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Whitlam On His Appointment Of Kerr

As controversy swirled around the Governor-General, Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, in March 2002, Gough Whitlam commented on his choice for the Vice-Regal job in 1974.

Extracts from a report in The Age, March 11, 2002:

Former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam today said he felt sad about the vice-regal office controversy given that he had appointed a dud with a drinking problem in Sir John Kerr.

“Mr Whitlam said he believed Governor-General Peter Hollingworth should resign.

“I feel sad about this and I feel a bit sensitive because I appointed a dud, too, but it was universally applauded when I made him,” Mr Whitlam told the John Laws radio program.

He said he should have made inquiries in the legal fraternity about Sir John before he was appointed.

“I should have asked … other Supreme Court judges or senior counsel what he was like and they would have told me that Kerr had a drink problem,” Mr Whitlam said.

“And then later on his wife died, and I don’t want to go into that detail, but clearly I should have known his weaknesses.”

Mr Whitlam admitted he made a mistake in appointing Sir John and he apologised to the Queen.

“And I reassured her, I said there’ll be nothing, no demonstrations against you when you come in `77, which we’d arranged for her to do,” he said.

“I said you’ll be very respectfully and warmly received and the fault was mine, not yours.”

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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