history meme » 1/10 moments » The Dismissal

"Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General!"

On November 11, 1975, the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, gave Prime Minister Gough Whitlam the sack. It was the first, and only, time in Australian history that a federal government had been dismissed, and it stunned the nation.

Kerr was an unelected figurehead, Whitlam the elected leader of an embattled government. And while, in theory, the Constitution grants the Governor-General extensive authority, including the power to dissolve Parliament, sack governments and appoint Prime Ministers, in practice the position is a ceremonial one and the Governor-General is expected to act only at the request of the government.

But with Parliament deadlocked, Kerr apparently felt compelled to act. Since mid-October, the opposition had been using its Senate majority to block all appropriations bills, leaving the government hamstrung. Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser insisted that this obligated Whitlam to call an early election. Whitlam insisted that he was not obligated to do anything, as the Senate was acting outside of its authority in blocking supply. For weeks, neither side budged.

And so it was that on the morning of November 11, the Governor-General handed Whitlam a letter informing him that he was no longer Prime Minister of Australia.

Malcolm Fraser was appointed caretaker Prime Minister, and a double dissolution election was called in which the Whitlam-led Labor Party ultimately suffered a crushing defeat. For Gough Whitlam, the great reformer whose “It’s Time” campaign had mobilised voters and brought Labor its first electoral victory since 1946 — time was finally up.

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    One of my fav moments
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