This article explores Australia’s journey to ratification of the ICESCR and ICCPR. From a somewhat languorous consideration of the Covenants following their adoption by the General Assembly in 1966, the Australian federal government moved to enthusiastically support signature and ratification after the election of the Whitlam government. However, tensions over federal-State demarcations and the potential use of the external affairs power stymied progress. It was not until the Fraser government period that each Covenant was ratified. Exploring this history reveals the depth of divisions concerning respective roles of the Commonwealth and the States in the human rights arena and highlights the role of ‘lighter’ interpretations of obligations in facilitating consensus.