In 1984-1985, the Hawke government had responsibility for everything that went on in Canberra, right down to rubbish and roads.

Canberra was booming, with the new Parliament House building slowly taking shape on Capital Hill.

But despite the mad rush of building, residential construction was not keeping pace, leading to industrial disputes over the lack of accommodation.

Canberra's young people were also missing out on the boom, with teenage unemployment at 33 per cent.

Self-government was still a few years away, so in between dealing with issues like nuclear non-proliferation and the Australia Card, the Hawke cabinet was also dealing with the vexed question of air conditioning Canberra's ACTION buses.

Cabinet documents from 1984-1985, released by the National Archives today, reveal the government was also deeply concerned about social and economic problems in Canberra.

There was a critical shortage of land for homes and public housing, all leading to a tight rental market that was squeezing out Canberra's poorest.

And while the economy was buoyant, it was also fragile, almost entirely dependent on government spending.

So to diversify, money was spent on improving facilities and building a shopping centre at Tuggeranong.

But the government sold the Belconnen Mall, as government involvement in retail was controversial and it needed the cash.

Starkly different from today was the treatment of the national institutions.

Instead of budget cuts, the government was pouring money and extra staff into the institutions.

It decided to set up a national collection of film and sound, an urgent decision aimed at preserving Australia's fragile film history.

Detailed planning and budgeting was underway to establish self-government.

There was passionate debate about how many members there should be in a legislative assembly, with some wanting just 9 part-time members and others favouring 21.

That is one debate that continues to this day.


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