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Whitlam Announces 1974 Double Dissolution Election

The debacle over the Gair Affair and the Coalition’s threat to block Supply led Gough Whitlam to call a double dissolution election for May 18, 1974.

The double dissolution superceded the half-Senate election that was due by June 30.

After a week of turmoil and speculation over the fate of the government’s Supply bills, Whitlam rose in the House of Representatives just before 8.30pm on April 10 to announce that the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, had agreed to a double dissolution. This is Hansard’s record of the announcement:


Interestingly, Whitlam did not announce the May 18 election date that night. Overnight speculation centred on May 11 or 18.

The Parliament was dissolved at noon the next day and the election date was announced around the same time.

Here are some audio clips from the night of April 10:

  • April 10, 1974 – 1.30pm – ABC Radio News – A double dissolution election now seems certain
  • April 10, 1974 – 5.30pm – 3DB News, Melbourne
  • April 10, 1974 – 6.00pm – ABC News – Whitlam expected to see Governor-General tonight
  • April 10, 1974 – 6.05pm – PM, ABC Radio
  • April 10, 1974 – 7.00pm – ABC TV News with Ross Symonds – includes an interview with Liberal Senator Reg Withers
  • April 10, 1974 – 7.30pm – ABC TV’s This Day Tonight – includes a satirical item, a report from Richard Carleton, and interviews with Liberal Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, DLP Leader Senator Frank McManus and Labor Senator Jim McClelland. Carleton also interviews Country Party leader Doug Anthony about speculation that he would be Treasurer in a coalition government. The program ends with a Monty Python skit.
  • April 10, 1974 – 9.00pm – 3DB News, Melbourne – Laurie Oakes reports on the election announcement
  • April 10, 1974 – approx. 9pm – A short collection of clips from Senate proceedings following Whitlam’s announcement
  • April 10, 1974 – 9.30pm – 3KZ News, Melbourne
  • April 10, 1974 – around 9.30pm – Peter Harvey reports for Channel 9
  • April 10, 1974 – around 9.45pm – Malcolm Mackerras and law lecturer Gareth Evans discuss the DLP, and Peter Harvey reports from Canberra
  • April 10, 1974 – 10pm – ABC Radio News
  • April 10, 1974 – 11pm – Ken Begg, ABC News
  • April 11, 1974 – 8.00am – AM, ABC Radio – interviews with Doug Anthony, Bill Snedden and Fred Daly. Includes “What the Papers Say”.
  • April 11, 1974 – 12.00pm – The Governor-General’s Secretary, David Smith, reads the proclamation dissolving the Parliament
  • April 11, 1974 – 6.00pm – ABC Radio News
  • April 11, 1974 – 6.05pm – PM, ABC Radio – includes extracts of Whitlam’s press conference
  • April 11, 1974 – 7.00pm – ABC TV News

Front page of The Age, Thursday, April 11, 1974.


Front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, April 11, 1974.


Front page of the Canberra Times, Thursday, April 11, 1974.


Front page of The Australian, Thursday, April 11, 1974.