No Whitlam Dismissal

WI the Whitlam dismissal simply did not happen. What would Whitlam's govt. look like and how long would he stay in office? From what I've read, it seems that the Governor General dismissing a sitting prime minister heavily bolstered republican sentiment Down Under, to the point where now both major parties are supportive of becoming a republic. Would no Whitlam dismissal make the Monarchy more popular (or at least make republicans more ambivalent about having a Monarchy? )
 
Ah, a thread on this issue that shouldn't get bogged down in the details of the rights and wrongs of the constitutional crisis, or with the idea it was somehow the last important event in Australian history (hello to a certain kind of national populist conservative, or plain loyalist, both here and overseas). Thank you.

The 1974 double dissolution happening before the middle of the year meant that half the senators had terms set to expire on 30 June 1976; it was widely believed Whitlam would probably hold a House of Reps elections at the same time as the needed half-senate election, even though the Reps' term didn't expire until 1977.

Labor was probably going to lose. The 1974 recession was too nasty, too much a shock for people who'd experienced a generation of the golden age of demand management capitalism after WWII; Whitlam and co were held guilty of throwing it all away. It doesn't matter that the governments and administrations of the UK, US and Canada were in similar boats. Or, at least, it's reasonable to use these contrasts to see federal Labor suffering an election loss somewhere between what Ford experienced in 1976, and what Callaghan probably would have suffered at an early election in 1978, before the British winter of discontent. (The outcomes in the Canadian electoral system are least applicable here.)

The landslide defeat of December 1975 probably can't happen at an election scheduled to Whitlam's satisfaction in '76 or '77.

13/12/75 was Labor at it's weakest vis-a-vis the budgetary situation (which was set to improve with the Hayden budget's forecasts; those mostly came true by the end of the ongoing financial year IIRC), the economy beginning to rebound, the closeness in time to the ministerial scandals of the loans crisis, and simply looking like a dishevelled Old Labor mess thanks to having been unceremoniously thrown out of office when the country was on the brink of a federal public service shutdown in November.
it seems that the Governor General dismissing a sitting prime minister heavily bolstered republican sentiment Down Under
It absolutely consolidated republican sentiment in the ALP. Otherwise, there is no way that Labor MPs and officials from minor states would all have been anti-monarchist by the time of the 1999 republican process. Not just obscure figures, too. It's perfectly reasonable that someone like Peter Beattie, then Opposition leader in the Qld parliament, or Graham Edwards, marginal seat MHR from Perth, could have been monarchists, if they'd had the choice. But 1975 set the entire party down the road to rock solid republicanism. (Think of it as being like the British Conservative Party's Brexit-at-all-costs stance going into last year's election, immediately after the humiliating intervention of the High Court into the prorogation, not to mention the subsequent split off of soft- and anti-Brexiteers. Non-negotiable.)

to the point where now both major parties are supportive of becoming a republic.
This is highly contentious. The Coalition has had a lot of republican-inclined people since at least the '90s. But during that time it's also grown a powerful ideologically conservative activism, mythos even, that views the '99 refendum victory, a victory lead by Tony Abbott under the watchful eye of John Howard, as being an end of history/silent majority victory deal. And the defeat of the quixotic recent moderate Coalition prime ministerial experiment, brought down by an ideological/commentariat push that look to Trump and Brexit for inspiration, that now reinforces the old-ish religion. (Need I point out ex-PM Turnbull lead the failed republican movement 20 years ago?) A resurgent, majority monarchism hasn't formally been tested in the Libs and Nats, not recently, but it's totally there. No way it isn't there.

Would no Whitlam dismissal make the Monarchy more popular (or at least make republicans more ambivalent about having a Monarchy?
An eventual constitutional 'crash' is probably coming with the ascent of Charles to the throne. IIRC polling has long reflected less public approval for him than for his mother. The recent drama over his second son and daughter-in-law must reflect on looming weaknesses in respect for the Australian crown, for when we have an aging divorced King succeeding such a well defined, stable monarch as Elizabeth the II has been .

Just because No Dismissal means no 'premature' republican process, it doesn't necessarily signify much else the further we get into the 21st century.


------------------------------------------


Fwiw, repeating something I've written here years ago, the biggest substantive result for our system of government in the short- to medium- term with No Dismissal isn't even anything of what I just wrote. It's this: IMO you can't just get to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating taking office in 1983, if Labor hasn't first been traumatised by OTL 1975.

It can still happen, but it's much less certain. There's a chain of events that needs the Dismissal to occur first, if you want to get cleanly to the eventual era-of-neoliberalism that emerged under the stable leadership of eighties federal Labor govt.
 
Last edited:
Did Whitlam ever muse over his future in OTL (ie. I’ll stay for x terms, lead the ALP to y elections, and then hand over to z.

IMO you can't just get to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating taking office in 1983, if Labor hasn't first been traumatised by OTL 1975.
I agree. At the same time, I think a Liberal failure to gain power in (whether in 1975 or in an election of Whitlam’s timing) could lead to them drifting right towards “dry” economics earlier than in OTL. Though I wonder who would lead the Liberal Party if they drifted right economically earlier.

I wonder what are the possibilities of a Hayden prime ministership under an undismissed Labor Government?
 
Did Whitlam ever muse over his future in OTL (ie. I’ll stay for x terms, lead the ALP to y elections, and then hand over to z.
I think in late '75 he was making fairly reckless offers to both Hawke and Dunstan to come and take the leadership, I forget the details of both things, but it was crazytown in both circumstances, right after the landslide. (Clyde Cameron also offered the leadership to Dunstan at that point, and this is when Cameron was about finished nationally.)

It was less than three years since they won power. And they'd already burnt through several possible successors (and Kim Beazley Sr was soon added to that list after the election defeat). I'll have to look at Hocking, but I don't think anyone had a serious post-Gough transition plan, let alone Gough.

I think a Liberal failure to gain power in (whether in 1975 or in an election of Whitlam’s timing) could lead to them drifting right towards “dry” economics earlier than in OTL. Though I wonder who would lead the Liberal Party if they drifted right economically earlier.

I wonder what are the possibilities of a Hayden prime ministership under an undismissed Labor Government?
Hayden as PM for six months in a parliament that drags into 1977 is one thing, but I don't see the Lib/Country Coalition doing a serious reappraisal of their stances; Malcolm Fraser was on a really good bet to win the next election, so why would he upgrade his relationship to subordinate dry-curious Liberals like Phillip Lynch and novice John Howard, and away from his genuine economic partnership equals, the Country Party? Razor gang economics at budget time are so much easier than say, floating the dollar, or introducing a consumption tax.

Delaying the structural-reform impulse in Labor's next team seems easier--but not that much easier--to me than seriously advancing it in the Coalition's then-current team , vis-a-vis the fallout of the mid-seventies recession. Even then, my thinking about Hawke-Keating being knocked off course is about the importance of political machinery to facilitate policymaking, not the absence of said policy desires.
 
Labor was probably going to lose. The 1974 recession was too nasty, too much a shock for people who'd experienced a generation of the golden age of demand management capitalism after WWII; Whitlam and co were held guilty of throwing it all away. It doesn't matter that the governments and administrations of the UK, US and Canada were in similar boats. Or, at least, it's reasonable to use these contrasts to see federal Labor suffering an election loss somewhere between what Ford experienced in 1976, and what Callaghan probably would have suffered at an early election in 1978, before the British winter of discontent. (The outcomes in the Canadian electoral system are least applicable here.)

The landslide defeat of December 1975 probably can't happen at an election scheduled to Whitlam's satisfaction in '76 or '77.

13/11/75 was Labor at it's weakest vis-a-vis the budgetary situation (which was set to improve with the Hayden budget's forecasts; those mostly came true by the end of the ongoing financial year IIRC), the economy beginning to rebound, the closeness in time to the ministerial scandals of the loans crisis, and simply looking like a dishevelled Old Labor mess thanks to having been unceremoniously thrown out of office when the country was on the brink of a federal public service shutdown in November.
I agree with you that the Lib-Nats wouldn't have gotten their landslide victory in TTL thanks to Whitlam still holding the keys to power. Hell, I'd even go so far as to say they might not even win. In the US, Gerald Ford came close to weathering the storm and in Britain, if Callaghan had called the election in 1978, he also very plausibly could've as well. Whitlam was a good politician and the economy was recovering by that point, so it's not crazy to assume that Labor limps on a few years (maybe stepping down in '78 in favour of Hayden?). However, it'll come to an end in the early Eighties though. Second Oil Shock and all that. I could easily see John Howard (or another Lib-Nat politician) sweeping into power and being an Aussie analogy to Ronald Reagan, killing the postwar consensus bit by bit. However, I'm American so I could very well be wrong.

If Fraser does win, however, I'd say Australian politics might very well progress as they did in OTL with exception to the Monarchy issue (which I will touch on in a moment)

It absolutely consolidated republican sentiment in the ALP. Otherwise, there is no way that Labor MPs and officials from minor states would all have been anti-monarchist by the time of the 1999 republican process. Not just obscure figures, too. It's perfectly reasonable that someone like Peter Beattie, then Opposition leader in the Qld parliament, or Graham Edwards, marginal seat MHR from Perth, could have been monarchists, if they'd had the choice.
I agree with this statement 110%. Without the party being humiliated and frankly, wrongfully thrown out of power by the Governor-General, the ALP would probably have a fairly tangible monarchist wing. I don't think it would be that large but it would be sizeable enough that the party might be more ambivalent about the Crown, at least enough that a republic wouldn't be on the party platform. And for the Lib-Nats, with the exception of Turnbull, all of their leaders since the turn of the century have been monarchists.

The Whitlam Dismissal is what really spawned the republican movement. Without it, I wouldn't say it would be stillborn (Whitlam was a republican before he was dismissed) but it would be nowhere near as potent. I could see the monarchy debate in Australia resembling its counterparts in Canada and New Zealand: quiet and frankly irrelevant. There wouldn't be a 1999 Referendum because it wouldn't have been an important enough an issue to merit one.

An eventual constitutional 'crash' is probably coming with the ascent of Charles to the throne. IIRC polling has long reflected less public approval for him than for his mother. The recent drama over his second son and daughter-in-law must reflect on looming weaknesses in respect for the Australian crown, for when we have an aging divorced King succeeding such a well defined, stable monarch as Elizabeth the II has been .

Just because No Dismissal means no 'premature' republican process, it doesn't necessarily signify much else the further we get into the 21st century.
I agree that Charles' ascent to the throne will probably be the death knell for the monarchy in Australia. It won't be immediate because people will be in mourning, but I can't see King Charles III of Australia lasting all that long. Four or five years at most. But it will happen.
 
Last edited:
I agree with you that the Lib-Nats wouldn't have gotten their landslide victory in TTL thanks to Whitlam still holding the keys to power
I should clarify that during this era federal Australian Labor was generally a slightly- to much- weaker party than those which Ford or Callaghan lead. I brought up the foreign electoral analogies because I think the best Whitlam could do after the recession and the scandals is rebound to a moderately bad loss, not that he had any chance of dramatically outperforming like Ford and maybe Callaghan had a chance at (and I'm leery that Callaghan did have a chance in the late '78 type election I specified for my hypothetical.)

The die really was cast from the economic collapse in '74, and that collapse was actually made worse by tariff cuts that Labor had passed the year before, exposing local manufacturing to the worst of the recession. At that point Labor was not winning another term in office (George Megalogenis, political economics journalist & history writer, goes as far as to claim Whitlam couldn't even have won an election in the second half of 1974.) The scandals in 1975, which were born of features, not bugs, of the Cabinet's dysfunctionality, were something that could be mitigated somewhat by riding them out after the firings, at least towards a loss that wasn't too extreme. But by pouncing in September, and starting the timetable for Kerr to act, there was no riding out the scandals.

If Gough gets to set his own timetable for elections in '76 or '77, then he simply gets to miminise the inevitable loss.

If Fraser does win, however, I'd say Australian politics might very well progress as they did in OTL with exception to the Monarchy issue... The Whitlam Dismissal is what really spawned the republican movement. Without it, I wouldn't say it would be stillborn (Whitlam was a republican before he was dismissed) but it would be nowhere near as potent. I could see the monarchy debate in Australia resembling its counterparts in Canada and New Zealand: quiet and frankly irrelevant. There wouldn't be a 1999 Referendum because it wouldn't have been an important enough an issue to merit one.
Actually, come to think of it, there really are too many variables. My handwave up above, about 'premature' republicanism, that was too blase.

There's so much going on in the eighties, with the reinvigoration of Anzac Day culture under Hawke, with the bicentury, with Peacock struggling to define a Opposition Coalition philosophy that is rooted in Not Howard White Picket Fence politics, the Australian Democrats and Green Independents as a balance-of-power force, multiculturalism, feminism, indigenous recognition, Aussie chic & the entertainment industry, the rise of conservationism, etc.

I'm not certain why this era still can't blossom into an influential republican movement under a slightly ATL PM Keating or even a very ATL PM Peacock in the nineties. It's hard to credit The Dismissal with being the motivating reason for conservative establishment Libs like Peter Costello, Peter Reith, Jeff Kennett, and Andrew Robb becoming republicans by 1999 IOTL.

If Howard could let a republican referendum take place because he feared the early years of his PMship was the last moment it could be decisively beaten, why couldn't an ATL PM Andrew Peacock bring forward a referendum process he'd know was probably too early (but would gamble wasn't)?

Automatic comparisions with Canada and New Zealand on this issue are pretty fraught, I think. The Irish Catholic influence in this country is different than the Quebeckers, and not as applicable to NZ.

It won't be immediate because people will be in mourning, but I can't King Charles III of Australia lasting all that long. Four or five years at most. But it will happen.
Logically, on the demographics of a nation which voted 60% 'yes' in the plebiscite to legalise gay marriage, it should pass in this kind of timeframe.

But it's a referendum to amend the constitution, it requires a majority of voters in a majority of states, so last gasp obstructionism has a better chance at getting a 'no' vote than their equivalents (allies, really) had with the plebiscite. But I'm straying into Chat territory with that.
 
Ah, a thread on this issue that shouldn't get bogged down in the details of the rights and wrongs of the constitutional crisis, or with the idea it was somehow the last important event in Australian history (hello to a certain kind of national populist conservative, or plain loyalist, both here and overseas). Thank you.
Similar threads have gone down some bizarre rabbit holes in the past, I particularly liked the time Australia's constitutional development was compared to the Isle of Mann.

The 1974 double dissolution happening before the middle of the year meant that half the senators had terms set to expire on 30 June 1976; it was widely believed Whitlam would probably hold a House of Reps elections at the same time as the needed half-senate election, even though the Reps' term didn't expire until 1977.

Labor was probably going to lose. The 1974 recession was too nasty, too much a shock for people who'd experienced a generation of the golden age of demand management capitalism after WWII; Whitlam and co were held guilty of throwing it all away. It doesn't matter that the governments and administrations of the UK, US and Canada were in similar boats. Or, at least, it's reasonable to use these contrasts to see federal Labor suffering an election loss somewhere between what Ford experienced in 1976, and what Callaghan probably would have suffered at an early election in 1978, before the British winter of discontent. (The outcomes in the Canadian electoral system are least applicable here.)

The landslide defeat of December 1975 probably can't happen at an election scheduled to Whitlam's satisfaction in '76 or '77.

13/12/75 was Labor at it's weakest vis-a-vis the budgetary situation (which was set to improve with the Hayden budget's forecasts; those mostly came true by the end of the ongoing financial year IIRC), the economy beginning to rebound, the closeness in time to the ministerial scandals of the loans crisis, and simply looking like a dishevelled Old Labor mess thanks to having been unceremoniously thrown out of office when the country was on the brink of a federal public service shutdown in November.
I tend to agree, Whitlam did make some serious error, he himself admitted that he did too much too fast so is likely out in 76 or 77 however this is seen as a business as usual removal after about 5 years in power so won;'t be a hurdle to reflection in 2 cycles time.

Bear in mind Fraser was a tough customer, he basically threatened US Defense Secretary Melvin Laird over the F111s in 1969 and his actions in 75 show his ruthlessness. Gough was a man of his time, but once the euphoria wore off he was no match for Fraser politically.
 
It’s time to reference the example of successful electoral socialism in Australia which developed, rather than degraded, the strength of working people: Nick Origlass and the Trotskyite Balmain Labour Party. Nick was a much more adept administrator at his level of government, but he took on big capital and won, such as when he installed gates that were only opened at certain times to stop truckies skittling kids. Balmain ended up stronger rather than weaker and Origlass kept his foot to the floor.

With no dismissal, and despite the immense difficulties of character and parliamentarianism, it is not entirely impossible that a labour parliamentarian go to the industrial movement while increasing speed. While normally the ideal of parliamentary cretinism is a genius constrained by her excellence at playing New Zealand’s game slowly, or Imre Nagys first government, or a Very British Coup, for example. While this is the Normal fantasy of successful Labourism. The Abnormal fantasy is that the guy who needs your support, or that beardy chap who has been in parliament forever, can be whipped by industrial militance into improving the circumstances for industrial militance creating a virtuous (or infernal, your politics are your own) spiral leading to, say, the Second Imre Nagy government.

It certainly gets you a more exciting 1977.

* * *

As all good people love the Wages and Prices Accord as a peak body example of selling our labour power for the right to lose a surplus; why on earth will the industrial ALP left listen to the CPA on the matter of reforming capital in its own interests? Sure in New Zealand Roger fell from the Moon. But you’re not getting the magic carpet rolled out for the biggest action of rattery to the movement since Hughes. You aren’t going to get the ewwrongcommunists, Labor left and Labor right agreeing that workers must earn less if they want doctors pensions or education, and that the beneficiaries of this should be flag wrapped frauds with a penchant for Spanish beaches and hysterical public self promotion. You might get Bankstown boys fiddling with macro. But you’re not going to get a self-Castrating labour movement.

Which should make structural economic reform, given that a BLF Australia seems off the table, much more fun. Speaking of which you might even see sister unions defend or prevent the deregistration. You certainly won’t see easy privatisation and servicing model mega merge unions. All of which contributes to a horizon of 1960s if not 1970s militance. Unless someone else cuts their nuts off. But it can’t be Labor without an accord. Johnny’s too soft.

Wet Peacock Union nutting 80s with micro unions, no micro, partial macro, no Skacey, no AUD pokie machine, less green-and-gold, more BLF style deregos, less privatisation but no medicare and reduced Uni places (stronger white collar unions). Super as a gyp comes out before wages in straight profit rather than as forced loans to capital.

And a Labor opposition federally full of disorganised talent with no ideological commitments but no drive to remake Australia (peacefully) in the image of Chile. Gareth Evans as leader after five libnat governments from 1977 has some appeal. He might even have enough quiet dignity to ban weapons primarily used in domestic violence while he backroom Blairs whatever is left of the 1905 Harvester compromise over labour, state enterprise and conditions.

yours,
Sam R.
 
Picking out the "disorganised Labor talent" the Dismissal did lead to a large number of uni educated types joining the historically working class ALP. That bloomed in the 80s and 90s as some highly talented operators at state and federal levels. Hawke' s famously capable ministry didn't come from nowhere.
 
What would have happened if there was no Dismissal?

Well, first up, Kerr would need to be dismissed. That was likely to happen, however Gough decided to have a lunch of steak and chips rather than go off to Government House and have it out with Kerr.

Fraser would like have been forced to resign after his antics in the Senate failed to bring on an election. He had simply too much personal capital tied up in that scheme. Tory leaders like Fraser were the Party's Leader and as such rose of fell by the sword. Usually, that happened after an electoral failure but it can also happen mid-term (witness recent events in the Liberal Party room between Turnball and Abbott and Turnball and Scotty from Marketing.

Who would have replaced Fraser? I suspect it would have been the "Toe Cutter" as Phil Lynch was nicknamed because of his take no prisoners attitude towards both the ALP and his own party members. Howard was too young and too inexperienced to have a hope as leader. Everybody else had had their chance and been fount wanting. Sneddon was on the outer. Peacock wouldn't have been any better than he was in OTL.

Gough would have continued on. His person policy of "crash or crash through" would have been vindicated if he had successfully faced down Fraser and his blocking of supply. The ALP would have continued to lurch even further left. Rex Connor would have gotten his pipeline from the Pilbara to Sydney. What other plans were there? I have no idea but they would have been big and grand, I don't doubt.

The Australian economy would have recovered from the 1974 recession without too many hiccups. Gough might have been defeated in 1977 by the new Liberal Leader who ever that might have been. The Liberals would have failed as they did in OTL and there would have been Bill Haydon as the next PM. Hawke might not have been selected to replace him until later than OTL.
 
Last edited:
Well, first up, Kerr would need to be dismissed.
You don't even need to get that far; simply have any other plausible contender be chosen by Whitlam to replace Hasluck. There's plenty of indications, if not outright testimony, by the likes of NSW governor Sir Roden Cutler and even Hasluck himself, saying they wouldn't have done as Sir John Kerr did.

George Winterton in his chapter on the crisis in Autralian Constitutional Landmarks (2003, Cambridge UP, so probably the most accessible first rate source for interested readers) does a really good, non-partisan summation of how unprecedented Kerr's actions were; Paul Kelly, a partisan on the issue, has always promoted the idea it was all about Kerr inventing a political role for himself.

So simply have Whitlam choose another version of Ken Myer, the first person who declined when he offered the job in 1974. It's really hard for him to luck out and get a Kerr-capable type if he doesn't want the actual Kerr.
Picking out the "disorganised Labor talent" the Dismissal did lead to a large number of uni educated types joining the historically working class ALP. That bloomed in the 80s and 90s as some highly talented operators at state and federal levels. Hawke' s famously capable ministry didn't come from nowhere.
I have no doubt The Dismissal lead to a party membership spike, but the 'Whitlam revolution' was a modernising thing that had been brewing since he made an impact as deputy leader as early as 1961. The changing demographics was coming through in the sixties, and it really started to register by 1969 at the latest---the Don's Party Election.

Hawke's particular cohort is interesting, in that he and a couple others, John Button, they're not even sixties creations. They're the educated post-war demographic, broadly speaking. If we want to be more specific, Hawke and Button themselves are creations of post-war reconstruction technocratic legalistic career paths. Nugget Coombs' children, albeit in the union movement, not economics or the public service.
Similar threads have gone down some bizarre rabbit holes in the past, I particularly liked the time Australia's constitutional development was compared to the Isle of Mann.
I've been shockingly ignorant of details in past arguments, but I then decided to brush up on Hocking and Winterton to fill in the blanks of my knowledge (I mention Kelly, but I'm careful about relying too much on him, he took the whole thing too personally.)

I still reckon my naive reading of Section 53 being a negotiating tactic and not an ultimatum weapon is not _that_ bad; I actually checked La Nauze's description of that in his history of the constitution being drafted, it genuinely was predicated on protectionist- versus revenue-tariff- questions being seen as an ongoing pressure point for the life of any parliament. It's just that the emerging constitutional canon abandoned that notion by about the time Kerr and Whitlam were born. So I was only sixty years out in my precise understanding of why the supply crisis was bad.

That said, the creation of the legal foundation for Kerr's contribution, by Sir Garfield Barwick, is legitimately controversial; people who go further than that in their ideas regarding How November 11 Was Right, they tend to have a bad case of constitutional apocrypha.

Bear in mind Fraser was a tough customer, he basically threatened US Defense Secretary Melvin Laird over the F111s in 1969 and his actions in 75 show his ruthlessness. Gough was a man of his time, but once the euphoria wore off he was no match for Fraser politically.
People get confused by how dominant Fraser was versus how disregarded he later became; yes, his politics was eventually headed to a deadend for both Australian liberal-conservatism and society in general, and, yes, the actual Liberal Party was/is institutionally incapable of easing most failures out of leadership and into venerated retirement; but while he was in charge, while his system still worked, he was unstoppable.

You maybe can prevent him systematically with a PoD in the fifties, perhaps the early sixties. Not during the lifetime of OTL's Whitlam government.
 
You don't even need to get that far; simply have any other plausible contender be chosen by Whitlam to replace Hasluck. There's plenty of indications, if not outright testimony, by the likes of NSW governor Sir Roden Cutler and even Hasluck himself, saying they wouldn't have done as Sir John Kerr did.
Well that of course is understandable. Since then multiple GGs have said they would not have acted as Kerr did. Kerr's actions are really on the outside fringes. Some say because he was a CIA plant but in reality, he was fairly conservative by 1975. The CIA was present in Australia (Nugen-Hand Bank) but it wasn't overly active at that level.

George Winterton in his chapter on the crisis in Autralian Constitutional Landmarks (2003, Cambridge UP, so probably the most accessible first rate source for interested readers) does a really good, non-partisan summation of how unprecedented Kerr's actions were; Paul Kelly, a partisan on the issue, has always promoted the idea it was all about Kerr inventing a political role for himself.

So simply have Whitlam choose another version of Ken Myer, the first person who declined when he offered the job in 1974. It's really hard for him to luck out and get a Kerr-capable type if he doesn't want the actual Kerr.
Kerr was actually quite at a loss. That was until he sought and received advice from Sir Garfield Barwick and illegally from Malcolm Fraser. Kerr was legally bound to only receive advice from the Government and who ever the Government allowed. Barwick got that allowance. Fraser didn't. What Barwicks advice was and what Fraser's advice was is locked in the Archives. Barwick was a former Liberal Minister under Menzies. Then there is what the Queen advised. Her letters are the subject of a High Court case at the moment.

I have no doubt The Dismissal lead to a party membership spike, but the 'Whitlam revolution' was a modernising thing that had been brewing since he made an impact as deputy leader as early as 1961. The changing demographics was coming through in the sixties, and it really started to register by 1969 at the latest---the Don's Party Election.

Hawke's particular cohort is interesting, in that he and a couple others, John Button, they're not even sixties creations. They're the educated post-war demographic, broadly speaking. If we want to be more specific, Hawke and Button themselves are creations of post-war reconstruction technocratic legalistic career paths. Nugget Coombs' children, albeit in the union movement, not economics or the public service.
Ah, Nugget. I met him. My sister studied under him and he was at her graduation from the ANU in 1974. He quite a small man and his feet swung under his chair on stage. He had a towering intellect though, and his influence in Government throughout the 1950s and 1960s was immense.

That said, the creation of the legal foundation for Kerr's contribution, by Sir Garfield Barwick, is legitimately controversial; people who go further than that in their ideas regarding How November 11 Was Right, they tend to have a bad case of constitutional apocrypha.
Most of the Tories loved Kerr. They saw the end of the Whitlam regime. They believed they had the "right to rule" after the long intergnum of Ming the Mercilless and his successors. Whitlam upset how they viewed the world. His first year was spent turfing out all the Mandarins who ruled the Public Service. He ushered in real change to Australian society. Change that the dead hand of the Tories had prevented for 23 years. Australia entered the late 20th century after wallowing in the 1950s for so long.

What they, the Tories didn't appreciate was that Kerr also meant the end of the Royalty. He firmly cemented the Republican cause downunder. He overturned so many principles of Government and made life much more uncertain. Politicians of today are much more cautious about supply in the Senate. They know that government hangs not by how many seats they command in the House but also how many they command in the Senate. The Senate is the only upperhouse that I know of that can block Supply bills still. All others lost theirs before WWI or WWII.

People get confused by how dominant Fraser was versus how disregarded he later became; yes, his politics was eventually headed to a deadend for both Australian liberal-conservatism and society in general, and, yes, the actual Liberal Party was/is institutionally incapable of easing most failures out of leadership and into venerated retirement; but while he was in charge, while his system still worked, he was unstoppable.
What I find interesting is that Fraser, in retirement seemed to move to the Left much more, particularly on the issue of Asylum Seekers and Refugees. In reality, what had happened was that Australia has moved much more to the Right on those issues and so his words were from his heart and his heart hadn't actually moved that far left. Australia had moved that far right. I remember listening to Parliament in the late 1970s when he and Howard were always talking about "an economic lead recovery" which was "just around the corner". It never arrived. Haydon and then later Hawke/Keating realised that and played on it in the lead up to the 1983 election. Instead they instituted a restructure of the economy and deregulated the banks. That ushered the ALP into power again.

You maybe can prevent him systematically with a PoD in the fifties, perhaps the early sixties. Not during the lifetime of OTL's Whitlam government.
Fraser just needed to get shot on one of his visits as Minister of the Army to South Vietnam in the late 1960s. It would have saved so much bother and effort.
 
What would have happened if there was no Dismissal?

Well, first up, Kerr would need to be dismissed. That was likely to happen, however Gough decided to have a lunch of steak and chips rather than go off to Government House and have it out with Kerr.

Someone on soc.hstory.what-if raised this possibility some years ago: "WI Whitlam strikes first, by Advising the Queen to dismiss Kerr as G-G, before Kerr has a chance to dismiss Whitlam as PM?"

My response was

***

I am no expert on Australian constitutional law, so I will just quote David Butler's discussion of this question on pages 320-321 of Howard R. Penniman, ed., *Australia at the Polls: The National Elections of 1975* (Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute 1977) in his "Appendix A: Politics and the Constitution: Twenty Questions Left by Remembrance Day":

"(12) Can a Prime Minister Secure the Dismissal of a Governor General? There has been only one recorded instance of this happening: in 1932 Eamon de Valera, the newly elected prime minister of Ireland, asked the Crown to change the governor general of Ireland who had been appointed on the advice of the previous government and who had protested publicly about being treated with discourtesy. But the opinion is strongly held that the Queen ought to accede promptly to almost any request from a Commonwealth prime minister for the dismissal of a governor general. It is open to question whether 'promptly' means that if Whitlam had been able to get to the phone at 1 p.m on November 11, he could have insisted that the Queen (at 2 a.m. English time) should have agreed on the spot to his request and taken immediate action. If she had asked for time, the governor general could, of course, have dismissed Whitlarn in the interim (though she might have asked for a truce while she considered the matter).

"She would have been in a great difficulty in seeking advice. Her British ministers and the British high commissioner in Canberra would be scrupulously anxious to keep out of an Australian domestic concern. The Australian high commissioner in London could only speak as the mouthpiece of the Canberra government. Her own palace advisers, skilled though they may be about British politics, would hardly be able to help on the Australian scene. The natural contact, the governor general, though he might have a right to give his side of the story, could hardly guide her on the proper action. She would be under great pressure to give a speedy answer--and it is hard to see how she could prudently refuse such a request.

"But if that is so, it raises a specter to hover over any future Australian crisis. Will every governor general carry a letter of dismissal in his hand when he confronts a prime minister? Will every prime minister carry a radio telephone with an open line to Buckingham Palace?

"It makes nonsense of any picture of the governor general as an umpire, if he can be first dismissed by any batsman whom he thinks of declaring out. But there is, of course, a qualification to this picture. Even if the prime minister technically has the power to get rid of an uncooperative governor general, from a political point of view it would usually be very rash to invoke such a power. Certainly if Whitlam, after dismissing Cairns and Connor, were to have dismissed the governor general, his own appointee, the howls of indignation, the innuendos of dictatorship, would have been overwhelming. Despite his remarks on November 11 about contacting the Queen (quoted on page 321 [1]) Whitlam himself later indicated that in the last resort he would have chosen an election.

"But it is worth pursuing the question of what might have followed if Whitlam had secured the dismissal of Sir John Kerr. To provide for the absence of a governor general, it has been customary for some of the state governors to be entrusted with a dormant commission to act as governor general. Until ten years ago the task seems always to have been allotted to the senior of the governors of New South Wales and Victoria largely because of geographical convenience, and only these two governors held a dormant commission. Although practice has changed somewhat, it seems that in 1975 the task would naturally have fallen to Sir Roden Cutler, governor of New South Wales since 1966. But it could have been transferred to, say, Sir Mark Oliphant of South Australia, a Labor-appointed governor [2] Yet there can be no certainty that he or any other governor would have proved more cooperative with Whitlam than Sir John Kerr--if each in turn was obdurate, are we to envisage the successive dismissal of one acting head of state after another? Even to outline this fantasy underlines the hazardousness, perhaps even the unlikelihood, of an actual dismissal of the governor general."

[1] "The governor general dismissed Whitlam summarily, it seems, because he thought that any other course would lead to his own dismissal and a continuance of the crisis. There is no doubt that Whitlam had given some grounds for such a belief. His whole approach to the governor general had been truculent and uncompromising. He had spoken in jest perhaps, of the governor general as 'My Viceroy'; on October 17 he said 'Unquestionably the Governor-General takes advice from his Prime Minister and no one else.' He had moved swiftly to get the Queen to revoke the dormant governor general's commission from Sir Colin Hannah on October 23 after the governor of Queensland had publicly sided with the Senate. And in his press conference on November 11 he was to say, when asked if he would contact London, 'The Governor-General prevented me getting in touch with the Queen by just withdrawing the commission immediately. I was unable to communicate with the Queen, as I would have been entitled to if I had any warning of the course the Governor-General was to take."

[2] In a footnote, Butler adds here, "It can readily be argued that the process of appointing a new governor general would involve no more delay than the routines of swearing in an acting governor general and that Whitlam could in a matter of hours have got into office some immediately available outsider. But that is by no means certain."
 
Mere technical issues. Gough would have been entitled to request that Kerr be dismissed. Madge would have been forced to comply. QED. Everything that follows is technical problems, nothing more. The GG was not entitled to act on advice sought and received from Fraser or Barwick. He was not entitled to act on advice sought and apparently received from London. Kerr however did, it seems. Gough was dismissed. Kerr threw Australia into a constitutional crisis of Malcolm Fraser's devising.
 
Then there is what the Queen advised. Her letters are the subject of a High Court case at the moment.
I think the Buck House/Kerr correspondence is probably pretty bad, though in fairness it would have been due to Kerr successfully manipulating them (creating that political role for himself as per the Kelly thesis.) The Queen's advisers seem to have been able to handle the sovereign's role in the demise of Ted Heath's govenment after the first 1974 UK election pretty well, but they had no handle at all on what was happening on the other side of the world. Kerr under the influence of Barr was an entirely different matter.
Although practice has changed somewhat, it seems that in 1975 the task would naturally have fallen to Sir Roden Cutler, governor of New South Wales since 1966. But it could have been transferred to, say, Sir Mark Oliphant of South Australia, a Labor-appointed governor [2] Yet there can be no certainty that he or any other governor would have proved more cooperative with Whitlam than Sir John Kerr--if each in turn was obdurate, are we to envisage the successive dismissal of one acting head of state after another? Even to outline this fantasy underlines the hazardousness, perhaps even the unlikelihood, of an actual dismissal of the governor general.
Thing is, ultimately the 'fantasy' was actually of Whitlam being the one to carry through on any new unprecedented actions by November 11; we can practically infer this from when he didn't immediately instruct Labor Senate leader Jim McLelland---or any other members of his cabinet---as to what had happened at the infamous meeting with Kerr; quite likely because he (Whitlam) had unilaterally decided, upon being dismissed, to let Fraser's senators vote for supply. Something, for all Whitlam knew, a hypothetical Labor leadership- or ministerial- meeting that he'd lost control of may well have tried to thwart.

Whitlam might have been an inept institutionalist in all this, but he was an institutionalist. See below why that isn't really true of his intellectual opposition.

(Some fairly plausible hearsay evidence indicates Cutler wouldn't have acted like Kerr did.)

There has been only one recorded instance of this happening: in 1932 Eamon de Valera, the newly elected prime minister of Ireland, asked the Crown to change the governor general of Ireland who had been appointed on the advice of the previous government and who had protested publicly about being treated with discourtesy.
lol, politicians who'd literally killed one another over constitutional disputes.
I still reckon my naive reading of Section 53 being a negotiating tactic and not an ultimatum weapon is not _that_ bad; I actually checked La Nauze's description of that in his history of the constitution being drafted, it genuinely was predicated on protectionist- versus revenue-tariff- questions being seen as an ongoing pressure point for the life of any parliament. It's just that the emerging constitutional canon abandoned that notion by about the time Kerr and Whitlam were born. So I was only sixty years out in my precise understanding of why the supply crisis was bad.
To clarify, the framers believed the senate would be a states' house, and while they weren't at all opposed to party government, they made no assumptions about parties in the representatives and the senate aligning. They assumed legislative disputes---over the revenue side of money bills---would easily divide the government of the day from a majority of senators.

This all went out the window with first the end of the original federation taxation disputes, the consolidation of the two party system, and then the wartime and post-war expansion of Commonwealth government power under first Fisher, Hughes and then Bruce.

Barwick and Ellicott's doctrine of the senate being able to withhold confidence from the effective majority in the reps---i.e., bring down the ministry formed in the other chamber---is an ahistorical tangent. It's them deciding to create a constitutional prerogative in the face of conventions that had long moved towards a different direction (I don't think Hughes, Scullin, Curtin, or Menzies ever had any serious fear of supply being blocked while they governed with opposition-controlled senates.)
 
I think the Buck House/Kerr correspondence is probably pretty bad, though in fairness it would have been due to Kerr successfully manipulating them (creating that political role for himself as per the Kelly thesis.) The Queen's advisers seem to have been able to handle the sovereign's role in the demise of Ted Heath's govenment after the first 1974 UK election pretty well, but they had no handle at all on what was happening on the other side of the world. Kerr under the influence of Barr was an entirely different matter.
Kerr was indeed a slippery customer it seems. Yes, i suspect he manipulated Madge. It was the only way to justify what he had done which was almost completely without precedence. Only in NSW had a government downunder been dismissed. Jack Lang was booted out in 1932. It completely overturned the established framework of who formed government - the party with greatest number of seats in the HoR. Madge if she had been paying attention would have seen that if Kerr had been telling the truth - which we both suspect he wasn't.

Interestingly, the HoR was debating at the time of dismissal a vote of no confidence which had been brought by Fraser as the leader of the opposition. The ALP of course were voting against it in favour of Gough's government when the word went around that they had to vote in favour of it. After a little bit of consternation the vote went ahead, just as the Parliament was dismissed. It passed which of course should have resulted in Fraser's new Government being in turn dismissed. However it was ignored at the time. Funny that, hey?
 
Top