Dismissal of the Whitlam Government

November 09, 2018

On 11 November 1975, Governor-General (GG) Sir John Kerr sacked the then Labor Government and its Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, bringing on an Australian constitutional crisis aka "The Dismissal".

The Dismissal was the only certain and expeditious way out of the impending governmental and constitutional hole that Labor and its leader had dug for themselves. Yet the howls, wails and teeth-gnashing of the media, academia, Canberra bubble and lefty-luvvies generally continue to this day, with ex-PM Whitlam elevated to near-martyr status and the subject of ABC revision ad nauseum

Whitlam's Labor was then trounced at the 13 December 1975 Federal election, and the subsequent 10 December 1977 election. After the second loss, Whitlam finally got the hint from the Australian people – that they were very different to those in the Canberra bubble that had gathered on the steps of Parliament House on Dismissal day chanting for the return of Gough – and resigned the Labor leadership later that month. (He left Parliament and the western Sydney seat of Werriwa at end-July 1978, bringing his near-26 year Parliamentary career to an ignominious end.)

Mark/celebrate this day of dismissal of the Whitlam government – and relief for those outside the Canberra bubble by:

  • watching these documentaries on the Dismissal
  • viewing these clips on the event and context (noting the perspective of the Canberra bubble and its grateful public servants and the ABC)
  • reading further on the events leading up to, and context of, the dismissal
  • reflecting on what another three years of the chaotic Whitlam government “revolution” would have left Australia – economically, fiscally, socially and culturally
  • reading more about this Senate Motion by Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi in 2017 noting the huge increase in government spending under Whitlam which has never, really, abated since
  • checking out our policies on Bursting the Canberra Bubble and the economy, budgets and tax, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, classical liberals, responsible adults, proud Aussies and those that strive to be net providers and not just consumers of “free stuff” paid for by others.

Further details on the Dismissal

Since its election in late 1972, the Whitlam Labor government had been highly contentious, chaotic, scandal-plagued and irresponsible, both economically and fiscally.

  • Stagflation was rife (ie ballooning inflation and unemployment), government spending had blown out (growing 20% and nearly 16% in real terms in Labor’s last two budgets), red-ink was spreading, public servants had been lavished in gravy (regarding wages, employment conditions and the platinum-plated Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme), education, the arts and health had become heavily subsidised, family law had become rights - and not responsibilities - focused, multiculturalism had landed and “free stuff” was on offer everywhere. Australia was changing fast and wasn’t liking it.

In the lead-up (Bass by-election) and soon after the August 1975 Budget (whilst again exorbitant, its predecessor had been mammoth), the people of Australia – through polls, confidence and the public discourse outside the Canberra bubble – were saying “enough!” Attuned to this, and with more fall-out from the “Khemlani Loans Affair” in mid-October (leading to the sacking of yet another senior minister), the Fraser Opposition-controlled Senate proceeded to “do the nation a favour”. It deferred passage of the Whitlam Budget’s appropriation bills (ie blocked supply) until an election of the House of Representatives was called – to resolve the situation and get the nation back on a sound and responsible path.

The Senate's blocking of supply preceding the Dismissal was the first time since Federation that it had occurred in Australia. When a Senate blocks supply – whether argued to be fair, justified or not – the PM of the day must either resign or call an election of a nature that the GG, and reasonable person, sees as likely to resolve the deadlock. (Otherwise, the GG must act to resolve the impasse.)

But PM Whitlam and Labor instead wanted a half-Senate election to resolve the impasse, which was not likely to resolve anything (given the polls, the likely numbers in any new Senate and supply running out fast).

GG Kerr – who had been appointed by PM Whitlam just 16 months prior – commissioned then Leader of the Opposition (and Liberal Party), Malcolm Fraser, as caretaker Prime Minister on the agreement that he would:

  • fast-track the passage of the necessary Budget appropriation bills (then blocked in the Senate) to keep government services running after 30 November and into the new year (ie unblock supply, using his majority numbers in the Senate), and
  • accept the dissolving of Parliament straight after, for a double dissolution election in mid-December (the following month).

Despite Whitlam going to the GG to advise his wishes he was instead as sacked, Fraser was appointed as care-taker PM, the supply bills passed and a double dissolution was called – quite a day in Australian politics!

At the subsequent 13 December 1975 Federal election, Fraser and his Liberal-National Country Party Coalition won in a land-slide – still the largest in history, both in terms of the swing (+7.40%) and the two-party-preferred (TPP) vote (55.70%). Two years later (10 December 1977) – with Whitlam again as Labor leader trying to avenge his loss – the Fraser-led Coalition thrashed Labor again (54.60% TPP).

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