The success of the Menzies government's policies laid the foundations for the massive expansion in resource development and investment that occurred under the Liberal/National Party Coalition governments led by Harold Holt (1966-67), John Gorton (1967-71) and William McMahon (1971-72). The Australian economy and standards of living grew rapidly, and Liberals took the lead in recognising the rights of women and minority groups, including homosexuals and Aboriginal Australians.
The strength of the economy enabled an increasing public and political concern with 'quality of life' issues. The Holt/Gorton/McMahon Governments delivered improved funding and services in traditional areas like health, education and welfare, while at the same time expanding Australia’s foreign policy and defence initiatives. The White Australia policy was abolished under the Holt government, and Australia's immigration placed on a non-dsicriminatory basis.
The Holt government also initiated the abolition of the constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people – with the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights recording a resounding victory. The government increasingly focused on the need to position Australia to take advantage of the rapidly changing world of technology, and established policies to promote energy conservation and environmental protection.
With the growing threat of communist insurgencies in a number of Southeast Asian countries, the Coalition strongly supported the United States in resisting the attack by North Vietnam on South Vietnam, as it had done in relation to the US-led United Nations action in Korea in the 1950s. While the US strategy was not successful in Vietnam, the resistance to the communist takeover was important in buying time for other countries to stablise and to defeat their domestic insurgencies, and a more peaceful region emerged. The communists began persecution of their political enemies in Vietnam, and in Cambodia engaged in an horiffic genocide.
The Holt/Gorton/McMahon Governments provided the opportunity to consolidate the policy gains of the Menzies era. Some of the features which highlighted this period of government include:
- a boom in the construction of new homes and the commencement of urban and regional development programs
- the introduction of the Department of Education and Science to take advantage of new technology
- an increased emphasis on the development of Northern Australia with new railways, roads and ports
- a rapid expansion and increased support for Australia’s growing tourism industry
- a continuation of full employment, high growth rates, a doubling of exports and an explosion in the work force
Much was achieved during the Holt/Gorton/McMahon era – some of the further achievements include:
- changes to education such as the funding of a new teacher training college and the expansion of assistance to secondary schools for science labs
- the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Office and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs
- additional social services – assistance scheme for pensioner health, increased funding to Meals of Wheels programs, the funding of housing support for young widows and expanded benefits for the disabled
- the establishment of the Australian Council for the Arts and funding for the Australian Film and Television Corporation
- greater conservation measures – a twelve mile fishing zone, the introduction of an Institute of Marine Science and conservation of the Gordon River