The day Cabinet came to Swan Hill

THE year was 1976.

A copy of The Guardian cost 12 cents, Celebrity Squares dominated the TV landscape on BCV 11 and a Toyota Celica Coupe from Brown & Fisher would have set you back $4590.

Premier Dick Hamer arrives at Swan Hill airport.

Premier Dick Hamer arrives at Swan Hill airport.

On August 31, 41 years ago, the Victorian Cabinet flew into Swan Hill for the second time in its history.

The inaugural visit had been in 1964 when Henry Bolte was in charge of the state and Arthur Feldtmann.

How The Guardian reported the Victorian Cabinet's visit in 1976.

How The Guardian reported the Victorian Cabinet's visit in 1976.

Fast forward 12 years and the second trip had been eagerly anticipated by Swan Hill's Councillors.

The front page of The Guardian on the eve of the visit, highlighted the tone from a local perspective and gave the public an idea of the itinerary awaiting the politicians.

THE Victorian Cabinet will sit in Swan Hill today for the first time in 12 years.

And Swan Hill city and shire councillors are preparing to 'buttonhole' ministers to present a number of requests and submissions.

Fourteen cabinet members will be making the trip.

Those not coming are the Minister for Social Welfare and Youth, Sport and Recreation (Mr Dixon), Minister for Health (Mr Houghton), the Minister for Conservation, Lands and Soldier Settlement (Mr Borthwick), the Minister for Housing and for Planning (Mr Hayes).

The cabinet will arrive at Swan Hill airport at 10am, be greeted in the Mayoral Chambers at 10.20am and then meet in camera in the city council chamber at 10.30am.

At 12.30pm, they will join in a barbeque luncheon at the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement, then tour the city by bus from 2pm.

The tour will include the Swan Hill Sewerage Authority treatment and disposal proposals. At 2.45pm, councillors and organisation representatives will have just over half an hour to make approaches to the Ministers on subjects of their choice, and at 3.20pm, there will be farewell formalities and afternoon tea.

Cabinet will fly out of Swan Hill at 4pm.

So all eyes awaited as the plane touched down.

The Guardian was there to capture a front page photo.

On arrival at Swan Hill airport on Monday morning, the Victorian Premier (Mr Hamer), centre is escorted from the aircraft by Mr Wood, MLA (Swan Hill), on the right. 

In the background are the Minister for Education (Mr Thompson) and the Chief Secretary (Mr Dickie), partly obscured. 

Cabinet sat in Swan Hill on Monday morning, after which members toured the city and surrounding the area, and received deputations from the city and shire councils, and various organisations.

The visit went with all the precision timing of a Swiss watch.

But the real question surrounded precisely what was achieved?

The Guardian's page 3 story answered that question.

The State Cabinet visited and left Swan Hill on Monday, making few promises and leaving some city and shire councillors admitting they were a little bewildered by it all.

The hard-working councillors made strenuous efforts to put their requests and submissions before the various Ministers, trying to impress upon them the need and urgency.

Practically, the only concrete thing the councillors got was a promise from the Premier (Mr Hamer), to 'back you to the limit of our resources'.

Mr Hamer, speaking at the farewell snack at the end of the visit, went on to say: 'You will get nothing more official than what Mr Hunt has put out.' "The Minister for Local Government (Mr Hunt) made on press release relating to increased grants for Victorian municipalities.

During the day, the Cabinet members were taken on a tour of Swan Hill Sewerage Authority's new sewerage disposal proposals and visited places particularly relating to their points of interest.

They were continuously tackled, up to the point of leaving, on casting a favourable eye on particular projects.

These included the sewerage scheme, a road safety trainer unit, refurbishing the town hall, a juvenile detention centre, trotting and greyhound licences for Robinvale, rail freights, a freight centre for Swan Hill, third party insurance premiums, the Alan Wood Housing Estate, financing mosquito control, a child-minding centre, and others.

The Premier believed the Cabinet's visit was a winner and mayor Bob Quin added he was 'certainly pleased at some of the information I have heard regarding the city.'

Premier Hamer said the government enjoyed such excursions.

"It is wrong for the Cabinet to sit back in Melbourne," he said.

"We want to see things with our own eyes.

"Five or six times a year we visit country centres.

"But this is the second time we have been to Swan Hill and there are not many places where we have done that.

"This is one of the most active and vigorous centres that there is.

"What has happened in Swan Hill is due to the initative and hard work of the people on the spot.

"We like to give our support to people with drive and vision for the future and that's why we're here today."

And little more than six hours after they landed, the Cabinet jumped back on the plane and headed back to Melbourne.

Mr Hamer, the 39th Premier of Victoria, would remain in the position until he resigned in June 1981, succeeded by Lindsay Thompson.

One month after resigning from parliament, Mr Hamer would be knighted and died in 2004 at the age of 87.

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