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Tag Archives: Malcolm Fraser

The Anglo-American ambush of the Whitlam Government – 11.11.1975 (Part 4)

Who was really behind the dismissal of the Whitlam Government? On this, the 40th anniversary of the dismissal, Dr George Venturini* critically examines the giddy rise of Gough Whitlam, his reforms, his cold relationship with the Nixon Administration, the Khemlani loan scandal, the dismissal of the Whitlam Government on 11th November, 1975 and the questions that have lingered since. This is the final chapter of our four part series.

The economy against headwinds

By the end of 1974, early 1975, it was clear that the economy was ‘going bung’.

Any appraisal of the Whitlam Government’s economic performance should take account of the global economic environment in the mid 1970s: the Bretton-Woods monetary system had come to an end in 1971; in October 1973 the O.P.E.C. cartel doubled world oil prices and the following oil crisis had plunged the United States, Britain and a number of other ‘western’ economies into recession. Inflation worldwide reached double digits.

These events had a profound effect on the Australian economy, and this period marked the end of the post-war boom that Australia had enjoyed for more than two decades.

The government was still popular as it began its second year with reforms and new spending on education, health, urban development and the environment. The economy had grown by 6 per cent in 1973, with the private sector growing even faster. House prices were soaring but inflation was out of control.

In 1973 average earnings had gone up 15.3 per cent, as the government supported big wage rises. Consumer prices rose 13.2 per cent, as global food shortages increased food prices.

Only a year before Labor-with-Whitlam had captured the House of Representatives – sufficiently if not handsomely. It had seemed better equipped than the dessicated Coalition parties to meet the mood of anxiety and concern in the constituencies – anxiety and concern about the muddled, bemused on-credit affluence where television sets and vehicles are easier to obtain than good education, homes, sewerage, adequate medical treatment or a comfortable old age; where the physical environment is scarred, polluted and poisoned in frantic pursuit of a higher standard of living; where corporations headquartered overseas are the biggest beneficiaries of an expanding growth rate.

What Whitlam had proposed was an apparent solution to these contradictions with schemes of economic management which would, on the one hand, satisfy the hankering of the business community for ‘a degree of stability and predictability’ in an atmosphere of mounting union militancy and heightened political confrontation, yet on the other hand, correct obviously corrosive inequalities of wealth, opportunity, effort, reward and enjoyment.

This nationalist, consensual approach to policy-making, prudentially skirting any suggestion of broad ‘socialist reconstruction’, was moderate enough to gain the approval of influential figures in the financial-mercantile and defence-foreign affairs sectors of the Establishment.

For example, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers had favoured Labor. Probably even the most obdurate opposition people could see that, if Labor continued to be shouldered out of the Treasury benches, the mythology surrounding ‘parliamentary democracy’ – especially the notion that the Opposition is always an alternative Government – could no longer be sustained.

But the Establishment’s support dwindled swiftly and drastically, however, despite the fact that Labor in government circumspectly pursued its reforms in classic social-democratic fashion, within the bounds and according to most rules of capitalist enterprise.

In Australia, a vast, neuter-minded ‘middle class’ was then – and by-the-way has remained – still cocooned in commercial consumerism. It was then – and has remained – far from ready for either the stringencies of liberties or radical rebirth. In the Australian electorate at large there is, indeed, a soft underbelly of complacency and a constipated core of so-called ‘conservatism’.

That Whitlam had tried to introduce rational planning and a sense of social priorities into the Australian economy was consistently undervalued or ignored in much of the public commentary, with its predilection for cant, hypocrisy and self-delusion.

In practical parliamentary terms, a newly aroused ruling class distrust meant that key features of Whitlam’s ‘Program’ were obstructed, deferred or discarded in the anti-Labor Senate, while the implementation of other executive decisions was frustrated, deflected or disbarred in non-Labor states.

The signs of crisis began with unemployment moving rapidly from 2 per cent towards 5 per cent. A generation of ‘jobs for everyone was over’.

1974 was the year when wages and prices soared out of control. Consumer prices rose 16 per cent, yet wages topped that, rising 28 per cent as powerful unions came back for a second or even a third round of pay rises.

The current account slid into deficit. From a surplus of 1.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in mid-1973, the balance of Australia’s transactions with the world crashed to a deficit of 3.2 per cent by the end of the 1974.

Profits collapsed, industrial disputes escalated, and a housing boom gave way to the steepest bust on record.

The Commonwealth budget exploded. As the Whitlam Government pressed on with big-spending reforms despite Treasury pleas for restraint, Commonwealth spending surged 46 per cent in 1974-75. The year before it had been 20 per cent.

1974 was the year when Treasury thought it had lost its influence on government decision-making. There is, of course, a different view: John Menadue, a very respectable head of the prime minister’s department from late ’74, bluntly accused Treasury of disloyalty.

The Whitlam Government’s greatest working problem was that its members constituted a minority in the Senate. Otherwise, it was inhibited by the limitations of a ‘colonial’ Constitution and outmanoeuvred by non-Labor states. There had been accumulating a long list of bills amended or rejected by the Liberal, Country Party and Democratic Labor Party – the latter a ‘theologically’ anti-Labor ‘coda’ of a clerico-corporative type.

Among those bills were one which sought to set up a comprehensive national health service, to be financed from taxation and not dissimilar from that established about a quarter of a century earlier in New Zealand and in Britain – rejected; another bill aimed at making the electoral system more democratic by eliminating disparities of up to 20 per cent between electorates – rejected.

One more bill was much more important, not so much because like the other two it had been promised in Whitlam’s policy speech – it was therefore a ‘mandating’ bill, but because it sought to establish a minerals and energy authority with power to exploit oil and other minerals in the national interest. Dark side remittance men and locally-grown conservatives of all hues naturally saw this as an attack on the sacred principle of private enterprise. And this was essentially foreigner. Such a bill would unquestionably attract the interest and hostility of corporations from the Great and Powerful Friend and other holders of huge interests in that wealth soundly and securely protected in and around ‘The City’. Minerals and energy were “the most profitable and significant of Australia’s industries and resources [which were] under foreign control … It is the strongest and richest of our own industries and services which have been bought up from overseas … And Whitlam had added: “It’s time to stop the great takeover of Australia. But more important, it’s time to start buying Australia back. A Labor Government will enable Australia and ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources”.

After its defeat in the 1972 general election, the Liberal Party had lost no time in dismissing McMahon from its leadership. However, his successor, Mr. Billy Snedden, at first seemed hardly more impressive. He seemed to share with most other Opposition politicians the belief that the electorate wanted them back on the Treasury benches. To a degree they appeared to believe their own rhetoric, as when they declared that the Whitlam Government had antagonised the United States and other old friends by recognising China and withdrawing the troops from Vietnam. But since the United States was itself desperately engaged in the same manoeuvres, not many Australians seemed impressed.

As Russel Ward wrote in the distance of time: “So in April 1974 Her Australian Majesty’s loyal opposition behaved more like a gang of fascist thugs than responsible politician in a democratic country. They threatened to use their Senate majority to withhold supply to the government”.

It was a particularly dastardly act. Whitlam was virtually forced to seek a double dissolution.

On 18 May 1974 the Whitlam Government was returned, albeit with a reduced majority (66 to 61) and still no majority in the Senate.

In 1975 Murdoch returned from England, where he had just purchased The News of the World. He came expressly to destroy a government which, three years earlier, he had helped to elect.

Miffed by Whitlam’s failure to reward him for his support in the election and Whitlam’s failure to accept the Murdoch view on how to run the country, he began his ugly, ruthless campaign to bring Whitlam down. It was the most savage attack on an elected government in the history of Australia and is matched only by the daily sensations aimed at destroying Labor’s programs for the future.

Nothing would match the events of 1975. They amounted – in the words of Whitlam – to . . .

A coup conceived in secret and deceit

Here are the dramatis personae:

Kerr

Sir John Robert Kerr, AK, GCMG, GCVO, QC was born in 1914 in Balmain – then a working class suburb of Sydney, the son of a boiler-maker, graduated in law with first class honours from the University of Sydney and was called to the bar in 1938. He became a protégé of Dr. H. V. Evatt, distinguished jurist and future judge of the High Court of Australia.

During the second world war Kerr worked for the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, an Australian intelligence organisation. In 1946 he became principal of the Australian School of Pacific Administration and the first Secretary-General of the South Pacific Commission.

Kerr returned to the bar in 1948, specialising in industrial law; he had joined the Australian Labor Party, but after 1955 he left the Party and showed sympathy for the anti-Communist Democratic Labor Party.

During the 1950s he joined the Executive Board of the Association for Cultural Freedom, which was revealed to be an agency of, and financed by, the C.I.A.

A Q.C. in the 1950s, he became in the 1960s one of Sydney’s leading industrial lawyers.

In 1966 Kerr was appointed a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and, later, to several other judicial positions. During this period he turned to more conservatives views; he cultivated a friendship with Sir Garfield Barwick, Menzies’ Attorney-General, who in 1964 was moved to be Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Between 1966 and 1973 Kerr was the first chairman of the Law Association for Asia and the Western Pacific (LawAsia), later to be unmasked as a C.I.A. agency.

Kerr was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1972.

On 11 July 1974 Kerr was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II as Australian Governor-General, having been nominated by Whitlam on a second choice. Whitlam did not know Kerr well, but trusted the view of some colleagues.

He died in 1991.

Barwick

Sir Garfield Edward John Barwick, AK GCMG QC was born in 1903 in Stanmore – then a slum of inner Sydney, the son of a struggling typesetter, graduated from the University of Sydney with a University Medal in law, and was called to the bar 1927. He knew poverty but spent his life defending wealth – however obtained.

A Q.C. in 1942, he became well known for cases such as the Airlines case, and the Bank Nationalisation case – and always against the Commonwealth Labor Government.

The cold war years found Barwick the preferred advocate in the Menzies Liberal Government’s failed attempt to ban the Communist Party in 1951, and he was also appointed to represent the Australian secret service in the celebrated Petrov Royal Commission of 1954 – the sub-tropical equivalent to the McCarthyite witch-hunts which so pervaded American politics at that time. Barwick was knighted in 1953 for his services to the law.

Barwick was elected to the House of Representatives as a Liberal in 1958, 1961 and 1963. He served as Attorney-General (1958-64) and Minister for External Affairs (1961-64). Menzies dispatched him to the High Court as Chief Justice in 1964. He became the longest serving Chief Justice (1964–81). He also sat as ad hoc judge of the International Court of Justice in 1973-74.

Barwick fame remains attached to several infamous cases on tax avoidance and tax evasion, almost always deciding against the taxation office. Led by Barwick himself in most judgments, the court distinguished between avoidance – legitimately minimising one’s tax obligations and evasion – illegally evading obligations. The decisions effectively nullified the anti-avoidance legislation and led to the proliferation of avoidance schemes in the 1970s, a result which drew much criticism upon the Court.

Barwick thought so much of his lack of bias, even the possible perception of it, as to seat on cases brought to litigation by wealthy corporations in which his own private family company had shares. One such case was that of Mundroola Pty. Ltd., incorporated in 1946, apparently as a means of reducing Barwick’s income tax payments by making over a large sum to his two children.

The matter was first publicly revealed on 18 April 1980. It was then reported in The Australian Financial Review to the effect that the N.S.W. Corporate Affairs Commission had approved plans to strike Mundroola off the register for not lodging annual returns since 1973. Mundroola filed the missing returns six days later. These stated that Barwick had resigned as a director on 31 December 1974. On 26 April 1980 The Age ran an article which detailed how Barwick, without declaring his interest, even a possible conflict of interest, had sat in judgment on cases involving corporations in which Mundroola had shares. On 28 April Senator Gareth Evans gave notice in the Senate that he would next day move that a joint parliamentary committee be appointed to inquire into the Mundroola matter.

The then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, got in first. At 4.15 p.m. on 29 April he produced a letter – dated the previous day – from Barwick absolving himself of all blame. Barwick’s letter said he had no proprietary interest, which was not an issue, in Mundroola. Barwick did not address himself to the question of possible pecuniary interest. He said he could not believe that any fair-minded person would have entertained any doubts about his impartiality in appeal cases. Fraser said no inquiry was needed, or would be granted – and that was that.

More significantly, Barwick advised Governor-General Sir John Kerr on the constitutional legality of dismissing a prime minister who declined to advise an election when unable to obtain passage of supply. This was significant, because Barwick and Whitlam had a history of antipathy dating from the mid-1950s. Further, Whitlam had refused Kerr’s request for permission to consult Barwick, or to act on any advice except his own.

Barwick retired in 1981 and died in 1997.

Fraser

John Malcolm Fraser ACCHGCL was born 1930 in affluent Toorak, Victoria, in a family of the squattocracy – naturally to be enriched by speculation and defended in politics. He received private education in Australia and obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford in 1952.

He was elected to the Australian Parliament in 1955 and appointed to the Prime Minister Holt Cabinet in 1966.

As Minister for the Army he was responsible for the Vietnam war infamous conscription program. Under the new Prime Minister, John Gorton, he became Minister for Education and Science and in 1969 became Minister for Defence during the height of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war and the protests against it.

Following a campaign of disloyalty to Gorton he resigned, but was reappointed to he Cabinet by Prime Minister William McMahon. After the defeat in 1972 he became Shadow Minister for Labour under Billy Snedden.

He was disloyal to Snedden, too, replacing him as Leader of the Opposition on 21 March 1975.

On 11 November 1975 he became caretaker Prime Minister as the beneficiary of Sir John Kerr’s coup against Prime Minister Whitlam. He retired in 1983.

Ever since the Liberal Party so moved to the Right that in 2009 Fraser resigned. Having been an ‘Atlantist’ all his life, he went through some form of conversion, publishing in 2014 Dangerous Allies (Melbourne University Press 2014), in which he warned Australia, a somnolent client-state, vassal of capitalist convenience, of the danger of ‘strategic dependence’ on the United States.

He died in 2015.

 

Australia, with its vast, neuter-minded middle class still cocooned in commercial consumerism, is far from ready for either the stringencies of liberties or radical rebirth.

In the Australian electorate at large there is, indeed, a soft underbelly of complacency and a constipated core of conservatism which almost tipped the Labor Government from office in May 1974.

By March 1975 many Liberal parliamentarians felt that Snedden was doing an inadequate job as Leader of the Opposition, and that Whitlam was dominating him in the House of Representatives.

Malcolm Fraser challenged Snedden for the leadership, and defeated him on 21 March 1975.

At a press conference after winning the leadership, Fraser said:

“The question of supply [bills which are required by the Government to carry on its day-to-day business] – let me deal with it this way. I generally believe if a government is elected to power in the lower House and has the numbers and can maintain the numbers in the lower House, it is entitled to expect that it will govern for the three-year term unless quite extraordinary events intervene … Having said that … if we do make up our minds at some stage that the Government is so reprehensible that an Opposition must use whatever power is available to it, then I’d want to find a situation in which Mr. Whitlam woke up one morning finding the decision had been made and finding that he had been caught with his pants well and truly down” [Emphasis added].

The trigger/pretext that Fraser would use to force the situation was Whitlam’s dismissal of Rex Connor, Minister for Minerals and Energy on 14 October 1975. Whitlam had already dismissed Jim Cairns, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer on 2 July 1975. In both cases the ministers had misled Parliament. It was a high offence – no doubt. Whitlam was enforcing the strictest parliamentary standards; lesser men could have tried simpler perhaps even more expedient ways to brazen it out.

It could be regarded as extraordinary. But was it “reprehensible”? In that adjective there was all the haughty-sounding tone of a privileged ‘future leader of the Empire’, educated at schools where – as it turned out recently – the pukka sahib language is spoken as a cover for bastardisation, intimidation and bullying.

An already difficult situation was complicated by parallel events.

On 10 October 1975 the High Court ruled that the act passed at the parliamentary joint sitting of 6 and 7 August 1974 which gave the Australian Capital Territory, A.C.T. and the Northern Territory two senators each was valid. A half-Senate election needed to be held by June 1976; most senators-elect would take their seats on 1 July but the territorial senators, and those filling the seats of two senators whose election was being disputed would have taken their places at once. The ruling meant that it was possible for the A.L.P. to gain a temporary majority in the Senate, at least until 1 July 1976. To do so, the A.L.P. would have had to win the two contested seats, and one seat in each territory, and have the second A.C.T. seat fall either to a Labor candidate or an independent, former Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton, now estranged from his party and sworn never to be in the same room with Fraser.

Had that occurred, Labor would have had an effective 33–31 margin, would have been   able to pass supply if that was still an issue, and also could pass electoral redistribution laws – which had been passed by the House, though twice defeated by the Senate – that would give it an advantage at the next election.

In the wake of the High Court ruling, and with the appropriation bills due to be considered by the Senate on 16 October, Fraser was undecided whether to block supply.

On 13 October the Melbourne Herald printed documents in support of Khemlani’s allegation that, contrary to government statements, Rex Connor had never revoked his authority to obtain loans and had been in regular contact with him even into mid-1975.

On the following day, Connor was forced to resign.

Fraser made up his mind to block supply; he convened a shadow cabinet meeting and received the unanimous support of the Coalition frontbench.

The decision was itself another gross breach of convention, a fact which would cause considerable angst within sections of the Liberal Party, including a small but vital number of the senators needed to implement the new course. This became crucial as time went on and the crisis deepened.

At a press conference, Fraser cited the poor state of the economy and the ‘continuing scandals’ as reasons for his decision. Without the passage of fresh appropriations, supply would be exhausted on 30 November.

The Coalition could count on a slim majority of 30–29 in the Senate.

On 16 and 17 October, the Senate, with the unanimous support of the Coalition majority, deferred the appropriation bills. The Coalition took the position that Kerr could dismiss Whitlam if the Government could not secure supply.

The Whitlam Government’s former solicitor-general Bob Ellicott, and then a Liberal member of the House, issued a legal opinion on 16 October stating that the Governor-General had the power to dismiss Whitlam, and should do so forthwith if Whitlam could not state how he would obtain supply.

Ellicott’s opinion was that Whitlam was treating Kerr as if he had no discretion but to follow prime ministerial advice, when in fact the Governor-General could and should dismiss a ministry unable to secure supply. Ellicott stated that Kerr “should ask the Prime Minister if the Government is prepared to advise him to dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate or the House of Representatives alone as a means of assuring that the disagreement between the two Houses is resolved. If the Prime Minister refuses to do either, it is then open to the Governor-General to dismiss his present Ministers and seek others who are prepared to give him the only proper advice open. This he should proceed to do”.

Ellicott emphasised the importance of “the reserved powers” of the Governor-General to act independently, even against the advice of ministers. That was music to Kerr’s ears and would provide to him a kind of preventive justification. It was certainly reassuring to Kerr, and not what he would deviously brand as ‘bullshit’ in conversation with Whitlam. Kerr seems to have made up his mind as early as September 1975 that he had the power to dismiss the prime minister, and there would have been no race The Palace.

In the colonial fog, the meaning, extent and application of ‘reserved powers’ would be left to sound judgment and moral decision – qualities both conspicuously absent in Kerr’s personality and behaviour.

On 19 October Kerr rang Whitlam, seeking permission to consult with the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, concerning the crisis. Whitlam advised Kerr not to do so, noting that no Governor-General had consulted with a Chief Justice under similar circumstances since 1914, when Australia was at a much earlier stage of her constitutional development.

On 21 October Kerr phoned Whitlam regarding the Ellicott opinion, and queried – perhaps by way of ‘reassuring’ the Prime Minister – whether “It’s all bullshit, isn’t it?” Whitlam agreed with Kerr’s view. He believed in Kerr’s probity as a person, former chief justice, fully aware Governor-General.

Kerr then requested that the Government provide him with a written legal opinion rebutting Ellicott’s views. The trap was being refined, and Whitlam would be tranquillised but Kerr’s appearance of propriety.

On 22 October Whitlam asked the Attorney-General, Keppel Earl ‘Kep’ Enderby, to have a paper drafted rebutting the Ellicott opinion for presentation to Kerr. Enderby delegated this task to the Solicitor-General, Maurice Byers, and other officials.  On 6 November Enderby was to see Kerr to give him a legal opinion regarding the Government’s alternative plans in case supply ran out – vouchers were to be issued instead of cheques, to be redeemed from banks after the crisis ended, and decided to present Kerr with the rebuttal to Ellicott. When Enderby reviewed the document, he found that, while it argued for the Government’s position, it recognised both that the Senate had the constitutional right to block supply, and that the ‘reserve powers’ were still extant – matters with which Enderby did not agree. He presented Kerr with the rebuttal, but crossed out Byers’ signature on it and told Kerr of his disagreement. Enderby told Kerr that the Byers rebuttal was ‘background’ for formal written advice, to be presented by Whitlam. Later that day, Kerr met with Fraser again. The Opposition leader told him that if Kerr did not dismiss Whitlam, the Opposition planned to criticise him in Parliament for failing to carry out his duty.

Kerr would receive no written advice from the Government until 6 November.

Kerr had also asked on 21 October for Whitlam’s permission to interview Fraser; the Prime Minister readily obliged, and the two men met that night. Fraser confirmed to Kerr that the Opposition had not yet determined strictly ‘to block supply’, but would instead ‘defer the appropriation bills’, not defeat them. This was presented as a tactical decision, since the bills would remain in the control of the Senate and could be passed at any time.

Fraser also confirmed that the Coalition agreed with the Ellicott opinion, and proposed to continue deferring supply while it awaited events. The media were not told of the substance of the conversation, and instead reported that Kerr had reprimanded Fraser for blocking supply, causing the Governor-General’s office to issue a denial.

Throughout the crisis, Kerr did not tell Whitlam of his increasing concerns, nor did he suggest that he might dismiss him. He believed nothing he said would influence Whitlam, and feared that, if Whitlam perceived him as a possible opponent, the Prime Minister would procure his dismissal from the Queen.

In addition, a week and insecure man like Kerr might have taken seriously what Whitlam considered a ‘flippant’ comment, made on 16 October, about the possibility that he would contact the Queen about the Governor-General in the continuing crisis. The comment, which could not have been taken seriously as it was directed to Kerr in the presence of the visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, went like this: “It could be a question of whether I get to the Queen first for your recall, or whether you get in first with my dismissal”. It is a possibility which, according to Whitlam, he had never contemplated.

Kerr chose to interpret the statement as a threat. Accordingly, though Kerr dealt with Whitlam in an affable manner, he did not confide his thinking to the Prime Minister.

Fraser sought the support of Sir Robert Menzies, and went to see Menzies in person, taking with him a 1947 statement by Menzies supporting the blocking of supply in the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament. Menzies stated that he found the tactic distasteful, but in this case necessary. The former Prime Minister issued a statement in support of Fraser’s tactics.

Kerr invited Whitlam and Senator Jim McClelland, Minister for Labour, to lunch on 30 October, immediately preceding an Executive Council meeting. It was reported that Kerr proposed a possible compromise. If the Opposition were to allow supply to pass, Whitlam would not advise a half-Senate election until May or June 1976, and the Senate would not convene until 1 July, thus obviating the threat of a possible temporary Labor majority. Whitlam, who was adamantly incensed by the Senate’s decision, refused any compromise.

On 2 November Fraser chaired a meeting of leaders of the Coalition parties. The resulting communiqué urged the Coalition senators to continue deferring supply. It also threatened, should Kerr grant Whitlam a half-Senate election, that the Coalition state premiers would advise their governors not to issue writs, thus blocking the election from taking place in the four states with non-Labor premiers. After the meeting, Fraser proposed a compromise: that the Opposition would concede supply if Whitlam agreed to hold a House of Representatives election at the same time as the half-Senate election. Whitlam rejected the idea.

Kerr concluded on 6 November that neither Government nor Opposition would yield, and that supply would run out. The view put about was that, as Whitlam could not secure supply, and would not resign or advise an election for the House of Representatives, the Governor-General would have to dismiss him. As Kerr feared that Whitlam might advise the Queen to dismiss him, he considered it important that Whitlam be given no hint of the impending action. Kerr later stated that were Whitlam to seek his dismissal, it would involve the Queen in politics.

One should be careful while entering the royal world of smoke, mirrors, hints, protocols, and hypocrisy – in common parlance: cant. And superb practice of that cant is left to courtiers, fawners, lackeys, sycophants and servile self-seeking flatterers.

Here is the case for ‘a decision of the highest order’. Hocking biography provides compelling evidence, from Kerr’s personal notes, that the Queen herself was giving him the confidence to dismiss Whitlam (Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: his time, Melbourne 2012).

The evidence is circumstantial, but involves ‘Royals’.

In mid-September 1975, two months before the dismissal, Kerr was in Papua New Guinea attending that country’s independence ceremonies. There he spoke with Prince Charles. They had a personal connection, according to a biography of Charles, because the previous year Kerr had raised with the heir to the throne the possibility that he might have a term as Governor-General himself. With that established connection, Hocking writes that Kerr was confident enough to raise with Charles the possible dismissal of the Whitlam Government and his concerns that he could be dismissed had the Prime Minister got to The Palace first.

According to Kerr’s notes – as examined by Hocking – Charles replied: “But surely, Sir John, the Queen should not have to accept advice that you should be recalled at the very time, should this happen, when you were considering having to dismiss the government”.

Hocking writes that when Charles returned from Papua New Guinea he took up Kerr’s concerns with the Queen’s Private Secretary, Sir Martin Charteris. Sir Martin then wrote to Kerr, just a week before the supply crisis leading to the dismissal began, says Hocking with what she calls “remarkable advice”.

The Queen’s private secretary told Kerr – and this again is according to Kerr’s personal notes quoted by Hocking – that should “the contingency to which you refer” arise the Queen would “try to delay things”, although, Sir Martin said, in the end she would have to take the advice of her Prime Minister.

That seems a rather circuitous way of saying everything, but committing to nothing in the mannered “Chinese-esque” language of courtesans.

And there is no doubt that the clearly implied support of the Monarch would have been an immense comfort to the Governor-General, who feared he might be out of commission if he tried to dismiss Whitlam (Marius Benson, ‘Whitlam dismissal a decision of the highest order’, 3 September 2012, retrieved at www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-31/bensonwhitlam-dismissal/4236150).

Interestingly, on 12 November, Gordon Scholes, still Speaker of the House of Representatives, would write to the Queen, asking her to restore Whitlam as Prime Minister. The reply from Sir Martin Charteris, dated 17 November 1975, would read:

“As we understand the situation here, the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General as the representative of the Queen of Australia. The only person competent to commission an Australian Prime Minister is the Governor-General, and The Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution. Her Majesty, as Queen of Australia, is watching events in Canberra with close interest and attention, but it would not be proper for her to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution Act”.

Everything is possible to foreign, distant, un-accountable monarchs: “try to delay things” or do nothing – whatever.

There is also another cause for supposition. Sometime towards the end of September 1975, almost two months before the coup, during a visit to Bali Andrew Peacock, an unsuccessful rival to Fraser, disclosed amazingly detailed knowledge of a ‘scenario’ of what was to happen on 11 November 1975. One of the crucial points, as far as Peacock is concerned, is that the conversation took place with persons attached to Bakhin, the well known Indonesian Secret Police. According to a Bakhin report of the meeting, Peacock said that at that time the Opposition parties were leading 20 per cent in the opinion polls over Labor and in order to win a general election it was sufficient to have only 3 per cent and the Opposition wanted to force an early general election. And he mentioned November 1975. He added that he was not in favour of arriving to a general election by rejecting the supply bill in the Senate but he felt his party would be forced to agree to bring on a general election because pressure was already strong enough, and because – he said – 9 out of 11 members of the Shadow Cabinet agreed with the bringing on of an election. He went on that ‘there might be a bit of a problem with two Liberal senators who would not follow the command of the party’, which also proved to be true, but if the supply bill can really be rejected by the Senate the following possibility could develop: Prime Minister Whitlam would not be prepared to dissolve the House and the Senate, but would try to continue to govern without a budget. In the end, he would not be able to pay the wages of public servants, and the situation would become chaotic. Another option was that Whitlam may appeal against the Senate to the High Court and that would mean a constitutional battle would result. But Peacock postulated another possibility: Whitlam would not agree to a double dissolution or to hold a general election and the Governor-General Sir John Kerr would be forced to ask Malcolm Fraser to form a Cabinet but this Cabinet would not be able to get a mandate to govern because the House is controlled by Labor and what can happen is that Malcolm Fraser is appointed Prime Minister and a minute later he asks the Governor-General to dissolve both houses of Parliament following which a general election is to be held.
The information was released by Bakhin in September 1975. It was not generally noted, but the anticipated ‘scenario’ proved to be remarkably accurate (John Pilger, A secret country, London 1990 at 237-38).

It is quite possible that Kerr was contemplating dismissing Whitlam two months before he so acted.

But Kerr ignored Whitlam’s instruction, deceived him, and went on to Barwick, a sworn political and personal enemy to Whitlam.

Seeking confirmation of his already-arrived-at decision, Kerr met with Barwick and asked for his views of a dismissal of Whitlam. Barwick furnished him with written advice containing his view that a Governor-General could and should dismiss a Prime Minister who was unable to obtain supply. Barwick specified that the Prime Minister should also not have refused either to resign or to advise a general election, with which Kerr agreed.

Barwick gave Kerr the support he needed.

Kerr felt encouraged. And never mind that in giving his opinion Sir Garfield was breaching the highly esteemed ‘doctrine of the separation of powers’. Barwick could have written pages on it without believing a word of it.

Whitlam had the highest respect for ‘the doctrine’ and firmly believed that the Queen’s representative must rely on the advice of his ministers – the essence of the Westminster tradition of constitutional rule. This immediately opened another door for Kerr: he could have summoned Fraser and told him that he was bound by Whitlam’s advice, so the only solution was for Fraser to retreat.

As it turned out some thirty seven years after, there was another member of the High Court and a friend of Kerr involved in the ambush. It was Sir Anthony Mason. Mason had a reputation for impartiality. He was – as the myth-making language goes – ‘apolitical’.

In the end, Mason also breached convention by offering Kerr advice and even preparing a document of dismissal, that Kerr ended up not using. Mason was satisfied by taking an apparently more neutral stance and telling Kerr that he should at least warn Whitlam of his thinking and give him the advantageous chance to call an election himself – as Prime Minister. Sir Anthony gave Kerr similar advice to that of Sir Garfield, privately, on 9 November. But Mason added that the Governor-General needed to notify the Prime Minister of his intention to proceed to dismissal.

Kerr identified the person who would become Chief Justice (1987-95) as the “’third man”, who secretly advised and “fortified” him in his decision to dismiss the Whitlam Government.

Kerr’s private records insist that Sir Anthony “played the most significant part in my thinking” and even reassured him that he had made the right call two days before he dismissed the government.

They also assert that Sir Anthony, at the time a High Court judge, was the author of a statement that Kerr “incorporated in my public statement” justifying his actions.

The records were uncovered by Professor Jenny Hocking. Hocking says that Kerr’s records suggest that “Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man”.

Kerr’s records make it clear that he wanted the extent of Sir Anthony’s role to surface after his own death but while Sir Anthony was still alive, with the aim of deflecting his responsibility for the deception and dismissal of Whitlam.

“In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role” Kerr wrote.

And further: “I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known”.

The account adds weight to the perception of Kerr as a weak man who wanted and needed to feel his actions had the approval of others. Aside from being portrayed as a constant confidant, the record depicts Sir Anthony “as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and chief justice Sir Garfield Barwick” writes Hocking.

Sir Anthony’s role in the dismissal has been the subject of speculation for decades, after Kerr noted in his memoir that one person other than Barwick, “sustained me in my own thinking as to the imperative within which I had to act”.

The detail laid out in Kerr’s private papers on their “running conversation” staggered Hocking. “I was just astonished by what I read”.

Sir Anthony had consistently refused to be drawn on his role. But he offered his own detailed account of what took place and agreed to render it public (Sir Anthony Mason, ‘It was unfolding like a Greek tragedy’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2012).

In conclusion: here was a ‘third’ man; was there also a First Woman?

Sometime in October 1975 some staff members of the Prime Minister’s Department, began to look into suspected C.I.A. involvement in Australia, particularly with reference to the American bases.

They received a tip about Richard Stallings, the head of Pine Gap between 1966 and 1968, during the base’s construction. Whitlam was told that he was a C.I.A. employee working under the cover of the U.S. Defense Department. In order to authenticate the information, the Prime Minister’s Department asked the Foreign Affairs Department for its list of all C.I.A. agents in Australia. Stallings’ name was not on it. However, it came to Whitlam’s attention that the Australian Defence Department kept a more comprehensive list. Richard Stallings appeared on that list.

Sir Arthur Tange, permanent head of the Defence Department, warned Whitlam that he – Tange – had a duty to inform the C.I.A. that Whitlam knew the identity of one of its deep cover agents. Whitlam raised no objection. The C.I.A. now knew that Whitlam was on the know.

In the acrimonious dispute between government and opposition, in a speech to a Labor rally in Alice Springs on 2 November 1975, Whitlam made a remark, possibly without premeditation: “Every week, [Malcolm Fraser] gets more and more desperate in his abuse of me. I have had no association with C.I.A. money in Australia as Mr. Anthony has …” he said. He was referring to Doug Anthony, National Country Party Leader, and deputy leader of the Opposition. Anthony and Stallings had been friends for quite some time, after Stallings and his family had rented Anthony’s Canberra home.

Whitlam did not actually name Stallings. But on 3 November 1975 an article in The Australian Financial Review expanded on Whitlam’s accusation and named Richard Lee Stallings as the C.I.A. employee, and Pine Gap as a C.I.A.-run installation.

Anthony felt compelled to defend himself. He said that he was not aware that his friend Stallings was a C.I.A. man. He demanded that Whitlam provide evidence. In a speech two days later, Whitlam stated that he knew of at least two instances in which the C.I.A. had funded the Opposition parties, but he did not provide any proof.

At this point, the Australian Foreign Affairs and Defence Departments, through the American Embassy in Canberra, made it clear to the U.S. State Department and President Ford that they “would welcome formal U.S. Government statements denying any CIA financial involvement in Australian political parties”. The U.S. State Department obliged, and categorically denied that Stallings was a C.I.A. employee. The U.S. Embassy and William Colby, Executive Director of the C.I.A., also denied C.I.A. involvement in Australian politics.

Sir Arthur Tange, was extremely concerned about the naming of Stallings and its consequences. Sir Arthur had extensive contacts with the intelligence community and realised how angry the Americans were about Whitlam and the press revealing C.I.A. operatives and installations. He made frantic efforts to diffuse the situation. He asked Bill Morrison, the Defence Minister, to speak to Doug Anthony and convince him to drop the matter for the sake of ‘national security’. But it was in vain. Anthony wanted to clear his name and refused to drop the case. Instead, he put a question on the Parliamentary notice paper for Whitlam to provide proof of his accusations.

Whitlam’s answer was scheduled to be read on 11 November, the very day Whitlam and his government would be dismissed.

A draft copy of Whitlam’s intended answer was circulated, and a copy given to Sir Arthur. The answer stated that Whitlam had obtained his information from the Defence Department, which in turn obtained its information from the U.S. Defense Department. Tange tried desperately to get Whitlam to modify his answer. He was concerned that because the U.S. Government had categorically denied that Stallings was a C.I.A. employee, Whitlam would be calling members of the U.S. Government liars. But Whitlam refused to change his answer, as he believed that not to reveal his sources would be to mislead Parliament. On the day Whitlam was to read his answer in Parliament, Tange told a Whitlam staffer that “This is the gravest risk to the nation’s security there has ever been”.

From Langley, Virginia, unable to contain his obsession with the Whitlam Government, Ted Shackley sent the now famous cable – through the A.S.I.O.’s Washington Office to A.S.I.O. headquarters in Australia. What follows is the entire text of the cable:

“Following message received from A.S.I.O. Liaison Officer Washington: Begins: On November 8 Shackley Chief East Asia Division CI.A. requested me to pass the following message to [Director General].

On November 2 the P.M. of Australia made a statement at Alice Springs to the effect that the C.I.A. had been funding Anthony’s National Country Party in Australia. On November 4 the U.S. Embassy in Australia approached Australian Government at the highest level and categorically denied that C.I.A. had given or passed funds to an organisation or candidate for political office in Australia and to this effect was delivered to Roland at [Department of Foreign Affairs] Canberra on November 5. On November 6 Asst Secretary Edwards of U.S. State Department visiting [the Deputy Chief of Mission] at the Australian Embassy in Washington and passed same message that the C.I.A. had not funded an Australian Political Party. It was requested that this message be sent to Canberra. At this stage C.I.A. was dealing only with the Stallings incident and was adopting a no comment attitude in the hope that the matter would be given little or no publicity. Stallings is a retired C.I.A. employee.

On November 6 the Prime Minister publicly repeated the allegation that he knew of two instances in which C.I.A. money had been used to influence domestic Australian politics. Simultaneously press coverage in Australia was such that a number of C.I.A. members serving in Australia have been identified – Walker under State Department cover and Fitzwater and Bonin under Defense cover. Now that these four persons have been publicised it is not possible for the C.I.A. to continue to deal with the matter on a no comment basis. They now have to confer with the cover agencies which have been saying that the persons concerned are in fact what they say [they] are, e.g. Defense Department saying that Stallings is a retired Defense Department employee.

On November 7 fifteen newspaper or wire service reps called the Pentagon seeking information on the allegations made in Australia. C.I.A. is perplexed at this point as to what all this means. Does this signify some change in our bilateral intelligence security related fields? C.I.A. cannot see how this dialogue with continued reference to C.I.A. can do other than blow the lid off those installations where the persons concerned have been working and which are vital to both of our services and countries, particularly the installations at Alice Springs.

On November 7, at a press conference, Colby was asked whether the allegations made in Australia were true. He categorically denied them.

Congressman Otis Pike Chairman of the Congressional Committee inquiring into the C.I.A., has begun to make enquiries on the issue and has asked whether the C.I.A. has been funding Australian political parties. This has been denied by the C.I.A. rep in Canberra in putting the C.I.A. position to relevant persons there.

However, C.I.A. feels it necessary to speak also directly to A.S.I.O. because of the complexity of the problem. Has A.S.I.O. [headquarters] been contacted or involved? C.I.A. can understand a statement made in political debate but constant further unravelling worries them. Is there a change in the Prime Minister’s attitude in Australian policy in this field? This message should be regarded as an official demarche on a service to service link. It is a frank explanation of a problem seeking counsel on that problem. C.I.A. feels that everything possible has been done on a diplomatic basis and now on an intelligence liaison link they feel that if this problem cannot be solved they do not see how our mutually beneficial relationships are going to continue.

The C.I.A. feels grave concerns as to where this type of public discussion may lead. The [Director General] should be assured that C.I.A. does not lightly adopt this attitude. Your urgent advice would be appreciated as to the reply which should be made to C.I.A.

Ambassador is fully informed of this message”.

Asked a few years later Shackley said that his cable had authorisation from above. Above him, and throughout his brilliant career, was always Kissinger.

9 November seemed destined to become a crucial day for the coup.

On that day Kerr paid a visit to the Defence Signal Directorate, where he was briefed on the ‘security crisis’. He then asked for a telephone and spent twenty minutes in hushed conversation. According to the base commanding officer, he demanded that the telephone be ‘secure’. Despite numerous requests, Kerr never explained what he was doing there.

On 9 November Fraser contacted Whitlam and invited him to negotiations with the Coalition aimed at settling the dispute. Whitlam agreed, and a meeting was set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday 11 November, at Parliament House. That Tuesday was also the deadline for an election to be called if it were to be held before 25 December. Both Government and Opposition leaders were in Melbourne on the night of 10 November for the Lord Mayor’s banquet. To ensure the Opposition leaders could reach Canberra in time for the meeting, Whitlam brought them back in his VIP aircraft, which arrived in Canberra at midnight.

At 9 a.m. on 11 November, Whitlam, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the House of Representatives met with the Liberal and Country party leaders. No compromise could be reached. Whitlam informed the Coalition leaders that he would be advising Kerr to hold a half-Senate election on 13 December, and he would not be seeking interim supply for the period before the election. Thinking it unlikely that Kerr would grant the election without supply, Fraser warned Whitlam that the Governor-General might make up his own mind about the matter. Whitlam was dismissive and after the meeting broke, telephoned Kerr to tell him that he needed an appointment to advise him to hold a half-Senate election. Both men were busy in the morning, Kerr with Remembrance Day commemorations, and Whitlam with a caucus meeting and a censure motion in the House that the Opposition had submitted. The two discussed a meeting for 1:00 p.m.         though Kerr’s office later called Whitlam’s and confirmed the time as 12:45. Word of this change did not reach the Prime Minister. Whitlam announced the request for a half-Senate election to the Labor caucus, which approved it.

After hearing from Whitlam, Kerr called Fraser. According to Fraser, Kerr asked him whether he, if commissioned Prime Minister, could secure supply, would immediately thereafter advise a double-dissolution election, and would refrain from new policies and investigations of the Whitlam Government pending the election. Fraser said that he agreed. Kerr denied the exchange took place through telephone, though both men agree those questions were asked later in the day before Kerr commissioned Fraser as Prime Minister. According to Kerr, Fraser was supposed to come to Yarralumla at 1.00 p.m.

Whitlam was delayed in leaving Parliament House, while Fraser left slightly early, with the result that Fraser arrived at Yarralumla first. For good measure, he arrived at the back-door and was guided to a backroom. Fraser’s car was moved away, out of sight from Whitlam arrival, and not to cause suspicion.

Whitlam arrived just before 1:00 p.m. and was escorted to Kerr’s office by an aide. He was carrying the formal letter advising a half-Senate election, and after the two men were seated, attempted to give it to Kerr.

Suddenly Kerr told Whitlam that his commission as Prime Minister was withdrawn under Section 64 of the Constitution, and handed him a letter and statement of his reasons. It may be worth remembering the relevant words of that Section: “Ministers of State. The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish. Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth …”.

Kerr later wrote that at this point Whitlam got to his feet, looked at the office’s phones, and said: “I must get in touch with the Palace at once”.

Whitlam, however disputed this, and stated that he asked Kerr if he had consulted The Palace, to which Kerr replied that he did not need to, and that he had the advice of Barwick. Kerr then stated that they would both have to live with this, to which Whitlam replied, “You certainly will”. The dismissal concluded with Kerr wishing Whitlam luck in the election.

After Whitlam left, Kerr called in Fraser, informed him of the dismissal, and asked if he would form a caretaker government, to which Fraser agreed. Fraser later stated that his overwhelming sensation at the news was relief. Fraser left to return to Parliament House, where he conferred with Coalition leaders, while Kerr joined the luncheon party which had been waiting for him, apologising to his guests and offering the excuse that he had been busy dismissing the Government.

Whitlam returned to the Prime Minister’s residence, The Lodge. As his aides arrived, he informed them of the dismissal. He then drafted a resolution for the House, expressing confidence in his Government. No Labor senator was at The Lodge. Whitlam intended to confine his strategy to the House of Representatives.

Fate would want that, prior to the Government dismissal, the Labor leadership decided to introduce a motion that the Senate pass the appropriation bills. Labor senators were still unaware of the dismissal, and the plan went ahead. Senator Doug McClelland, Manager of the Government’s Business in the Senate, informed his counterpart in the Coalition, Senator Reg Withers of Labor’s plan at about 1.30. Withers would soon become aware of Fraser’s appointment; he assured the new Prime Minister he could secure supply. When the Senate convened, Labor Senate leader, Ken Wriedt, put the motion. As he was doing so, he was informed that Whitlam had been dismissed. At first he refused to believe it. Confirmation would reach him at 2.15 p.m., by which time it was too late to withdraw the motion. At 2.24 p.m., Labor’s appropriation bills passed the Senate, fulfilling Fraser’s first promise.

Word of the dismissal did not reach the House of Representatives until 2.34 p.m., when Fraser rose and announced that he had been commissioned as Prime Minister, that he would have advised a double dissolution, and moved that the House adjourn. His motion was defeated. Fraser’s new government suffered a vote of no confidence, and the House asked the Speaker, Gordon Scholes, to urge the Governor-General to recommission Whitlam. Scholes was initially told that an appointment might not be possible that day, but after stating that he would reconvene the House and tell them of the refusal, was given an appointment with Kerr for 4.45 p.m.

The appropriation bills, once approved by both Houses, were sent over to Government House where Kerr gave them Royal Assent. With supply assured, he then received Fraser, who advised him that 21 bills – including the electoral redistribution bills – which had been introduced since the last election fulfilled the double dissolution provisions of Section 57. Fraser asked that both Houses be dissolved for an election on 13 December. Kerr signed the proclamation dissolving Parliament, and sent his Official Secretary, David Smith, to proclaim the dissolution from the front steps of Parliament House.

At 4.45 p.m., Kerr received Scholes, and informed him of the dissolution. Kerr wrote that “nothing else of relevance” took place between the two men, but by Scholes’s account, he accused Kerr of bad faith for making an appointment to receive the Speaker, and then not waiting to hear from him before dissolving Parliament. Whitlam later stated that it would have been wiser for Scholes to take the appropriation bills with him, rather than having them sent ahead.

Even as Scholes and Kerr spoke, Smith reached Parliament House. The dismissal was by then publicly known, and an angry crowd of Labor supporters had gathered, filling the steps and spilling over both into the roadway and into Parliament House itself. Many of the demonstrators were Labor staffers; others were from the Australian National University. Smith was forced to enter Parliament House through a side door and make his way to the steps from the inside. He read the proclamation, though the boos of the crowd drowned him out, and concluded with the traditional “God save the Queen”. Former Prime Minister Whitlam, who had been standing behind Smith, then addressed the crowd:

“Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’, because nothing will save the Governor-General! The Proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s Official Secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser, who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur. They won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House, even if the inside has been silenced for a few weeks … Maintain your rage and enthusiasm for the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day”.

The news that Whitlam had been dismissed spread across Australia during the afternoon, triggering immediate protest demonstrations.

On 13 December 1975 the anti-Labor Coalition won a record victory; with 55.7 per cent of the votes it won with 91 seats, while Labor only gained 36 seats although it had 44.3 per cent of the votes. In the Senate the Coalition gained 35 seats against 27 to Labor.

Whitlam stayed on as Leader of the Opposition. The Labor Party suffered another heavy defeat on 10 December 1977: 86 seats in the House to the Coalition with 54.6 per cent of the vote; 38 to Labor with 45.4 per cent of the votes. Such percentage result from the fraudulent electoral system in use in Australia! And so much for one head, one vote! And that is the meaning of parliamentary democracy? Pantomime democracy, perhaps …

The magic was never recaptured. Whitlam resigned from Parliament on 31 July 1978. He remained active, held various academic positions; was appointed as Ambassador to U.N.E.S.C.O., based in Paris, in 1983; was appointed chairman of the National Gallery of Australia in 1987.

In 2007 Whitlam moved into an aged care facility in Sydney. Despite this, he continued to go to his office three days a week.

On the morning of 21 October 2014, Whitlam’s family announced his death, at the age of 98, and that there would be a private incineration and a public memorial service. Whitlam was survived by his four children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

After the defeat of 1977 Graham Freudenberg, for years speechwriter for Labor people, and loyal friend of Whitlam, commented: “The meaning and the message were unmistakable. It was the Australian people’s rejection of Edward Gough Whitlam”.

Perhaps Australians never wanted a ‘tall poppy’ like Whitlam. And that may very well be the ultimate reason for such rejection.

Whitlam had offered too much, and asked too much.

The Whitlam Program, as laid out in the 1972 election platform, contained three main objectives:

  • to promote equality;
  • to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land; and
  • to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.

Australians like the kind of British, passionless muddling through which is available in grand loads ‘at Home’. Muddling through comes as way of life, a cult almost and its religious solemnity is celebrated by looking from below at a grandiosely dysfunctional, decaying, parasitic, over-dated ‘Family’, with its be-medalled males and ‘forever youthful’ women, standing above for its people to admire it.

It does not matter that Australians like to make joke of some, perhaps many, members of the ‘Family’.

Muddling through suits Australians, because in the royal world of smoke, mirrors, hints and protocols there is room for authorised doubt. It helps equivocation, non-commitment.

Whitlam would have, through education free for all, pulled back the curtain on Australian corroded and corrosive political system, which has been rendered inchoate – bland public performances by ‘battery-farm’ politicians alternating with vicious television ads – after 40 years of cynical massage by consultants and pollsters. This is anyway the story through ‘the tube’, which arrived about sixty years ago, in Menzian time.

There is hardly any difference nowadays between a commercial and a ‘political’ advertisement. And how blah it has all become!

It is the ‘politics’ as expressed and practiced at the pub, or in the living rooms, and not exclusively by white men with a limited education and a will determined not to be disturbed by curiosity. But television – particularly private television – does not hold the truth. Television is most of the time an amusement park, a bad assortment of a circus, a carnival, a travelling troupe of acrobats and story-tellers, singers and dancers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion-tamers and football players.

That ‘third parent’ – if a child were to be so lucky to have the other two together – is in the boredom-killing business. It is rarely the source of truth, and even more infrequently of education.

Two generations, at least, of such non-participants – as it suits the two-party-Westminster-like system – have mistaken illusion for reality. Because of that the viewers of such incantation do whatever ‘the tube’ tells them, think like ‘the tube’, rear their children like ‘the tube’, dress like ‘the tube’, eat like ‘the tube’. In that ultimate theatre a mindless populace has found its ultimate charlatans.

These plastic men – and some women, too – these ‘managers’ work for the corporate society into which they have turned Australia, a section of the ‘western’ corporate world in a corporate universe. This world quite simply is a vast cosmology of small corporations orbiting around larger corporations – mostly foreign – which in turn revolve around giant corporations. Yet, this is not the real world. It is the ‘world’ of the post-Whitlam ‘restoration’, largely with the values of ‘the market’.

In the fierce arena of ‘politics’ as ‘played’ today if ‘the tube’ hints or says that one has received, or is about to receive a fantastic sum of money, or is corrupt, or if the-one-proprietor-media say so, that is enough not to question and to give the vote to ‘the other party’. And the Westminster system is based on two parties – no more, no room for shades, doubt, honest compromise or third solution to a problem.

Such backward, feudal and deleterious over-simplification, more often than not, committed to a short-bite sound, without room for discussion, produces the murmur which cost the future to Cairns and Connor, portrayed the Whitlam Government as a band of amateurs, who could not be trusted to replace the ‘tried experts’.

That the experts turned out to be the crooks of the Australian Wheat Board, aided and abetted by a Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister, all of them operating against United Nations declared sanctions, is mentioned only in passing – if at all.

Memories are very short, and selectively so. And so the helots – who in ancient Sparta were a class of serfs neither a slave nor free citizens – draw the despairing conclusion that ‘they – meaning ‘the politicians’ – are all the same’. But in this miasmatic presentation the Liberals are still ‘more respectable’. The question remains: ‘respectable’ by whom, where, why and how? The monarchy needs such morons; it thrives on them.

One is back to the master-servant relationship which seems to pervade the Australian society.

Whitlam might have been persuaded to blast through the ideological sclerosis of the two parties ‘system’, to make room for voices different from the original inhabitants, the old and the ‘new Australians’ – that mysterious mélange of different people referred to en masse as multicultural, who should be welcome – and not ostracised, not exposed to historical nativist, anti-refugee xenophobia.

If given the chance, Whitlam could have transformed a soi-disant Judeo-Christian-dominated ‘British’ tradition into a real nation, a gloriously vibrating – by ‘British’ standards – mongrel polyglot society, open to new ideas, friendly to its neighbours after so many years of discrimination, mistrust and aggression.

Reduced to its absurd minimalism the television bites favour ‘three-word programs’.

The new mantra is a little bit longer nowadays, but it is early in the piece. Anyway, here it is: “freedom, the individual and the market”.

A fitting tribute to ‘an old man’

A state memorial service was held on 5 November 2014 in the Sydney Town Hall and was conducted by Kerry O’Brien, who had been press secretary to Whitlam. The ‘Welcome to Country’ was given by Aunty Millie Ingram, C.E.O. Wyanga Aged Care and Spokesperson of the Redfern Waterloo Aboriginal Alliance. Eulogies were offered by Graham Freudenberg, Cate Blanchett, the internationally famous Australian actress who delivered a heartfelt thanks to Whitlam for making it possible to pursue her studies with the advantages of Whitlam school reform, Noel Pearson, the Aboriginal Australian lawyer, academic, land rights activist and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, former senator John Faulkner, and Antony Whitlam, the eldest son, an Australian lawyer who has served as a politician and judge.

Their contributions were all warm, contained and moving. The Hall was full, with many good people, a strong contingent of Aborigines, the usual attendees, several former prime ministers of all modest stature – except one, and amongst them an omni-present un-indicted war-criminal. And then there were the usual celebrities and several ‘whited sepulchres’.

Thousands of common people were outside, the faithful ones, those who would not forget ‘those three highly charged years and their aftermath’ – as Pearson would say.

He was the most lyrical, assertive, sublime.

Pearson, most warmly, forcefully, movingly remembered Whitlam for his burning conviction to break down class and race barriers:

“We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people. When he breathed, he truly was Australia’s greatest white elder and friend without peer of the original Australians.

Of course recalling the Whitlam government’s legacy has been for the past 39 years since the dismissal, a fraught and partisan business. Assessments of those three highly charged years and their aftermath, divide between the nostalgia and fierce pride of the faithful, and the equally vociferous opinion that the Whitlam years represented the nadir of national government in Australia.

Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management. In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern, cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.

Thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding ‘and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?’

Apart from Medibank?

and the Trade Practices Act 1974?

cutting tariff protections?

and no-fault divorce and the Family Law Act 1975?

the Australia Council?

the Federal Court?

the Order of Australia?

federal legal aid?

the Racial Discrimination Act 1975?

needs-based schools funding?

the recognition of China?

the Law Reform Commission?

the abolition of conscription?

student financial assistance?

FM radio and the Heritage Commission?

non-discriminatory immigration rules?

community health clinics?

Aboriginal land rights?

paid maternity leave for public servants?

lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years?

fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the Territories?

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?

And the prime minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth – in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.

There is no need for nostalgia and yearning for what might have been. The achievements of this old man are present in the institutions we today take for granted, and played no small part in the progress of modern Australia”.

* Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

 

The Anglo-American ambush of the Whitlam Government – 11.11.1975 (Part 3)

Who was really behind the dismissal of the Whitlam Government? As we approach the 40th anniversary of the dismissal, Dr George Venturini* critically examines the giddy rise of Gough Whitlam, his reforms, his cold relationship with the Nixon Administration, the Khemlani loan scandal, the dismissal of the Whitlam Government on 11th November, 1975 and the questions that have lingered since. This is a four part series which will conclude on the anniversary of the dismissal.

Is this an ally?

In November 1972 the American people re-elected Richard Milhous Nixon to the Presidency of the United States. Nixon would have on his side Henry Alfred Kissinger, a proponent of Realpolitik, who played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977.

Both turned out to be war criminals. Nixon’s name is indelibly connected with Watergate. There was nothing that Kissinger would/would not do in pursuit of one of his ‘principles’ – a ‘philosophy’ thus formulated: “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer”. He said so in the presence of Melih Esenbel, Turkish Foreign Minister, in Ankara, on 10 March 1975.

In December 1972 the Australian people elected Edward Gough Whitlam’s party to form the government. Left in those hands, the American Administration response to the Whitlam Government could only be sinister.

But there was also from the very beginning a ‘problem of acceptance’ of the new government. In outlining his ‘Program’ Whitlam offered much, perhaps too much: “We have a new chance for our nation. We can recreate this nation. We have a new chance for our region. We can help recreate this region”.

He asked the electors:

“Do you believe that Australia can afford another three years like the last twenty months? Are you prepared to maintain at the head of your affairs a coalition which has lurched into crisis after crisis, embarrassment piled on embarrassment week after week? Will you accept another three years of waiting for next week’s crisis, next week’s blunder? Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for ten years? Or to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for twenty years? Can you trust the last-minute promises of men who stood against these very same proposals for twenty-three years? Would you trust your international affairs again to the men who gave you Vietnam? Will you trust your defences to the men who haven’t even yet given you the F-111?”

The response from an electorate attuned to periodical ‘plebiscites’, when part of a parliament is ‘chosen’ through an electoral system which defies any decent notion of democracy by compulsory exhaustive distribution of the votes cast in the ‘two-party’ system to which 23 years of torpor had lulled a largely indifferent populace, was rather disappointing. Labor-with-Whitlam obtained a slim but working majority of nine in the House, but did not gain the Senate.

Any explanation would require a lengthy discussion. Perhaps a historical master-servant relationship would go a short way – but precisely: people who share the rhetoric of ‘mateship’ and the illusion of “fair go”, who satisfy themselves with the notion that “she’ll be right” and who trust that the essence of life is “no worries”, easily become accustomed to ‘things as they are’ under the reassuring ‘presence’ of the Hanovers – who would guarantee from abroad what passes as form and propriety, even if in time expressed by a majordomo in top hat and tails; from across the ocean security would come with the ‘protection’ from a Great and Powerful Friend.

Ask any squatter, race fixer, bookie, real estate agent, ‘producer’, obsequious toady, solicitous lobbyist with their ambulance-chasers and classist judges – and all receivers of, dealers in, stolen goods since 1788 – and they would, though misbelievers, confirm that is ‘as designed by Divine Providence’.

And who would want to deliver the government of ‘this great country of ours’ to the tallest poppy ever seen around?

A literalist would be time-wasting in accepting verbatim Donald Horne’s view of his countrymen.

In chapter four of his The lucky country, dealing with it as ‘Between Britain and America’, Horne wrote: “Australians are anonymous, featureless, nothing men. This modest anonymity reveals itself in the argument that Australia does not run to the kind of person we could turn into a president [of a future Australian Republic]. Is Australia alone in the world in being unable to rig up its own head of state? This is backwater colonialism, nervous of its final responsibilities”.

Horne had already asked himself ‘What is an Australian?’ The response was as cruel as before: “The demand for mindlessness can be so pervasive that able men deliberately stumble around with the rest lest they appear too clever, and therefore too ‘impractical’ … Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia”. He had already said: “Many of the nation’s affairs are conducted by racketeers of the mediocre who have risen to authority in a non-competitive community where they are protected in their adaptations to other people’s ideas”.

Those harsh words were written in 1964, and the spirit of such people could not possibly have changed in eight years, towards the coming of the Whitlam Government.

There was perhaps more than the search for a witty expression in the words of Senator Reg Withers of Western Australia, who denounced the arrival of the Whitlam Government as an ‘aberration’ for which he would hold responsible some fringe seats around the two main Australian cities. In and out of the Senate Withers was known as ‘the Toe-cutter’. He was a monarchist, ‘non-ideological’, famous for ‘getting the sensible things done’, and regarded as ’the architect of the supply-withholding’ from the Whitlam Government. It became de rigueur to portray the new government as a troupe of amateurs – noisy clowns, rather – led by an ‘idealist’, and who had come to town but would not stay long, anyway.

A crisis arose almost immediately after the formation of the government. In December 1972 Nixon ordered massive bombing of Hanoi – not to coerce Hanoi, perhaps, but to convince the vassals in Saigon. During the ‘Christmas season’ more bombs were dropped on northern Vietnam in three weeks than in the previous three years. Such action could not be condoned by the Whitlam Government.

What, it seems, the governments of the Menzies era did not know, or pretended not to know, is that between 4 October 1965 and 15 August 1973 the United States would drop far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. The bombing was designed to deny help through that unfortunate country to the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. The impact of the bombing is now clearer than ever: civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged population into the arms of an insurgency which had enjoyed little support until the bombing began, setting in motion 1) the expansion of the Vietnam war deeper into Cambodia, 2) a coup d’état in 1970, 3) the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately 4) the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot. To put 2,756,941 tons into perspective, the Allies dropped just over 2 million tons of bombs during all of the second world war. Cambodia may be the most heavily bombed country in history.

On 20 December 1972 Whitlam sent a personal message to Nixon through the Australian Embassy in Washington expressing concern at the course of events in Vietnam. The matters raised in the message were discussed in Washington with Kissinger, National Security Adviser, and in Canberra with the U.S. Ambassador, Walter Rice.

The letter to Nixon was polite, but firm. “The disappointment caused by the recession of the prospect [of reaching a cease-fire agreement], coupled with anxiety about the resumption of the bombing, is producing a feeling of grave concern in this country … I question most earnestly whether the resumption of bombing will achieve the result that I know you desire, the return of the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table in a more forthcoming frame of mind”.

Whitlam was “well aware of the difficulties and frustrations which Dr. Kissinger and the other American negotiators have experienced in dealing with the North Vietnamese. We admire the patience and resolve that they have shown … It is of particular concern to me that my first personal message to you on a matter of substance since assuming office as Prime Minister of Australia should not be misconstrued. I want to reassure you, therefore, that I look forward to a period of positive cooperation between our two countries on a wide range of matters in the years ahead and that, on this particular question of Vietnam, I am moved as much by a positive and, I hope, helpful desire to put negotiations back on the rails and by feelings of distress at one particular aspect of your Government policy”.

The letter was not published at the time, but Whitlam reserved the right “to make some public reference to [his] having sent [the message to Nixon]”.

If Whitlam’s intention became public, Kissinger intimated to the Australian Embassy No. 2, “it must have great consequences for our relationship”. Kissinger hardly needed to spell it out. He was talking about the future of the U.S.-Australian alliance.

It seems that the American Embassy in Canberra had been instructed ‘to keep its hands off’ as regards the election of December 1972 – at least officially. What Kissinger might have told Task Force 157 will never be known.

However, the official attitude to the Whitlam Government changed quickly after the election when members of the government Jim Cairns, Clyde Cameron and Tom Uren strongly criticised renewed bombing of Hanoi. They accused Nixon and his men of being “maniacs” and “acting with the mentality of thuggery”. Jim Cairns called the bombing “the most brutal, indiscriminate slaughter of women and children in living memory”.

The military offensive had been Nixon’s attempt to break the will of the North Vietnamese at a time when its leaders were deemed unresponsive to renewed American pressure for peace. As Kissinger had remarked to Nixon, 100 B-52s was akin to “a 4000-plane raid in World War II … it’s going to break every window in Hanoi”.

Whitlam had already written to Nixon that in the circumstances the best means open to him was “to approach the heads of government of some of our neighbours in the Asia/Pacific area to join [him] in addressing a public appeal; to both the United States and to North Vietnam to return to serious negotiations”.

Kissinger’s reaction on reading those words hardly disguises the American Administration’s anger. He instructed the U.S. Embassy in Canberra “to convey that we are not particularly amused being put by an ally on the same level as our enemy and to have an appeal equally addressed to us and North Vietnam”. He thought that it was not “the way to start a relationship with us”. He told the Ambassador: “So, I don’t think we are going to reply to this message. I’ve just talked to the President about it”. But, he added, “this is not an official communication … such an act taken publicly” – that is to say, releasing the letter – “would really not have very good consequences …” (Kissinger to Charge d’Affaires, US Embassy, Australia, 3.25pm, 20 December 1972, Box 17, HAK Telcons, Nixon Presidential Archive).

The sudden shift in the tenor of American-Australian relations had ramifications in the world of media which reverberated all the way through to 1975.

Australian ‘men-of-power’ reacted immediately and with the desired servility. On 4 January 1973 Nixon received a memorandum from his Communications Director, Herbert G. Klein to say that Sir Frank Packer, father of Kerry and then managing director and major share-holder of Australian Consolidated Press, had sent his New York representative “to express to [Nixon] his [Packer’s] personal support and that of his magazines and his television network”. Packer’s message was that he understood Nixon’s motivation in bombing Hanoi, that he was “disturbed” by Whitlam’s comments and that the majority of Australian’s did not share Whitlam’s views. At the same time, according to the memorandum, Packer’s representative “…offered [Nixon] any use [he] may like of [Packer’s] magazines and network”. Packer’s voluntary acquiescence to the U.S. shows how the Australian press did not need to be part of a conspiracy to do the bidding of the United States. The Packer empire were willing collaborators before the American Administration even conceived of using them. As Klein said in his memo to Nixon: “I declined [the offers of help] at this time”. In the event, when John Kerr installed Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister in 1975, one of Fraser’s first calls was to Kerry Packer, who immediately went to Canberra to give the caretaker prime minister “a great deal of moral support” both then and during the rest of the election campaign.

The Whitlam Government’s relationship with the American Administration never really recovered from this poor start and the relationship was further exacerbated by an ‘unusual’ act by Attorney-General, Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C.’s on 15 March 1973.

The Attorney-General had repeatedly requested from A.S.I.O. satisfactory information concerning ‘intelligence’ on suspected terrorist groups operated by Croatian Australians. Murphy’s concern about the matter was heightened by the impending visit to Australia of the Yugoslav Prime Minister Džemal Bijedić. Out of incompetence, or perhaps of sympathy, A.S.I.O. had been un-cooperative. The agents could not find the necessary files. Attorney-General Murphy held the conventional view that even a security service, like any other arm of executive government must be accountable to the relevant minister, in this case to the Attorney-General. Murphy decided to go and get the information himself. Early in the morning of the designated day he followed the Australia’s Commonwealth Police which had been ordered to enter the headquarters of A.S.I.O. This unannounced as well and un-conventional visit was immediately branded by the bene-society as a ‘raid’. The word has been used ever since to vilify the Attorney-General and his government. It has become part of the Australian s/language, sanctified ‘at the pub’ as in every ‘respectable’ salon.

What is forgotten in the process is the irresponsible behaviour of A.S.I.O. The Attorney-General had sought the files of the six most dangerous or subversive people in Australia who could constitute a threat to peace on the occasion of the Yugoslavian visit. What he had been given, maybe out of imbecility more than hilarity, were files of several Communist Party unionists and people connected with the peace movement.

Needless to say, the American Administration took seriously the ‘raid’; Attorney-General Murphy came to be regarded as a ‘Communist sympathiser’. ‘Washington’ formed the view that that kind of ‘raid’ could endanger secrets shared between A.S.I.O. and the C.I.A.

Early in 1973 Nixon selected Marshall Green as Ambassador to Australia, a post he held until 1975. Green was a protégé and a key aide to new Secretary of State Kissinger. He had accompanied Nixon on his 1972 visit to China.

His qualifications were impeccable: in 1961 he was the senior American diplomat in South Korea during a coup which toppled a democratically elected government. He was named Ambassador to Indonesia in July 1965, only weeks ahead of an anti-Communist coup which would see President Sukarno replaced with President Suharto and would lead to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Indonesians. In 1969 Nixon nominated Green as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Green held this office from 5 May 1969 until 10 May 1973.

He arrived in Canberra with the reputation of a ‘coup master’.

Marshall Green’s appointment was a sign of the United States’ uneasiness over the election of the Whitlam Government. By the time of Green’s departure, in September 1975, many in the Labor Party felt similarly unease over the role played by the master diplomat in destabilising the Whitlam Government – many but not all.

There is ample evidence from many unsuspected sources that both Robert James Lee ‘Bob’ Hawke and Robert John ‘Bob’ Carr, in their respective position – the first of President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (1969-1979) and future Prime Minister (1983-1991), and the second of education officer for the Labor Council of New South Wales (1972-1978), future Premier of New South Wales (1995-2005) and Foreign Minister from March 2012 to September 2013 – kept close contact with American officers and consuls in Melbourne and Sydney. The central office of the C.I.A. is said to be in Melbourne.

“Recently declassified U.S. State Department cables offer a fresh way to tell the story of Australia … through the loose lips of the main players in the Labor government … The documents are both painful and amusing, for they reveal the petty treachery of Australia’s elite. Bob Hawke briefed against Whitlam” (George Megalogenis, The Australian moment: How we were made for these times (Melbourne 2012).

In fact, according to James Curran, “Hawke had been speaking to the Americans for years beforehand. I mean the Americans knew Hawke very well. He would talk to American diplomats right through the 1970s and give them briefings on Australian politics and there’s no doubt and that the Americans felt very comfortable with Hawke” (A.B.C., Radio National, Rear vision, ‘A true friend? The US/Australia alliance’, Broadcast: Wednesday 16 November 2011 8:30 a.m.).

Hawke was not alone. In fact the number of informers coming from the Labor Party has been large and embarrassing for a long time.

On 9 December 2010 The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that Senator Mark Arbib, a federal minister and Right-wing Labor powerbroker, had been a confidential contact of the United States Embassy in Canberra, providing inside information and commentary on the workings of the Australian Government and the Labor Party.

His candid comments had been incorporated into secret cables and reports to the American Administration with repeated requests that his identity as a ‘protected’ source be guarded.

A former secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party between 2004 and 2007, a member of the Party National Executive – from 2004, and a member of the National Executive Committee – from 2007, Senator Arbib was a key backroom figure and an expert on coups within the Party. He first appeared as a contributor to U.S. Embassy political reporting while he was Labor State Secretary.

After one more coup, Arbib resigned from the ministry on 2 March, and from the Senate on 5 March 2012. The following day Arbib was replaced as a Senator by former Premier of New South Wales Bob Carr, who on 13 March became the Foreign Minister (Philip Dorling, ‘Arbib revealed as secret US source’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 2010).

“Senator Carr’s diplomatic involvement goes back to at least August 1974, when the U.S. Embassy in Canberra reported “‘a pervasive sense of gloom and anxiety”’ within the Labor movement as the Whitlam government “’struggle[d] in [a] disorganised fashion to stem growing inflation”.

Together with N.S.W. Labor president John Ducker, he told the U.S. Consul-General in Sydney that] “economic policy has never been Whitlam’s bag” and criticised his “tendency to delegate practically everything” (Philip Dorling, ‘New database shows US informants were inside Whitlam’s ALP’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April 2013).

Officials in the American Administration were worried about the possible closure of the American bases in Australia, and generally about the possibility that Australia would pursue an independent policy particularly with reference to foreign investments. Ambassador Green was the first career diplomat, unlike the sort of person Australia receives, who is ordinarily one rewarded for contributing money to the Republican or Democratic parties campaigns.

Green had been mentioned in the Pentagon papers as being a high-level policy maker for America in Southeast Asia and he had known C.I.A. connections.

Suspicions about Green were shared by Clyde Cameron, Minister for Labour, who had many face to face meetings with the American Ambassador.

This is what Cameron would say: “Marshall Green was for many, many years a top C.I.A. operative who orchestrated the overthrow of the Sukarno government which led to the installation of President Suharto. He was involved in the C.I.A. intrigue in Vietnam and in the overthrow of the government of Greece. He’s a very, very skilled operative in the art of destabilisation of governments that the United States doesn’t approve of”.

Cameron described Green’s method of operation: “[It] was to make close contact with the military of a particular country, those who own and control the media, and generally [to] infiltrate the sections of governments where policy or decision-making takes place. And if he is unsuccessful in getting the right decisions there, well, the next step would always be to get the army to organise a coup. That’s what happened in Indonesia, a phony uprising was organised by the C.I.A. in order to give justification for the military coup that followed. And the same happened with the assassination of Deben in South Korea. Where a ruler is unable to bring about the kind of decisions that suit the C.I.A. or where a ruler doesn’t even try to do so, then, the next step is to organise some pretence for military action. The same sort of thing happened in Chile in 1973. And one of the first people he called on, after visiting the Prime Minister and having already put in his credentials to the Governor-General, was me. And as he was walking through the door of my office I saluted him in the normal way, ‘please to meet you your excellency, take a seat,’ and before he could take a seat I said ‘what would you do if our government decided to nationalise the Australian subsidiaries of the various American multinational corporations?’ and he’d been caught by surprise, he wasn’t accustomed to a minister asking that sort of question whilst he was in the process of taking his seat, and he blurted out: ‘oh, we’ll move in’. I said, ‘oh, move in? like bringing the marines in?’. He said, ‘oh…’ he looked a bit uncomfortable by now, although he’s a senior man he didn’t expect being caught off guard, he was very uncomfortable and he said, ‘oh, no, the days of sending the marines has passed but there are plenty of other things we could do’. I said, ‘for example?’. He said, ‘well, trade’. And I said, ‘do you realise that if you stop trading with Australia you would be the loser to the extent of 600 million dollars a year’, that was the balance of trade figures at that time. He said, ‘oh, well, there are other things’. And he didn’t elaborate but, of course, there are other things” (The C.I.A. in Australia, Transcript of Part 2 of 6, Watching Brief, Public Radio News Services, October-November 1986, Melbourne).

Whitlam’s attitude to politics was exactly opposite to that of Nixon, particularly under the advice of Kissinger and ‘operations’ by the C.I.A.

Whitlam saw international law as an essential component of efforts to avoid conflict, resolve disputes, and restructure international relations (Michael Kirby, ‘Whitlam as internationalist’, The Whitlam Lecture, University of Western Sydney, 25 February 2010).

It was on this basis, in part, that the Whitlam Government embarked on a vigorous process of ratifying international law treaties. Indeed, under that government, over 133
international treaties entered into force for Australia, including 26 Exchange of Notes Agreements, 32 Bilateral Agreements, 16 Multilateral Agreements, 17 Protocols, 8 International Statutes, and 34 Treaties/Conventions.

Commenting on the international engagement of his Government, Whitlam said:
“We have done a great deal more, I believe, than all previous governments. We have communicated to the world our commitment to international law and our eagerness to contribute to co-operative endeavours. We have displayed a breadth of legal skills. And Australia has come to be regarded as an independent voice” (Gough Whitlam, ‘Australia and International Law’, Address by the Prime Minister to the Seminar on Public International Law, 26 July 1975, Canberra).

This is what Ross Terrill, an ex-patriate Australian author, recalls of the American Administration’s reaction to Whitlam protest on the bombing of Hanoi in December 1972:

“On 23 December 1972, waiting in the White House to see Henry Kissinger, I realised he might broach the Whitlam tornado. I occasionally talked with Kissinger (my former teacher at Harvard) on China; only once did we discuss Australia, when he requested to meet Wilfred Burchett. In an ante-room I phoned the Australian embassy and asked the Deputy Chief of Mission – in the absence of Ambassador Jim Plimsoll – if he would read me Whitlam’s 21 December cable to President Nixon protesting the ‘Christmas bombing’ of Hanoi. He declined.

Entering Kissinger’s office, I found him waving the cable. ‘It’s unforgivable for this new Australian government to put Hanoi and Washington on the same footing,’ he said angrily. ‘How can an ally behave like this?’ I told Kissinger that Whitlam considered ANZUS ‘unshakeable’. He riposted, ‘CAN it be unshakeable? You can’t apply ANZUS on some points and not on others’.

Kissinger said the White House wouldn’t answer Whitlam’s cable, and C.L. Sulzberger wrote in the New York Times that the cable was ignored. In fact, an ‘unofficial’ reply was sent to Whitlam. ‘I have never seen such language in a cable from one government to another’” [Sir (John) Keith Waller, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs] told the writer.

“All this made 1973 a difficult year for Canberra-Washington relations. It seemed Whitlam had overplayed his hand.

However, Kissinger presciently floated a solution that morning. Calming down about Whitlam’s cable to reminisce on Zhou Enlai, Kissinger said, ‘For American policy [in East Asia] there are two phases. In the first, Thailand has to be linchpin. But that will give way to a second phase, when détente with China will be the best guarantee of security in Asia.’

A week later, at Kirribilli House – the second official seat, and second official residence, of the Prime Minister of Australia, Whitlam told Terrill: “We’re going to pretend Kissinger’s cable never came”. The Prime Minister asked Terrill: “What am I going to say at my press conference about the Hanoi bombing?” I explained Kissinger’s view of ‘two phases’, which pleased him. When phase two came, with China central, it seemed likely Australian-American relations would stabilise. This eventually occurred”.

Two more problems roiled the Washington-Whitlam relationship. One was the strident protests by the Left wing of the Labor Party immediately after 2 December. Jim Cairns, Minister for Overseas Trade launched insults to Nixon. Other ministers, Cameron and Uren, referred to American ‘maniacs’ and ‘mass murderers’.

All this troubled Whitlam almost as much as it did Washington, as his memoir The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975 indicates. He left the U.S. defence facilities in Australia undisturbed, but he did please the Left with complete withdrawal from Vietnam. Like many Left-of-centre leaders, Whitlam’s main concern during the war was looking for the exit door.

A further problem was the Nixon and his advisers’ ignorance about the Labor Party, such as it was after its 23 years out of power. Kissinger at first referred to the Prime Minister as ‘Mr Whitelaw’. Secretary of State William Rogers was unaware that a Labor prime minister did not [then] choose his cabinet members. Walter Rice, the U.S. Ambassador in Canberra, had not told him.

Andrew Peacock, a Liberal politician, deserves credit for trying to persuade Washington ‘in early 1973’ not to snub Whitlam, but still, in late April 1973, the Australian Embassy in Washington had no certain assurance that Nixon would receive Whitlam on a planned July trip.

Whitlam’s top aide Peter Wilenski, concerned that no meeting with Nixon was fixed for Whitlam’s time in Washington, phoned Terrill on 14 April 1973. He said: “The PM agrees with you that the [Washington] embassy’s access to the White House is not very good”. And went on: “He wants you to arrange a meeting for me with Kissinger”. The Prime Minister feared that requests to Nixon through the Embassy, if refused, would reach the press and besmirch the government.

Nevertheless, Kissinger quickly agreed to see Wilenski on 2 May. Kissinger assured Wilenski that Nixon would receive Whitlam.

Wilenski told Ambassador Jim Plimsoll about his talk with Kissinger only an hour beforehand. Plimsoll struck an odd note in saying to Wilenski: “Argue for our common common outlook as Anglo-Saxons”. Wilenski was born in Poland, Kissinger in Germany (Ross Terrill, ‘Whitlam, Nixon and ANZUS’, The Spectator, 12 May 2012).

Whitlam’s foreign policies would develop – and also quite remarkably – against U.S. interests. He would break ranks with previous Australian Prime Ministers by reaching out to other Asian leaders to create trade and diplomatic relationships. He would become one of the first ‘western’ leaders to attempt normal relations with Chinese leaders. He also, in the midst of the war, established a consular relationship with Vietnam by opening an embassy in Hanoi and later allowed the opening of a Cuban consulate in Sydney.

In other words, for all intents and purposes, Australia under Whitlam was not serving at the behest of British or American dictates. It was independently establishing its own relationships. This was not appreciated by the Nixon Administration, least of all Henry Kissinger who disliked the Labor leader immensely.

Prior to Whitlam and since, American governments have considered Australia as a strategic location and partner in their military ventures. The Americans have bases in Australia, not the least of which being the ‘secret’ base known as Pine Gap in the Australian desert. In time, Whitlam would seek to have more specifics on what the Americans were doing there. He discovered that Pine Gap, a satellite surveillance base, was run by the C.I.A. and he made a public announcement about this. Whitlam would also ask the Americans for a listing of all C.I.A. operatives in Australia.

The Americans were supposed to share information with the Australians from their satellite findings but since the Labor Party had won it was thought that much of the information was being denied the government. Whitlam threatened he would not sign an extension of the Pine Gap lease due in December 1975 and this again infuriated the Nixon Administration.

The fact is that the Pine Gap base activities were making Australia vulnerable to attack and this angered Whitlam, as he had no control over the base activities.

There were at least three occasions when the Americans did not share vital information about the bases.

1) The transmitters at the North West Cape were used to assist the U.S. in mining Haiphong harbour in 1972. The Whitlam government was opposed to the mining of Vietnamese harbours, and would not have appreciated U.S. facilities on Australian soil being used to assist such an undertaking.

2) The satellites controlled by Pine Gap and Nurrungar were used to pinpoint targets for bombings in Cambodia. Again, this was an activity to which the Whitlam Government was opposed.

3) Whitlam was furious when he found out after the fact that U.S. bases in Australia were put on a Level 3 alert during the Yom Kippur war – 6 to 25 October 1973. The Australian bases were in danger of attack, yet the Australian Prime Minister was not alerted to this.

There was one other element which would play a role in terms of foreign policy and it has to do with Chile. A little known fact is that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, A.S.I.S. was involved in the overthrow of President Salvadore Allende in 1973. Clyde Cameron said that the A.S.I.S. operatives were serving at the behest of the C.I.A. to help in the coup against Allende, as the C.I.A. was not able to work effectively in Chile under Allende. “They had to do their dirty work through somebody else”. Cameron noted “and they chose the Australian intelligence organisations”. When Whitlam discovered this he demanded that the A.S.I.S. be withdrawn from Chile yet they paid no attention to his orders. When Whitlam discovered they had not yet left Chile he was furious and, as Cameron said “put the knife through a lot of these people responsible for ignoring his directions”. By that time, however, Allende had been assassinated and Pinochet had taken over (The CIA in Australia, Part 3, Australia Public Radio News Service, Melbourne 1986).

The Labor Government’s changes in both domestic and foreign policy earned Whitlam Henry Kissinger’s epithet of “one more effete social democrat”. Neither Kissinger nor Nixon had any time for Whitlam or Left-wing politicians in general.

Many others in the intelligence community were concerned, including Ted Shackley, head of the East Asia Division of the C.I.A., who was said to be paranoid about Whitlam; and James Jesus Angleton, head of the C.I.A.’s Counter-Intelligence section, who despised the Labor Government.

Nixon, needless to say, was not amused. Some insiders said he was apoplectic with rage and resented the implications that he was immoral and had to be told his duty by an outsider. Kissinger added that Whitlam’s “uninformed comments about our Christmas bombing [of North Vietnam] had made him a particular object of Nixon’s wrath” (Mother Jones, Feb.-Mar. 1984, at 15).

Soon after Whitlam took office, the American Ambassador to Australia, Walter Rice, was sent to meet with Whitlam in order politely to tell him to mind his own business about Vietnam. Whitlam ambushed Rice, dominated the meeting, and spoke for 45 minutes rebuking the U.S. for its conduct of the Vietnam war. Whitlam told Rice that in a press conference the next day, “It would be difficult to avoid words like ‘atrocious’ and ‘barbarous’” when asked about the bombing.

Whitlam also brought up the issue of the American bases in Australia, and warned Rice that although he did not propose to alter the arrangements regarding the U.S. bases, “to be practical and realistic,” Whitlam said, “if there were any attempt, to use familiar jargon, ‘to screw us or bounce us’ inevitably these arrangements would become a matter of contention” (Minutes of the meeting were reproduced in The Eye, July 1987).

Nixon did agree to a meeting with Whitlam, and it took place on 30 July 1973. Kissinger’s brief to Nixon said the primary purpose of the meeting was “to restore the level of confidence between our two governments at the highest level that existed before the Whitlam government took office” (Kissinger, HA, “Meeting with the Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Memorandum 4172, CO10 Australia, WHC Files, Nixon Presidential Archive).

Whitlam felt that he had earned the meeting because he had muted criticism of Nixon’s Asian policies, praised détente but primarily because “he has defended our defense installations in Australia against attack from his party’s left wing”. Kissinger’s briefing also mentioned Whitlam’s problems with the Senate before finally discussing ‘US Defense Installations in Australia: No Substantial Change in Prospect’ and noting that Whitlam modified his position “after being briefed on the functions of these facilities” and turned debate at the recent party conference away from vital installations and on to the “less important” Omega navigation system. The briefing says that Pine Gap and Nurrungar merely monitor adherence to arms limitations agreements and missile developments in China and Russia. The briefing also holds out promise of “cosmetic changes” to give the impression of Australian control at North West Cape.

In the lead up to Whitlam’s meeting with Nixon, Kissinger met with the recently appointed Ambassador Green. He told Kissinger: “I would define US interests in Australia as: 1) preserving our defense installations; 2) maintaining our investment and trade there…” (HAK Memorandum of Conversation, 28 July 1973, Prime Minister Whitlam’s Coming Visit, Box 1027, NSC Files, Nixon Presidential Archive).

When Kissinger met Whitlam just before their meeting with Nixon, Kissinger summarised the situation: “We do not see recent changes in Australia as a greater assertion of Australian autonomy. Rather we look at it as a change in some of the mechanics in our relations … We can’t deny that we have had some strains recently – but we consider these matters of the past” (HAK Memorandum of Conversation 30 July 1973 10-11am, Box 1027, NSC Files, Nixon Presidential Archive). (Stephen Stockwell, ‘Beyond conspiracy theory: US presidential archives on the American press, national security and the Whitlam government’, Paper presented to the Journalism Education Conference, Griffith University, 29 November-2 December 2005).

Neither the bases nor investment and trade came into discussion. Whitlam expressed an interest in talking with Nixon about French nuclear testing in the Pacific but the most striking thing is his nervousness about meeting Nixon. Because of legal issues emanating from the Watergate break-in, Nixon had stopped taping conversations before he met Whitlam with the result that there is no record of their conversation. Nevertheless, as relations between Australia and the United States appeared to have stabilised following the meeting, certainly at the leadership level, one might assume that Whitlam and Nixon agreed to leave the past behind them.

In May 1974, after the double dissolution and return of the Whitlam Government, Jim Cairns was elected as Whitlam’s deputy. The news displeased the Americans, because Cairns had been one of the most adamant critics of American foreign policy. He was the natural successor to Whitlam as prime minister. The future of the bases was again in question and Nixon and Kissinger took time out from the management of the Watergate debacle and the disengagement from Vietnam to issue National Security Study Memorandum 204 to the Departments of State and Defense and the C.I.A. on 1 July 1974.

That Memorandum noted, from what is publicly available, the “recent changes in the Labor Government” and proposed to examine “the impact of these changes on basic US objectives toward Australia, particularly in the political-security area”. The Memorandum also called for more than theoretical analysis: “It should define and evaluate policy options for giving effect to the resulting objectives”. In particular the Memorandum called for study of issues around “keeping US defense installations in Australia … relocating essential existing US security functions outside Australia … locating additional US functions in Australia and the policy options for trying to do so” (NSSM 204, 1 July 1974, Box 205, NSC Institutional Files, Nixon Presidential Archive). It gave the N.S.C. Interdepartmental Group for East Asia only two weeks to prepare a report. That remains classified. Nixon resigned from office on 8 August 1974, so it is possible that one of his last acts in office was to establish new policy objectives with regard to Australia but there is no evidence in the archive that this was the case.

With the coming of President Gerald Ford’s administration, no further national security studies or decisions about Australia are available in the archives. Whitlam called for a meeting with Ford and that was held on 5 October 1974. Briefings for that meeting emphasise Whitlam’s acceptance of American bases. Ambassador Green reported “… there would be no move by an Australian government to terminate these facilities as long as Labor was headed by Whitlam …”. There was concern about Jim Cairns: “Once in the top position [Cairns] would probably veer … towards a foreign policy based on neutrality and the removal of American bases from Australian shores” (Green, M, Telexes 21/30 September 1974, Box 2, NSA-Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Ford Presidential Archive). Kissinger’s briefing for Ford pointed out that Whitlam was mellowing with regard to the bases as he understood their significance for arms limitations but in the event the bases did not come up in their conversation which covered everything except the bases (Memcon, President’s Meeting with Australian Prime Minister Whitlam, 5 October 1974, Box 6, NSA Memcons, Ford Presidential Archive). (Stockwell, op. cit.)

Secret cables which had only come available in May 2013 disclosed that Rupert Murdoch had discussed Australian public figures with Ambassador Green in 1974.

It was known that, by mobilising his newspapers to the advantage of the Labor Party, Murdoch thought that he had played “a substantial role” in Labor’s December 1972 victory.

He was “satisfied that he took the correct position at that time, since it was essential to have a change after 23 years [The] Liberal/Country leadership had become increasingly weak intellectually”.

However, by November 1974 Murdoch’s brief enthusiasm for Whitlam had waned.

“He expects to support the opposition in the next election” Green reported to Washington.

Murdoch savaged Labor’s economic management. He wanted policies with “a more selfish domestic focus”. He particularly slated Australia’s first moves towards economic liberalisation, the Labor government’s 25 per cent across-the-board tariff reductions “which appealed to Whitlam’s orderly legal mind and liberal outlook, [but] were a bad mistake and contributed needlessly to unemployment”. Murdoch said that a number of Australian industries needed tariff protection and he thought the problem should have been “studied on a sector by sector basis”.

A ‘change of heart’ would make Murdoch more credible in 1974.

During a “wide-ranging and apparently very candid conversation” over lunch on 15 November 1974, Murdoch – described in a cable released by the U.S. National Archives and published by WikiLeaks as ‘well informed and extremely influential’ – spoke freely on the mis/fortunes of the Whitlam Government which had been re-elected six months earlier. Almost exactly a year to the day of ‘the Ambush’, Murdoch was predicting the fall of Whitlam.

Still, he could not anticipate that Fraser would usurp the prime ministership. His choice was on Hawke, then president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. “Bob Hawke is fiercely ambitious to become prime minister of Australia and could make it someday”, Murdoch observed. “He is intelligent and essentially moderate”. However Murdoch thought Hawke would not rush to seek election to Parliament because he saw the Whitlam Government “going down to defeat and does not want to board the sinking ship”.

Murdoch was discounting Fraser, whom he regarded as “the most brilliant as well as the most courageous of the Liberals”, but he judged “too inflexible and too arrogant” by his colleagues. Fraser also tended to be “overly absorbed in foreign affairs and defence”.

Still, Murdoch and his newspapers would enthusiastically support Fraser and the Coalition in the 1975 election campaign, so much so that journalists at his newspapers took industrial action in protest. Labor would not return to government for more than seven years when Hawke defeated Fraser at the March 1983 federal election.

Against the backdrop of the Middle East oil crisis of the previous year, Murdoch was gloomy about the global economy in November 1974, but saw the United States as “the only economy of sufficient stature to provide world leadership in these parlous times”.

Although the Liberal-Country Party Opposition did not at that time have the numbers to block the Labor government’s budget in the Senate, Green reported Murdoch’s confident view that Whitlam’s days as prime minister were numbered.

“Australian elections are likely to take place in about one year, sparked by refusal of appropriations in the Senate. All signs point to a Liberal-Country victory, since the economy is in disturbingly bad condition and will probably not improve much of that time” said Murdoch.

It is not explicit in Ambassador Green’s report, but it is possible that Murdoch may have been drawing on the ultimate inside source: it is known that Kerr attended a social function at the Murdoch’s country estate at Cavan near Yass in New South Wales in late 1974. A journalist in attendance later revealed that over drinks Kerr – a closet-alcoholic – indiscreetly gave Murdoch a “very detailed and elaborate outline” of his constitutional options as Governor-General in the event that the Opposition secured the Senate numbers to block the budget. (Philip Dorling, ‘Whitlam radical, Fraser arrogant, Hawke moderate: Secret cables reveal Murdoch insights’, The Age, 20 May 2013).

Twelve days after Murdoch’s talk with Green, Fraser failed in a bid to remove Snedden as Liberal leader. However he went on to defeat Snedden in a second party room ballot four months later.

To be continued. Tomorrow . . . The economy against headwinds, and concluding with A coup conceived in secret and deceit.

* Dr. Venturino Giorgio ‘George’ Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com

 

Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point

By Paul G. Dellit

Well, we may well have reached the tipping point between genuine democracy in Australia and the beginnings of creeping fascism. You may think this to be one of those ‘shock-horror’ attention-grabbing opening sentences. It is. And I also believe it to be an unalloyed statement of the danger we now face.

History is littered with hindsight surprise that those with power and those who might have opposed those with power didn’t take action to avoid an obviously looming disaster. Of course, the ‘loomingness’ of disasters is often not appreciated by its contemporaries. It would be naive to expect otherwise. Couldn’t they see that the South Sea Bubble would burst? Couldn’t they see that a grossly overheated investment market populated with stocks that were either massively overvalued or worthless would result in ever-widening ripples of market failures and a worldwide Great Depression. Couldn’t they see you don’t fix Depressions by reducing the size of economies. Obviously they couldn’t see any of those things. And with the dawning optimism of a new century, they couldn’t even remember them, or if they could, they were playing that ‘main chance’ game of ‘I’ll make what I can make out of this and bugger all of the rest of them who lose the lot’.

Prime Minister Abbott and his acolytes, Ministers Dutton and Morrison, propose the passing of a law that would create a precedent for the end of the rule of law in this country. It would invest a Minister with the powers of policeman, judge and jury to act upon an untested suspicion of guilt to deprive an Australian of his/her citizenship. Following current LNP practice, the reasons for stripping someone of their citizenship would be deemed secret for security reasons. So this Ministerial power would be exercised covertly and absolutely beyond judicial or other form of independent review. The Minister would be required to form his suspicions on the basis of the intelligence provided to him. The name Dr. Haneef immediately springs to mind. But even if our security organisations and the foreign security organisations with whom they trade information were as infallible as our PM believes the Pope to be, and even if they had no self-interested agendas, the Minister invested with this power could exercise it to suit his own ends – say, just before an election – to manufacture a terrorist scare and then appear to be the ‘man of the hour’ who restores our peace of mind (coincidentally winning the votes of a few more undecided Alan Jones listeners to save his marginal seat).

The proponents of changing Australia from a Common Law country, based upon the Separation of Powers, to rule by Ministerial fiat, as their proposal would enable through the precedent it would establish, argue that they are honourable men who would exercise their new powers dispassionately, wisely, and in the public interest. Of course, this is irrelevant. Laws are not made to fit the character of current holders of high office. They are intended to safeguard against, as far as possible, abuse by those who are partisan, stupid, and prone to act in their own self-interest.

The proposed new law deliberately excludes those safeguards.

Consequently, we need some way of ensuring that the current and all subsequent Ministers, thus empowered, will ensure the intelligence they receive is impeccable, and will interpret that intelligence dispassionately, wisely, and in the public interest.

So let’s run an eye over the proponents of the new law, just for starters.

Malcolm Fraser considered Tony Abbott to be perhaps the most dangerous politician in Australian history. You may have thought that a little hyperbolic. I did. There can be little doubt that our current Prime Minister is the least equipped for high office since Sir William McMahon. And the record also shows that Prime Minister Abbott was able to pass through one of Australia’s finest schools and one of England’s finest universities untouched by exposure to academic research methods, the principles of logic and dispassionate evaluation, the values-free acquisition of knowledge, and even by the evidence that compassion and empathy are fundamental to social cohesion. It is apparent that his academic success is based upon often uncomprehended rote learning, the way he learned and then recited his Catechism as a small child. These are flaws in the makeup of the man that speak to his lack of intelligence and general incompetence.

But as we began to see in the run up to the most recent election, and as more information about Tony Abbott’s past was revealed, we began to understand that Malcolm Fraser’s assessment of him was, if anything, an understatement. We began to see his pathological need to win, we read of his violence against a woman when he lost, we observed his relentless, dishonest, misogynistic attacks upon Julia Gillard as part of his strategy to win office, we heard the litany of lies he told to win office, and the lies he has told about lying and about anything else to suit his purpose, after he had won office.

How could we ever contemplate granting power without safeguards to a person with such a pathological need to win, to get his own way, and to retain power regardless of the consequences for anyone else? Can we imagine Peter Dutton having the stomach to independently exercise his discretion against the wishes of Tony Abbott? It wouldn’t matter if he did. Tony Abbott has the Captain’s right to sack him and bestow that office upon himself if he needed to to get his own way. And can we imagine Scott Morrison doing anything that would compromise his leadership ambitions? Smug self-satisfaction was his only reaction to the human tragedy unfolding daily as the result of the exercise of his Ministerial discretion?

It was some small relief to know that the more intelligent members of Cabinet objected to the extreme Abbott proposal that second generation Australians could be stripped of their citizenship based on nothing more than a Minister’s suspicion, as we have said, covertly exercised and beyond judicial or other independent review.

But now, two thirds of the LNP Back Bench have signed a letter in support of the proposed Abbott law. They may be distinguished as a group for being considered not good enough to serve on the most incompetent Front Bench since Federation, but they may just give Tony the support he needs to make another ‘Captain’s Call’.

If Prime Minister Abbott does cross this Rubicon, so will Australia and God help Australian democracy when Ministers of any stripe use the precedent set by this law to expand its operation into other aspects of our lives to suit their own personal ends.

 

Malcolm Fraser – The Last Liberal Conservative?

Malcolm Fraser always struck me as an interesting man and – from a personal viewpoint – was someone who both disappointed and vindicated me on many, many occasions.

In the controversy of 1975, I found myself defending him. No, I don’t believe the Senate should block supply, but I still think that Fraser is a decent man who’s doing what he believes is right. No, no, I don’t accept that he’s just evil, just because someone has a different view of what’s right doesn’t make him a Nazi. Ok, “born to rule” I can accept, but they are monarchists after all, so maybe they’ll be better next century when we’re a Republic…

It was the Budget after the 1977 election that made me completely cynical about him. It was a horror Budget, but the one before was a “pre-election” Budget, designed to ensure re-election for the nastiness to follow. I scoffed at my girlfriend’s Toorak mother who insisted that we were in a mess and something drastic needed to be done (a familiar refrain from the Liberals) asking her if that was the case, then why didn’t need to be done a year earlier.

Even after this, there will still moments where I got the sense that he believed in certain values, that he wasn’t just like Reagan and Thatcher. I read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and wondered why, as someone who’d expressed admiration for Rand, he behaved more like the villainous politicians in the novel than the inspiring individuals that she loved so much.

For the most part, I felt that he was foolishly trying to restore the world of Menzies while acknowledging that one or two things had changed for the better.

His time after being Prime Minister has made my earlier assessments of him seem closer to the real Fraser than the man who presided over Howard’s incompetence as Treasurer. And the fact that the Liberal Party preferred John Elliot to him as President indicates their change in direction from a conservative party to a mob of carpetbaggers. (Excluding Joe Hockey, of course, who has an itchy trigger finger as well as far too much money to spend on lawyers and lots of time in lieu.)

But I feel that the mealy-mouthed responses from the Liberal Party MPs and ex-MPs would be considered ungracious if they were to come from his political foes. From refusing to “speak ill of the dead” to congratulating him on winning three elections, there seems a lack of graciousness. (I’m not even going to criticise Tony here because he has all the class of a rugby league player’s buck’s night so I don’t expect him to ever rise to the occasion. So to speak..)

So, I thank Malcolm for the good he tried to do, and I think that Australia was a better place when the Liberals were actually conservative – when they believed that we shouldn’t change too much, that Australia is a great place and, all right, maybe one or two things need to change but think carefully. Yes, I know that’s still their message, but that’s not what they believe. They believe that we need massive change – that we need WorkChoices and people prepared to work for $2 an hour, otherwise how can people get rich if the wealth is shared amongst too many people – we’ll all end up middle class and where’s the fun in that?

Perhaps, Malcolm was the last conservative Liberal PM. Perhaps not. It’s all relative. But I sincerely hope that we’re never saying that – relatively speaking – Abbott wasn’t so bad and really he was quite conservative.

Vale Malcolm. The Liberal Party misses you. Australia was better when the enemy of the Left was someone like you. Although, I guess Andrew Bolt will be telling us that you were a member of the Left.

In the Dark Shadow of Conservative Rule

ChifleyAs a senior Australian and one who has witnessed a variety of social reforms over the past 60 years, today I feel profoundly sad. This is the first such occasion where, instead of being proud that we are a middle world power with the vision and foresight to lead the world to a better place, I feel a sense of betrayal that we have, in fact, now gone in the opposite direction. While I can remember occasions where we have been at the forefront of innovation and cutting edge technology, I can’t recall a previous time where we have chosen to go against all the scientific advice and taken such a backward step as to reverse a progressive climate change policy using a market based mechanism.

As I reviewed the period that spans my life it became patently obvious that our progress, economically and environmentally over that time, has come predominantly from Labor governments. Over that period we have criss-crossed from conservative government to reformist on seven occasions. From Ben Chifley’s post war reconstruction of the Australian economy including our first locally produced car and the beginning of the politically divisive Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, we then sat through 23 years of conservative rule where the baby boomer generation essentially grew up parallel to a trajectory driven by an influx of European immigrants and the augmentation of manufacturing, construction and overseas commerce.

WhitlamIn short, our economy, like most western economies of the time, was on auto pilot; a development not driven by any major reforms of the Menzies government, just a natural growth pattern born of a determination to give baby boomers something better. At the end of the sixties, sick and tired of a mistake-ridden, boring conservative ruling class, we looked to Gough Whitlam’s refreshing and progressive approach. It was here we saw the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War, the end of conscription and the introduction of social reforms based on compassion for an underclass and included a world class Medibank/Medicare social health system. The people, however, thought that the rate of change was too fast; it frightened them. The previous government had lulled them into a half sleep.

Hawke keatingThen after a seven year period of economic turmoil under Malcolm Fraser where the cash rate peaked at 22% under the management of the then treasurer, John Howard, we turned once more to Labor for relief and witnessed the great economic reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments.

Thirteen years later the conservatives returned and rode fortuitously on the back of a mining boom they thought would never end. It took a while to see through them but we finally got sick of the blatant hypocrisy of a conservative government that said one thing and did another. Kevin Rudd looked like the light on the hill with his, “great moral challenge” but it was Julia Gillard’s introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism, that confirmed Labor as the only party capable of showing the way forward.

GillardLabor’s demise in 2013 had nothing to do with the carbon tax or the influx of asylum seekers; they governed the country well under difficult circumstances but couldn’t govern themselves. Internal disunity is one thing Australians will not tolerate; nor should we. But the long standing tradition of reform begun by Chifley continued under Gillard’s watch.

Today we live once again under the dark shadow of conservative rule where the ideology of protecting the strong continues. Any agenda that smells of social equality is anathema to these proxies for big business and the free flow of capital and deregulation.

Now, with the carbon tax legislation repealed we are back in that vacuum of denial driven not by science but a theology so false and so evil at its source that it contradicts everything that has previously generated pride in our achievements. In time, the people will once again tire of seeing their living standards fall; they will be wiser to the broken promises, the pious rhetoric of dishonest men, the incessant greed that drives their masters so relentlessly. They will witness the rest of the world adopting some form of carbon price mechanism and eventually be forced to play catch-up. Then, they will long for the great reformers of the past. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough

To echo the words of Lenore Taylor of The Guardian: “It is a sad and sorry place for Australia to be after such a long and rugged process.”

 

Dangerous Allies: Let the US Alliance Debate Commence

Dangerous Allies makes a convincing case for greater Strategic Independence for Australia within the US Alliance, writes Denis Bright.

With the imprimatur of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, this challenge to continued Strategic Dependence on the US Alliance comes with additional research from doctoral research scholar, Cain Roberts. Malcolm Fraser correctly claims that existing joint operational agreements between Australian and US military forces are really a cover for a continuation of Strategic Dependence.

Ongoing joint operations by naval ships from members of the US Alliance in close proximity to China and territorial waters claimed by China from Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines carry immense financial and political costs to Australia.

Dangerous Allies also questions the status of the Pine Gap Communication Base in Australia.

Malcolm Fraser claims that it now has an offensive role within the Alliance in supporting early warning installations in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea against the possibility of missile attacks from both China and North Korea.

Just one miscalculation in regional sabre rattling could drag Australia into retaliatory responses by the US.

In any wider military conflict in Asia, the Marine Air Ground Task Force in Darwin becomes involved as a mobile operational force on the ready.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Lisbon NATO Summit 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Lisbon NATO Summit 2010

The advice from Malcolm Fraser as a seasoned Cold War Warrior should become part of the national public debate in Australia about our continued place in the Alliance.

Malcolm Fraser notes that the text of the ANZUS Treaty of 1951 insisted on the need for national sovereignty before any planned joint military response.

This is hardly possible in an electronic age when threats identified by early warning systems require instant attention.

In a global economy that has been re-energized by the rise of China, potential conflicts exist between compulsive loyalty to the US Alliance against financial losses from antagonizing China.

Using the successful model of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malcolm Fraser wants the benefits of demilitarization across Asia and the Pacific to be considered.

Positive outcomes from sparks of independence in Australian foreign policy are easily identified.

Prime Minister Howard definitely took great strategic risks with his military involvement in East Timor in 1999 with reluctant support from President Clinton.

Previous prime ministers, including Malcolm Fraser himself, were not prepared to grapple with the challenges posed by Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1975.

Other controversial issues from Malcolm Fraser’s three terms in office as prime minister could be used to illustrate the costs of maintaining Strategic Dependence beyond its use by date.

Such issues are very timidly covered in Dangerous Allies.

Follow-up interviews with Malcolm Fraser might also prompt responses from other senior national leaders who have been at the helm of Australian foreign policy.

Malcolm Fraser as the Custodian of Cold War Secrets

Malcolm Fraser as the Custodian of Cold War Secrets

As a former stalwart of the US Alliance, Malcolm Fraser made arrangements for the monitoring of the accuracy of US MX missile tests after the election of President Reagan in 1980.

Cabinet documents show that RAAF surveillance aircrafts were prepared to cover touch-downs in the Tasman Sea.

The Labor Caucus of Prime Minister Hawke challenged these arrangements but avoided a showdown with the US on this issue. Had this issue not been resolved, Australia may have followed New Zealand’s Prime Minister David Lange to radically qualify this country’s commitment to ANZUS. Prime Minister Hawke was able to re-energise the Alliance through the formation of Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

The inaugural meeting of AUSMIN in 1985 brought defence and foreign affairs ministers from both countries together on a regular basis.

In the national debate about the implications of Dangerous Allies, Malcolm Fraser will inevitably be quizzed about developments within the Australia-US Alliance during his time as Prime Minister.

Malcolm Fraser’s recommendations are about the future of an Alliance which has evolved and deepened far beyond the textual arrangements of the original ANZUS Treaty. Australians are rarely made aware of the implications of these changes for Australian sovereignty.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard took Australia to global partnership with NATO at the Lisbon NATO Summit of 2010.

All Smiles for the US Alliance in 1985

All Smiles for the US Alliance in 1985

Other historical examples of Alliance Creep need further attention. These issues and others await clarification from Malcolm Fraser and other senior national leaders who are still able to speak out:

  • Did Malcolm Fraser restore visits by US naval ships carrying nuclear weapons and what is the current status of these visits?
  • How did Malcolm Fraser resolve the role of the Pine Gap Communication Base?
  • Were security issues involved in the decision by Sir John Kerr to dismiss Gough Whitlam?
  • Were pressures placed by the US for continued recognition of the Pol Pot Regime after the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia from late 1978?

National archives in several countries now cover these controversial issues. There are also new revelations from Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to assist in deepening public debate about the US Alliance.

Malcolm Fraser defends the need for a more proactive Australian foreign policy commencing with diplomatic initiatives to accommodate a peaceful role for an emergent China.

Differences between firm allies have occurred in the past. Their resolution on terms favourable to Australia have been quite beneficial for national security.

Prime Minister John Curtin confronted Churchill to withdraw AIF Divisions from the Middle East in 1942. John Curtin followed with a successful appeal for US commitment to the defence of Australia and the South West Pacific.

MX Away My Friend: MX Away!

MX Away My Friend: MX Away!

Gough Whitlam broke ranks with Strategic Dependency, at least temporarily, to oppose additional deployments to South Vietnam. Some senior ministers opposed the bombing of cities in North Vietnam.

It was Malcolm Fraser himself who insisted on a return to the traditional Cold War relationship with the US. Malcolm Fraser has finally stirred up the possum and this saga has a long way to run if public debate on the Australia-US Alliance continues.

Readers of Dangerous Allies and interested journalists can take up this challenge by asking the right questions of Malcolm Fraser and other national political mentors who have been at the foreign policy helms.

Graphics Available from Online Sources

Dangerous Allies Promotion from Melbourne University Press.

 

Telling Lies and Breaking Promises

Image from dalonegroover.blogspot.com

Image from dalonegroover.blogspot.com

Undoubtedly in this election year the issue of truth will emerge. It always does. We the voters are often left to decide who is and who is not telling the truth. Or who is telling more or less of it. So what is a lie?

We know that a lie has three essential ingredients; it communicates some information.The liar intends to deceive or mislead. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true. And we call people who use these three principles Blatant liars.

When the leader of the opposition said in July 2012 ” The tragedy of this toxic tax is that it will not actually reduce emissions ” and six months later they fall by 8.6% Did he actually tell a lie. One could well argue that he had no facts on which to base his assumptive statement, so it could not be construed as a lie. It might be just an opinion. The same could be said about his statements about towns being wiped of the map and many others. However, if in politics we believe that lies or statements are made either to deceive or manipulate (and has the three principles mentioned previously), then you would conclude that he was telling porkies.

“When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts.”
– Michael Ende, The Neverending Story

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
– Adolf Hitler

Conversely when the Prime Minister said “I don’t rule out the possibility of legislating a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a market-based mechanism,”. “I rule out a carbon tax.” Did she actually tell a lie? Clearly she showed an intent to keep her options open. As it turns out we have a market based scheme. She was not trying to deceive. She was being honest within the uncertainty of the circumstances. And MSM never gave her the benefit of the doubt.

I have always felt that when politicians have in their procession certain knowledge and facts and fail to disclose it then they are guilty of lying by omission. When you withhold information you are denying the other persons right to the truth. An example of this was when John Howard found out that the children overboard incident was false and withheld the information for two days prior to the 2001 election. It was in fact lying by omission.and of course there is the weapons of mass destruction lie. Did John Howard ever check the facts?. If not he perpetuated one of the greatest lies in history.

“When you tell a lie you deny the other persons right to the truth”.
– John Lord

On a more personal level there are what we call white lies where we deliberately colour what we say in shades of hue to protect the feelings of others or ourselves, or to avoid argument.

“Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but he never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is.”
– Barbara Bush

Consider the case where telling a lie would mean that 10 other lies would not be told. If 10 lies are worse than 1 lie then it would seem to be a good thing to tell the first lie, but if lying is always wrong then it’s wrong to tell the first lie…

When politicians lie over a long period of time. It only serves to denigrate the liar,and show contempt for the voters intelligence. Especially if the lies are chronic and systemic. The current use of the term “no direct knowledge” is a lie within a lie pretending to absolve a person who is fully conversant with the facts.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . when first we practice to deceive.”
– Walter Scott, Marmion

Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we carry out (one researcher has said ‘lying is an unavoidable part of human nature’), so it’s worth spending time thinking about it.

Why is lying wrong?

There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong; which ones resonate best with you will depend on the way you think about ethics.

Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings:if people generally didn’t tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted – you would have to find everything out for yourself and an untrusting world is also bad for liars – lying isn’t much use if everyone is doing it.

Who are the biggest liars? The left or the Right of Politics?

Last year on Facebook I shared a post of an interview with Laurie Oakes and Tony Abbott (you can see it on YouTube). It is from 2005 and Tony Abbott is obviously telling lies about the Medicare safety net. I made the following comment to accompany it.

“People who constantly portray the prime minister as someone who constantly tells lies should take the time to read this”.

It was then picked up by former National Times journalist Alan Austin and we had a chat about broken promises, telling lies and the current standard of journalism. He had this to say.

Quote.

Remember, it was a Senator from his own side who called John Howard ‘the lying rodent’.

And have we forgotten the articles about Malcolm Fraser’s ‘Top 40 broken promises’?

Lies, about-faces and broken promises are as follows:

Gough Whitlam: 7
Malcolm Fraser: 52
Bob Hawke: 4
Paul Keating: 3
John Howard: 41
Tony Abbott (as Minister): 17
Kevin Rudd: 4
Julia Gillard: 6
Tony Abbott (as Opposition Leader): 15 and counting.

I found this to be particularly revealing so I inquired as to the authenticity of the figures and he replied with the following.

Before your time, John, I wrote a piece for The National Times in 1977 about what were then Malcolm Fraser’s top 25 blatant lies and broken promises. The then editor Trevor Kennedy – later to become one of Rupert’s henchmen – headed it “Malcolm’s battle with the time machine” which I thought at the time was unduly generous towards Mr Fraser.

Later, in 1980, I wrote a piece for Nation Review on Fraser’s top 40 lies and broken promises which then editor, Geoffrey Gold, headed ‘Promises, promises.’ Neither are on line, unfortunately, but I have them in my clip file. Since then, I have kept tabs on all Prime Ministers and would love to write about it.

If I get a publisher, I will let you know. (I am tentatively titling the piece ‘Lies, damned lies and I support the elected leader of the party’). Point being that there is simply no comparison whatsoever between the falsehoods and about-faces of the Conservatives and Progressives. The ratio is about 8 to 1.
Which is why the current perception that Ms Gillard is ‘Juliar’ is so bizarre from this vantage point. (I am in France. Which means I read other media than just Rupert Murdoch’s).

I replied:

Well I do hope you get to do it Alan. I have been following politics for around fifty years and It is time we had more honesty and the standard of reporting is deplorable. However,do you think there is at times a fine line between a broken promise and a change of mind? And of course changed circumstances can necessitate a change of mind.I would also be interested in what you think of the standard of political journalism in Australia today.

Again Quoting Alan Austin. “Excellent questions, John”.

Re standard of journalism in Australia:

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=27274

Regarding categories of deception, there are at least seven.

Staring down the camera bare-faced lies are Class A falsehoods, like this one satirised here:

This is Tony Abbott lying about a meeting with George Pell:

Promises broken for political expediency with no external factors forcing their abandonment are Class B Examples are Ms Gillard duding Mr Wilkie recently. And Mr Howard’s no-GST-never-ever which he abandoned before the 1998 election.

A Class B broken promise may, of course, be ratified by an election. If this succeeds, as indeed happened with Mr Howard’s GST, then it becomes less offensive. Say Class C.

Commitments made in good faith but prevented from being implemented despite the government’s genuine best efforts – by a hostile Senate or the High Court or a hung Parliament – are Class D.

Promises prevented from being implemented by changed economic conditions – such as Paul Keating’s L-A-W-law tax cuts – are Class E.

Promises deferred by changed economic or political conditions – such as Labor’s no carbon tax – are Class F. (Keating’s L-A-W tax cuts also turned out to be F eventually).

Assurances of loyalty to the leader by putative challengers deserve a special category. Say Class I (I for inevitable? Unavoidable?).

“Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it”.
– John Lord

In the US election Republicans Romney and Ryan took lying to an unprecedented level. Fact finders alerted the public to 2019 lies by Romney alone. It is my contention that President Obama lost the first debate not because he was of his game, or that he was under-prepared but rather he was taken by surprise by the willful lies that Romney was telling. The same fascination for untruth by conservatives has been exported to Australia.

In my view Australians face the most important election in living memory. Liberalism no longer exists so what we are facing is a political decision between a very sharp turn to the scary right. Or a party (in spite of its faults ) that has the common good at the centre of its ideology.

Let the independent fact finders emerge in all their glory. And the sooner the better.

“Do you shape the truth for the sake of good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there might often be pain in truth but there is no harm in it”.
– John Lord.

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