What were Australians discussing from 1964 to 1967?

One of the last Australian steam engines, in the mid 1960s (photo by dicktay2000 - CC-BY)

The mid 1960s was a relatively peaceful time, and the topics discussed by the Mosman Debating Society included only a mixed smattering of international affairs subjects:

  • That Australia should send troops to defend Malaysia against Indonesian aggression (carried)
  • That the United Nations is a lost cause (defeated)
  • That we support Mr Smith on Rhodesia (carried)
  • That US policy on China is misguided and misleading (carried)
  • That apartheid is the only answer (carried)

A greater number of debates covered matters of culture, lifestyle and morality:

  • That the Beatles are nuts (carried)
  • That the Olympic Games are an anachronism (carried)
  • That we would love, honour but not obey (carried)
  • That right is relative (carried)
  • That Shakespeare cannot be filmed effectively (tied)
  • That we would take a trip (defeated)
  • That dogma is the enemy of truth (defeated)
  • That we’re a weird mob (defeated)

There was some navel-gazing too. The debating society met in the Sydney suburb of Mosman, which today is an affluent and perhaps slightly snooty place. In the 1960s it was a fairly genteel but mixed suburb—with pensioners, immigrants, single parents and families living alongside the high fliers in a delightful setting of bushland, beaches and harbour. But was that about to change, the society asked itself…

  • That Mosman is losing its charm (defeated)
  • That Mosmanism is the ideal way of life (carried)

It’s easy to forget that many countries achieved racial equality only a few decades before South Africa did. In Australia it would be three more years after this 1964 motion was debated (and lost), before Australian aborigines were granted the right to vote.

  • That Aborigines should new be granted full citizenship (defeated)

As usual, there was also a selection of debates on current domestic political issues:

  • That the Australian Labor Party is finished (defeated)
  • That compulsory military training is unnecessary (defeated)
  • That abortion should be legalised (carried)
  • That cigarette advertising should be banned (carried)
  • That Sydney’s expressways lead only to chaos (defeated)
  • That royal honours are an anachronism (carried)
  • That we welcome decimal currency (defeated)
  • That independent schools are essential in a democracy (carried)

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