Wikipedia:Peer review/1975 Australian constitutional crisis/archive1

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1975 Australian constitutional crisis[edit]

(more info)

This peer review discussion has been closed.
I've listed this article for peer review because… I intend to nominate it for FA soon and would like feedback.

Thanks, Wehwalt (talk) 17:35, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Comments You'll never get an article this controversial through FAC. Believe me, I've tried. Anyhow:

  • Senate:
    • You need to explain some more relevant bits about the Senate. That the government is formed in the House because (a) it is the the more democratically elelected house and (b) it has the power to originate money bills. However Fraser (and others) argued that in order to govern, a government should have the confidence of both houses.
  • Governor General:
    • Prior to the 1975 crisis the Governor-General's reserve powers, including the power to dismiss a prime minister, had never been exercised. This is untrue. Governors General had vetoed legislation in the early years. What you mean is: the power to dismiss a prime minister had never been exercised.
    • The crucial point is the convention that the Governor General acts only on the advice of her ministers. However, in this case, the Governor General acted against the advice of his ministers.
    • The Queen has tenure, and she couldn't be sacked. But a Governor-General holds office at pleasure, and if he ceases to please then he can be removed by a Prime Minister. However, neither of these points is actually true. The Queen's tenure depends on legislation of the UK Parliament; and the removal of the Governor General depends on the Queen acting on the advice of her ministers, and if the Governor General does not have to, why should the Queen be expected to?

Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:57, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

      • It is entirely wrong to say that the Queen's tenure depends on legislation of the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament has no powers to remove her; she is in for life unless she voluntarily abdicates. Parliament could in theory pass legislation to abolish the monarchy and make Britain a republic, but while the monarchy remains there is no parliamentary control over who occupies the office. Brianboulton (talk) 23:29, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
        • Really? What happened to Richard II, Charles II and James II? They were deposed by acts of parliament. The UK parliament has asserted that it can impose such terms and conditions on the monarchy as it sees fit, and has done so. There are laws that control the succession, and the occupant can be changed by law. There was a convention that Australia had to be consulted, but in recent years this has been interpreted by the UK government to merely mean that Australia gets informed of changes that it is going to make. Hawkeye7 (talk) 01:11, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
          • I should have added to my comment "provided he or she acts constitutionally". But this isn't the main issue on this article so I will say no more. Brianboulton (talk) 11:56, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
            • Charles II? Really?--Wehwalt (talk) 19:18, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
              • Oops, wrong Charles `:o Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:21, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
I am running a fine line here because non-Aussies (I am not Australian) are going to need an introduction to the Oz political system as in effect in 1975. But I don't want that to be the focus. Should I differentiate between reserve powers set out in the Constitution (ie., Governor General withholds assent per Sec 58) to those not? (Kerr fires Whitlam).
Well, I am an Australian :) The crisis is of interest beyond Australia though, because other countries (like Canada) have similar political systems. The constitutional fallout of the political crisis was all about differences of opinion about the meaning of the constitution, literal versus conventional. So these should be carefully spelt out. (Kerr fired Whitlam under sec 62.) Part of the problem was Kerr's background as a lawyer, which tempted him to seek a legal rather than a political solution to the crisis. Hawkeye7 (talk) 05:27, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
I do not think that this is so controversial it will fail because of that. After five articles dealing with Richard Nixon, I am reasonably content I can deal with controversy.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:48, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
I just got through a bruising encounter on Douglas MacArthur, which was more controversial than I expected. If you know how to shepherd controversial articles through, any advice you can offer would be appreciated. Hawkeye7 (talk) 05:27, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
Always be calm and friendly during the FAC, no matter what happens I will play with some language over the next few days. I agree, there needs to be language in the introduction explaining that it is convention that the Governor-General takes the advice of the government in the office. And incidentally, part of Whitlam's blind spot in all of this is forgetting Kerr was a judge and a lawyer, and treating him like Hasluck, a defanged politician.--Wehwalt (talk) 14:06, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Finetooth comment: This is a trifling comment but possibly useful. The dab tool in the toolbox above finds one dab, "dismissal", and the alt-text tool shows that the images lack alt text. It's probably good to add the alt text even if it's not required at the moment. I recently added alt text to my older FAs, and it took quite a while; I wouldn't like to fall behind again and have to add a pile of these later. Finetooth (talk) 17:44, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

I will take care of those before nominating.--Wehwalt (talk) 18:15, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

Prose review: This is the first part; I will try and complete tomorrow (or Wednesday at the latest)

  • Lead
    • The opening sentence is too complex (around eight statements of fact) for an introduction to the topic. Trouble is, as written it's not that easy just to divide it; there may have to a little rewriting around it. Nevertheless, I would advise that this is done.
    • Will your readers understand "appropriations" and "supply" in this context? They need to know that the terms are financial, and that a government's ability to function depends on the passage through parliament of these bills.
    • "It urged Kerr..." "It" refers to the Opposition, which is referred to as "they" in the previous sentence. Apart from which, "it" has become somewhat removed from its subject. I suggest: "The Opposition urged Kerr..." etc
    • Third paragraph opens a little heavy-footed. I suggest: " On 11 November 1975, in an attempt to break the deadlock, Whitlam sought Kerr's approval for a half-Senate election. Instead, Kerr dismissed him as Prime Minister and shortly thereafter installed Fraser in his place."
    • "The Coalition": this is unexplined. Perhaps, at first mention: "...the new government, a coalition of the Liberal and Country Parties,..."
  • Constitutional
    • We need to avoid some repetition here: " exercising the reserve power. The reserve powers are those powers..."
    • In the last paragraph you say "where the question arose..." I think "where these circumstances arose" would be stronger.
  • Political
    • "It enjoyed a nine-seat majority..." Once again, "it" is not clearly defined. This should read "The new government enjoyed..." or some such.
    • Another rather unwieldly sentence, which also has a double "" towards the end: "At Kerr's request, Whitlam informally agreed that if both men were still in office in five years, Kerr would be reappointed, and secured legislation to address Kerr's financial concerns about the position, including authorising a pension for the Governor-General or his widow." The sentence splits quite easily: "At Kerr's request, Whitlam informally agreed that if both men were still in office in five years, Kerr would be reappointed. Whitlam secured legislation to address Kerr's financial concerns about the position, and authorised a pension for the Governor-General or his widow."
  • Scandal and vacancies
    • There is not really a sense of "scandal" in he loans affair as described here. It seems an unconventional, and perhaps undignified way for a government to raise money, but it doesn't seem scandalous - unless there were backhanders or bribes, etc. Later, I see mention of Cairns and his affairs; perhaps this information should be merged into this first paragraph?
    • Third paragraph: I think it needs to be underlined that Whitlam's careless loss of this Senate seat was the first step whereby the Opposition was able to acquire a Senate majority.
Well ... it really wasn't. Bunton voted with the ALP on all the crucial votes of the crisis. We started out 29-29, with two independents. One independent (I don't bother to mention this) joined the Liberals, so it was 30-29 Coalition, with Senator Hall the sixtieth vote, and he generally voted with the ALP. So it was effectively 30-30. What hurt was the loss of Senator Milliner and his replacement (so to speak) by Senator Field. That made it 31-29 Coalition, and Field's leave of absence 30-29. The Murphy/Bunton did not immediately hurt the ALP, except they exchanged a reliable ALP man with an independent who probably didn't vote the ALP way all the time on matters outside supply.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:02, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
    • "Whitlam had offered Barnard a diplomatic post..." This is the first mention of Barnard, so we need his full name and should be told who he was.
  • Deferral of supply
    • "If the ALP won Field's and Bunton's seats, and one seat in each territory, and if the second ACT seat was filled either by a Labor candidate or by an independent, former Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton, now estranged from his party, Labor would have an effective 33–31 margin, at least until 1 July." This, with all its conditional clauses and explanatory phrases, is very difficult to follow, and should be simplified. In any event, how significant to this particular story are these various ifs and buts? They relate to a hypothetical 1976 situation, by which time our story will be over.
    • "It could be a question of whether i get to the Queen first for your recall, or whether you get in first with my dismissal." There's a lower case "i" in the quote - is this a typo?
    • First mention of "MHR" needs an explanation
  • Consultations and negotiations
    • "Throughout the crisis, Kerr did not tell Whitlam of his increasing concerns about the crisis,..." Last three words are redundant.
    • "...and that Whitlam's decision not to call a House election could not be influenced by him." The double "nots" are most confusing. Could this be rephrased for clarity. (...and that he would thus be unable to influence Whitlam's decision not to call a House election"?)
  • Kerr reaches a decision
    • Section heading has a non-encyclopedic feel. Could be just "Decision"
    • "He decided that as Whitlam could not secure supply, and would not resign or advise an election for the House of Representatives, Kerr would have to sack him." This is awkward, because it is not obvious that "He" and "Kerr" are one and the same. Suggest something like: "The Governor-General decided that as Whitlam could not secure supply, and would not resign or advise an election for the House of Representatives, he would have to sack him."
OK, good stuff. Looking forward to the remainder. May be a couple of days before I get to it but I will fix them before I take it to FAC.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:32, 1 June 2010 (UTC)


  • Meeting at Yarralumla
    • I suggest you make the image caption a bit more informative, at least to the extent of explaining that Yarralumla is the Governor-General's official residence.
  • Parliamentary strategy
    • "Labor strategy had been to put pressure on the Coalition senators, and to that end, the Labor leadership had planned to introduce a motion that the Senate pass the appropriation bills." What "pressure" did this plan create?
  • Dissolution
    • "...who advised him that 21 bills fulfilled the double dissolution provisions of Section 57..." Have I missed a part of the story? What's this about 21 bills, etc?
The appropriations bills did not fulfil Sec 57 as they had not been passed twice by the Representatives with a three month gap between. However, there were 21 bills which, over the course of the year and a half since the last election, fulfilled the Section 57 requirements. Without citing bills which fulfilled Sec 57, there could not have been a double dissolution election, the best that could have been done was an election for the Representatives and half the Senate. Kelly writes Kerr would have accepted it, but he preferred the double dissolution as it allowed the people to pass on all the legislators.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:25, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
    • "Whitlam later stated that it would have been wiser for Scholes to take the appropriation bills with him, rather than having them sent ahead." Again, I can't fit this information into the story I've been following.
As a means of making a deal. Whitlam reinstatement for supply. There are other things they could have done, like having the House revoke its passage of the bills. I may slice this, it is getting too much into the wudda cudda shudda of things Labor could have done if it really wanted to escalate the crisis. For example, Whitlam has said he could easily have gotten the crowd to march to Yarralumla.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:25, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
    • "Even as Scholes and Kerr spoke..." Not really encyclopedic - perhaps lose the "Even"?
  • Campaign
    • "During the campaign, the Kerrs purchased a Sydney apartment and Sir John was prepared to resign in the event that the ALP triumphed". The "and" conjunction is wrong; could be a comma after "apartment", followed by "as".
  • Participants and legacy
    • Slightly awkward title?
  • Ambiguity: "Christopher Boyce, an employee of a CIA civilian contractor and convicted Soviet spy..." It needs to be clear that Boyce, not the civilian contractor, was the convicted spy.
    • Pronoun confusion in the following: "However, he has also written that in 1977, United States Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher made a special trip to Sydney to meet with him and told him, on behalf of US President Jimmy Carter, of his willingness to work with whatever government Australians elected, and that the US would never again interfere with Australia's democratic processes." The identities of the various hes and hims needs some clarifying. I would also find a way of adding emphasis to the "again", as that is the main point of the quote.

That's my prose review. In general the article read very well and was genuinely gripping for a politics story, even though the ending was known. I'm sure this will polish up into featured quality and I'll look out for it there. Brianboulton (talk) 22:24, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

I will put in the things I have not questioned and modify to make those things clearer. Depending on internet access availablility, I will get this to FAC within the next two or three days.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:25, 2 June 2010 (UTC)