Casual Senate Vacancies And The Whitlam Government

The filling of casual Senate vacancies was crucial to the constitutional crisis of 1975.

Without the breaking of the convention surrounding casual vacancies, the blocking of Supply by the Senate would not have been possible.

The convention was straight-forward: In the event of a senator’s death or resignation, the Constitution requires that a replacement be appointed by the Parliament of the State represented by the senator. In practice, the convention was to appoint a replacement from the same party, so as to maintain the balance of numbers in the Senate.

Following the elections of 1974, the composition of the Senate was:

  • Liberal/Country Party: 30
  • Australian Labor Party: 29
  • Independent:1 (usually voted with the ALP)

On these figures, the Senate could not block the Budget, or other money bills, because the vote would be tied, and therefore defeated. [Read more…]

Fraser Says Blocking Supply Is Justified By Economic Circumstances And Government Scandals

Like Whitlam, Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser did the rounds of the Sunday television shows on Sunday, October 19, 1975.

He defended the blocking of Supply on Channel 7’s This Week program. The program was hosted by Brian Naylor. The interview was conducted by Dan Webb and Tom Worland.

Fraser argued that economic circumstances and the Loans Affair scandals justified the blocking of Supply. [Read more…]

The First Day Of The Constitutional Crisis

The first full day of the constitutional crisis saw debates and votes in parliament and a developing protest movement outside parliament.

Whitlam initiated a confidence motion in his government in the House of Representatives that was passed by 62 votes to 57.

The former Liberal prime minister, John Gorton, crossed the floor to vote with the Labor government. Gorton was a bitter foe of Malcolm Fraser, stemming from the 1971 conflict which saw Fraser resign from Gorton’s cabinet, precipitating Gorton’s downfall and replacement by William McMahon. [Read more…]

Palindromic Pro-Consul Speaks Out

The Governor of Queensland, Sir Colin Hannah, attacked the Whitlam government as “fumbling” and “inept”.

Hannah spoke on the same day that Malcolm Fraser announced the Coalition would block the Budget in the Senate.

Whitlam, describing Hannah as “the palindromic pro-consul“, advised the Queen to revoke Hannah’s dormant commission to act as Governor-General. [Read more…]

Bjelke-Petersen Afraid Of Gestapo Agents

The Queensland Premier was living in fear of Whitlam’s Gestapo.

This is how The Australian reported Bjelke-Petersen’s claim that 5000 Gestapo agents were heading for Queensland. Note the last two paragraphs.

The Australian

Whitlam Would Make Australia A Republic: Joh

And we couldn’t stop the boats then, either…

The Age

Whitlam Questioned On Gair Appointment

The appointment of the former DLP leader, Senator Vince Gair, as Ambassador to Ireland was broken in the Sun by Laurie Oakes on April 2, 1974.

CT

Gair had grown disgruntled with his colleagues. His appointment was based on the idea that his resignation from the Senate would create an additional vacancy in Queensland. With a half-Senate election scheduled for May 18, Whitlam’s hope was that the ALP could win 3 of the 6 vacancies and ease the government’s position in the Senate. [Read more…]