40th Anniversary Of The 1974 Joint Sitting Of Parliament

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, held during the term of the Whitlam Labor government.

The Joint Sitting, the first and only ever held, took place over two days, August 6 and 7, 1974.

Gough Whitlam described the sitting as “a last resort to enable the democratic will of the Australian people to prevail over blind obstruction”.

Joint Sitting

The proceedings took place in what is now Old Parliament House. They were chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jim Cope. The Liberal Opposition Leader (and future Speaker) was Bill Snedden. The Governor-General was the just-appointed Sir John Kerr.

The only member of either house who attended the Joint Sitting and is still serving is Philip Ruddock. Now the member for Berowra, in 1974 he was the 31-year-old Liberal member for Parramatta and still in his first year as a member of the House.

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The Six Bills

Six bills were submitted to the Joint Sitting, all of which had been first passed by the House of Representatives in 1973, following the election of the Whitlam government. [Read more…]


Gareth Evans Maintains The Rage

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sir John Kerr was the worst of Australia’s Governors-General and his legacy was to delay the emergence of an Australian republic, former Labor minister Gareth Evans will tell a seminar today.

Professor Evans will say that Sir John, who dismissed Gough Whitlam from the prime ministership, had a “catastrophic” tenure.

It was not marked by dignity, competence or effectiveness. He showed “far less dispassionate non-partisanship than any politician incumbent of the office [of Governor General].”

Professor Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University, will open the seminar on “Values and Visions of Australia’s Governors-General,” at ANU. [Read more…]


Today’s Electoral Anniversaries: Hughes And Fraser

Today, December 13, is the anniversary of two federal elections, the first in 1919, the second in 1975.

On December 13, 1919, Prime Minister William Morris Hughes was re-elected, defeating the ALP led by Frank Tudor. Hughes had been prime minister since 1915, first for the Labor Party and then as leader of the Nationalist Party that was formed from the Liberals and Labor defectors after the ALP split over conscription.

The election is historic for a couple of reasons. It was the first general election to use preferential voting, instead of first-past-the-post. And it was the first general election contested by the newly-formed Country Party. Not yet a national party, it consisted of different organisations in the states, but it won 11 seats, eating into Hughes’s majority.

On December 13, 1975, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser led the Liberal-Country party coalition to the biggest ever win in Australian federal history, before or since. The coalition parties won 91 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives. The ALP won 36 seats, a loss of 30.

Fraser had been prime minister for one month and two days, having been appointed caretaker prime minister on November 11, following Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam.


Politics at the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup, the so-called “race that stops a nation”, will be run for the 150th time today.

Such is the pull of this sporting event that it takes precedence over other events and institutions. For instance, the days are long gone when the Federal Parliament met on Melbourne Cup day.

Kerr

Yesterday, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, visited the Governor to set in train the November 27 election. The writs are officially issued today and the government goes into caretaker mode but Brumby would have received next to no media coverage if he’d made the vice-regal call today. [Read more…]


Howard Defends Sir John Kerr

In a radio interview with John Laws today, Prime Minister John Howard has reiterated his support for the current system of constitutional monarchy and defended the role played by Sir John Kerr in the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Government.

In defending role and actions of the Governor-General in the crisis brought about by the blocking of the Whitlam government’s budget in the Senate in October 1975, Howard said:

“And whatever may now be retrospectively said by both Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser about 1975 what the late Governor-General then did was to remit the matter to the Australian people. And within a few weeks the Australian people could decide whether or not they agreed or disagreed with Mr Whitlam or Mr Fraser.

Now, that is the essence of a democracy and it worked on that occasion. And, of course, the other irony about 1975 is that the republicans are supporting a model which they say would still allow the future Australian president to do what John Kerr did. So, I mean, I am lost as to quite what they are getting at.

I thought for some of the Labor republicans maintaining the rage was the only thing that mattered in life yet they are now purporting to carry forward into a new republican constitution the reserve powers of the Crown, it’s like having a monarchy without the monarch which is an interesting proposition within itself. But that’s for them to answer.

I thought what Sir John Kerr did in 1975 at least provided a democratic outcome. I mean, if you look back on 1975 the last person who, in my view, should be criticised is the late Governor-General. I think if people felt strongly about 1975 they should direct their criticism either against Mr Fraser or Mr Whitlam.”


Keating And Hewson Exchange Words Over Death Of Kerr

Sir John Kerr died in Sydney on March 24, 1991.

The former Governor-General, responsible for the Dismissal of the Whitlam government on November 11, 1975, was 76.

During the Condolence motion in the House of Representatives, the then Treasurer, Paul Keating, intervened in the debate after hearing the Opposition Leader, Dr. John Hewson, speak.

Audio and video of Hewson and Keating appears below. [Read more…]


Governor-General Bill Hayden Interviewed By Laurie Oakes

This video of Laurie Oakes interviewing Governor-General Bill Hayden was broadcast in 1989.

I’m not sure of the precise date of the broadcast. It is dated here as June 30 for filing purposes.

Hayden became Governor-General in February 1989, after a 27-year career as a Labor politician.

Elected to the Queensland seat of Oxley in 1961, Hayden became Minister for Social Security in the Whitlam government in 1972. He introduced Medibank, the precursor of the current Medicare, Australia’s first system of universal health insurance. In 1975, he became Treasurer.

Hayden became Leader of the Opposition after the ALP’s defeat in the 1977 federal election. He led the party at the 1980 election, picking up seats but failing to win.

Hayden stood down as leader and was replaced by Bob Hawke on the eve of the 1983 federal election. He served as Foreign Minister in the Hawke government between 1983 and 1988.

Hayden was Governor-General until 1996 when he was replaced by Sir William Deane.

In this interview with Laurie Oakes, Hayden studiously avoids making any political comment on his notorious predecessor, Sir John Kerr, the man who dismissed the Whitlam government in 1975.

  • Watch Hayden interviewed by Oakes (15m)