Presentation on theme: "By Katie Drury, Sian Yates & Sharnee Holmes. Causes of the Whitlam dismissal Sir John Kerr ( the Governor General) felt that he was not treated with the."— Presentation transcript:
By Katie Drury, Sian Yates & Sharnee Holmes
Causes of the Whitlam dismissal Sir John Kerr ( the Governor General) felt that he was not treated with the respect that his position deserved and over the years had changed from being a Labor sympathiser to displaying more conservative views. Whitlam assumed that Kerr would only act under the PM’s advice, instead of invoking his reserved powers. There was controversy over whether or not the Governor General could act independently. Following the appointment of the government's Senate leader and Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, to the High Court bench in February 1975, the Liberal government of New South Wales, under Premier Tom Lewis, refused to follow convention and appoint a Labor replacement for Murphy in the Senate. The independent Mayor of Albury, Cleaver Bunton, was appointed instead. Following the death of Queensland Labor Senator Bert Milliner, the Country Party Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, also refused to appoint a Labor replacement, opting instead to appoint Albert Patrick Field. During 1975, the Government also endured the "Overseas Loans Affair", the story of efforts by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Rex Connor, Treasurer Dr. Jim Cairns, and others, to raise an overseas loan of $4 billion. The loan was to be used to fund a number of natural resources and energy projects, including the construction of a natural gas pipeline, the electrification of interstate railways and a uranium enrichment plant. Instead of turning to Britain or the USA, the government sought the loan from the Middle-East, through a Pakistani broker. The loan fell through and left the government looking ineffective, foolish and reckless. As a result, Connor was forced to resign.
Lead up to the dismissal October 14: Minerals and Energy Minister, Rex Connor, resigns after being shown to have misled Parliament over ongoing negotiations for overseas loans with Tirath Khemlani. He is replaced by Paul Keating. October 15: Every metropolitan newspaper in Australia calls on the Government to resign. Fraser announces that the Senate will delay the two money bills until Whitlam calls an election. October 16: The Senate blocks the money bills, whilst the House of Representatives passes a motion of confidence in the government. October 16-November 8: The Parliament debates the constitutional crisis, with the House consistently reaffirming its confidence in the government. Both sides of politics conduct rallies around the country. Public opinion polls show a swing to the government. The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, speaks with both Whitlam and Fraser on a number of occasions. November 03: Fraser offered to pass the Supply Bills, provided Whitlam agreed to call an election by May Whitlam rejected the offer. November 10: The Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, a former Liberal Government minister, sees the Governor-General. Later, he gives Kerr a letter that the Governor-General releases the next day to support his decision.
November 11, Remembrance Day 9.00am: Whitlam meets with Fraser and other Opposition leaders. He says that he will call a half-Senate election immediately unless the money bills are passed am: Whitlam makes an appointment to see Kerr am: The Labor caucus is told by Whitlam that there will be a Senate election am: Fraser tells the Opposition parties there is nothing to report am: House of Representatives meets and debates yet another motion of confidence in the government pm: Kerr's private secretary phones Fraser to tell him to go to Government House at 1.00pm pm: Fraser leaves for Government House, where he is shown into a waiting room pm: Whitlam leaves for Government House, not knowing Fraser is there. 1.15pm: Kerr dismisses Whitlam. 1.30pm: Kerr commissions Fraser as Prime Minister. 2.00pm: The Senate passes the Supply bills. 2.30pm: Fraser announces to the House of Representatives that he is Prime Minister, moves that the House of Representatives adjourn, but is defeated. 3.03pm: Whitlam moves a motion of no-confidence in Fraser. 3.16pm: House of Representatives passes motion of no-confidence in Fraser. The Speaker asks for an appointment with Kerr, but is told that Kerr cannot see him until 4.45pm. 4.50pm: The Governor-General's secretary, David Smith, goes to Parliament House and reads the proclamation dissolving Parliament. The proclamation concludes with the words "God Save the Queen." Whitlam declares that "nothing will save the Governor-General" and implores his supporters to maintain their "rage and enthusiasm". The ALP is defeated at the polls on December 13, The Fraser Government secures the largest majority in Australian Federal political history.
Arguments For and Against the decision by the Governor General FOR: Governor General was forced to act because there was loss of confidence in the house. Many bills were being rejected by the senate and with inflation and unemployment rising the government was losing support of the electors. Past incidents such as the loans affair and dismissal of Cairns and Connor left no alternative. Senate has power to block supply under constitutional power. The Prime Minister at the time (Gough Whitlam) was over-mighty who was planning to “smash the senate”. the question was asked: were they trying to run a government by relying on credit from banks? Rather than the legal need to attain supply. Constitutional powers allowed the Governor General to be an “active Governor General”. If the government can not get supply then it must call a general election. The governor general is allowed to dismiss ministers to protect the constitution.
AGAINST: Coarse of the crisis broke many Westminster and Homegrown conventions. Question lies about the relevance of constitutional conventions in the Australian political system if they are easily discarded. The actions of the Governor General may have established the existence of constitutional reserve powers for use by future Governor Generals with breach of Homegrown and Westminster conventions. Kerr breached his conventional powers by forming judgments different from his ministers. Kerr ignored arguments of a responsible government. The Governor General did not warn or consult the prime minister of his decision. Kerr stated that there were no alternatives to his decision without looking at alternatives. He said the senate was going to “refuse supply” when they were only going to defer it. The high court will not be an advisory body on pending issues due to the problems they incur when hearing the case later. Instead Kerr consulted the chief justice who helped by giving moral advice rather than legal advice. The government still had two to three weeks of money left.
Why is it still considered important in Australian politics? The Constitutional crisis in 1975 (The Dismissal) is still important in Australian politics today because as it was the “dramatic event” in the history of Australian politics and it created a nation wide political interest. But there are people who can argue that its significance has been either overrated or has become largely irrelevant to contemporary politics. It is argued that the events of 1975 can be used to justify a number of conflicting opinions: The Constitution needs to be completely rewritten or at least substantially modified because the events of 1975 showed how the Constitution could be misused.’ The events of 1975 has demonstrated the strength of the Constitution and its Conventions by surviving such a critical incident. Governor General have been reluctant to agree with Sir John Kerr’s view the “the only solution consistent with the Constitution and my oath of office” was to use his reserve powers. *This is still considered one of the most significant and important events that has occurred within Australian politics as it was the first dismissal of a Prime Minister in Australia by the Governor General under the circumstances.
Quotes ‘Mr. Whitlam and his colleagues should, I thought, be dismissed because they insisted, contrary to the customary procedures of constitutional government, on governing without parliamentary supply, failing to resign or advise an election.’ Sir John Kerr, 1978 ‘The crisis of October-November 1975 was essentially a political crisis, capable of solution by political means.’ Gough Whitlam, 1979 ‘The point at issue in the public controversy… is not whether the Governor General had the power but whether he was justified by the facts as he saw and interpreted them, and if he were justified by the facts whether he was wise to use the power.’ Hasluck (from the Governor General’s office), 1979