Sir John Kerr- Whitlam Dismissal

Essay by dx91 August 2007

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Sir John Kerr served as Australia's Governor-General from July 1974 to December 1977. He was appointed by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and ironically, after less than a year in the job, he made the controversial decision to dismiss Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister.

In the year that followed his appointment, the government endured one of its hardest times. In August 1975, Labor Treasurer Hayden, brought down the government's budget for 1975-76 and as always, there were a number of bills attached called appropriation bills. These appropriation bills had to be passed by both houses of parliament in order to give the government the money(or supply) they needed to run the country.

On 16th October 1975, the Senate, controlled by the Liberal Country Party, deferred(delayed) the appropriation bills, neither passing nor rejecting them. The Senate hoped that by blocking supply, it would force the government to call an election as they began to run out of money.

The Liberals were convinced they would win the election against the increasingly unpopular Whitlam government.

The Senate's refusal to pass Supply bills, at first, was a political issue, but now became a constitutional one, creating the most serious constitutional crisis in Australia's history. Whitlam refused to call an election, and Fraser refused to pass the Supply bills. There was a budget deadlock, as neither party backed down.

It is the job of the Governor General to find a solution when a constitutional crisis occurs. Sir John Kerr, discussed the issue with both Whitlam and Fraser(Opposition leader) but couldn't come to a solution. He sought advice from Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief justice of High Court and ex Liberal member, who told him he had the power to dismiss a government that could not secure Supply. He was highly criticised for this consultation as he...