The Whitlam Dismissal 1975

Essay by mudcake_2High School, 10th grade August 2007

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The dismissal of the Whitlam Government on November 11th in 1975 remains to this day one of the most dramatic political events in Australian history. 'The Dismissal' is a term that has come into general use since 1975, to describe the termination of the elected Whitlam Labor Government by the then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. The event came as the culmination of one of the most tension-filled years in Australian political history. The Whitlam Government, elected in 1972 after 23 years of Liberal rule, was dealing with an economic downturn and facing considerable criticism following a number of scandals. Its ability to govern was also destabilised by the fact that it lacked a clear majority in the Senate. The Whitlam Government suffered a block in supply in 1974 and was re-elected after the resulting double dissolution. The Opposition then blocked supply again in 1975 but the Whitlam Government refused to advise a double dissolution or resign.

Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam Government and forced them to an election. Kerr installed Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister and called for a full election of both Houses of Parliament on December 13. The events of 1975 caused enormous controversy at the time and there is still bitter dispute about the political and moral correctness of the decisions that were made.

Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's first 100 days in office in 1972 saw more radical changes than would be seen in almost 100 years of previous Governments. The Whitlam government ended conscription and ordered the last Australian troops home from Vietnam. It made several radical movements such bringing in legislation giving equal pay to women, establishing a national health service free to all, doubling spending on education and abolishing university fees, increasing wages, pensions and unemployment benefits, ending censorship and replacing...