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Archives for 1975

Cutting The Knot: Sydney Morning Herald Editorial

This is the the Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial on the morning after the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Unlike The Age in Melbourne, the Herald supported Kerr’s decision.

The editorial appeared on page one of the newspaper. An image and the full text is shown below.

SMH Editorial

Text of editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, November 12, 1975.

Cutting the knot

It is for the people now to decide the issue which the two leaders have failed to settle – The Governor-General. [Read more…]

Peter Bowers: Bulldog Becomes The Underdog

This was the assessment of the events of November 11 by the Sydney Morning Herald’s political correspondent, Peter Bowers.

The article appeared on page 10 of the November 12, 1975 edition of the paper.


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.



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…]

Gough Whitlam’s Post-Dismissal Press Conference

Whitlam was dismissed as Prime Minister at 1pm on November 11. The Parliament was dissolved at around 4.45pm.

After delivering his famous speech on the steps of Parliament House, Whitlam held a press conference.

WHITLAM: Clearly the great issue, almost the sole issue of this campaign will be whether the Government which the people elected with a majority in the House of Representatives will be allowed to govern from now on. The whole of this system is under challenge as we see. Now up till the very last division in the House of Representatives where, we have always believed, governments should be made and unmade. We won that division by a majority of ten votes; sixty-four for us, fifty-four for the others. And during this campaign the overwhelming issue will be, are we to have three year Governments in Australia; is the Party which gets a majority in the House of Representatives to be allowed to govern? That is, it’s the future of Parliamentary democracy as we have known it. [Read more…]

Kerr’s Proclamation Dissolving Parliament

At 4.45pm on November 11, 1975, nearly four hours after Whitlam’s dismissal, the Governor-General’s Official Secretary, David Smith, read this proclamation on the steps of Parliament House.

This audio clip of Smith and Whitlam is the first ever broadcast by the ABC shortly after 5pm on November 11. It starts at the end of Smith’s reading of the proclamation and includes Whitlam’s famous words about Kerr and Fraser.

  • Listen to Smith and Whitlam

David Smith and Gough Whitlam

By His Excellency, the
Governor-General of Australia [Read more…]

Whitlam Sacked: Front Page Of Adelaide News

Adelaide News

Fraser’s Acceptance Of A Caretaker Commission

Following Kerr’s dismissal of Whitlam, Fraser agreed to a number of conditions in return for being commissioned as prime minister.

The most important of these were his commitments to securing the passage of Supply and the recommendation of a double dissolution of the Parliament. He also agreed that his government would act as a caretaker government until elections were held.

Fraser was sworn in as prime minister at approximately 1.30pm.

Letter from Malcolm Fraser to Sir John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Your Excellency,

You have intimated to me that it is Your Excellency’s pleasure that I should act as your Chief Adviser and Head of the Government.

In accepting your commission I confirm that I have given you an assurance that I shall immediately seek to secure the passage of the Appropriation Bills which are at present before the Senate, thus ensuring supply for the carrying on of the Public Service in all its branches. I further confirm that, upon the granting of supply, I shall immediately recommend to Your Excellency the dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament.

My government will act as a caretaker government and will make no appointments or dismissals or inititate new policies before a general election is held.

Yours sincerely,
(sgnd J. M. Fraser)

His Excellency the Honourable Sir John Kerr,
A.C., K.C.M.G., K.St.J., Q.C.

11 November 1975

Lunchtime On November 11: The Media Reacts To The Calling Of A Half Senate Election

Following his dismissal, Whitlam returned to The Lodge and ate a steak for lunch. It was just after 1pm.

The media was covering what it believed to be the calling of a half-Senate election.

The half-Senate election had to be held by around May 1976. New senators would not take their seats until July 1, 1976. However, the new Territory senators would take their places immediately. Whilst no-one seriously believed the election would alter the balance of numbers in the Senate, Whitlam’s strategy was to put pressure on the Opposition to pass the Budget bills. [Read more…]

Kerr’s Statement Of Reasons

Following his dismissal of Gough Whitlam on November 11, 1975, the Governor-General released this document outlining his reasons.

Full text of Sir John Kerr’s Statement of Reasons for the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, issued by Government House on November 11, 1975.

I have given careful consideration to the constitutional crisis and have made some decisions which I wish to explain. [Read more…]

Sir John Kerr’s Letter Of Dismissal

This is the official letter handed to Whitlam by Kerr in the Governor-General’s study at Yarralumla at approximately 1.00pm on Tuesday, November 11, 1975.

Kerr's Letter of Dismissal, 11-11-75

Text of Sir John Kerr’s letter of dismissal, handed to Gough Whitlam on November 11, 1975. [Read more…]