Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
7.30 Report -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

(generated from captions) A quick recap of our top stories. Before we go,

has blown himself up Jemaah Islamiah's chief bomb maker

during a police raid in East Java. and around 300 wounded And almost 70 people killed in Jordan's capital. in a series of suicide bombings And that's the news to this minute. Coming up next, special edition of the '7.30 Report' Kerry O'Brien presents a on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Whitlam Government, of the dismissal Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. featuring interviews with From me, goodnight.

International Pty Ltd Captioning and Subtitling Closed Captions provided by

This program is captioned live.

The cow detar had succeeded. The

push has come off. Tonight, the

titans of '75. All those for an

election, all those who want Mr titans of '75. All those for an

Whitlam to get the hell out of Canberra. Whitlam to get the hell out of

Canberra. Bitter enemys and polls Whitlam to get the hell out of

apart 30 years ago. Two

apart 30 years ago. Two Leviathans Canberra. Bitter enemys and polls

playing one of the toughest

political poker games this country

has probably ever seen. He's vastly

improved. Today - the rage still

bubbles and some certainty still

stands, but time has softened and

old foes. I enjoy Gough's company.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary

of arguably Australia's most

contentious political moment,

Whitlam, Fraser and the legacy of

the dismissal. Here is a newsflash

from the ABC Newsroom, the PM Mr

Whitlam has been dismissed from

office. Australia has had its share

of political dramas, but in terms

pure politics it's hard to think of of political dramas, but in terms of

a more dramatic day in this

country's history than November 11,

1975. For anyone who was here that

day, as I was for'Four Corners',

even 30 years could erode that day, as I was for'Four Corners', not

indelible memory. It was the

unprecedented climax to a rivetting

stand-off between two dominant

figures of the political stage,

neither taking a backward step.

Whitlam has Labor PM, refusing to neither taking a backward step. Got

around the Senate blockage blink while he tried to find a way

around the Senate blockage of his blink while he tried to find a way

Senate before the Government's

ran out. Malcolm Fraser as the Senate before the Government's money

relatively new Opposition Leader,

applying extraordinary pressure on

the Government to go back to the

polls after only 17 months, while

behind the scenes working

desperately to hold his nervous

senators together. And then, the

shock and disbelief of Gough

when the Governor-General he'd shock and disbelief of Gough Whitlam

appointed Sir John Kerr, summarily

dismissed and Government without

warning. The rest, as they say, is

history. Tonight, we'll talk at length with the two central

political players, not just about

the dismissal, but also its

aftermath and whether even now,

there's need to change the system.

And also, about the personal

reproachment between the two once

implacable foes. And the common

ground they now enjoy, although

certainly not common ground about

November 11. But first, this

Brissenden. from Political Editor, Michael November 11. But first, this report

(Chant) We want Gough. REPORTER:

does it feel to be the first PM (Chant) We want Gough. REPORTER: How

since federation to be sacked by

Crown? I'm the first for 200 years since federation to be sacked by the

since George III sacked Lord North.

REPORTER: 'Sydney Morning Herald',

do you or - Mr Fraser, sorry.

LAUGHTER You'll get used to the

change. (Chant) We want Gough.

It was the defining political

for a generation, and in political It was the defining political moment

terms, nothing has come under such

enduring and forensic examination

this. But 30 years on, different enduring and forensic examination as

people still draw different lessons

from it. An unprecedented power

struggle that finally came crashing

to an end with what's become known

as "the dismissal" for the first

time ever the Governor-General used

his reserve powers to remove a PM.

It came after nearly a year of

political brinkman ship. At the

of 1974 the Whitlam Government political brinkman ship. At the end

approved a plan by the minerals

minister Rex Connor to secure a

from Killarney. The money never minister Rex Connor to secure a loan

materialised. If the Government

seriously compromised. And it was materialised. If the Government was

political pandemonium. The economy

was in deep trouble. The

newly-elected Liberal Opposition

Leader Malcolm Fraser put in place

political strategy designed to Leader Malcolm Fraser put in place a

an early election. In October, political strategy designed to force

using his majority in the Senate,

moved to block supply. Whitlam using his majority in the Senate, he

refused to budge. The Government

was running out of money. As the

crisis deepened, everyone was under

intense pressure. The

Governor-General John Kerr was

worried Gough Whitlam would get in

first and remove him and Malcolm

Fraser was trying to hold his

senators in line. Some of them

starting to seriously worry about senators in line. Some of them were

the public opinion of their actions.

The polls were going down, the

Liberal Party was drifting in the

polls very badly. I was getting -

got about 2000 letters during that polls very badly. I was getting - I

fortnight practically all but three

I think were against the proposal.

At 9 o'clock in the morning of

November 11, Gough Whitlam met with

the Opposition and pledged to call

half Senate election. At 10, he the Opposition and pledged to call a

informed the Governor-General.

before 1, he drove out to informed the Governor-General. Just

House to seek formal approval but before 1, he drove out to Government

was himself dismissed. The

for what's become the most quoted was himself dismissed. The catalyst

and famous political speech in

Australian history, and a 30-year

argument about our nation's

constitutional arrangements.

You just can't have a position

some pumped up bunyip potentate. You just can't have a position where

LAUGHTER Dismisses an elected some pumped up bunyip potentate...

government. I said to Daley that

should put Kerr immediately under government. I said to Daley that we

house arrest. LAUGHTER No,I meant

it. APPLAUSE And had I been PM, I

certainly would have. LAUGHTER

And then, Gough would have had no

recourse then but to take the

country to an election, but with

as PM. Ever since, Gough Whitlam country to an election, but with him

been calling for constitutional as PM. Ever since, Gough Whitlam has

reform. Championing fixed 4-year

terms for both Houses so as to

prevent the situation that can

occur, where a newly-elected prevent the situation that can still

government with a majority in the

Lower House has to deal with the

overlap of a Senate determined at a

previous election. He's a wonderful,

wonderful Australian, but he's been

banging on about this idea for 30

years and really has not developed

any momentum behind that idea that

you have fixed had-year terms and

indeed simultaneous elections for

State and Federal parliaments.

Within the Liberal Party we are

sympathic to 4-year terms but you

must resolve the question of the

must resolve the question of the Senate, whether you go to 8-year

terms for the disphat or not. But

we don't have much sympathy for the

idea of fixed election dates. It's

not something we think is desirable

or attractive. Nick Minchin now

presides in a government with a

Senate majority of its own. The

fact is regardless of the outcome

fact is regardless of the outcome of the 2007 election, the make-up

the 2007 election, the make-up won't change until 2008. If Labor won

change until 2008. If Labor won the next election, it could face a

constitutional stand-off like 1975

all over again. Obviously in terms

of what happens at the next federal

election, we will be aiming, of

course, to get a majority in the

House of Representatives. If we

were not to do so but still had a

majority in the Senate, that's

utterly hypothetical and not

something we wish to contemplate.

But my view is that any powers

But my view is that any powers which are granted to either House of

Parliament in this country must be

exercised with due care and great

responsibility and sensitive to the

wishes of the people at all times.

And that's what I think most

Liberals do feel very strongly.

But the power still remains,

But the power still remains, doesn't it? As it should. I think it is

important that the Senate does

retain at the end of the day, a

power to block supply. Governments

must have the authority of both

Houses of Parliament in this

Houses of Parliament in this country to spend money and I think that is

right. Maintain the rage, was

Whitlam's cry and to this day the

discussion and argument continues

albeit at a more sedate and

considered pace. But 30 years on,

the convictions of the two

protagonists at the heart of it all

remain as resolute as they were in

November, 1975. The great defence

November, 1975. The great defence of our democracy is that the

constitution must be upheld. The

Australian people will have their

say, the choice is theirs at the

ballot box. I think what I said for

an imprompu speech was magnificent,

and memorable. And also, you know,

the business may well say God save

the Queen, nothing will save the

Governor-General. How true.

Politics is dominated by the

personalities, their convictions

personalities, their convictions and ambitions as it is by the rules and

ambitions as it is by the rules and conventions that grow around

democratic institutions. With so

much at stake, this chamber saw

tumultous and extraordinary times

tumultous and extraordinary times in the build-up to November 11. It

the build-up to November 11. It saw those rules and conventions

interpreted in dramatically

different ways back then. But the

same argument still reverberates

today and although most political

experts can't imagine a similar

crisis again, it remains possible.

Sir John Kerr now deceased,

eventually wrote a book 'Matters

eventually wrote a book 'Matters for Judgment' defending his actions.

Gough Whitlam has launched and

Gough Whitlam has launched and third edition of his response 'The Truth

of the Matter' and after his defeat

at the hands of Bob Hawke in 1983

Malcolm Fraser has rarely returned

to the issues of November 11. But

he did for the 7:30 Report and

he did for the 7:30 Report and we'll come to that interview shortly.

First up, I spoke with got Whitlam,

who turns # 0 next year. I know,

like Malcolm Fraser, like Malcolm Fraser, you've never

taken a backward step in 30 years

about the rightness of your actions

leading up to the dismissal. Was

there no better way looking back on

it, that you could have dealt with

that developing crisis? Yes,Kerr

should have allowed me to have a

half Senate election. That would

have filled the two brum by

substitute s that had been put in

substitute s that had been put in in breach of Menzie's convention. It

would have given two senators from

the Northern Territory and the

Australian Capital Territory, that

is the Budget would have been

passed. Was it wise, with hindsight

to put all your eggs in the basket

of the political solution of the

hope that at least one coalition

Senator would break ranks and vote

to pass the Budget on the

to pass the Budget on the assumption on your part that Sir John Kerr

wouldn't dare sack you? I thought

that he would act properly as, of

course, king Edward IV and George V

behaved with PM Asquith in the

behaved with PM Asquith in the House of Lords back in 1911 was playing

funny buggers with the Budget.

Between 1909 and 1911, Edward VII

and George V acted with frankness

and good character with PM Asquith. There, the kings were able to play constructive and influential roles. Sir John Kerr could never make that claim. And he said that in Parliament afterwards. Can it be said that because you had appointed Sir John Kerr you had thought at the time

he was the time he was the man for the job, that you assumed he would do the right thing by you? That was not it at all. He was on a list of suggested governors-general that Sir Paul Hasluck gave me and Sir Paul Hasluck has a very frank and fruitful relationship when we were working together. We could have had the same with Kerr and, of course, Kerr was on his list. And so I thought "I'll approach that". And the appointment was welcomed on all sides, because he deteriorated in the job. His wife died and he got onto grog again. And then, of course, I'll quote what was said immediately after he went overseas

with fancy Nancy to present her to the Queen. Sir Roden Cutler was in Government House

and he told me what his view was.

He said that Kerr telephoned Sir Roden Cutler to warn him of his intentions and of the possibility in his view that Sir Roden might have to become administrator if something went wrong

and he ceased to be Governor-General. Sir Roden told Sir John that he thought his proposed action was wrong

and would prove damaging to the Crown and the office of the Governor-General. The constitutional crisis aside, you came to Government with such big plans, with so many things you wanted to do. Do you think on reflection you tried to do too much too soon after 23 years of opposition with a ministry completely lacking in government experience?

No,I don't. In six years I had in public meetings and in the Parliament outlined a whole program that I had. That is, I believed that in Australia we would never have as good schools or universities or hospitals, or road, rail, sea transport until the Federal Government became involved.

And I put that and at every point in '73, '4, '5 the coalition tried to frustrate us.

They never believed that we, that they were in Opposition. And of course, I did all those and the High Court - there was challenges to our legislation

in six acts which we passed at the only joint sitting, and in every case the High Court upheld my laws. I'm the only PM of which that can be said - his legislation was never declared invalid in the High Court. It was a bruising crisis. Yes.

And a bruising outcome. What structural change can you see that might help avoid such a traumatic event again? I believe it was stated a month ago, 10 October by the joint standing committee on electoral matters and it recommended that there be 4-year terms for the House of Representatives.

It made the same recommendation, the same committee, people from both sides, both Houses,

And it recommended that there should be 4-year terms for the House of Representatives.

It made the same recommendation, the same committee,

They did that after the elections in '96, '98, '02.

They did it again this time. You believe there should be a 4-year fixed term for both Houses, don't you? The Labor Party policy is that there should be fixed 4-year terms for the Senate and the House of Representatives and the committee recommended, this joint committee recommended that a referendum to that effect should be put to the people at the next election which is due in 2007 and should come into force at the one after that in 2010. And if that happened you would not have the situation where prime ministers here and in Britain can have an election at the time they choose. You wouldn't have the situation where because we had a premature election last year, John Howard had to wait for 10 months before new senators came in and he could introduce his legislation. How would a system of fixed terms for both Houses cope with a Budget gridlock if a future Senate tried to block supply? Well, just look at what the figures are now. After the next federal elections, we can have a majority in the House of Representatives, but there'll only be 10 of our senators. There will be 19 Coalition senators. That is, they could play funny buggers with a Labour Government as they did in '73, '74 and '75. You mean while there is that overlap of the old Senate before the new Senate comes in? Yes,yes, yes. This would cure it. Four year terms which we have in every House in Australia

in the Lower Houses and in Victoria, of course, there's a fixed 4-year term for both Houses. There is in Western Australia, they now also have in Western Australia one vote one value. But if within that fixed-term Senate, numbers for whatever reason combined to block supply, how could that gridlock be fixed under the system you propose? Well, one also ought to do what was done in Britain in 1911 and in NSW by the Stevens coalition government in 1933. The Upper House cannot delay, can never reject, but can't even delay appropriation bills for more than a month. As I understand have said to Malcolm Fraser, it's been fascinating to watch the two implacable enemies of 1975 finding common political ground on anumber of occasions since. You must have reflected on that yourself?

I mean, there is no difference between us now that I can detect in any matter of international or regional affairs or human rights. He dispises, as I do, the conduct of the Howard Government, which suppresses debate in Parliament. You know, under Menzies we had two and a half months discussing the sedition legislation 1960

when I was first Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I prepared for all these things -

public debate and debate in Parliament. Now the Parliament is irrelevant and, of course, fortunes are spent in advertising Government policies on TV, which are not allowed to be debated in the Parliament. Of course Fraser and I think alike on things like that. What do you think of him personally, deep down? What do you think of him, as man and politician? He's vastly improved. Gough Whitlam, thank you very much for talking with us. Like Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser's entire parliamentary life was lived in this chamber of the old Parliament. He came here here a mere 25, exactly half a century ago. I spoke with Malcolm Fraser at his Melbourne office. Malcolm Fraser, I know like Gough Whitlam, you won't give an inch on the rightness of your actions leading up to the dismissal, but in the 30 years since you must have wondered more than once whether it might not have been a better political solution for Australia and for your own place in history, to have waited until an election was due, to let the Whitlam Government serve out its term and let it be politically punished by the people's vote, rather than put the nation through the trauma? There was one sort of trauma in being an election forced. There would have been another sort of trauma in having that government stay in power another six or seven months. Most people aren't aware of it, but 1975 was I think the only year since the migration program began when more people left Australia than came to Australia. I'd had people from eastern Europe saying, "Oh, we sat around watching our countries decay. "We're not going to sit around and watch Australia decay, "we're not going to go through it all a second time." And we had made a decision after a long series of scandals and a lot of talk about the loans affair and Khemlani and all the rest. We had made the decision early in the spring of '75 to allow the budget to go through on the proviso that there wasn't one more major scandal. Then it became evident that more old Rex Connor had deceived everyone, including his own PM, his own government, and was still sitting up at night waiting for that call that obviously never came. And so Gough had to get rid of him.

And you know, at that time I really believed that we have been held in contempt as an opposition if we didn't give Australians the opportunity to have a vote. I never thought it was such a terrible thing

trying to create the circumstances where people could exercise a vote. But you must, looking back, acknowledge that there was a trauma involved in the way it happened? There was a trauma, yes. But you know, there's also a question which is often put aside - what caused the trauma? If Gough had done what he did a year earlier in 1974 he would have gone to the polls and said - which he did then - and said, "I convinced them," which he did. But if you went back through British history or went back through whatever history Australia had, if a government couldn't get its money bills through the Parliament, that government either resigned, recommended an election, recommended somebody else be asked to try and do the job. Now the government of that day took a different course and said, "We're going to tough it out". Personalities in politics will always have the capacity to produce unpredictable outcomes. Is there any structural change that you can see that might help avoid the trauma of such a dramatic outcome as 1975? Yes, I do.

There's one significant flaw in our constitution - or lack of constitution if you like - which in my view came very much to the forefront during '75.

We're not really conscious of the fact that the major difference between ourselves and Britain, the Queen had tenure. No PM can pick up a phone and say, "Your Majesty, you're sacked, you're dismissed."

She is there and that means that she can speak to any PM no matter what he's done, no matter what she wants to say to him, and she is above anything that the PM can do. Now I'm not saying that Gough Whitlam would have done it, I'm not saying it was in his mind. I wouldn't know, I would accept totally whatever he says about it. But what I do know is John Kerr believed that if he spoke about the things that were in his mind, that he would then have been dismissed. And, therefore, he didn't discuss certain things with the PM which under normal circumstances people would believe he should have discussed with the PM. And what difference do you think that would have made, or might have made? It might have started that in all circumstances the Governor-General had to do what the PM wanted and no doubt he believed that, but he'd been warned I think by some people that there are circumstances where a Governor-General, just as there are circumstances where the monarch

could take a different course. But the PM would at least have known that the future wasn't necessarily going to unfold precisely as he wanted it to unfold. Gough Whitlam is arguing for 4-year fixed terms for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Can you see virtue in that? I can see some virtue in it. I can also see some problems in it.

Because if you've got a conflict there between the government of the day and the Parliament, you've got no real way of resolving that conflict. Our way, the British way of resolving that conflict is, "Alright, an election is held, or an election is forced".

But it's the election that makes, that is the circuit breaker. In the United States you don't have a circuit breaker and I think it was during President Clinton's time there was a major stand-off between and the presidency. And they've got no constitutional means of overcoming it. I think that's a very major deficiency in American arrangements. I wouldn't like to see us fall into that trap. Talking more personally, it's been fascinating to watch the two implacable enemies of 1975 finding common political ground on a number of occasions since. You must have mused on that yourself? Well, I have, but I don't think it's all that surprising.

I've always said that Gough was somebody with grand ideas. And he had a lot of great ideas, a lot of which I supported. His Land Rights legislation - he initiated the inquiry, I got the legislation through. But he would have had and I'm sure has got,

a sense of Australia as a country with a reasonable place in the world, not an large and powerful country by any means but one which has the right to its own voice which is in the interests of all Australians should exercise that right but should not automatically just say to our dear beloved friends

in the United States, "We'll do anything you want, mate". And he would have had a sense of identity in relation to Australia. Which I'm sure Gough still regards as important, and I regard as important. We believed in freedom of the media.

We don't believe in media ordered by one major foreign owner whether it's an Australian owner or a foreign owner. If it's one, is that really freedom? I think there were seven or eight media owners in my time and as many in Goughs.

I can remember being on the platform when the 'Age' and the 'Sydney Morning Herald' were under threat.

And we spoke from a basis of principle. Now there are a number of these issues which involve the essence of Australia where I find very difficult. Quite apart from that, I enjoy Gough's company. How do you compare the politics and the passions of your era of representative politics, and Gough's and today - modern Australia? I believe there's been a change in the nature of politics worldwide and a change in the nature of much of Australia. We're much less master of our own destiny than we used to be. I believe Australia has become r been led to be a fearful nation.

I am really enormously concerned at recent laws that have been introduced and I suspect that in 50 years time, this will be regarded as a watershed in Australian democracy, in Australian freedom.

It will be regarded as a time not when we took it on board and stepped to liberation and to the preservation of the basic liberties which we thought we could all take for granted. It will be a time when we took a very significant step back to a darker past.

And I believe that's what this particular period will be remembered for. Malcolm Fraser, thanks very much for talking to us.

Thank you. The Old Parliament House is now something of a museum, maintained as a link to the past. But as you saw tonight, the debate still swirl around what happened here at

and Yarralumla 30 years ago. For the record, some 18 months after the dismissal, I became Opposition Leader Gough Whitlam's press secretary.

It was, as you might imagine, an interesting experience. That concludes this special edition of the 7:30 Report.

Join us Monday night at 7:30. But for now, goodnight. Closed Captions produced by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd

Not subtitled THEME MUSIC This week on Catalyst -