Talk:1975 Australian constitutional crisis

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Why was the news kept quiet?[edit]

Could someone please explain: Why did Fraser have to keep the news of the dismissal quiet, when the majority of senators were ready to vote in support of him? The Coalition had a 30-29 majority, with the ALP holding 27 seats and the two independents (Hall and Bunton) opposed blocking supply. If every single senator had found out about the dismissal by the time they came to vote on the budget, surely the Coalition would have passed the supply bill after a vote on party lines? (talk) 23:15, 31 May 2014 (UTC)

The ALP could have delayed the vote on Supply. If it had not been voted on during the day, then Whitlam's successful motion of no-confidence in Fraser would have forced Fraser to resign, as he could not have guaranteed Supply, which was the condition under which he had been commissioned. Paul Kelly's book "November 1975" is the definitive work on the dismissal, and he identifies two crucial errors on Whitlam's part. First off, he did not attempt to contact the ALP Senate leadership. Second, he went back to the Lodge for lunch, instead of to Parliament House. If he had gone back to Parliament House - the old building, small and intimate, where news and rumours travelled quickly - the news would have spread. As it was, the ALP put up the bills for a vote and they were swiftly passed. By the time Whitlam had gone through all the steps to censure Fraser and pass a motion of no-confidence, the Supply Bills had been signed into law, Fraser had advised a double dissolution election, and there was no way back. Whitlam was rightly furious that day - he had been ambushed by Kerr and then while still reeling from the shock he had been outmanoeuvred by Fraser. It must have been clear in hindsight that he could have prevented the disaster several times, but he had failed at every turn.
Kelly does a fantastic job of sorting out the often contradictory accounts of that day. Well worth reading.
Perhaps the article could make this point clear - it wasn't a sure thing once Whitlam had been sacked. --Pete (talk) 23:49, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
That is why Kerr was unbelievably lucky to have things work out. He would have had to resign, I think, more or less on the spot, or fly to New Zealand and allow the Administrator to recommission Whitlam, who I am sure would not have accepted the commission without Kerr's head on the proverbial platter. I am about to leave on a trip and have no time to modify the article. However, if anyone else does, based on Kelly or other sourced info, I will massage the prose.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:10, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
In fact, the Steak Theory of Professor Kelly (Keating's words) has no meat on the bone. How could the Senate Labor minority have forced the vote on supply to be delayed??? The Coalition could have "guillontined" it. How could this really have affected the appointment of Fraser as PM and the calling of an election??? Or the result of the election??? The dominance of the Steak Theory (here) is due to the fact that no one else is pathetic or pedantic enough to argue about the minutiae.--Jack Upland (talk) 11:41, 25 October 2014 (UTC)
Kelly certainly looked at the details and sought the views of all concerned. His book is an essential starting point for any discussion on the matter. He outlines exactly what Whitlam could have done. But Whitlam had just been ambushed, and he hadn't prepared for it. I think he may be forgiven a certain amount of confusion and delay as he sought advice and comfort in the form of a steak lunch - and probably a beer or two - back at the Lodge.
Regardless of the vote in the Senate, the Supply Bills still had to return to the House before they could be sent to the Governor-General to be signed into law. Kelly makes it clear that Whitlam, who still controlled the House, could have delayed them. Holding onto them would have revealed Fraser's very tenuous grasp on power.
Whitlam didn't think events would move quite so swiftly. By the time the motion of no confidence had been debated and passed, Supply had been sent to Kerr, who then acted on Fraser's advice to call a double-dissolution election, using Whitlam's own bills as the trigger. The process of issuing writs etc. began and one part in that process was the reading of the proclamation dissolving Parliament. Exactly as had happened the previous year, when David Smith stood on the steps of Parliament House and read the proclamation for the double dissolution election that Whitlam had advised. --Pete (talk) 16:47, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
Exactly what could the House have done with the Supply Bills? The Hansard for the day notes they had passed but it seems to be in a formal announcement rather than any final sign off. And this comes after Fraser had unsuccessfully moved an adjournment (and after Whitlam's no-confidence motion) suggesting that even this announcement wasn't necessary to their passage:
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76.
Sitting suspendedfrom 3.15 to 5.30p.m.
The Senate and the House of Representatives having been dissolved by Proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General, the sitting did not resume.
As for the news I think the quietness was less a deliberate decision by Fraser than a failing by Whitlam. How could Fraser stop the news spreading? There's an ABC documentary on YouTube from 1995 presented by Kelly in which Wreidt and/or McClelland state they were first told the news as they entered the chamber by Reg Withers, the Coalition Senate leader (who also recalls the conversation), but dismissed it as a typical joke on Withers's part. That doesn't sound like deliberately keeping it quiet. (Of course Withers could have been off message but as the most crucial Coalition figure it would be surprising if this were the case.) Timrollpickering (talk) 11:35, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
Yet again we have the views of Professor Kelly represented to the exclusion of any other views, including basic common sense. The Dismissal would have been utterly pointless if it could have been thwarted by competent action by Whitlam. If a bill is passed by the House of Reps and the Senate it becomes law - that's it.--Jack Upland (talk) 11:49, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
Bills don't become law until given assent by the Governor-General, as provided by s58. The bill must be transmitted to the Governor-General by the Speaker, who may delay such transmission. Money bills may not be amended by the Senate and hence there is no need for the House to debate and pass them again, but they are returned to the House as per normal procedure for bills originating there.
It is not uncommon for bills passed by both houses to be delayed for a short time due to procedural matters. It is entirely possible that a bill could be delayed indefinitely. This has happened as recently as 1979 in the case of the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill [1], which is presumably still languishing in a drawer somewhere in Sydney.
Whitlam's actions on the day were hardly optimum - understandable in the light of the shock he received - as we might consider them in hindsight. Fraser took a gamble and triumphed because he understood Kerr's mind. Whitlam had made no plans to deal with what was going on and made several fundamental errors. Hardly surprising, given the chaotic state of Whitlam's government by this time, with ministers dropping like flies. There's a lovely story of a young Paul Keating who had been appointed a junior minister a short time earlier, moving up after yet another resignation and reshuffle. Whitlam swept up the stairs into Parliament House, passing Keating on the way and telling him, "You're sacked!" (Along with every other Minister, of course, but Keating didn't know this at the moment and was left devastated.)[2] --Pete (talk) 16:29, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

Kerr's bona fides[edit]

The death of Whitlam has caused me to revisit some of my Dismissal-related press clippings. The bona fides of Kerr have now been exposed to serious scrutiny and he does not come out of it well. I'm sure there's plenty of other stuff out there, but for starters, here's a paragraph I've drafted for possible inclusion in Roger Pescott:

  • In February 1975, Pescott was liaison officer for the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, who was attending the coronation of the new King of Nepal in Kathmandu. In private discussions, Kerr told Pescott that he had "not stepped down from the active role of Chief Justice of New South Wales to see out his time as a benign governor-general without an active role". He discussed with Pescott his intention to seek approval from the government for a new staff member at Government House, a legally trained person who would advise the governor-general and enable him to form an opinion whether the laws he was required to give assent to were good laws or not. Kerr's view was that the government's official description of the purpose of any law was always going to be biased. Whitlam approved the request in October and Pescott was offered the job, but the events of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis meant that Kerr had no time to fill the position before his dismissal of Whitlam. In mid-December 1975, Kerr invited Pescott to Government House to discuss the events of the previous few weeks. In a two-hour meeting, he gave Pescott two reasons why he did not forewarn Whitlam of his intention to dismiss him if he did not advise a general election. Firstly, he did not want to involve the Queen; he felt this would inevitably happen if Whitlam knew what was on Kerr's mind, as he would ask the Queen to terminate Kerr's commission immediately. Secondly, matters of protocol were very important to him, he was in a more senior position to the Prime Minister, and "he felt no duty whatsoever to consult or give advice to someone not as senior to him". Kerr also asked Pescott to assist him in the writing of a book he was to call The Role of the Upper House in the Westminster System, but Pescott pleaded lack of time, and the book was never written.[1]

Yet it is clear that this supposed desire to protect the Queen was a load of rubbish. Jenny Hocking makes clear in Gough Whitlam: His Time that Kerr, when attending the inauguration of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby in mid September, spoke to none other than Prince Charles of his concerns that, if he were placed in a position that he would have to sack the government, the PM might get in first and dismiss Kerr before he had a chance to act. This was all completely hypothetical at this stage, but it reveals what was on Kerr's mind all along. He noted Charles's response in his private journal, which was that the Queen would surely not be obliged to accept the PM's advice in that circumstance. (Incredibly inappropriate for Charles to have made any such comment, and we'll only ever have Kerr's word that that was what was said, but there it is.) It is clear, however, that there was a discussion of the matter between them, because on return to London, Charles discussed it with Sir Martin Charteris, the Queen's Private Secretary, who happened to be a trusted friend of Whitlam's. Charteris wrote to Kerr, without Whitlam's knowledge, saying that in such a contingency the Queen would try to delay things, although eventually she would have no option but take the advice of the Prime Minister. As Hocking puts it:

  • "Neither Kerr nor the Palace ever revealed that, weeks before any action in the Senate had been taken, the governor-general had already conferred with the Palace on the possibility of the future dismissal of the prime minister, securing in advance the response of the Palace to it".

So much for not wanting to involve the Queen. And of course we now have Sir Anthony Mason's testimony that in his meetings with Kerr, he consistently advised him that he must warn Whitlam of his intention to dismiss him if he was not prepared to recommend a general election - if it came to that. Kerr, as we know, ignored that advice.

I seek comments about other material that would be relevant to this, and what we could say, and where. Here, at Kerr's article, or both? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:31, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Roger Pescott, "Why Kerr never told Whitlam of his intention to dismiss him", The Age, 6 September 2012, p. 17
Basically the dismissal was a treasonous conspiracy. Whitlam (to his eternal credit and to his short-term political disadvantage) took it to the people and lost and abided by the outcome. If only his opponents (including Fraser) were as honourable.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:39, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
In point of fact, it was Fraser who advised the election. Whitlam knew very well that he would lose a general election. He was hoping for one or two of the Coalition Senators to crack, and Kerr, who could see Supply running out - in fact money had already run out in several votes, such as military supply contracts - felt obliged to act. His actions, like those of Whitlam's, were based around keeping his job.
Of course Kerr consulted with all relevant parties. Including the Palace. He wanted to know what his powers and options were in a crisis. But nobody wanted to involve the Queen in taking any active role in it. For one thing, she didn't have too many powers. She could dismiss Kerr, if advised, and that was about it. She couldn't appoint a government, she couldn't call an election, she couldn't give orders. She could "advise, consult, and warn" as Bentham puts it, but that sort of thing is done in private, not issued as a press release.
I don't think Charles's role is significant, except maybe as an informal channel of communication. His powers were even less than the Queen's. Like, zero. But he would have been a communication channel that couldn't be intercepted or monitored. --Pete (talk) 16:25, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
Folks, can we not have a free-for-all about this? I'm asking for advice about inclusion of the material I quoted. The subject is Kerr's bona fides.
As for not involving the Queen: How can you have communications with both the heir to the throne and the Queen's private secretary, without involving her? Charles and Charteris may never have told her that such discussions had ever taken place, but so what! She was involved whether she knew it or not, thanks to Kerr, the very person who has argued that his actions were predicated on not involving her. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:12, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
Actually, the Queen's powers are absolute. The absolute monarchy has not been abolished, just held in abeyance. The Australian Constitution itself is merely an Act of the British Imperial Parliament.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:59, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
The Queen wasn't involved. She was kept informed, but she had no input. The only action I'm aware of was that the protocol for dismissing the Governor-General was reviewed to require that the PM's advice be delivered by hand. When Kerr says he didn't want to involve the Queen, he was telling the truth. She had no input, made no decisions, took no actions. If you watch a breaking news story on television, are you involved? Only to the extent that you know what's going on. --Pete (talk) 09:28, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Your own example tells against you: the Queen was not merely watching TV. Kerr was acting as the Queen's representative, and was not only removeable by Whitlam but by the Queen herself. The ALP asked her to intervene but she declined. She was also abreast of the constitutional crisis in Australia (including the conflict between her representative and her prime minister) and chose not to intervene as it unfolded. This was an act of omission.--Jack Upland (talk) 21:27, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
I guess, Pete, it comes down to what anyone means by "involved". That she chose to distance herself from taking any action when asked to do so, was imo a perfectly correct and appropriate decision, but she was still involved. That request was from Speaker Scholes after the Dismissal. But even before then, and before there was even any obstruction in the Senate, merely conferring with her Private Secretary had the effect of involving her, because he does not act as an independent private citizen in that role but as her mouthpiece. And this is so much more the case when the person conferring with him was Prince Charles, her own son and heir, which only occurred because Kerr had spoken to him about the (at that stage still hypothetical) matter in Port Moresby.
Anyway, I want to get to the point of the thread, which is about inclusion of new material in the relevant article(s). -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 22:30, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
If it's sourced, then I have no objection. I agree, it depends on one's definition of involved. She told her Private Secretary - which essentially means it was her personal view - to say that the Constitution places the power in the hands of the Governor-General and she was unable to act wut was watching with keen interest. If we have a source saying she was involved beyond that, then fine.
But we don't, do we? Pescott doesn't say she was involved in any way, and if we say she was, then it's WP:SYNTHESIS. We need to be careful about putting words in the mouth, or actions in the hands, of BLP subjects. --Pete (talk) 23:34, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
Section 61 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution states that "The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth". Love it or leave it. Or change it! Any actions of the executive government in Australia involve the Queen by virtue of her office. As to the person who holds this office (Elizabeth Windsor), she explicitly chose not to intervene, which was an act of omission. No matter how you slice it or dice it, she was involved and unless she abdicated she could not be uninvolved.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:06, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
The Queen is not involved in executive government in Australia. She is unable to exercise any powers apart from appointing the Governor-General and signing bills specifically reserved for her pleasure, and a few pieces of trivia covered in the Letters-Patent. In any case, Kerr didn't exercise the executive power mentioned in s61. He used s64. --Pete (talk) 05:34, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

Subsequent use of reserve powers[edit]

This recent edit by Skyring removes the phrase "However, those powers have not been exercised again." with the edit summary of "Rubbish. Both of those constitutional powers are exercised regularly".
I understand Skyring's point that the Senate often votes against supply bills, forcing them to be amended, and that the Governor General dismisses the government every time that an election is called. However, I am sure that the point of this phrase is that we have not seen another situation where the Governor General has sacked a government against its wishes. Similarly, I can't remember there being any other situations where there was a serious risk of supply running out (remember that Whitlam was sacked on November 11th, and supply was going to run out on the 30th).
The wording which Skyring removed was now great because of its ambiguity. However, I think the article should mention that we have not seen a recurrence of the 1975 events, i.e. the senate blocking supply (a la the US lockout last year) or the Governor General sacking a government. AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 05:04, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

The constitutional powers mentioned are:
  • 53. Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law. The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people. The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications. Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
  • 64. The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish. Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen's Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
The first gives the Senate the ability to pass or reject money bills. The second gives the Governor-General the power to appoint ministers "during his pleasure". Both powers are regularly exercised, the first by individual Senators voting, the second by the Governor-General appointing ministers. And occasionally by sacking them, as happened with Simon Crean in 2013. --Pete (talk) 07:06, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
I don't have time to write a detailed reply, but the second point is not about section 64, but the Governor General's reserve powers. AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 08:06, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
Does the Governor-General have some extra set of powers we don't know about? He used s64 to dismiss Whitlam - that's pretty straightforward. Here is Kerr's letter to Whitlam stating this. --Pete (talk) 10:45, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
We could add a phrase like "to bring down the government" to the original text. That would exclude relatively trivial cases such as are mentioned above.--Wehwalt (talk) 11:48, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
As I see it, there are two problems. These are normal constitutional powers, and they are used on a regular basis. Labor in the Senate, at least prior to 1973, would regularly vote against Supply. Not as an isolated instance, but Every Single Time. Of course they didn't have the numbers, so they always failed. Likewise the use of s64. Kerr's office certainly got a work out in the months leading up to November 1975, with a parade of ministers lining up to resign and their fresh-faced replacements jumping up onto the tumbril. Each one had to be processed through the system. As noted above, sometimes a minister has to be removed. Mid-term changes of government are not unknown, either. Several Prime Ministers have led their ministry out of office as a Leader of the Opposition brings his team in. Deakin, Reid and Watson spring easily to mind as PMs who weren't voted out at election.
I think the wording should reflect the reality rather than hint at some unspecified "reserve powers" or that they have remained dormant. I have inserted the sentence "However, these powers have not since been used to force a government from office", though we can certainly tweak that. --Pete (talk) 18:58, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
Skyring, your recent changes are the explanation I had in mind at the beginning. Perhaps I am misreading your comments, but it sounds like you question whether "reserve powers" exist. If you are interested, you might like to see this concise explanation at the Governor-General's official site. But none of that needs to be specified in the paragraph in question. So in short, I am happy with how it currently reads. AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 02:02, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
I know what reserve powers are. But I suspect that some might gain the impression that they somehow are actually written into the constitution or specified in some other document. --Pete (talk) 03:33, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
Supply and its easy passing isn't relevant. The Senate doesn't have the power to sack a PM. The Governor-general does. When has a Governor-general used this power since? Mdw0 (talk) 05:20, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
The relevant power is Section 64. This power is used regularly and routinely to appoint and occasionally dismiss ministers. Simon Crean was dismissed in 2013 by the Governor-General under the advice of the then Prime Minister. --Pete (talk) 05:30, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
MDw0, the passing of supply is relevant because it was the Opposition's tool to weaken the government, which ultimately put Kerr in the position of having to act. Pete has already established that the Governor-General routinely appoints and dismisses ministers. The key is "...under the advice of the then Prime Minister." Kerr's action in 1975 was without the advice of Whitlam or his ministers. We are starting to talk in circles here... AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 05:53, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
Not at all. The Constitution is framed so that the Governor-General may act alone in appointing and dismissing ministers. This is occasionally performed without advice, beginning with Lord Hopetoun in 1901. Jack McEwan in 1967 was appointed without advice. Whitlam was well aware of Kerr's powers, and he was warned by Bill Hayden not to disregard Kerr. He was ambushed by Kerr, true, but it was something that he should have taken into consideration. --Pete (talk) 06:03, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
You're right - the use of Section 64 is fairly routine, but with the advice and support of the PM. I suppose that is the key point of the whole article. The line, if used, would have to be specific that that powers haven't been used against the wishes of the government of the day since 1975.
As I recall, we agreed on the language under discussion to exclude the "dismissal" of the missing Holt. I think if we are to push this further we will need something by way of a source.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:29, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
Holt wasn't dismissed under s64 - I don't think he was, anyway. What happens when Ministers die in office - anyone know? But McEwen was certainly appointed without advice. Who could have advised the G-G? There was nobody more senior than McEwan.
And if Whitlam had gotten his ducks in line and sent Scholes off to see Kerr with the no-confidence motion in hand and no Supply passed, then Kerr would have had no option but to re-appoint Whitlam as PM (and promptly resign, himself) and he would have necessarily appointed Whitlam under s64 without ministerial advice. That would have made for an even more interesting day than it already was! --Pete (talk) 02:28, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

Whitlam's desire to "crush the Senate once and for all"[edit]

Isn't the main difference between Whitlam and the British Liberals in 1911, the fact that the British Liberals took their plain to curb the House of Lords to an election to gain legitimacy for their plan whereas Whitlam's stated desire had no such legitimacy because he refused to? Does Paul Kelly talk about this in his books? Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 13:24, 30 September 2015 (UTC)

Who has drawn this parallel? Whitlam had won an election in 1972 and in 1974.--Jack Upland (talk) 04:06, 1 October 2015 (UTC)
I'm at present traveling, but I will check when I'm home (later in the month). I don't personally think this parallel flies. Asquith did not set out to strip the House of Lords of its veto on legislation, and he and Lloyd George thought once the provisions the Lords objected to were repackaged into a financial bill, the Lords would let it go through, as they had under similar circumstances under Palmerston. Whitlam was out to tame the Senate, by longstanding policy. The crisis was different in that no number of winning elections would resolve Asquith's problem unless the King was willing to create a mass of peers. The Australian deadlock was going to be resolved by elections at some point, though whether that would be before or after supply ran out is uncertain. I really see the only links as being a) conflict between parties each controlling a house of the legislature b) during crises that became and are likely to remain notorious.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:16, 1 October 2015 (UTC)
Where is this phrase used? It is quoted in inverted commas in the section heading, but if I put that into Google, I only get one hit, and that's obviously referring to some quite different event, though I find it strangely apposite. --Pete (talk) 20:36, 1 October 2015 (UTC)

Timor and the Dismissal[edit]

Aside from the fact that FRETILIN was very stupid in staging a Marxist coup without checking what Australia would do, should there be a mention of the Timor crisis in this article, insofar as the supply crisis distracted Australia? Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 14:32, 17 October 2015 (UTC)

Do reliable sources draw a connection?--Wehwalt (talk) 21:46, 17 October 2015 (UTC)
I mentioned this in my discussion of CIA involvement on this talk page in 2005. Evidently the Head of ASIS was dismissed by Whitlam over ASIS cooperation with the CIA in East Timor. This was one of many actions that alienated British and American intelligence agencies. Source: William Blum Book Killing Hope - U.S. Military and CIA interventions since World War II ISBN 1551640961 Takver (talk) 06:25, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

2015 evidence[edit]

Jenny Hocking's next Whitlam book, about to appear, reportedly finds with new evidence that: Kerr decided to get rid of Whitlam some time before 11 November; Kerr was in secret contact with Fraser; the Palace was informed of Kerr's intentions, did not warn Whitlam and was prepared to delay if Whitlam asked for Kerr's removal; and ability to obtain supply was not a condition of Fraser's appointment. Wikiain (talk) 20:42, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

None of those are really earth shattering advances on what we already knew or suspected, and upon what she said in the last volume.--Wehwalt (talk) 22:00, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
The first three aren't that surprising, and have already been raised here and there. Kerr researched and planned his move. The word "advice" can often be misconstrued - if the Governor General takes advice only from the Federal Executive Council on his constitutional actions, it doesn't mean that they are the only people he talks to. Consulting with an alternative PM in a developing crisis is just common sense, otherwise people will afterwards ask why he didn't take action. It's not as if the supply thing was Australia running out of money in any absolute sense, it was all politics and a political situation was the only way out. Not sure how "secret" Kerr's meetings with others were - the Viceregal Diary was published daily in The Canberra Times. He certainly kept the Queen informed about the situation, and I have it privately that any advice from Whitlam re dismissing Kerr would have to be couriered to London, considered, and couriered back. She wasn't going to sack Kerr on a phone call.
However, the fourth point contradicts several different accounts, and it seems to make no sense. If passing Supply was not the basis for the Dismissal, then what was? Kerr deciding that he preferred Fraser over Whitlam???? Now that all three of the leading players have gone, this is a story that isn't easily dismissed as rubbish by those who know the truth. I think we'll have to be very careful in our wording, but we can't ignore it. --Pete (talk) 22:05, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
That puzzles me too. It seems impractical to put Fraser in without supply. I'm not quite sure how he would have lasted even a day in office had the Senate gotten its act together a bit sooner. I also agree on the question of the Queen wanting it couriered back and forth, and the ability of the Palace to stall is really why the removal of Hannah's reserve commission as Administrator is important to the article. I'll start looking at how to quickest obtain a copy on release. Possibly it will be available as e-book this time. The second was rather slow to arrive by post and was something of a disappointment. [Note: I guess in the closest major Commonwealth parallel, the King-Byng affair, Meighen did go into the 1926 Canadian election as PM, though he got clobbered, of course. That would be something that Fraser could have pointed to.]--Wehwalt (talk) 22:12, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
Paul Kelly's out with something, too, and that will be available to me by Kindle. The Hocking one, it's a bit unclear if it will be available to the US in Kindle format, but I'll order it posted if I have to (mutters something about "cost", "environment" and "why isn't the WMF paying for this")--Wehwalt (talk) 22:22, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
<rant>The thing of it is, Whitlam's actions don't make the most sense, either. As I've said before, what precisely was going to happen if he didn't win the half-Senate election? He was starting from one down because Bunton was voting for supply, and as discussed in the article, the Liberals were likely to gain at least one seat in New South Wales. He must have been awfully confident in his own ability to persuade the voters to elect his party to control of a Senate he did not believe should play a meaningful role in government. It's frustrating that the answers may have to await the release of Palace papers we are unlikely to live to see.</rant>-Wehwalt (talk) 23:05, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
Oh, dear. The steak dinner theory fails again.--Jack Upland (talk) 01:53, 27 October 2015 (UTC)
Whitlam thought a half Senate election would put pressure on Fraser to give in Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 12:16, 13 November 2015 (UTC)

Hocking's book is out now - and it seems to warrant a complete re-write of the decision sections. She has excellent evidence that Kerr never thought supply was a key issue. Instead she points to his desire to avoid being dragged through a Royal Commission into the Khemlani Affair. She evidences that Fraser had threatened Kerr because of his involvement in that process, and that the terms of Fraser's being asked to form government included an undertaking not to hold a Royal Commission into the loans scandal. Her account makes more sense given that 1) Whitlam had the half-senate election to trigger, and Fraser has acknowledged that if he called it they'd have had to pass supply rather than go to the electorate looking recalcitrant and 2) this very thing had occurred in 1974. Additionally, Fraser was asked to form government even though by definition he couldn't pass supply - indeed the House of Reps immediately moved no-confidence in him and sent the speaker off to instruct Kerr to fire him and re-instate Whitlam.

Basically, none of the 'supply' theory can continue to be sustained as the genuine rationale for Kerr's actions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:16, 26 December 2015 (UTC)

But Kerr was constitutionally obliged to restabilise his government by guaranteeing supply, and traditionally on the advice of his prime minister. However, Whitlam either declined or was unable to furnish formal advice, which necessitated Kerr's resort to other counsel. Very unfortunate (and disgraceful tactics on the part of the Coalition/DLP), but logically impossible to shift the prime blame from Whitlam for failing to advise lawfully when required. Bjenks (talk) 00:22, 27 December 2015 (UTC)
"Kerr was constitutionally obliged to restabilise his government by guaranteeing supply" this is simply untrue. There's no evidence at any point that Kerr sought such advice from Whitlam. Further - and more damningly - Fraser *by defintion* couldn't secure supply. Indeed, he lost a confidence motion in the House of Reps that very day. The supply rationale - popular though it has become in history - is simply incoherent and has no good legal basis.
Regardless of Hocking's views, the majority of sources we have link supply and the dismissal very closely. Other theories, such as CIA involvement, are very fringey. Kerr's supposed desire to avoid a Royal Commission on Khemlani is more of the same, but even less well sourced. IMHO. --Pete (talk) 00:40, 27 December 2015 (UTC)
Unless I'm missing something, Fraser was only asked to promise not to investigate the Whitlam government before the election.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:49, 27 December 2015 (UTC)
The connection between the Dismissal and the blocking of supply is clear. The Coalition was blocking supply; this created a crisis; and Kerr response was to dismiss Whitlam. It does not follow that Fraser had to guarantee supply. This is an incoherent theory. Fraser had control of the Senate, and therefore could pass bills that the House had already passed. Even if Whitlam had not eaten his steak, Labor could not have blocked the supply bill in the Senate. But Fraser could not initiate new supply bills. This, however, was irrelevant because an election had been called.--Jack Upland (talk) 11:26, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

Should we ask to pull this from the main page[edit]

With two major books about to hit the shelves, and the reaction to them which will follow, I'm wondering if we should ask the TFA co-ordinators to pull this from running on 10 November. Pinging Brianboulton, Crisco 1492, Dank to monitor this discussion, and please read the section above.--Wehwalt (talk) 23:11, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

  • We ran Pluto during the New Horizons flyby, and there have been surges of new information and reaction both at the time and since. I personally don't mind running this on the anniversary. — Chris Woodrich (talk) 23:25, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
I'm not worried about running the 40th anniversary. What seems to be new in Hocking (as Wehwalt says in the previous section) is new evidence on matters that have been around for a while. The only key Australian player who is still with us is Mason and I'd be very surprised if he were to say any more. Word from the Palace?: nae chance. The incident is now little more than the most exciting thing ever to have happened in Canberra. Wikiain (talk) 00:23, 27 October 2015 (UTC)
As those who have this article on their watchlist will have seen, User:TFA Protector Bot seems to have made the article administrator-only until 00:00, 11 November 2015 (US time). That seems wise. Wikiain (talk)
Just for moves. It is open to all to edit as usual. Standard TFA procedure is being followed.--Wehwalt (talk) 02:46, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. Wikiain (talk) 04:00, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

I think the article should be pulled. Apart from the recent revelations about Fraser's contact with Kerr prior to the dismissal, the final paragraph identifying Kerr himself as "the real victim" of his own actions is absurd. Political careers were destroyed by Kerr's actions. Half of the Australian electorate had its democratic choice effectively vetoed by fiat. The cause of reform was set back for years. The Fraser government itself is often said to have been hamstrung by its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of half the electorate. These are some of the issues that should be explored in the "Legacy" section. Summarizing this extraordinary political event with a cherry picked quote identifying the perpetrator as "the real victim" is not only woefully inadequate, it's highly inappropriate and misleading. Gatoclass (talk) 05:42, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

@Gatoclass: "democratic choice"? You can't invalidate the 13/12/75 election in which the Australian peoples' "democratic choice" was to kick Whitlam and his mob out the door. Besides, even without the 1975 crisis, the Whitlam government would have been defeated at the next election. scandals and a worsening economy will do that to you. Anyway how does this True Believer rant help the article? Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 06:20, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
"Whitlam and his mob"? "True believer rant"? It seems pretty clear where your sympathies lie.
Yes, it's often said by apologists for Kerr and Fraser that the dismissal was just fine and dandy because it ended in an election, where the people got to decide. Never mind that the election was held in circumstances that practically guaranteed the defeat of the Whitlam government. What basically happened in 1975 is that the opposition, rather than the government, got to have an election at a time of its own choosing. Now just imagine the chaos if that principle were the norm. Who would be in power in Australia today had the opposition had the opportunity to call an election when Abbott was staggering from one political misstep to another?
As for your claim that "the Whitlam government would have been defeated at the next election", that is merely speculation. The government was fully 18 months away from the next scheduled election at the time of the dismissal, and as the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics. Gatoclass (talk) 06:35, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
@Gatoclass: @Wehwalt: The fact remains that neither your, nor my, political views on the Dismissal have a place in the article, unless they are backed up by WP:RS. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 10:17, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
I'm watching the discussion. Is that comment intended for me? I hadn't expressed any political views on the Dismissal in the article that I'm aware of. Certainly everything I did there was under the critical eye of people better versed in Australian politics than me. I like to chat about things on this talk page but the article doesn't reflect any political views of mine.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:27, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
@Wehwalt: No i just hoped you could sort the mess with this guy out. This article can do well without tiresome Whitlam eulogizing and bemoaning the economic rationalism/monetarism changes in Australia after Whitlam's defeat. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 10:34, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
Well, he's entitled to express his view there, and I think you rebutted it. I doubt if the exchange affected the TFA coordinators' decision, and I think we're still at status quo ante.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:40, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
"Tiresome Whitlam eulogizing and bemoaning the economic rationalism/monetarism changes in Australia" - I did all that? I don't think so. I simply made the point, or tried to make the point, that Kerr was far from the principal victim of the dismissal, and as the perpetrator, would surely be close to last on any list of "victims" entitled to sympathy. Yet Kerr is the only person identified in this article as a "victim", indeed to read the "Legacy" section, one might be forgiven for concluding that the real villain of the piece was Whitlam himself, for "crucifying" Kerr in the aftermath. That's a pretty extraordinary conclusion to imply, given that it effectively reverses the roles of victim and perpetrator, as I think most people would agree (note that Kelly himself lays the blame principally at Kerr's feet). So I'm sorry, but I must stick by my assessment that the "Legacy" section is both woefully inadequate and misleading. Really, I think the article should never have been promoted to FA in the first place with such deficiencies, and certainly I would have strongly argued against its promotion had I been aware of the FAC. But while that is water under the bridge, we don't have to compound the error by promoting this to TFA. BTW, with regard to Paul's comment about WP:RS, there can surely be no shortage of material documenting the negative repercussions of the dismissal for parties other than Kerr. Gatoclass (talk) 13:43, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
@Gatoclass: Whitlam had been destroyed by the OPEC crisis and he never showed much sign of economic wisdom or even interest. In either likely scenario (no 1974 election and the 1972 parliament ends in 1975 or no Dismissal and the 1974 parliament limps to 1977) Whitlam is overwhelmingly likely to be defeated. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 05:46, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your opinion. But this is not a political forum, it's a page for discussing the content of the article, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline your invitation to debate. What matters here is that the article gives a fair and accurate synopsis of events, and as I've outlined above, I think that in its current form it falls short in at least some respects. Hopefully I will be able to contribute something to this article in future, but it probably won't be any time soon as I already have a pretty long Wikipedia to-do list. Gatoclass (talk) 07:34, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

UK Prime Minister's advice?[edit]

  • This was due to the Queen being constitutionally required to take advice from the UK Prime Minister, and in turn from the Australian Prime Minister.

I'm not sure what this refers to. It is long established practice that, in relation to Australian matters, the Queen is advised by Australian ministers only. The only time the UK PM might get involved would be if the Constitution itself, being an Act of the UK Parliament, were under some threat. But since the Australia Acts, the UK has zero capacity to change it or have any influence on it, so I'm not even sure about that. The appointment of state governors is still subject to British advice, but that's irrelevant here. So, what's this all about? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:33, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

No idea. Someone must have put that in.--Wehwalt (talk) 08:48, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
I've removed the offending text. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 01:10, 27 April 2016 (UTC)

Government's supply deadline[edit]

I find it more than a little surprising that there is no mention in the article that Hayden and Whitlam identified 27 November 1975 as the date on which supply would run out. Yet that date is absolutely crucial to Kerr's predicament and eventual decision. In his 1976 book The Whitlam Venture, Alan Reid notes (at p. 390): "The point of decision for Kerr apparently was Hayden's advice that Supply would run out on Thursday November 27, 1975. The position then was that the last date on which a decision to hold a House of Representatives election before the end of the year could be made was Tuesday November 11 1975. If general elections were not announced by then, Supply would run out. Whitlam could not get Supply, was not prepared to recommend general elections, but was prepared to govern without Supply. As D. P. O'Connell, Chichele Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, later commented with some pertinence "Either the government would within a short time, be driven to questionable methods of funding its necessary activities, or public administration would come to a halt—as it had in Victoria in 1879—with incalculable social and economic consequences."

My proposal is that the date be included in the section Deadlock, subsection Decision, in which occurs the sentence "Kerr concluded on 6 November that neither Government nor Opposition would yield, and that supply would run out." In fact, according to Reid (p. 388-389) "Hayden told Kerr...Supply would run out on Thursday, November 27, 1975..." That sentence should therefore be changed to "Kerr concluded on 6 November that neither Government nor Opposition would yield and, as advised by Treasurer Bill Hayden, supply would run out on Thursday November 27." Bjenks (talk) 04:13, 29 October 2016 (UTC)

It would be good to get a more recent confirmation of that.--Jack Upland (talk) 09:29, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
The point is that both Hayden and Whitlam both endorsed that date at the time. Why would we want to consider a later opinion or reconstruction? Bjenks (talk) 07:52, 2 November 2016 (UTC)
I'm traveling at present but I seem to recall, possibly in one of Kelly's books, that the date was not certain but would be affected by whatever maneuverings the government did to avoid running out of money.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:49, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
Supply had already run out in some votes. Defence contractors, for example, could not be paid. What do you do when there's no food to feed the troops, no diesel for the tanks, no avgas for the planes...? It's then a matter of national security. Kerr, in his SoR, identifies the delay of (say) a joint sitting or half-senate election as a valid reason for acting. "Sec. 57 of the constitution provides a means, perhaps the usual means, of resolving a disagreement between the Houses with respect to a proposed law. But the machinery which it provides necessarily entails a considerable time lag which is quite inappropriate to a speedy resolution of the fundamental problems posed by the refusal of supply. Its presence in the Constitution does not cut down the reserve powers of the Governor-General."[3] --Pete (talk) 15:29, 1 November 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, folks. There being no valid objection, I'm going ahead with my amendment. Bjenks (talk) 14:50, 10 November 2016 (UTC)
  • By request I'm resuming this discussion by because, for reasons given in a separate discussion, User:Wehwalt has elected to amend my cited edit. The citations on which I rely are from Alan Reid's book "The Whitlam Venture" (1976). The first reads

    [Treasurer] Hayden and [Attorney General] Enderby saw Kerr on the afternoon of Thursday November 6, 1975.Hayden told Kerr that for all practical purposes Supply would run out on Thursday, November 27, 1975, a date which Whitlam was to confirm (in a speech from the steps of Parliament House on November 11, 1975, after his dismissal. (Page 389)

On the following page (390), Reid states:

The point of decision for Kerr apparently was Hayden's advice that Supply would run out on Thursday November 27, 1975. The position then was that the last date on which a decision to hold a House of Representatives' election before the end of the year could be made was Tuesday, November 11, 1975. If general elections were not annouinced by then, Supply would run out. Whitlam could not get Supply, was not prepared to recommend general elections, but was prepared to govern without Supply. As D. P. O'Connell, Chichele Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, later commented with some pertinence "Either the government would within a short time, be driven to questionable methods of funding its necessary activities, or public administration would come to a halt—as it had in Victoria in 1879—with incalculable social and economic consequences."

I'm not into edit-warring but cannot tolerate the editor's arbitrary change from "confirmed by Whitlam" to "cited by Whitlam", seemingly in order to create an unverified impression that the official run-out date was a mere opinion of Bill Hayden's, that its validity was not a fact, and that Whitlam did not agree with or authorise it. I will refrain from reverting before seeing others' views. However, it seems necessary for the issue to be further expanded, possibly into a new subsection, in order to more fully explain it. Bjenks (talk) 06:03, 12 November 2016 (UTC)

I'm trying to find where Whitlam said that ... I just read the transcripts of the Dismissal speech and of the press conference later and I don't see that exactly. Do you have a link to the transcript of where he said that?--Wehwalt (talk) 07:06, 12 November 2016 (UTC)
My reliable source is the diligent, unbiased writer Alan Reid, who was in the press gallery on the day. I don't have access to any full transcript. If you wish to demonstrate that Whitlam did not know about nor agree with the information given to the Governor General by his Treasurer in the presence of the Attorney General, I believe you will need a better authority than the transcript you seek. Bjenks (talk) 03:30, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
Wikipedia does not mean jumping off a cliff after a reliable source. As far as I know, Whitlam made only one speech from the steps of Parliament House that day, and I don't see it in there. It is possible Reid is mistaken. He didn't say it in the "well may we say God Save the Queen" speech. In this transcript, a journalist refers to November 30 as the date on which supply will run out and Whitlam does not correct him. The accuracy of the source has reasonably been questioned. I would propose that unless we can find some confirmation of Reid's statement, that we exclude the part about Whitlam's later confirmation.--Wehwalt (talk) 05:03, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
I agree. Journalists write the first draft of history, but the first draft often has mistakes. I don't think Reid was unbiased either.--Jack Upland (talk) 05:18, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
I agree with Jack. Reid was a hired hatchet-man for Frank Packer and later Rupert Murdoch. He may have been the Dean of the Press Gallery but that counts for nothing. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 05:32, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
Agreed, any source can be wrong. If there is a 'consensus' that Reid's words are not to be trusted, consistency would require the same treatment of all other content sourced to his writings unless reinforced by a more trustworthy authority. We would, of course, need to establish his untrustworthy status by reliable third-party evidence, not just OR and POV. Bjenks (talk) 09:49, 14 November 2016 (UTC)
Fundamentally, Reid was a journalist, not an historian and that's the real problem in using him. I wouldn't rely on Glenn Milne for the same reason of him not being an historian. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 10:50, 14 November 2016 (UTC)


The lead says: "Though Whitlam and Fraser later reconciled, Kerr, who died in 1991, continues to be reviled by some." Is this true? I don't see any justification in the article, and I think in 2016 most people have forgotten Kerr.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:24, 20 November 2016 (UTC)

Jack is right. Historians and the political/intellectual class might remember Kerr, but most ordinary people in Australia in 2016? Forgeddaboutit. Paul Benjamin Austin (talk) 08:43, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
If the 'reviled' bit is true, it could be equally true of both Whitlam and Fraser. In any event, it's petty historical trivia and, yes, should be removed. Bjenks (talk) 08:49, 20 November 2016 (UTC)

"Royal involvement" speculation[edit]

This section is very short on facts, and long on speculation. If and when we get some reliable sources on the Queen's involvement, it will be a story in its own right and we'll have tonnes of good sources. Until then, all we have is speculation and conspiracy theory nonsense. --Pete (talk) 09:52, 20 November 2016 (UTC)

Pretty sure something like this needs a citation[edit]

"In 1966 Kerr had joined the Association for Cultural Freedom, a conservative group that was later revealed to have received CIA funding: -- (talk) 06:39, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

The several sentences are sourced to the next reference, which does mention the ACF and Kerr's membership in it.--Wehwalt (talk) 13:12, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

'Governor-General' usage[edit]

A small point, triggered by this correct edit, but worth elucidating. Standard English usage is "Governor General", two caps, no hyphen, no requirement for lower case when a common noun. (New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (2005) p.153). Australian official usage differs in consistently adding the hyphen. This occurs in The Constitution of Australia, which undoubtedly overrides the ODWE in this instance, and is reinforced by the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers of Australian Government Publications (at p. 356 in my 1978 third edition). For WP purposes, I see two exceptions: (1) citations, where we are bound to follow the published style; and (2) in some wikilinks, e.g., [[John Kerr (governor-general)]], where lower case fits pragmatically with WP headings style, though we can and must pipe 'Governor-General' therein. Bjenks (talk) 05:23, 4 March 2017 (UTC)