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The Hamer Government (1972 – 1981)

The Hamer Government continued the Bolte Government's program of expanding opportunities and individual freedoms in Victoria. With a firm commitment to education, health care services and job creation, the Hamer Government kept Victoria as the leading state in Australia.

Many programs of the Hamer government led the way in Australia. In education, a record amount was invested to ensure school buildings were state-of-the-art – with $90 million budgeted in the government first year and almost $1.2 billion of expenditure over the term of the Hamer Government. During this time, thousands of teachers were employed and thousands more were in training.

In health, the Hamer Government was an innovator – increasing spending on mental health by 25 per cent and beginning a pilot program into full-time child-minding facilities. Along with this innovation, many suburban and regional hospitals were built under the Hamer Government, and upgrades to major metropolitan facilities took place – including upgrades to the Alfred, Austin and Royal Women’s hospital.

The Hamer Government set about transforming Victoria’s infrastructure and billions were spent ensuring services in Victoria would cope with an ever increasing population. Among some of the infrastructure projects undertaken by the Hamer Government were:

  • the delivery of 150 new buses, 186 new trams and almost 100 new trains
  • the completion of Melbourne’s underground rail network, as well as $500 million in other public transport upgrades – including the duplication of lines, upgrades to signaling and works to increase train speeds and increase passenger capacity
  • the construction of a number of dams for both water storage and irrigation uses – including the Thomson River Dam, Cardinia Reservoir, Sugarloaf Reservoir, Rosslynne Reservoir in Sunbury, Lake Merrimu near Melton and the Dartmouth Dam for irrigation along the Murray River
  • the development and completion of the Loy Yang Power Station and the smaller Newport Power stations – helping to double Victoria’s generating capacity
  • the construction of thousands of kilometres of new and upgraded roads throughout Victoria, making the state’s roads the best in Australia

Dick Hamer was strongly committed to expanding the rights of people to choose and develop their own way of life. Restrictions on liquor trading hours were eased, legislation was introduced to protect tenants and prevent wrongful discrimination.  The Hamer government decriminalised homosexuality, and through a private members bill abolished capital punishment.

Victoria was made a safer place under the Hamer Government – with police levels hitting record highs and more police on the beat and not stuck behind desks. New policing methods were also employed thanks to the development of the new police academy at Glen Waverley.

Doing business in Victoria was made easier with the abolition of payroll taxes for many small businesses and a reduction in payroll tax for many others. The Hamer Government also gave land tax relief and encouraged business development – helping more than 150 new industries establish in the country and almost 100 existing companies undertake major expansions. This growth in business lead to a rise in jobs, with almost 100,000 new jobs created in the latter stages of the Hamer Government.

In 1981 Acting Premier Lindsay Thompson, along with the Chief Commissioner of Police, personally supervised the dismantling of the car and truck blockade mounted by the Meat Industry Employees Union to prevent 92,000 sheep being transported from Portland to the Middle East. The blockade was defeated. Earlier, in 1977, Thompson had taken successful action to erect the 500 mega-watt Newport Power station in the face of total union bans by using non-union labour.

In other areas the Hamer Government took the lead and became an example to other governments around Australia and the world. These initiatives included buying land to reserve as parkland and establishing hundreds of parks and forests, including national parks. The Hamer Government’s commitment to the arts was exemplified by the construction of the magnificent Arts Centre precinct in South Melbourne. Hamer Hall, Melbourne's major concert hall, is now named after him.