Choosing Governments in the Westminster System

The question of how governments are chosen is a crucial issue arising from the Dismissal of the Whitlam government.

The Australian Constitution sets out the way in which our political system operates. It consists of 128 sections.

Australia is a Federal system: we have a National Government (can also be called Federal, Commonwealth or Australian) and six state Governments, plus two territory governments. [Read more…]

October 15, 1975: A Big and Dramatic Day In Australian Politics

October 15, 1975 was a historic day in Australian politics. It marked the first serious attempt by an Opposition with a Senate majority to force the government to an election.

Most of the material compiled on this page appears elsewhere on the site but also includes some audio items that do not appear elsewhere.

  1. Malcolm Fraser announces the coalition will block Supply – with audio and brief video.

  2. Senator Reg Withers moves the deferral of Supply – full text and partial audio of the Opposition Senate leader moving an amendment to the Loan Bill 1975.

  3. Gough Whitlam’s Address to the Nation on the Supply issue – with full text and audio, and brief video.

  4. Shadow Cabinet Minutes – a selection of minutes regarding the Supply decision from the Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne.

 

Miscellaneous Audio Files – October 15, 1975

  • Sir Colin Hannah, Governor of Queensland, attacks the Whitlam government (1m)
  • Malcolm Fraser announces the decision to block Supply (5m)
  • 4.35pm Senator Reg Withers moves deferral of the Loan Bill (11m)
  • 4.45pm ABC Radio NewsVoice (7m)
  • 5.00pm 3DB Radio News (4m)
  • 6.00pm ABC Radio News (5m)
  • 6.10pm ABC Radio PM (24m)
  • 6.30pm Fraser, Wreidt & Hawke on A Current Affair (24m)
  • 7.30pm Whitlam’s Address to the Nation (5m)
  • 7.35pm Malcolm Fraser & Steele Hall on This Day Tonight, plus vox pops (15m)

Senator Withers Moves To Defer Passage Of The Supply Bills

The first move to block passage of the Supply bills in the Senate came at 4.35pm on Wednesday, October 15, 1975 when Senator Reg Withers rose to speak on the Loan Bill.

In a 25-minute speech, Withers outlined the Opposition’s argument that delaying Supply was a legitimate parliamentary tactic and called on Prime Minister Whitlam to call an immediate election.

Withers moved an amendment to the Loan Bill that was passed by 29 votes to 28 at approximately 5.26pm. Senator Albert Patrick Field was absent, his position having been challenged in the High Court. Senator Cleaver Bunton, the independent appointed to fill Senator Lionel Murphy’s vacancy, voted with the ALP government, as did the Liberal Movement’s Senator Steele Hall. [Read more…]

Whitlam Responds To Fraser’s Decision To Block Supply: Parliamentary Democracy Is Under Challenge

Gough Whitlam responded within hours to Malcolm Fraser’s announcement that the coalition parties would block Supply, describing it as a threat to parliamentary democracy.

Whitlam

Whitlam spoke in an Address to the Nation on ABC television.

He said: “I state again the basic rule of our parliamentary system: Governments are made and unmade in the House of Representatives – in the people’s House. The Senate cannot, does not, and must never determine who the Government shall be.

“That principle has been upheld since federation. It has never been broken or challenged except during this Government’s life. It has been scrupulously observed on at least twenty occasions since federation when the Opposition had the numbers in the Senate to reject Supply. [Read more…]

Fraser Announces The Coalition Will Block Supply

Malcolm Fraser announced that the coalition parties would block Supply at a press conference that began at 2.56pm on October 15, 1975.

Fraser announced that the Opposition would not reject Supply outright but delay it until Whitlam agreed to call an election. This was significant because it allowed the Supply bills to remain alive in the event of changed circumstances or a change of government. [Read more…]

Ellicott Says The Governor-General Will Have To Dismiss Whitlam If Supply Is Blocked

On the day before Malcolm Fraser’s momentous decision, the Liberal MP for Wentworth, and former Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Robert Ellicott, argued that the Governor-General would have to dismiss Whitlam if the Senate voted to block Supply.

It was October 14 and Rex Connor’s fate as Minister for Minerals and Energy hung in the balance. By the end of the day, Connor had resigned and it was expected that Fraser would use these reprehensible circumstances to block the government’s Supply bills in the Senate. [Read more…]