Constitutional Changes After 1975

This is the text of a speech by Gough Whitlam.

The speech was delivered to the Australian National University Law Faculty Dinner at the Lobby Restaurant, opposite Old Parliament House.

Whitlam deals with the political and constitutional nature of the 1975 crisis and proposes a series of constitutional, parliamentary and electoral reforms.

Five years ago I and many other participants and observers wrote books and articles and spoke in conferences and programs on the coup d’état of 11 November 1975. For the 25th anniversary I chose a forum and symposium under the auspices of the Law Faculty of the ANU.

The Faculty, however, chose this venue. There have probably been more post-mortems on the events of November 1975 held here at the Lobby than anywhere else in Australia, although wine and truth do not necessarily go together. Old hands tell me that lunch at the Lobby has never recaptured its former civility or capaciousness since luncheon was so suddenly curtailed on the eleventh of the eleventh. In any case, two decisions during my Government’s second term irrevocably altered the Lobby’s geographical and institutional status. For more than a decade, the proposed site for the new and permanent Parliament House wandered futilely between the lakeside, Capital Hill and Camp Hill; on 26 September 1974 the ALP member for Burke, Keith Johnson, successfully initiated a private member’s bill, The Parliament Bill, to build the new House on Capital Hill. On 29 September 1975 I unveiled a plaque to commemorate the start of construction of the building for the High Court of Australia. This plaque, on the insistence of Chief Justice Barwick, has been set flush with the floor in the court building. [Read more…]