Out of the Cabinet 1982/1983

Table of Contents


Back in 1982/’83, there were more women than men for the first time since records were kept. Despite this, average weekly earnings were just over $300 for men and just under $250 for women.

Marriages in which both husband and wife worked accounted for 41% of marriages, and the model of working father, dependent wife and kids applied to only 20% of marriages.

Just eight months short of its 50th birthday, The Women’s Weekly went from 52 editions a year to 12, resisting the temptation of calling itself the Women’s Monthly, but not resisting a price rise, from 70c to $1.50.

White wine was the drink of choice for 60% of drinkers, and it was available in a 4-litre cask that you could pick up for $4.77, or in a 2-litre flagon for $1.99.

A stamp cost 27 cents, a meat pie 70 cents, and the Sydney Morning Herald, 25c. Coles and Woolies had only 17% of the market between them. Saturday afternoon trading was just being introduced. Milk was still available in bottles made of glass.

The video came into its own, with local video rental shops popping up everywhere, and Australia switching to video recorders faster than any other country.

1982 was the year when the Compact Disc was launched on the world, but it was many years before CD players were affordable enough to be commonplace, so we were still buying our music on vinyl, despite a slump in the record industry due to an economic downturn, an ageing market, and the popularity of home taping on cassette.

The environmental concern of the time was the depletion of the ozone layer, with moves to limit use of chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans.

And this song was a worldwide hit.


Travelling in a fried-out Kombi
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said

“Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”

Colin Hay was a Glaswegian whose father ran a music shop, assuring him a ready supply of his favourite records, and an easy way to own a guitar. At the age of 14 he and his family migrated to Melbourne.

In 1978 he and guitarist Ron Strykert started playing and writing together, and Strykert presented Hay with a tune he’d made up by hitting bottles filled with different levels of water. Inspired by Skyhooks’ use of Aussie themes, the song developed into Down Under.

The next year the duo recruited a few more musos including Greg Ham on sax, and they played their first gigs at The Cricketers’ Arms Hotel, opposite the hallowed MCG. The newly named Men At Work did covers and originals, and Down Under was merely a humble addition to the set list that they worked their way through each Thursday night.

In 1980 they’d saved enough money to pay for a recording session, and released a single on their own label- the A-side was called Keypunch Operator, and on the B-side was that throw-away track, Down Under. Interestingly, you can hear snatches of the famous flute solo in the instrumental section in the middle of that early recording.

The single wasn’t what you could call a huge success but as a live act they were growing from strength to strength. An executive from CBS Records was so convinced the company should sign the band that he turned up to work each day as a different Man At Work, one day a plumber, next day a house painter, then an electrician till they gave in.

The result was a single Who Can it Be Now?, and an album, Business As Usual. Down Under was re-recorded for the album, complete with flute solo. It was released as their second single, and became so big in the US in 1982 that 30,288 jars of Vegemite were exported there that year, and Men at Work’s fee went from the $50 a night they once received to $30 000.

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said

I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.


Winning the America’s Cup yacht race was a goal that had always eluded Australia, and was high on the wish-list of achievements that would show the world that we were up with the best.

In 1983 we had a contender that showed promise- Australia II owned by an Alan Bond syndicate, and skippered by John Bertrand, designed by Ben Lexcen.

After four races, Australia II was trailing 3-1, then made a miracle comeback to level the scores at 3-all. So for the first time in the race’s history, a seventh race was called and in the early hours of September 26, the whole nation was glued to see if yachting history could be made.

Prime Minister Hawke was in Perth, purportedly for a Cabinet meeting that was scheduled for the day of the final race. I’m pretty sure there are no cabinet papers for that meeting because when Australia II won that final race by 47 seconds, the image on our screens was of a wildly jubilant PM giving a long TV interview in which he was presented with a famously garish Oz-centric jacket. It was during that interview that he uttered the immortal lines…

Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.

The soundtrack to that day that brought the nation together was Down Under, and the song was a massive hit all over again. It had sold 500 copies all up in its first incarnation, now it was selling that many in a day.

Many years later there was an innocent question on the ABC’s music quiz show, Spicks and Specks.

What children’s song is contained in the song Down Under?

The answer was Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, a song that is often credited as traditional Australian, but was actually written by a Melbourne schoolteacher Marion Sinclair in 1934 as an entry in a competition for the Girl Guides Association of Victoria. The song won and was picked up worldwide. Somewhere along the way its copyright had been assigned to Larrikin Records, and as Sinclair had died in 1988, the song was still in copyright.

So Larrikin’s New York based parent company sued Men At Work and won the case, receiving a six-figure settlement.

We come from a lawyers’ office
Where the guiding rule is to fill the coffers
Men At Work, we say, they go and plunder
A single bar of the song that’s called Down Under.


Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry, on a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Up where the clear winds blow.

Up Where We Belong, from the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, hit the Australian charts in early 1983, just as Malcolm Fraser was about to call a snap double dissolution election, confident that he could run rings around a Labor Party then led by Bill Hayden.

But lurking within the ALP was the popular Member for Wills, Bob Hawke, whose leadership ambition was unstoppable. On the very day that Fraser called the election, Hayden stepped aside and Hawke was elected unopposed as Leader of the Opposition.
So, Fraser was now up against a new and much more formidable opponent.

Please lift me up where I belong
Where the Liberals cry, eating humble pie
Please lift me up where I belong
To lead the ALP

I was in Italy at the time of the election, and no Italian I approached had ever heard of Signore Fraser or Roberto Hawke. So, in desperation, I bought an Italian newspaper, and there, tucked away deep inside, was a tiny article, in Italian of course, that mentioned Hawke more than Fraser, and Bob’s famous drinking prowess. From that I gathered it was hello Bob and goodbye Malcolm.

It was a landslide win for Labor, Fraser resigned in tears, Keating became Treasurer, Peacock was the new Liberal leader, and his deputy was John Howard.


With an ocker Prime Minister in The Lodge, 1983 was a bumper year for Australian number one records that stayed on the charts for months on end.

Me mate Boomer rang
Said he was havin’ a few people around for a Barbie
Might cook a burra or two

Will Walla be there?
Yeah, and Vege might come too

D’you wanna go Anna?
I’ll go if Ding goes

What’ll we do about Nulla?
Nulla bores me to tears.

Australiana is a comedy monologue written by humourist, Billy Birmingham, and performed by Jewish Australian comedian, Sandy Gutman, better known as Austen Tayshus. It stayed in the charts for nearly eight months, and is still the biggest-selling Australian single of all time.

He’ll definitely lead you astray, Liana.

It wasn’t all comedy though.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel
God help me, I was only nineteen.

Based on recollections of his brother-in-law, I Was Only 19 was written by John Schumann and recorded by Redgum. The song raised awareness of the physical and mental effects of the Vietnam War on its veterans, at a time when the government announced a Royal Commission into Agent Orange.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

Another massive Australian hit in 1983 was an EP by Australian Crawl, called Semantics. The EP made it big thanks to this classic song.

Meet me down by the jetty landing
Where the pontoons bump and spray
I see the others reading, standing
As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay

Hear the Captain blow his whistle
So long she’s been away
I miss our early morning wrestle
Not a very happy way to start the day

She don’t like
That kind of behaviour
She don’t like
That kind of behaviour

So, throw down your gun
Don’t be so reckless
Throw down your gun
Don’t be so reckless.

1983, the year the dollar was floated, and Medicare was launched.

Don’t be so reckless.

The year the Labor government softened its stand on uranium.

Don’t be so reckless.

And 112 women were arrested for trespassing onto Pine Gap satellite tracking station, each giving her name as Karen Silkwood.

Don’t be so reckless.


When we performed this back in 2011 it was obvious that some things never change.

1982- Fraser PM, Peacock sniffing around leadership.
2011- Gillard PM, Rudd sniffing around leadership.

1982- Unions lift bans on live meat exports.
2011- Government lifts bans on live meat exports.

1982- at the ALP conference MPs were allowed a conscience vote on abortion.
011- at the ALP conference MPs were allowed a conscience vote on same sex marriage.

1982- Electricity prices to rise by 27%, not much kerfuffle.
2011- Electricity prices to rise by 18%, lots of kerfuffle.

1982- An attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi fails.
2011- An attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi succeeds.


In doing these performances, as well as looking at some of the great songs of the relevant years, we resist some that are so bad they’re good. This is one of those songs.

Oh, I’ve been to Nice and the Isle of Greece
While I sipped champagne on a yacht
I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
And showed ’em what I’ve got
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things
That a woman ain’t supposed to see
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

I’ve Never Been to Me, what they call a sleeper, was first recorded by American singer, Charlene, in 1976. It went nowhere, until 1982, when the song was played by a Florida DJ and the response was so great that it was re-released, with the addition of this heartfelt monologue.

Hey, you know what paradise is?
It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding, and it’s that man you fought with this morning
The same one you’re going to make love with tonight
That’s truth, that’s love.

And so, Charlene joined the ranks of one hit wonders, making it to number 1 in Australia, in the charts for 15 weeks, proving there’s no accounting for taste.

Sometimes I’ve been to crying for unborn children
That might have made me complete
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

With philosophies like Charlene’s out there, it’s no wonder that the Monty Python team searched for The Meaning of Life in their 1983 film of that name. This was the song that Eric Idle sang over the film’s credits.

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.


One of Australia’s most celebrated mysteries has been the subject of four inquiries, an opera, a play, a film, TV broadcasts and numerous books. It’s the story of the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance, which took an interesting turn in 1982.

Two years earlier, Lindy Chamberlain had claimed that a dingo had taken her daughter from their tent at the Ayers Rock campsite, an explanation that was supported by an immediate inquiry. But some in the police and in the community were unconvinced, especially when Lindy didn’t display the perceived level of emotion. The investigations continued, and, in 1982, the Northern Territory Supreme Court had the case re-opened. Lindy was convicted of murder and sent to Berrimah Jail for three years.

She was later exonerated, and just after we performed this show, a fourth inquest was beginning. As had been found twice before, the dingo did it.

In another story, Prince Charles and Princess Di were due for an Australian tour in March 1983, a tour that that was so anticipated that it actually played a part in deciding the date of the federal election. But, although Australia was captivated, this was at a time when the Royal Family was under a cloud in a number of ways. Prince Andrew’s affair with Koo Stark had been revealed, Princess Margaret was also having open dalliances, and the marriage of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips was shaky.

Charles and Di’s happiness too was being questioned after it was reported that they’d had a row on a recent holiday, returning to London in stony silence. But Australia welcomed them and their visit was hailed as the biggest celebrity tour since The Beatles.

Back in Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was bathing in the glow of popularity that followed her decision a year earlier to retaliate when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain had owned these islands, just off the coast of Argentina, since the 1800s, and were, according to Thatcher, inhabited by 1800 people ‘of British tradition and stock’. The war lasted less than three months, the British victory giving a much needed confidence boost to Britain, and providing the impetus for Thatcher to win the ’83 election.

The British Navy obviously played a big part in a war situated in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, and Split Enz’ s song Six Months In a Leaky Boat was ‘discouraged from airplay’ in Britain.

The war brought prosperity to shipbuilding towns in England and Northern Ireland, as more ships were being built to replace those destroyed in the war. Elvis Costello saw the irony in the fact that the young men of these same regions were being sent off to the Falklands to potentially become casualties in the very same ships. He co-wrote a song, Shipbuilding, which was a hit for English singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt. In 1983, Costello released his own version featuring jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker.

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding

Well I ask you
The boy said “Dad they’re going to take me to task
But I’ll be back by Christmas”
It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.


Shane Howard was a Geelong-based singer/songwriter who way back in ’77, while in his mid-teens, had formed a folk-rock band called Goanna. In 1982, they made their first album, Spirit of Place, from which came their first single, Solid Rock. Both topped the charts.

Around the same time, the Tasmanian government was attempting to carry out its promise to dam the Gordon and Franklin Rivers in order to generate hydro-electricity. Thousands of protesters converged on the site to join a blockade, and the voice of the protest was the head of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, local GP, Bob Brown, one of the 1200 who were arrested.

Under the pseudonym of Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble, Goanna joined forces with Peter Garrett and Redgum, to lend their voices to the protest.

Oh Tasmania, the hardest heart would understand
Just to feel your wilderness
Your silence sings to me.

Let the Franklin flow, let the wild land be
The Wilderness should be strong and free
From Kuta Kina to the south-west shore
It has to be something worth fighting for
It has to be something worth fighting for.

The B-side consisted of a monologue by Bob Brown himself, and all proceeds made from the sale of the single, which made it to number 12 on the Australian charts, were donated to the cause.

Support for the No Dams movement came from a number of notables including Dick Smith, Manning Clark, and David Bellamy. Even Prince Charles weighed in with an environmental message.

When I was in Australia some years ago they were busily cutting trees down to turn them into the late edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Despite the fact that he was right- Fairfax used tonnes of newsprint manufactured 100 kilometres from the site of the dam- the local member told Charles to…

mind your own business.

It was in the Sydney Morning Herald that I was reminded that a state referendum was held, but with only two choices- do you want to dam the Gordon here, or there? The ‘No’ campaign urged voters to tick neither but simply write ‘No Dams’ on the ballot paper. The informal vote was 45%.

And I also read about a by-election called as a result of Prime Minister Billy McMahon’s retirement. On the ballot papers, 9% of voters wrote ‘No Dams’.

It became a federal issue, with the Coalition supporting the dam, and Labor opposing. At the ’83 election Bob Hawke promised to stop the dam project if he was elected.

Power, I collect it
As long as it is not hydro-electric
Power, I choose it
Power, I know how to use it

One of the first things Hawke did on coming to power in ’83 was to take the issue to the High Court. Section 51, paragraph 29 of the Constitution, which states that the parliament has power with respect to external affairs, was cited. And what did external affairs, or foreign affairs as we now call it, have to do with a dam in Tasmania? Well, the area where the Franklin and Gordon are situated is listed as World Heritage, and therefore by blocking the dam, the government was fulfilling its responsibilities under an international treaty.

Lawyers, know your constitution
External powers, that is my solution
A wilderness In this ‘no dam’ nation
That is the power of the federation.

The High Court voted 4-3 to support the government’s case, and no dam was built.

Oh, let the Franklin wend
Its way around Rock Island Bend
Let the Gordon run
Where the sun has kissed the morning mist
And Mister Gray, I say don’t mess with Robert J
I’ll change your plans
I say ‘No dams’.


In 1982 there was a row over whether homosexual groups should be allowed to join in Anzac ceremonies. Bruce Ruxton, then Victorian president of the RSL had this to say…

I don’t know where all these gays and poofters are coming from. I don’t remember a single poofter from WW2.

Then there was morals campaigner Jerry Falwell who, whilst visiting Australia that year, told us…

We are not against homosexuals- we just feel that homosexuality is a moral perversion.

When Festival of Light’s Fred Nile gave a breakfast address for $3 a head at the Central Coast Christian Centre, the topic was anti-discrimination, but only men could attend.

And Joh Bjelke-Petersen had this to add to the debate about an equal opportunity policy.

In Queensland, we already give people equal opportunity in areas where they qualify to be equally qualified.

Speaking of Joh, when he fell out with the Liberal Party in 1983, one Liberal politician said of him…

He’s a power drunk egotist- that’s not a political view, that’s a medical view.

So now the Country Party had to rule in its own right, and Joh had to dig deep to find talent in his cabinet. One of the new ministers was Vince Lester whose greatest feat was walking backwards across his electorate, and who was a vigorous campaigner for outward opening lavatory doors, reflective number plates, and real sausages.

With such talent, Joh led a lone Country Party to victory in the ’83 elections. In the Sun Herald the next day, Joh’s win only made it to the bottom half of the front page. On the top half was the real news…

Simon, the doctor on A Country Practice, is to wed Vicki, the vet.


And finally, 1983 was a monumental year in the world of showbiz because of one small black-ish man by the name of Michael Jackson, and one huge album success, Thriller.

On a live TV show, Jackson introduced his iconic moonwalk, whilst singing…

She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene
I said don’t mind, but what do you mean, I am the one

Who will dance on the floor in the round
She said I am the one, who will dance on the floor in the round.

Billlie Jean, the second single off the album, would have been called something different if producer Quincy Jones had had his way. He thought everyone would think Michael was singing about tennis star, Billie Jean King. Jackson held his ground because of the real-life story behind the song. He’d had to deal with many a female fan who claimed he was the father of their child, and one of these, who called herself Billie Jean Jackson, reckoned that he had fathered one, not both, of her twin sons.

Billie-Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son.

Music TV (MTV) was only two years old when Thriller came out, and the video clips it broadcast were not much more than promotions of the artist’s performance of a song. Billie Jean changed all this with a clip that was like a short film, with high production values, and a narrative. MTV, though, was exclusively the domain of white artists so, at first, they showed no interest in it. Jackson encouraged his record company CBS to not take this lying down, so they simply threatened to provide no videos from any artist in their massive stable, black or white.

MTV buckled, and Billie Jean was shown, helping to take the song to the top of the charts around the world.

The videos accompanying other singles from Thriller took the art form further to the point of the title track having a 14-minute clip that cost $14 million, and was distributed to cinemas. Music videos would never be the same again, and would now be a vital part of any song’s success.

Thriller became the biggest selling album of all time, with sales of 100 million.

‘Cos this is Thriller, Thriller night
And no-one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.

And our very own beast is about to strike, in the form of Dr Jim Stokes, so Jim, take that cabinet documents essay and..

Read it, read it
About debates that may be heated,
Cabinet meetings that went through the night
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right
Just read it, read it
Read it!

For Jim Stokes take on the Cabinet Records of 1982 and 1983, click on here.

Jim Stokes 19821983 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Down Under written by Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. Parody by John Shortis
For the original 1980 recording go to Down Under original recording
Up Where We Belong written by Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings. Parody by John Shortis
Australiana written by Billy Birmingham
I Was Only 19 written by John Schumann
Reckless written by James Reyne
I’ve Never Been To Me written by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch
Galaxy Song written by Eric Idle and John du Prez
Shipbuilding music by Clive Langer, lyrics by Elvis Costello
Solid Rock written by Shane Howard
Let the Franklin Flow written by Shane Howard (pseudonym F. River)
To hear Bob Brown’s only hit go to Bob Brown B-side
No Dams written by John Shortis
Billie Jean written by Michael Jackson
Beat It written by Michael Jackson. Parody by John Shortis
Thriller written by Michael Jackson

Down Under- The Tune, the Times, the Tragedy by Trevor Conomy
Australian Prime Ministers edited by Michelle Grattan
Unfaithful Music by Elvis Costello

To see Bob Hawke being given his Aussie jacket and delivering his immortal line go to Hawke in Perth 1983

Show performed 2012
Essay written July 2017.