporate excesses of the 1980s. Bond is famous both for high-profile business ventures and for being charged with criminal offences associated with the collapse of his various companies. Like many of the high-flyers of the 1980s, Bond came unstuck in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash. 'Black Monday' is the name given to Monday October 19, 1987, the day the Dow Jones Index in New York fell 22.6 percent, the largest one-day decline in recorded stock market history. The precipitous fall was not only felt in the United States, but reverberated all over the world. By the end of October 1987, the Australian share markets had fallen 41.8 percent. No single cause is attributed to the crash, but it has been put forward that a mixture of speculation, overvaluation, over-extended debts and market psychology was to blame. The 1987 crash demonstrated the globalised nature of international finance markets and showed just how connected to the rest of the world Australia was in the era of computerised communication technology. International attention also fell on Australia around the issue of Indigenous rights. In the wake of the 1988 Bicentennial, more and more calls came for Native Title rights to be recognised by the Australian courts, and eventually the doctrine of Terra Nullius (the 'legal fiction' that Australia was uninhabited upon settlement in 1788) was overturned and Native Title was established at law. The High Court, not the government or parliament, was the major cause of official recognition of Native Title. The two crucial High Court decisions were made in the Mabo and Wik cases of the 1990s. The development of Australia's foreign relations has spanned from the nation's time as a dominion and later a realm of the British Empire, to its position in the 1970s and 1980s as a steadfast Cold War ally of the US, to its engagement with Asia as an independent regional power in its own right. Australia's relations with the world are based on its position as a leading trading nation and as a significant donor of humanitarian aid. Contemporary Australian foreign policy is based on a commitment to multilateralism and regionalism, and as one of the drafters of the United Nations Charter, Australia has given firm support to the United Nations and its specialised agencies. Australia was a member of the UN Security Council from 1986 to 1987 and sat on the UN Human Rights Commission from 1994 to 1996. At an international level, Australia has historically taken a leading role in many UN activities, including peacekeeping missions, disarmament negotiations and drug control. Australia also is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) and in the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. APEC promotes trade and economic policies along the Pacific Rim. As a consequence of our regional position, Australia also plays a central part in relations between developed and developing nations within the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Under John Howard (Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007), Australia continued to engage with our neighbours and with the global community in general, with special concern given to recent concerns such as terrorism, free trade, integration with Asia and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite all the above, the Australia Acts (1982 and 1986) completely divorced Australia, and its States, from any British control, be it executive, legislative or judicial. Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign of both Britain and Australia, as opposed to one kingdom.
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