“The 1975 Australian constitutional crisis (sometimes called “the Dismissal“) has been described as the greatest political crisis and constitutional crisis in Australia’s history. It culminated on 11 November 1975 with the removal of the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam (elected in 1972) of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), by Governor-General Sir John Kerr. Kerr then appointed the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, as caretakerPrime Minister. When the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, went to seek the Governor General’s approval for an election, the Governor General instead dismissed him as Prime Minister, and shortly thereafter installed Malcolm Fraser in his place. Though Kerr, who died in 1991, continues to be reviled in some quarters, Whitlam and Fraser later reconciled.”
I was 18 in 1972 and voted for the first time. It was an exciting time in politics in Australia. The Australian Labor Party had been out in the wilderness since Prime Minister Ben Chifley was defeated by the Liberals in 1949! Gough Whitlam was elected as Prime Minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party after a landslide victory.
Today’s blog is not about history though! It is about people and how we perceive them with the limited knowledge available to us at the time. I, and thousands of others, hated John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser for bringing down the elected Government of the day. Even at 18 I could see a great injustice against our democratic rights to have the party we voted for to remain in office. Great offense was caused and outrage ensued. Passions were ignited! Malcolm Fraser spoke like the “upper classes” and we believed he “was born with a silver spoon in his mouth”! He is remembered for his use of the phrase “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. Our reaction was… “What does he know about the working classes – his life appeared to be very easy indeed!” It has been fascinating to see the retired Malcolm Fraser in action. It seems that a lot of our hatred of the man was misdirected. It is said that he is one of the most misunderstood Prime Ministers in our history. Today he speaks out about the harsh treatment of refugees and is often on the side of the disadvantaged in the community and against the views of the big L liberals. It just goes to show that we only see what we want to see in a person. Perhaps memoirs offer an opportunity to tell the story of the misunderstood or, less kindly, it is the opportunity to rewrite history in a different light. Skip forward now to 2012 and today I am reading “Malcolm Fraser, The Political Memoirs” by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons. I still find it hard to warm to the man but I feel I can better understand his side of the story and elements of his personality (or some would say, lack there-of). He was incredibly shy and not good in social interaction or in finding friends. This was seen as arrogance and snobbery.
We mustn’t be too quick to judge our fellow men and women.
- Queen prepared to sack Kerr – letter (bigpondnews.com)
- Queen would have sacked Kerr (news.com.au)
- 3 term #australia PM @MalcolmFraser12 on old politics, new media, shockjocks #ows & how we’re pwnd by #US #UK (tonyserve.wordpress.com)
- Hundreds mark Whitlam’s 1972 poll speech (bigpondnews.com)
- Framing History: Gough’s Time (theglobalmail.org)
- Famous speech celebrated (theage.com.au)