Whitlam clocked up ten years as ALP leader on February 8, 1977.
He would not make it to eleven years. In December 1977, he was defeated for the second time by the Liberal leader, Malcolm Fraser. Whitlam relinquished the leadership and left the Parliament in 1978.
However, on his 10th anniversary as leader, the ABC’s This Day Tonight looked at his leadership of the party through the eyes of a cartoonist, Jeff Hook, and Whitlam’s speechwriter and confidante, Graham Freudenberg.
Gough Whitlam delivered his policy speech for the 1975 election at Melbourne’s Festival Hall on Monday, November 24.
Listen to Whitlam’s speech in full
Listen to the crowd chant ‘We Want Gough’
Listen to Whitlam’s opening words
Men and Women of Australia,
The whole future of Australian democracy is in your hands.
The decision you make on 13 December goes far beyond who shall govern Australia for a few months or a few years. It goes to the heart of how Australia is to be governed into the Twenty-First Century.
Above all, Australia must be re-united – united about our basic faith in the value of Parliamentary democracy; as a means for change, and as a means for good government.
The shame of the past six weeks must be wiped away. In those shameful six weeks, a stacked Senate went on strike against a Budget vital to Australia’s welfare and the nation’s economy. The nation and the nation’s elected government were held to ransom. And by those means, the elected government in full command of the confidence of Parliament was deposed.
Is Australia to continue to be a Parliamentary democracy? Are we to have governments elected by the people, through the People’s House? Are elected governments to govern?
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.
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.
An overview of the events of October 15, 1975, the day that the Federal Opposition, led by Malcolm Fraser, decided to block the Supply bills in the Senate until such time as Prime Minister Gough Whitlam called an election.