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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.

Ellicott, the cousin of High Court Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick, whose advice to Governor-General Sir John Kerr would be used to justify the dismissal, argued that no government could remain in office if the parliament refused to vote Supply.

Ellicott said: “There have been overtones to the Prime Minister saying he would, if there were a rejection of the Appropriation Bills, “sit it out,” leaving accounts and the Public Service unpaid. That he seriously entertains such a course is, in itself, a reason which would support the rejection of the bills, for a Prime Minister who would entertain constitutional anarchy such as this is hardly fit to be the leader of our country.

“But, in any event, it is a futile exercise, for undoubtedly, in such a case, the Governor-General would have a clear duty to withdraw the Prime Minister’s commission. No government can continue under our constitutional system without Supply.”


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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