The Whitlam Dismissal gives rise to a number of issues, even decades later.
The issues are constitutional, parliamentary, electoral and political.
The breaking of long-established conventions was at the heart of the Dismissal. State Premiers broke the convention regarding the filling of casual Senate vacancies, the Senate broke the convention about not blocking Supply, and the Governor-General broke the convention of acting only on the advice of the Prime Minister.
When Senator Lionel Murphy resigned his NSW Senate seat in January 1975 to take up his appointment as a judge of the High Court of Australia, the Liberal State government of Premier Tom Lewis refused to replace him with a Labor nominee. Instead, Lewis chose Cleaver Bunton, the Mayor of Albury to fill the vacancy.When Queensland Labor Senator Bert Milliner died in June 1975, the National Party government led by Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen refused to appoint a Labor replacement, instead nominating Albert Patrick Field.These two appointments changed the balance of power in the Senate and allowed the coalition parties to block the budget in October 1975.
CHOOSING GOVERNMENTS IN AUSTRALIA
At the heart of the Dismissal is a dispute about how and where governments are chosen in the Australian Westminster-based federal parliamentary system. The central question revolved around whether governments require the support of the lower house, the House of Representatives, alone, or whether the government requires the continuing support of the Senate as well.This problem led to an intriguing set of interpretations of particular sections of the Australian Constitution relating to the powers of the two houses of parliament.
In the aftermath of the Dismissal, a number of questions are now apparent.
OUT OF EMPIRE
Notes from the Monash University Open Learning course.
Issues Arising the Whitlam Dismissal
- April 9, 1974: Amidst Gair Affair, Killen And Daly Debate The Appropriation Bill
- April 11, 1974: A Blow To Democracy: The Age
- April 16, 1974: Address To The Nation: Gough Whitlam On Why The 1974 Election Was Called
- October 14, 1975: Ellicott Says The Governor-General Will Have To Dismiss Whitlam If Supply Is Blocked
- October 15, 1975: Fraser Announces The Coalition Will Block Supply
- October 15, 1975: Whitlam Responds To Fraser’s Decision To Block Supply: Parliamentary Democracy Is Under Challenge
- October 15, 1975: Senator Withers Moves To Defer Passage Of The Supply Bills
- October 15, 1975: Palindromic Pro-Consul Speaks Out
- October 16, 1975: The First Day Of The Constitutional Crisis
- October 19, 1975: Bob Ellicott Says Governor-General Has Power To Dismiss Whitlam
- October 19, 1975: Whitlam Maintains Attack On Opposition In Weekly TV Addresses
- October 19, 1975: Fraser Says Blocking Supply Is Justified By Economic Circumstances And Government Scandals
- November 10, 1975: Sir Garfield Barwick’s Advice To Sir John Kerr
- November 11, 1975: Gough Whitlam’s Post-Dismissal Press Conference
- November 12, 1975: Sir John Was Wrong: The Age
- November 12, 1975: Peter Bowers: Bulldog Becomes The Underdog
- November 12, 1975: Cutting The Knot: Sydney Morning Herald Editorial
- December 10, 1975: Selected Audio Clips From The 1975 Election Campaign
- November 11, 1976: It’s Time For A New Constitution
- February 8, 1979: Whitlam Launches “The Truth Of The Matter”
- November 11, 1980: Five Years After The Dismissal, Whitlam Speaks To Derryn Hinch
- September 1, 1983: Il Dismissale: Max Gillies On The Dismissal
- November 11, 1985: Whitlam Addresses The National Press Club On The Dismissal’s 10th Anniversary
- November 15, 1985: Future Directions For Reform In Australia
- November 11, 1987: Sir John Kerr Breaks His Silence And Talks To Geoffrey Robertson
- November 8, 1995: Whitlam: The Coup Twenty Years After
- November 11, 1995: Twentieth Anniversary: Maintain Your Rage And Enthusiasm
- November 11, 1995: 20 Years On: Four Corners Remembers The Dismissal
- July 8, 1997: Whitlam Comments On Barwick’s Letter To Kerr
- November 11, 2000: Constitutional Changes After 1975
- November 1, 2001: Constitutional Conventions in Australia
- November 1, 2001: Casual Senate Vacancies And The Whitlam Government
- November 1, 2001: Choosing Governments in the Westminster System
- November 1, 2001: Key Questions Arising from the Whitlam Dismissal
- November 1, 2001: Out Of Empire: Monash University Course Notes
- November 11, 2005: The Dismissal – 30th Anniversary
- December 21, 2005: Cutler Advised Kerr To Warn Whitlam
- January 6, 2007: Santamaria’s Role In The Dismissal
- August 24, 2012: Mason: The Third Man In Whitlam’s Downfall
- August 27, 2012: Mason Disputes Details But Largely Confirms Kerr’s Account Of Their Discussions