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Whitlam backs four-year parliamentary terms -

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(generated from captions) 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.