In 1981, the Fraser government covertly agreed to allow the US to test fire MX intercontinental ballistic missiles that would land in the Tasman Sea, about 220 kilometres off Tasmania.
The cabinet documents from 1984 and 1985, released by the National Archives today, show in January 1985 the Hawke administration's security committee agreed to honour the Fraser deal so long as the splashdown zone was in international waters.
The committee also agreed that if the government was asked to explain its position, it would stress the deal was not a precedent.
Mr Hawke then announced US planes would be able to land in Australia to monitor the missile.
But after a fiery public backlash, he withdrew that offer and the missiles were never tested in Australian territory.
Tax push fails
1984 was the year Advance Australia Fair officially became the Australian national anthem and the dollar coin replaced the dollar note.
Both ideas were eventually ditched and Labor campaigned against the Coalition over the GST in the 1990s.
But a 1985 tax summit revealed opposition from business, unions and welfare groups and Mr Hawke decided to drop the plan.
Treasury also cautioned against the tax.
Mr Hawke now says he made the right decision to drop the tax.
He says Mr Keating was in love with the idea, but took the decision to scrap it well.
"It became quite clear to me that it was not politically viable, and while he was disappointed, he put his head down and his arse up and got into it and produced a very good outcome," Mr Hawke said.
In 1984, national sex discrimination laws were passed to stop women being sacked because they were married or pregnant.
Ms Ryan - the first woman to be sworn into a Labor ministry - says it was one of the most bitter political battles she encountered.
She said in the lead-up to the bill being introduced to Parliament, there was extraordinary controversy about its implications.
"The whole of conservative forces throughout Australia leapt up to try to stop a law that said you shouldn't be sacked because you're a woman, or you shouldn't be sacked because you're pregnant," she said.
"It led to, 'this was the communist revolution, the destruction of the family, of Christianity', and so forth. Well, it turned out not to be."
Ms Ryan says the re-introduction of tuition fees for university students in the 1980s was one of her lowest points as a politician.
The government had made an election promise not to institute fees, but Ms Ryan says cabinet discussions in the early '80s laid the groundwork for fees to be reinstated.
"Once the debate had started, it never went away," she said.
"I won a couple of battles. I lost the war.
"In 1987 some innocent little thing called the admin charge, $250 for all tertiary students, was introduced. It was the thin end of the wedge."
The federal government was unable to bring the states on board for a national land rights system, but in a symbolic gesture Uluru was handed back to traditional owners.
The papers detail conflict between the Commonwealth and some states about resolving the broader issue of Aboriginal land rights.
The government's national plan was put out for public submission and received more than 250 responses, but few were positive.
Spy laws changed
The cabinet archives outline the government's response to the bungled Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) exercise which was intended to simulate the rescue of a foreign defector from Melbourne's Sheraton Hotel.
There was widespread criticism of the fact the officers were armed with sub-machine guns.
The documents also reveal the Hawke government feared an escalating strike at a Northern Territory abattoir had the power to paralyse Australian meat exports.
The Meat Industry Employees Union set up a picket line at the Mudginberri Abattoir on the Alligator River after the union was cut out of pay negotiations for workers.
The action prevented exports from the abattoir and the union threatened a national strike if Commonwealth meat inspectors crossed the picket line.
The documents show the government feared a severe dislocation of exports and domestic meat supplies in New South Wales and South Australia.
The documents warned strike action on a national level could suspend trade at 400 meat works affecting about 20,000 workers as well as livestock producers.
Cabinet agreed not to cross the picket line, and the dispute, which became emblematic of the clash over industrial relations at that time, was settled in 1986.
Cabinet was considering advertising, corporate sponsorship and privatisation.
Communications minister Michael Duffy said those options were "political madness" that would destroy the national broadcasters.
He described privatisation as the golden ass of the opposition.
Instead, he wanted the broadcasters to promise they would not increase spending in real terms for the next five years.
Cabinet also rejected plans to merge the two broadcasters.
The minister noted any moves to amalgamate could be interpreted as abandoning ethnic communities and provoke a violent reaction.
Second Sydney airport
The cabinet documents show there were high hopes that work would begin on a second Sydney airport almost three decades ago.
Mr Morris warned the acquisition of a second site should not be put off and listed Badgerys Creek and Wilton as realistic options.
He recommended cabinet agree to acquire the Badgerys Creek site, 50 kilometres west of central Sydney, as it was more suitable.
Cabinet did not make a firm decision on the recommendations that year.
A decade later, a third runway was built at the Kingsford Smith airport site and the issue of a second airport remains unresolved.
Mr Hawke says both sides of politics are to blame.
"I think the Sydney Airport is an absolute and utter unmitigated disgrace," he said.
"I come back from overseas and particularly from Asia - marvellous airports - and you come to this apology for an airport."
Despite the serious issues the parliament was tackling in the early 1980s, Mr Hawke says the debate was far more civil than it is now.
"I'm very disturbed by the increasing cynicism and contempt of the public for Parliament," he said.
He says the Government needs to go to the 2013 election with a specific agenda, but thinks there should be widespread debate on draft legislation on a number of issues.
"I believe if that were to be done, you'd get an enormous lift in the quality of the parliamentary performance," he said.
Mr Hawke says the Labor Party will remain a major force in Australian politics no matter what happens at this year's election.