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Tag Archives: Whitlam Government

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:


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.


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.


John Malcolm Fraser AC, CH, GCL 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

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


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).


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The Anglo-American ambush of the Whitlam Government – 11.11.1975 (Part 2)

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.

The C.I.A. in Australia

Set up in September 1947 as a civilian foreign intelligence service of the U.S. Government, the Central Intelligence Agency is charged with gathering, processing and analysing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence. As one of the principal members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the C.I.A. reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and his Cabinet.

Next to the C.I.A., but totally independent of it was a group of agents, under the personal control of Henry Kissinger, and for the conduct of whatever operations Kissinger thought were desirable, necessary and convenient to exert his activity as counsellor, later Secretary of State and, at the same time, the principal of Kissinger Associates, Inc.

The business was officially established in 1982, as a New York City-based international consulting firm. It was run by Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft. Officially, the firm was designed to assist its clients in identifying strategic partners and investment opportunities, advising clients on government relations throughout the world. Known for its secrecy, its specific activities have remained carefully protected from public knowledge.

Kissinger Associates, Inc. has had strategic alliances with several firms, including: APCO Worldwide, formed 12 October 2004, The Blackstone Group, an investment and advisory firm, and Hakluyt & Company, a strategic intelligence and advisory firm. It has also been connected since 2003 with Covington & Burling, the well-known international law firm.

Some names of prominent staff give a pretty good idea of the power, ramification and connections. Members are, amongst others: L. Paul Bremer, former managing director, former Iraq Director of Reconstruction; Nelson Cunningham, political advisor and managing partner at Kissinger McLarty; Lawrence Eagleburger, former United States Secretary of State; Richard W. Fisher, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Timothy F. GeithnerUnited States Secretary of Treasury; Jami Miscik , President and vice chairman, Deputy Director for Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency; Joshua Cooper Ramo, Managing Director, former senior editor of Time Magazine; Bill Richardson, former senior managing director, former U.S diplomat and immediate past Governor of New Mexico; J. Stapleton Roy, vice-chairman, Senior U.S. diplomat; and Brent Scowcroft, former vice-chairman, former United States National Security Advisor.

Directors of Kissinger Associates, Inc. have included: Lord Carrington, from 1982 Secretary-General of N.A.T.O.; Gary Falle, of Falle Strategies; Étienne Davignon, former European Commissioner; Pehr G. Gyllenhammar, from 1982 Chairman, Volvo; Saburo Okita, former Japanese Foreign Minister; William D. Rogers, from 1982 Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs under President Gerald R. Ford; Eric Roll, from 1984 Chairman S. G. Warburg & Co.; and William E. Simon, from 1984 Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

At different times since 1982 Kissinger was director and/or adviser, consigliere to many multinationals and countries. Among them, at least from those known, are American Express, as director (Hungary, Japan); American International Group, as director, International Advisory Committee (Argentina, China, South Korea); Atlantic Richfield; Chase Manhattan Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), as chairman, International Advisory Committee; Coca-Cola (Malaysia); Fiat; Freeport-McMoRan, as director (Burma, Indonesia, Panama); Heinz (Ivory Coast, Turkey, Zimbabwe); Hollinger, Inc., as director; Lehman Brothers, with Kissinger McLarty Assoc. listed as a creditor in the Bankruptcy Filings; Merck; Volvo, and Warburg.

Kissinger’s personal dislike – (hatred, maybe?) – for Whitlam is well documented. Totally separated from and unknown to the C.I.A. was Task Force 157. Kissinger could trust no-one, even the C.I.A. to do what was necessary in certain countries. And that, in time, included Australia. Specifically, Task Force 157 would allow Kissinger to deny any connection between what it was doing and the C.I.A. The personnel of Task Force 157 included one Ted Shackley.

Theodore George ‘Ted’ Shackley, Jr. was an American C.I.A. officer involved in many important and controversial C.I.A. operations during the 1960s and 1970s. He was one of the most decorated C.I.A. officers. Due to his light hair and mysterious ways, Shackley was known to his colleagues as ‘the Blond Ghost’.

He was one of Office of Strategic Services Edward Lansdale’s protégés in the assassination business, who would go on to set up assassination squads. In the early 1960s, Shackley’s work included being station chief in Miami, as one of the head of sabotage operations against Cuba; and during the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis he directed the Cuban Project – also known as ‘Operation Mongoose’. He was also said to become the director of the ‘Phoenix Program’ – a secret assassination and capture campaign aimed at members of the Viet Cong insurgency’s infrastructure – during the Vietnam war, as well as the C.I.A. station chief in Laos between 1966 and 1968, and station chief from 1968 through February 1972 in what was called Saigon. William Colby, former Director of Central Intelligence – D.C.I., testified that the number killed in the ‘Phoenix Program’ was at least 20,000. The ‘Phoenix Program’ was eventually handed over to the U.S. and so-called South Vietnamese armies. Shackley served in Vietnam through February 1972 when he returned to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Shackley had taken with him another assassin, Felix Rodriguez, from the Cuban Project to Laos for the secret war in support of Vietnam. Felix Rodriguez was a close confidante of former C.I.A. Director George H. W. Bush, and maintained direct phone contact with Bush when Bush became Vice President under Ronald Reagan. In Vietnam, Shackley and Rodriguez would expand their circle of operatives to include Oliver North, Richard Secord and Richard Armitage. North, Secord and Armitage had proven themselves as men who could ‘get results’ against the Communists by operating outside of the rules.

From 1972 Shackley ran the C.I.A.’s Western Hemisphere Division. When Shackley took over the division, one mission for him was ‘regime change’ in Chile – the so-called ‘Project Fubelt’. This was the code name for the secret C.I.A. operations which were to prevent Salvador Allende rise to power before his confirmation, and promote a military coup in Chile.

Even after his ‘repatriation’ Shackley retained an interest in the Whitlam Government, about which he had seemingly developed a ‘paranoia’, as will be seen further. He considered both Prime Minister and government as ‘security risks’.

In May 1976 Shackley was made Deputy Director of Covert Operations, serving under C.I.A. Director George H.W. Bush, before ‘officially’ retiring from the organisation in 1979.

Despite his ‘retirement’ in 1979, controversy continued to surround Shackley over alleged involvement in the ‘October Surprise’ of 1980, and later the ‘Iran-Contra affair’ of the mid-1980s. He had hoped to return officially to the Agency, and during the 1980 presidential campaign, Shackley met Bush almost every week; his wife, Hazel, also campaigned for Bush.

With such an impeccable C.I.A. record it would be very difficult to disassociate him from what the C.I.A. was doing – anywhere. In December 1986 Shackley was named in a lawsuit by attorney Daniel Sheehan and the Christic Institute for his orchestration of the ‘Iran-Contra scandal’. Sheehan also claimed that Shackley and an associate were running a private assassination program which had evolved from projects they ran while working for the C.I.A. Shackley is perhaps best known for his involvement in C.I.A. ‘black ops’.

As far as Australia was concerned the activity of Task Force 157 seems to have been two-fold: firstly, to set up operations against the Whitlam Government, and secondly, to go ahead with using Australia as a base for certain clandestine U.S. operations such as arms and drugs dealing and smuggling of contraband goods.

The Nugan Hand Bank was to become the organisation used as cover for the operations of Task Force 157. The bank was typical of the organisations used by the C.I.A. in their style of operations.

There were actually three kind of organisations employed by the C.I.A. One is what is called the proprietary organisation, an organisation owned, operated and controlled by the C.I.A., such as Air America, which was landing freely at many legal and improvised airports – up to fifteen, it seems – in Australia. Then there is something which is more of a front organisation. These are usually a lot smaller and have a much more specific purpose and are less tightly controlled, maybe a consulting firm of some sort, that is its cover but it is really used as a firm: a restaurant, for instance. There is a third kind of organisation which is really an apparently independent organisation but it is closely allied to the C.I.A. not only in ‘ideology’, because many of the people who work for it are ex-C.I.A. people and they have mutual goals in some instances, or at least their goals run parallel in some instances but on the other hand they operate independently. This is like Interarmco – founded in 1953 and which came to dominate the ‘free world’ market in private arms sales – which is independent but ordinarily run by a former C.I.A. ‘asset’.

Nugan Hand Bank fell into this latter category. It was neither proprietary in the full sense of the word nor a simple front organisation. It appeared as an independent organisation with former C.I.A. people connected with it. They were in business to make money but, because of their close personal relationship with the Agency, Nugan, Hand and their many associates would do favours for the Agency and this would include providing cover in some instances for operators. It would include laundering of money. It would include cut outs for any sort of highly clandestine activity the Agency is involved in but with which it does not want to be in any way directly connected – Kissinger style.

The Nugan Hand Bank relationship to the C.I.A. can be traced through its employees, most of whom had an ‘intelligence’ background.

Francis John Nugan was born in Sydney in 1943. In 1963 he obtained a law degree from Sydney University. He then moved to the United States where he studied for his masters at the University of California. By 1965 he was studying at York University in Canada. Nugan returned to Australia in 1967.

Michael Jon Hand was an ex-American Green Beret, who had gone from the Green Berets to work in intelligence work for the U.S. government as a C.I.A. contract operative. He had been operating in Northern Laos as part of the ‘Phoenix Project’.

In 1973 Nugan and Hand established the Nugan Hand Bank. It began operations with 30 per cent of the stock held by Australasian and Pacific Holdings – 100 per cent controlled by Chase Manhattan Bank, 25 per cent by C.I.A.’s Air America, 25 per cent by South Pacific Properties and 20 per cent held by one Bob Seldon – a C.I.A. operative, Nugan and Hand.

The Irving Trust Bank’s New York Branch established U.S. links between the C.I.A. and Nugan Hand, with a worldwide network of 22 banks set up to:

  1. ‘launder’ money from heroin operations in the Golden Triangle and Iran;
  2. be a C.I.A. funnel to pro-U.S. political parties in Europe, Latin America and Australia;
  3. be a spying conduit for information from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand;
  4. finance arms smuggled to Libya, Indonesia, South America, the Middle East and Rhodesia using one Edward P. Wilson, a C.I.A. and S. Naval Intelligence officer.

Frank Nugan’s family ran the primary supply shipping operation between the U.S. Navy base in the Philippines and Australia. It is through Frank Nugan and his business partner Sir Peter Abeles that insight is provided to the flow of some of Ferdinand Marcos treasure. Sir Peter Abeles was reputed to be a member of what was known in Australia as the ‘Hungarian Mafia’ and a partner with Henry Keswick. Sir Henry Keswick was the son of S.O.E. officer John Keswick. The Keswick family had controlling interest in Jardine Matheson, which owned and operated Ferdinand Marcos’ gold smelting operation, which was opened in the mid 1970s. The Keswick family also had controlling interest in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

It was Sir Peter Abeles and Sir Henry Keswick who brought Canadian businessman Peter Munk back to business prominence from a scandalous insider-trading lawsuit in Canada in 1967. Munk would partner with Adnan Kashoggi – the well known merchant from Saudi Arabia; Sheik Kamal – the son of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, former President of Bangladesh; and Edgar Bronfmann – a Canadian-American businessman and philanthropist, who worked for his family drinks firm, Seagrams, eventually becoming president, treasurer and chief executive, in a series of operations which ultimately would evolve into Barrick Gold. Barrick Gold would become an investment for nearly every gold bullion bank associated with the Marcos gold recovery. The records of many of those transactions disappeared when Enron collapsed and the trading operation and all its records were taken over by U.B.S., another major recipient of Marcos gold. The F.B.I. was reportedly conducting an investigation into those transactions, and the investigation files were kept on the 23rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A review of the personal accounts of ‘September 11’ now suggests that office was deliberately targeted with explosives prior to the collapse of the W.T.C.

The Nugan Hand Bank would be one of the many banks used for transferring the Ferdinand Marcos gold from the Philippines into covert operations. Brigadier General Earle Cocke was the President in charge of the Nugan Hand Washington Office, and would be the key manager of ‘Project Hammer’ and the ‘Black Eagle Trust’. Other Nugan Hand Bank employees from U.S. Intelligence operations included:

  • Richard L. Armitage, who was the special consultant to the Pentagon in Thailand who oversaw the transfer of heroin profits from Indonesia to Shackley’s account in Tehran;
  • General Edwin F. Black, president of Hawaii branch, former commander of U.S. forces in Thailand;
  • William Colby, former director of the C.I.A. as legal counsel;
  • Dale Holmgreen, former chairman of C.I.A.’s Civil Air Transport, manager of the Taiwan branch;
  • General Leroy J. Manor, manager of the Manila branch, former chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Command and deputy director for counter-insurgency and special activities; he shared his office with Marcos‘s brother -in-law;
  • Walter McDonald, retired C.I.A. deputy director, headed Annapolis branch;
  • Dr. Guy Parker, an expert from the RAND Corporation who came on as a bank consultant, and senior Republican foreign policy adviser;
  • Richard Secord, all around operative with responsibilities in Iran-Contra, Vietnam assassinations, organising Mujahadeen armies in Afghanistan, and central Asia;
  • Rear Admiral Earl P. Yates, the former Chief of Staff for Policy and Plans of the U.S. Pacific Command and a counter-insurgency specialist, became president of the company.

Another key figure in this venture in Australia was one Maurice Bernard ‘Bernie’ Houghton, who had a U.S. ‘intelligence’ background, and had been working as an undercover intelligence operative in Australia, where he had resided since the late 1960s. He was closely connected to C.I.A. officials, Ted Shackley and Thomas G. Clines.

‘Bernie’ Houghton was connected in some way to a John D. Walker who was the C.I.A. Station Chief in Australia during the Whitlam Government years. He also had a connection with Edwin P. Wilson, who was a very senior member of Task Force 157. In the C.I.A. Wilson had run some proprietary companies. One such company was Australasian and Pacific Holdings, the company started by Mike Hand in Australia in the late 1960s. A number of the shareholders in that were members of Air America.

Nugan ran operations in Sydney whereas Hand was in charge of a branch in Hong Kong. This enabled Australian depositors to access a money-laundering facility for illegal transfers of Australian money to Hong Kong.

There were other branches throughout South East Asia, and one very active in Singapore.

Overseas there were more important persons connected with the Bank: U.S. Admiral Yates was a president of the Bank in the United States and also of the Cayman Islands branch which is normally used as a tax haven, for good secrecy provisions prevail there for banking operations, and U.S. General Edwin F. Black was the Hawaii representative of the Bank.

The actual Bank operated out of its offices in ‘K’ Street in Washington, D.C., run by Brigadier General Earle Cocke who was quite close to the White House. He claimed to have no connection with the Bank at all but it is a matter of record that in fact he introduced Yates for lobbying purposes for a particular scheme they had in mind, to people in the White House. Cocke himself had all sorts of intelligence connections.

There was an informal partnership between the Bank and Houghton – who, with the financial involvement of powerful building and transport tycoons, was operating a series of bars around King’s Cross, in Sydney. Houghton, who was known mainly as proprietor/manager of the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant in Sydney, a centre for Americans on Rest & Recuperation from Vietnam, led the Bank’s international division into new fields: drug finance, arms trading, and support work for C.I.A. covert activities. Hand openly told friends that it was his ambition that Nugan Hand became banker for the C.I.A.

In 1974 the Bank got involved in helping the C.I.A. to take part in covert arms deals with contacts within Angola. It was at this time that Edwin Wilson became involved with the Bank. Two C.I.A. agents based in Indonesia, James Hawes and Robert Moore, called on Wilson at his World Marine offices to discuss “an African arms deal”. Later, Bernie Houghton arrived from Sydney to place an order for 10 million rounds of ammunition and 3,000 weapons including machine guns. The following year Houghton asked Wilson to arrange for World Marine to purchase a high-technology spy ship. This ship was then sold to Iran.

The investigative journalist Jonathan Kwitny became convinced that the Nugan Hand Bank had replaced the Castle Bank and Trust Company in Nassau, as the C.I.A.’s covert banker. That bank had been forced to close after the Internal Revenue Service discovered that it was laundering C.I.A. funds and drug profits (Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA (1987) chapter seven).

In the winter of 1979 Edwin Wilson had a meeting with Bernie Houghton and Thomas G. Clines in Switzerland in an attempt to help him out of his difficulties. This included a non-delivery of 5,000 M16 automatic rifles. The three men discussed ways of using the Nugan Hand Bank to float a $22 million loan to finance the delivery. Hand was obviously concerned that if Wilson was arrested he might begin talking about his dealings with Nugan Hand.

On 7 January 1980 Robert Wilson – of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee and Richard Ichord – chairman of the Research and Development Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee had dinner with Bernie Houghton at the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant.

Nugan flew to the United States on 9 January to visit William Colby before moving on to Florida where he entered negotiations to buy a condominium. He also spent time in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland before arriving back in Australia. On 25 January he had a meeting with Bernie Houghton. The following day Nugan agreed to spend $ 2.2 million on a 828 acre country estate. Nugan told the seller that he was to close the deal the next day.

On 27 January 1980 Frank Nugan was found shot dead in his Mercedes Benz – ‘suicided’ probably. Near to his body was a Bible which included a piece of paper. On it were written the names ‘Bob Wilson’ and ‘Bill Colby’.

Bernie Houghton was in Switzerland at the time and he immediately rang his branch office in Saudi Arabia and ordered the staff to leave the country. Houghton also visited Edwin Wilson’s office in Geneva and left a briefcase with bank documents for safekeeping. Soon afterwards, a witness saw Thomas G. Clines going through the briefcase at Wilson’s office and remove papers which referred to him and General Richard Secord.

Two days after Nugan’s death Michael Hand held a meeting of Nugan Hand Bank directors. He warned them that unless they did as they were told they could “finish up with concrete shoes” and would be “liable to find their wives being delivered to them in pieces”.

Michael Hand, Patricia Swan, Bernie Houghton and his lawyer, Mike Moloney, spent the next few days removing files from Nugan’s office. They also began paying back selected clients. One estimate is that over $1.3 million was paid out in this way.

Frank Nugan’s inquest took place in April 1980. Testimony from Michael Hand revealed that Nugan Hand was insolvent, owing at least $50 million. Hand then promptly fled Australia under a false identity on a flight to Fiji in June 1980. Bernie Houghton also disappeared at this time and it is believed both men eventually reached the United States.

According to one witness, Thomas G. Clines helped Bernie Houghton escape. Michael Hand also left the country accompanied by James Oswald Spencer, a man who served with Ted Shackley in Laos. The two men travelled to America via Fiji and Vancouver. One report published in November 1980 suggested that Michael Hand was living in South America. It claimed that he had managed to escape with the help of “former C.I.A. employees”.

An investigation by the Australia/New South Wales Joint Task Force on Drug Trafficking discovered that the clients of the Nugan Hand Bank included several people who had criminal convictions relating to drug offences including Charles Robertson Beveridge, James Blacker, John Brooking, John Ceruto, Barry Graeme Chittem, Colin Courtney, Stephen Demos, Malcolm Craig Lord, Donald William McKenzie, Murray Don Newman, Murray Stewart Riley, Bruce Alan Smithers, James Sweetman, and James Lewis Williams. According to the records the Bank was receiving $100,000 a year from tax advice. In reality, it was receiving it for money laundering.

The Australian government appointed D. G. Stewart as Royal Commissioner to investigate the Bank scandal. The Stewart Royal Commission findings were published in June 1985. They confirmed that the “Nugan Hand Ltd. was at all times insolvent … and flouted the provisions of the legislation as it then stood in that large volumes of currency were moved in and out of Australia”.

Stewart went on to blame the dead Frank Nugan and the missing Michael Hand for the illegal activities of the Bank. William Colby, General Edwin F. Black, Dale C. Holmgren, Bernie Houghton, General Leroy J. Manor, Walter J. McDonald, Guy J. Pauker and U. S. Rear-Admiral Earl P. Yates were considered blameless. Despite the evidence, Hand and Patricia Swan, Nugan’s secretary, were accused of being the only ones “responsible for the shredding of documents”.

Task Force 157, which was also used for operations involving smuggling, drug trafficking and arms dealing in conjunction with the Nugan Hand Bank, included a yacht equipped with a special nuclear intelligence sensor that operated in the Bosphurus and shadowed Soviet ships.

There is plenty of evidence that in October 1974 Dr. Ray Cline, Deputy Director of Intelligence began to implement William Colby’s – Director of Central Intelligence, D.C.I. from September 1973 to January 1976 – plan to oust Prime Minister Whitlam. Colby was losing sleep over the near apocalyptic circumstance of Willy Brandt being the 4th Chancellor – and the first Social Democrat Chancellor since 1930 – of (then) West Germany (1969-1974), James Harold Wilson – a modest reformist – the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1974-1976) and Edward Gough Whitlam – also a modest reformist – the Prime Minister of Australia. Nugan Hand Bank would provide payment – up to $ 24 million – to the Australian Liberal Party, the Country Party and other pro-U.S. politicians. A joint bugging operation commenced between C.I.A. and A.S.I.O. Rupert Murdoch, playing his part, began to use his newspapers and television network to spread what many would argue to be lies and misinformation. Whitlam, as well as refusing to waive restrictions on overseas borrowing to finance the aluminium cartel, had plans to ensure that all corporations were at least 50 per cent Australian-owned. This interfered with the Seven Sisters’ plans to build three oil refineries at Cape Northumberland in South Australia to exploit the Great South Basin discovery. In December 1974 Sir John Kerr, five months after being appointed Australian Governor-General, would join Ray Cline’s payroll and receive his first pay-off of US $200,000 credited to his account number 767748 at the Singapore branch of the Nugan Hand Bank.

In 1991, a month after Kerr’s death, the late Margaret Whitlam – a person of independent and considered judgment, asked by a reporter whether she thought the Central Intelligence Agency was involved, said: “I do. He [her husband] doesn’t. As an old thriller reader I’m prepared to believe it”. On whether [she and her husband] had broken out the champagne when Kerr died, Mrs. Whitlam said: “No. I didn’t bother. I regretted his descent into his miserable life …” (The Sun Herald, 28 April 1991).

At 8 a.m. on Wednesday 27 July 1977, arranged by the American Ambassador Philip Aston, a close friend of President Jimmy Carter, a 30-minute breakfast meeting took place in the Qantas VIP lounge at Sydney airport.

Present at the meeting were Whitlam, then Leader of the Opposition; the Ambassador; Warren Christopher, the President’s Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and the South Pacific; and Richard Butler, a ten-year service diplomat who had become Whitlam’s Principal Private Secretary in 1975.

On his way to the A.N.Z.U.S. Council meeting which was to begin in New Zealand on the following Monday, Christopher advised Whitlam that he was there at the direct request of President Carter, having made a special detour in his itinerary for the sole purpose of speaking to Whitlam.

“The President had asked him to say:

  1. That he understood the Democrats and the ALP were fraternal parties;
  2. That he respected deeply the democratic rights of the allies of the US;
  3. That the US Administration would never again interfere in the domestic political processes of Australia; [Emphasis added] and
  4. That he would work with whatever government the people of Australia elected.” (Whitlam, The Whitlam Government 1972-1975, at 52-53).

Alston died in 1988, Christopher died in 2011 but had confirmed the meeting and Whitlam’s account, and so did Butler. (Max Suich, ‘Whitlam death revives doubts of US role in his sacking’, The Australian Financial Review, 30 October 2014).

‘Buying back the farm’

The industrial oligarchy, backed largely by British investment, is godfather to our provincialism. So that second-rate Englishmen, if they work for ICI or Unilever, are often looked upon as first-rate Australians (Ashbolt, 34).

Beginning shortly after the end of the second world war, American investment capital started to arrive in Australia. At 1947 values, $2 billion had already accumulated.

“And the short-term return for Americans on this investment, the outflow of profits, had reached by 1969 around $ 320 million a year, according to The New York Times. The volume of inflow had started to swell when American exporters found, in the late 1940s, that because of the dollar shortage in Australia they could sell to Australians in any meaningful quantity unless they set up business locally. Then the import quotas which were introduced to solve the balance of payment crisis in the early 1950s gave further impetus to the American companies. The real incentives, though, came by way of tax concessions and other financial guarantees from the Commonwealth Government, not to mention the various kindly offers made by state governments when Sir Charles Court, Sir Thomas Playford, Sir Henry Bolte and other splendiferously-accoutred mendicants visited the United States around 1958-60” (Ashbolt, 75).

At that time American know-how was thought of almost sacramentally, as the one thing that could send Australia soaring into the technological age. What seemed to be forgotten is that American know-how was built on cheap raw materials and large mass markets; and further, that the trick was not so much in the technique of production as in the plentifulness of low-cost resources and high-price buyers.

“Of course U.S. capital inflow, particularly in the form of direct private investment as distinct from portfolio investment or loans, is not always easily picked as coming from the USA. Sometimes it comes via Canada (which is already economically captive to the USA), sometimes in conjunction with British or Japanese capital, and sometimes it wears a gay, multi-coloured, multi-national plumage. But collectively, overseas investment, with its deep-dyed American strain, seems to have exacerbated long-standing weaknesses in the Australian economy. Firstly, it has helped to concentrate the ownership of industry in fewer hands, by the simple device of the merger – not a healthy trend in a country prone to over-concentration of ownership. Secondly, far too much capital proportionately is going into what is virtually primary industry, particularly the extraction of mineral, without promoting ancillary secondary industries. In mining, for example the latest Bureau of Statistics report shows that, even as far back as 1966, nearly one-half of the value of production – 49.8 per cent, to be precise – was under overseas control” (Ashbolt, 75-76).

Amidst intellectual and political indolence, Australians could have looked forward to a future when rivers and harbours would become more polluted, air more contaminated, soil more depleted, forests more denuded, beaches more eroded, ecology more unbalanced. And there would be overcrowded cities, chaotic transport, crime, poverty, disease and nervous tension to mar most megalopolitan complexes in the world. And that would happen because Australians would be satisfied with a life of wakeful anaesthesia and backwater colonialism.

Australia was facing the prospect of becoming a vast disused quarry, of moving in a century from the condition of a Hanoverian colony and later a British sheepwalk to that of an American protectorate and multinational empty quarry. By the mid-1960s slightly more than one-third of the total value of Australian mineral and fossil-fuel production was controlled by non-Australian ventures. By 1967 the figure had risen to nearly 53 per cent, and on the past rate of progression would [in 1974] be around 70 per cent. Certainly over 70 per cent of the mineral sector, considered separately, is in foreign hands” (Ashbolt, 347).

What Whitlam was offering while delivering his ‘Program’ on 13 November 1972 was a policy of “buying back the farm”. And he was not alone; most notably with him were Dr. James Ford ‘Jim’ Cairns, Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry who eventually became Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, and Reginald Francis Xavier – better known as ‘Rex’ – Connor, Minister for Minerals and Energy.

This explains how important in the ‘Program’ was the matter of Foreign Investment. Opening the campaign Whitlam said:


Rural industries no longer hold the dominating position in Australia’s export trade that they once did. But they have been traditionally and overwhelmingly the industries which Australians have controlled, industries from which Australians – all Australians – have derived the benefit and profit, and industries for which Australians – all Australians – have shared the burden in times of hardship and difficulty.

Now, the most profitable and significant of Australia’s industries and resources are under foreign control. Sir John McEwen described this process as selling a bit of the farm year by year to pay our way. Mr. McMahon, more than any other Liberal, prevented any effort to limit foreign investment in those years. More than any other Australian, Mr. McMahon bears the responsibility for Australia “selling the farm”. But in truth, it has not been the “farm” which has been sold – not the industries like wheat or wool or fruit or dairying or gold, the industries which have faced the crisis and hardships of recent years. It is the strongest and richest of our own industries and services which have been bought up from overseas. It’s time to stop the great takeover of Australia. But more important, it’s time to start buying Australia back [emphasis added]. A Labor Government will enable Australia and ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources”.

The 1973 oil crisis pushed the costs of energy to an all-time high, and caused disarray to economies all over the world. Australia suffered with the rest of them, with rising inflation and unemployment.

One of the Whitlam Government’s policies was to reclaim Australian ownership of Australia’s vast natural resources, such as oil and minerals, and its manufacturing industries. By the late 1960s, foreign control of the mining industry, for example, stood at 60 per cent, while 97 per cent of the automobile industry was foreign-owned. Both Whitlam and Connor, Minister for Minerals and Energy had grand ideas for developing the necessary infrastructure, and the means to help Australian companies to “buy back the farm”. Connor’s schemes included a petroleum pipeline across Australia, uranium enrichment plants, updated port facilities, and solar energy development, as well as the establishment of government bodies with the authority to oversee development and investment in key areas, such as oil refineries and mining. Connor estimated that Australia’s mineral and energy reserves were worth $5.7 trillion dollars – at 1972 values.

However, buying back the farm would not be cheap for a nation in the grip of inflation and economic stagnation. It was determined that the government would need about $4 billion. While Australia had an excellent credit rating with its usual lending banks in ‘the City’ – the term often used as a metonym for the United Kingdom’s trading and financial services industries – and ‘at Wall Street’, no established bank would extend Australia an amount even close to a quarter of what it wanted.

The other side to the oil crisis of 1973 was that the members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in the Middle East were rolling in petrodollars. To Whitlam, Rex Connor and also Jim Cairns the Middle East seemed an appealing source of funds, as it would also be yet another step towards gaining independence from Australia’s traditional economic partners.

In 1974 Whitlam instructed Connor and Cairns to find a Middle Eastern source for a $4 billion loan.

Thus began the so-called ‘loans affair’.

As soon as it became known that the Australian Government wanted to obtain such a large loan, both Connor and Cairns were inundated with offers to broker the loan. Most offers were not worthy of consideration.

There were two offers, however, which brought about the downfall of both the Ministers involved, and eventually the downfall of the Labor Government.

In March 1975 Jim Cairns, now Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, met one George Henry Harris, a Melbourne businessman best known in his role as President of the Carlton Football Club. Harris was on very friendly terms with many leading members of the Melbourne ‘Establishment’. He was also a friend of Phillip Lynch, Liberal Party Deputy Leader and Shadow Treasurer of the federal Opposition. Harris had first approached Cairns in a 16 November 1974 letter, by which letter he sought approval for himself and one Nagy to negotiate overseas loans for state authorities. On 7 March 1975 Harris produced a telex from Sunlight, a New York company, which was prepared to offer $4 billion at 7.2 per cent interest “with a once-only brokerage fee of 2.5 per cent”. To confirm that the offer was genuine, Harris showed Cairns a letter from the New York office of Commerce International. According to an intermediary present at the meeting, Cairns rejected the offer, as the terms of the loan were “unbelievable” and a “fairy tale”; Cairns also flatly refused to sign any letters making a commitment to the brokerage fee. He did, however, write for Harris two letters saying that the Australian Government was interested in raising a loan.

Now the facts become fairly foggy. It seems that Harris was going in and out of Cairns office to dictate a draft letter to one of Cairns’ secretaries, one of whom Harris apparently knew very well. So she came out of Cairns’ office and handed an additional letter to Harris.

The two previously mentioned letters said nothing compromising, but the third letter which also carried Cairns’ signature was, fatally, an agreement to a 2.5 per cent commission.

Two months later, Cairns was asked in Parliament whether he had signed a letter committing the government to a 2.5 per cent brokerage fee. Cairns denied he had signed any such agreement. However, several days later, a letter with Cairns signature was reproduced in major newspapers around Australia. Cairns did not remember signing the letter, and said so. It was easy for Cairns to claim that he might have signed the letter in question unknowingly while signing a batch of fifty or so letters and that it was not uncommon practice for politicians to sign letters that they had little or no memory of signing. Many blamed the disorganised state of Cairns’ office for what ultimately turned out to be a misleading statement to Parliament in June that he had not authorised any such commission. Easy, but not successful.

The fact remained that that letter carried Cairns’ signature, and on 2 July 1975 he was forced to resign his position for misleading Parliament.

The evidence that Cairns was set up is compelling. The motives may have been not only to discredit and damage the Whitlam Government, but also to have Cairns removed from office. Cairns was already one of the most popular Labor ministers for his leadership of the anti-Vietnam war movement. His popularity rose over Christmas 1974, when as Acting Prime Minister he flew to Darwin to view the destruction caused by Hurricane Tracy. As Deputy Prime Minister he would be the next in line to take on the leadership of the Labor Party. But as he was quite to the Left of the Prime Minister and much more vociferous than Whitlam in criticising the American Administration, the prospect of Cairns being the next Prime Minister frightened the C.I.A. Even early on attempts were made to discredit Cairns. In June 1974 A.S.I.O. had leaked their dossier on him to The Bulletin. It indicated that A.S.I.O.’s main concern about Cairns was the ‘terrorist’ potential of his part in the anti-Vietnam war protests.

Far more startling are the facts concerning George Harris and the loans affair. The letter Harris showed Cairns was from Commerce International, an arms dealing company based in Belgium, and with well-known links with the C.I.A. Commerce International remains a highly classified topic at the C.I.A.

It does not seem completely clear how the Opposition obtained knowledge of the letter with Cairns signature on it. However, Harris was seen with Phillip Lynch, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, a few days before Cairns was asked in Parliament about the letter.

Further evidence of a set-up was provided by one Leslie Nagy, an intermediary at the initial meeting between Cairns and Harris. A Sydney businessman, Nagy was the senior partner of Alco International in which he held a sixty per cent interest while Harris, who had joined on 1 March 1974, held a forty per cent interest. According to Nagy, Cairns had left the meeting, refusing to sign his name to a letter making a commitment to a brokerage fee. Yet minutes later, to Nagy’s surprise, Harris produced a letter with Cairns’ signature agreeing to the 2.5 per cent commission fee. While Harris denies that he set Cairns up, Cairns always denied having signed the incriminating letter.

Finally, the C.I.A. itself provided an interesting hint that there was some sleight-of-hand in the loans affair. The National Intelligence Daily, the C.I.A.’s intelligence gathering arm’s top secret briefing document for the President, reported on 3 July 1975 that Dr. Cairns had been dismissed, “even though some of the evidence had been fabricated”. An A.S.I.O. officer writing for The Bulletin in June 1976 concurred. He said that in his opinion, “some of the documents which helped discredit the Labor Government in the last year in office were forgeries planted by the C.I.A”.

Just like Cairns, Rex Connor, Minister for Minerals and Energy, was commissioned by Whitlam to find a Middle Eastern source for the $4 billion loan. The loan was to be used to fund a number of natural resources and energy projects, including the construction of a natural gas pipeline, the electrification of interstate railways and a uranium enrichment plant.

The loan was sought not from the traditional American and European sources, but from the Middle East, which was awash with petrodollars, following the quadrupling of oil prices in 1973 and 1974.

The search began by accident in October 1974 when one Gerry Karidis, a South Australian migrant from Greece, met up with a friend of his, Clyde Robert Cameron, then Minister for Labour, at a party in Cameron’s electorate. Karidis told Cameron that he knew of some sources for loans if the Australian Government was interested. Cameron passed the information on to Cairns and Connor, who then met with Karidis. Karidis was not certain of the sources of the funds, but a friend of his had assured him that the money could certainly be raised. Karidis was adamant that $4 billion petrodollars were available, and more.

There would be an intermediary, one Tirath Khemlani, a Pakistani businessman. Khemlani volunteered to broker the loan at very reasonable rates, despite the fact that he had no experience in brokering loans, let alone such a large one. From the beginning, there was something unsettling about Khemlani’s behaviour, and why Connor would trust him remains a mystery.

From the very start, the connection between Karidis and Khemlani was not clear. The line of finance seemed to pass through an Adelaide jeweller and opal dealer, one Tibor Shelley. Khemlani, who was manager of Dalamal and Sons, a London-based commodities firm, had learnt of the Australian interest through a friend, Theo Crannendonk, a Dutch arms and commodities trader who in turn knew a Hong Kong connection of Tibor Shelley’s. It was Thomas Yu, another Hong Kong arms dealer. Yu’s firm had a very close association with Commerce International, which is a very powerful Brussels-based armaments outfit with well-known links with the C.I.A.

Khemlani, a novice in high finance, wanted to broker the loan and in November 1974 flew to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on 11 November, in the company of Theo Crannendonk. Karidis was among those who met Khemlani at Sydney airport and took him to meet Rex Connor. Khemlani would say that he first heard that the Australian Government was interested in raising a loan while he was visiting his friend Crannendonk. Khemlani was in Crannendonk’s office when a telex about the loan came through from Thomas Yu.

Connor told Khemlani about the government’s interest in a $4 billion loan, and gave him a letter of introduction to that effect. On 13 December the Australian Executive Council – which on that day consisted of Whitlam, Cairns, Connor and Attorney-General Lionel Murphy – authorised Connor to raise the $4 billion 20-year loan, albeit “for temporary purposes”. There was a fault there: the Executive Council has the power to approve loan-raising activities without consulting the Parliament, but only if the loans are “for temporary purposes”. And, though there was a pressing reason in that the loan was to serve “with exigencies arising out of the current situation and international energy crisis and to strengthen Australia’s external financial position to provide immediate protection for Australia in regard to supply of minerals and energy”, it remains difficult to reconcile the borrowing of such large sum, not only for twenty years but also “for temporary purposes”. It must be assumed that secrecy was the motive for such extra-ordinary process. Had the Executive Council members consulted with their colleagues and/or brought the matter to Parliament, they would not have caused so much damage to the Government; they would not have entered into a temporary loan the terms of which meant that the Australian Government would have had to pay $20 billion in November 1995.

It seems that Khemlani made various attempts to raise the money. But each time he claimed to have secured the sum, the deals would fall through. By late December 1974 the top echelon of the Australian Treasury and other officials became increasingly suspicious that Khemlani was leading the Government on. Sir Frederick Wheeler, the permanent head of the Treasury Department convinced Cairns, then Treasurer, that Khemlani was lying to the Australian Government about his ability to raise the loan.

On 21 December 1974 Connor telexed Khemlani and terminated their relationship. On 7 January 1975 the Executive Council revoked Connor’s authority to search for loan sources.

Nevertheless, Khemlani continued to work on the loan-raising, and on 28 January Connor’s loan authority was re-instated, on Khemlani’s promise that he was confident that a loan would soon be provided, even up to $8 billion. Connor’s authority, however, was reduced to securing a loan for only $2 billion.

But Khemlani failed again. Nevertheless, in the following months Khemlani promised Connor that he could raise the money. Regardless of the many disappointments Connor still believed that Khemlani would have delivered. Clearly Connor had become obsessed with Khemlani’s purported ability even though the had been let down every time.

On 20 May 1975 Connor’s authority was revoked once and for all. But three days later, Khemlani contacted Connor and told him that a loan was within short reach. Connor replied positively, and continued to deal with Khemlani, without authority and unbeknownst to any person in the Government. On 10 June Whitlam told a press conference that none of his Ministers any longer had the authority to raise a loan, and no loan was being raised. On 9 July Connor was asked to table in Parliament all documents relating to his loan-raising activities. He neglected to tell Parliament that he was still dealing with Khemlani.

Leaks of the loan deals appeared in various newspapers around the country. Then in October 1975, after nearly a year of promises to drum up a loan, Khemlani turned up in Australia with two suitcases full of the telexes Connor had sent him, including those sent after Connor was ordered not to contact Khemlani again. Khemlani handed the telexes over to the Opposition – which had provided Khemlani with bodyguards on his arrival to Australia – and the incriminating telexes appeared in newspapers around the country.

It is not known why Khemlani would turn on the Government as he did, but it is presumed that he was handsomely rewarded for it. The Liberal-Country Party Coalition denied they had paid Khemlani, but there is evidence that the media did buy the telexes off him.

There must have been something in the mind of Sir Frederick Wheeler beyond the ‘established tradition’ of borrowing from ‘reputable sources’ in London and Washington. During lengthy discussions the frequent question had been: why had Khemlani volunteered to broker a loan of $4 billion? And another question might have been: how could Khemlani devote so much time and spend so much money about the project? Further: why would the intended lender – and not the Australian Government – have paid for his services?

Some new elements emerged in time. For instance, both Thomas Yu, from whom Khemlani was said to have heard about the Australian Government’s search for the loan, and Theo Crannendonk were together in a joint venture with another character connected with Commerce International. It was one Gerhard Whiffen, who represented Commerce International in Singapore. And the purpose of the venture was a shipment of arms to Angolan rebels supported by the C.I.A.

In addition, the joint venture included one Chris Brading, about whom little is known except for the fact that he was a pilot for C.I.A.’s Air America, and one Don Booth who had a reputation as a former C.I.A. operative. Naturally, the C.I.A. has denied having a file on Khemlani, but of course such denial would be by definition unreliable. The same organisation, however, directed any question to the National Security Agency, which is another notorious U.S. intelligence organisation of the United States government, responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence purposes. Such information is then passed on to other ‘intelligence’ agencies.

It does not come as a surprise that the N.S.A. would have information about Khemlani who was telexing right and left in the Middle East with a view to obtain the loan.

Khemlani was certainly a curious character. Whether by accident or design, in 1980 he left at the home of a ‘business consort’ several suitcases full of documents detailing many of his activities over previous years, including his connection with the Nugan Hand Bank.

Some of the documents show that in 1978, if not before, Khemlani had extensive business with the Nugan Hand Bank’s Cayman Island’s branch. One can smell the whiff of Shackley.

Whether Khemlani had a connection with Nugan Hand Bank before 1978 is not known, but again several of the documents show that in September of that year he had contacted the Bank to act as a trustee for several of Khemlani’s projects.

The papers also indicated that, after his loan-raising efforts on behalf of the Australian Government, Khemlani had been involved in seedy business in several countries, including Ghana, Haiti and Sierra Leone.

In 1979 Khemlani was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for defrauding the Citizens National Bank in Chicago of $1 million worth of bonds. He was tried and convicted but given a suspended three-year sentence in exchange for turning state’s evidence and pointing at a criminal syndicate with which he had been working.

Surprisingly, the U.S. authorities found it necessary to inform A.S.I.O. of Khemlani’s arrest.

There is at least one reliable source of corroboration that Khemlani had possible connections with the C.I.A. The source explains how Khemlani was responsible for providing documents, falsified by the C.I.A., which were used to embarrass the Whitlam Government and led to the downfall of Connor and Cairns when they were tabled in Parliament (Ralph McGehee, Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. Melbourne 1999).

On 11 November 1975 Prime Minister Whitlam received a plain envelope. It contained the draft of a telex, which had been found in a hotel room in Hawaii, and shows the C.I.A. involvement with Khemlani.

The draft reads:

“1. Do not transmit via phone or letter. Encipher before transmitting by telex contact ‘LM’ at 536 6009 for assistance.

Reference your correspondence on 11 Oct. 1975.

On 16 Oct., Mr. T. Khemlani will be departing for Singapore to arrange matters in case government capitulation seems near. If not Mr. Khemlani will return to Australia on or about 26 Oct. 75 to create further chaos.

Newspapers’ editorials must continue to put pressure on the Labor Government if capitulation is to succeed. If capitulation does not succeed by 14 November 75, support from overseas will cease until mid 76”.

The draft telex appeared in May 1977 in The Sun of Sydney, an afternoon tabloid newspaper owned by Fairfax Holdings as the afternoon companion to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The C.I.A., contacted at the telephonic number provided in the draft, denied that anyone with the initials ‘LM’ was working at its headquarters in Hawaii. Understandable, one would say.

Yet, “In 1981, a CIA contract employee, Joseph Flynn, claimed that he had been paid to forge some documents relating to the loan affair, and also to bug Whitlam’s hotel room. The person who paid him was Michael Hand, co-founder of the Nugan Hand Bank (The National Times, Jan. 4-10, 1981)” (Heather Gray, US Meddling in Australian Politics, Counterpunch, 5 December 2007).

On 26 May and 2 June 2013 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation went on air with Whitlam: the power and the passion. The documentary revealed many details of persons deeply connected with the Liberal/Country Party Coalition. Amongst other matters the documentary showed how Khemlani had been provided with a bodyguard on his arrival to Australia.

Unfortunately, the A.B.C. repeated most of the allegations thrown at the Whitlam Government by Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers with no evidence whatsoever to support them. It simply repeated ugly and untrue stories that The Australian had run for weeks; stories which have since been shown to be contrived, exaggerated and plainly false.

The documentary did not mention that Phillip Reginald Lynch – later Sir, who was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, had ‘facilitated’ Khemlani’s travel arrangements. He and the future Prime Minister John Winston Howard were among the busy bee Liberals who secretly brought Khemlani to Australia and took him to a Canberra hotel with his two suitcases of records of supposed dealings with the Whitlam Government. Yet, after long days and nights sifting through the papers, Howard and his colleagues found nothing – absolutely nothing – which could be held detrimental to Whitlam and/or his government. But Opposition’s propaganda did its best job for the occasion. And Lynch and Howard always had that quality that the Germans call Sitzfleisch – a reference to a person’s buttocks with the necessary air of authority and staying power.

The charge of having had contact, particularly secret contact, with Khemlani, outside the ‘appropriate lines of credit: the City and/or Wall Street’, and with a Pakistani to boot, developed with rapid, negative reflex in Australia.

On 14 October 1975 Whitlam, always concerned with respecting parliamentary rules, forced Connor’s resignation for having misled Parliament, just like Jim Cairns five months before him. Whitlam, who relied on the word of his colleagues, had told the Australian people that no more attempts were being made to raise such a large loan. He was also accused of misleading the public. The scandal provided for the Opposition with the “reprehensible circumstances” that the Leader of the Opposition needed to block the passage of the Budget though the Senate and force an election.

To be continued. Tomorrow . . . Is this an ally?

* 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


The Anglo-American ambush of the Whitlam Government – 11.11.1975

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.

The coming of a titan

On 13 November 1972, at the Blacktown Civic Centre, Sydney, Edward Gough Whitlam delivered the Policy Speech for the Australian Labor Party.

He addressed himself, as wartime Prime Minister John Curtin had done in 1943, to “Men and Women of Australia”.

For him it was like saying “as we were saying yesterday”. His speech was a celebration of hope and commitment. He went on:

“The decision we will make for our country on 2 December is a choice between the past and the future, between the habits and fears of the past, and the demands and opportunities of the future. There are moments in history when the whole fate and future of nations can be decided by a single decision. For Australia, this is such a time. It’s time for a new team, a new program, a new drive for equality of opportunities: it’s time to create new opportunities for Australians, time for a new vision of what we can achieve in this generation for our nation and the region in which we live. It’s time for a new government – a Labor Government”.

Whitlam then proceeded to outline in great detail the points of ‘The Program’ he had worked for years to prepare, refine and perfect. It would deal in the most minute particulars with all areas of government: open government, economic planning, taxation, prices, education, health, social welfare, cities, urban transport, regional development, primary industries, northern development, shipping, foreign investment, the Australian Industry Development Corporation, industrial relations, the quality of life, arts and media, law and order, Aborigines, international affairs and defence, and Anzus – in that order of presentation, but not of priority. No area of human endeavour was to be neglected.

“Our program” he said, “has three great aims. They are:

  • to promote quality
  • 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.

We want to give a new life and a new meaning in this new nation to the touchstone of modern democracy – to liberty, equality, fraternity”.

After victory on 2 December, certain matters of government required a prompt decision, but such matters could not be attended until a ministry had been nominated and that was not possible before 18 December.

It was then agreed with the Governor-General that a ‘duumvirate’ be established, composed of Mr. Whitlam and his loyal deputy, Mr. Lance Herbert Barnard.

Mr. Whitlam allocated to himself 13 portfolios: Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs. External Territories, Treasurer, Attorney-General, Customs and Excise, Trade and Industry, Education and Science, Shipping and Transport, Civil Aviation, Housing, Works and Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. He allocated to Mr. Barnard 14 portfolios: Defence, Navy, Army, Air, Supply, Postmaster-General, Labour and National Service, Immigration, Social Services, Repatriation, Health, Primary Industry, National development and the Interior.

Together they would make major decisions across almost all areas of government.

The atmosphere of the first days is still captured in the daily record published by The Sydney Morning Herald:

On 5 December 1972, on his first press conference, Prime Minister Whitlam discussed more plans, including the recognition of China, matters concerning employment, the wine tax, national service, land prices, Papua New Guinea independence and promised a more independent Australian stance in international affairs; announced the appointment of Dr. H. C. Coombs as personal advisor; the return of the passport to Mr. Wilfred Burchett, an Australian-born communist journalist; the forthcoming talks with South Australian and Western Australian Premiers on employment problems; and the re-opening before the Arbitration Commission of the case for equal pay, and other matters.

On his part, Mr. Barnard announced an immediate end to national service call-up.

On 6 December it became known that the Australian Ambassador in Paris had opened talks at the Chinese Embassy on Australia’s recognition of China, following the recall of the Australian Ambassador from Taiwan; all seven draft resisters had been set free; and additional bonus was to be offered to national servicemen who choose to complete 18 months term of service.

The Labor Federal Government took the following steps on 7 December, its third day of office: announcing extensive new bonus for permanent members of the forces; initiating moves to scrap the honours list; ordering the N.S.W. Government close down the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney and cancelling the Australian passport to the Rhodesian diplomatic representative; removing the sales tax on the contraceptive pill – to be placed on the National Health Scheme list; referring certain matters to the Tariff Board; stopping the granting of further leases on Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory; and pre-announcing the restructure of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by the future Minister for Industrial Relations.

On 8 December the new Labor Government took the following steps: lifted the sales tax on contraceptives; announced that the Sydney airport jet curfew would be strictly enforced; announced that racially selected sporting teams would be excluded from Australia; asked the Afghanistan Government to bring to trial or release an Adelaide journalist who had been gaoled there for two months; announced that Mr. Whitlam would visit New Zealand in January 1973; released the film Portnoy’s complaint uncensored with an R certificate; and announced that the future Treasurer, Mr. Frank Crean, would be made available as fast as possible to implement expansion plans for tertiary education bodies.

On 10 December the new Labor Government announced a contribution of $300,000 for international birth control programs; held talks with the South Australian premier, Mr. Dunstan, on problems facing the State; announced major new grants totalling more than $4 million for the arts in the following year; guaranteed $6,125.000 in grants for Western Australia, and up to $7 million for South Australia, according to the Premiers of those States; requested talks with the Premier of New South Wales and Victoria to discuss plans for a regional growth centre at Albury-Wodonga, and – most importantly – announced the withdrawal of the remaining troops in Vietnam within the following three weeks.

In its eighth day in office, the Labor Government announced the visit to Australia in January by the Duke of Edinburgh; revealed further talks in Paris on the establishment of diplomatic relations with China and receipt of a message from Chinese Prime Minister, Mr. Chou En-lai; announced the appointment of Mr. John Armstrong as Australia’s new High Commissioner in London, set up the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission; granted $2.5 million in rice aid to Indonesia; decided to ratify international conventions on nuclear arms, racial discrimination and labour; foreshadowed moves to reduce the reserves held in health funds; and indicated that Australia would go ahead with its purchase of 24 F111s.

On 13 December the Labor Government announced new contributions to United Nations funds for Southern Africa; established the average export return under the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Plan; announced that the Interim Committee for the Australia Schools Commission would be holding its first meeting in Canberra on the following week; approved grants totaling $21,000 to two voluntary organisations involved in Aboriginal affairs; and announced that all departments would prepare detailed reviews of secret or unpublished reports. The Minister for Labour would have studied the reviews to see if they could be made public.

On 14 December the Labor Government announced plans for the establishment of special schools for Aborigines; ended Australian wheat exports to Rhodesia; amended the pharmacy ordinance to remove the prohibition on the advertising of contraceptives in the Australian Capital Territory; asked the Australian Ambassadors in Washington and the United Nations to return to Australia for consultations; announced the appointment of the next High Commissioner to Tanzania; announced the appointment of the new Deputy High Commissioner to London; appointed Professor Russell Mathews as a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for three years; and announced that national services who were AWOL or in gaol for the same were entitled to protection in regard to civil employment and protection of financial commitments.

On 15 December the Labor Government took the first moves to grant Aborigines land rights; gave Tasmania $3 million to relieve unemployment and for sewerage, housing and education; appointed Miss Elizabeth Evatt a presidential member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission; and indicated further decentralisation of tertiary education facilities.

Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 December were the last two days of the duumvirate’s Labor Government. Arrangements were made for Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser to fly to Miami soon to attend the dedication ceremony at the U.S. Swimming Hall of Fame; and a new purchase policy for the Federal Government giving Australian-owned firms preference over foreign-owned companies where all other aspects of the tenders were equal.

Caucus assembled on 18 December to elect the full Ministry by ballot. The result was prompt and predictable and the Prime Minister soon announced the formation of a Government of 27 members.

The real drama of the changeover lay in its novelty. Not since December 1949 had the Australians voted to change their national government. None of Whitlam’s colleagues had held ministerial positions, and only three of the new ministers, Beazley for Education, Cameron for Labor, and Daly for Services and Property as well as Leader of the House had been members of Parliament during previous Labor administrations – in the 1940s. Yet some new ministers, such as Barnard for Defence, Navy, Army, Air and Supply – as well as Deputy Prime Minister, Beazley for Education, Connor for Mineral and Energy, Crean as Treasurer, Hayden for Social Security, Jones for Transport and Civil Aviation, Murphy as Attorney-General – also responsible for Customs and Excise and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Uren for Urban and Regional Development, had long been the Opposition spokesmen for the portfolios to which they were eventually appointed.

The Ministry chosen on 18 December set out enthusiastically to carry out the mandate of 2 December, fired, no doubt, by the example of the duumvirate. The Ministers were firmly of the view that they had been given a specific mandate to implement each part of the Program set forth in the policy speech. They regarded the people’s verdict not merely as a permit to preside but as a command to perform.

Prophetically, in a sense, Whitlam placed an epigraph to his record of The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975 (1985). It reads as follows:

“And one has to reflect that there is nothing more difficult to handle nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to conduct than to make oneself the leader in introducing a new order of things. For the man who introduces it has for enemies all those who do well out of the old order and has lukewarm supporters in all those who will do well out of the new order.

The lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not put their trust in changes if they do not see them in actual practice. Thus it arises that whenever those who are enemies have the opportunity to go on the attack they do so forcefully and the others put up a lukewarm defence, so putting themselves and their cause at risk at the same time” (from Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince, at Chapter Six).

But such was the wisdom of the hindsight.

The arrival of a new party in government after 23 years in opposition, particularly in a country which calls itself democratic, is highly likely to be a memorable event. As already observed, few of the new ministers had much experience of the duties about to confront them, even by observation.

The rapid, giddying movement of the Whitlam Government during the first weeks of December 1972 was one cataclysmic occasion, certainly the most famous of its kind in the history of Australian Government administration.

The new ministry did not arrive unarmed. Indeed, it had a huge array of plans, policies and programs, covering most fields of government and quite a few new ones as well. There were, nevertheless, some major gaps in the assiduous preparation for office.

The ambitions of Whitlam’s Program demanded attention to the means and instruments of implementation. The Program demanded a change of attitude which was a difficult step for many highly placed public servants. The need was the greater given the fears and reservations that several of the new ministers held about the public service.

Whitlam protested that he did not distrust public servants because his father had been one and a particularly impartial one. But it was a politically unworldly view, an idealisation from another time that Whitlam never doubted, but should have.

Whitlam had before himself the image of a federal public servant as the one projected by his father, who after a long and distinguished service became Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and displayed the same probity in the administration of his function. It is thought that Whitlam senior’s involvement in human rights issues was a powerful influence on his son. Certainly young Whitlam grew up in the strong respect for tradition and conventions in public life. He held a literal meaning for the words ‘public’ and ‘service’. Those words demanded loyalty and honesty to the government of the day. This might have influenced his decision not to replace at least four key persons: Sir John Bunting, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1959 to 1975; Sir Keith Waller, Secretary of the Department of External (later Foreign) Affairs from 1970 to 1974; Sir Frederick Wheeler, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury from 1971 to 1979; and Sir Arthur Tange, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1954 to 1965 and of the Department of Defence from 1970 to 1979.

These servants were not ‘public’ in the sense understood by Whitlam, but rather administrators of a conservative and reactionary regime such as was the tenure of government between 1949 and 1966 for sure – and progressively decaying between 1966 and 1972. The vision of two of them was particularly limited. For Wheeler the ‘proper, natural’ place to discuss and borrow money was ‘the City’ – later on, albeit reluctantly, ‘Wall Street’. Tange had long decided that the defence of Australia could only be seen as increasingly dependent on the generosity of the new protector, the United States. Tange had a limited view of worldly things; in modern parlance they are grouped under the ambit of ‘Anglosphere’. He was responsible for entering into high confidential, secret even to the Australian Government, ‘understandings’ among the ‘Five Eyes’ powers, the ‘intelligence alliance’ comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Out of Menzian torpor

“To me it was rather depressing that in December 1949 when one third of the population of the world was marching forward, we chose to stand still … We were still a nation of petty-bourgeois property owners, who thought it was prudent to prefer men with the values and skills of receivers in bankruptcy and believers in efficient government to visionaries and reformers to govern our country. We had the values of the counting house; we were interest rate men; we thought quality of life men should pull their head in” (Manning Clark, A discovery of Australia (1976) at 8).

1949 was the year of the return to power of Robert Gordon Menzies, anointed Sir in 1963.

Unquestionably provided with a brilliant mind and a dominating personality, Menzies was a superb orator and parliamentary debater, who succeeded in making himself indispensable to the people opposing labour as well as Labor, although very few of them felt for him much personal warmth. His deputy prime minister for many years, Arthur Fadden, the leader of the Country Party – really ‘the Agrarian Socialists’, privately referred to him as ‘the Big Bastard’ – with the accent on Big. For conservative, nay anti-Labor, voters he came in the end to possess almost the mana of a tribal god: he was powerful, wise, well-bred, witty and above all, sound. Few Labor supporters denied his tremendous ability, but to them he appeared also as unscrupulous, opportunistic, condescending an insufferably arrogant (Russel Ward, Concise history of Australia (1992) at 265-266).

Others saw Menzies as “the apotheosis of [Australians’] petty-bourgeois aspirations to high respectability. In his cynicism and philistinism, his racialism and attachment to British imperialism, he reflected traits which [Australians] have often sought desperately to submerge” (Allan Ashbolt, An Australian experience (1974) at 38).

In his The Australian ugliness, Robin Boyd attempted to answer the question: “What is an Australian?” The book’s Chapter 3 is appropriately titled ‘Anglophiles and Austericans’. So – he wrote – there is a “pervasive ambivalence of the national character. Here also are vitality, energy, strength, and optimism in one’s own ability, yet indolence, carelessness, the ‘she’ll do, mate’ attitude to the job to be done. Here is insistence on the freedom of the individual, yet resigned acceptance of social restrictions and censorship narrower than in almost any other democratic country in the world. Here is love of justice and devotion to law and order, yet the persistent habit of crowds to stone the umpire and trip the policeman in the course of duty. Here is the preoccupation with material things – note, for example, the hospitals: better for a broken leg than a mental deviation – yet impatience with polish and precision in material things. The Australian is forcefully loquacious, until the moment of expressing an emotion. He is aggressively committed to equality and equal-opportunity for all men, except for black Australians. He has high assurance in anything he does combined with a gnawing lack of confidence in anything he thinks” (The Australian ugliness (1960) at 74 of the 2012 edition).

Four years later, Donald Horne, another Australian, would publish The lucky country – a title which was misunderstood from the start! The book would offer a first-time visitor to Australia characterisations such as this: “ … it is certainly the belief of many Australians that politics is essentially a fraudulent activity engaged in by self-seeking crooks … in private they often excuse their participation in politics by boasting of their cynicism. It is as if it would be unmanly and un-Australian for a politician to confess to a serious interest in public affairs. The public emptiness of Australian politics comes from its lack of intellectual strength … if intellectuals wish to walk down the corridors of power in Australia they must leave their intellectuality at home. As in business, to pretend to some stupidity is safest” (D. Horne, The lucky country (1964) at 192 of the 2005 edition).

So, could one see in Menzies an ‘upstart windbag’, or a ‘cynical royalist’, or an ‘unctuous liar’ – as he was frequently portrayed by opponents and false-friends?

Menzies considered himself as born by accident in Australia; he felt more like an Australian Briton – perhaps just a Briton abroad. He was no democrat. On the contrary, he had admired Mussolini, repeatedly visited Nazi Germany and reported favourably on it. As it was the tone of the time in London and at Buckingham Palace he regarded Hitler as a “bulwark against Communism”. As a creature of the Bank of New South Wales he felt comfortable in the presence of Reichbank head Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s financial wizard. He really despised Australia, and would much rather have been the Prime Minister of Britain. Returning from ‘home’ to Australia in 1941 after an unsuccessful intrigue to replace Churchill, he noted in his diary “a sick feeling of repugnance and apprehension” which grew on him as he was nearing and whereby he was wishing that he could “creep in quietly into the bosom of the family and rest there” (David Day, Menzies & Churchill at war (1986) at 152-53).

He hated his native country so much, and loved England enough to beg the British Government to conduct their nuclear bomb tests from 1952 to 1958 in the Australian deserts at Maralinga (home of thirteen Aboriginal settlements). Menzies agreed to the testing without even consulting his Cabinet. As John Pilger wrote: “Australia gained the distinction of becoming the only country in the world to have supplied uranium for nuclear bombs which its Prime Minister allowed to be dropped by a foreign power on his own people without adequate warning” (A secret country (1991) at 168).

The Australia Labor Party during the declining years under Caldwell still shared with the conservative Coalition many items of policy: both parties were for the retention of the ‘White Australia policy’ – no matter how dependent the country had become from migration of ‘oily Dagoes’, ‘stinking Eyeties’, ‘bloody Reffos’ and other ‘Wogs and Balts’ who would make a laughing point of Menzies, who was and intended Australia to be British “to the bootstraps”. In time, the newcomers would be categorised as ‘new Australians’, perhaps to retain their ‘differentness’ or because unlike the government public servants, the footballers, the surfers, the life-savers, the students and the race-goers and beer-swillers of old they would work harder and for longer hours. They built the Snowy Mountains System, which had been planned and almost completed by the Labor Government.

As for the first inhabitants of the country, the Aborigines, once massacres had ceased – perhaps since the August-October 1928 planned massacre at Coniston, in the Northern Territory – they would continue to be segregated as far as possible in reserves and on mission stations. Ignored, protected was the self-serving justification.

The few people in Europe, Asia, Africa and America who had heard anything at all about Australia knew of the ‘white Australia’ policy and consequently continued to regard the place as a racist pariah among nations, very much like the Union of South Africa.

As for South Africa’s racist policies, condemned by world opinion, they were supported by Australia to the point where Menzies was fondly referred to as ‘Oom Robert’ – Uncle Bob – by the Afrikaner, apartheid, nationalist press.

The London Declaration of 1949, the same year of the return of Menzies, made the former British Commonwealth more ‘respectable’: no longer British but Commonwealth of Nations. This was not so for Menzies, of course. For him and to many in Australia Britain remained ‘Home’, and the centre of their world.

Menzies, like most Australians – Briton or ‘multicultural ones’ – believed or pretended to believe that timely help to our “Great and Powerful Friend’, no matter why, when or how, would ensure American protection of Australian ‘national interests’ in the future.

This is why Australia committed troops to Korea in 1950.

Twelve years later, when Indonesia’s President Sukarno would annex the western part of New Guinea, despite Dutch and Australian protests, Menzies would blushingly give in to Sukarno. Yet, even this painful experience did nothing to shake the lazy faith of Australian conservatives in America care for and loyalty to Australia. Such reaction would be common among people who understand their relationship as one of master and servant. Most Australians, however, cared little about the Korean War as they would do later about a possible confrontation with Sukarno, and remained much more interested in the anti-Communist witch-hunt at home which would poison the life of so many people.

In 1950, true to his election promise, Menzies prepared a Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Its draconian provisions were aimed at declaring the Party illegal and providing for the seizure of its assets, which would be forfeited to the Commonwealth. The intended act would have given the government power ‘to declare’ Australians as Communists, to bar them from public employment and from holding offices in key trade unions. That this was against a fundamental principle upheld by modern and democratic countries mattered very little to Robert Gordon Menzies, Q.C.: a ‘declared’ person was guilty and bound to prove her/his innocence. Not to waste time, while speaking of the Bill before the House, Menzies anticipated its passage and ‘declared’ twenty or so Communist trade-union officers whose name had presumably been provided to him by the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation or by paid government spies. That some of them were not Communist did not matter, and that at least one was neither a Communist nor a trade-union member did not count for a populace which had already been infected by strongly anti-Communist feelings. Many Labor people, mainly Catholic, did not object.

In the end it was for the High Court to find the Bill unconstitutional in March 1951. The trick had not been successful, but the poison had been injected.

Anyone could have seen that by 1942 Australian security appeared to be dependent on the United States as much as it formerly had been on Britain.

It was so that on 1 September 1951 Australia, New Zealand and the United States joined in a security treaty – the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty, an agreement which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States, to co-operate on military matters in the Pacific Ocean region. It was later seen as relating to conflicts worldwide, as it happened in 2001 after the New York terrorist attack.

On 6 April 1954 The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that the government would have to pull a couple of rabbits out of Menzies’ top-hat if it were to survive the election which was due to be held on 29 May. Precisely a week later, Menzies announced that Vladimir Petrov, a Russian diplomat reputed to be a spy, had presented himself to A.S.I.O. with a bundle of compromising papers, and had sought and obtained asylum. Menzies immediately set up a Royal Commission to inquiry into the affair (Russel Ward, at 283). And, incidentally, it is still not clear whether Petrov’s defection was really what is seemed or rather a carefully orchestrated work organised by A.S.I.O. in connivance with Menzies.

On election day, Labor obtained 50.70 per cent of the votes and gained 57 seats in the House of Representatives, the anti-Labor Coalition was able to form the government with 49.30 per cent of the votes and to gain 64 seats. Was that representative democracy or kabuki democracy?

Three years from the signing of A.N.Z.U.S., on 8 September 1954 Australia reaffirmed its reliance on the United States by joining it in S.E.A.T.O., a treaty which embraced also Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. Another security treaty bound the signatories to consult about measures to be taken in the event of an attack on anyone of them. The real target was the ‘southward march of Communism in Indochina’.

Loyalty to ‘Home’ would be maintained in other master-servant occasions.

In February 1963, during the Second Royal Tour of Australia by Queen Elizabeth II, at a function attended by the Queen at Parliament House, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Canberra, Menzies who had just said that the British monarchy was the most democratic in the world, addressing the Queen delivered himself to the following piece of sycophancy: “All I ask you to remember in this country of yours is that every man, woman and child who even sees you with a passing glimpse as you go by will remember it, remember it with joy, remember it – in the words of the old 17th century poet who wrote those famous words, ‘I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die’”. It was Thomas Ford (ca. 1580-1648) reincarnated in Robert Gordon Menzies.

The Hanoverian queen returned the flattery by ‘creating Menzies a Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (KT)’. And the clowning did not stop there: in 1966, after his retirement, Menzies was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque (Norman French for Five) Ports, a group of five port towns on the southeast coast of England. Today the role is a sinecure and an honorary title, and today 14 towns belong to the Cinque Ports confederation. The first Lord was anointed in about 1150!

In 1973, long after his retirement, the imperial Japanese government conferred on Menzies the Order of the Rising Sun (First Class) for his services to Japanese-Australian friendship. Critics and admirers agree that it was fitting that the erstwhile “Pig-Iron Bob’ – thus called for the metal he would sell the aggressive Japanese Empire – should end his days loaded with overseas honours.

But one of the most important moments in the life of Menzies must have been when, on 28 April 1965, he lied to the Australian Parliament and people over an alleged call for assistance from the Saigon Regime of General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu as official head of state and Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ as prime minister. The first battalion arrived in Vietnam the following month. After March 1966 National Servicemen were sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army. Some 19,000 conscripts were sent in the following four years. 521 lost their life. The number of Australian invalid and otherwise victims of the war is still uncertain.

The document carrying the alleged call was never found.

Menzies’ successors distinguished themselves for sloganeering. Harold Holt, who in March 1966 announced that the Australian forces in Vietnam would be increased from 1,500 to 4,500 regular and conscripted servicemen, a few months later, at a state dinner in Washington, promised President Lyndon Baines Johnson that Australia would go “all the way with LBJ”.

John Grey Gorton, on 15 May 1969, on the occasion of his ‘pilgrimage’ to Washington, while being hosted by President Richard Milhous Nixon assured him that Australia would “go-a-waltzing Matilda” with its Great and Powerful Friend.

Gorton considered himself to be “Australian to the boot heels” and, to reassure ‘real’ Australians, told them on 1971 Australia Day that “As far as Australia is concerned, I believe we must remain homogeneous”. The need to preserve racial homogeneity was then, and remains now in pectore, a perennial catch-cry among Australian politicians. Keep our race homogenised, pasteurised and preferably Anglicised, so they would whisper, and Australians would avoid headaches, tension and inner conflicts. This policy, they argue, contains no hint of bias, prejudice or feelings of superiority; it is merely a way of maintaining social harmony (Allan Ashbolt, An Australian experience (1974) at 232).

To complete such bankruptcy, on 10 March 1971, there arrived William McMahon’s Government.

For twenty three years, faithfully following the American lead, Australian governments had refused to recognise diplomatically the existence of the People’s Republic of China. McMahon denounced the July 1971 visit by Gough Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition, to the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhou Enlai. McMahon accused Whitlam of putting “personal notoriety before the national interests”. He charged Whitlam with being a pawn of a Communist power and a spokesman for the enemy being fought in Vietnam. A few days after the world learned that President Nixon was about to visit (now) Beijing and that his personal envoy, Henry Alfred Kissinger, had been there making the preliminary arrangements at the same time as Whitlam. But this time the loyal Australian allied government had not been given a hint of what was afoot until after the event. The relationship was new only to the extent that the master had changed; the servant was the same.

As witty Phillip Adams observed in 1988: “We are closer to Asia than to Pennsylvania Avenue or W1. We are now well-advanced in weaning ourselves from Britain, but in embracing the US we have simply changed one mammary for another”. Australia had gone from submissive colony to client-state.

Twenty three years of a Liberal/Country Party Coalition would soon come to an end. It would, however, resume shortly thereafter. Such payasada would more likely define the nation’s life: shallow, jingoistic, racist, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific and, save for a few three-word slogans, uninterested in the neighbours and the future, coherent only in its fears.

To be continued. Tomorrow . . . The C.I.A. in Australia.

* 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