October 1975 Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in October 1975

Sir Robert Menzies Supports The Blocking Of Supply

A few days after the constitutional crisis began, the former Prime Minister and founder of the Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies, issued a statement supporting Malcolm Fraser’s decision to block Supply.

MenziesMenzies said he was compelled to speak out because of the “nonsense” being talked about the constitutional position of the Senate.

Menzies said that powers of the Senate were expressly set out in the Constitution. “It would be absurd to suppose that the draftsmen of the constitution conferred these powers on the senate with a mental reservation that they should never be exercised.”

Whilst acknowledging that the Senate ought not exercise its power just because it objected to a particular financial measure, Menzies said: “But these are not the circumstances today. The government has, in the last 12 months, itself put up a record of unconstitutionality and, if it is not too strong a word, misconduct on a variety of occasions.”

Menzies was Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. He held office on two occasions, between 1939-41 and 1949-66, for just over 18 years in total. He initiated the formation of the Liberal Party in 1944.

Text of statement released by Sir Robert Menzies.

Statement by Sir Robert Menzies

As is well known, I have, for a long time abstained from entering into any current political controversy. But the circumstances today are such as to compel me to break that silence. For, quite simply, I think more nonsense is being talked about the constitutional position of the senate than I can comfortably listen to, or read.

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.

Whitlam Maintains Attack On Opposition In Weekly TV Addresses

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam maintained his refusal to call an election in separate Sunday commercial television appearances on October 19, 1975.

Whitlam appeared on Channel 7’s This Week and also on Channel 9. The transcripts of both addresses appear below.

Whitlam said he would not yield to Senate “blackmail”. He said: “There are two houses of the Federal Parliament. The government is that party or parties with a majority in the House of Representatives. There can’t be a Prime Minister or a Treasurer in the Senate. It is not the Senate’s function to decide who shall be the government of Australia.”

Bob Ellicott Says Governor-General Has Power To Dismiss Whitlam

This is an interview with Liberal MP Bob Ellicott on Channel 9’s Federal File program on October 19, 1975.

EllicottEllicott, the member for Wentworth, was Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth before entering parliament. He was a cousin of the Chief Justice of the High Court and former Liberal MP, Sir Garfield Barwick.

Ellicott was interviewed by Channel 9’s Peter Harvey.

Ellicott argued that the Governor-General was entitled to dismiss the prime minister if “proper” advice was not given. He said there were certain circumstances in which the Governor-General should feel that he has a duty to dismiss his ministers.

Two days earlier, Ellicott submitted a legal opinion along these lines to the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. Five days earlier, he outlined his argument in a Sydney Morning Herald article.

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.

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.