1991 in Australia

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1991 in Australia
Monarchy Elizabeth II
Governor-General Bill Hayden
Prime minister Bob Hawke, then Paul Keating
Population 17,284,036
Elections NSW
See also:


Premiers and Chief Ministers[edit]

Governors and Administrators[edit]



  • 2 January – Warship HMAS Westralia (O 195) leaves for they Persian Gulf.
  • 3 January – The musical ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ premieres in Sydney.
  • 4 January – In Melbourne, 35,000 march to demand the resignation of the government.
  • 7 January – Flooding in Rockhampton is the worst in 36 years.
    • The Gulf War – In 1991 Australia sent troops to assist the United Nations with the Gulf War.
  • 10 January – The State Government of South Australia was forced to bail out the State Bank of South Australia with A$944 million. The bailout is increased to $2.4 billion in August.
    • Australia orders its diplomats out of Baghdad, Iraq.[1]
  • 12 January – Six people drown in floods in Queensland.
  • 13 January – A Victorian factory which supplies United States Armed Forces is destroyed by fire.[2]
  • 14 January – Across the nation, thousands attend church services and protest rallies urging peace.
    • A flood emergency is declared in the Queensland Gulf country.[3]
  • 16 January – Widespread flooding isolates Normanton.
    • A Sydney mother is charged with the murder of her baby daughter.[4]
  • 17 January – The Gulf War begins, with Prime Minister Hawke giving battle orders to the Navy stationed in the Gulf after a telephone call from President Bush.[5]
    • A siege takes place in Brisbane after an off-duty policeman is taken hostage.
    • The unemployment rate falls to 8.1%
    • Victorian Premier Joan Kirner axes two government departments.[which?]
  • 18 January – Prime Minister Bob Hawke calls on Israel not to retaliate against Iraq.
  • 19 January – Peace marches across Australia demand the withdrawal of Australian forces from the Gulf.
    • A shark attacks a midnight swimmer in a Gold Coast canal.
  • 21 January – A mini cyclone leaves a trail of destruction in Sydney.
    • Sydney’s Australia Square is evacuated after a parcel bomb scare.[6]
  • 23 January – Fierce storms lash Adelaide and Melbourne
    • Insurance companies react angrily to Federal Treasurer Paul Keating’s levy ruling.
    • Billy Joel arrives for his Australian Tour.
  • 24 January – An Islamic mosque in Sydney’s west is fire bombed.
    • Ford announces plans to retrench 1,600 works at its Geelong and Broadmeadows factories.
  • 25 January – Australia sends Navy divers to join the Gulf task force.
  • 26 January – Professor Fred Hollows is named Australian of the Year.
    • The most senior Iraqi diplomat in Australia is asked to leave.


  • 2 April - New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner makes an address to the National Press Club of Australia in which he criticises Federal Treasurer Paul Keating, accusing him of dragging the chain on microeconomic reform and claiming that Keating's apparent disinterest in fixing Federal-State financial relations may thwart attempts to lower inflation. [7]
  • 4 April - Prime Minister Bob Hawke announces that a Telecom proposal to increase the price of local phone calls by 2 cents to 24 cents and increase business charges may be accepted provided they were below the Consumer Price Index. [8]
  • 7 April - Prime Minister Bob Hawke rebukes Employment, Education and Training Minister John Dawkins during a Cabinet meeting over a speech he made the day before, in which he called for a review of the floating exchange rate, in direct opposition to the Government's policy on the issue. Dawkins also suggested that the Government's pursuit of low inflation may have to be sacrificed in the interests of stabilising the exchange rate. The Prime Minister warns the other ministers that they will face the same fate if they speak on issues outside their normal portfolio responsibilities. [9]
  • 11 April - Prime Minister Bob Hawke volunteers to give evidence to the WA Inc Royal Commission and announces that the former West Australian Premier Brian Burke will return from Ireland next week to testify to the Commission. Mr. Hawke also reverses his earlier categorical denial, given repeatedly in Parliament during the week, that there had been discussion of a gold tax at a lunch with Mr Burke, the failed merchant banker Laurie Connell, Alan Bond and others on June 15, 1987. In evidence before the royal commission, Laurie Connell said he received an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Government would not introduce a new gold tax, and that he subsequently donated $250,000 to the Labor Party. [10]
  • 15 April - The Australian Industrial Relations Commission hands down a national wage decision which will give Australia's 7 million workers a 2.5% pay rise. Federal Treasurer Paul Keating joins with the ACTU in condemning the decision which rejects the Accord agreement on wages for the first time since the Hawke Government came to power in 1983. The Commission also rejects Accord proposals for a more flexbile wage system. [11]
  • 17 April – The bulk carrier MV Mineral Diamond disappears of the coast of Western Australia. The vessel is believed to have been sunk during adverse conditions caused by Cyclone Fifi.[12]
  • 25 April - Prime Minister Bob Hawke secures a compromise agreement with the ACTU to end the stalemate on waterfront reform and fix a timetable for pay rises to stevedores linked to the Accord Mark VI. Mr Hawke proposes a two-year contract for waterside workers that would allow a $12-a-week rise from May 16 and further average rises of 4 per cent in exchange for new job classifications. [13]
  • 30 April - Federal Treasurer Paul Keating intensifies speculation about a change of leadership of the Labor Party by saying publicly that the Labor Party could not demand to have both him and Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the Government at the time of the next election. [14]



  • 3 June – After the secret deal emerged, Paul Keating makes his first challenge against Bob Hawke for the Australian Labor Party leadership. Hawke wins 66–44, and Keating resigns as Treasurer the same day.
    • The Federal Government’s monthly deficit blew out to more than 1.2 billion dollars.

ACTU President Martin Ferguson says Labor Party should get on with the job of governing and stop petty leadership disputes.



  • 19 October – The perjury trial of former Premier of Queensland Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen ends in a hung jury. Prosecutors decide against a retrial on the basis of Joh’s advancing age and divided public opinion.
  • 23 October – The first general strike in Australia in 65 years takes place in New South Wales.
  • October to December – The world’s largest blue-green algal bloom takes place on the Darling River, and after the deaths of over a thousand livestock, leads the New South Wales Government to declare a state of emergency.


  • 19 December – Paul Keating makes his second Labor leadership challenge. This time, he wins 56-51 and becomes Australia’s 24th Prime Minister the next day.
  • 20 December – Barely a year after starting up, Compass Airlines Mk I is shut down. The shutdown is somewhat controversial, coming shortly before the peak Christmas travelling period and partially coming about as a result of debts owed to a government authority.

Arts and literature[edit]

  • Cloudstreet adapted for the stage by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo, the theatrical adaptation opened in Sydney under the direction of Neil Armfield. Seasons followed in Perth, Melbourne, London, Dublin, New York and Washington, D.C., with the Company B cast touring the production until 2001 with minimal recasting. A lengthy adaptation at 5 and a half hours, the play attracted rave reviews around the world. The adaptation is published by Currency Press. There are plans to produce a TV miniseries version of Cloudstreet.
  • David Malouf's novel The Great World wins the Miles Franklin Award




  • 2 January – Australian Nicole Provis loses in the Danone Women's Open Tennis Championship.
  • 3 January – Jana Novotina is out of the Danone Women’s Open Tennis Championship.
  • 4 January – The last remaining player Rachel McQuillan is out of the Danone Women's Open.
  • 5 January – The Danone Women’s Open is delayed due to rain.
    • Greg Matthews puts Australia on top in the Third Ashes Test.
  • 6 January – Czech player Helena Sukova wins the Danone Women's Hard Court Championship.
  • 7 January – Hayley Lewis makes it into the finals of the World Swimming Championships.
  • 26 January – Monica Seles becomes the youngest winner of the Australian Open Tennis Championship.
  • 27 January – Boris Becker beats Ivan Lendl in the Australian Open Tennis Championship and takes the world's top ranking.
  • 22 February – First day of the Australian Track & Field Championships for the 1990-1991 season, which are held at the Sydney Athletic Field in Sydney, New South Wales. The combined events were conducted in Perth on 22 and 23 March, while the relays were conducted at Hobart on 6 January 1991.
  • 22 March – The Adelaide Crows play their first game in the AFL. In front of a sellout crowd at Football Park (now AAMI Stadium), they defeat Hawthorn 24.11.155 to 9.15.69
  • May – South Melbourne, managed by legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskás, defeat Melbourne Croatia on penalties after a thoroughly entertaining 1-1 draw in the National Soccer League Grand Final at Olympic Park.
  • 2 June – Carlton go within thirty seconds of becoming the first goalless team in the VFL/AFL since 1961 and only the second since 1921. Mark Arceri kicks a goal from a free kick with 33 seconds remaining.
  • 3 June – England soccer team scores a one-nil victory over Australia.
  • 21 July – Sean Quilty wins the his first men's national marathon title, clocking 2:14:59 in Brisbane, while Karen Gobby claims the women's title in 2:36:42.
  • 22 September – Penrith defeat Canberra 19-12 to win the 84th NSWRL premiership. It is the first premiership for Penrith, who had been trying since 1967 to win one.
  • 28 September – Hawthorn (20.19.139) defeat the West Coast Eagles (13.8.86) to win the 95th VFL/AFL premiership. It is the most recent grand final that was not played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, it was played at Waverley Park instead as the MCG was being renovated.




  1. ^ TAS TV News 10 January 1991
  2. ^ TAS TV News 13 January 1991
  3. ^ NBN 3 News 14 January 1991
  4. ^ NBN 3 News 16 January 1991
  5. ^ NBN 3 News 17 January 1991
  6. ^ ATN 7 Sydney News 21 January 1991
  7. ^ "Greiner Attacks Keating on Reform". Sydney Morning Herald p.4. 3 April 1991. 
  8. ^ "Telecom Charges May Rise Soon". Sydney Morning Herald p2. 5 April 1991. 
  9. ^ "Dawkins Risking the Sack, Says PM". Sydney Morning Herald p1. 8 April 1991. 
  10. ^ "Hawke: I'll Give Evidence". Sydney Morning Herald p.1. 12 April 1991. 
  11. ^ "Unions, Govt Blast Wage Rise Decision". Sydney Morning Herald p1. 16 April 1991. 
  12. ^ Investigation into foundering of MV Mineral Diamond, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 1991.
  13. ^ "PM Breaks Pay Deadlock". Sydney Morning Herald, p.1. 26 April 1991. 
  14. ^ "Keating Fuels Speculation". Sydney Morning Herald, p.3. 1 May 1991.