Gough Whitlam's (somewhat) tumultuous years
On Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 10:35 pm, "Stephen Williamson" wrote:
Subject: Gough Whitlam's passing
Not sure how many of you saw this comment re Gough Whitlam’s passing at the fine old age of 98. His father, Fred, incidentally was solicitor-general for Australia in Canberra.
Hawke government minister Barry Cohen asked Gough on one occasion how he might react when he met his maker. “You can be certain of one thing,” Whitlam responded, “I shall treat him as an equal.” That was typical of a humour, which, like much of the rest of his style and behaviour, inspired loathing and deep affection in roughly equal proportions. If to many it was a sign of his arrogance, to others, including those who knew him, it epitomised his fondness for sending himself up.
Blessings :-) Steve
From: Tony McLennan
Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 3:06 PM
His comment seems to suggest that he was expecting to meet God one day.
Who knows, he, Gough, may have come to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus.
Blessings to you, brother.
From: Stephen Williamson
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:45 PM
Subject: Gough's reign :-) further thoughts
Apparently, many agree that the major catalyst for John Kerr’s double dissolution of the Whitlam government in October 1975, was the Khemlani loans debacle in late 1974.
Mr Whitlam was spending money hand over fist, and looking for loans to help finance it. Businesses were struggling, the government had recently brought in 4 weeks annual leave (instead of 3 weeks) for federal employees, he was introducing free Universities, free Medicare, very popular with younger voters, (and we all take it for granted, somewhat, now), 17½% leave loading for 4 weeks annual leave (equivalent to 70% of a week’s wages every year for every employee), well every union in every state in Australia wanted those same benefits, regardless of the inflation in prices and wages that was going to pay for it all, wages (and tax payable) tripling between 1966 and 1976.
So, small (and medium) businesses were failing everywhere. Stagflation it was called, prices go up heaps, wages go up heaps by union demand, interest rates were around 17%, heaps of people out of work, I so remember that time, I was in my early twenties, actually in 1974-1975 was the time I was filled with the Holy Spirit, and met dear friend Tony McLennan, but yep, it was a really tough time for small businesses all right.
But coming back to the Khemlani affair, he was a Pakistani chap who promised Whitlam’s minerals minister access to $4 billion in Arabic petrodollars at about 7% interest (that’s 40 billion dollars in today’s money) and really cheap interest over 20 years so Gough and his government could nationalize Australia’s mining industry.
He said he had secret backers, numerous sheiks, with squadrillions of cheap cash. I think he wanted a fairly high commission though, 1% or more or something. Both Scotland Yard and the US feds said it was most likely “funny money”, i.e. once Khemlani had a firm commitment, he could then go chasing around for the money, and spinning the story, until the loan almost definitely fell through, at which point he would insist on being paid the commission.
And if that was unforthcoming, selling the obviously high-profile story to the highest media bidder with all sorts of sleazy details, definitely undermining the government. A form of blackmail.
As it started to become obvious that Khemlani was indeed a charlatan, in 1975 Gough switched then sacked his treasurer and sacked his minerals minister, thus protecting himself. Yes, a lot of blood on the waters. After Fraser blocked the budget in the senate in late 1975, and it looked like heaps of government employees would no longer get paid until the budget passed, Governor-General Kerr did the only responsible thing, by insisting on a double dissolution. And the Australian voters let their “displeasure” be known, as Labour were massively defeated. See a detailed timeline below, based on published events. But Gough remained leader, yes, he was quite a character. Ten years I think he was leader all up, a record for a Labour Party PM, they don’t seem to last long.
But time heals many wounds.
Blessings all Steve
From: Tony McLennan
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 4:27 PM
A wonderful synopsis. I remember arriving home one sunny afternoon in Townsville and as I got out of the car my neighbour, also an Army Officer, said:
“Did you hear the latest …? Kerr’s sacked Whitlam!”
Time stood still for a moment ….
Timeline of The Dismissal
- 13 October The Melbourne Herald printed documents in support of Khemlani's allegations – contrary to government statements – that Minister for Minerals and Energy Rex Connor had never revoked his authority to obtain loans up to $US4 billion and had been in regular contact with him even into mid-1975.
- 14 October Rex Connor resigned.
- 16 and 17 October The Senate, with the unanimous support of the Coalition majority, deferred the appropriation bills, until the Government called an election, citing the poor state of the economy and ongoing scandals.
- 16 October While speaking with Kerr and visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, Whitlam told Kerr that if the crisis continued, "It could be a question of whether I get to the Queen first for your recall, or whether you get in first with my dismissal". Kerr saw the statement as a threat, Whitlam later stated the comment was "flippant" and designed to turn the conversation to another subject. However the country was in a serious state.
- 2 November Fraser chaired a summit of leaders of the Coalition parties. The resulting communiqué urged the Coalition senators to continue deferring supply. It also threatened, should Kerr grant Whitlam a half-Senate election, that the Coalition state premiers would advise their governors not to issue writs, thus blocking the election from taking place in the four states with non-Labor premiers. After the meeting, Fraser proposed a compromise: that the Opposition would concede supply if Whitlam agreed to hold a House of Representatives election at the same time as the half-Senate election. Whitlam rejected the idea.
- 6 November Treasurer Bill Hayden advised that supply would run out on 27 November. The Opposition leader told Kerr that if Kerr did not dismiss Whitlam, the Opposition planned to criticise him in Parliament for failing to carry out his duty. Kerr concluded on 6 November that neither Government nor Opposition would yield. As Whitlam could not secure supply, and would not resign or advise an election for the House of Representatives, he would have to sack him.
- 11 November
- At 9 a.m. Whitlam, together with deputy prime minister Frank Crean and Leader of the House Fred Daly, met with Fraser and Country Party leader Doug Anthony. No compromise could be reached. Whitlam informed the Coalition leaders that he would be advising Kerr to hold a half-Senate election on 13 December, and he would not be seeking interim supply for the period before the election. Thinking it unlikely that Kerr would grant the election without supply, Fraser warned Whitlam that the Governor-General might make up his own mind about the matter. Whitlam was dismissive and after the meeting broke, telephoned Kerr to tell him that he needed an appointment to advise him to hold a half-Senate election. Both men were busy in the morning, Kerr with Remembrance Day commemorations, and Whitlam with a caucus meeting and a censure motion in the House which the Opposition had submitted. The two discussed a meeting for 1:00 p.m., though Kerr's office later called Whitlam's and confirmed the time as 12:45. Word of this change did not reach the Prime Minister. Whitlam announced the request for a half-Senate election to his caucus, which approved it.
- After hearing from Whitlam, Kerr called Fraser. According to Fraser, Kerr asked him whether he, if commissioned Prime Minister, could secure supply, would immediately thereafter advise a double-dissolution election, and would refrain from new policies and investigations of the Whitlam Government pending the election. Fraser stated that he agreed. Kerr denied the exchange took place via telephone, though both men agree those questions were asked later in the day before Kerr commissioned Fraser as Prime Minister. According to Kerr, Fraser was supposed to come to Yarralumla at 1.00 pm. Whitlam was delayed in leaving Parliament House, while Fraser left slightly early, with the result that Fraser arrived at Yarralumla first. He was taken into an anteroom, and his car was moved. Whitlam maintained that the purpose in moving Fraser's car was to ensure that the Prime Minister was not tipped off by seeing it, stating, "Had I known Mr. Fraser was already there, I would not have set foot in Yarralumla". Paul Kelly doubted Whitlam would have recognised Fraser's car, which was an ordinary Ford LTD from the car pool. According to Fraser biographer Philip Ayres, "A white car pulled up at the front would signify nothing in particular—it would simply be in the way".
- Whitlam arrived just before 1:00 p.m. and was taken to Kerr's office by an aide. He brought with him the formal letter advising a half-Senate election, and after the two men were seated, attempted to give it to Kerr. In their accounts of their meeting, both men agree that Kerr then told Whitlam that his commission as Prime Minister was withdrawn under Section 64 of the Constitution, and handed him a letter and statement of reasons. Kerr later wrote that at this point Whitlam got to his feet, looked at the office's phones, and stated, "I must get in touch with the Palace at once". Whitlam, however disputed this, and stated that he asked Kerr whether he had consulted the Palace, to which Kerr replied that he did not need to, and that he had the advice of Barwick. Both accounts agree that Kerr then stated that they would both have to live with this, to which Whitlam replied, "You certainly will". The dismissal concluded with Kerr wishing Whitlam luck in the election, and offering his hand, which the former Prime Minister took.
- After Whitlam left, Kerr called Fraser in, informed him of the dismissal, and asked if he would form a caretaker government, to which Fraser agreed. Fraser later stated that his overwhelming sensation at the news was relief. Fraser left to return to Parliament House, where he conferred with Coalition leaders, while Kerr joined the luncheon party that had been waiting for him, apologising to his guests and offering the excuse that he had been busy dismissing the Government.
- Whitlam returned to the Prime Minister's residence, The Lodge, where he had lunch. When his aides arrived, he informed them of his sacking. Whitlam drafted a resolution for the House, expressing confidence in his Government. No ALP Senate leaders were at The Lodge, nor did Whitlam and his party contact any when they drove back to Parliament House, confining their strategy to the House of Representatives.
- Prior to Whitlam's dismissal, the Labor leadership decided to introduce a motion that the Senate pass the appropriation bills. With ALP senators unaware of Whitlam's sacking, that plan went ahead. Senator Doug McClelland, manager of the ALP Government's business in the Senate, informed Coalition Senate leader Reg Withers of Labor's intent at about 1.30 pm. Withers then attended a leadership meeting where he learned of Fraser's appointment and assured the new Prime Minister he could secure supply. When the Senate convened, the ALP Senate leader, Ken Wriedt, made the motion to pass the appropriation bills. As Wriedt did so, he was told that the government had been sacked, which he initially refused to believe. Authoritative word did not reach Wriedt until 2.15 pm, by which time it was too late to withdraw the motion and instead obstruct his party's appropriation bill to hinder Fraser. At 2.24 pm, Labor's appropriation bills passed the Senate, fulfilling Fraser's first promise of providing supply.
- In the House, desultory debate on Fraser's censure motion ended with it being amended by the ALP majority into a condemnation of Fraser and passed on a party line vote. By 2.34 pm, when Fraser rose and announced that he had been commissioned as Prime Minister, word of the dismissal had spread through the House. Fraser announced his intent to advise a double dissolution, and moved that the House adjourn. His motion was defeated. Fraser's new government suffered repeated defeats in the House, which passed a motion of no confidence in him, and asked the Speaker, Gordon Scholes, to urge the Governor-General to recommission Whitlam. Scholes, attempting to communicate this to the Governor General, was initially told that an appointment might not be possible that day, but after stating that he would reconvene the House and tell them of the refusal, was given an appointment with Kerr for 4.45 pm.
- After the appropriation bills were approved by both Houses, they were sent over to Yarralumla where Kerr gave them Royal Assent. With supply assured, Kerr then received Fraser, who advised him that 21 bills (including the electoral redistribution bills) which had been introduced since the last election fulfilled the double dissolution provisions of Section 57. Fraser asked that both Houses be dissolved for an election on 13 December. Kerr signed the proclamation dissolving Parliament, and sent his Official Secretary, David Smith, to proclaim the dissolution from the front steps of Parliament House.
- At 4.45, Kerr received Scholes, and informed him of the dissolution. Kerr wrote that "nothing else of relevance" took place between the two men, but Scholes's account is that he accused Kerr of bad faith for making an appointment to receive the Speaker, and then not waiting to hear from him before dissolving Parliament. Whitlam later stated that it would have been wiser for Scholes to take the appropriation bills with him, rather than having them sent ahead.
- As Scholes and Kerr spoke, Smith reached Parliament House. The dismissal was by then publicly known, and an angry crowd of ALP supporters had gathered, filling the steps and spilling over both into the roadway and into Parliament House itself. Many of the demonstrators were ALP staffers, others were from the Australian National University. David Smith was forced to enter Parliament House through a side door and make his way to the steps from the inside. He read the proclamation, though the boos of the crowd drowned him out, and concluded with the traditional "God save the Queen". Former Prime Minister Whitlam, who had been standing behind Smith, then addressed the crowd:
|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 a few weeks ... Maintain your rage and enthusiasm for the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day.|
Labor believed it had a chance of winning the election, and that the dismissal would be an electoral asset for them. However, some Labor strategists believed the party was heading for a disaster, with few economic accomplishments to point to and an electorate whose emotions would have cooled before polling day.
Polls were released at the end of the first week of campaigning, and showed a nine-point swing against Labor. Whitlam's campaign did not believe it at first, but additional polling made it clear that the electorate was turning against the ALP. The Coalition attacked Labor for the economic conditions, and released television commercials "The Three Dark Years" showing images from the Whitlam government scandals.
Nonetheless, Whitlam, who began campaigning almost immediately after the dismissal, was met with huge crowds wherever he went, 30,000 people overspilled the Sydney Domain for the official campaign launch on 24 November.
During the campaign, the Kerrs purchased a Sydney apartment, as Sir John was prepared to resign in the event that the ALP triumphed. In the 13 December election, the Coalition won a record victory, with 91 seats in the House of Representatives to the ALP's 36 and a 35–27 majority in the expanded Senate.
** End of article