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…]

It’s Government By Crisis

The front page of The Age, the day after Malcolm Fraser announced the Opposition would block the Budget.

The Age
 

The Age: “Go now, go decently”

Around the nation on October 15, 1975, many newspapers editorialised against the Whitlam government.

Later the same day, Malcolm Fraser announced that the Opposition would block the Budget with the aim of forcing the removal of the government.

It is now known that Fraser talked with newspaper editors prior to October 15.

The editorial in The Age is the most well-known. The newspaper’s editor, Graham Perkin, died the following day, at age 45.

The Age

Text of editorial in The Age, Wednesday, October 15, 1975.

Go now, go decently

We will say it straight, and clear, and at once. The Whitlam Government has run its course; it must go now, and preferably by the honorable course of resignation – a course which would dispel all arguments about constitutional proprieties, historic conventions and “grabs” for power. It must go because it no longer has the degree of public support and acceptance that permits Governments to govern effectively. There are now too few people who will accept its policies, no matter how virtuous or commendable those policies may be. The Government is discredited. If integrity in government means anything, if competence in government is important, resignation would be the decent and responsible final step for a Government so haunted by the ghosts of its past follies that no current proclamations of good intentions, of rising hopes can dispel the furies. [Read more…]

Tanner Cartoon: Bass By-Election

This cartoon by Les Tanner appeared in The Age on July 1, 1975.

It followed Labor’s defeat in the Bass by-election on June 28.

Tanner

[Cartoon published by kind permission of the Les Tanner Estate]


The by-election was caused by the resignation of Lance Barnard, who had held the seat since 1954. Following the 1974 federal election, Barnard was replaced as deputy ALP leader and deputy prime minister by Dr. Jim Cairns. Whitlam appointed Barnard as Ambassador to Norway, Finland and Sweden.

The ALP suffered a two-party-preferred swing of 14.3% in the by-election and lost the seat to the Liberal Party’s Kevin Newman by 60.3% to 39.7%. The Labor candidate, John Macrostie, polled just 36.5% of the primary vote, a drop of 17.5%.

The by-election was evidence of severe voter dissatisfaction with the Whitlam government. It is widely regarded as contributing to Fraser’s decision to block the budget in October 1975.

A Blow To Democracy: The Age

Following Whitlam’s announcement of the double dissolution, The Age decried the circumstances that had led to the election.

In particular, The Age saw that the Opposition tactics could put future governments at threat: “Now the way is open for majority Senate Oppositions in the future to attach Catch 22 conditions to any money bill, any time. Of course they will not refuse Supply. They will simply not deign to talk money until the Government hands in its resignation.” [Read more…]