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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.


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.

The plan quickly unravelled and led the Opposition to announce that it would block Supply. Whitlam responded by calling a double dissolution election for May 18.

On the evening of this press conference, coalition senators, led by Senator Ron Maunsell, conspired to keep Gair occupied, thus delaying the submission of his resignation as a senator and allowing the Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, to issue writs for five senators instead of six. Maunsell regularly entertained his colleagues with prawns from Townsville. The evening instantly became known as The Night of the Long Prawns.

Whitlam faced questioning from journalists about the Gair appointment at a press conference. The transcript and an audio extract appear below.

  • Listen to extracts of Whitlam’s press conference (5m)