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Australian Federal Election

December 10, 1977

The 1977 election was held a year earlier than required. In part, it was necessary to bring elections for the House and Senate back into line. A half-Senate election had to be held by the middle of 1978, since the double dissolution election of 1975 had resulted in the terms of senators being backdated to July 1975.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser may have been keen to fight one more election against the ALP Leader, Gough Whitlam. Some commentators speculated about the possibility of a deteriorating economy. Another factor was the resignation from the Liberal Party of former minister, Don Chipp. Chipp had been dropped from the ministry after the 1975 election. He had formed a new political party, the Australian Democrats, and had announced his attention to run for the Senate.

The election is remembered for the "fistful of dollars" advertisements run by the government, offering tax cuts to voters. The tax cuts were never delivered; instead a "temporary surcharge" was imposed in 1978.

The election was a virtual mirror image of the 1975 result, the Liberal-National Party coalition retaining a large majority in the House and narrow control of the Senate.

Whitlam announced his intention to stand down from the leadership and was succeeded by Bill Hayden. Whitlam retired from Parliament in the middle of 1978.

The election also coincided with the retirement of the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. Kerr had disgraced himself by a drunken appearance at the Melbourne Cup in November. His appointment as Ambassador to UNESCO never took place due to a public outcry.

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