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Kerr Quits UNESCO Ambassadorship; Fraser’s Parliamentary Statement

In a statement to the House of Representatives on March 2, 1978, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced that Sir John Kerr would not be taking up his appointment as Australian Ambassador to UNESCO.

Kerr’s decision followed an outpouring of criticism after his appointment had been announced by Fraser on February 9. The position with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation was based in Paris.

Fraser defended Kerr’s actions as Governor-General and said the government believed Kerr “should not be cast aside…simply because he was forced by the Government of the day to make a difficult decision”. He said Kerr had “the right to serve this nation quietly, at peace with himself, at peace with the nation, at peace with his family”. [Read more…]

Fraser Appoints Kerr Ambassador To UNESCO

Two months after he relinquished the position of Governor-General, Sir John Kerr was appointed Australian Ambassador to UNESCO.

Fraser announced the appointment on February 9, 1978. Kerr’s position with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, based in Paris, was due to commence on March 2. [Read more…]

Sir John Kerr Drunk At The Melbourne Cup

Just weeks before retiring as Governor-General, Sir John Kerr attended the Melbourne Cup.

A drunken Kerr presented the cup to the connections of the winner, Gold and Black, a horse trained by Bart Cummings and ridden by John Duggan.

Kerr’s performance in front of a heckling crowd is a classic for political aficionados.

Kerr at the Melbourne Cup

[Read more…]

Kerr Speaks Of The Queen And Young People

The precise date and location of this extract from a speech by Sir John Kerr are not clear.

Given in September 1976, Kerr spoke of the forthcoming visit by the Queen. He also referred to what he regarded as alarming influences on young people, especially in the education system. [Read more…]

Kerr’s 1976 Australia Day Message

Eights weeks after the Dismissal, the Governor-General delivered an Australia Day address.

Sir John Kerr spoke to the nation on January 26, 1976, from London, England, the country that was to be his home in exile for most of the remainder of his life. [Read more…]

Vice-Regal Notice – November 11

In 1975, Government House prepared a Vice-Regal notice that major broadsheet newspapers would publish.

This is the notice that appeared on page 2 of the Canberra Times on November 12, 1975.

Vice-Regal

Text of the Vice-Regal notice published on November 12, 1975.

The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, and Lady Kerr attended the Remembrance Day commemoration ceremony at the Australian War Memorial yesterday morning.

Later, Sir John received Mr Whitlam at Government House and determined his commission as Prime Minister.

Afterwards, he received Mr Fraser and administered the requisite oath of office as Prime Minister.

In the afternoon, Sir John received the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and Mr C. W. Harders, Secretary, Attorney-General’s Department, at Government House.

Later, he received the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Scholes, at Government House.

Sir John Was Wrong: The Age

Decades on, the editorial in The Age newspaper on November 12, 1975, remains one of the clearest statements of the arguments against Sir John Kerr’s actions the previous day.

Age

Editorial, The Age, November 12, 1975.

Sir John was wrong

Yesterday was the most extraordinary in the political life of this nation. It was also one of the most regrettable. The decision of the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, to dismiss the Whitlam Government was, we believe, a triumph of narrow legalism over common sense and popular feeling. We do not deny that Sir John had been placed in an appallingly difficult position by two stubborn men. We accept that he had a legal power to do as he did, and that he acted in good faith. But we believe he was wrong. We are not convinced the decision he took was the only one open to him, or that it was necessary to take it now. He has certainly not explained himself adequately. [Read more…]

Kerr’s Proclamation Dissolving Parliament

At 4.45pm on November 11, 1975, nearly four hours after Whitlam’s dismissal, the Governor-General’s Official Secretary, David Smith, read this proclamation on the steps of Parliament House.

This audio clip of Smith and Whitlam is the first ever broadcast by the ABC shortly after 5pm on November 11. It starts at the end of Smith’s reading of the proclamation and includes Whitlam’s famous words about Kerr and Fraser.

  • Listen to Smith and Whitlam

David Smith and Gough Whitlam

PROCLAMATION
By His Excellency, the
Governor-General of Australia [Read more…]

Lunchtime On November 11: The Media Reacts To The Calling Of A Half Senate Election

Following his dismissal, Whitlam returned to The Lodge and ate a steak for lunch. It was just after 1pm.

The media was covering what it believed to be the calling of a half-Senate election.

The half-Senate election had to be held by around May 1976. New senators would not take their seats until July 1, 1976. However, the new Territory senators would take their places immediately. Whilst no-one seriously believed the election would alter the balance of numbers in the Senate, Whitlam’s strategy was to put pressure on the Opposition to pass the Budget bills. [Read more…]

Kerr’s Statement Of Reasons

Following his dismissal of Gough Whitlam on November 11, 1975, the Governor-General released this document outlining his reasons.

Full text of Sir John Kerr’s Statement of Reasons for the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, issued by Government House on November 11, 1975.

I have given careful consideration to the constitutional crisis and have made some decisions which I wish to explain. [Read more…]