The Dismissal of the Whitlam Government

How was the crisis resolved?

  • What happened to resolve the crisis?
  • How did Kerr justify his actions?
  • In the days following the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, public opinion polls indicated strong opposition to Kerr's action, yet 34 days later the Liberal Party led by Malcolm Fraser was elected with a majority of 53 seats. How do you explain this change?
  • To what extent were the issues involved in the crisis resolved?
  • What were the significant outcomes of this crisis for the Australian political system?
  • Is it possible that events such as those of 1975 could be repeated?

Identify and analyse information

Examine this extract from the Senate Debates of 1975 (p 198) in which the Senate announced that it was deferring debate on the budget. Consider the overall point of the document, the evidence offered for the decision to defer, the language used, the audience to whom the document was directed and the degree to which it reflects the ideas, attitudes and anxieties of the period. Compare the Senate extract with the response from the House of Representatives (p 198).

Read the following introduction to the Editorial that appeared in The Age (a Melbourne newspaper) on 12 November 1975:

Yesterday was the most extraordinary day in the political life of this nation. It was also one of the most regrettable. The decision of the Governor-General to dismiss the Whitlam Government was, we believe, a triumph of narrow legalism over common sense and popular feeling. We do not deny that Sir John had been placed in an appallingly difficult position by two stubborn men. We accept that he had a legal power to do as he did, and that he acted in good faith. But we believe he was wrong. We are not convinced the decision he took was the only one open to him, or that it was necessary to take it now. He has certainly not explained himself adequately.

  • What view does the editorial take on Kerr's actions?
  • What arguments does it use to support that view?
  • What words and phrases indicate the newspaper's view of the events?
  • What other resources would you need to consult to form an accurate picture of national views on the issue, the day after the dismissal of the Whitlam Government?

Introduction | What was 'The Dismissal'? | How did the crisis develop? | How was the crisis resolved? | Assessment tasks and Additional resources