JOHN MENADUE How Kerr, Fraser and Murdoch engineered the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. A slightly edited repost from 27 October 2015

 Rupert Murdoch has form in conniving to get rid of Prime Ministers from 1975 to 2018

The evidence continues to mount against those who collaborated in the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

To obfuscate and cover their tracks, those who collaborated in The Dismissal and their establishment friends spare no effort to criticise the performance of the Whitlam government. Those attacks are becoming quite threadbare. It is amazing what people with guilty consciences do to try and justify outrageous behavior or avoid responsibility or change the subject.

The fact is that they collaborated in the dismissal of a democratically elected government. In contrast, Gough Whitlam, after 40 years, is more and more vindicated.

Those who collaborated in the dismissal of the Whitlam government were our “betters” — a governor-general, two High Court judges, parliamentary leaders, a media magnate and the business elite. I have written in my book Things You Learn Along the Way (pages 148-167) about the deceit of many of the collaborators.

In a post in this blog on October 21 last year, “Farewell to Gough Whitlam“, I drew attention to the words of the late senator Reg Withers, the leader of the Coalition in the Senate, that he could not have held the numbers much longer in the Senate. My strong view is that John Kerr’s premature intervention saved Malcolm Fraser. Now, Professor Jenny Hocking of Monash University, in her new book The Dismissal Dossier: Everything You Were Never Meant to Know about November 1975, adds to the revelations of not only Sir Garfield Barwick and Sir Anthony Mason. She tells us that John Kerr was in direct and secret telephone contact with Malcolm Fraser in the critical period before The Dismissal. In her research, Hocking has found a posthumous record of Withers’. This record, quoted below, highlights conversations between John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser.

“Withers reveals that not only had Kerr decided to act against Whitlam in the week before 11 November 1975, but that both he and Fraser knew this. Withers confirms that the Governor-General and the Leader of the Opposition were in secret telephone contact, using their secure private numbers. Withers recounts that he was in Fraser’s office in early November when Kerr contacted Fraser using the private number for the Leader of the Opposition’s parliamentary office. Nobody knew what his private number was except Tamie, Withers said. Fraser told the caller that he could be contacted on that number at any time … Fraser then asked the called for their number, repeating as he wrote it down, ‘I can also ring you on this number?’ … As Fraser hung up he said to Withers ‘You never heard this conversation’.”

This really is a smoking gun. It confirms what I said in 1999 in my book.

“ … Fraser believed that Kerr was in fear of dismissal. Further confirmation that Kerr had revealed to Fraser his insecurity was given to me by Fraser in a discussion on 28 January 1976. My file note reads ‘Governor-General encouragement to the Opposition. On 28 January this year — 1976 — Mr Fraser said — on the street outside West Block that on his first meeting with the Governor General during the supply crisis — 21 October — the Governor-General had said that he could not give Whitlam any inkling of what he had in mind or Whitlam would be immediately on the telephone to London seeking the Governor-General’s dismissal.’ “Malcolm Fraser has denied saying this to me as reported by Paul Kelly in November 1975. Kelly reported ‘When I asked Fraser about Menadue’s account of his note, he insisted that he [Menadue] was wrong. Fraser said that during the crisis he was aware that Kerr felt his position was at risk from Whitlam but Fraser is adamant that Kerr did not act improperly by saying this to him during their talks’. I stand by my account.”

In light of Jenny Hocking’s revelations, I stand even more in support of my account that John Kerr conveyed to Malcolm Fraser that he had in mind to dismiss the Whitlam government. That is an outrageous thing for a governor-general to do. It was quite contrary to convention developed over centuries that the head of state acts on the advice of his or her prime minister. It also highlights personal deceit by the governor- general.

I am also certain that Rupert Murdoch knew that a dismissal was in prospect. In my book in 1999, I recorded a discussion with Rupert Murdoch.

“I did have lunch with [Rupert Murdoch] and Ken Cowley on 7 November 1975, in Canberra at a Kingston restaurant … In my record of 11 December about that lunch with Murdoch five weeks earlier I wrote ‘Rupert Murdoch told many of his friends that Mr Fraser had informed him that the Governor-General had given him (Fraser) an assurance that if he held on long enough there would be a general election before Christmas … although I have no direct information. He did tell me however on 7 November that he was quite certain that there would be an election before Christmas and an election specifically for the House of Representatives. I suggested to him that a half-Senate election was the only possibility. He rejected this view and said that he believed that there would certainly be a House of Representatives election before Christmas and that he would be staying in Australia until this occurred. He was very confident of the outcome of any election and even mentioned to me the position to which I might be appointed in the event of the Liberal victory — Ambassador to Japan.

“Murdoch denies my account of our lunch. I stand by it. Murdoch was intimately involved with Fraser in the dismissal.”

Eighteen months later I was on my way to Japan.

I have found on other occasions that Rupert Murdoch has very convenient memory lapses, like his request to become the Australian high commissioner to London. Once again, the Hocking revelations add strong support to the view that Malcolm Fraser knew what John Kerr was going to do.

It also explains why Rupert Murdoch threw his newspapers into a frontal attack on the Whitlam government in October and November 1975. He also applied direct public pressure on John Kerr to “do his duty” and dismiss Gough Whitlam.

What do the collaborators now say in light of these new revelations about the propriety of a governor-general dismissing an elected government that had a majority in the House of Representatives? In that process he collaborated with judges, senior members of Parliament and the media.

We used to think that our ‘betters’ believed in tradition, conventions, parliament and the independence of the judiciary.

People of power and privilege find it hard to keep their head and accept that they must play by the rules that they expect others to observe. How naive we were to trust them then and even now! Yet our society depends on trusting other people. So for me that betrayal of trust is the most wounding of all.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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7 Responses to JOHN MENADUE How Kerr, Fraser and Murdoch engineered the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. A slightly edited repost from 27 October 2015

  1. Rosemary Lynch says:

    Thank you for this devastating indictment. Barwick and Ellicott were responsible for the legal justification, used Game’s dismissal of Premier Lang as precedent. But the elite lied back then, too. Lang did pay the Bank of Southampton what was owed, which was disclosed by the BBC News in March 1971. So the law that was used to justify the 1975 Dismissal, was also based on a legal fiction devised to dismiss a Labor Premier. The law was perverted, and is unsound.

  2. Bruce Bates says:

    In 1975 I was the Classified Registry Courier For Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Several times in the weeks leading up to The Dismissal I came across several Department Heads Comcars parked under the Department of Minerals & Energy in the underground car park. Prominent among these were Attorney General’s, Defense, Foreign Affairs & Treasury. This a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not!

  3. Lorraine Osborn says:

    Very important points made by John Menadue; as relevant in today’s Australia as in 1975. What remains a worry is the so called independent judiciary’s involvement with the coup. Meddling Murdoch is no better than his father and that dynasty may continue although Lachlan may not have the mongrel or the stomach for the fray once the old man is gone. Remembrance 1975 remains a defining point in my life; I can still recall the shock and disbelief and then rage I felt as a 30 year old who really believed a better world was possible. This optimism was very badly damaged by these men; many of my generation felt the same.

  4. martin smith says:

    What if.
    We now know a lot of people wanted to get rid of Turnbull.
    What if, Dutton and his mates were smart enough to realise he was not a popular prospect to be leader of the Liberals but had the tenacity to be the catalyst to depose Turnbull.
    What if the only viable alternative around at the time was happy to step in sideways and appear to be a saviour rather than our very own Brutus?
    They needed to rid themselves of Turnbull but who ever did that would be a very unpopular leader, no better than Turnbull in their eyes. What if eh?

  5. Philip Bond says:

    Russian influencing the 2016 US Presidential election; a (now) foreigner has been meddling in Australian elections since 1975…

  6. R. N. England says:

    There is a problem with the rules. The ones that were broken, important as they are for the internal peace of Australia, are mainly conventions. The grovelling tone of our Constitution towards the monarch allows the essentially informal power structure centred around monarch to get a foot in the door. A republic would fix that, provided it makes the President subservient to Parliament, but it would not fix the kind of troubles that are now afflicting the US and Australia, and also Britain. The traditional power structure has become unstable because the various factions of capital, having successfully cooperated to defeat labour, have fallen out with each other over what to tell the government to do next.

  7. Phil Patterson says:

    FYI: I think your ‘Things You Learn Along the Way’ link goes to the wrong page.

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