The 1975 Constitutional Crisis: Audio Clips

The constitutional crisis of 1975 ranks as the single most dramatic political event in the history of the Australian federation.

The audio clips on this page represent a sample of events between October 15, 1975 and November 11, 1975. They begin with Liberal Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser’s announcement that the coalition will block Supply in the Senate, and end with the Dismissal of the Whitlam government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr.

These clips also appear on the companion website, WhitlamDismissal.com, but accompanied by more information, documents, analysis and contemporary media coverage.

  • Oct 15: Malcolm Fraser announces the coalition will block Supply – This was the beginning of the constitutional crisis. Fraser’s announcement came on the day that nearly all of the nation’s newspapers called on the government to resign.
  • Oct 15: Whitlam Stands Firm – Whitlam made a nationally televised address to the nation, condemning the Opposition’s stand and describing the Senate as “tainted”.
  • Oct 16: ‘AM’ – The ABC’s morning current affairs program broadcast reaction to the planned blocking of Supply and predictions about the outcome of the looming crisis.
  • Nov 03: Malcolm Fraser offers a compromise – Nearly three weeks into the 1975 constitutional crisis, the pressure was building on the Opposition to pass the budget bills. In this announcement, Fraser offers to pass the bills provided an election is called by May 1976.
  • Nov 11: 3pm – Whitlam moves no-confidence in Fraser – Following his dismissal by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at around 1.00pm on Tuesday 11 November, Whitlam returned to the House of Representatives and listened as Fraser announced that he was now Prime Minister. This no-confidence motion against Fraser was carried by the House.
  • Nov 11: Radio Coverage 3-4pm – It was unusual in 1975 for live broadcasts to take place. This recording of the ABC’s radio coverage represents a unique moment in broadcasting history as regular programming was pushed aside in favour of coverage of the dismissal.
  • Nov 11: Radio Coverage 4-5pm – As the crisis unfolded, it is interesting to hear the reactions from political figures of the time, including the President of the ACTU, Bob Hawke, and the Federal Treasurer, Bill Hayden. Both men went on to lead the Labor Party. Hayden became Governor-General in 1989.
  • Nov 11: Whitlam’s “Kerr’s Cur” Speech – This radio clip is the first-ever broadcast of Whitlam’s famous speech condemning the Governor-General.
  • Nov 11: 3DB Radio News – 5pm – Commercial radio also reported the Dismissal without any of the quality of the ABC’s broadcasts. 3DB operated in Melbourne on the 1026 frequency, now used by the ABC’s Parliamentary News Network.
  • These final scenes from the 1983 mini-series The Dismissal are not an accurate representation of the sequence of events but as the episode shifts from acted scenes to actual footage it gives a good picture of the atmosphere of those times “in the spring of 1975”.
  • Nov 11: Channel 10 News Melbourne – It is impossible now to imagine a political crisis being introduced the way Bruce Mansfield did it in this bulletin on the night of the Dismissal.
  • Nov 12: ABC Radio “AM” – Its coverage the morning after the Dismissal is a radio classic.
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