Sir Robert Menzies

Posted in 1961

  • Returned at election in December by one seat.

"Despite the easing of credit restrictions, Menzies barely survived the election. The Liberals lost 13 seats and the CP 2, leaving the Coalition with a majority of only 62:60."
The Macquarie Book of Events, 1983 p 351.

  • South Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth:

"At the 1961 meeting of Commonwealth prime ministers, the crucial issue was South Africa: now that it had at referendum voted to become a republic, was its application to stay in the Commonwealth acceptable? Being a republic was not the main issue; everyone knew that South Africa's racial policy was the real problem. Menzies and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan 'worked like horses' over a series of drafts to find words that would be acceptable to all and would therefore keep the Commonwealth intact. The final statement expressed 'deep concern' about the impact of South Africa's racist policies on 'the relations between member countries of the Commonwealth, which is itself a multi-racial association of peoples'. Under mounting pressure, South Africa withdrew its application to re-enter the Commonwealth. Menzies made no bones about his belief that South Africa had been 'pushed out'. He began to feel that the balance of power had changed so much that his own views had become relatively unimportant."
Allan Martin in Australian Prime Ministers, 2000 p 201.

Australian Events

Posted in 1961

  • Mining huge iron-ore deposits in WAHuge iron-ore deposits found at Pilbara, WA and oil discovered at Moonie, Qld
  • Bankruptcies and unemployment reach 2%, the highest post-war level. This follows a fall in wool prices, drought, inflation and rising prices in 1960 when Treasurer Holt imposed a credit squeeze, raising loan interest rates and heavily increasing sales tax on motor vehicles.
  • Thalidomide is recognised as causing severe birth abnormalities in children whose mothers were given the drug in pregnancy.

World Events

Posted in 1961

  • Armed soldiers patrolling the Berlin WallThe Berlin Wall is erected by the Communists to isolate the Western sectors and stop the exodus of East Germans to the West. Concrete blocks rapidly replace the rolls of barbed wire used by East German soldiers on August 13 to close the border between East and West Berlin.
  • South African Republic is established by referendum; withdraws its application to remain in the Commonwealth.
  • John F Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the USA: "... ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
  • Bay of Pigs: US-backed exiles' invasion of Cuba to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro is a failure.
  • Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the world's first man in space.