Australian Events in the News

The News - 11 November 1975
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Whitlam sacked

The News - 11 November 1975

Adelaide; News Limited

Newspaper, 410 x 300 mm

Location : State Library of South Australia - view catalogue entry

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The Australian Labor Party formed government in late 1972 with a majority in the House of Representatives but without control of the Senate. The composition of the Senate changed in 1975 when the Queensland and New South Wales governments made non-Labor appointments to Labor vacancies. This meant the Government had even less influence in the Senate.

In late 1974 and throughout 1975 there was a spate of controversies involving ministers and then the ‘Loans Affair’ was revealed. The affair involved members of parliament attempting to gain overseas loans from the Middle East through unconventional channels. Rex Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, was dismissed for misleading Parliament over the matter. Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser used the scandal as justification for the opposition not to pass budget bills in the Senate until an election was called. This effectively left the Government with no money. Prime Minister Whitlam believed his party had the right to remain in government while it controlled the House of Representatives (the House passed several motions of confidence in the Government during this period), while Fraser believed a government that could not control the Senate should resign.

On 9 November the Governor-General John Kerr spoke with the Chief Justice of the High Court, Chief Justice Barwick (a former Liberal Party MP) about the crisis. Barwick suggested that Kerr had the power to dismiss Whitlam. In a simple letter, Kerr did just that, and appointed Fraser caretaker Prime Minister until an election could be held. The Governor General ended his proclamation dissolving the parliament with the words “God save the Queen”. Whitlam’s reply was “Well may we say 'God save the Queen', because nothing will save the Governor-General.”

A general election took place on 13 December 1975 and the Liberal-National Country Party coalition won convincingly.

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