Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
Menu
July 07th 2017 print

Michael Connor

Stumbling on the Steps of History

The authorised version of what happened in Canberra on November 11, 1975, was crafted and tirelessly promoted by Labor sympathisers in academia and the press. It is the inspirational story of Gough Whitlam, a great man wronged, and his defiant eloquence. Trouble is, it's just not true

gough loansIt is the greatest moment in the Left’s heritage. The heroic Whitlam before the microphones on the steps of the Old Parliament House: “Well may we say blah blah Maintain your rage blah blah.” It is much praised, much quoted. Whitlam praised himself: “Unquestionably the most memorable speech ever delivered at the Old Parliament House in Canberra.”[1] However, the familiar version of the speech is phoney. The idolised text is short because it is incomplete, the conclusion is fabrication.

The historic and too familiar film footage of Whitlam speaking concludes just after he calls Malcolm Fraser “Kerr’s cur”. If it had not been cut, the speech would be remembered for some classic political comedy as members of the bungle-prone ex-government gang scrambled to keep the sound system working—it failed at least three times as Whitlam talked.[1]

Unsurprisingly, no complete film or sound recording of Whitlam’s speech appears to have survived.

In Whitlam’s 1979 book The Truth of the Matter he published what he said was the conclusion to his speech: “Maintain your rage and your enthusiasm through the campaign for the election now to be held until polling day.”[2] On the steps he actually said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we haven’t yet been told when the election will be held, it can be held on the thirteenth of December and I ask you all in the next four and a half weeks to maintain the rage and the enthusiasm that you are showing now outside the Parliament” (emphasis added).[3]

The bastard text is propagandised in Left reference books and histories: November 1975 by Paul Kelly; Well May We Say …: The Speeches That Made Australia by Sally Warhaft; For the True Believers: Great Labor Speeches that Shaped History by Troy Bramston; Great Australian Speeches by Pamela Robson; Men and Women of Australia by Michael Fullilove; Speeches that Shaped the Modern World by Alan Whiticker; Speaking for Australia by Rod Kemp and Marion Stanton; Gough Whitlam: His Time by Jenny Hocking; and Stirring Australian Speeches by Michael Cathcart and Kate Darian-Smith.

Minutes after he had finished, ABC radio broadcast Whitlam’s speech. When he floundered for the second time the tape was stopped and journalist John Highfield took to the microphone:

That was Mr Whitlam on the steps of Parliament House. He left the crowd with his both arms held aloft in a victory salute, he left them with this message, he asked all ALP supporters for the next four and a half weeks, four and a half weeks before an election, to maintain the rage and the enthusiasm that they have shown on the steps today.

Historians cleaned up and transcribed only the part of the speech which had been broadcast. Then they added the conclusion Whitlam gave in The Truth of the Matter. Whitlam’s text and Highfield’s summary were different. The politician’s version did not contain any mention of the “four and a half weeks” which Highfield had repeated twice. The journalist said “the rage and the enthusiasm”, Whitlam claimed to have said “your rage and your enthusiasm”. A tape exists of what Whitlam really said, and the journalist was right. But what was not clear from their remarks was that the speech was longer.

The standard and incomplete text, 146 words including fabricated conclusion, is published in one or, as here, two paragraphs:

Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say “God Save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General. The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned “Malcolm Fraser” who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur. They won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House, even if the inside has been silenced for the next few weeks. The Governor-General’s proclamation was signed after he had already made an appointment to meet the Speaker at a quarter to five. The House of Representatives had requested the Speaker to give the Governor-General its decision that Mr Fraser did not have the confidence of the House and that the Governor-General should call on me to form the Government. [Sometimes three dots (…) are added here to suggest the text is cut, and sometimes not.]

Maintain your rage and your enthusiasm through the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day.

This corrupt text has been loaded with praise and admiration, as Whitlam’s two-volume biographer, Professor Jenny Hocking, illustrates:

the demise of the Whitlam government is marked by an equally powerful [as the 1972 launch speech] if dramatically different speech, resounding in contrapuntal mimicry. Whitlam’s unscripted anger on the steps of Parliament House, of such power that it at once became history—immediate, instinctive and with raw emotion reflecting the impotent rage that drove it … was delivered against a personal, political and civic outrage, of spontaneous crowds and improvised politics on the steps of Parliament House … It was a speech of classic operatic form, a slow burn through impassioned recitation of dashed hope and dire wrong, a pithy discourse on political ethics and personal betrayal, to its final oratorical command to “maintain your rage”—with the crowd a bitter chorus roaring in crescendo threatening to overwhelm its essential political coda—“and your enthusiasm”: three words that defined this speech, Whitlam’s anguish and politics.[4]

Hocking has not read the whole speech. Reproducing the usual text in her book, she cut Whitlam’s nineteen-word pseudo-ending to produce a simpler, dramatic and equally sham six-word version: “Maintain your rage, and your enthusiasm.”[5]

The day after Whitlam’s sacking newspapers carried reports of his first speech on the Parliament steps. While fragmented, they clearly show that the speech was longer than the now standard version.

This essay appears in a recent edition of Quadrant.
Subscribers read it weeks ago

Incredibly, in her Whitlam biography Hocking does not cite a single newspaper for November 12, 1975. Also incredibly, neither do journalists Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston in their book The Dismissal: In the Queen’s Name.

In the beginning, “maintain the rage” was lost in the drama of the events. The Age on the day after did not refer to the rage comment, and was more interested in Whitlam’s later second speech on the steps. The Sydney Morning Herald report said simply that “He called for those present to ‘maintain their rage and enthusiasm’ for the next four-and-a-half weeks.” In the Australian, Paul Kelly wrote that Whitlam said, “Maintain your rage and enthusiasm. You will have a Labor government again.” When Kelly wrote his book November 1975 he adopted the Whitlam conclusion. From these newspapers it would seem that the appeal to rage and enthusiasm occurred somewhere near the middle of the speech, which ended with a not very dramatic appeal to vote for Labor in the Senate. Having failed to advise the Senate of his dismissal, so that it went ahead and voted Supply, the upper house still did not seem very high on Whitlam’s priorities.

On the day, at about 4.40 p.m., Paul Keating was “warming up the crowd” who had gathered at Parliament House after the news broke that Whitlam had been sacked, and the Supply crisis was resolved. Whitlam was loudly applauded when he appeared. His young ex-minister passed him a megaphone and pointed out how to use it. There is no record of what he said at this time.[6] In the minutes that followed Senate officials came out onto the landing to set up a lectern and microphone for David Smith, the Governor-General’s official secretary, to perform the traditional public reading of the proclamation dissolving both houses of Parliament. Whitlam became aware of what was happening. It must have been a shock to realise that his attempt to be reappointed had not succeeded and that he was now facing a double-dissolution election.

A stately and old-fashioned Government House car brought Smith to the front of Parliament. He was met by the Senate clerk-assistant. The front area was blocked by protesters and he was taken to a door at the side of the steps into King’s Hall and from there to the office of the Clerk of the Senate. While the final preparations were being made for him to speak he was left to wait alone in the office.[7] The year before, not much notice had been taken when he read the election proclamation in the same place. From his viewpoint he saw and heard what was happening outside.

When the preparations were completed Whitlam seized the opportunity and seized the microphone. On that day and in that place Whitlam incited his predominately young audience to mob violence: a cowardly attack preserved on seldom-shown film. He attacked David Smith, and this, not “Well may we say”, is the real beginning of his speech:

The emissary from the Governor-General who dissolves Parliament usually comes up the front steps of the Parliament to do it. On this occasion he’s had to come by the back passages. Now I am certain that when he appears you will give him the reception he deserves.

Whitlam striking a man who cannot fight back is a moment of baseness, his vulgarity demeaning. Smith was affronted by Whitlam’s assertion that he had come through “back passages”: “Although I was alone, I was so affronted by Whitlam’s deliberate lie that I shouted out at the top of my voice, ‘You bloody liar!’ No one could hear me, but it made me feel better.”[8]

Incredibly, in her Whitlam biography Hocking cites Smith’s 2005 book Head of State but does not relate these events. Neither, also incredibly, do Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston in The Dismissal.

Smith was a brave man. He defied the angry mob that Whitlam had inflamed, and read the vice-regal proclamation with courage. When he began, “Proclamation by his excellency the Governor-General of Australia”, the screams and shouts increased. He paused and attempted to smile. The hostility continued. Whitlam cut back through the crowd to stand in a dominating position just behind him. In photos and film footage he looks especially impressive. He had dressed for colour television—Smith had not. The day was to have been a day of triumph for Whitlam. He imagined the Supply crisis would end when he called a half-Senate election, and he had dressed for the interviews, photos and television broadcasts. History has been kind to his image, and along the way his red face, so noticeable after lunch that it was mentioned by several observers, has disappeared from the photos and films.[9] A recent restoration of surviving Channel 7 film by the National Film and Sound Archive has steam-cleaned and ironed Whitlam, and his face has taken on a becoming neo-Mao tan—not a trace of redness. Sir Les Patterson has become Louis XIV.

Whitlam’s position behind Smith was a deliberate pose intended for the evening television news, morning newspapers, and history books. Smith continued, concentrating on the reading of a very dull document. The jeering and threats were loud and constant. Even those standing almost beside him could not hear. By the end, film and photographs show a man under intense stress. Jenny Hocking, joining the mob, describes Smith as wearing “full morning dress and an air of satisfaction”, and then calls him “the smaller, artful, Smith”.[10] She too is authorising the pack, academic historians this time, to bully a defenceless victim.

Smith finished. Whitlam advanced and re-colonised the public address microphone. Radio microphones were pushed in front of him to capture his words. Surely somewhere there must be a surviving tape of the whole speech. Smith’s reading had ended with “God Save the Queen”. Whitlam had impetuously struck this phrase out in the 1974 proclamation, Smith restored the traditional format in 1975, and gave Whitlam the means of formulating a threat.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” Smith was abused, Whitlam’s words were applauded. That opening, without the emotional power of Curtin’s “Men and women of Australia” that Whitlam so often used, is sometimes deleted when the speech is reprinted. It was instinctive and magnificent theatre craft.

If Whitlam had used the more stirring introduction it would have diminished the words he was about to speak. It was the instinctive and absolutely right choice of a political actor, a favourite, assured of the crowd’s adulation. It was also the wrong choice. He made the mistake of pandering to the kids in his audience.

If Whitlam had begun with “Men and women of Australia” it could have introduced the great speech he should have made. It was a moment for the statesman, not the actor, to step forward. It should have been a great Labor speech. It was the moment he lost the election. Throughout the Supply crisis support for Labor had risen. He now threw that away. He displayed pettiness. He played to the stairs when he should have spoken to the nation.

As he improvised, at dictation speed, the spitefulness of the content was not obscured by the historic nature of the occasion, or his imposing figure and measured delivery. The idea that he dominated the scene, given by tightly focused photographs and film, and flattering colorisation, is an illusion. He was the crowd’s captive, and he sought favour with them. He was not building a coherent argument. His words were impromptu individual statements and not a whole piece with beginning, exposition and conclusion. It was a point-form presentation masquerading as a speech. It held several bitchy and intimidating, ANU-student-pleasing, well-crafted media-pleasing lines. The sort of thing Sydney drag queens in the 1970s were so good at. That what came after was rather ordinary, his audience hardly noticed or cared, they had stuffed themselves on the entree. Each step thereafter, each separate idea was elaborated into a short statement. These idea blocks could be rearranged, as Whitlam did, or deleted without compromising the whole. Years later he reworked one of these blocks and published it as the conclusion. No one noticed. When it was tidied up and published, half the speech had been forgotten. For over forty years historians and political experts who passionately praised Whitlam never noticed that anything was missing.

“Well may we say ‘God Save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General.” The source for his sound bite was obvious. The Governor-General, like an insolent lackey, had displeased him mightily. Pleasing to his young audience, the words are an admission of impotent anger. Even as he spoke, panicked staff were filling boxes with his papers. In the confusion, trucks urgently brought in to carry away his filing cabinets were crushing the ornamental shrubbery at the back of Parliament House.[11] And David Smith was taping copies of the proclamation to the doors of the Senate and House of Representatives. Whitlam’s post-Dismissal agony, the years of resentment, had begun.

“The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned ‘Malcolm Fraser’ who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur.” Niki Savva, a journalist with the Australian, wrote that when Whitlam appeared on the steps he was greeted with cheers and a chant of “We want Gough” and he said, “This Remembrance Day will go down in history as the day Malcolm Fraser became Kerr’s cur.”[12] It may be that the moment she is describing occurred slightly earlier when Whitlam was addressing the crowd with the loud-hailer. If so, after testing out the phrase with his audience, he was now using it for the second time before the cameras and microphones. Even so, the insult “Kerr’s cur”, was not original. It was lifted from the cries of the students, as the Canberra Times attested the next morning: “The description was also used earlier by Labor Party supporters gathered on the steps.”[13]

“The Governor-General signed that proclamation and it was [here the delivery was muffled and broken] gone off hasn’t it? Well put it on.”

The microphone had probably been unplugged by Parliament staff tidying away their equipment. With all the cameras and microphones on the steps they might not have realised that it was their sound equipment Whitlam was relying on. The Labor man who put the plug back in was Whitlam adviser Jim Brassil.[14] Ironically, the successful Liberal election campaign slogan was to be, “Turn on the Lights”.

“Uhm,” said Whitlam, “they won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House even if the inside has been silenced for the next few weeks.” He was reacting to what had just happened when they really had just silenced the outskirts of parliament. A serious statement in print, it was inspired by a Senate official and an electric plug.

“The Governor-General’s proclamation was signed after he had already made an appointment to meet the Speaker at a quarter to five. The House of Representatives had requested the Speaker to give the Governor-General its decision that Mr Fraser did not have the confidence of the House and that the Governor-General should call me to form the Government. [At which point it seems he was again unplugged.] That motion … that motion … Prime Minister and requesting …” He had returned to the statement he had wanted to make before power was lost and he was unable to finish it because the microphone again cut out.

This ABC broadcast on November 11 is the source given by Sally Warhaft for her transcription in Well May We Say, a collection of Australian political speeches. Though she includes indications of crowd noises, applause and cheering, boos and jeering at the mention of Fraser, she has deleted indications of where Whitlam stumbled and the power cut out. She also adds the supposed conclusion Whitlam had published, although the broadcast did not include those words.

The following sentence from the speech has been broadcast separately by the ABC: “Ladies and gentlemen, we haven’t yet been told when the election will be held, it can be held on the thirteenth of December and I ask you all in the next four and a half weeks to maintain the rage and the enthusiasm that you are showing now outside the Parliament.”[15] Here again, Whitlam skilfully took elements of what was happening around him and elaborated on them. The appeal to maintain the rage and the enthusiasm came from the steps: rage was the emotion of the crowd; enthusiasm was flattery of the mob.

Using the audio recordings plus direct speech excerpts from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian, it is possible to attempt an approximation of the complete speech. The Age paid more attention to Whitlam’s second speech:

Whitlam: The emissary from the Governor-General who dissolves Parliament usually comes up the front steps of the Parliament to do it. On this occasion he’s had to come by the back passages. Now I am certain that when he appears you will give him the reception he deserves.

(David Smith reads the proclamation.)

Whitlam: Ladies and Gentlemen. Well may we say ‘God Save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General.

The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned “Malcolm Fraser” who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur.

[The surviving film was edited to finish here.]

The Governor-General signed that proclamation and it was … gone off hasn’t it? Well put it on.

Uhm, they won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House even if the inside has been silenced for the next few weeks.

The Governor-General’s proclamation was signed after he had already made an appointment to meet the Speaker at a quarter to five. The House of Representatives had requested the Speaker to give the Governor-General its decision that Mr Fraser did not have the confidence of the House and that the Governor-General should call me to form the Government.

That motion … that motion … Prime Minister and requesting …”[16]

[ABC audio tape, broadcast on the day, was cut here.]

Before Mr Fraser could announce to the House of Representatives that he had the Governor-General’s commission as Prime Minister, the Budget bills were passed.

That is, before the Governor-General dissolved the two Houses, the Budget had been passed—Supply was secure until the end of next June and in the House of Representatives the Labor Party had a majority of 10 in the last count.[17]

Ladies and gentlemen, we haven’t yet been told when the election will be held, it can be held on the thirteenth of December and I ask you all in the next four and a half weeks to maintain the rage and the enthusiasm that you are showing now outside the Parliament.”[18]

You will have the Labor Government again if you maintain your momentum. The third time will prove it.

It must be made plain—by the secret votes of the Australian people—that they decide who will be the Australian Government. Not Governors-General nor Chief Justices nor newspaper-proprietors.[19]

Now I trust you will elect a Senate that will work.[20]

In 1975 the angry sound-bites were rightly criticised. Propagandising tribal-Left journalists and historians, given time and repetition, have made them praiseworthy and famous. Lacking any real emotional contact with his words, accustomed to brutish social media interactions, modern commentators lack, or have lost, the sensitivity of the Sydney Morning Herald editorialist who wrote:

Together they bare all that is unattractive in Mr Whitlam’s character. The threat in the first was unconcealed. Mr Whitlam was brandishing his still potential power in public office as a weapon of revenge. That glimpse of uncontrolled, perhaps uncontrollable, vindictiveness puts the former Prime Minister’s instinctive attitude to the uses of power in a very ugly light.[21]

Whitlam was not a man to tell unnecessary truths. ABC’s Four Corners, on the tenth anniversary of the Dismissal, began by playing audio of his rage comments—the real ones. Then he was softly interviewed by Kerry O’Brien: “You didn’t go back inside afterwards and say oh hell perhaps I really shouldn’t have said ‘Kerr’s cur’?” Whitlam responded with a very firm, “No, very apt.”[22] It wasn’t true. After the speech he went into the office of his private secretary, John Mant, and asked, “Do you think I went too far?”[23]

O’Brien may have known the real answer before he asked the question because journalist Peter Bowers revealed Whitlam’s own doubts in an article published four days after the Dismissal:

It is part of the Whitlam enigma that his great fighting capacity includes a feline inclination to scratch and spit. He seems to have realised the potential folly of abusing the Governor-General and probably regrets it personally, because after a particularly cruel jibe the other day he took me aside and asked: “Did I go too far?”[24]

Contemporary criticism has been forgotten, modern criticism is non-existent. If history continues to idolise Whitlam for these bitchy, impotent remarks, history is an idiot.

In the past, Whitlam had thrown a glass of water at Paul Hasluck, called Billy McMahon a queen—and had Hansard record the spelling of the insult as quean. On the steps he sooled his mob onto David Smith, threatened the Governor-General, and insulted Malcolm Fraser. Sir John Kerr’s great action created a moment in our history which called for a great response. Whitlam was Whitlam, and his reaction was personal and vindictive. His appointment with grandeur had arrived, as contemporaries saw, and he missed it. Besotted and blind historians overpraise a man who articulated change in our society, usually mangled moves to turn it into reality, and thoughtlessly introduced forces that are today breaking us apart.

The insults in his speech are not great oratory. Sacked from the highest office, he responded with his normal petulance. Exactly one week later he threw a tantrum when a staff member in his Sydney office made a mistake with his lunch order. If the television cameras had been present our historians might now be praising whatever he said as his second greatest speech. The guest in his office observing his behaviour was businessman and Soviet agent Henry Fischer, who was being briefed to solicit the Iraqi government for a bribe.[25]

Whitlam’s day did not end with the first speech on the steps. Jenny Hocking calls it “the final act”.[26] Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston state that “Whitlam though defeated, was unbowed. He gave a speech of defiance tinged with bitterness. It was his song of martyrdom. The curtain fell on a day of high drama.”[27]

The curtain wasn’t down, there wasn’t even an interval. There was a fiery Labor caucus meeting, the crowds outside increased as public servants finished work, for over two hours in front of Parliament House there were speeches from Bob Hawke and ex-ministers including Crean, Hayden, Uren, and Whitlam again. The Labor politicians were talking to a larger audience than had been present when the proclamation was read. Inside and outside Parliament House there were rousing performances of “Solidarity Forever”. Fraser and Whitlam gave press conferences, and later in the evening there was a meeting of the Labor Advisory Committee at John Curtin House.

In the caucus meeting, Whitlam was practical, not defeated: “At least we have a better chance of winning an election in these circumstances than we would have had a few months ago.”[28] Where the historians invented martyrdom, Bob Hawke was there and said:

Gough was still furious, but he had slipped into a different gear. Now that he had a real fight on his hands the professional campaigner in him came out. So, while he was still tremendously angry, he was talking coolly about tactics for the election campaign.[29]

At his press conference he was described as “jovial, almost gloating” when he said of his sacking, “I am the first for 200 years—since George III sacked Lord North.”[30] When the Sydney Morning Herald checked and pointed out that George III did not sack Lord North, the interesting quote disappeared from our historians’ memories.[31] Whitlam’s mood and his pedantry under stress are worth recalling.

Something also tactfully forgotten is the influence of alcohol on the day’s events. Even before news of the Dismissal was known, some politicians, staffers and journalists had been drinking over lunch. Beer cans were thrown at Malcolm Fraser and there was an attempt to pour beer over him. On that pleasant afternoon, excited members of the press and ex-private secretaries were “sucking cans under the poplar trees”.[32] Even teetotaller and now former Attorney-General Kep Enderby had followed the crowd into the non-Members bar after Parliament rose: “I’m down here to wave the flag—but I don’t have a flag to wave.”[33] Not surprisingly, some memories of the day appear to be hazy.

Whitlam gave his second speech on the steps, again with a megaphone. Incredibly, biographer Jenny Hocking does not refer to this speech. Also incredibly, neither do journalists Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston.

A reliable witness described the atmosphere: “Last night more than 1000 people [other sources suggest more than 4000] chanted outside Parliament when Mr Whitlam led the Labor caucus onto the front steps and led them singing Advance Australia Fair.” The comment was part of the front-page story in the Australian the next morning, the writer was Paul Kelly.[34]

The Age was also there. First, the newspaper covered a passionate speech by Bob Hawke, who it noted had been sipping spirits on Flight 420 to Canberra, followed by Whitlam restating what he had just said in the press conference:

Then the star—Gough Whitlam—straight from his Face the Nation TV press conference in the beige-curtained Senate committee rooms, making a nice contrast for the color cameras in grey suit, blue shirt and sun-broiled face. He raised both hands above his head, flashed V for victory sign, received a kiss on the cheek, and was actually seen to chuck a baby under the chin.

“I believe we will win the election. I certainly like a fight. I have won a fair number of fights, and I will win this one,” he said before leading the crowd in a rousing chorus of “Solidarity Forever”. [35]

When the crowd chanted, “Fraser out, Fraser out”, Whitlam responded:

Ladies and gentlemen with your support that will be the cry from one end of Australia to the other. We have a party meeting now [of the Labor Advisory Committee] and we must make our plans for another victorious campaign.

With your support, a little after Christmas we will have another meeting in the same room on the corner over there [pointing to the Government party room] to elect the third Whitlam Government.[36]

The following morning ABC’s AM broadcast more of his words:

We do not have the means at our disposal from home or abroad to advertise our programme and our achievements. But the people know. The people can speak. The people can work, and the people can vote. Ladies and gentlemen, the members of the elected government of Australia are now dispersing to the electorates throughout Australia to ensure that with your support, your enthusiasm, your encouragement we once again will be elected as the Government of Australia.

And then they sang “Advance Australia Fair”, again.[37]



[1] “Speed was the essence” by Tony O’Leary, The Canberra Times, 15 November 1975

[2] Gough Whitlam, The Truth of the Matter (Carlton, 2005), p. 168

[3] “The Whitlam Dismissal Ten Years On”, Four Corners, ABC TV

[4] Epilogue: “I never said I was immortal, merely eternal”: Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: His Time (Kindle edition, 2014)

[5] Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: His Time (Carlton, 2012), p. 349

[6] “Paul Keating interviewed by Kerry O’Brien”, ABC, viewable as “Paul Keating on the Whitlam Years”, YouTube

[7] David Smith, Head of State (Sydney, 2005), p. 256

[8] David Smith, Head of State (Sydney, 2005), p. 262

[9] “Is there a Prime Minister here?” by Niki Savva, The Australian, 12 November 1975; “Labor leaders address rally”, Age, 12 November 1975

[10] Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: His Time (Carlton, 2012), p. 348

[11] “Files go in fleets of trucks”, The Australian, 12 November 1975

[12] “Is there a Prime Minister here?” by Niki Savva, The Australian, 12 November 1975

[13] “Whitlam’s Bitter Attack”, The Canberra Times, 12 November 1975

[14] James Brassil Interview (2015), “New insights uncovered about Whitlam’s dismissal”, 7 News, viewable on YouTube

[15] “The Whitlam Dismissal Ten Years On”, Four Corners, ABC TV

[16] ABC, AM, 12 November 1975

[17] “An angry Whitlam promises Kerr he will take revenge”, The Australian, 12 November 1975

[18] “The Whitlam Dismissal Ten Years On”, Four Corners, ABC TV

[19] Very similar words in The Australian. “Plea for restraint”, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 1975

[20] Very similar words in The Australian. “Plea for restraint”, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 1975

[21] Editorial, “Sir John Kerr”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1975

[22] ‘The Whitlam Dismissal Ten Years On (11/11/1985), ABC Four Corners, viewable on YouTube. The audio was also played in a radio interview of Whitlam by Derryn Hinch in November 1980.

[23] Jessica Clement, “Malcolm Turnbull, Paul Keating and former government staffer John Mant reflect on Gough, one of Sydney’s favourite sons”, Wentworth Courier, 21 October 2014

[24] Peter Bowers, “Play it hot, keeping it cool”, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 November 1975

[25] Iraqi Loan (Commonwealth Police Reports), NAA: M1426, 167

[26] Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: His Time (Carlton, 2012), p. 347

[27] Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston, The Dismissal: In the Queen’s Name (Penguin Australia, 2015), p. 240

[28] Laurie Oakes, Crash Through or Crash (Richmond, 1976), p. 17

[29] Hawke quoted in Blanche d’Alpuget, Robert J. Hawke: A Biography (East Melbourne, 1982), p. 289

[30] “Day of historical parallels for Gough Whitlam” by Mike Steketee, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 1975

[31] “Whitlam’s history error” by Helen Frizell, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 1975

[32] “Labor leaders address rally”, Age, 12 November 1975

[33] Judy Brammall, “Bewildered and dazed in the heat”, The Canberra Times, 15 November 1975

[34] “IT’S DECEMBER 13” by Paul Kelly, The Australian, 12 November 1975

[35] “Labor leaders address rally”, Age, 12 November 1975

[36] “Preserving ‘The Dismissal’ footage”, National Film and Sound archive website. Channel 10 film which “includes rare shots of Whitlam addressing the crowd with a megaphone”.

[37] ABC AM, 12 November 1975

Comments [10]

  1. Macspee says:

    Interesting indeed! What is often forgotten is how the left behaved in the days following. I spoke with an American CEO in Melbourne who was concerned that Australia was on the brink of something akin to civil war and that Whitlam would get back in with a massive majority that would bode ill for investment in the country. He found it hard to believe me when I replied that the only supporters Whitlam had were those on the streets and that he could well be thrashed by Fraser. I was in SF on the day the results were posted on rolls of telex paper stuck to the Qantas windows and the result was clear from the hippies sitting in the gutter weeping. Labour has never forgiven the people for deciding Kerr and Fraser were right and does not like to talk about the end result.

  2. Doubting Thomas says:

    Like most people at the time, particularly those of us who lived in Canberra, we all remember where we were when Kerr sacked Whitlam. I, for one, was disgusted more by Whitlam’s attack on David Smith than anything else that happened on that day. To me that one incident was the true, irrevocable measure of the man and the disgraceful rabble he led. Far from being the giant of Australian politics that his running dog media claque like to portray, he was a sad, grubby little coward.

    • Jody says:

      I was working at the ABC when Whitlam was sacked!!! Oh the pain!! The breast-beating and the hatred towards Fraser and the “Libs”. I was involved in that successful Fraser campaign of 1975 and spent the day at the booth in Hornsby and then at a party afterwards with Dr. Harry Edwards and all the electorate staff. What a night: we won’t forget it in a hurry. And my turning up at the ABC wearing my campaign T-shirt. Phew; what chutzpah! But I paid heavily for my insolence and bore the very public opprobrium from ABC staff. What a cavern of Labor witches they were then and are now. As I said in my previous post, they behaved like 16 year olds – the bullying variety and I suspect nothing would have changed since then.

      Having said all that, the benefit of hindsight has told me I wouldn’t have been happy in November, 1975, if the boot had been on the other foot!!!!

  3. Jody says:

    I was talking to my GP today; we are both on the same political page and he said, “when you come in I don’t feel so quite alone”, which is nice. Anyway, he made an observation about the ABC which I wanted to share: “they think like 16 year olds”. He also said there had been a huge spike in people coming into the surgery because they felt “bullied”, “threatened”, “discriminated against”, “overlooked”, “victims of racism, homophobia, sexism…” You name it. We both lamented our super neurotic society brought to us courtesy of the Left.

    • hwka says:

      I roared with laughter when I read this comment.
      All those terms – “bullied,threatened, intimidated”, but especially “victims of racism , homophobia” were no doubt resident in the Oxford Dictionary but they were rarely – if ever – spoken.
      How ironic given that the whole gist of the article was about re-writing history.

  4. Salome says:

    I was at school–a few months shy of voting age. I remember being very pleased and also when a friend told me that the stock market had shot up at the news. And after the election I remember the ‘I mourn democracy’ crowd. What was undemocratic? The Whitlam government had been democratically elected, and then found itself just as democratically ejected. Then when we read about the people who turned out to be Soviet spies, I realise what a bullet we dodged. And I didn’t like Whitlam’s rhetorical style. Thought he sounded quite undignified.

  5. ianl says:

    I lived through 1975 as a young(ish) adult and, to be truthful, quite enjoyed, was entertained by, the high political drama. The meeja kept billing it as a “constitutional crisis” but it was only a political crisis.

    There was one aspect though that did have the potential for constitutional crisis. I’m hoping some constitutional lawyer reading this can add comment. Whitlam was angling for a half-Senate election, Fraser for a full DD. The Senate, being constitutionally a States’ House, can only have election writs issued by State Governors on the formal request and advice of State Cabinets (unless the State Governors defy their State Cabinets ?).

    This situation was actually live. Both Bjelke-Peterson Q’ld and the then Lib NSW Premier (Lewis, I think ?) had openly stated that they would refuse to issue writs for a half-Senate election. All of the State Governors convened a “Chatham House rules” meeting between themselves (held in Adelaide ?) to discuss what to do if this possibility crystallised. To my knowledge, no public statement was ever issued on any results from this meeting.

    Does anyone have actual further information on this ? It has intrigued me since 1975.

  6. [email protected] says:

    Qantas is the back passage airline.

  7. [email protected] says:

    Sorry to rain on the parade. I assume the purpose of Michael’s nitpicking long article was to portray Gough as a reckless demagogue who hurt David Smith’s feelings. However, the different versions of the speech mentioned in the article add nothing new to the debate. The bottom line is that Kerr and Fraser’s actions were unnecessary, extremely reckless, created major divisions in society and spurred on the Republican movement. Michael seems to be blaming the victim for being outraged at losing his job. In the circumstances, Gough’s defiant speech was magnificent. Remember, the loop hole used by Fraser to block supply is now gone, an indication that it was widely viewed as an undemocratic ‘dirty trick’. Forget about tradition and ‘playing cricket’ like gentlemen. Fraser must have felt guilty spending the rest of his life atoning for his unscrupulous behaviour by moving leftwards and turning into a contemptible old hippie. Fraser and Kerr were the vandals in 1975 not Gough.

  8. Doubting Thomas says:

    Dream on, ss1. Maintain the rage if it makes you feel better, but rightly or wrongly, Fraser did nothing to Whitlam that Whitlam had not previously threatened to do to a Coalition government. The only thing stopping him when he had the opportunity was that he would not have won the ensuing election. Gough’s defiant speech was aimed at his faithful, guttersnipes like him.